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26th U.S. President, 1901-1909

The Man in the Arena

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

-- from a speech titled "Citizenship in a Republic" delivered at the Sorbonne, Paris, 23 April 1910

86-34 BC
Roman Statesman and Historian

Only a few prefer liberty, the majority seek nothing more than fair masters.

-- from Histories, IV.69.18

Born 1930
American Economist

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.

-- in Jewish World Review, "Wake up, Parents", 18 August 2000


Science Fiction Writer

In the absence of clearly-defined goals, we become strangely loyal to performing daily trivia until ultimately we become enslaved by it.

Author of The Rape of Nanking

When you believe you have a future, you think in terms of generations and years. When you do not, you live not just by the day — but by the minute.
-- From her suicide note, 2004


He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.

He who would learn to fly one day must first learn to stand and walk and run and climb and dance; one cannot fly into flying.

American Writer and Orator

It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men.
-- Unable to verify authorship. The quote is likely of more recent origin.


I would rather be ashes than dust.

Life is not always a matter of holding good cards, but sometimes, playing a poor hand well.

Irish Novelist and Poet

Better pass boldly into that other world, in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.
-- from "Dubliners" (1914)

English Political Philosopher and Economist

A man who has nothing which he is willing to fight for, nothing which he cares more about than he does about his personal safety, is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.
-- from the essay "The Contest in America" published in Fraser’s Magazine, February 1862


Show me someone who doesn't dream about the future and I'll show you someone who doesn't know where they are going.


Nothing happens unless first we dream.

1902-1968 find where you are going, you must know where you are...


Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn't do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.



A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until a majority of voters discover that they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury...
-- Unable to verify authorship. The quote is likely of more recent origin.


Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.

-- from"Individual Rights", Los Angeles Times, 12 January 1992

Born 1956

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
-- from Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994)

Irish Playwright

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

If history repeats itself, and the unexpected always happens, how incapable must Man be of learning from experience!
-- from "Maxims for Revolutionists" (1903)

Government presents only one problem: the discovery of a trustworthy anthropometric method.
-- from "Maxims for Revolutionists" (1903)

French Economist

The state is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.
-- from Selected Essays on Political Economy, "The State" (1848)

Competition is merely the absence of oppression.
-- from Economic Harmonies, "Competition" (1850)


In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.
-- in Questions sur l'Encyclopédie, "Money" (1770)

Scottish Author

It is not in the nature of politics that the best men should be elected. The best men do not want to govern their fellow men.

American Philosopher

Some of the worst tyrannies of our day genuinely are "vowed" to the service of mankind, yet can function only by pitting neighbor against neighbor. The all-seeing eye of a totalitarian regime is usually the watchful eye of the next-door neighbor.
-- in "The Ordeal of Change" (1963)

English Author

"Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen and six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery."
-- Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield (1850)


Whenever you hear the consensus of scientists agrees on something or other, reach for your wallet, because you're being had.
-- from a speech titled "Aliens Cause Global Warming", given at the California Institute of Technology, Pasadena, CA, 17 January 2003

American Geologist and Paleontologist

In science, “fact” can only mean “confirmed to such a degree that it would be perverse to withhold provisional assent.” I suppose that apples might start to rise tomorrow, but the possibility does not merit equal time in physics classrooms.
-- from
Hen's Teeth and Horse's Toes: Further Reflections in Natural History, "Evolution as Fact and Theory" (1983)

Born 1952

An economic crisis is nature’s revenge on those who make and those who accept false promises...

7th U.S. President, 1829-1837

Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions.
-- from his Veto Message Regarding the Bank of the United States, 1832

There are no necessary evils in government. Its evils exist only in its abuses. If it would confine itself to equal protection, and, as Heaven does its rains, shower its favors alike on the high and the low, the rich and the poor, it would be an unqualified blessing.
-- from his Veto Message Regarding the Bank of the United States, 1832

But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing.
-- from his Farewell Address, 4 March 1837


Drunken sailors generally spend cash that they've already earned themselves, rather than running up debt to be paid by others. If our politicians started spending like drunken sailors, it would in fact represent a dramatic improvement.
-- Instapundit, 9 June 2009

The government decides to try to increase the middle class by subsidizing things that middle class people have: If middle-class people go to college and own homes, then surely if more people go to college and own homes, we’ll have more middle-class people. But home ownership and college aren't causes of middle-class status, they're markers for possessing the kinds of traits — self-discipline, the ability to defer gratification, etc. — that let you enter, and stay, in the middle class. Subsidizing the markers doesn't produce the traits; if anything, it undermines them.
-- Instapundit, 23 September 2010

Funny, it’s easy for some people to accept that artistic freedom is good for art, but they still have trouble accepting that economic freedom is good for the economy.
-- Instapundit, 19 May 2011

26th U.S. President, 1901-1909

To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else.
-- from an editorial in the Kansas City Star, 7 May 1918

6th U.S. President, 1825-1829

The country is so totally given up to the spirit of party, that not to follow blindfold the one or the other is an inexpiable offence. The worst of these parties has the popular torrent in its favor, and uses its triumph with all the unprincipled fury of a faction; while the other gnashes its teeth, and is waiting with all the impatience of revenge for the time when its turn may come to oppress and punish by the people's favor. Between both, I see the impossibility of pursuing the dictates of my own conscience without sacrificing every prospect, not merely of advancement, but even of retaining that character and reputation I have enjoyed.
-- diary entry 31 Dec 1803, while a member of the U.S. Senate


Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.
-- Historical Review of Pennsylvania, 1759

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 travelled 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.
-- On the Price of Corn and Management of the Poor, 29 November 1766


The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance...
-- in "Speech on the Right of Election of Lord Mayor of Dublin", 1790; repeated in various forms by many authors including President Andrew Jackson (see above), but not Thomas Jefferson


The stupidity of democracy. It will always remain one of democracy's best jokes that it provided its deadly enemies with the means by which it was destroyed.
-- 1935, referring to the demise of the Weimar Republic

On 30 January the era of individualism finally died...The individual will be replaced by the community of the people.
-- 15 November 1933


Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But, after all, it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy or a fascist dictatorship or a Parliament or a Communist dictatorship...[T]he people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
-- 18 April 1946, in an interview with author Gusatv Gilbert  during the Nürnberg War Crimes Trials

  1st U.S. President, 1789-1797

If in the opinion of the People, the distribution or modification of the Constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change by usurpation; for though this, in one instance, may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.
-- from his Farewell Address, 19 September 1796

16th U.S. President, 1861-1865

Any people anywhere being inclined and having the power have the right to rise up and shake off the existing government, and form a new one that suits them better. This is a most valuable, a most sacred right—a right which we hope and believe is to liberate the world.
-- Speech in the House of Representatives, 12 January 1848

Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.
-- Speech at Kalamazoo, Michigan, 27 August, 1856

3rd U.S. President, 1801-1809

...what more is necessary to make us a happy and a prosperous people? Still one thing more, fellow citizens, a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.
-- 1st Inaugural Address, 4 March 1801

The same prudence, which, in private life, would forbid our paying our money for unexplained projects, forbids it in the disposition of the public moneys.
-- in a letter to Shelton Gilliam, 1808

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.
-- in a letter to Destutt Tracy, 1820

I regret that I am now to die in the belief that the useless sacrifice of themselves, by the generation of 1776, to acquire self government and happiness to their country, is to be thrown away by the unwise and unworthy passions of their sons, and that my only consolation is to be that I live not to weep over it.
-- in a letter to John Holmes, 1820

I wish... to see maintained that wholesome distribution of powers established by the Constitution for the limitation of both [the State and General governments], and never to see all offices transferred to Washington where, further withdrawn from the eyes of the people, they may more secretly be bought and sold as at market.
-- in a letter to William Johnson, 1823

I see as you do, and with the deepest affliction, the rapid strides with which the federal branch of our government is advancing towards the usurpation of all the rights reserved to the states, and the consolidation in itself of all powers foreign and domestic; and that too by constructions which, if legitimate, leave no limits to their power.
-- in a letter to William Branch Giles, 1825

35th U.S. President, 1961-1963

Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.
-- from an address to Latin American diplomats at the White House, 13 March 1962

U.S. Army Chief of Staff (1987-1991)

Hope is not a method and wishes are not plans.

British Physicist & Writer

When you think of the long and gloomy history of man, you will find more hideous crimes have been committed in the name of obedience than have ever been committed in the name of rebellion.


To accept passively an unjust system is to cooperate with that system; thereby the oppressed become as evil as the oppressor. Non-cooperation with evil is as much a moral obligation as is cooperation with good.
-- from "Three Ways of Meeting Oppression" (1958)

Science Fiction Writer

Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.
-- from Time Enough for Love (1973)

A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects. [Emphasis mine]
-- from Time Enough for Love (1973)

It is a truism that almost any sect, cult, or religion will legislate its creed into law if it acquires the political power to do so, and will follow it by suppressing opposition, subverting all education to seize early the minds of the young, and by killing, locking up, or driving underground all heretics.
-- from Time Enough for Love

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.
This is known as "bad luck."
-- from Time Enough for Love

U.S. Representative and Senator

Uniformity is the parent of despotism the world over...I am driven irresistibly to the conclusion that diversity, dissimilarity, variety in all our local and domestic institutions, is the great safeguard of our liberties...
-- from his Homecoming Speech, Chicago, 9 July 1858

American Journalist and Satirist

Politicians seldom if ever get [into public office] by merit alone, at least in democratic states. Sometimes, to be sure, it happens, but only by a kind of miracle. They are chosen normally for quite different reasons, the chief of which is simply their power to impress and enchant the intellectually underprivileged…
-- from A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949)

Western Historian

Realism is the most painful, most difficult, and slowest of human faculties.
-- in The Year of Decision: 1846

Last Update: 1 January 2015