Quotes on Government

Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demands for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen.

— Ayn Rand

This country has come to feel the same when congress is in session as when a baby gets hold of a hammer.

— Will Rogers

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.

— Abraham Lincoln

The will of the people is the only legitimate foundation of any government, and to protect its free expression should be our first object.

— Thomas Jefferson, First Inaugural Address; 1801

The state is the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it lies, too; and this lie creeps from its mouth; ‘I, the state, am the people.’

— Friedrich Nietzsche

The only refuge left for those who prophesy the downfall of the State governments is the visionary supposition that the federal government may previously accumulate a military force for the projects of ambition. The reasonings contained in these papers must have been employed to little purpose indeed, if it could be necessary now to disprove the reality of this danger. That the people and the States should, for a sufficient period of time, elect an uninterrupted succession of men ready to betray both; that the traitors should, throughout this period, uniformly and systematically pursue some fixed plan for the extension of the military establishment; that the governments and the people of the States should silently and patiently behold the gathering storm and continue to supply the materials until it should be prepared to burst on their heads must appear to everyone more like the incoherent dreams of a delirious jealousy, or the mis-judged exaggerations of a counterfeit zeal, than the sober apprehensions of genuine patriotism. Extravagant as the supposition is, let it, however, be made. Let a regular army, fully equal to the resources of the country to be formed; and let it be entirely at the devotion of the federal government: still it would not be going too far to say that the State governments with the people on their side would be able to repel the danger. The highest number to which, according to the best computation, a standing army can be carried in any country does not exceed one hundredth part of the whole number of souls; or one twenty-fifth part of the number able to bear arms. This proportion would not yield, in the United States, an army of more than twenty-five to thirty thousand men. To these would be opposed a militia amounting to near a half a million of citizens with arms in their hands, officered by men chosen from among themselves, fighting for their common liberties and united and conducted by governments possessing their affections and confidence. It may well be doubted whether a militia thus circumstanced could ever be conquered by such a proportion of regular troops. Those who are best acquainted with the late successful resistance of this country against the British arms will be most inclined to deny the possibility of it. Besides the advantage of being armed, which the Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation, the existence of subordinate governments, to which the people are attached and by which the militia officers are appointed, forms a barrier against the enterprises of ambition, more insurmountable than any which a simple government of any form can admit of. Notwithstanding the military establishments in the several kingdoms of Europe, which are carried as far as the public resources will bear, the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms. And it is not certain that with this aid alone, they would not be able to shake off their yokes. But were the people to possess the additional advantages of local governments chosen by themselves, who could collect the national will, and direct the national force; and of officers appointed out of the militia, by these governments and attached both to them and to the militia, it may be affirmed with the greatest assurance, that the throne of every tyranny in Europe would be speedily overturned, in spite of the legions which surround it. Let us not insult the free and gallant citizens of America with the suspicion, that they would be less able to defend the rights of which they would be in actual possession, than the debased subjects of arbitrary power would be able to rescue theirs from the hands of their oppressors. Let us rather no longer insult them with the supposition, that they can ever reduce themselves to the necessity of making the experiment, by a blind and tame submission to the long train of insidious measures, which must precede and produce it.

— James Madison, Federalist Papers No. 46

People constantly speak of ‘the government’ doing this or that, as they might speak of God doing it. But the government is really nothing but a group of men, and usually they are very inferior men.

— H. L. Mencken

Families, when a child is born Want it to be intelligent. I, through intelligence, Having wrecked my whole life, Only hope the baby will prove Ignorant and stupid. Then he will crown a tranquil life by becoming a Cabinet Minister.

— Su Tung-p’o

It is a mistake to assume that government must necessarily last forever. The institution marks a certain stage of civilization — is natural to a particular phase of human development. It is not essential, but incidental. As amongst the Bushmen we find a state antecedent to government, so may there be one in which it shall have become extinct.

— Herbert Spencer

No government, any more than an individual, will long be respected without being truly respectable; nor be truly respectable, without possessing a certain portion of order and stability.

— Federalist No. 62

Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for one year, can never willingly abandon it.

— Edmund Burke

If a nation expects to be ignorant and free in a state of civilization, it expects what never was and never will be… if we are to guard against ignorance and remain free, it is the responsibility of every American to be informed.

— Thomas Jefferson

The wealth of the country, its capital, its credit, must be saved from the predatory poor as well as the predatory rich, but above all from the predatory politician.

— James J. Hill

One of the penalties for refusing to participate in politics is that you end up being governed by your inferiors.

— Plato

I don’t make jokes, I just watch the government and report the facts.

— Will Rogers

When politics are used to allocate resources, the resources all end up being allocated to politics.

— P.J. O’Rourke

If a society is to remain free, its government must be controlled.

— Ayn Rand

The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.

— P.J. O’Rourke

…Societies exist under three forms, sufficiently distinguishable. 1. Without government, as among our Indians. 2. Under governments, wherein the will of every one has a just influence; as is the case in Enngland, in a slight degree, and in our States, in a great one. 3. Under governments of force; as is the case in all other monarchies, and in most of the other republics. To have an idea of the curse of existance under these last, they must be seen. It is a government of wolves over sheep….The second state has a great deal of good in it. The mass of mankind under that, enjoys a precious degree of liberty and happiness. It has its evils, too; the principal of which is the turbulence to which it is subject. But weigh this against the oppressions of monarchy, and it becomes nothing. Malo periculosum libertatum quam quietum servitutum. Even this evil is productive of good. It prevents the degeneracy of government, and nourishes a general attention to the public affairs. I hold it, that a little rebellion, now and then, is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions, indeed, generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people, with have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.

— Thomas Jefferson

The blame for [the national debt] lies with the Congress and the President, with Democrats and Republicans alike, most all of whom have been unwilling to make the hard choices or to explain to the American people that there is no such thing as a free lunch.

— Warren R. Rudman

Any excuse will serve a tyrant.

— Aesop

It is not only vain, but wicked, in a legislator to frame laws in opposition to the laws of nature, and to arm them with the terrors of death. This is truly creating crimes in order to punish them.

— Thomas Jefferson, 1779

The makers of the Constitution conferred, as against the government, the Right to be let alone; the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized men.

— Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead v. United States (1928)

In 1940, 4 million Americans worked for government and 11 million worked in manufacturing. Today, there are 7 million more Americans working for government (21.5 million) than in all manufacturing industries (14.5 million). We have shifted from an economy of people who make things, to an economy of people who tax, regulate, subsidize and outlaw things.

— Stephen Moore, Pricey Government Prize

If every man has freedom to do all that he wills, provided he infringes not the equal freedom of any other man, then he is free to drop connection with the state – to relinquish its protection and to refuse paying toward its support. It is self-evident that in so behaving he in no way trenches upon the liberty of others, for his position is a passive one, and while passive he cannot become an aggressor. It is equally self-evident that he cannot be compelled to continue one of a political corporation without a breach of the moral law, seeing that citizenship involves payment of taxes; and the taking away of a man’s property against his will is an infringement of his rights.

— Herbert Spencer

The more people are controlled, the poorer they become;
The poorer they become, the more restless they get; The more restless they get, the more forcefully they are restrained.
When people are forcefully restrained, their defiance becomes ingenious.
And the more ingenious their defiance, the stranger are the things that happen.
Now when strange things begin to happen, laws and regulations become stricter;
Then stricter laws and regulations mean more criminals and fugitives.
Soon everyone is either a criminal or a fugitive,
And no one can untangle the mess.
The more people are controlled, the less contented they become.
But when will leaders understand the significance of this?

— Lao Tsu

It is not the business of the law to make anyone good or reverent or moral or clean or upright.

— Murray Rothbard

Bureaucracy defends the status quo long past the time when the quo has lost its status.

— Laurence J. Peter

Big-government liberals don’t like people with a sense of independence … because independent people don’t need big government.

— Neal Boortz

The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security.

— Thomas Paine

Every time that we try to lift a problem from our own shoulders, and shift that problem to the hands of the government, to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of our people.

— John F. Kennedy

I heartily accept the motto, – “That government is best which governs least;” and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which I also believe, – “That government is best which governs not at all;” and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.

— Henry David Thoreau

Mystical references to “society” and its programs to “help” may warm the hearts of the gullible but what it really means is putting more power in the hands of bureaucrats.

— Thomas Sowell

Government is necessary, but the only rights we can delegate to government are the ones we possess. For example, we all have a natural right to defend ourselves against predators. Since we possess that right, we can delegate authority to government to defend us. By contrast, we don’t have a natural right to take the property of one person to give to another; therefore, we cannot legitimately delegate such authority to government.

— Walter Williams

It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.

— Voltaire

The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.

— Ronald Reagan

I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should ‘make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,’ thus, building a wall of separation between Church and State.

— Thomas Jefferson, Quoted in Andrew A. Lipscomb’s Writings 16:281

A good politician is quite as unthinkable as an honest burglar.

— H. L. Mencken

When you have an efficient government, you have a dictatorship.

— Harry Trueman

No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth!

— Ronald Reagan

There is no distinctly native American criminal class – save Congress.

— Mark Twain

The government consists of a gang of men exactly like you and me. They have, taking one with another, no special talent for the business of government; they have only a talent for getting and holding office.

— H. L. Mencken

What is prudence in the conduct of every private family can scarce be folly in that of a great kingdom.

— Adam Smith

The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.

— Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas

Liberty has never come from government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance.

— Woodrow Wilson

It is not my intention to do away with government. It is rather to make it work — work with us, not over us; stand by our side, not ride on our back. Government can and must provide opportunity, not smother it; foster productivity, not stifle it.

— Ronald Reagan

If the representatives of the people betray their constituents, there is then no recourse left but in the exertion of that original right of self-defense which is paramount to all positive forms of government, and which against the usurpations of the national rulers may be exerted with infinitely better prospect of success than against those of the rulers of an individual State. In a single State, if the persons entrusted with supreme power become usurpers, the different parcels, subdivisions, or districts of which it consists, having no distinct government in each, can take no regular measures for defense. The citizens must rush tumultuously to arms, without concert, without system, without resource; except in their courage and despair.

— Alexander Hamilton, Federalist No. 29

Outside of the Constitution we have no legal authority more than private citizens, and within it we have only so much as that instrument gives us. This broad principle limits all our functions and applies to all subjects.

— President Andrew Johnson

The statesman who should attempt to direct private people in what manner they ought to employ their capitals would not only load himself with most unnecessary attention but assume an authority which could safely be trusted to no council and senate whatever, and which would nowhere be so dangerous as in the hands of man who have folly and presumption enough to fancy himself fit to exercise it.

— Adam Smith

Tyranny seldom announces itself. … In fact, a tyranny may exist without an individual tyrant. A whole government, even a democratically elected one, may be tyrannical.

— Joseph Sobran

Crisis is the rallying cry of the tyrant.

— James Madison

The Constitution is an instrument, above all, for limiting the functions of government… Throughout history, government has proved to be the chief instrument for thwarting man’s liberty. Government represents power in the hands of some men to control and regulate the lives of other men.

— Barry Goldwater

The twentieth century was one in which limits on state power were removed in order to let the intellectuals run with the ball, and they screwed everything up and turned the century into an abattoir? We Americans are the only ones who didn’t get creamed at some point during all of this. We are free and prosperous because we have inherited political and value systems fabricated by a particular set of eighteenth-century intellectuals who happened to get it right. But we have lost touch with those intellectuals.

— Neal Stephenson, In the Beginning Was the Command Line, p. 53

If you really want to engage in policy activity, don’t make that your vocation. Make it your avocation. Get a job. Get a secure base of income. Otherwise, you’re going to get corrupted and destroyed.

— Milton Friedman

Power tends to corrupt; absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.

— Lord Acton

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

— P.J. O’Rourke

No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.

— Mark Twain

The most dangerous man, to any government, is the man who is able to think things out for himself… Almost inevitably, he comes to the conclusion that the government he lives under is dishonest, insane and intolerable.

— H. L. Mencken

Prohibition will work great injury to the cause of temperance. It is a species of intemperance within itself, for it goes beyond the bounds of reason in that it attempts to control a man’s appetite by legislation, and makes a crime out of things that are not crimes. A prohibition law strikes a blow at the very principles upon which our government was founded.”

— Abraham Lincoln, Speech to the Illinois House of Representatives; 18 Dec. 1840

In a democracy, the opposition is not only tolerated as constitutional, but must be maintained because it is indispensable.

— Walter Lippman

When all government, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as the Center of all power, it will render powerless the checks provided of one government on another and will become as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.

— Thomas Jefferson

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; not enlightened enough to exercise their control with wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but to inform their discretion. Enlighten the people generally and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.

— Thomas Jefferson

Stability in government is essential to national character and to the advantages annexed to it, as well as to that repose and confidence in the minds of the people, which are among the chief blessings of civil society.

— James Madison

Every increase in the size of government necessitates a decrease in an individual’s freedom.

— Christian Harold Fletcher Riley

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.

— P.J. O’Rourke

An honest man can feel no pleasure in the exercise of power over his fellow citizens.

— Thomas Jefferson

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

— Thomas Jefferson

What we call the market is really a democratic process involving millions, and in some markets billions, of people making personal decisions that express their preferences. When you hear someone say that he doesn’t trust the market, and wants to replace it with government edicts, he’s really calling for a switch from a democratic process to a totalitarian one.

— Walter Williams

Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation.

— Henry Kissinger

The state represents violence in a concentrated and organized form.

— Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

That’s the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don’t care, individuals do.

— Mark Twain

Why are the people rebellious?
Because the rulers interfere too much.
Therefore they are rebellious.

— Lao Tsu

Every decent man is ashamed of the government he lives under.

— H. L. Mencken

The essence of Government is power; and power, lodged as it must be in human hands, will ever be liable to abuse.

— James Madison

I quietly declare war with the State, after my fashion, though I will still make what use and get what advantage of her I can, as is usual in such cases.

— Henry David Thoreau

Three groups spend other people’s money: children, thieves, politicians. All three need supervision.

— Dick Armey

It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way of making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.

— Thomas Sowell

Politics is supposed to be the second oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first.

— Ronald Reagan

The notion that the church, the press, and the universities should serve the state is essentially a Communist notion … In a free society these institutions must be wholly free — which is to say that their function is to serve as checks upon the state.

— Alan Barth

We who live in free market societies believe that growth, prosperity and ultimately human fulfillment, are created from the bottom up, not the government down. Only when the human spirit is allowed to invent and create, only when individuals are given a personal stake in deciding economic policies and benefiting from their success — only then can societies remain economically alive, dynamic, progressive, and free. Trust the people. This is the one irrefutable lesson of the entire postwar period contradicting the notion that rigid government controls are essential to economic development.

— Ronald Reagan

Hold on, my friends, to the Constitution and to the Republic for which it stands. Miracles do not cluster, and what has happened once in 6000 years, may not happen again. Hold on to the Constitution, for if the American Constitution should fail, there will be anarchy throughout the world.

— Daniel Webster

Politics are a lousy way for a free man to get things done.

— P.J. O’Rourke

The dangers of a concentration of all power in the general government of a confederacy so vast as ours are too obvious to be disregarded.

— Franklin Pierce

It’s easy for people to assume that the Bill of Rights will be, as somebody once called the Constitution, a machine that runs itself. I disagree. I think eternal vigilance is the price of keeping it in working order.

— Judge Lawrence Tribe

If you want government to intervene domestically, you’re a liberal. If you want government to intervene overseas, you’re a conservative. If you want government to intervene everywhere, you’re a moderate. If you don’t want government to intervene anywhere, you’re an extremist.

— Joseph Sobran

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.

— Pericles (430 B.C)

In dealing with the State, we ought to remember that its institutions are not aboriginal, though they existed before we were born: that they are not superior to the citizen: that every one of them was once the act of a single man: every law and usage was a man’s expedient to meet a particular case: that they all are imitable, all alterable; we may make as good; we may make better.

— Ralph Waldo Emerson, 1844

… By calling attention to a well-regulated militia for the security of the Nation, and the right of each citizen to keep and bear arms, our founding fathers recognized the essentially civilian nature of our economy. Although it is extremely unlikely that the fear of governmental tyranny, which gave rise to the 2nd amendment, will ever be a major danger to our Nation, the amendment still remains an important declaration of our basic military-civilian relationship, in which every citizen must be ready to participate in the defense of his country. For that reason I believe the 2nd Amendment will always be important.,go

— John F. Kennedy

Republic … it means people can live free, talk free, go or come, buy or sell, be drunk or sober, however they choose.

— John Wayne

I had a copy of the Soviet Constitution and I read it with great interest. And I saw all kinds of terms in there that sound just exactly like our own: ‘Freedom of assembly’ and ‘freedom of speech’ and so forth. Of course, they don’t allow them to have those things, but they’re in there in the constitution. But I began to wonder about the other constitutions — everyone has one — and our own, and why so much emphasis on ours. And then I found out, and the answer was very simple — that’s why you don’t notice it at first. But it is so great that it tells the entire difference. All those other constitutions are documents that say, ‘We, the government, allow the people the following rights,’ and our Constitution says ‘We the People, allow the government the following privileges and rights.’ We give our permission to government to do the things that it does. And that’s the whole story of the difference — why we’re unique in the world and why no matter what our troubles may be, we’re going to overcome.

— Ronald Reagan

Under a government which imprisons any unjustly, the true place for a just man is also a prison.

— Henry David Thoreau

Never do anything against conscience even if the state demands it.

— Albert Einstein

The authority of government … can have no pure right over my person and my property but what I concede to it.

— Henry David Thoreau

The deterioration of every government begins with the decay of the principles on which it was founded.

— Charles-Louis De Secondat

We both alike know that in the discussion of human affairs the question of justice only enters where there is equal power to enforce it, and that the powerful exact what they can, and the weak grant what they must.

— Thucydides

To model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility, is to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.

— Alexander Hamilton

After 20 years on the bench I have concluded that federal drug laws are a disaster. It is time to get the government out of drug enforcement.

— Judge Whitman Knapp, New York Times; May 14, 1993

Must a citizen ever for a moment, or in the least degree, resign his conscience to the legislator? Why has every man a conscience, then? I think that we should be men first, and subjects afterward. It is not desireable to cultivate a respect for the law, so much as for the right. The only obligation which I have a right to assume is to do at any time what I think is right.

— Henry David Thoreau

Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.

— Milton Friedman

Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself.

— Mark Twain, A.B. Paine’s Mark Twain: A Biography (Harper, 1912, Vol. 2, page 724).

The duty of government is to leave commerce to its own capital and credit as well as all other branches of business, protecting all in their legal pursuits, granting exclusive privileges to none.

— Andrew Jackson

A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government on earth, general or particular, and what no just government should refuse to rest on inference.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to James Madison December 20, 1787

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

Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a law breaker, it breeds contempt for the law.

— Louis D. Brandeis

A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.

— Gerald Ford, An address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974.

The general (federal) government will tend to monarchy, which will fortify itself from day to day, instead of working its own cures.

— Thomas Jefferson

Only in a police state is the job of a policeman easy.

— Orson Welles

Government is not the solution to our problem. Government is the problem.

— Ronald Reagan, First Inaugural Address; January 20, 1981

What this country needs is more unemployed politicians.

— Edward Langley

The State never intentionally confronts a man’s sense, intellectual or moral, but only his body, his senses. It is not armed with superior wit or honesty, but with superior physical strength. I was not born to be forced.

— Henry David Thoreau

We do not believe any group of men adequate enough or wise enough to operate without scrutiny or without criticism. We know that the only way to avoid error is to detect it, that the only way to detect it is to be free to inquire. We know that in secrecy error undetected will flourish and subvert.

— J. Robert Oppenheimer

Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it whether it exists or not, diagnosing it incorrectly, and applying the wrong remedy.

— Ernest Benn

Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

— Thomas Jefferson, 1801

I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution or that have failed their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwarranted financial burden. I will not attempt to discover whether legislation is “needed” before I have first determined whether it is constitutionally permissible. And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents “interests,” I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and that in that cause I am doing the very best I can.

— Barry Goldwater

Government is like fire. If it is kept within bounds and under the control of the people, it contributes to the welfare of all. But if it gets out of place, if it gets too big and out of control, it destroys the happiness and even the lives of the people.

— Harold E. Stassen

“Any man more right than his neighbors constitutes a majority of one.”

— Henry David Thoreau, Civil Disobedience

Next to the right of liberty, the right of property is the most important individual right guaranteed by the Constitution and the one which, united with that of personal liberty, has contributed more to the growth of civilization than any other institution established by the human race.

— William Howard Taft

When a man assumes a public trust, he should consider himself as public property.

— 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

If a state is governed by the principles of reason, poverty and misery are subjects of shame; if a state is not governed by the principles of reason, riches and honors are the subjects of shame.

— Confucius, Analects, 8:13

[The Bill of Rights is] designed to protect individuals and minorities against the tyranny of the majority, but it’s also designed to protect the people against bureaucracy, against the government.

— Judge Lawrence Tribe

The difference between a politician and a pickpocket is that a pickpocket doesn’t always get indignant when you tell him to keep his hands to himself.

— Joseph Sobran

Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.

— Daniel Webster

… but if circumstances should at any time oblige the government to form an army of any magnitude, that army can never be formidable to the liberties of the people, while there is a large body of citizens, little if at all inferior to them in discipline and use of arms, who stand ready to defend their rights ..

— Alexander Hamilton

One difference between libertarianism and socialism is that a socialist society can’t tolerate groups of people practicing freedom, but a libertarian society can comfortably allow people to choose voluntary socialism.

— David Boaz, Libertarianism: A Primer

Politics is the business of getting power and privilege without possessing merit. A politician is anyone who asks individuals to surrender part of their liberty — their power and privilege — to State, Masses, Mankind, Planet Earth, or whatever. This state, those masses, that mankind, and the planet will then be run by … politicians.

— P.J. O’Rourke

…I am persuaded myself that the good sense of the people will always be found to be the best army. They may be led astray for a moment, but will soon correct themselves. The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to the true principles of their institution. To punish these errors too severely would be to suppress the only safeguard of the public liberty. The way to prevent these irregular interpositions of the people is to give them full information of their affairs thro’ the channel of the public papers, and to contrive that those papers should penetrate the whole mass of the people. The basis of our government being the opinion of the people, the very first object should be to keep that right:…Cherish therefore the spirit of our people, and keep alive their attention. Do not be too severe upon their errors, but reclaim them by enlightening them. If once they become inattentive to the public affairs, you and I, and Congress, and Assemblies, judges and governors shall all become wolves….

— Thomas Jefferson, A letter to Colonel Edward Carrington about the perpetrators of Shays’s Rebellion.

Power will intoxicate the best hearts, as wine the strongest heads. No man is wise enough, nor good enough to be trusted with unlimited power.

— Charles Caleb Colton

Whenever there is an interest and power to do wrong, wrong will generally be done and not less readily by a powerful and interested Party, than by a prince.

— James Madison

I have so much confidence in the good sense of man, and his qualifications for self-government, that I am never afraid of the issue where reason is left free to exert her force.

— Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Comte Diodati, 1789.

The dilemma … is between the democratic process of the market in which every individual has his share and the exclusive rule of a dictatorial body. Whatever people do in the market economy is the execution of their own plans. In this sense every human action means planning. What those calling themselves planners advocate is not the substitution of planned action for letting things go. It is the substitution of the planner’s own plan for the plans of his fellowmen. The planner is a potential dictator who wants to deprive all other people of the power to plan and act according to their own plans. He aims at one thing only: the exclusive absolute preeminence of his own plan.

— Ludwig von Mises

Society in every state is a blessing, but government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

— Thomas Paine

What would you think of someone who said, “I would like to have a cat provided it barked”? Yet your statement that you favor a government provided it behaves as you believe desirable is precisely equivalent. The biological laws that specify the characteristics of cats are no more rigid than the political laws that specify the behavior of government agencies once they are established. The way the government behaves and the adverse consequences are not an accident, not a result of some easily corrected human mistake, but a consequence of its constitution in precisely the same way that a meow is related to the constitution of a cat.

— Milton Friedman, Free to Choose

The trouble with political jokes is that they often get elected to office.

— Tony Pettito, Ada Weekly News, 23 October 1958

A right, such as a right to free speech, imposes no obligation on another, except that of non-interference. The so-called right to health care, food or housing, whether a person can afford it or not, is something entirely different; it does impose an obligation on another. If one person has a right to something he didn’t produce, simultaneously and of necessity it means that some other person does not have right to something he did produce. That’s because, since there’s no Santa Claus or Tooth Fairy, in order for government to give one American a dollar, it must, through intimidation, threats and coercion, confiscate that dollar from some other American.

— Walter Williams

Elections are a good deal like marriages, there’s no accounting for anyone’s taste. Every time we see a bridegroom we wonder why she ever picked him, and it’s the same with Public Officials.

— Will Rogers

The policy of the American government is to leave its citizens free, neither restraining them nor aiding them in their pursuits.

— Thomas Jefferson
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