“In my opinion, any future Defense secretary who advises the president to again send a big American land army into Asia, or into the Middle East or Africa, should have his head examined, as General MacArthur so delicately put it.” Robert Gates
“And the governor, for whatever reason, sees unions as a threat. If anything, he should see them as an ally because all the public workers in the state of Wisconsin actually make him look good.” John Erpenbach
“Political contests in this country are rarely, if ever, death matches between good and evil; the future of civilization is not at stake when we enter the voting booth. The country will survive—and even prosper—even if the other side wins the election.” Lee Hamilton
“Governments go away; people are gone. But the plays, artifacts, music and poetry remain. They tell the stories of what once was, of what used to be. What’s created for us now will speak for us when we’re gone.” Tony Brown, on proposed cuts to the National Endowment for the Arts
The psychologist “said that, by the time that girls are teenagers, when she asks them how they felt about an…experience, they respond by telling her how they felt they looked. And she has to tell them that looking good is not a feeling.” Peggy Orenstein
Christine O’Donnell: “Where people fear government, there is tyranny. Where government fears the people, there is liberty.”
Okay. If we reverse the clauses, you might have a true statement: where there is tyranny, it is likely that people fear the government. But it just doesn’t work logically the way you’ve stated it any more than saying “where people speak English, there is America” or “where there are oranges, there is a grocery store.” But it doesn’t really work factually, either: how can you possibly look at the emotional response of a group and determine from the response its cause? How can you think there is even a “cause,” singular? You could finish that sentence so many ways, but you can’t walk it backward and still have it hold true. Where people fear government, they fear the government. And that’s about as far as you can take it in eight words and still have a statement that remains whole and valid.
And then there’s the second part of your statement. You can reverse the clauses and it’s not true either way. Where government fears the people (and by this, I’ll assume you mean the people in government, not, say, the actual government, since it couldn’t possibly experience thought or emotion, not having an amygdala of its very own), the government fears the people. It’s that not being able to determine causation thing again. You could finish the clause with things that are situationally correlative: “where government fears the people, there is a weak government (a restive populace, civic instability).” But to say that liberty is necessarily found where the government fears the people? It’s demonstrably untrue. Liberty is found in places where the governors do not fear the governed. And some places with fearful governments have the opposite of liberty (North Korea, anyone?).
And I wouldn’t wordsmith your pithy quote if not for the fact that it’s exactly the kind of rhetoric that’s catchy and quotable and provocative. It’s clearly an applause line and it worked for you: your audience hooted and hollered and would have grabbed pitchforks and tossed babies had you asked them to. And that’s what’s so frightening. Your line is based in poor logic, misattribution, false premises, and simplistic dichotomies. You tried to build an aphorism out of things that are conditionally true at best and untrue at worst and logically flawed throughout. Bad enough if the target were a person, but the crowd is already stoked to “take down the government.” Hyping up more misdirected blame at the government seems to me a really socially irresponsible thing to do.
“Everything is a miracle. It’s a miracle not to melt in the bathtub like a lump of sugar.” Pablo Picasso
“I’m not opposed to all wars. I’m opposed to dumb wars.” Barack Obama
“Art is man’s expression of his joy in labour.” William Morris
“You know what happens when a wind turbine falls in the ocean? A splash.” Bill Maher
“It is as throughout all Alaska that big wild good life teeming along the road that is north to the future.” Sarah Palin
“And, lastly, there are some who wish to learn that they may be themselves edified; and that is prudence.” St. Bernard of Clairvaux
“The past is not dead. In fact, it’s not even past.” William Faulkner