"Frustrated by the practical life of politics, in which he had suffered many defeats, Plato had established a school in Athens, the Academy, part of whose purpose was to train a new generation of political leaders; (Socrates) Republic can be considered as a kind of guidebook to their education."

— “Great Books”, David Denby

"‘As soon as you appeared on this roof you made yourself ridiculous. It was your tone of voice. You spoke your words as though you denied the very existence of the shadows or of evil. Think, now: where would your good be if there were no evil and what would the world look like without shadow? Shadows are thrown by people and things. There’s the shadow of my sword, for instance. But shadows are also cast by trees and living things. Do you want to strip the whole globe by removing every tree and every creature to satisfy your fantasy of a bare world? You’re stupid.’"

— “The Master and Margarita” - Mikhail Bulgakov


I happen to like Stanislas/Constantine. When dealing with an incensed young Bosnian who accused him of being a government stooge, he responds with some gravity by saying:

“Yes. For the sake of my country, and perhaps a little for the sake of my soul, I have given up the deep peace of being in opposition.”

This is one of the more profoundly mature, and also among the most tragic, of the signals that (Rebecca) West’s ear was attuned to pick up.


“Arguably: Selected Essays” - Christopher Hitchens

'The Deep Peace of Being In Opposition' - yes I think this describes it well. 


The danger of theoretical systems was something that Smith addressed with his own theory in part 6 of The Theory of Moral Sentiments. This section of the book was actually written after The Wealth of Nations. Moral Sentiments had been published in 1759 when Smith was teaching at Glasgow. But Smith revised it in 1789. By then he had met the physiocrats and had been exposed to their system of political economy. In part 6, titled ‘Of the Character of Virtue’, Smith located the evil of political systems in – per the great theme of Moral Sentiments – lack of imagination. Creating a theoretical political system does take imagination, but, Smith argued, there’s an unimaginative side to putting it into practice:

“From a certain spirit of system… we sometimes seem to value the means more than the end, and to be eager to promote the happiness of our fellow-creatures, rather from a view to perfect and improve a certain beautiful and orderly system, than from any immediate sense or feeling of what they either suffer or enjoy.”

Theorisers, Smith wrote, can become ‘intoxicated with the imaginary beauty of this ideal system’ until ‘that public spirit which is founded upon the love of humanity’ is corrupted by a spirit of system that ‘inflames it even to the madness of fanaticism.’


— "On the Wealth of Nations", P.J. O’Rourke


The Civil Rights Act of 1957, not in itself as revolutionary as its supporters hoped or its detractors feared, opened the door to later, more substantial legislative reparation to Blacks. Not until the next decade could Southern Black Children share a classroom with white Americans; not until the next decade could Southern Black adults eat a sandwich at the same lunch counter as whites. But in the context of the times the ‘meagre’ – (Robert) Caro’s word – 1957 Act was the indisputable first step.

Let’s dwell on the rhetoric of that moment – the limited advances that cleared the way for legal and political equality. In a 1957 speech a few hours before the vote, Johnson said, ‘I cannot follow the logic of those who say that because we cannot solve all the problems we should not try to solve any of them.’


— “My Reading Life” – Bob Carr 

"(Keating) said the environment movement no longer had leaders, just people ‘matching press release for release’. The lobbies thought they had a ‘moral lien’ over the environment, but they had no such thing, he said—the issue belonged to the nation."

— “Recollections of a Bleeding Heart” - Don Watson

"George Eliot reckoned all sensible people ‘early discern that the mysterious complexity of our life is not to be embraced by maxims’."

“Recollections of a Bleeding Heart” - Don Watson

"Moorehead also recorded an unsettling insight into the intransigence of Gandhi. Challenged about the possible effects of relying on passive resistance to dissuade the Japanese, Gandhi was forced into his fallback position of averring that not even the Japanese could kill every Indian. Moorehead, who already had some idea of what Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union added up to in terms of population control, clearly had his own opinions."

“Cultural Amnesia” - Clive James

Non-violent principles are great - but Gandhi had some seriously troubling policy positions that were generally a function of unwaveriong ideological purity.

His economic views were utterly ruinous for similar reasons. He started with a position that Indians should be responsible from themselves and pushed that to the extremes of autarky and self-sufficiency - a recipe for impoverishing his nation.

"Montesquieu, less emotionally involved, saw a point about Tiberius that extended to all mankind. “Like most men, he wanted contradictory things; his general politics were nowhere in accord with his particular passions. He would have liked a Senate free and capable of making its government respected, but he also wanted a Senate to satisfy, at all times, his fears, his jealousies and his hatreds: finally the statesman gave way contentedly to the man.”"

— “Cultural Amnesia” - Clive James

"The last temptation is the greatest treason: To do the right deed for the wrong reason."

Citing T.S. Eliot

“All too Human” - George Stephanopoulos

"But since it is my object to write what shall be useful to whosoever understands it, it seems to me better to follow the real truth of things than an imaginary view of them. For many Republics and Princedoms have been imagined that were never seen or known to exist in reality. And the manner in which we live, and that in which we ought to live, are things so wide asunder, that he who quits the one to betake himself to the other is more likely to destroy than to save himself; since any one who would act up to a perfect standard of goodness in everything, must be ruined among so many who are not good.It is essential therefore for a prince to have learnt how to be other than good and to use, or not to use, his goodness as necessity requires."

— “The Prince” - Niccolo Machiavelli

"the consciousness of right-doing was the only reward any public man had a right to expect."

— “Democracy, an American novel” - Henry Adams

"Only certain kinds of people are cut out for this work—and, yeah, we are not princes, by and large. Henry, you know this better than anyone. You’ve watched Larkin, you’ve watched O’Brien, you’ve watched me do it. Two thirds of what we do is reprehensible. This isn’t the way a normal human being acts. We smile, we listen— you could grow calluses on your ears from all the listening we do. We do our pathetic little favors. We fudge when we can’t. We tell them what they want to hear—and when we tell them something they don’t want to hear, it’s usually because we’ve calculated that’s what they really want. We live an eternity of false smiles—and why? Because it’s the price you pay to lead. You don’t think Abraham Lincoln was a whore before he was a president? He had to tell his little stories and smile his shit-eating, backcountry grin. He did it all just so he’d get the opportunity, one day, to stand in front of the nation and appeal to ‘the better angels of our nature.’ That’s when the bullshit stops. And that’s what this is all about. The opportunity to do that, to make the most of it, to do it the right way—because you know as well as I do there are plenty of people in this game who never think about the folks, much less their ‘better angels.’ They just want to win. They want to be able to say, ‘I won the biggest thing you can win.’ And they’re willing to sell their souls, crawl through sewers, lie to the people, divide them, play to their worst fears—"

— “Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics” – Anonymous 


“Henry”—his voice turned serious—“you don’t need to go getting TB on me now, y’hear? It ain’t worth it. Life goes on.”

TB: True Believerism. It was part of the code, consultant duende. It was what separated the men from the boys, staff from pols, servants from operators. You wanted to keep perspective. You wanted to see the horse as a horse and not Pegasus. But I couldn’t.


— “Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics” - Anonymous 

"But I don’t think I’d have the stomach for this business, the desperation and intensity of it, if I didn’t have a real rooting interest."

— “Primary Colors: A Novel of Politics” - Anonymous