John Emerich Edward Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton was an eminent nineteenth century Catholic historian. He is remembered for his lucidity nd his aphorisms. Here are a few:
Men cannot be made good by the state, but they can easily be made bad.
Morality depends on liberty.
Liberty consists in the division of power. Absolutism, in concentration of power.
Bureaucracy is undoubtedly the weapon and sign of a despotic government, inasmuch as it gives whatever government it serves, despotic power.
Bureaucracy tries to establish so many administrative maxims that the minister is as narrowly controlled and guided as the judge.
Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupt absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men, even when they exercise influence and not authority; still more when you superadd the tendency of the certainty of corruption by authority.
Despotic power is always accompanied by corruption of morality.
Everybody likes to get as much power as circumstances allow, and nobody will vote for a self-denying ordinance.
Limitation is essential to authority. A government is legitimate only if it is effectively limited.
The central idea of Machiavelli is that the state power is not bound by the moral law. The law is not above the state, but below it.
Official truth is not actual truth.
There is another world for the expiation of guilt; but the wages of folly are payable here below.
The great novelty of the American Constitution was that it imposed checks on the representatives of the people.
Live both in the future and the past. Who does not live in the past does not live in the future.
It is bad to be oppressed by a minority, but it is worse to be oppressed by a majority.