Civil Disobedience

Thoreau opens his essay with a radical paradox "that government is best which governs not all", what does Thoreau mean?

from resistance to civil government

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The opening paragraph expresses Thoreau's seemingly libertarian political sentiments‹the idea that the most ideal form of government is one which exercises the least power and control over its citizens. Thoreau pushes this line of thinking to its logical limit by envisioning a society in which government is eliminated altogether because men have the capacity to be self-regulating and independent. The implied dissolution of the State is as much an expression of Thoreau's idealism‹a utopic vision that cannot be realistically achieved‹as it is the theoretical endpoint of the way societies develop and evolve.