The Limits of Tolerance

By Tong, Raymond | Contemporary Review, July 1992 | Go to article overview

The Limits of Tolerance


Tong, Raymond, Contemporary Review


TOLERANCE is clearly one of the prime virtues and its presence greatly improves the quality of civilised living. Its value is never appreciated more than when it is absent. Unfortunately, since good must for ever struggle with evil and dreams for ever clash with reality, tolerance is not always a virtue. As Edmund Burke once wrote: |There is a limit at which forbearance ceases to be a virtue'. In almost every human situation there are limits beyond which tolerance becomes an agent of confusion, submission and disintegration. There are situations of indignity and oppression where conscience demands that the individual must either take positive action or get up and leave, while collectively there is nearly always some point beyond which the governed should no longer be prepared to tolerate the abuse, mismanagement or failure of a government.

Naturally it is much easier to oppose the government in a free society than in an unfree society. However, almost every government, whatever the nature of the society, must at some juncture be faced with the dilemma of deciding on the limits of tolerance in relation to some major problem, on how far the problem can be allowed to develop before there is widespread opposition among the governed. The degree to which it is capable of doing so and its firmness in taking the necessary decision are good indications of its quality as a government. In the long run there is nothing more disastrous than weak and indecisive government and nothing more advantageous than firm and decisive government. No matter what its objectives and policies are, no matter what its vision of the ideal society may be, one of the most important attributes of a successful government is the ability to take difficult decisions and to do so at the right time. Of course, the time to take a decision about the limits of tolerance with regard to a particular problem is not when the limits are actually reached, for then it may be too late, but at an appropriate time before the limits are reached. For example, a democratically-elected government faced with a possibly catastrophic issue, say with inflation rising steeply towards 30 per cent, should not allow itself to hesitate unduly. It should take appropriate action to reverse the upward movement of prices long before the limits of tolerance are reached. Whatever the problems confronting it, any responsible government, with the slightest mission to rule, must always be looking ahead, assessing possible developments, and deciding on the likely amount of opposition. Errors of judgement are likely to occur, but no government should ever knowingly permit itself to arrive at a point beyond the limits of tolerance on any major issue, for this could well be a point of no return.

One of the most important tasks of any democratic government is to defend and endeavour to improve the free society. Fortunately, in spite of all the changes it has experienced since World War 11, Britain is still in a better position to undertake this task than most other countries. This is perhaps to be expected, for more than any other country Britain has been responsible for the evolution and defence of democratic institutions. It has had a longer continuous experience of democracy than any other country and has exported its liberal thought and free institutions throughout the world to countries capable of accepting them. It would also appear from the political developments of the past few years that the British people have become increasingly aware of the fundamental link between the market economy and political freedom. Less and less have they been deluded by the soft option of distributing wealth, instead of creating it. More and more they have come to understand the deadening effects, both on enterprise and individual liberty, of a notoriously inefficient and wasteful nationalisation. To what extent there is a growing awareness of the danger of democracy being slowly undermined through the exploitation of its own generous and tolerant institutions it is difficult to say. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

The Limits of Tolerance
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.