C. S. LewisC. S. Lewis, (1898-1963), British novelist

C. S. Lewis Quote

“It is easy to think the State has a lot of different objects -- military, political, economic, and what not. But in a way things are much simpler than that. The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life. A husband and wife chatting over a fire, a couple of friends having a game of darts in a pub, a man reading a book in his own room or digging in his own garden -- that is what the State is there for. And unless they are helping to increase and prolong and protect such moments, all the laws, parliaments, armies, courts, police, economics, etc., are simply a waste of time.”

C. S. LewisC. S. Lewis
~ C. S. Lewis

Ratings and Comments

S. Engel, Fredericksburg

There is a difference between promoting & protecting. You can protect everybody's rights to pursue their own goals without taking from others to do so. Promoting one person's objectives can, however, be done only at the expense of somebody elses goals.

No Hope, Arkansas

Of course every person serving in an official capacity for the People promotes his/her self interests as if they were the interests of the People -- it cannot be otherwise. That's why their powers are to be strictly limited. And that applies to each and every one of us. Government has and always will live at the expense of the People. When we have finally cast out hatred, greed and self-righteousness, then there will be no need for government. But why we elect the most hateful, greedy, and self-righteous people to office, I will never understand -- I think it is because the People are exactly the same.

Terry, Occidental, CA

Well, C. S. Lewis was never known as a deep thinker. It's about as good as he could do.

D.M., Bozeman, MT

"The State exists simply to promote and to protect the ordinary happiness of human beings in this life." WRONG! The State exists to promote and to protect the EXTRAORDINARY and UNDESERVED rights of corporations. Corporations want a risk-free existence, passing all of the uncertainties of life to human beings.

Mike, Norwalk
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Mike, Norwalk D.M., Bozeman, MT 4/1/19

D.M., you speak of what the State has become not, what it could "do". There is also a huge difference between the overloading of a government and individual sovereign (united) representatives serving in a body politic. A representative republic may perform in the later.

John-Douglas, Nassau

The state is an invention of man, who deemed it necessary to protect the individal ciizen's property, life, and freedom. Thanks to perverted politicians the state has turned into a Frankenstein which seeks to oppress the citizen at every opportunity! Banish the state and what have you got? A lot of happy people and frustrated, self-serving politicians and bureaucrats.

E Archer, NYC


Robert, Sarasota

Terry, really; good to have you back. C. S. Lewis may not have been a deep thinker (though he was at Oxford with Tolkien) but his words will remain for ever in the hearts of children - and I love Narnia Take care and have a great weekend, Robert

Robert, Sarasota

D.M. from MT, C.S. Lewis is agreeing with you.

helorat, Milton

Not Lewis’s best quote. Bear in mind he was voluntary subject, not a citizen. The only legitimate purpose of the state is to keep people from doing violence to each other. D.M. from bozoland or fantasy land? Tell those evil oil companies that give you cheap gas there is no risk to losing multi million and billion dollar oil facilities in the Gulf to hurricanes, North Sea to storms, Africa to terrorists and in Venezuela to confiscation by good little communists like him. I never met a poor person who signed a paycheck. Purchasing stock is the way you voluntarily share the risk and the reward. Corporations do not point a gun to your head and tell you what to do, they give you a choice, unlike the government.

dad4justice, NEW ZEALAND

Great quote

Joe, Rochester, MI

Ohhh ... that sounds so nice. Socialism is so inviting. But government promotes and protects itself at our expense. They eavesdrop on the husband and wife, they coerce the friends to have only one beer (taking three beers worth as taxes), they tell a man which books he can read and what and where to plant in his garden. Government is more like 1984, and more so with each passing day, than a utopia.

warren, olathe

He was stating what the state should be not what the state is. Unless all of you who are hyperventilating actually want the state to be tyrannical I don't get your objections. Lewis has always been known as a deep thinker, but the shallow would not notice that.

Jim, Searcy, Arkansas

I think the person who said C.S. Lewis was never known for being a deep thinker is either incredibly ignorant or something worse.

Anonymous, Houston, TX

If the quotation were slightly reworded it might be more clear to those who do not seem to see its truth. "The highest purpose of the state is to promote and protect...." I think this is a great quote.

aruanan, Chicago

There are some very thoughtless people commenting on this quote (Joe, D.M. and Terry, for example) who have so little breadth and depth of learning that they cannot see the quote in the larger historical context or in the context of Lewis's other writing on society, education, and tyranny; either that or they are motivated in trying to blunt the edge of that which threatens to excise them from the body politic and reveal them for the foreign bodies they are.

jim k, Austin,Tx

DM Bozeman, what do you think a corporation is. It's people, not some alien monster from Barney Franks district in Massachusetts. Most corporations are small businesses, not giant conglomerates. Your comment is nonsense, especially the last line.

J Carlton, Calgary

CS Lewis describes what the state "should be". And I agree wholeheartedly.

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  • Reply
RBESRQ    12/16/10

Terry, really! The most significant moments in our lives are those that are usually the most simple. This is brilliant because it is simple and that's how it should be. Humans tend to complicate things with laws and bureaucracy which they then turn back on us like they have done with the Patriot Act and so on and if that doesn't work agent provocateurs are set to work, like they did the other day in the UK.

Grace, Virginia

As Joe noted, socialism does NOT ultimately "promote and protect" the happiness of man. I think C.S. Lewis would agree, which is why I doubt this quote promotes socialism.

Mike, Pleasant Hill

Personally I don't see the connection between this C.S. Lewis quote and socialism. I think some people are not taking into account the fallen sin nature of mankind, I think that's the bottom-line we are dealing with. Some people railing against corruption should look in the mirror. Why did our founding fathers try so hard to give us a Republic instead of a democracy?

"Democracy will soon degenerate into an anarchy; such an anarchy that every man will do what is right in his own eyes and no man's life or property or reputation or liberty will be secure, and every one of these will soon mould itself into a system of subordination of all the moral virtues and intellectual abilities, all the powers of wealth, beauty, wit, and science, to the wanton pleasures, the capricious will, and the execrable cruelty of one or a very few." -- John Adams, An Essay on Man's Lust for Power (1763)

E Archer, NYC

I think the quote is right on !! The word 'socialism' is tossed around a lot when speaking about 'the State' when the State is considered sovereign and the individuals subjects, but the State in the republican sense is the hired servant of the sovereign people. I believe the contest between these two principles of power is perpetual, and the pendulum continues its swing.

Depending on the 'side' I have chosen, the State is either a protector and promoter, or a lord and master. Note that lord and masters also wish to protect their property and promote their enterprises -- when the State becomes a tool for this arrangement, the people are treated as mere chattel, and privileged classes arise in proportion to their loyalty and contribution to the State. Statism can be socialist, monarchical, aristocratic, democratic, theocratic, fascist, communist -- the commonality of them all is totalitarianism, the supremacy of the State.

A republican form of government is perpetually at odds with a statist form of government. Statists believe that people's behavior, labors, housing, and money require regulation by the State -- anything else is considered anarchy and a threat to the security and welfare of the people (whenever the State refers to the people, it refers to itself) thus the State has a 'right' to compel, intimidate, fine, imprison and execute anyone that threatens its monopoly of power.

The "ordinary happiness of human beings in this life" has NEVER come from totalitarianism -- ever. Most of society's ills are the result of dishonorable collective actions -- we are conned regularly out of our power because we don't want to take responsibility. The churches promise us 'paradise', the governors promise us 'security', the banks promise us 'prosperity', the military promises us 'victory', and the politicians promise us money for votes. We've bought it all, and now we are paying for it. Is it socialism? It's just plain ol' irresponsibility, dishonesty, and GAMBLING.

You want to fix the game? At what price? Just let me handle my own happiness, please, the State has no soul.

Ronw13, Yachats Or

The key words " Ordinary Happiness " The quote is rich in Agrarian philosophy and life style ! Give me liberty to do and freedom to live my own happiness, and never at the expense of others. I like Narnia also, very deep !

Patrick Henry, Red Hill

The perfection of government is self government, under the aegis and tutelage of Virtue.

Lamentably, worldly hierarchies are, characteristically, loveless and lawless, by their unnaturally natural natures.

As Thomas Paine expressed it:

"The palaces of kings are built on the bowers of the ruins of paradise."


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