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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 -- this is the sum of good government.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Inaugural Address, Mar. 4, 1801

I guess this is why I hate governments. It is always the rule, the fine print, carried out by the fine print men. There's nothing to fight, no wall to hammer with frustrated fists.

JOHN STEINBECK, Travels with Charley: In Search of America

A ruler must learn to persuade and not to compel.


The ten most dangerous words in the English language are "Hi, I'm from the government, and I'm here to help."

RONALD REAGAN, remarks to Future Farmers of America, Jul. 28, 1988

A government for protecting the coarser interests of the body, business and bread only, is but a carcass, and soon falls by its own corruption to decay.


There are those in America today who have come to depend absolutely on government for their security. And when government fails they seek to rectify that failure in the form of granting government more power. So, as government has failed to control crime and violence with the means given it by the Constitution, they seek to give it more power at the expense of the Constitution. But in doing so, in their willingness to give up their arms in the name of safety, they are really giving up their protection from what has always been the chief source of despotism — government.

RONALD REAGAN, Guns and Ammo, Sep. 1, 1975

Every government degenerates when trusted to the rulers of the people alone. The people themselves are its only safe depositories.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, Notes on Virginia

In theory, the government of a free people is not one which shall in all circumstances govern, but one that shall effectually govern while it is maintaining right against wrong, and shall begin to fall in pieces as soon as it begins to maintain wrong against right. No country is truly free whose constitution does not furnish the citizen with protection against the wrong-doing of other citizens, and also guarantee him against the wrong-doing of the government itself. No oppressor is so intolerable as an oppressive government; for the private oppressor acts with his own force only, while the governmental oppressor acts with the irresistible force of the whole people.

WILLIAM BATCHELDER GREENE, Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, and Financial Fragments

Governments, if they endure, always tend increasingly toward aristocratic forms. No government in history has been known to evade this pattern. And as the aristocracy develops, governments tend more and more to act exclusively in the interests of the ruling class--whether that class be hereditary royalty, oligarchs of financial empires, or entrenched bureaucracy.

FRANK HERBERT, Children of Dune

Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.

THOMAS JEFFERSON, A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge, Jun. 18, 1778

Government exists to protect us from each other. Where government has gone beyond its limits is in deciding to protect us from ourselves.

RONALD REAGAN, attributed, The Age of Turbulence

Who knows what the hell a government is or what the hell a government does.

ANNE RICE, Memnoch the Devil

The populace must think their ruler is a greater man than they, else why should they follow him? Above all a leader must be a showman, giving his people the bread and circuses they require.


Do you know what happens with people who cannot govern themselves? That's right. Others come in to govern for them.


Society is older than government. But every persisting society implies the existence of government and laws; for a society without government and laws is at once overturned by its madmen and scoundrels and lapses into barbarism.

WILLIAM BATCHELDER GREENE, Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, and Financial Fragments

Government has no rights; it is a delegation from several individuals for the purpose of securing their own. It is therefore just, only so far as it exists by their consent, useful only so far as it operates to their well-being.

PERCY BYSSHE SHELLEY, "Declaration of Rights"

All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.

FRANK HERBERT, Chapterhouse: Dune

All the gang of those who rule us
Hope our quarrels never stop
Helping them to split and fool us
So they can remain on top.

BERTOLT BRECHT, "Solidarity Song"

You can rule with a firm hand, or you can rule through consensus. Those with neither the strength for firmness nor the courage for consensus take refuge in the belief that they can remain somewhere in between. But that is an illusion.

IVAN KLIMA, Waiting for the Dark, Waiting for the Light

The Federal Government is rendered weak to do wrong, and powerful to do right: for, as soon as it begins to go wrong, it naturally begins to be divided against itself, and the three great wheels of its machinery exhaust their momentum, or wear each other out, in their friction against each other; while, as soon as it begins to go right, all the parts work harmoniously, and exhaust their full strength on the object of their action.

WILLIAM BATCHELDER GREENE, Socialistic, Communistic, Mutualistic, and Financial Fragments

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, remarks to the White House Conference on Small Business, Aug. 15, 1986

The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them. To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it. To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job.

DOUGLAS ADAMS, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe

Most traditional governments divide people, setting them against each other to weaken the society and make it governable.


All government is an ugly necessity.

G. K. CHESTERTON, A Short History of England

It is the pathology of modern politics that we have become so disgusted with self-government that our automatic response to government is criticism. Freedom is always freedom from government; liberty is always liberty from what government would otherwise do.

LAWRENCE LESSIG, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace

The noble people will be nobly ruled, and the ignorant and corrupt ignobly.


It is perfectly true that that government is best which governs least. It is equally true that that government is best which provides most.

WALTER LIPPMANN, A Preface to Politics

It takes very little to govern good people. Very little. And bad people can't be governed at all.

CORMAC MCCARTHY, No Country for Old Men

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