What Lewis and Chesterton Can Teach Us About Tyranny and Freedom

Sep 29, 2020 by

by Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch:

Now, more than ever, with freedom and democracy teetering on the brink in so many places – especially here in the state of Victoria at the moment – we need to once again affirm liberty and human rights, and reject creeping totalitarianism, despotism and dictatorship. We can do this in part by recalling what others have said on such matters.

Many great thinkers and writers of the past could be appealed to here, but two of my all-time favourites will suffice: C. S. Lewis and G. K. Chesterton. Both had much to say about these topics. Chesterton the poet, author and newspaper columnist perhaps wrote much more than Lewis did on political matters and current events – so you will find more quotes from him featured here.

Lewis, the professor of English literature and Christian apologist did nonetheless manage to say various things about these topics as well. So let me begin with some quotes from him, and then move on to Chesterton. I have all the sources for the Lewis material, so I will offer the general reference after each quote. But not having all the specific references for the Chesterton quotes, I will just offer them without the citations.

C. S. Lewis

“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” -“The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,” in God in the Dock

GK Chesterton

“A tired democracy becomes a dictatorship.”

“If there is one fact we really can prove, from the history that we really do know, it is that despotism can be a development, often a late development and very often indeed the end of societies that have been highly democratic. A despotism may almost be defined as a tired democracy. As fatigue falls on a community, the citizens are less inclined for that eternal vigilance which has truly been called the price of liberty; and they prefer to arm only one single sentinel to watch the city while they sleep.”

“Once abolish the God, and the government becomes the God.”

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