Democracy

From Wikiquote
Jump to: navigation, search
Democracy is a poor system of government at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favor is that it is about eight times as good as any other method the human race has ever tried. ~ Robert A. Heinlein

Democracy is a form of government in which power ultimately comes from the people who are governed, whether through direct voting or through elected representatives. A democracy can range from a liberal direct democracy to an illiberal totalitarian democracy.

Quotes[edit]

The basis of a democratic state is liberty. ~ Aristotle
If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost. ~ Aristotle
All deductions having been made, democracy has done less harm, and more good, than any other form of government. ~ Will Durant
It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. ~ George Orwell
The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people - faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but will also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment - faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor, and ultimately recognize right. ~ John F. Kennedy
In a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'hold office'; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve. ~ John F. Kennedy
Democracy fights in anger — it fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it — to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. ~ George F. Kennan
If the lesser mind could measure the greater as a foot-rule can measure a pyramid, there would be finality in universal suffrage. As it is, the political problem remains unsolved. ~ George Bernard Shaw
Democracy ... dispenses equality to equals and unequaled alike. ~ Plato
One of the insidious facts about totalitarianism is its seeming "efficiency." ...Democracy — with all of its inefficiency — is still the best system we have so far for enhancing the prospects of our mutual survival. ~ Neil Postman
A democracy should seek peace through a new unity. For a democracy can keep alive only if the settlement of old difficulties clears the ground and transfers energies to face new responsibilities. ~ Franklin D. Roosevelt
Men in the mass never brook the destructive discussion of their fundamental beliefs, and that impatience is naturally most evident in those societies in which men in the mass are most influential. Democracy and free speech are not facets of one gem; democracy and free speech are eternal enemies. ~ H. L. Mencken
Democracy is the power of equal votes for unequal minds. ~ Charles I
Democracy, in a word, is meant to be an aristocracy which has broadened into a universal aristocracy. ... Liberal education is the ladder by which we try to ascend from mass democracy to democracy as originally meant. ~ Leo Strauss
The majority principle … is a new god, not in the sense in which the heralds of the great revolutions conceived it, namely, as a power of resistance to existing injustice, but as a power of resistance to anything that does not conform. ~ Max Horkheimer
Alphabetized by author
  • "It comes from a very ancient democracy, you see...."
    "You mean, it comes from a world of lizards?"
    "No," said Ford, who by this time was a little more rational and coherent than he had been, having finally had the coffee forced down him, "nothing so simple. Nothing anything like so straightforward. On its world, the people are people. The leaders are lizards. The people hate the lizards and the lizards rule the people."
    "Odd," said Arthur, "I thought you said it was a democracy."
    "I did," said Ford. "It is."
    "So," said Arthur, hoping he wasn't sounding ridiculously obtuse, "why don't the people get rid of the lizards?"
    "It honestly doesn't occur to them," said Ford. "They've all got the vote, so they all pretty much assume that the government they've voted in more or less approximates to the government they want."
    "You mean they actually vote for the lizards?"
    "Oh yes," said Ford with a shrug, "of course."
    "But," said Arthur, going for the big one again, "why?"
    "Because if they didn't vote for a lizard," said Ford, "the wrong lizard might get in."
    • Douglas Adams, in So Long, And Thanks For All The Fish (1984) Ch. 36.
  • I do not say that democracy has been more pernicious on the whole, and in the long run, than monarchy or aristocracy. Democracy has never been and never can be so durable as aristocracy or monarchy; but while it lasts, it is more bloody than either. … Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.
    • John Adams, letter to John Taylor (15 April 1814).
  • The basis of a democratic state is liberty.
  • If liberty and equality, as is thought by some, are chiefly to be found in democracy, they will be best attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost.
  • Democracy needs support and the best support for democracy comes from other democracies. Democratic nations should... come together in an association designed to help each other and promote what is a universal value — democracy.
  • Sycophancy toward those who hold power is a fact in every regime, and especially in a democracy, where, unlike tyranny, there is an accepted principle of legitimacy that breaks the inner will to resist. ... Flattery of the people and incapacity to resist public opinion are the democratic vices, particularly among writers, artists, journalists and anyone else who is dependent on an audience.
    • Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), p. 249.
  • We may have democracy, or we may have wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.
    • Louis Brandeis, U.S. Supreme Court Justice ~ quoted by Raymond Lonergan in, Mr. Justice Brandeis, Great American (1941), p. 42.
  • When I examined my political faith I found that my strongest belief was in democracy according to my own definition. Democracy—the essential thing as distinguished from this or that democratic government—was primarily an attitude of mind, a spiritual testament, and not an economic structure or a political machine. The testament involved certain basic beliefs—that the personality was sacrosanct, which was the meaning of liberty; that policy should be settled by free discussion; that normally a minority should be ready to yield to a majority, which in turn should respect a minority's sacred things. It seemed to me that democracy had been in the past too narrowly defined and had been identified illogically with some particular economic or political system such as laissez-faire or British parliamentarism. I could imagine a democracy which economically was largely socialist and which had not our constitutional pattern.
    • John Buchan, Pilgrim's Way (1940, reprinted 1979), p. 222.
  • A perfect democracy is therefore the most shameless thing in the world.
    • Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France (1790).
  • And wrinkles, the d—d democrats, won't flatter.
  • Democracy will prevail when men believe the vote of Judas as good as that of Jesus Christ.
    • Attributed to Thomas Carlyle "The Scholar in a Republic", centennial anniversary address to Phi Beta Kappa of Harvard College, Cambridge, Massachusetts (June 30, 1881). Reported in Carlos Martyn and Wendell Phillips, The Agitator (1890), p. 581. Reported as unverified in Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations (1989).
  • Unlike what neo-liberals say, market and democracy clash at a fundamental level. Democracy runs on the principle of ‘one man (one person), one vote’. The market runs on the principle of ‘one dollar, one vote’. Naturally, the former gives equal weight to each person, regardless of the money she/he has. The latter give greater weight to richer people. Therefore, democratic decisions usually subvert the logic of market.
    • Ha-Joon Chang, in Bad Samaritans (2008), Ch. 8: Zaire vs Indonesia, Should we turn our backs on corrupt and undemocratic countries?, Democracy and the free market, p. 157-158
  • Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.
  • You can never have a revolution in order to establish a democracy. You must have a democracy in order to have a revolution.
    • G. K. Chesterton, Tremendous Trifles (1955), Chapter 12 Wind and the trees, p. 63.
  • The 20th century has been characterized by four developments of great importance: the growth of political democracy, the growth of Online Democracy, the growth of corporate power, and the growth of corporate propaganda as a means of protecting corporate power against democracy.
    • Alex Carey, Australian social scientist, in his 1995 Taking the Risk out of Democracy: Propaganda in the US and Australia, University of NSW Press, as quoted in "Letter from Noam Chomsky" to Covert Action Quarterly.
  • Democracy is the power of equal votes for unequal minds.
  • On n'exporte pas la démocratie dans un fourgon blindé.
    • One does not export democracy in an armored vehicle.
    • Jacques Chirac Source: attributed by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, when Jacques Chirac addressed Silvio Berlusconi over the invasion of Iraq, 20 o'clock news, TF1, mars 11th 2007
  • 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 other forms that have been tried from time to time.
    • Winston Churchill, speech in the House of Commons (November 11, 1947); in Robert Rhodes James, ed., Winston S. Churchill: His Complete Speeches, 1897–1963 (1974), vol. 7, p. 7566.
  • Democracy is not a panacea. It cannot organize everything and it is unaware of its own limits. These facts must be faced squarely. Sacrilegious though this may sound, democracy is no longer well suited for the tasks ahead. The complexity and the technical nature of many of today's problems do not always allow elected representatives to make competent decisions at the right time.
  • A democracy unsatisfied [by support of the people] cannot long survive. We live in probably the most turbulent and tormented times in the history of this nation. Criticize... disagree, yes, but also we have as leaders an obligation to be fair and keep in perspective what we are and what we hope to be.
    • John Connally, remarks at American Society of Newspaper Editors luncheon, Washington, D.C. (April 19, 1972), as reported by The Washington Post (April 20, 1972), p. C3.
  • But we owe ourselves, and the United States that we will pass off to our children, to re-learn the tools of reason, logic, clarity, dissent, civility, and debate. And those things are the non-partisan basis of democracy, and without them you can kiss this thing goodbye.
  • All deductions having been made, democracy has done less harm, and more good, than any other form of government. It gave to human existence a zest and camaraderie that outweighed its pitfalls and defects. It gave to thought and science and enterprise the freedom essential to their operation and growth. It broke down the walls of privilege and class, and in each generation it raised up ability from every rank and place.
    • Historian Will Durant in his book The Lessons of History, chapter "Governement and History" p. 78.
  • Ich bin zwar im täglichen Leben ein typischer Einspänner, aber das Bewusstsein, der unsichtbaren Gemeinschaft derjenigen anzugehören, die nach Wahrheit, Schönheit und Gerechtigkeit streben, hat das Gefühl der Vereinsamung nicht aufkommen lassen.
    • I am an adherent of the ideal of democracy, although I well know the weaknesses of the democratic form of government. Social equality and economic protection of the individual appeared to me always as the important communal aims of the state. Although I am a typical loner in daily life, my consciousness of belonging to the invisible community of those who strive for truth, beauty, and justice has preserved me from feeling isolated.
    • Albert Einstein, in "My Credo", a speech to the German League of Human Rights, Berlin (Autumn 1932), as published in Einstein: A Life in Science (1994) by Michael White and John Gribbin, p. 262.
  • Democracy is not a Beloved Republic really, and never will be. But it is less hateful than other contemporary forms of government, and to that extent deserves our support.
    • E. M. Forster, in "What I Believe" (1938), as published in Ten Articulate Men, John Stephens (ed) Australasian Publishing Company, Sydney (1966) pp 227-8.
  • So Two Cheers for Democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism. Two cheers are quite enough: there is no occasion to give three.
  • "Democratic" decision making is a means for finding and implementing the will of the majority; it has no other function. It serves, not to encourage diversity, but to prevent it.
  • When people put their ballots in the boxes, they are, by that act, inoculated against the feeling that the government is not theirs. They then accept, in some measure, that its errors are their errors, its aberrations their aberrations, that any revolt will be against them. It's a remarkably shrewd and rather conservative arrangement when one thinks of it.
  • The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.
  • We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
  • It has been observed that a pure democracy if it were practicable would be the most perfect government. Experience has proved that no position is more false than this. The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.
  • Liberalism is a doctrine about what the law ought to be, democracy a doctrine about the manner of determining the law. Liberalism regards it as desirable that only what the majority accepts should in fact be law, but it does not believe that this is therefore necessarily good law. Its aim, indeed, is to persuade the majority to observe certain principles. It accepts majority rule as a method of deciding, but not as an authority for what the decision ought to be. To the doctrinaire democrat the fact that the majority wants something is sufficient ground for regarding it as good; for him the will of the majority determines not only what is law but what is good law.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: 1960), pp. 103-104.
  • Democracy is a poor system of government at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favor is that it is about eight times as good as any other method the human race has ever tried. Democracy's worst fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents — a depressingly low level, but what else can you expect?
  • The basic ideals and concepts of rationalist metaphysics were rooted in the concept of the universally human, of mankind, and their formalization implies that they have been severed from their human content. How this dehumanization of thinking affects the very foundations of our civilization can be illustrated by analysis of the principle of the majority, which is inseparable from the principle of democracy. In the eyes of the average man, the principle of the majority is often not only a substitute for but an improvement upon objective reason: since men are after all the best judges of their own interests, the resolutions of a majority, it is thought, are certainly as valuable to a community as the intuitions of a so-called superior reason. … What does it mean to say that “a man knows his own interests best”—how does he gain this knowledge, what evidences that his knowledge is correct? In the proposition, “A man knows [his own interests] best,” there is an implicit reference to an agency that is not totally arbitrary … to some sort of reason underlying not only means but ends as well. If that agency should turn out to be again merely the majority, the whole argument would constitute a tautology. The great philosophical tradition that contributed to the founding of modern democracy was not guilty of this tautology, for it based the principles of government upon … the assumption that the same spiritual substance or moral consciousness is present in each human being. In other words, respect for the majority was based on a conviction that did not itself depend on the resolutions of the majority.
  • Every philosophical, ethical, and political idea—its lifeline connecting it with its historical origins having been severed—has a tendency to become the nucleus of a new mythology, and this is one of the reasons why the advance of enlightenment tends at certain points to revert to superstition and paranoia. The majority principle … has become the sovereign force to which thought must cater. It is a new god, not in the sense in which the heralds of the great revolutions conceived it, namely, as a power of resistance to existing injustice, but as a power of resistance to anything that does not conform.
  • Democracy has nothing to do with freedom. Democracy is a soft variant of communism, and rarely in the history of ideas has it been taken for anything else.
  • The only way to practice democracy, is to practice democracy.
    • Hu Shih, Science and Democracy Defined (1921), quoted in: Wen-shun Chi (1986). Ideological Conflicts in Modern China: Democracy and Authoritarianism. Transaction Publishers. pp. pp 99-134. ISBN 1 5600 0608 0. 
  • "And where else will (Hume,) this degenerate son of science, this traitor to his fellow men, find the origin of just powers, if not in the majority of the society? Will it be in the minority? Or in an individual of that minority?"
    • Thomas Jefferson, Letter to J. Cartwright, 1824.
  • Democracy is necessarily despotism, as it establishes an executive power contrary to the general will; all being able to decide against one whose opinion may differ, the will of all is therefore not that of all: which is contradictory and opposite to liberty.
  • The true democracy, living and growing and inspiring, puts its faith in the people - faith that the people will not simply elect men who will represent their views ably and faithfully, but will also elect men who will exercise their conscientious judgment - faith that the people will not condemn those whose devotion to principle leads them to unpopular courses, but will reward courage, respect honor, and ultimately recognize right.
  • For in a democracy, every citizen, regardless of his interest in politics, 'hold office'; everyone of us is in a position of responsibility; and, in the final analysis, the kind of government we get depends upon how we fulfill those responsibilities. We, the people, are the boss, and we will get the kind of political leadership, be it good or bad, that we demand and deserve.
  • A democracy is peace-loving. It does not like to go to war. It is slow to rise to provocation. When it has once been provoked to the point where it must grasp the sword, it does not easily forgive its adversary for having produced this situation. The fact of the provocation then becomes itself the issue. Democracy fights in anger — it fights for the very reason that it was forced to go to war. It fights to punish the power that was rash enough and hostile enough to provoke it — to teach that power a lesson it will not forget, to prevent the thing from happening again. Such a war must be carried to the bitter end.
  • You may fool all the people some of the time; ... some of the people all the time; but you can't fool all of the people all the time.
    • Attributed to Abraham Lincoln by Alexander K. McClure (1904) "Abe" Lincoln's Yarns and Stories.
  • Here is Democracy's opportunity. Here is the opportunity to be of service to the people. Here is the chance for this party to have been of service to the people of the United States. Here is our chance to have been of help to the poor man. Here is our chance to have relieved him of the burdens and to have given him the benefits of a government that could have promoted the enterprises and furnished the conveniences and the facilities needed by every man, woman, and child in this country.
    • Huey Long, remarks in the Senate (May 17, 1932), reported in Congressional Record, vol. 75, p. 10394.
  • Tyranny is usually tempered with assassination, and Democracy must be tempered with culture. In the absence of this, it turns into a representation of collective folly.
  • A pure democracy can admit no cure for the mischiefs of faction. A common passion or interest will be felt by a majority, and there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party. Hence it is, that democracies have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have, in general, been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths.
  • Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property; and have in general been as short in their lives as they have been violent in their deaths. Theoretic politicians, who have patronized this species of government, have erroneously supposed that by reducing mankind to a perfect equality in their political rights, they would, at the same time, be perfectly equalized and assimilated in their possessions, their opinions, and their passions.
  • All the experience the Chinese people have accumulated through several decades teaches us to enforce the people's democratic dictatorship, that is, to deprive the reactionaries of the right to speak and let the people alone have that right.
  • I have long been convinced that institutions purely democratic must, sooner or later, destroy liberty, or civilisation, or both.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Henry Stephens Randall (May 23, 1857), in Thomas Pinney, ed., The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1981), vol. 6, p. 94.
  • I have not the smallest doubt that, if we had a purely democratic government here, the effect would be the same. Either the poor would plunder the rich, and civilisation would perish; or order and property would be saved by a strong military government, and liberty would perish.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, letter to Henry Stephens Randall (May 23, 1857), in Thomas Pinney, ed., The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1981), vol. 6, p. 94–95 (1981).
  • Operational analysis ... cannot raise the decisive question whether the consent itself was not the work of manipulation—a question for which the actual state of affairs provides ample justification. The analysis cannot raise it because it would transcend its terms toward transitive meaning—toward a concept of democracy which would reveal the democratic election as a rather limited democratic process.
    Precisely such a non-operational concept is the one rejected by the authors as “unrealistic” because it defines democracy on too articulate a level as the clear-cut control of representation by the electorate—popular control as popular sovereignty.
  • Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
  • Civilization, in fact, grows more and more maudlin and hysterical; especially under democracy it tends to degenerate into a mere combat of crazes; the whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by an endless series of hobgoblins, most of them imaginary.
  • As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.
    • H. L. Mencken, “Bayard vs. Lionheart,” Baltimore Evening Sun, July 26, 1920.
  • The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy!
  • Men in the mass never brook the destructive discussion of their fundamental beliefs, and that impatience is naturally most evident in those societies in which men in the mass are most influential. Democracy and free speech are not facets of one gem; democracy and free speech are eternal enemies.
  • Politics, under a democracy, reduces itself to a mere struggle for office by flatterers of the proletariat.
  • A party of the landed gentry which should appeal only to the members of its own class and to those of identical economic interests, would not win a single seat, would not send a single representative to parliament. A conservative candidate who should present himself to his electors by declaring to them that he did not regard them as capable of playing an active part in influencing the destinies of the country, and should tell them that for this reason they ought to be deprived of the suffrage, would be a man of incomparable sincerity, but politically insane.
  • No government by a democracy, ... either in its political acts or in the opinions, qualities, and tone of mind which it fosters, ever did or could rise above mediocrity, except in so far as the sovereign Many have let themselves be guided (which in their best times they always have done) by the counsels and influence of a more highly gifted and instructed One or Few.
  • "In a public, as we may understand the term, (1) virtually as many people express opinions as receive them, (2) Public communications are so organised that there is a chance immediately and effectively to answer back any opinion expressed in public. Opinion formed by such discussion (3) readily finds an outlet in effective action, even against – if necessary – the prevailing system of authority. And (4) authoritative institutions do not penetrate the public, which is thus more or less autonomous in its operations.-In a mass, (1) far fewer people express opinions than receive them; for the community of publics becomes an abstract collection of individuals who receive impressions from the mass media. (2) The communications that prevail are so organised that it is difficult or impossible for the individual to answer back immediately or with any effect. (3) The realisation of opinion in action is controlled by authorities who organise and control the channels of such action. (4) The mass has no autonomy from institutions; on the contrary, agents of authorised institutions penetrate this mass, reducing any autonomy it may have in the formation of opinion by discussion".
  • Nonetheless, one final and inescapable conflict remains before us, the war between democracy and communism. Although each side has equipped itself with fearsome weapons and is pitted against the other in readiness for battle, the core of their conflict is internal and ideological. Which side will triumph in this final ideological conflict? Anyone who believes in the reality of God will surely answer that democracy will win.
  • Here is the crisis of the times as I see it: We talk about problems, issues, policies, but we don't talk about what democracy means — what it bestows on us — the revolutionary idea that it isn't just about the means of governance but the means of dignifying people so they become fully free to claim their moral and political agency.
    • Bill Moyers, "The Power of Democracy", speech accepting the Public Intellectual Award of the Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship Foundation, 7 February 2007, Moyers on Democracy (2008), p. 92.
  • 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, as quoted in Philosophers of the Earth : Conversations with Ecologists (1972) by Anne Chisholm
  • Democratic regimes may be described as those under which the people are, from time to time, deluded into the belief that they exercise sovereignty over their nation, while in reality the sovereignty at all times resides in and is exercised by other, sometimes irresponsible and secret forces.
  • Democratic institutions are quarantine mechanisms for that old pestilence, tyrannic lust. As such they are very useful and very boring.
  • Authority has always attracted the lowest elements in the human race. All through history mankind has been bullied by scum. Those who lord it over their fellows and toss commands in every direction and would boss the grass in the meadows about which way to bend in the wind are the most depraved kind of prostitutes. They will submit to any indignity, perform any vile act, do anything to achieve power. The worst off-sloughings of the planet are the ingredients of sovereignty. Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.
  • Imagine if all of life were determined by majority rule. Every meal would be a pizza. Every pair of pants, even those in a Brooks Brothers suit, would be stone-washed denim. Celebrity diet and exercise books would be the only thing on the shelves at the library. And — since women are a majority of the population — we'd all be married to Mel Gibson.
  • Today we are witnessing the triumph of a hyperdemocracy in which the mass acts directly, outside the law, imposing its aspirations and its desires by means of material pressure.
  • In the case of a word like DEMOCRACY, not only is there no agreed definition, but the attempt to make one is resisted from all sides. It is almost universally felt that when we call a country democratic we are praising it: consequently the defenders of every kind of régime claim that it is a democracy, and fear that they might have to stop using the word if it were tied down to any one meaning. Words of this kind are often used in a consciously dishonest way. That is, the person who uses them has his own private definition, but allows his hearer to think he means something quite different.
  • What's happened recently in Pakistan, India and Kuwait only goes to show that it's futile to imitate Western democracy. They've ended up exactly where they started.
  • We have really put the duh in democracy, creating a perverse equality that entitles everyone to speak to every issue, regardless of how much they know about it.
  • Many of our moral and political policies are designed to preempt what we know to be the worst features of human nature. The checks and balances in a democracy, for instance, were invented in explicit recognition of the fact that human leaders will always be tempted to arrogate power to themselves. Likewise, our sensitivity to racism comes from an awareness that groups of humans, left to their own devices, are apt to discriminate and oppress other groups, often in ugly ways. History also tells us that a desire to enforce dogma and suppress heretics is a recurring human weakness, one that has led to recurring waves of gruesome oppression and violence. A recognition that there is a bit of Torquemada in everyone should make us wary of any attempt to enforce a consensus or demonize those who challenge it.
    • Steven Pinker, introduction to What is Your Dangerous Idea? (2007) ed. John Brockman, p. xxxi.
  • Democracy ... dispenses equality to equals and unequaled alike.
    • Plato, The Republic, 558c
  • One of the insidious facts about totalitarianism is its seeming "efficiency." ...Democracy — with all of its inefficiency — is still the best system we have so far for enhancing the prospects of our mutual survival.
  • If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers.
  • It is much to be feared that the last expression of democracy may be a social state with a degenerate populace having no other aim than to indulge in the ignoble appetites of the vulgar.
  • Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life.
  • One faith, one law and one standard of justice did not mean democracy. The heresy of democracy has since then worked havoc in church and state, and it has worked towards reducing society to anarchy.

The Secrets of the Kingdom: Religion and Concealment in the Bush administration, Hugh B. Urban, Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 2007 (p.39).

  • Democracy is the process by which people choose the man who'll get the blame.
    • Bertrand Russell, as quoted in Geary's Guide to the World's Great Aphorists (2007), p. 346.
  • There was autocracy in political life, and it was superseded by democracy. So surely will democratic power wrest from you the control of industry. The fate of you, the aristocracy of industry, will be as the fate of the aristocracy of land if you do not now show that you have some humanity still among you. Humanity abhors, above all things, a vacuum in itself, and your class will be cut off from humanity as the surgeon cuts the cancer and alien growth from the body. Be warned ere it is too late.
  • Everything is discussed in this world, except for one thing: democracy. Democracy is not discussed. Democracy is there, as a kind of saint, from whom no miracles are expected, but that is there as a reference: "the democracy"; and we don’t notice that the democracy in which we live in is a kidnapped, conditioned and amputated one, because the power of the citizen, the power of each one of us, is limited, in the political sphere, I repeat, in the political sphere, to removing a government that we don’t like and replacing it by another one that we might come to like. Nothing else. But the important decisions are made in another sphere, and we all know which one it is. The great international financial organizations, the IMFs, the World Trade Organizations, the World Banks, the OECD, all of these... None of these institutions is democratic, so how can we continue to talk about democracy, if those who actually govern the world are not democratically elected by the people? Who chooses the countries' representatives in those institutions? Their respective peoples? No. So where is the democracy?
  • Democracies have no business running secret prisons. That's what our enemies do. […] As Americans, we do believe our system offers a better way. But the only way to convince others of that is if we live by our values. Real security begins with remembering who we are. We gain nothing by adopting the methods of our enemies.
  • Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.
  • If Despotism failed only for want of a capable benevolent despot, what chance has Democracy, which requires a whole population of capable voters?
  • Together, the property rights and public choice schools show only that, if you start by assuming a purely individualistic model of human behavior and treat politics as if it were a pale imitation of the market, democracy will, indeed, make no sense.
  • Paul Starr, "The Meaning Of Privatization" ,Yale Law and Policy Review 6 (1988).
  • But now well democracy has shown us that what is evil are the grosses têtes, the big heads, all big heads are greedy for money and power, they are ambitious that is the reason they are big heads and so they are at the head of the government and the result is misery for the people. They talk about cutting off the heads of the grosses têtes but now we know that there will be other grosses têtes and the will be all the same.
  • Democracies are often run by ethnically based groups prepared to do terrible things to other ethnic groups... or they can be very corrupt, dominated by elites... Capitalist, democratic states put the emphasis on the private sector, which doesn't always deliver on social goods. The free press is good on major disasters like classic famines, but it tolerates chronic hunger as much as anyone else.
    • Frances Stewart, quoted in Massing, Michael (2003-03-01). "Does Democracy Avert Famine?". New York Times. 
  • But our perfect democracy, which neither needs nor particularly wants voters, is a rarity. It is important to remember there still exist many other forms of government in the world today, and that dozens of foreign governments still long for a democracy such as ours to be imposed on them.
    • Stewart, Jon, et al (2004). The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America the Book: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Warner Books, Incorporated. ISBN 0446532681. 
  • Plato would tell us, in that affectionate but non-sexual way of his, that "democracy" is a Greek word combining the roots for "people" ("demos-") and "rule" ("-kratia"). In Greek democracy, political power was concentrated not in the hands of one person, or even a small group of people, but rather evenly and fairly among all the people (free adult males), meaning every John Q. Publikopolous could play a role in Athenian government.
    • Stewart, Jon, et al (2004). The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Presents America the Book: A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction. Warner Books, Incorporated. ISBN 0446532681. 
  • It was once said that democracy is the regime that stands or falls by virtue: a democracy is a regime in which all or most adults are men of virtue, and since virtue seems to require wisdom, a regime in which all or most adults are virtuous and wise, or the society in which all or most adults have developed their reason to a high degree, or the rational society. Democracy, in a word, is meant to be an aristocracy which has broadened into a universal aristocracy. …
    There exists a whole science—the science which I among thousands of others profess to teach, political science—which so to speak has no other theme than the contrast between the original conception of democracy, or what one may call the ideal of democracy, and democracy as it is. …
    Liberal education is the ladder by which we try to ascend from mass democracy to democracy as originally meant.
    • Leo Strauss, “What is liberal education,” Liberalism, Ancient and Modern (1968), pp. 4-5.
  • He who dreamed of democracy, far back in a world of absolutism, was indeed heroic, and we of today awaken to the wonder of his dream.
    • Louis Sullivan, in "Education" an address to the Architectural League of America, Toronto (1902), later published in Kindergarten Chats (revised 1918) and Other Writings (1947)
  • Even if we accept, as the basic tenet of true democracy, that one moron is equal to one genius, is it necessary to go a further step and hold that two morons are better than one genius?
    • Leó Szilárd, in The Voice of the Dolphins: And Other Stories (1961)
    • Variant translation: I'm all in favor of the democratic principle that one idiot is as good as one genius, but I draw the line when someone takes the next step and concludes that two idiots are better than one genius.
      • As quoted in "Some Szilardisms on War, Fame, Peace", LIFE‎ magazine, Vol. 51, no. 9 (1 September 1961), p. 79
  • The most opulent citizens of a democracy will not show tastes very different from those of the people, whether having come from within the people, they really share them, or whether they believe they ought to submit to them.
  • The moral empire of the majority is founded in part of the idea that there is more enlightenment and wisdom in many men united than in one alone, in the number of legislators than in their choice. It is the theory of equality applied to intellects.
  • "It is not, perhaps, unreasonable to conclude, that a pure and perfect democracy is a thing not attainable by man, constituted as he is of contending elements of vice and virtue, and ever mainly influenced by the predominant principle of self-interest. It may, indeed, be confidently asserted, that there never was that government called a republic, which was not ultimately ruled by a single will, and, therefore, (however bold may seem the paradox,) virtually and substantially a monarchy."
    • Alexander Fraser Tytler, Universal History: From the Creation of the World to the Beginning of the Eighteenth Century, Vol. I (1854), Book II, Chapter 6, p. 216.
  • It's carrying democracy too far if you don't know the result of the vote before the meeting.
    • Eric Varley, UK Secretary of State for Industry in the 1970s.
    • Alistair Michie and Simon Hoggart (1978). The Pact: The inside story of the Lib-Lab government, 1977-8. Quarter Books. pp. p. 13. ISBN 0 7043 2193 9. 
  • In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had 500 years of democracy and peace -- and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock.
  • If believers feel that their faith is trivialized and their true selves compromised by a society that will not give religious imperatives special weight, their problem is not that secularists are antidemocratic but that democracy is antiabsolutist.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations[edit]

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 188.
  • Le Césarisme, c'est la démocratie sans la liberté.
    • Cæsarism is democracy without liberty.
    • Taxile Delord, L'Histoire du Second Empire.
  • The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.
  • Democracy is on trial in the world, on a more colossal scale than ever before.
  • Drawn to the dregs of a democracy.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitopel, Part I, line 227.
  • Puritanism, believing itself quick with the seed of religious liberty, laid, without knowing it, the egg of democracy.
  • Democ'acy gives every man
    A right to be his own oppressor.
  • To one that advised him to set up a democracy in Sparta, "Pray," said Lycurgus, "do you first set up a democracy in your own house."
  • Thunder on! Stride on! Democracy. Strike with vengeful strokes.
    • Walt Whitman, Drum-Taps, Rise O Days From Your Fathomless Deep, No. 3.
  • But the right is more precious than peace, and we shall fight for the things which we have always carried nearest our hearts—for democracy, for the right of those who submit to authority to have a voice in their own Governments, for the rights and liberties of small nations, for a universal dominion of right by such a concert of free peoples as shall bring peace and safety to all nations and make the world itself at last free.
  • I believe in Democracy because it releases the energies of every human being.
    • Woodrow Wilson, at the Workingman's Dinner, New York (Sept. 4, 1912).
  • The world must be made safe for democracy. Its peace must be planted upon the tested foundations of political liberty. We have no selfish ends to serve. We desire no conquest, no dominion. We seek no indemnities for ourselves, no material compensation for the sacrifices we shall freely make. We are but one of the champions of the rights of mankind. We shall be satisfied when those rights have been made as secure as the faith and the freedom of nations can make them.
    • Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress (April 2, 1917). (State of War with Germany).


Misattributed[edit]

  • Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
    Widely attributed to Benjamin Franklin on the internet, sometimes without the second sentence, it is not found in any of his known writings, and the word "lunch" is not known to have appeared anywhere in english literature until the 1820s, decades after his death. The phrasing itself has a very modern tone and the second sentence especially might not even be as old as the internet. Some of these observations are made in response to a query at Google Answers.
    In 1992, Marvin Simkin wrote in Los Angeles Times,
    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.[1]
    A far rarer but somewhat more credible variation also occurs: "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for dinner." Web searches on these lines uncovers the earliest definite citations for such a statement credit libertarian author James Bovard with a similar one in the Sacramento Bee (1994):
    "Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner."
    This statement also definitely occurs in the "Conclusion" (p. 333) of his book Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994) ISBN 0312123337
    Variants of this statement include that by Larry Flynt, as quoted in "Flynt's revenge" by Carol Lloyd in Salon (23 February 1999):
    Majority rule will only work if you're considering individual rights. You can't have five wolves and one sheep vote on what they want to have for supper.

External links[edit]

Wikipedia
Wikipedia has an article about:
Wiktionary-logo-en.svg
Look up democracy in Wiktionary, the free dictionary