Henry David Thoreau

Start Your Free Trial

What does Thoreau say is the best government?

Expert Answers info

Jason Lulos eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2009

write3,298 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, Social Sciences, and Science

If we consider that Thoreau's idea of the "best government" is one that does not govern, then the best government is no government. But just as a matter a practical logic, no government is the absence of any government, so of existing possible governments, what would Thoreau consider the best? Reading through his essay, "Civil Disobedience ," he argues that a better government is possible (with the utopic idea of no government sometime later). He adds that a government ruled by majority democracy is not necessarily the best in terms of justice. Immediate acceptance of the laws enforced by...

(The entire section contains 2 answers and 389 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2006

write16,149 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

Further Reading:

jkab714 | Student

In Civil Disobedience Thoreau argues that the best government is that which "governs least";and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe, — "That government is best which governs not at all"; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have. Government is at best but an expedient; but most governments are usually, and all governments are sometimes, inexpedient." Thus, Thoreau sees government as a means ("expedient"=means of attaining an end), not an end in itself, making his view controversial and verging on anarchical.

In this work (Civil Disobedience) Thoreau argues that individuals should not permit governments to overrule or govern their individual consciences, and that they should avoid allowing such acceptance of government control to enable the government to make them accomplices in unjust endeavors like slavery and the Mexican-American War of 1846-48 .