Civil Disobedience Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

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Identify the opposing ideas in Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience," and then explain the truth contained in each of these paradoxes.

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There are a number of paradoxes in Henry David Thoreau's "Civil Disobedience." The essay starts off with a shocking paradox as Thoreau states: "That government is best which governs least." This presents the opposing ideas of a "governing government" and a "non-governing government," which would seem like it isn't a government at all.

What Thoreau means by this is the best type of government is the one that does not "govern," which consists of infringing on the rights of the people and, in Thoreau's mind, would be far more useful if it would simply get out of the way of the people. Thoreau's Transcendentalist beliefs lead him to further his claim by ultimately suggesting "[t]hat government is best which governs not at all."

He defends this...

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