Useful Quotations on Politics and Government

Pithy Prose for Politicians, Preachers, Professors, Pundits, and Public Speakers.

Ecclesiastes 10:2 – A wise man’s heart directs him toward the right, but the foolish man’s heart directs him toward the left.

2 Corinthians 13:1 – This is the third time I am coming to you. Every fact is to be confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

“In my many years I have come to a conclusion that one useless man is a shame, two is a law firm, and three or more is a Congress.” John Adams (1735-1826)

“Talk is cheap, except when Congress does it.” Anon

“Government is great fiction, through which everybody tries to live at the expense of everybody else.” Frederic Bastist (1801-1850)

“Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” James Bovard (1956-)

“Vote early and vote often.”  Al Capone (1899-1947)

“Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.” Douglas Casey ()

“Any man who is under 30, and is not a liberal, has not heart; and any man who is over 30, and is not a conservative, has no brains.”  Sir Winston Churchill (1874-1965)

“To see the right and not to do it is cowardice.” Confucius (551-479 BC)

“A superior man is modest in his speech, but exceeds in his actions.” Confucius

“Courage is going from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm.”  Winston Churchill

“I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” Winston Churchill

“In critical and baffling situations, it is always best to return to first principle and simple action.” Winston Churchill

“The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of the prosperity. The inherent blessing of socialism is the equal sharing of misery.” Winston Churchill

“Justice is truth in action.” Benjamin Disraeli (1804-1881)

“I begin by taking. I shall find scholars later to demonstrate my perfect right.” Frederick (II) the Great (1712-1786)

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is strong enough to take everything you have.” Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826)

“For the greatest part of humanity and the longest periods of history, empire has been the typical form of government.”  Henry Kissinger (1923-)

“A great President must be an educator, bridging the gap between his people’s future and its experience.” Henry Kissinger

“Americans could be moved to great deeds only through a vision that coincided with their perception of their country as exceptional.” Henry Kissinger

“Statesmen, even warriors, focus on the world in which they live; to prophets, the “real” world is the one they want to come into being.” Henry Kissinger

“In politics, however, there are few rewards for mitigating damage because it is rarely possible to prove that worse consequences would in fact have occurred.” Henry Kissinger

“Confused leaders have a tendency to substitute public relations maneuvers for a sense of direction.”  Henry Kissinger

“Every king consoled himself with the thought that strengthening his own rule was the greatest possible contribution to the general peace, and left it to the ubiquitous invisible hand to justify his exertions without limiting his ambitions.” Henry Kissinger, speaking of Europe 18th Century

“Paradoxically, the absolute rulers of the 18th Century were in a less strong position to mobilize resources for war than was the case when religion or ideology or popular government could stir the emotions.”  Henry Kissinger

“Equilibrium works best if it is buttressed by an agreement on common values.  The balance of power inhibits the capacity to overthrow the international order; agreement on shared values inhibits the desire to overthrow the international order.  Power without legitimacy tempts tests of strength; legitimacy without power tempts empty posturing.” Henry Kissinger

“The basic premise of collective security was that all nations would view every threat to security in the same way and be prepared to run the same risks in resisting it.”  Henry Kissinger

“The weakness of collective security is that interests are rarely uniform, and that security is rarely seamless.  Members of a general system of collective security are therefore more likely to agree on inaction than on joint action; they either will be held together by glittering generalities or may witness the defection of the most powerful member, who feels the most secure and therefore least needs the system.”  Henry Kissinger

“The bargaining position of a country depends on the options it is perceived to have.” Henry Kissinger

“The public does not in the long run respect leaders who mirror its own insecurities or see only the symptoms of crises rather than the long term trends.  The role of the leader is to assume the burden of acting on the basis of a confidence in his own assessment of the direction of events and how they can be influenced.  Failing that, crises will multiply, which is another way of saying that a leader has lost control over events.”  Henry Kissinger

“Facing down a nonexistent threat is an easy way to enhance a nation’s standing.”  Henry Kissinger

“University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”  Henry Kissinger (1923-)

“Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions – it only guarantees equality of opportunity.”  Irving Kristol (1920-2009)

“What this country needs are more unemployed politicians.” Edward Langley (1928-1995)

“A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.” G. Gordon Liddy (1930-)

“Let reverence for the laws be breathed by every American mother to the lisping babe that prattles on her lap. Let it be taught in schools, in seminaries, and in colleges. Let it be written in primers, spelling books, and in almanacs. Let it be preached from the pulpit, proclaimed in legislative halls, and enforced in the courts of justice. And, in short, let it become the political religion of the nation.”  Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 27 Jan. 1837, to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield, Ill.

“The ballot is stronger than the bullet.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 19 May 1856, Bloomington, Ill.

“As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Autograph fragment, c. 1 Aug. 1858 (published in The Collected Works of Abraham Lincoln, vol. 2, ed. by Roy P. Basler, 1953).

“No man is good enough to govern another man without that other’s consent.” Abraham Lincoln (1809-65), U.S. president. Speech, 16 Oct. 1854, Peoria, Ill., in the first of the Lincoln-Douglas debates.

“The Republican Party should not be a mere sucked egg, all shell and no meat, the principle all sucked out.”  Abraham Lincoln

“The man who can’t make a mistake can’t make anything.” Abraham Lincoln

“Public sentiment is everything. With public sentiment nothing can fail.  Without it nothing can succeed. He who molds opinion is greater than he who enacts laws.” Abraham Lincoln

“It is better to be feared than loved, if you cannot be both.”  Niccolo Machiavelli (1469-1527), “The Prince”

“A man who trusts nobody is apt to be the kind of man nobody trusts.” Harold Macmillan (1894-1986)

“Giving money and power to the government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” P.J. O’Rourke (1947-)

“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it is free.” P.J. O’Rourke

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.” Pericles (495-429 BC)

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”  Plato (427-347 B.C.)

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: if it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” Ronald Reagan (1911-2004)

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

“In matters of state, he who has the power often has the right, and he who is weak can only with difficulty keep from being wrong in the opinion of the majority of the world.”   Cardinal Richelieu (1585-1642)

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.” Will Rogers (1879-1935)

“I’m not a member of any organized political party, I’m a Democrat!” Will Rogers

The United States Constitution has proved itself the most marvelously elastic compilation of rules of government ever written.  Franklin D. Roosevelt (1882-1945), U.S. Democratic politician, president. Radio broadcast, 2 March 1930.

“The old parties are husks, with no real soul within either, divided on artificial lines, boss-ridden and privilege-controlled, each a jumble of incongruous elements, and neither daring to speak out wisely and fearlessly on what should be said on the vital issues of the day.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 6 Aug. 1912, at the Progressive party convention, Chicago.

“It is difficult to make our material condition better by the best law, but it is easy enough to ruin it by bad laws.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 23 Aug. 1902, Providence, R.I.

“No people is wholly civilized where a distinction is drawn between stealing an office and stealing a purse.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Acceptance Speech, 22 June 1912, Chicago, Illinois, upon his nomination for president on an independent ticket.

There is something to be said for government by a great aristocracy which has furnished leaders to the nation in peace and war for generations; even a democrat like myself must admit this. But there is absolutely nothing to be said for government by a plutocracy, for government by men very powerful in certain lines and gifted with the “money touch,” but with ideals which in their essence are merely those of so many glorified pawnbrokers. Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Letter, 15 Nov. 1913.

“The government is us; we are the government, you and I.” Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919), U.S. Republican (later Progressive) politician, president. Speech, 9 Sept. 1902, Asheville, N.C.

“A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.” George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950)

“The President has kept all of the promises he intended to keep.” Clinton aide George Stephanopolous (1961-) speaking on Larry King Live

“No man’s life, liberty, or property is safe while the legislature is in session.” Mark Twain (1835-1910)

“Suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But then I repeat myself.” Mark Twain

“The only difference between the tax man and the taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.” Mark Twain

“There is no distinctly American criminal class – save Congress.” Mark Twain

“In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.” Voltaire (1694-1778)

 

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