Jefferson Quotes
Jefferson Quotes
Sample Legislation
More Perfect Union



The Reasonable Mind:  Quotations from Thomas Jefferson Applicable to Copyrights and Proportional Representation


 “He who receives an idea from me, receives instruction himself without lessening mine; as he who lights his taper at mine, receives light without darkening me.”


-- Letter to Isaac McPherson, 13 Aug. 1813


Jefferson, keenly appreciative of the non-rivalrous nature of ideas, was skeptical that ideas could be owned.  But isn’t the notion of “property” itself really just another idea?  The Congress—equipped with the advanced tool of Proportional Representation—may offer the first viable forum by which society can both consent to private ownership of the expression of an idea while legitimately setting out to negotiate the complex boundaries of “fair use” brought about by the Digital Age.  Reaching consensus and balance on fair use—that nebulous but extraordinarily important gray area of law between “free” and “owned” expression—is likely to be more a journey than a destination.  Nevertheless, exploration of this frontier is crucial to resolving copyright piracy and reconciling the interests of content creators, owners, and users.


“Preach, my dear sir, a crusade against ignorance; establish & improve the law for educating the common people.”


-- Letter to George Wythe, August 13, 1780?


“It is an axiom in my mind that our liberty can never be safe but in the hands of the people themselves, and that too of the people with a certain degree of instruction. This it is the business of the state to effect, and on a general plan.”


-- Letter to George Washington, January 4, 1786


“We are all Republicans, we are all Federalists. If there be any among us who would wish to dissolve this Union or to change its republican form, let them stand undisturbed as monuments of the safety with which error of opinion may be tolerated where reason is left free to combat it.”


-- First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1801


“I am not an advocate for frequent changes in laws and constitutions, but laws and institutions must go hand in hand with the progress of the human mind. As that becomes more developed, more enlightened, as new discoveries are made, new truths disclosed, and manners and opinions change with the change of circumstances, institutions must advance also, and keep pace with the times. We might as well require a man to wear still the same coat which fitted him when a boy, as civilized society to remain ever under the regimen of their barbarous ancestors.”


-- to Samuel Kercheval, July 12, 1810


Revitalizing the institution of the Congress in the Digital Age requires giving people a better connection to their elected representatives.  Representatives in the legislative branch of government should reflect how their constituents think rather than where they live.  Geographical congressional districts are an anachronism dating back to the agrarian world of the late 18th century and are ill suited to the Digital Age.  Proportional Representation rises to the challenge.  Only a Congress that is engaged and connected to the people whom it represents can legitimately legislate on how a society exchanges its ideas or on any other matter.