Do Only Dumb People Believe in Government?

February 21, 2012 10:22

As anyone who reads this site knows, I am not a fan of government, certainly not as it exists today. Thus, my collection undoubtedly suffers from “selection bias.” Even so, the number and uniformity of the negative quotes overwhelmed me.


From Monty Pelerin’s World


I collect quotes as I stumble upon ones that strike my fancy. Unfortunately they are in a database that cannot be searched or sorted. For other purposes, I surfed this growing database in search of quotes on government. The search was not thorough and only by accident does  it contain my favorites. In reviewing the list, included below, I was struck by two things:

  1. Virtually all were unfavorable with respect to government.
  2. The quotes were by and large from famous, intelligent and respected people.
As anyone who reads this sight knows, I am not a fan of government, certainly not as it exists today. Thus, my collection undoubtedly suffers from “selection bias.” Even so, the number and uniformity of the negative quotes overwhelmed me. So, I attempted to provide some balance by seeking out quotes in praise of government.
To my surprise (and somewhat to my delight), they were nearly impossible to find. I began with a Google search for  ”government quotes” which produced 15,900,000 hits. Those that I reviewed looked like a repeat of what was in my database. The following three links were fairly typical:

Then I shifted my search terms to “good government quotes,” “pro government quotes” and “pro big government quotes.” A quick review of several of the hits failed to produce a site where government was praised. Most included results already in my database.

Although hardly a scientific study, two hypotheses come to mind:

  1. Google is against government and salts their search engine to emphasize disparaging comments on government.
  2. Intelligent people don’t try to defend the indefensible.

Those with time on their hands might want to test two hypotheses out (hint: don’t waste too much time on the first) or come up with alternatives to test.

If someone comes up with quotes in praise of government, I would be interested in seeing them. In the meantime, here are the quotes that came from my database. After reading these, one is only left to wonder how we let things get so out of whack.

Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. H.L. Mencken

  • Force always attracts men of low morality. Albert Einstein
  • Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class. Albert J. Nock
  • … the State has never shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime. Albert J. Nock
  • Potentially, a government is the most dangerous threat to man’s rights: it holds a legal monopoly on the use of physical force against legally disarmed victims. Ayn Rand
  • The man who lets a leader prescribe his course is a wreck being towed to the scrap heap. Ayn Rand
  • … I think a general Government necessary for us, and there is no form of Government but what may be a blessing to the people if well administered, and believe farther that this is likely to be well administered for a course of years, and can only end in Despotism, as other forms have done before it, when the people shall become so corrupted as to need despotic Government, being incapable of any other. Benjamin Franklin
  • History affords us many instances of the ruin of states, by the prosecution of measures ill suited to the temper and genius of their people. The ordaining of laws in favor of one part of the nation, to the prejudice and oppression of another, is certainly the most erroneous and mistaken policy.   Benjamin Franklin
  • I am for doing good to the poor, but I differ in opinion of the means. I think the best way of doing good to the poor, is not making them easy in poverty, but leading or driving them out of it. In my youth I traveled much, and I observed in different countries, that the more public provisions were made for the poor, the less they provided for themselves, and of course became poorer. And, on the contrary, the less was done for them, the more they did for themselves, and became richer. Benjamin Franklin
  • A society of sheep must in time beget a government of wolves. Bertrand Jouvenal
  • Are we like late Rome, infatuated with past glories, ruled by a complacent, greedy elite, and hopelessly powerless to respond to changing conditions? Camille Paglia
  • The history of government management of money has, except for a few short happy periods, been one of incessant fraud and deception. Frederich Hayek
  • Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider affairs with a philosophical eye, than the ease with which the many are governed by the few. David Hume
  • The elites hate to acknowledge it, but when large numbers of ordinary people are moved to action, it changes the narrow political world where the elites call the shots. Inside accounts reveal the extent to which Johnson and Nixon’s conduct of the Vietnam War was constrained by the huge anti-war movement. It was the civil rights movement, not compelling arguments, that convinced members of Congress to end legal racial discrimination. Dean Baker
  • The only thing necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to do nothing. Edmund Burke
  • It has been a long fight to put the control of our economic system in the hands of the government. Eleanor Roosevelt
  • Perhaps the fact that we have seen millions voting themselves into complete dependence on a tyrant has made our generation understand that to choose one’s government is not necessarily to secure freedom. Frank Chodorov
  • All wars come to an end, at least temporarily. But the authority acquired by the state hangs on; political power never abdicates.           Frank Chodorov
  • The State acquires power… and because of its insatiable lust for power it is incapable of giving up any of it. The State never abdicates.  Frank Chodorov
  • The State is the great fiction by which everyone seeks to live at the expense of everyone else. Frederic Bastiat
  • Bastiat

    Often the masses are plundered and do not know it.      Frederic Bastiat

  • When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that glorifies it.  Frederic Bastiat
  • Everyone wants to live at the expense of the state. They forget that the state wants to live at the expense of everyone. Frederic Bastiat
  • It is indeed probable that more harm and misery have been caused by men determined to use coercion to stamp out a moral evil than by men intent on doing evil. Frederich Hayek
  • A claim for equality of material position can be met only by a government with totalitarian powers. Frederich Hayek
  • With the exception only of the period of the gold standard, practically all governments of history have used their exclusive power to issue money to defraud and plunder the people. Frederich Hayek
  • Political language… is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind. George Orwell
  • Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master. George Washington
  • Firearms are second only to the Constitution in importance; they are the peoples’ liberty’s teeth. George Washington
  • We should never despair, our Situation before has been unpromising and has changed for the better, so I trust, it will again. If new difficulties arise, we must only put forth new Exertions and proportion our Efforts to the exigency of the times. George Washington
  • Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedies. Groucho Marx
  • Though the people support the government; the government should not support the people.  Grover Cleveland
  • Officeholders are the agents of the people, not their masters. Grover Cleveland
  • Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under. Mencken
  • A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.     H. L. Mencken
  • A national political campaign is better than the best circus ever heard of, with a mass baptism and a couple of hangings thrown in.  H. L. Mencken  
  • A politician is an animal which can sit on a fence and yet keep both ears to the ground.  H. L. Mencken
  • All government, of course, is against liberty. H. L. Mencken
  • Every election is a sort of advance auction sale of stolen goods. H. L. Mencken
  • I believe that all government is evil, and that trying to improve it is largely a waste of time. H. L. Mencken
  • If a politician found he had cannibals among his constituents, he would promise them missionaries for dinner.   H. L. Mencken
  • The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.      H. L. Mencken
  • Government is actually the worst failure of civilized man. There has never been a really good one, and even those that are most tolerable are arbitrary, cruel, grasping and unintelligent.  H. L. Mencken
  • The power of an aroused public is unbeatable.  Helen Caldicott
  • Their final objective toward which all their deceit is directed is to capture political power so that, using the power of the state and the power of the market simultaneously, they may keep the common man in eternal subjection.  Henry A. Wallace
  • Beware how you trifle with your marvelous inheritance, this great land of ordered liberty, for if we stumble and fall, freedom and civilization everywhere will go down in ruin. Henry Cabot Lodge
  • All men recognize the right of revolution; that is, the right to refuse allegiance to and to resist the government, when its tyranny or its inefficiency are great and unendurable.  Henry David Thoreau
  • Our tradition is one of protest and revolt, and it is stultifying to celebrate the rebels of the past while we silence the rebels of the present. Henry Steele Commager
  • The worst thing in the world next to anarchy, is government.  Henry Ward Beecher
  • The ultimate result of shielding men from the effects of folly is to fill the world with fools.  Herbert Spencer
  • All socialism involves slavery.   Herbert Spencer
  • Government is essentially immoral.   Herbert Spencer
  • Old forms of government finally grow so oppressive that they must be thrown off even at the risk of reigns of terror.  Herbert Spencer
  • The rights to life, liberty and property were not meant to be subject to the vagaries of majority rule. Ilana Mercer
  • The right to pursue happiness has become a right to happiness, a home and healthcare. Ilana Mercer
  • Politics is a form of sheltered employment. Ilana Mercer
  • All men having power ought to be distrusted to a certain degree. James Madison
  • The Constitution is an anti-trust act for government.   Joseph Sobran
  • A Constitution of Government once changed from Freedom, can never be restored. Liberty, once lost, is lost forever. John Adams
  • Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.  John F. Kennedy
  • Organized crime, or even outright terrorism, can do far less harm than the most well-meaning government. It’s a matter of power, not intention. Joseph Sobran
  • In a government of laws, the existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipotent teacher. For good or ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. If government becomes a lawbreaker it breeds contempt for law: it invites every man to become a law unto himself. It invites anarchy.  Justice Brandeis
  • The way to crush the bourgeoisie is to grind them between the millstones of taxation and inflation. Lenin
  • The passion for power over others can never cease to threaten mankind, and is always sure of finding new and unforeseen allies in continuing its martyrology.  Lord Acton
  • The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern.  Lord Acton
  • Full government control of all activities of the individual is virtually the goal of both national parties.   Ludwig von Mises
  • If one rejects laissez faire on account of mans fallibility and moral weakness, one must for the same reason also reject every kind of government action.  Ludwig von Mises
  • A society that chooses between capitalism and socialism does not choose between two social systems; it chooses between social cooperation and the disintegration of society. Socialism: is not an alternative to capitalism; it is an alternative to any system under which men can live as human beings. Ludwig von Mises
  • It is not in the power of the government to make everybody more prosperous. Ludwig von Mises
  • Once the principle is admitted that it is duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments. Ludwig von Mises
  • Interventionism cannot be considered as an economic system destined to stay. It is a method for the transformation of capitalism into socialism by a series of successive steps. Ludwig von Mises
  • Every step which leads from capitalism toward planning is necessarily a step nearer to absolutism and dictatorship. Ludwig von Mises
  • The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster.  Ludwig von Mises
  • And the so-called sovereigns, in these different governments, are simply the heads, or chiefs, of different bands of robbers and murderers. Lysander Spooner
  • A government that can at pleasure accuse, shoot, and hang men, as traitors, for the one general offence of refusing to surrender themselves and their property unreservedly to its arbitrary will, can practice any and all special and particular oppressions it pleases. The result — and a natural one — has been that we have had governments, State and national, devoted to nearly every grade and species of crime that governments have ever practised upon their victims; and these crimes have culminated in a war that has cost a million of lives; a war carried on, upon one side, for chattel slavery, and on the other for political slavery; upon neither for liberty, justice, or truth. And these crimes have been committed, and this war waged, by men, and the descendants of men, who, less than a hundred years ago, said that all men were equal, and could owe neither service to individuals, nor allegiance to governments, except with their own consent. Lysander Spooner
  • A man is none the less a slave because he is allowed to choose a new master once in a term of years.    Lysander Spooner
  • No attempt or pretence, that was ever carried into practical operation amongst civilized men — unless possibly the pretence of a “Divine Right,” on the part of some, to govern and enslave others — embodied so much of shameless absurdity, falsehood, impudence, robbery, usurpation, tyranny, and villany of every kind, as the attempt or pretence of establishing a government by consent, and getting the actual consent of only so many as may be necessary to keep the rest in subjection by force. Such a government is a mere conspiracy of the strong against the weak. It no more rests on consent than does the worst government on earth. Lysander Spooner
  • Our constitutions purport to be established by ‘the people,’ and, in theory, ‘all the people’ consent to such government as the constitutions authorize. But this consent of ‘the people’ exists only in theory. It has no existence in fact. Government is in reality established by the few; and these few assume the consent of all the rest, without any such consent being actually given. Lysander Spooner
  • Civil disobedience becomes a sacred duty when the State becomes lawless or, which is the same thing, corrupt.  Mahatma Ghandi
  • Freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed.  Martin Luther King Jr
  • Thou camest out of thy mother’s belly without government, thou hast liv’d hitherto without government, and thou mayst be carried to thy long home without government, when it shall please the Lord. How many people in this world live without government, yet do well enough, and are well look’d upon?  Miguel de Cervantes
  • Concentrated power is not rendered harmless by the good intentions of those who create it.    Milton Friedman
  • Most of the energy of political work is devoted to correcting the effects of mismanagement of government. Milton Friedman
  • Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program. Milton Friedman
  • The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem. Milton Friedman
  • The American people will never knowingly adopt socialism, but under the name of liberalism, they will adopt every fragment of the socialist program until one day America will be a socialist nation without ever knowing what happened. Norman Thomas
  • Giving government money and power is like giving car keys and whiskey to a teenage boy. P.J. O’Rourke
  • Politics should be limited in scope to war, protection of property, and the occasional precautionary beheading of a member of the ruling class. P.J. O’Rourke
  • Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike least.  Robert Byrne
  • If men are good, you don’t need government; if men are evil or ambivalent, you don’t dare have one.   Robert LeFevre
  • The moral and constitutional obligations of our representatives in Washington are to protect our liberty, not coddle the world, precipitating no-win wars, while bringing bankruptcy and economic turmoil to our people. Ron Paul
  • Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free. Ronald Reagan
  • …. man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts. Ronald Reagan
  • The liberties of our country, the freedoms of our civil Constitution are worth defending at all hazards; it is our duty to defend them against all attacks. We have received them as a fair inheritance from our worthy ancestors. They purchased them for us with toil and danger and expense of treasure and blood. It will bring a mark of everlasting infamy on the present generation – enlightened as it is – if we should suffer them to be wrested from us by violence without a struggle, or to be cheated out of them by the artifices of designing men. Samuel Adams
  •  A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largess from the public treasury. From that time on the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury, with the results that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy, always followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world’s great civilizations has been 200 years.  Sir Alex Fraser Tytler (1742-1813)
  • The more corrupt the state, the more it legislates. Tacitus
  • The fat lady never sings in Washington. No decision is ever final; no word is a bond; no contract binds a congressman; no bill or resolution has force beyond the next election. That’s the first principle of our government, and the second is similar: Every dollar of federal spending is pork first.  Thomas Donlan,
  • A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned – this is the sum of good government. Thomas Jefferson
  • Every generation needs a new revolution. Thomas Jefferson
  • I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion. Thomas Jefferson
  • I predict future happiness for Americans if they can prevent the government from wasting the labors of the people under the pretense of taking care of them. Thomas Jefferson
  • It is incumbent on every generation to pay its own debts as it goes. A principle which if acted on would save one-half the wars of the world. Thomas Jefferson
  • Our country is now taking so steady a course as to show by what road it will pass to destruction, to wit: by consolidation of power first, and then corruption, its necessary consequence. Thomas Jefferson
  • Rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the rights of the individual.   Thomas Jefferson
  • Sometimes it is said that man cannot be trusted with the government of himself. Can he, then be trusted with the government of others? Or have we found angels in the form of kings to govern him? Let history answer this question.  Thomas Jefferson
  • That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves. Thomas Jefferson
  • The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not. Thomas Jefferson
  • The strongest reason for the people to retain the right to keep and bear arms is, as a last resort, to protect themselves against tyranny in government. Thomas Jefferson
  • The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. Thomas Jefferson
  • … we should wonder if the term “good government” is an oxymoron. If it is government, can it be good?   William L. Anderson
  • Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom: it is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves. William Pitt
  • Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery. Winston Churchill
Please send in any countering quotes, whether you believe them or not. I will publish them with what I hope are appropriate comments.



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