No Comment, Quotation — July 12, 2008, 7:23 am

Montesquieu – The Corruption of Principles and the Decline of the State

marius

La corruption de chaque gouvernement commence presque toujours par celle des principes…

Lorsque les principes du gouvernement sont une fois corrompus, les meilleures lois deviennent mauvaises, et se tournant contre l’État; lorsque les principes en sont sains, les mauvaises ont l’effet des bonnes; la force du principe entraîne tout…

Il y a peu de lois qui ne soient bonnes, lorsque l’État n’a point perdu ses principes; et, comme disoit Épicure en parlant des richesses: «Ce n’est point la liqueur qui est corrompue, c’est le vase.»

The corruption of each government begins almost always with the corruption of its principles…

Once the principles of a government have been corrupted, even the best laws become bad and will turn against the State; whereas when the principles remain healthy, bad laws may have the effect of good ones; the force of principle carries everything with it…

Few laws are not good when the State has not lost its principles; and, as Epicurus relates in speaking of wealth: “It is not the liquor which has become corrupted, but the vessel that holds it.”

–Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de Montesquieu, De l’Espirit des lois, bk viii, chs i, xi (1748) in: Œuvres complètes, vol. 2, pp. 349, 357, 359 (R. Caillois ed. 1951)(S.H. transl.)

Share
Single Page

More from Scott Horton:

No Comment, Six Questions June 4, 2014, 8:00 am

Uncovering the Cover Ups: Death Camp in Delta

Mark Denbeaux on the NCIS cover-up of three “suicides” at Guantánamo Bay Detention Camp

From the June 2014 issue

The Guantánamo “Suicides,” Revisited

A missing document suggests a possible CIA cover-up

No Comment March 28, 2014, 12:32 pm

Scott Horton Debates John Rizzo on Democracy Now!

On CIA secrecy, torture, and war-making powers

Get access to 164 years of
Harper’s for only $39.99

United States Canada

CATEGORIES

THE CURRENT ISSUE

September 2014

Israel and Palestine

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

Washington Is Burning

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

On Free Will

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

They Were Awake

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

view Table Content

FEATURED ON HARPERS.ORG

Post
“There was torture by the previous regime and by the current Iraqi regime,” Dr. Amin said. “Torture by our Kurdish government, torture by Syrians, torture by the U.S.”
Visiting His Own Grave © Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
Article
On Free Will·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Philosophers have labored for more than two thousand years to explain consciousness. Innocent of biology, however, they have for the most part gotten nowhere.”
Collage (detail) by Frederick Sommer
Criticism
The Soft-Kill Solution·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

"Policymakers, recognizing the growing influence of civil disobedience and riots on the direction of the nation, had already begun turning to science for a response."
Illustration by Richard Mia
Article
Israel and Palestine·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“If Israel believes it needs to make a wall eight meters high between us and them, let them have it eighty meters high. Under one condition: It has to be on the international border.”
Photograph (detail) © Ali Jadallah / APA Images / ZUMA Wire
Article
Washington Is Burning·

= Subscribers only.
Sign in here.
Subscribe here.

“Fueled by the national-security spending and corporate lobbying that followed 9/11, the flood of (mostly white) newcomers to the city appears irreversible.”
Portrait © © De Agostini Picture Library / Bridgeman Images

Chance that a movie script copyrighted in the U.S. before 1925 was written by a woman:

1 in 2

Engineers funded by the United States military were working on electrical brain implants that will enable the creation of remote-controlled sharks.

Malaysian police were seeking fifteen people who appeared in an online video of the Malaysia-International Nude Sports Games 2014 Extravaganza, and Spanish police fined six Swiss tourists conducting an orgy in the back of a moving van for not wearing their seatbelts.

Subscribe to the Weekly Review newsletter. Don’t worry, we won’t sell your email address!

HARPER’S FINEST

In Praise of Idleness

By

I hope that after reading the following pages the leaders of the Y. M. C. A. will start a campaign to induce good young men to do nothing. If so, I shall not have lived in vain.

Subscribe Today