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Quotations about Government

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We in the United States operate like a hastily organized football team of individual stars, with each player thinking of next year's contract; and we have an elected quarterback whose popularity fluctuates with the success of each play. We work out our game plan as we go along, sometimes in the huddle and sometimes in angry debate at the line of scrimmage. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), "Choosing sides," December 1973

The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy. ~Woodrow Wilson

That's what government is, it's an unwieldy jalopy but you have to use it all the same. ~Richard Stengel, on Deadline: White House, MSNBC, 2020

The way people in democracies think of the government as something different from themselves is a real handicap. And, of course, sometimes the government confirms their opinion. ~Lewis Mumford, in Anne Chisholm, Philosophers of the Earth: Conversations with Ecologists, 1972

It might be more worthwhile if we stopped wringing our hands and started ringing our congressmen. ~Author unknown

The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter. ~Winston Churchill

If people behaved like governments, you'd call the cops. ~Kelvin Throop

We are imperfect. We cannot expect perfect government. ~William Howard Taft

Democracy gives every man the right to be his own oppressor. ~James Russell Lowell

The White House is haunted by a vague, helpless abstraction, a kind of ghost of a nation, called the people. ~Gerald Stanley Lee, The Ghost in the White House: Some Suggestions as to How a Hundred Million People (Who Are Supposed in a Vague, Helpless Way to Haunt the White House) Can Make Themselves Felt with a President — How They Can Back Him Up — Express Themselves to Him, Be Expressed by Him, and Get What They Want, "Chapter II: The Lonesomest Job on Earth," 1920

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys. ~P.J. O'Rourke

Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few. ~George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman, "Maxims: Education," 1905

In the absence of justice, what is sovereignty but organized robbery? ~St. Augustine

Democracy: The state of affairs in which you consent to having your pocket picked, and elect the best man to do it. ~Benjamin Lichtenberg

If all the economists in this country were laid end to end, they would never reach a conclusion. ~Author unknown

No man is good enough to govern another man without that other's consent. ~Abraham Lincoln

Under capitalism man exploits man; under socialism the reverse is true. ~Polish Proverb

The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class are to represent and repress them. ~Karl Marx

Governments should not possess instruments of coercion and violence denied to their citizens. ~Edgar A. Suter

Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. ~Louis Brandeis

A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away. ~Barry Goldwater

Many forms of Government have been tried, and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, it has been said that democracy is the worst form of Government except all those others that have been tried from time to time. ~Winston Churchill

Democracy is a government where you can say what you think even if you don't think. ~Author Unknown

The cure for capitalism's failing would require that a government would have to rise above the interests of one class alone. ~Robert L. Heilbroner

A patriot must always be ready to defend his country against his government. ~Edward Abbey, Vox Clamantis in Deserto, 1989

Democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding what to have for dinner. Liberty is a well-armed lamb. ~Author unknown, commonly misattributed to Benjamin Franklin (Thanks, Art)

Majority rule only works if you're also considering individual rights. Because you can't have five wolves and one sheep voting on what to have for supper. ~Attributed to Larry Flynt

Voting is the language of democracy. ~Wade Henderson

Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it. Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want — and their kids pay for it. ~Richard Lamm, c.1986

Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what's going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate? ~Will Rogers

Ohio claims they are due a president as they haven't had one since Taft. Look at the United States, they have not had one since Lincoln. ~Will Rogers

If you want to understand your government, don't begin by reading the Constitution. (It conveys precious little of the flavor of today's statecraft.) Instead, read selected portions of the Washington telephone directory containing listings for all the organizations with titles beginning with the word National. ~George Will

When there is a lack of honor in government, the morals of the whole people are poisoned. ~Herbert Hoover, 1964

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

Extreme right-wing "tea party" types are a minority of the Republican party. And Republicans are a minority of the country. And yet they are able to have their way because — in addition to other less ethical tactics — they vote! What must we do to get the more reasonable thinking majority to cast their ballots? A national voting holiday would be a good start.... Step up and save our country. It's your future. ~S.A. Sachs, 2015

Congress is so strange. A man gets up to speak and says nothing. Nobody listens — and then everybody disagrees. ~Boris Marshalov

I think many people have the mistaken impression that Congress regulates Wall Street. In truth that's not the case. The real truth is that Wall Street regulates the Congress. ~Bernie Sanders, 2012

Our political institutions work remarkably well. They are designed to clang against each other. The noise is democracy at work. ~Michael Novak

I'm tired of hearing it said that democracy doesn't work. Of course it doesn't work. We are supposed to work it. ~Alexander Woollcott

The worst thing in this world, next to anarchy, is government. ~Henry Ward Beecher, Proverbs from Plymouth Pulpit, 1887

I never accept anything about the Government until it has been officially denied; then I know it is true. ~The Tri-Weekly Gleaner, 1897  [Garson O'Toole, The Quote Investigator, has found several variations of this quotation but this is the earliest thus far. Another: "It is an axiom of practical politics never to believe anything until it has been officially denied." ~The Times (London), 1900. For more history on this quote, click here. —tεᖇᖇ¡·g]

People come to Washington believing it's the center of power. I know I did. It was only much later that I learned that Washington is a steering wheel that's not connected to the engine. ~Richard Goodwin

Democracy is the only system that persists in asking the powers that be whether they are the powers that ought to be. ~Sydney J. Harris

Holding government accountable... is difficult without essential information, without the ability to assess official conduct. That is a key reason why government actions, in so far as is possible, should be transparent. ~Editors of Issues of Democracy: Accountability in Government, August 2000

No government, no matter how democratic or efficient, can long be effective if it is corrupt — if institutions or individuals lack integrity and are motivated by self-interest and private gain rather than public good. Jane S. Ley, deputy director for government relations and special projects at the U.S. Office of Government Ethics, explores the vital issue of ethics in government. She discusses the legal framework that has evolved over the years to foster ethical conduct — dealing with such issues as codes of conduct, conflict of interest and financial disclosure. She concludes that the system in place, as elaborate as it now is, "will need to continue to adapt to new challenges." ~Editors of Issues of Democracy: Accountability in Government, August 2000

A civil servant is sometimes like a broken cannon — it won't work and you can't fire it. ~George S. Patton

Blessed are the young, for they shall inherit the national debt. ~Herbert Hoover, attributed

Debt, National.— Mortgaging the property of our posterity that we may be better enabled to destroy our contemporaries. ~"Specimens of a Patent Pocket Dictionary, For the use of those who wish to understand the meaning of things as well as words," The New Monthly Magazine and Literary Journal, 1824

It's not the voting that's democracy; it's the counting. ~Tom Stoppard, Jumpers

Talk is cheap — except when Congress does it. ~Cullen Hightower

The most important political office is that of the private citizen. ~Louis Brandeis

People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote — a very different thing. ~Walter H. Judd

How can one conceive of a one-party system in a country that has over two hundred varieties of cheese? ~Charles de Gaulle, about France

Relying on the government to protect your privacy is like asking a peeping tom to install your window blinds. ~John Perry Barlow, 1992

All forms of government are pernicious, including good government. ~Edward Abbey, Vox Clamantis in Deserto, 1989

A survey says that American workers work the first three hours every day just to pay their taxes. So that's why we can't get anything done in the morning: We're government workers. ~Jay Leno

It's about time that governments feared the people instead of the other way around. ~Henry Rollins

In a state-run society the government promises you security. But it's a false promise predicated on the idea that the opposite of security is risk. Nothing could be further from the truth. The opposite of security is insecurity, and the only way to overcome insecurity is to take risks. The gentle government that promises to hold your hand as you cross the street refuses to let go on the other side. ~Theodore Forstmann

Evolution trumps revolution. Great changes are achieved incrementally, each step building naturally on the last. It is the folly of government to believe in the efficacy of great leaps — and its hubris the attempt to implement them. ~Dr. Idel Dreimer,

Treaties are like roses and young girls — they last while they last. ~Charles de Gaulle

The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment. ~Robert M. Hutchins, Great Books, 1954

It is hard to feel individually responsible with respect to the invisible processes of a huge and distant government. ~John Gardner

Washington is a place where politicians don't know which way is up and taxes don't know which way is down. ~Robert Orben

Everybody wants to eat at the government's table, but nobody wants to do the dishes. ~Werner Finck

When government accepts responsibility for people, then people no longer take responsibility for themselves. ~George Pataki

Morphine and state relief are the same. You go dopey, feel better and are worse off. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of progress? ~Author Unknown

Democracy is an abuse of statistics. ~Jorge Luis Borges

When a Stalin or a Hitler can predict the future because he has the power to make his predictions come true, the life of the average man becomes unpredictable. ~Eric Hoffer, Reflections on the Human Condition, 1973

The mistakes made by Congress wouldn't be so bad if the next Congress didn't keep trying to correct them. ~Cullen Hightower

The plague of government is senile delinquency. ~Mignon McLaughlin, The Neurotic's Notebook, 1960

Our government has become too responsive to trivial or ephemeral concerns, often at the expense of more important concerns or an erosion of our liberty, and it has made policy priorities more dependent on where TV journalists happen to point their cameras.... As a nation we have lost our sense of tragedy, a recognition that bad things happen to good people. A nation that expects the government to prevent churches from burning, to control the price of bread or gasoline, to secure every job, and to find some villain for every dramatic accident, risks an even larger loss of life and liberty. ~William A. Niskanen, "For a Less Responsive Government," Cato Policy Report, 1996

No nation is fit to sit in judgment upon any other nation. ~Woodrow Wilson

It's every American's duty to support his government, but not necessarily in the style to which it has become accustomed. ~Quoted by Thomas Clifford

Information is the currency of democracy. ~Thomas Jefferson

Democracy is like a raft: It won't sink, but you will always have your feet wet. ~Russell B. Long

It is error alone which needs the support of government. Truth can stand by itself. ~Thomas Jefferson, Notes on Virginia

The government deficit is the difference between the amount of money the government spends and the amount it has the nerve to collect. ~Sam Ewing

Better the occasional faults of a government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a government frozen in the ice of its own indifference. ~Franklin D. Roosevelt

No man's life, liberty or property are safe while the legislature is in session. ~Author Unknown

A Conservative government is an organised hypocrisy. ~Benjamin Disraeli, 1845

Let the people think they govern, and they will be governed. ~William Penn, Some Fruits of Solitude, 1693

Bureaus are extrusions from the body politic — they are pus. ~Martin H. Fischer (1879–1962)

In the infancy of societies, the chiefs of the state shape its institutions; later the institutions shape the chiefs of state. ~Baron de Montesquieu

The marvel of all history is the patience with which men and women submit to burdens unnecessarily laid upon them by their governments. ~William E. Borah

The happiest thing that can be said about democracy... is that it is one of the few systems that has been willing to risk a long period of confusion and mixed purposes for the sake of giving man a chance to grow up in mind and responsibility. ~H.A. Overstreet

Why has government been instituted at all? Because the passions of men will not conform to the dictates of reason and justice, without constraint. ~Alexander Hamilton

I want the government to work well. And I think that when conservatives crusade against government while they are trying to be appointed to head the government, I think that's weird. ~Rachel Maddow, 2008

Democracy cannot flourish half rich and half poor, any more than it can flourish half free and half slave. ~Felix G. Rohatyn, New York Times, 3 June 1987

Ben Franklin thought the only hope for democracy was if people respected each other enough to compromise. ~The West Wing, "Jefferson Lives" [S5, E3, 2003], writing credits Carol Flint and Josh Singer, spoken by the character President Jed Bartlet

You know why there are so many whitefish in the Yellowstone River? Because the Fish and Game people have never done anything to help them. ~Russell Chatham, Silent Seasons, 1978

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. ~Reinhold Niebuhr

The People, though we think of a great entity when we use the word, means nothing more than so many millions of individual men. ~James Bryce

To hear some men talk of the government, you would suppose that Congress was the law of gravitation, and kept the planets in their places. ~Wendell Phillips, Orations, Speeches, Lectures and Letters

For in reason, all government without the consent of the governed is the very definition of slavery. ~Jonathan Swift, The Drapier's Letter

Democracy is an experiment, and the right of the majority to rule is no more inherent than the right of the minority to rule; and unless the majority represents sane, righteous, unselfish public sentiment, it has no inherent right. ~William Allen White (Thanks, Bob)

Our weaknesses are built into the democratic system, and we wouldn't look too bad if we were competing only with other democracies. Lately, however, we have been dealing with countries like Russia and China and their client states, and so we keep stepping on our own necktie. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), December 1973

They never seem to realize that the unity of the dictator governments is achieved by the simple method of executing their opponents. It works very well, and often you don't have to execute more than 15 or 20 percent before the message gets across. ~Gerald Raftery (1905–1986), "Choosing sides," December 1973

Many people say that government is necessary because some men cannot be trusted to look after themselves, but anarchists say that government is harmful because no men can be trusted to look after anyone else. ~Nicolas Walter, About Anarchism

Government is an unnecessary evil. Human beings, when accustomed to taking responsibility for their own behavior, can cooperate on a basis of mutual trust and helpfulness. ~Fred Woodworth, The Match!, No.79

If human beings are fundamentally good, no government is necessary; if they are fundamentally bad, any government, being composed of human beings, would be bad also. ~Fred Woodworth, The Match!, No.79

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. ~Lord Acton, letter to Mary Gladstone, 24 April 1881

If Columbus had an advisory committee he'd probably still be at the dock. ~Arthur J. Goldberg (1908–1990)

Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists. ~John Kenneth Galbraith

Democracy becomes a government of bullies tempered by editors. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson

To rule is easy, to govern difficult. ~Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Democracy consists of choosing your dictators, after they've told you what you think it is you want to hear. ~Alan Coren

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. ~Mark Twain

Applause, mingled with boos and hisses, is about all that the average voter is able or willing to contribute to public life. ~Elmer Davis

Here is my first principle of foreign policy: good government at home. ~William Ewart Gladstone

Because of our Congressional committee system, our government is closer to a gerontocracy than a democracy. ~Charles Frankel

Fire, water, and government know nothing of mercy. ~Proverb

I never would believe that Providence had sent a few men into the world, ready booted and spurred to ride, and millions ready saddled and bridled to be ridden. ~Richard Rumbold, 1685

Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us. ~P.J. O'Rourke

The Lord's Prayer is 66 words, the Gettysburg Address is 286 words, there are 1,322 words in the Declaration of Independence, but government regulations on the sale of cabbage total 26,911 words. ~National Review

Democracy is the art and science of running the circus from the monkey cage. ~H.L. Mencken

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