Alexander Hamilton, Feberalist 6:

A man must be far gone in Utopian speculations who can seriously doubt, that if these States should either be wholly disunited, or only united in partial confederacies, the subdivisions into which they might be thrown would have frequent and violent contests with each other. To presume a want of motives for such contests, as an argument against their existence, would be to forget that men are ambitious, vindictive and rapacious.

Edward S. Steinfeld at The Atlantic:

To this day, the Chinese who lived through this period, the Cultural Revolution, have internalized one lesson clearer than any other: They know that all the most seemingly immutable institutions of society—the rules, the authority structures, the social hierarchies, the police, the armed forces, and everything else that seems so predictable and impervious to change—are but ephemera that can disintegrate in the flash of an eye. And they know that all of the human inhibitions so intrinsic to social life—the disinclination to violence, the ability to feel shame, the willingness to trust, and the subordination of emotion to reason—can so easily give way to the basest of human desires, particularly in the context of a mob and a manipulative leader. Witnesses to the Cultural Revolution are all too aware that what separates us humans from the state of nature is but a thin, fragile veneer.

Are Americans as a people really so much better, so much more sophisticated, and so much further removed than the Chinese were in 1966 from that diaphanous veil separating civilized society from the state of nature? I wonder.