Civil Disobedience Questions and Answers
by Henry David Thoreau

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What is Thoreau hinting at in Civil Disobedience when he says that the “remedy is worse than the evil”? Why does he condemn the men who do not take action because they are not part of a majority?  

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The opening lines of Henry David Thoreau’s essay Civil Disobedience encapsulate Thoreau’s view of government. He says,

I heartily accept the motto,—“That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically.

Thoreau would like to see a government that embraces laissez-faire policies and does not intrude into areas where it should not. Moreover, he notes that “unjust laws exist” and that he believes that it is incumbent on citizens to try to resist and overturn them.

Neither people nor governments should “wait until they have persuaded the majority to alter” these unjust laws. Thoreau says that citizens do not act against unjust laws, because they fear that the “remedy is worse than the evil.” By this, he implies that private citizens do not protest through civil disobedience and other measures, because without the support of majority rule, they fear the consequences.

If private citizens act through civil...

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