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Quotations about Liberty and Power

About this Quotation:

The first version of Bentham’s Handbook of Political Fallacies appeared in French early in the 19th century and it had a important impact on the thinking of Frédéric Bastiat who produced his own examination of “economic fallacies” in the mid and late 1840s (mainly to do with tariffs and government subsidies). Bentham thought that the British Parliament was so corrupt that he could fill an entire book with carefully articulated definitions and categories of lying, deception, intimidation, and obfuscation used by politicians and bureaucrats to hoodwink the public into accepting taxes, regulations, and payments to favoured groups. In this marvelous passage he compares the Parliament to a casino, where the politicians were the gamblers, and the property of the citizens was the stakes being played for. “Disingenuousness, lying, hypocrisy, (and) fallacy” were the tactics used by the players in order to win each round of the game. Those who were “the ins” (in office) had a temporary advantage in the game; those who were “the outs” (those aspiring to be in office next) could only hope their turn would soon come. In Bentham’s cynical though realistic view, “the universal interest (was) a question never looked at, never taken into account” by the players.

Other quotes about Parties & Elections:

6 February, 2012

Bentham200

Bentham on how “the ins” and “the outs” lie to the people in order to get into power (1843)

Read the full quote in context here.

Jeremy Bentham (1748-1832) created a Handbook of Political Fallacies in which he painstakingly categorized the different types of “fallacies” politicians used to deceive the public. He did this in order to show how those in government deceived the people in order to win office or get favours from those in office:

By the name of fallacy, it is common to designate any argument employed, or topic suggested, for the purpose, or with a probability, of producing the effect of deception,—of causing some erroneous opinion to be entertained by any person to whose mind such argument may have been presented….

Parliament (is) a sort of gaming-house; members on the two sides of each house the players; the property of the people—such portion of it as on any pretence may be found capable of being extracted from them—the stakes played for. Insincerity in all its shapes, disingenuousness, lying, hypocrisy, fallacy, the instruments employed by the players on both sides for obtaining advantages in the game: on each occasion—in respect of the side on which he ranks himself—what course will be most for the advantage of the universal interest, a question never looked at, never taken into account: on which side is the prospect of personal advantage in its several shapes—this the only question really taken into consideration…

The full passage from which this quotation was taken can be be viewed below (front page quote in bold):

By the name of fallacy, it is common to designate any argument employed, or topic suggested, for the purpose, or with a probability, of producing the effect of deception,—of causing some erroneous opinion to be entertained by any person to whose mind such argument may have been presented….

First, fallacies of authority (including laudatory personalities;) the subject-matter of which is authority in various shapes—and the immediate object, to repress, on the ground of the weight of such authority, all exercise of the reasoning faculty.

Secondly, fallacies of danger (including vituperative personalities;) the subject-matter of which is the suggestion of danger in various shapes—and the object, to repress altogether, on the ground of such danger, the discussion proposed to be entered on.

Thirdly, fallacies of delay; the subject-matter of which is an assigning of reasons for delay in various shapes—and the object, to postpone such discussion, with a view of eluding it altogether.

Fourthly, fallacies of confusion; the subject-matter of which consists chiefly of vague and indefinite generalities—while the object is to produce, when discussion can no longer be avoided, such confusion in the minds of the hearers as to incapacitate them for forming a correct judgment on the question proposed for deliberation….

Parliament (is) a sort of gaming-house; members on the two sides of each house the players; the property of the people—such portion of it as on any pretence may be found capable of being extracted from them—the stakes played for. Insincerity in all its shapes, disingenuousness, lying, hypocrisy, fallacy, the instruments employed by the players on both sides for obtaining advantages in the game: on each occasion—in respect of the side on which he ranks himself—what course will be most for the advantage of the universal interest, a question never looked at, never taken into account: on which side is the prospect of personal advantage in its several shapes—this the only question really taken into consideration: according to the answer given to this question in his own mind, a man takes the one or the other of the two sides—the side of those in office, if there be room or near prospect of room for him: the side of those by whom office is but in expectancy, if the future contingent presents a more encouraging prospect than the immediately present….

[More works by Jeremy Bentham (1748 – 1832) and on The Philosophic Radicals]