Government does not achieve its duties
The American government is necessary because
"the people must have some complicated machinery or other, and hear its din, to satisfy that idea of government which they have."
However, the only times whengovernment has been useful has been when it has stood aside. Thoreau says that government does not, infact, achieve its duties: it does not keep the country free, settle the West, or educate. Rather, theseachievements come from the character of the American people, and they would have been even moresuccessful in these actions had government been even less involved. Thoreau views government as afundamental obstruction to the people that it claims to represent. Thoreau cites as a prime example theregulation of trade and commerce, and its negative effect on the forces of the free market.
Government is perverted and abused
His distrust of government stems from the tendency of the latter to be
"perverted and abused"
before the people can actually express their will through it. A case in point is the Mexican war, orchestrated by a smallélite of individuals who have manipulated government to their advantage against popular will. Governmentinherently lends itself to oppressive and corrupt uses since it enables a few men to impose their will on themajority and to profit economically from their own position of authority.-
Deeply skeptical of government, Thoreau objects
to the notion of majority rule
on which democracy istheoretically founded, noting that the position of the majority, however legitimate in democratic terms, is nottantamount to a moral position. A wise man will not leave justice to the chance of a majority vote. Themajority will end up voting their interest, voting for what will benefit them. In this sense, Thoreau criticizesthe integrity of politicians and the voting process, which significantly limits the ability of ordinary citizens toexpress their will in the first place.