104 Years Ago – G.K. Chesterton on Ideas and Ideals


Christopher Houseman

A wonderful answer to all the proud pragmatists who dismiss the power of ideas – including libertarianism.

Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are least dangerous is the man of ideas. He is acquainted with ideas, and moves among them like a lion-tamer. Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are most dangerous is the man of no ideas. The man of no ideas will find the first idea fly to his head like wine to the head of a teetotaller. It is a common error, I think, among the Radical idealists of my own party and period to suggest that financiers and business men are a danger to the empire because they are so sordid or so materialistic. The truth is that financiers and business men are a danger to the empire because they can be sentimental about any sentiment, and idealistic about any ideal, any ideal that they find lying about. Just as a boy who has not known much of women is apt too easily to take a woman for the woman, so these practical men, unaccustomed to causes, are always inclined to think that if a thing is proved to be an ideal it is proved to be the ideal. Many, for example, avowedly followed Cecil Rhodes because he had a vision. They might as well have followed him because he had a nose; a man without some kind of dream of perfection is quite as much of a monstrosity as a noseless man.

Chesterton, G. K. (2010). Heretics (297–298). Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

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3 responses to “104 Years Ago – G.K. Chesterton on Ideas and Ideals

  1. Without a natural and spontaneous love of truth one is in trouble. Serious trouble.

  2. Chesterton was no libertarian-he was rooted in the Christ-centered Distributism and the Catholic faith, incompatible with “classical liberalism” and libertarianism

  3. Pingback: An Update from the Libertarian Alliance « Attack the System