Wednesday, June 11, 2014

What Burke Really Said


Every so often somebody quotes Edmund Burke, especially when he said, “All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing.”  This is a very fine sentiment.  The problem is that Burke never said it.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797)
What Burke actually said was something more "socially just": In “Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents” (1770) he said, “[W]hen bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one, an unpitied sacrifice in a contemptible struggle.”

This is consistent with what Pius XI said in § 53 of Divini Redemptoris to explain why, when people try to solve social problems individually, they fail, but when they join in free association and act in an organized manner, they can be successful:

“It happens all too frequently, however, under the salary system, that individual employers are helpless to ensure justice unless, with a view to its practice, they organize institutions the object of which is to prevent competition incompatible with fair treatment for the workers. Where this is true, it is the duty of contractors and employers to support and promote such necessary organizations as normal instruments enabling them to fulfill their obligations of justice.”

This is also consistent with CESJ co-founder Father William Ferree’s analysis of the social doctrine of Pius XI.  This can be found in
Introduction to Social Justice, which Father Ferree wrote in 1948.

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1 comment:

nail-in-the-wall said...

"Let not any one pacify his conscience by the delusion that he can do no harm if he takes no part, and forms no opinion. Bad men need nothing more to compass their ends, than that good men should look on and do nothing."

~ John Stuart Mill ,1867 [British philosopher and political theorist]