“This government never of itself furthured an enterprise, but by the alacrity with which it (the government) got out of its (the enterprise’s) way. It does not keep the country free. It does not settle the West. It does not educate. The character inherent in the American people has done all that has been accomplished; and it would have done somewhat more, if the government had not sometimes got it its way.”
This correlates with this quote from Dwight Eisenhower posted by Reluctant. The character inherent in the American people that Thoreau credits with accomplishing all that America has accomplished may be in danger of eradication unless we can regain a love for freedom at the sacrifice of false sense of security that government provides when it oversteps its bounds.
The government really has a limited role. As soon as it expands that role, it gets in the way of freedom. This is the topic of the next John Adams post.