Thursday, December 18, 2008

Quote of the Day: Niebuhr Week

"All human sin seems so much worse in its consequences than in its intentions."
Reinhold Niebuhr

I recently heard David Starkey on R3 claiming rather boldly that history and its actors should be judged primarily by the consequences of their actions.

Reinhold Niebuhr was far more interested in motivations. He had a strong sense that the fundamental paradox of politics is that, whilst only the guiltless deserve to rule, the act of wielding power itself precludes guiltlessness:

"Nothing is intrinsically good, except goodwill."

Even the archetypally quietist Gandhi had caused significant hardship to children back in Manchester when he ordered a boycott on British cotton goods...

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