Blogs > Liberty and Power > Quotation of the Week (On Treason)

Mar 12, 2010 3:13 pm


Quotation of the Week (On Treason)



The legendary comedian, Mort Sahl, had this to say: "If you maintain a consistent political position long enough, you will eventually be accused of treason."

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Wendy McElroy - 3/12/2010

I need to put this up on Smith's birthday. You're right. Rothbard would only quote those parts of Smith that make him look like a calvinist.


William J. Stepp - 3/5/2010

This quote from Adam Smith, _The Theory of Moral Sentiments_, shows how the State treats treasonable designs compared to most other crimes.
Don't dare have a treasonable conversation.

"As the merit of an unsuccessful attempt to do good seems thus, in the eyes of ungrateful mankind, to be diminished by the miscarriage, so does likewise the demerit of an unsuccessful attempt to do evil. The design to commit a crime, how clearly soever it may be proved, is scarce ever punished with the same severity as the actual commission of it. The case of treason is perhaps the only exception. That crime immediately affecting the being of the government itself, the government is naturally more jealous of it than of any other. In the punishment of treason, the sovereign resents the injuries which are immediately done to himself: in the punishment of other crimes, he resents those which are done to other men. It is his own resentment which he indulges in the one case: it is that of his subjects which by sympathy he enters into in the other. In the first case, therefore, as he judges in his own cause, he is very apt to be more violent and sanguinary in his punishments than the impartial spectator can approve of. His resentment too rises here upon smaller occasions, and does not always, as in other cases, wait for the perpetration of the crime, or even for the attempt to commit it. A treasonable concert, though nothing has been done, or even attempted in consequence of it, nay, a treasonable conversation, is in many countries punished in the same manner as the actual commission of treason. With regard to all other crimes, the mere design, upon which no attempt has followed, is seldom punished at all, and is never punished severely."

This is an insight Rothbard either skipped over or touched on lightly in his essay "The Anatomy of the State," but unfortunately he probably wouldn't have been caught dead quoting Smith.