Gilbert Keith Chesterton (born 1874, died 1936) is among the greatest of all English writers, having produced enormously influential works of literature, philosophy, political science, theology, and journalism. Known as the ‘prince of paradox’, Chesterton’s writing is renowned for its clarity, simplicity, and grand scope of meaning. Chesterton notably exercised a strong influence over the history of politics, inspiring the likes of Irish revolutionary leader Michael Collins and Mahatma Gandhi with his detective stories and newspaper columns.
G. K. Chesterton was a uniquely perceptive critic, and in every article and letter he wrote was able to separate truth from sensationalism like no other. Cures often hurt worse than diseases, and in government, telling the difference between the two is not as easy as you might think. Now that a handful of very public functions of the United States government have been shut down as a result of partisan disagreements, Chesterton’s commentary on the business of politics is as well-suited to current events as it was at the turn of the 20th Century.
Listed below are ten select quotes from the works of G. K. Chesterton on the subject of controversies, scandals, and the hidden causes and effects of them all:
G. K. Chesterton
1) ”It is a good sign in a nation when things are done badly. It shows that all the people are doing them. And it is bad sign in a nation when such things are done very well, for it shows that only a few experts and eccentrics are doing them, and that the nation is merely looking on.”
2) ”It is the mark of our whole modern history that the masses are kept quiet with a fight. They are kept quiet by the fight because it is a sham-fight; thus most of us know by this time that the Party System has been popular only in the sense that a football match is popular.”
3) ”He is a very shallow critic who cannot see an eternal rebel in the heart of a conservative.”
4) “If you attempt an actual argument with a modern paper of opposite politics, you will have no answer except slanging or silence.”
5) “You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.”
6) “For fear of the newspapers politicians are dull, and at last they are too dull even for the newspapers.”
7) “War is not the best way of settling differences; it is the only way of preventing their being settled for you.”
Illustrated London News, July 24, 1915
8) “When a politician is in opposition he is an expert on the means to some end; and when he is in office he is an expert on the obstacles to it.”
Illustrated London News, April 6, 1918
9) “The unconscious democracy of America is a very fine thing. It is a true and deep and instinctive assumption of the equality of citizens, which even voting and elections have not destroyed.”
10) “Many clever men like you have trusted to civilization; Many clever Babylonians, many clever Egyptians, many clever men at the end of Rome. Can you tell me, in a world that is flagrant with the failures of civilisation, what there is particularly immortal about yours?”