In ‘Civil Disobedience’ Thoreau paints a disturbing picture of the US government and society in general. Thoreau’s opinion of how the government has abused their powers is obviously very critical. He is opposed to ‘big government’, believing that government should be involved in people’s lives as little as possible. This is still a commonly held belief in America today and is a part of the core values the United States were founded upon. The government of the United States was designed as a government ‘for the people, by the people’. As time went on, however, this didn’t always prove to be the case. Thoreau speaks out against the government for how unjust their conduct is in the ongoing Mexican War and in the allowance of slave holding.
Thoreau came across to me as a kind of forefather of the Vietnam era hippies – though a seemingly more intellectual version. While he makes rational claims, they don’t always seem completely viable. If all Americans were to protest the government’s foul actions with tax evasion, they could put it to an end. However, it is very difficult to change the opinion of an entire public and even greater to change what they have come to accept as moral and immoral by the laws created by man. Thoreau mentions that a prison sentence would seem to many a penalty for criminals, but people must throw away previous convictions in order to carry out a truly just act of standing up against tyranny.
His writing is well and truly ahead of its time – if written today the case would be the same. The United States and the world as a whole has a long way to come in order for an anarchy guided by righteous conscience to be succeed – let alone exist.