Democracy Quotes

We have collected and put the best Democracy Quotes. Enjoy reading these insights and feel free to share this page on your social media to inspire others.

May these Democracy Quotes on many subjects inspire you to never give up and keep working towards your goals. Who knows—success could be just around the corner.

Democracy (Greek: δημοκρατία dēmokratía, literally “rule by people”) is a system of government where the citizens exercise power by voting. In a direct democracy, the citizens as a whole form a governing body and vote directly on each issue. In a representative democracy the citizens elect representatives from among themselves. These representatives meet to form a governing body, such as a legislature. In a constitutional democracy the powers of the majority are exercised within the framework of a representative democracy, but the constitution limits the majority and protects the minority, usually through the enjoyment by all of certain individual rights, e.g. freedom of speech, or freedom of association. “Rule of the majority” is commonly referred to as democracy.

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I believe in democracy, but in real democracy, not a phony democracy in which just powerful people can speak. For me, in a democracy everyone speaks. ~ Augusto Boal

Democracy can only be realized through human rights and freedoms. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Democracy is a human reality. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Democracy is a system that can form a warm, welcoming atmosphere that can relieve tensions today. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Democracy is the rule of the people. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Democracy must meet all our needs. – M. Fethullah Gulen


Democracy Quotes

Partisanship and supporting the democratic activities are not the same. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Media should shoulder its responsibilities to support all the democratic developments. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Those who voiced democracy yesterday do not want to voice democracy today. – M. Fethullah Gulen

There will be no going back from democracy. – M. Fethullah Gulen

We are suffering the deprivation of democratic culture. – M. Fethullah Gulen

We can overcome the tensions by the help of democracy. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Islam and democracy can coexist in peace. – M. Fethullah Gulen

No return from democracy. – M. Fethullah Gulen

Political interests are hindering democracy. – M. Fethullah Gulen

A constriction is being experienced about essential rights and freedoms. – M. Fethullah Gulen

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Democracy arises out of the notion that those who are equal in any respect are equal in all respects; because men are equally free, they claim to be absolutely equal. – Aristotle

Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Democracy does not give the people the most skillful government, but it produces what the ablest governments are frequently unable to create: namely, an all-pervading and restless activity, a superabundant force, and an energy which is inseparable from it and which may, however unfavorable circumstances may be, produce wonders. – Alexis de Tocqueville

Democracy don’t rule the world, You’d better get that in your head; This world is ruled by violence, But I guess that’s better left unsaid. – Bob Dylan

Democracy forever teases us with the contrast between its ideals and its realities, between its heroic possibilities and its sorry achievements. – Agnes Repplier

Democracy gives everyone a fair opportunity to be whoever they want to be in life. – Unknown

Democracy gives the mighty power of the government to the people. This is why in democracies governments are afraid of the people. – Unknown

Democracy is a daring concept — a hope that we’ll be best governed if all of us participate in the act of government. It is meant to be a conversation, a place where the intelligence and local knowledge of the electorate sums together to arrive at actions that reflect the participation of the largest possible number of people. – Brian Eno

Democracy is a political method, that is to say, a certain type of institutional arrangement for arriving at political—legislative and administrative—decisions and hence incapable of being an end in itself. – Joseph A. Schumpeter

Democracy is a slow process of stumbling to the right decision instead of going straight forward to the wrong one. – Anonymous

Democracy is a small, hard core of common agreement, surrounded by a rich variety of individual differences. – James B. Conant

Democracy is like blowing your nose. You may not do it well, but it’s something you ought to do yourself. – G.K. Chesterton

Democracy is measured not by its leaders doing extraordinary things, but by its citizens doing things extraordinarily well. – John Gardner

Democracy is never a final achievement. It is a call to an untiring effort. – John F. Kennedy

Democracy is never a thing done. Democracy is always something that a nation must be doing. – Archibald MacLeish

Democracy is not a fragile flower; still it needs cultivating. – Ronald Reagan

Democracy is not an easy form of government, because it is never final; it is a living, changing organism, with a continuous shifting and adjusting of balance between individual freedom and general order. – Ilka Chase

Democracy is not just a question of having a vote. It consists of strengthening each citizen’s possibility and capacity to participate in the deliberations involved in life in society. – Fernando Cardoso

Democracy is not so much a form of government as a set of principles. – Woodrow Wilson

Democracy is not the law of the majority but protection of the minority. – Albert Camus

Democracy is one of the greatest assets of a nation. The day a nation abandons democracy is the day a nation digs its own grave. – Unknown

Democracy is one of the most important inventions of all time. Embrace it today and your life shall never be the same again. – Unknown

Democracy is only an experiment in government, and it has the obvious disadvantage of merely counting votes instead of weighing them. – William R. Inge

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

Democracy is the hole in the stuffed shirt through which the sawdust slowly trickles. – E.B. White

Democracy is the only form of government that gives the common man an opportunity to occupy the highest office in his/her nation. – Unknown

Democracy is the only form of government that has the potential of benefiting everybody. Why not give it a try?

Democracy is the only system capable of reflecting the humanist premise of equilibrium or balance. The key to its secret is the involvement of the citizen. – John Ralston Saul

Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half of the time. – E.B. White

Democracy is when the indigent, and not the men of property, are the rulers. – Benazir Bhutto

Democracy is “government of, by and for the people”. – Abraham Lincoln

Democracy literally means the power of people. Democracy is not about politics, it is about the people. – Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj

Democracy means not ‘I’m as good as you are,’ but ‘You’re as good as I am.’—Theodore Parker

Democracy must be built through open societies that share information. When there is information, there is enlightenment. When there is debate, there are solutions. When there is no sharing of power, no rule of law, no accountability, there is abuse, corruption, subjugation and indignation. – Atifete Jahjaga

Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few. – George Bernard Shaw

Democracy! Bah! When I hear that word I reach for my feather boa! – —Allen Ginsberg

Democracy’s ceremonial, its feast, its great function, is the election. – H.G. Wells

A constitution that is made for all nations is made for none. – Joseph de Maistre

A democracy is more than a form of government; it is primarily a mode of associated living, of conjoint communicated experience. – John Dewey

A democracy is the only place where mankind is guaranteed of enjoying all of his/her basic God-given rights and freedoms. – Unknown

A democracy must remain at home in all matters which affect the nature of her institutions. – William Borah

A democratic form of government, a democratic way of life, presupposes free public education over the long period; it presupposes also an education for personal responsibility that too often is neglected. – Eleanor Roosevelt

A functioning democracy is the most important asset of a nation since it is all that society needs to live in prosperity. – Unknown

A good citizen is an earner, because independence is the indelibly necessary quality of genuine, democratic citizenship. – Judith N. Shklar

A government of laws, and not of men. – John Adams

A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon cease to be great or a democracy. – Theodore Roosevelt

A great democracy must be progressive or it will soon cease to be a great democracy. – Theodore Roosevelt

A habit of basing convictions upon evidence, and of giving to them only that degree or certainty which the evidence warrants, would, if it became general, cure most of the ills from which the world suffers. – Bertrand Russell

A judge … is a public servant who must follow his conscience, whether or not he counters the manifest wishes of those he serves; whether or not his decision seems a surrender to prevalent demands. – Hiller B. Zobel

A modern democracy is a tyranny whose borders are undefined; one discovers how far one can go only by traveling in a straight line until one is stopped. – Norman Mailer

A popular government without popular information or the means of acquiring it is but a prologue to farce or tragedy or perhaps both. Knowledge will forever govern ignorance, and a people who mean to be their own governors must arm themselves with the power knowledge gives. – James Madison, 1788

A right is not what someone gives you; it’s what no one can take from you. – Ramsey Clark

A state also of equality, wherein all the power and jurisdiction is reciprocal, no one having more than another: there being nothing more evident, than that creatures of the same species and rank promiscuously born to all the same advantages of nature, and the use of the same facilities, should also be equal one amongst another without subordination and subjection, unless the Lord and master of them all, should by any manifest declaration of his will set one above another, and confer on him by an evident and clear appointment an undoubted right to dominion and sovereignty. – John Locke

A state is nothing more than a reflection of its citizens; the more decent the citizens, the more decent the state. – George Mason

A state that denies its citizens their basic rights becomes a danger to its neighbors as well: internal arbitrary rule will be reflected in arbitrary external relations. The suppression of public opinion, the abolition of public competition for power and its public exercise opens the way for the state power to arm itself in any way it sees fit. … A state that does not hesitate to lie to its own people will not hesitate to lie to other states. – Václav Havel

A union of government and religion tends to destroy government and degrade religion. The history of governmentally established religion, both in England and in this country, showed that whenever government had allied itself with one particular form of religion, the inevitable result had been that it had incurred the hatred, disrespect and even contempt of those who held contrary beliefs. That same history showed that many people had lost their respect for any religion that had relied upon the support of government to spread its faith. – Hugo L. Black

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men 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, First Inaugural Address, 1801

Act as if the whole election depended on your single vote, and as if the whole Parliament (and therein the whole nation) on the single person whom you now chose to be a member of it. – John Wesley

Active citizens … are public meeting-goers and joiners of voluntary organizations who discuss and deliberate with others about the policies that will affect them all, and who serve their country not only as taxpayers and occasional soldiers, but by having a considered notion of the public good that they genuinely take to heart. The good citizen is a patriot. – Judith N. Shklar, 1991

After all, it is my principle that the will of the majority should always prevail. If they approve the proposed Convention in all its parts, I shall concur in it cheerfully, in hopes that they will amend it whenever they shall find it work wrong. … Above all things I hope the education of the common people will be attended to; convinced that on their good sense we may rely with the most security for the preservation of a due degree of liberty. – Jefferson to Madison, 1787

After each war there is a little less democracy to save. – Brooks Atkinson

After God, democracy is next. – Unknown

Agitation and mutability are inherent in the nature of democratic republics, just as stagnation and sleepiness are the law of absolute monarchies. – Alexis de Tocqueville

All these financiers, all the little gnomes of Zurich. – Harold Wilson

Although the job of a Congressman involves several different roles, the main ones are as representative and legislator. As a representative, a member serves as an agent for his constituents, ensuring that their views are heard in Congress and that they are treated fairly by federal bureaucrats and other public officials. As a legislator, a member participates in the lawmaking process by drafting bills and amendments, engaging in debate, and attempting to build a consensus necessary to address our nation’s problems. Fulfilling these roles may sound easy, but can be enormously difficult. – Lee Hamilton

America capitalized on democracy to become one of the world’s most prosperous nation. This just goes to show the sheer power and beauty of democracy. – Unknown

America is woven of many strands; I would recognize them and let it so remain. … Our fate is to become one and yet many. – Ralph Ellison, 1952

America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. – Abraham Lincoln

American time has stretched around the world. It has become the dominant tempo of modern history, especially of the history of Europe. – Harold Rosenberg

Americans of all ages, all stations in life, and all types of dispositions are forever forming associations … at the head of any new undertaking. Where in France you would find the government or in England some territorial magnate, in the United States you are sure to find as an association. – Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

Among a people generally corrupt, liberty cannot long exist. – Edmund Burke

An essential element in the meaning of the common good among the members of a group is what the members would choose if they possessed the fullest attainable understanding of the experience that would result from their choice and its most relevant alternatives. Because enlightened understanding is required, I would propose to incorporate opportunities to acquire enlightened understanding as essential also to the meaning of the common good. Still further, the rights and opportunities of the democratic process are elements of the common good. Even more broadly, because the institutions of polyarchy are necessary in order to employ the democratic process on a large scale, in a unit as large as a country all of the institutions of polyarchy should also be counted as elements of the common good. – Robert Dahl, 1989

Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge. – Isaac Asimov

Anything that keeps a politician humble is healthy for democracy. – Irish blessing

As citizens of this democracy, you are the rulers and the ruled, the lawgivers and the law-abiding, the beginning and the end. – Adlai Stevenson, 1956

As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. – Abraham Lincoln

As I would not be a slave, so would I not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy. – Abraham Lincoln, 1858

At the establishment of our constitutions, the judiciary bodies were supposed to be the most helpless and harmless members of the government. Experience, however, soon showed in what way they were to become the most dangerous; that the insufficiency of the means provided for their removal gave them a freehold and irresponsibility in office; that their decisions, seeming to concern individual suitors only, pass silent and unheeded by the public at large; that these decisions, nevertheless, become law by precedent, sapping, by little and little, the foundations of the constitution, and working its change by construction, before any one has perceived that that invisible and helpless worm has been busily employed in consuming its substance. In truth, man is not made to be trusted for life, if secured against all liability to account. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Monsieur A. Coray, 1823

At the time of the Civil War, there were six democracies in the face of the planet. Today, there’s 120 and they’ve been inspired by the American exceptionalism. – Robert Kennedy, Jr.

Bad officials are elected by good citizens who do not vote. – George Jean Nathan

Bestowing representation on the basis of equal representation rather than population contradicts the fundamental maxim of republican government, which requires that the sense of the majority must prevail. – Alexander Hamilton, Federalist 22

Better use has been made of association and this powerful instrument of action has been applied for more varied aims in America than anywhere else in the world. – Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

By a faction, understand a number of citizens, whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adverse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community. – James Madison

Christianity neither is, nor ever was, a part of the common law. – Thomas Jefferson, 1814

Civil authority, so far as it is instituted for the security of property, is in reality instituted for the defense of the rich against the poor, or of those who have some property against those who have none at all. – Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations, 1776

Civility costs nothing and buys everything. – Lady Mary Wortley Montagu, 1756

Civility is not a tactic or a sentiment. It is the determined choice of trust over cynicism, of community over chaos. – George W. Bush, 2001 Inaugural Address

Compared with the political systems of other advanced democratic countries, ours is among the most opaque, complex, confusing, and difficult to understand. – Robert Dahl, How Democratic is the American Constitution?, 2003

Consensus is what many people say in chorus but do not believe as individuals. – Abba Eban

Constitutions are checks upon the hasty action of the majority. They are the self-imposed restraints of a whole people upon a majority of them to secure sober action and a respect for the rights of the minority. – William Howard Taft, 1900

Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. – Louis Brandeis

Deliberation and debate is the way you stir the soul of our democracy. – Jesse Jackson

Democratic contrivances are quarantine measures against that ancient plague, the lust for power: as such, they are very necessary and very boring. – Friedrich Nietzsche

Democratic nations care but little for what has been, but they are haunted by visions of what will be; in this direction their unbounded imagination grows and dilates beyond all measure. Democracy, which shuts the past against the poet, opens the future before him. – Alexis de Tocqueville

Education … like democracy, is always in the making, forever incomplete, founded in possibilities. – Maxine Greene

Equal rights for all, special privileges for none. – Thomas Jefferson, 1780

Equality and justice, the two great distinguishing characteristics of democracy, follow inevitably from the conception of men, all men, as rational and spiritual beings. – Robert M. Hutchins

Equality is the public recognition, effectively expressed in institutions and manners, of the principle that an equal degree of attention is due to the needs of all human beings. – Simone Weil

Every democratic system evolves its own conventions. It is not only the water but the banks which make the river. – Indira Gandhi

Every friend of republican government ought to raise his voice against the sweeping denunciation of majority governments as the most tyrannical and intolerable of all governments. … The general question must be between a republican government in which the majority rule the minority, and a government in which a lesser number or the least number rule the majority. … Those who denounce majority government altogether … denounce at the time all republican government and must maintain that minority governments would feel less of the bias of interest or the seductions of powers. – James Madison

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, in a final sense, [is] a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1953

Every man to count for one and no one to count for more than one … appears, more than any other formula, to constitute the irreducible minimum of the ideal of equality. – Isaiah Berlin

Everybody now seems to be talking about democracy. I don’t understand this. As I think of it, democracy isn’t like a Sunday suit to be brought out and worn only for parades. It’s the kind of a life a decent man leads, it’s something to live for and to die for. – Dalton Trumbo

Evil acts of the past are never rectified by evil acts of the present. – Lyndon B. Johnson, July 21, 1964

For forms of government let fools contest; Whate’er is best administered is best. – Alexander Pope

For twelve years this Nation was afflicted with hear-nothing, see-nothing, do-nothing government. The nation looked to government but the government looked away. Nine mocking years with the golden calf and three long years of the scourge! Nine crazy years at the ticker and three long years in the breadlines! Nine mad years of mirage and three long years of despair! Powerful influences strive today to restore that kind of government with its doctrine that that government is best which is most indifferent. For nearly four years you have had an administration which instead of twirling its thumbs has rolled up its sleeves. We will keep our sleeves rolled up. We had to struggle with the old enemies of peace—business and financial monopoly, speculation, reckless banking, class antagonism, sectionalism, war profiteering. They had begun to consider the government of the United States as a mere appendage to their own affairs. We know now that government by organized money is just as dangerous as government by organized mob. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

For, if liberty and equality, as some persons suppose, are chiefly to be found in a democracy, it must be so by every department of government being alike open to all; but as the people are in the majority, and what they vote is law, it follows that such a state is a democracy. – Aristotle

For, if liberty and equality, as some persons suppose, are chiefly to be found in a democracy, they will be attained when all persons alike share in the government to the utmost. – Aristotle

Freedom comes in individual packages. – Shirley Boone

Freedom is an indivisible word. If we want to enjoy it, we must be prepared to extend it to everyone, whether they are rich or poor, whether they agree with us or not, no matter what their race or the color of their skin. – Wendell Willkie

Freedom of expression — in particular, freedom of the press — guarantees popular participation in the decisions and actions of government, and popular participation is the essence of our democracy. – Corazon Aquino

From the beginning of time, countless pieces of evidence have shown that a people who embrace democracy normally lead happier and more prosperous lives than those who don’t. – Unknown

Government is a trust and the officers of the government are trustees, and both the trust and the trustees are created for the benefit of the people. – Henry Clay

Government is instituted to protect property of every sort; as well that which lies in the various rights of individuals, as that which the term particularly expresses. This being the end of government, that alone is a just government which impartially secures to every man whatever is his own. – James Madison, Essay on Property, 1792

Happy are those who choose the path of democracy. – Unknown

Having looked at the countless advantages of democracy, I am more than sure it is the only form of governance practiced in paradise. – Unknown

He enumerated the objections against an equality of votes in the second branch, notwithstanding the proportional representation in the first. The minority could negative the will of the majority of the people. They could extort measures by making them a condition of their assent to other necessary measures. They could obtrude measures on the majority by virtue of the peculiar powers which would be vested in the Senate. The evil instead of being cured by time, would increase with every new State that should be admitted, as they must all be admitted on the principle of equality. The perpetuity it would give to the preponderance of the Northern against the Southern Scale was a serious consideration. – James Madison

He who is unable to live in society, or who has no need because he is sufficient for himself, must either be a beast or a god. – Aristotle

He who permits himself to tell a lie once, finds it much easier to do it a second and third time, till at length it becomes habitual; he tells lies without attending to it, and truths without the world’s believing him. This falsehood of the tongue leads to that of the heart, and in time depraves all its good dispositions. – Thomas Jefferson, 1785

Here in America we are descended from revolutionists and rebels—men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine. As their heirs, we may never confuse honest dissent with disloyal subversion. – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1954

History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or the timid. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

History does not provide us with any instance of a society that repressed the economic liberties of the individual while being solicitous of his other liberties. – Irving Kristol

However sugarcoated and ambiguous, every form of authoritarianism must start with a belief in some group’s greater right to power, whether that right is justified by sex, race, class, religion or all four. – Gloria Steinem

Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe. – H.G. Wells

Human rights stand upon a common basis; and by all reason that they are supported, maintained, and defended for all the human family. The essential characteristics of humanity are everywhere the same. – Frederick Douglass, 1854

I am a compromiser and maneuverer. I try to get something. That’s the way our system works. – Lyndon B. Johnson

I am a democrat only on principle, not by instinct—nobody is that. Doubtless some people say they are, but this world is grievously given to lying. – Mark Twain

I am not ashamed to confess that twenty-five years ago I was a hired laborer; hauling rails, at work on a flatboat—just what might happen to any poor man’s son. I want every man to have [a] chance. – Abraham Lincoln, 1860

I am of the firm belief that democracy is one of the few things in this world worth dying for. – Unknown

I am only one; but still I am one. I cannot do everything, but still I can do something; I will not refuse to do the something I can do. – Helen Keller, 1950

I am sure that there was not man born marked by God above another; for none comes into this world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him. – Hannibal Rumbold

I am sure there was no man born marked of God above another, for none comes into the world with a saddle on his back, neither any booted and spurred to ride him. – Richard Rumbold

I believe each individual is naturally entitled to do as he pleases with himself and the fruit of his labor, so far as it in no wise interferes with any other man’s rights. – Abraham Lincoln, 1858

I believe in democracy as much as I believe in God. – Unknown

I believe that America, the world’s strongest democracy, ought not to be afraid of democracy, but we are. – Lee Hamilton

I believe that democracy is the best guarantor for peace and cooperation among nations. – Atal Bihari Vajpayee

I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. – James Madison

I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations. – James Madison

I cannot repeat too often that [democracy] is a word, the real gist of which still sleeps, quite unawaken’d, notwithstanding the resonance and many angry tempests out of which its syllables have come. … It is a great word, whose history, I suppose, remains unwritten because that history has yet to be enacted. – Walt Whitman

I don’t have any formula for ousting a dictator or building democracy. All I can suggest is to forget about yourself and just think of your people. It’s always the people who make things happen. – Corazon Aquino

I have fought against white domination and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. – Nelson Mandela

I have great faith in the people; as for their wisdom—well, Coca-Cola still outsells champagne. – Adlai Stevenson

I have no doubts in my mind that the world would have been a better place if all nations embraced democracy. – Unknown

I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them, but inform their discretion. – Thomas Jefferson, 1820

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history, naval architecture, navigation, commerce, and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain. – John Adams

I often think it’s comical
How Nature always does contrive
That every boy and every gal,
That’s born into the world alive,
Is either a little Liberal,
Or else a little Conservative! – W.S. Gilbert

I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed. – Abraham Lincoln, in a letter to Col. William F. Elkins, November 21, 1864

I think it may be admitted as a general and constant rule that among civilized nations the warlike passions will become more rare and less intense in proportion as social conditions are more equal. – Alexis de Tocqueville

I think sometimes our young people believe either that government is not a good thing to be involved in … or that if they did get involved, what they did wouldn’t make a difference. Nothing could be further from the truth. We are around here as a nation after more than 224 years because more than half the time, more than half the people turned out to be right on the really big issues. There is no place in the world that is a better example of what free people can do when they work together … I frankly think that a lot of this fashionable cynicism is a kind of self-indulgent arrogance that has no place in America. – Bill Clinton, 2000

I understand democracy as something that gives the weak the same chance as the strong. – Mohandas Gandhi

If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich. – John F. Kennedy

If all power is in the people, if there is no higher law than their will, and if by counting their votes, their will may be ascertained—then the people may entrust all their power to anyone, and the power of the pretender and the usurper is then legitimate. It is not to be challenged since it came originally from the sovereign people. – Walter Lippmann

If majority governments … be the worst of governments, those who think and say so cannot be within the pale of the republican faith. They must either join the avowed disciples of aristocracy, oligarchy or monarchy, or look for a utopia exhibiting a perfect homogeneousness of interests, opinions and feelings nowhere yet to be found in civilized communities. – James Madison

If men were wise, the most arbitrary princes could not hurt them. If they are not wise, the freest government is compelled to be a tyranny. – William Blake

If nothing is expected of a people, that people will find it difficult to contradict that expectation. – Frederick Douglass

If one man offers you democracy and another offers you a bag of grain, at what state of starvation will you prefer the grain to a vote? – Bertrand Russell

If the meanest man in the republic is deprived of his rights then every man in the republic is deprived of his rights. – Jane Addams, 1903

If there have been those who doubted whether a confederated representative democracy were a government competent to the wise and orderly management of the common concerns of a mighty nation, those doubts have been dispelled. – John Quincy Adams

If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: Thou shalt not ration justice. – Learned Hand

If we enquire wherein lies precisely the greatest good of all, which ought to be the good of every system of law, we shall find that it comes down to two main objects, freedom and equality. – Jean Jacques Rousseau

If we put our trust in the common sense of common men and ‘with malice toward none and charity for all’ go forward on the great adventure of making political, economic, and social democracy a practical reality, we shall not fail. – Henry A. Wallace

If you have a plan, we want to hear it. Tell your community leaders, your local officials, your governor, and your team in Washington. Believe me, your ideas count. An individual can make a difference. – George H.W. Bush

If you live in a democratic society, you should consider yourself absolutely privileged. – Unknown

If you want to know the importance of democracy, spend some time in a country that lacks one. Only then would you truly appreciate the real value of democracy. – Unknown

If, in short, you are of the opinion that the principal object of government is not to confer the greatest possible glory upon the body of the nation, but to ensure the greatest enjoyment and to avoid the most misery to each of the individuals who compose it—if such be your desire, then equalize the conditions of men and establish democratic institutions. – Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Vol. 1, 1945

In a democracy the poor will have more power than the rich, because there are more of them, the will of the majority is supreme. – Aristotle

In a democracy, the individual enjoys not only the ultimate power but carries the ultimate responsibility. – Norman Cousins

In contrast to totalitarianism, a democracy can face and live with the truth about itself. – Sidney Hook

In democracy I trust. – Unknown

In every human breast, God has implanted a principle, which we call love of freedom; it is impatient of oppression and pants for deliverance. – Phillis Wheatley

In Germany, the Nazis first came for the communists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Jew. Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak up, because I was not a trade unionist. Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak up, because I was not a Catholic. Then they came for me … and by that time, there was no one to speak up for anyone. – Martin Niemöller

In Italy for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, and bloodshed but they produced Michelangelo, Leonardo da Vinci, and the Renaissance. In Switzerland, they had brotherly love; they had five hundred years of democracy and peace and what did that produce? The cuckoo clock. – Orson Welles

In republican government, the legislative authority necessarily predominates. Justice is the end of government. It is the end of civil society. It ever has been, and ever will be, pursued, until it be obtained, or until liberty be lost in the pursuit. A coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place upon any other principles, than those of justice and the general good. – James Madison from notes on the Constitutional Convention

In the democratic vision, the freedom achieved by a democratic order is above all the freedom of self-determination in making collective and binding decisions: the self-determination of citizens entitled to participate as political equals in the making of the rules and laws under which they will live together as citizens. – Robert Dahl, Democracy and Its Critics, 1989

In the field of world policy; I would dedicate this nation to the policy of the good neighbor. – Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933

In the United States, the government is intended to be a government of men. A corporation is not a citizen with a right to vote or take a hand otherwise in politics. It is an artificial creation, brought into existence by favor of the State solely to perform the functions allowed by its charter. Interference by it with the state and attempts by it to exercise rights of citizens are fundamentally a perversion of its power. Its stockholders, no matter how wise or how rich, should be forced to exercise their political influence as individuals on an equality with other men. That is the basic principle of democracy. – The Tribune, 1904

In view of the Constitution, in the eye of the law, there is in this country no superior, dominant, ruling class of citizens. There is no caste here. Our Constitution is colorblind, and neither knows nor tolerates classes among citizens. In respect of civil rights, all citizens are equal before the law. The humblest is the peer of the most powerful. – John Marshall Harlan, 1896

Individualities may form communities, but it is institutions alone that can create a nation. – Benjamin Disraeli

Inside the polling booth, every American man and woman stands as the equal of every other American man and woman. There they have no superiors. There they have no masters save their own minds and consciences. – Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1936

Is it your object to refine the habits, embellish the manners, and cultivate the arts, to promote the love of poetry, beauty, and glory? Would you constitute a people fitted to act powerfully upon all other nations, and prepared for those high enterprises which, whatever be their results, will leave a name forever famous in history? If you believe such to be the principal object of society, avoid the government of the democracy. – Alexis de Tocqueville

It cannot be repeated too often that nothing is more fertile in prodigies than the art of being free; but there is nothing more arduous than the apprenticeship of liberty. – Alexis de Tocqueville

It has long, however, been my opinion, and I have never shrunk from its expression … that the germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary; … working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Hammond, August 18, 1821

It is a strange fact that freedom and equality, the two basic ideas of democracy, are to some extent contradictory. Logically considered, freedom and equality are mutually exclusive, just as society and the individual are mutually exclusive. – Thomas Mann

It is always easier to fight for one’s principles than to live up to them. – Alfred Adler

It is extremely difficult in democratic times to draw nations into hostilities; but … it is almost impossible that any two of them should go to war without embroiling the rest. The interests of all are so interlaced, their opinions and their wants so much alike, that none can remain quiet when the others stir. Wars therefore become more rare, but when they break out, they spread over a larger field. – Alexis de Tocqueville

It is lamentable to think how a great proportion of all efforts and talents in the world are employed in merely neutralizing one another. … It is the proper end of government to reduce this wretched waste to the smallest possible amount, by taking such measures as shall cause the energies now spent by mankind in injuring one another, or in protecting themselves from injury, to be turned to the legitimate employment of the human faculties. – John Stuart Mill, 1848

It is my belief that there are ‘absolutes’ in our Bill of Rights, and that they were put there on purpose by men who knew what words meant, and meant their prohibitions to be ‘absolute.’—Hugo L. Black

It is my principle that the will of the majority should always prevail. – Thomas Jefferson

It is not enough to merely defend democracy. To defend it may be to lose it; to extend it is to strengthen it. Democracy is not property; it is an idea. – Hubert H. Humphrey

It is not the function of our government to keep the citizen from falling into error; it is the function of the citizen to keep the government from falling into error. – Robert H. Jackson

It is of great importance in a republic, not only to guard the society against the oppression of its rulers, but to guard one part of the society against the injustice of the other part. – James Madison

It is procedure that spells much of the difference between rule of law and rule by whim or caprice. – William O. Douglas

It would seem that man was born a slave, and that slavery is his natural condition. At the same time nothing on earth can stop man from feeling himself born for liberty. Never, whatever may happen, can he accept servitude; for he is a thinking creature. – Simone Weil

It’s not healthy for a society if the people hate their own government. – Garry Wills

It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting. – Tom Stoppard

It’s not unpatriotic to denounce an injustice committed on our behalf, perhaps it’s the most patriotic thing we can do. – E.A. Bucchianeri

Judges ought to remember that their office is jus dicere and not jus dare; to interpret law and not to make or give law. – Francis Bacon

Justice is conscience, not a personal conscience but the conscience of the whole of humanity. Those who clearly recognize the voice of their own conscience usually recognize also the voice of justice. – Alexander Solzhenitsyn

Knowledge—Zzzzzp! Money—Zzzzzp!—Power! That’s the cycle democracy is built on! – Tennessee Williams

Laws alone cannot secure freedom of expression; in order that every man may present his views without penalty, there must be a spirit of tolerance in the entire population. – Albert Einstein

Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other. – John F. Kennedy, 1962

Let the people think they govern and they will be governed. – William Penn

Let us at all times remember that all American citizens are brothers of a common country, and should dwell together in the bonds of fraternal feeling. – Abraham Lincoln, 1860

Let us never forget that government is ourselves and not an alien power over us. The ultimate rulers of our democracy are not a President and senators and congressmen and government officials, but the voters of this country. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Let us never forget that our constitutions of government are solemn instruments, addressed to the common sense of the people and designed to fix and perpetuate their rights and their liberties. – Joseph Story

Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. – Martin Luther King Jr.

Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people, who have a right … and a desire to know. – John Adams, 1765

Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of government. The history of liberty is the history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it. – Woodrow Wilson

Loyalty must arise spontaneously from the hearts of people who love their country and respect their government. – Hugo L. Black

Making peace is harder than making war. – Adlai Stevenson

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. Reinhold Niebuhr

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

Man’s capacity for justice makes democracy possible, but man’s inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary. – Reinhold Niebuhr

Men are more often bribed by their loyalties and ambitions than by money. – Robert H. Jackson

Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites. … Society cannot exist unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere, and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. – Edmund Burke

Men speak of natural rights, but I challenge anyone to show where in nature any rights existed or were recognized until there was established for their declaration and protection a duly promulgated body of corresponding laws. – Calvin Coolidge

Mothers all want their sons to grow up to be president but they don’t want them to become politicians in the process. – John F. Kennedy

My beloved democracy, I embrace you with all my might because thou art beautiful. – Unknown

My eyes see democracy as nothing but a precious gift. – Unknown

Never before in all our history have these forces been so united against one candidate as they stand today. They are unanimous in their hate for me—and I welcome their hatred. I should like to have it said of my first administration that in it, the forces of selfishness and of lust for power met their match. I should like to have it said of my second administration that in it, these forces met their master. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has. – Margaret Mead

No advance in wealth, no softening of manners, no reform or revolution has ever brought human equality a millimeter nearer. – George Orwell

No free government nor the blessings of liberty, can be preserved to any people, but by … a frequent recurrences to fundamental principles. – George Mason, Virginia Declaration of Rights, 1776

No freeman shall be taken, or imprisoned, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any way harmed … except by the legal judgment of his peers or by the law of the land. – Magna Carta, 1215

No government can be long secure without a formidable opposition. – Benjamin Disraeli

No governmental action, no economic doctrine, no economic plan or project can replace that God-imposed responsibility of the individual man and woman to their neighbors. – Herbert Hoover, 1931

No man in this country is so high that he is above the law. No officer of the law may set that law at defiance with impunity. All the officers of the government from the highest to the lowest are bound to obey it. – Samuel F. Miller

No matter which angle you look at it from, democracy makes states flourish. – Unknown

No oppression is so heavy or lasting as that which is inflicted by the perversion and exorbitance of legal authority. – Joseph Addison

No protracted war can fail to endanger the freedom of a democratic country … it must invariably and immeasurably increase the powers of the civil government; it must almost compulsorily concentrate the direction of all men and the management of all things in the hands of the administration. … All those who seek to destroy the liberties of a democratic nation ought to know that war is the surest and the shortest means to accomplish it. – Alexis de Tocqueville

Nobody makes a greater mistake than he who does nothing because he could do only a little. – Edmund Burke

None of the [state] constitutions have provided sufficient checks against democracy. – Edmund Randolph

Not only every juror’s right but his Duty … to find the Verdict according to his own best Understanding, Judgment and Conscience, tho in Direct opposition to the Direction of the Court. – John Adams

Nothing is more important to America than citizenship; there is more assurance of our future in the individual character of our citizens than in any proposal I, and all the wise advisers I can gather, can ever put into effect in Washington. – Warren G. Harding, 1920

Nothing is so irresistible as the tyrannical power commanding in the name of the people, because while wielding the moral power which belongs to the will of the greater number, it acts at the same time with the quickness and persistence of a single man. – Alexis de Tocqueville

Now the whole world needs restructuring, i.e., progressive development, a fundamental change. – Mikhail Gorbachev

O my brothers, love your country! Our country is our home, the home which God has given us, placing therein a numerous family which we love and are loved by … a family which by its concentration upon a given spot, and by the homogeneous nature of its elements, is destined for a special kind of activity. – Giuseppe Mazzini

Of the three forms of government, monarchy, aristocracy, and the people, the best is a mixture of all three for each one taken on its own can lead to disaster. Kings can be capricious, aristocrats, self-interested, and an unbridled multitude enjoying unwanted power more terrifying then a conflagration or a raging sea. – Cicero

Once a government is committed to the principle of silencing the voice of opposition, it has only one way to go, and that is down the path of increasingly repressive measures, until it becomes a source of terror to all its citizens and creates a country where everyone lives in fear. – Harry S. Truman

One of the keys to the survival of free institutions is the relationship between private and public life, the way citizens do, or do not, participate in the public sphere. – Robert N. Bellah

Only very slowly and late have men come to realize that unless freedom is universal it is only extended privilege. – Christopher Hill

Our children should learn the general framework of their government, and then they should know where they come in contact with the government, where it touches their daily lives and where their influence is exerted on the government. It must not be a distant thing, someone else’s business, but they must see how every cog in the wheel of a democracy is important and bears its share of responsibility for the smooth running of the entire machine. – Eleanor Roosevelt

Peace is more than just the absence of war. True peace is justice, true peace is freedom. And true peace dictates the recognition of human rights. – Ronald Reagan, 1986

Peace, prosperity and freedom are the blessings of every democracy. – Unknown

People who want to understand democracy should spend less time in the library with Aristotle and more time on the buses and in the subway. – Simeon Strunsky

Political democracy … with all its threatening evils, supplies a training school for making first class men. It is life’s gymnasium, not of good only, but of all. – Walt Whitman

Politics is supposed to be the second-oldest profession. I have come to realize that it bears a very close resemblance to the first. – Ronald Reagan, 1977

Politics ought to be the part-time profession of every citizen who would protect the rights and privileges of free people. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Power … is not an end in itself, but is an instrument that must be used toward an end. – Jeane J. Kirkpatrick

Prosperity or egalitarianism—you have to choose. I favor freedom—you never achieve real equality anyway: you simply sacrifice prosperity for an illusion. – Mario Vargas Llosa

Protest beyond the law is not a departure from democracy; it is absolutely essential to it. – Howard Zinn

Pure 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. – James Madison, Federalist 10

Religion. The inefficacy of this restraint on individuals is well known. The conduct of every popular assembly, acting on oath, the strongest of religious ties, shews that individuals join without remorse in acts against which their consciences would revolt, if proposed to them separately in their closets. When indeed religion is kindled into enthusiasm, its force like that of other passions is increased by the sympathy of a multitude. But enthusiasm is only a temporary state of religion, and whilst it lasts will hardly be seen with pleasure at the helm. Even in its coolest state, it has been much oftener a motive to oppression than a restraint from it. – James Madison, 1787

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. – John Adams

Right law must be intelligible, intellectually accessible to the people whom that law is to serve, whose law it is, the law-consumers and the citizen. – Karl N. Llewellyn

Rights that do not flow from duty well performed are not worth having. – Mohandas K. Gandhi

Salus populi suprema lex esto [the welfare of the people shall be the supreme law]. – first attributed to Cicero

Self-sufficiency and a contempt of the science and experience of others are too prevailing traits of character in this country. – Alexander Hamilton, 1798

So long as men worship the Caesars and Napoleons, Caesars and Napoleons will arise to make them miserable. – Aldous Huxley

Suffrage is the pivotal right. – Susan B. Anthony

Surely anyone who has ever been elected to public office understands that one commodity above all others, namely the trust and confidence of the people, is fundamental in maintaining a free and open political system. – Hubert H. Humphrey

Term limits mean that you don’t trust the voters. ‘Stop me before I vote again.’ – Garry Wills

Thanks to democracy we have a voice. – Unknown

That government is the strongest of which every man feels himself a part. – Thomas Jefferson

That the schools make worthy citizens is the most important responsibility placed on them. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny. – James Madison

The average man votes below himself; he votes with half a mind or a hundredth part of one. A man ought to vote with the whole of himself, as he worships or gets married. A man ought to vote with his head and heart, his soul and stomach, his eye for faces and his ear for music; also (when sufficiently provoked) with his hands and feet. … The question is not so much whether only a minority of the electorate votes. The point is that only a minority of the voter votes. – G. K. Chesterton

The average person tends to enjoy a better life living in a democracy than under a dictatorship. It is a fact – a thing you can’t deny. Just like it is a fact that you are a human being. – Unknown

The ballot is stronger than the bullet. – Abraham Lincoln

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

The best cause requires a good pleader. – Dutch proverb

The best way to enhance freedom in other lands is to demonstrate here that our democratic system is worthy of emulation. – Jimmy Carter

The body politic, like the human body, begins to die from its birth, and bears in itself the causes of its destruction. – Jean Jacques Rousseau

The business of the law is to make sense of the confusion of what we call human life—to reduce it to order but at the same time to give it possibility, scope, even dignity. – Archibald MacLeish

The capacity to combine commitment with skepticism is essential to democracy. – Mary Catherine Bateson

The complete independence of the courts of justice is peculiarly essential in a limited constitution. – Alexander Hamilton

The Constitution … is a mere thing of wax in the hands of the judiciary which they may twist and shape into any form they please. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, September 6, 1819

The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy. – H.L. Mencken (also attributed to Alfred E. Smith)

The danger is not that a particular class is unfit to govern. Every class is unfit to govern. – Lord Acton

The deadliest enemies of nations are not their foreign foes; they always dwell within their borders. … The nation blessed above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day, by acts without external picturesqueness; by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. – William James

The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied. – Otto Kahn

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

The effect of [a representative democracy is] to refine and enlarge the public views, by passing them through the medium of a chosen body of citizens, whose wisdom may best discern the true interest of the nation. —James Madison

The empires of the future are the empires of the mind. – Winston Churchill

The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. – Elbridge Gerry

The experience of democracy is like the experience of life itself—always changing, infinite in its variety, sometimes turbulent and all the more valuable for having been tested in adversity. – Jimmy Carter

The fact that a man is to vote forces him to think. You may preach to a congregation by the year and not affect its thought because it is not called upon for definite action. But throw your subject into a campaign and it becomes a challenge. – John Jay Chapman

The fact that the world’s richest and happiest countries practice democracy is more than enough proof that democracy is an absolutely priceless blessing. – Unknown

The first requirement of politics is not intellect or stamina but patience. Politics is a very long run game and the tortoise will usually beat the hare. – John Major

The freedom of the press is one of the great bulwarks of liberty, and can never be restrained but by despotic government. – George Mason

The freeman, casting with unpurchased hand The vote that shakes the turrets of the land. – Oliver Wendell Holmes Sr.

The future of this republic is in the hands of the American voter. – Dwight D. Eisenhower, 1949

The general object was to produce a cure for the evils under which the United States labored; that in tracing these evils to their origins, every man had found it in the turbulence and follies of democracy. – Edmund Randolph

The general question must be between a republican government in which the majority rule the minority, and a government in which a lesser number or the least number rule … no government … can be perfect. … The abuses of all other governments have led to the preference for republican government as the best of all governments, because the least imperfect that the vital principle of republican government is the lex majoris partis, the will of the majority. – James Madison. 1833

The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return. – Gore Vidal

The germ of dissolution of our federal government is in the constitution of the federal judiciary; an irresponsible body, (for impeachment is scarcely a scare-crow) working like gravity by night and by day, gaining a little today and a little tomorrow, and advancing its noiseless step like a thief, over the field of jurisdiction, until all shall be usurped from the states, and the government of all be consolidated into one. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Charles Hammond, Aug 18, 1821

The goal to strive for is a poor government but a rich people. – Andrew Johnson

The good of man must be the end of the science of politics. – Aristotle

The government of the Union, then, is emphatically and truly a government of the people. In form and in substance it emanates from them. Its powers are granted by them, and are to be exercised directly on them for their benefit. – John Marshall, 1819

The government of the United States is not, in any sense, founded on the Christian religion. – George Washington, Treaty of Tripoli, 1796

The government of the United States is] a government limited … by the authority of a paramount Constitution. – James Madison, 1788

The great object of my fear is the federal judiciary. That body, like gravity, ever acting, with noiseless foot, and unalarming advance, gaining ground step by step, and holding what it gains, is engulfing insidiously the special governments into the jaws of that which feeds them. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Judge Spencer Roane, Mar 9, 1821

The greatest praise government can win is, that its citizens know their rights and dare to maintain them. – Wendell Phillips

The high office of president has been used to foment a plot to destroy the Americans’ freedom, and before I leave office I must inform the citizen of his plight. – John F. Kennedy, Columbia University, November 12, 1963

The human being is in the most literal sense a political animal, not merely a gregarious animal, but an animal which can individuate itself only in the midst of society. – Karl Marx

The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all. – John F. Kennedy

The judiciary of the United States is the subtle corps of sappers and miners constantly working under ground to undermine the foundations of our confederated fabric. They are construing our constitution from a coordination of a general and special government to a general and supreme one alone. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Thomas Ritchie, December 25, 1820

The legislative cannot transfer the power of making laws to any other hands: for it being but a delegated power from the people, they who have it cannot pass it over to others. – John Locke, Second Treatise of Government

The lesson of history is clear: democracy always wins in the end. – Marjorie Kelly

The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerated the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism: ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or any controlling private power. – Franklin D. Roosevelt

The life of a republic lies certainly in the energy, virtue, and intelligence of its citizens. – Andrew Jackson, 1865

The life of a republic lies certainly in the energy, virtue, and intelligence of its citizens. – Andrew Johnson, 1865

The military constitutes a specialized community governed by a separate discipline from that of the civilian. – Robert H. Jackson

The moment the idea is admitted into society that property is not as sacred as the laws of God, and that there is not a force of law and public justice to protect it, anarchy and tyranny commence. – John Adams, A Defense of the American Constitutions, 1787

The more I study it [the Constitution], the more I have come to admire it, realizing that no other document devised by the hand of man ever brought so much progress and happiness to humanity. – Calvin Coolidge, 1929

The more the state ‘plans’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual. – Friedrich Hayek

The nation blessed above all nations is she in whom the civic genius of the people does the saving day by day… by speaking, writing, voting reasonably; by smiting corruption swiftly; by good temper between parties; by the people knowing true men when they see them, and preferring them as leaders to rabid partisans or empty quacks. – William James

The object of government is not to change men from rational beings into puppets, but to enable them to develop their minds and bodies in security, and to employ their reason unshackled. … The true aim of government is liberty. – Baruch Spinoza

The only stable state is the one in which all men are equal before the law. – Aristotle

The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror. – Franklin D. Roosevelt, March 4, 1933

The only title in our democracy superior to that of President [is] the title of citizen. – Louis Brandeis, 1937

The opinion which gives to the judges the right to decide what laws are constitutional and what not, not only for themselves, in their own sphere of action, but for the legislature and executive also in their spheres, would make the judiciary a despotic branch. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Abigail Adams, September 11, 1804

The people made the Constitution, and the people can unmake it. It is the creature of their own will, and lives only by their own will. – John Marshall, 1821

The people who own the country ought to govern it. – John Kay

The power vested in the American courts of justice of pronouncing a statute to be unconstitutional forms one of the most powerful barriers that have ever been devised against the tyranny of political assemblies. – Alexis de Tocqueville, 1835

The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. 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 anyone else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about anyone else. – Teddy Roosevelt, Kansas City Star, May 7, 1918

The primal principle of democracy is the worth and dignity of the individual. – Edward Bellamy

The principle on which this country was founded and by which it has always been governed is that Americanism is a matter of the mind and heart; Americanism is not, and never was, a matter of race and ancestry. A good American is one who is loyal to this country and to our creed of liberty and democracy. – Franklin D. Roosevelt, 1943

The prospects for stable democracy in a country are improved if its citizens and leaders strongly support democratic, ideas, values, and practices. The most reliable support comes when these beliefs and predispositions are embedded in the country’s culture and are transmitted, in large part, for one generation to the next. In other words, the country possesses a democratic political culture. – Robert Dahl, 1998

The public welfare demands that constitutional cases must be decided according to the terms of the Constitution itself, and not according to judges’ views of fairness, reasonableness, or justice. I have no fear of constitutional amendments properly adopted, but I do fear the rewriting of the Constitution by judges under the guise of interpretation. – Hugo L. Black

The republican is the only form of government which is not eternally at open or secret war with the rights of mankind. – Thomas Jefferson, 1790

The Revolution introduced me to art, and in turn, art introduced me to the Revolution! – Albert Einstein

The road to democracy may be winding and is like a river taking many curves, but eventually the river will reach the ocean. – Chen Shui – bian

The secret of the demagogue is to appear as dumb as his audience so that these people can believe themselves as smart as he is. – Karl Kraus

The security of our nation is not at the ramparts alone. Security also lies in the value of our free institutions. A cantankerous press, an obstinate press, a ubiquitous press must be suffered by those in authority in order to preserve the even greater values of freedom of expression and the right of the people to know. – Murray I. Gurfein

The simple act of voting is the ground upon which the edifice of elective government rests ultimately. – Judith N. Shklar

The single-most powerful word in our democracy is the word ‘we’. We the people. We shall overcome. Yes we can. – Barack Obama

The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure it is right. – Learned Hand

The Spirit that prevails among Men of all degrees, all ages and sexes is the Spirit of Liberty. – Abigail Adams, 1775

The stakes … are too high for government to be a spectator sport. – Barbara Jordan

The support of state governments in all their rights, as the most competent administration for our domestic concerns, are the surest bulwarks against anti-republican tendencies. – Thomas Jefferson, 1801

The tyranny of a prince is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy. – Montesquieu, 1748

The U.S. political system has decayed over time because its traditional system of checks and balances has deepened and become increasingly rigid. In an environment of sharp political polarization, this decentralized system is less and less able to represent majority interests and gives excessive representation to the views of interest groups and activist organizations that collectively do not add up to a sovereign American people. … The depressing bottom line is that given how self-reinforcing the country’s political malaise is, and how unlikely the prospects for constructive incremental reform are, the decay of American politics will probably continue until some external shock comes along to catalyze a true reform coalition and galvanize it into action. – Francis Fukuyama

The United States must of course remain militarily strong, but it should rely less on its military strength and more on the attraction of a free, open, and prosperous country that is strong enough and confident enough not to impose its will upon others and to allow diversity in the world’s political and economic systems. – Lee Hamilton

There are three kinds of despots. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the body. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul. There is the despot who tyrannizes over the soul and body alike. The first is called the Prince. The second is called the Pope. The third is called the People. – Oscar Wilde

There cannot be daily democracy without daily citizenship. – Ralph Nader

There is a debt of service due from every man to his country, proportioned to the bounties which nature and fortune have measured to him. – Thomas Jefferson

There is a limit to the application of democratic methods. You can inquire of all the passengers as to what type of car they like to ride in, but it is impossible to question them as to whether to apply the brakes when the train is at full speed and accident threatens. – Leon Trotsky

There is a natural aristocracy among men. The grounds of this are virtue and talents. – Thomas Jefferson

There is but one method of rendering a republican form of government durable, and that is by disseminating the seeds of virtue and knowledge through every part of the state by means of proper places and modes of education and this can be done effectively only by the aid of the legislature. – Benjamin Rush, signer of the Declaration of Independence

There is in the American Government … a want of unity. … The Sailors, the helmsman, the engineer, do not seem to have one purpose or obey one will so that instead of making steady way, the vessel may pursue a devious or zigzag course, and sometimes merely turn round and round in the water. – James Bryce, The American Commonwealth, 1888

There is more selfishness and less principle among members of Congress … than I had any conception of, before I became President of the United States. – James K. Polk, December 16, 1846

There is no nobler motive for entering public life then the resolution not to be ruled by wicked men. – Cicero

There is nothing wrong in America that can’t be fixed with what is right in America. – Bill Clinton

There is one safeguard known generally to the wise, which is an advantage and security to all, but especially to democracies as against despots. What is it? Distrust. – Demosthenes

There is only one motivation for imposing burdens on voting that are ostensibly designed to discourage voter-impersonation fraud, if there is no actual danger of such fraud, and that is to discourage voting by persons likely to vote against the party responsible for imposing the burdens. – Judge Richard A Posner, 7th Circuit Court of Appeals

There’s too much democracy in the culture, not enough in the society. – Fran Lebowitz

They should rule who are able to rule best. – Aristotle

They that are discontented under monarchy, call it tyranny; and they that are displeased with aristocracy, call it oligarchy: so also, they which find themselves grieved under a democracy, call it anarchy, which signifies the want of government; and yet I think no man believes, that want of government, is any new kind of government. – Thomas Hobbes

This sacrifice of individual interests to the greater good of the whole formed the essence of republicanism and comprehended for Americans the idealistic goal of their Revolution. … This republican ideology both presumed and helped shape the American’s conception of the way their society and politics should be structured and operated. – Gordon Wood, 1969

This was the object of the Declaration of Independence. Not to find out new principles, or new arguments never before thought of, not merely to say things which had never been said before; but to place before mankind the common sense of the subject, in terms so plain and firm as to command their assent, and to justify ourselves in the independent stand we are compelled to take. Neither aiming at originality of principle or sentiment, nor yet copied from any particular and previous writing, it was intended to be an expression of the American mind, and to give to that expression the proper tone and spirit called for by the occasion. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Henry Lee, May 8, 1825

Those who begin coercive elimination of dissent soon find themselves exterminating dissenters. Compulsory unification of opinion achieves only the unanimity of the graveyard. – Robert H. Jackson

Though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will to be rightful, must be reasonable, that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate which would be oppression. – Thomas Jefferson

Though written constitutions may be violated in moments of passion or delusion, yet they furnish a text to which those who are watchful may gain rally and recall the people; they fix too for the people the principles of their political creed. – Thomas Jefferson, 1802

Thought control is a copyright of totalitarianism and we have no chain to it. – Robert H. Jackson

Throughout human history, the apostles of purity, those who have claimed to possess a total explanation, have wrought havoc among mere mixed-up human beings. – Salman Rushdie

Thus not only does democracy make every man forget his ancestors, but it hides his descendants and separates his contemporaries from him; it throws him back forever upon himself alone and threatens in the end to confine him entirely within the solitude of his own heart. – Alexis de Tocqueville

To all of which is added a selection from the elementary schools of subjects of the most promising genius, whose parents are too poor to give them further education, to be carried at the public expense through the college and university. The object is to bring into action that mass of talents which lies buried in poverty in every country, for want of the means of development, and thus give activity to a mass of mind, which, in proportion to our population, shall be double or treble of what it is in most countries. – Thomas Jefferson, letter to Jose Correa de Serra, November 25, 1817

To be a stateless individual is one of the most dreadful political fates that can befall anyone in the modern world. – Judith N. Shklar

To consider the Supreme Court of the United States strictly as a legal institution is to underestimate its significance in the American political system. For it is also a political institution, an institution, that is to say, for arriving at decisions on controversial questions of national policy. As a political institution, the court is highly unusual, not least because Americans are not quite willing to accept the fact that it is a political institution and not quite capable of denying it; so that frequently we take both positions at once. This is confusing to foreigners, amusing to logicians, and rewarding to ordinary Americans who thus manage to retain the best of both worlds. – Robert Dahl

To defend a doctrine of natural rights today, requires either insensibility to the world’s progress or else considerable courage in the face of it. Whether all doctrines of natural rights of man died with the French Revolution or were killed by the historical learning of the nineteenth century, everyone who enjoys the consciousness of being enlightened knows that they are, and by right ought to be, dead. The attempt to defend a doctrine of natural rights before historians and political scientists would be treated very much like an attempt to defend the belief in witchcraft. It would be regarded as emanating only from the intellectual underworld. – Morris R. Cohen, Reason and Nature, 1932

To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them amplified and developed. – Teddy Roosevelt, 1907

Today is International Democracy Day, so let us all unite to protect and promote democracy all over the world, for no nation can have truly happy and prosperous citizens in the absence of a functioning democracy. – Unknown

Totalitarianism is never content to rule by external means, namely, through the state and a machinery of violence; thanks to its peculiar ideology and the role assigned to it in this apparatus of coercion, totalitarianism has discovered a means of dominating and terrorizing human beings from within. – Hannah Arendt

Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. – G.K. Chesterton

Two cheers for democracy: one because it admits variety and two because it permits criticism. – E.M. Forster

Two of the most basic components of a good life are success in one’s work and the joy that comes from serving one’s community. And … the two are so closely intertwined that a person cannot usually have one without having the other. – Robert N. Bellah

War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed. – William McKinley, March 4, 1897

We Americans have no commission from God to police the world. – Benjamin Harrison

We are a democracy, and there is only one way to get a democracy on its feet in the matter of its individual, its social, its municipal, its state, its national conduct, and that is by keeping the public informed about what is going on. – Joseph Pulitzer

We are as great as our belief in human liberty—no greater. And our belief in human liberty is only ours when it is larger than ourselves. – Archibald MacLeish

We are bound by ideals that teach us what it means to be citizens. Every child must be taught these ideals. Every citizen must uphold them. … I ask you to be citizens. Citizens, not spectators. Citizens, not subjects. Responsible citizens building communities of service and a nation of character. – George W. Bush, 2001 Inaugural Address

We are teaching the world the great truth that governments do better without kings and nobles than with them. The merit will be doubled by the other lesson that religion flourishes in greater purity, without than with the aid of government. – James Madison, 1822

We have become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different dreams. – Jimmy Carter

We mean by ‘politics,’ the people’s business—the most important business there is. – Adlai Stevenson

What I want is to get done what the people desire to have done, and the question for me is how to find that out exactly. – Abraham Lincoln

What do we mean when we say that first of all we seek liberty? I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon constitutions, upon laws, and upon courts. These are false hopes; believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it. While it lies there, it needs no constitution, no law, no court to save it. And what is this liberty which must lie in the hearts of men and women? It is not the ruthless, the unbridled will; it is not freedom to do as one likes. That is the denial of liberty, and leads straight to its overthrow. A society in which men recognize no check upon their freedom soon becomes a society where freedom is the possession of only a savage few—as we have learned to our sorrow.

What then is the spirit of liberty? I cannot define it; I can only tell you my own faith. The spirit of liberty is the spirit which is not too sure that it is right; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which seeks to understand the minds of other men and women; the spirit of liberty is the spirit which weighs their interest alongside its own without bias; the spirit of liberty remembers that not even a sparrow falls to earth unheeded; the spirit of liberty is the spirit of him who, near two thousand years ago, taught mankind that lesson it has never learned, but has never quite forgotten—that there may be a kingdom where the least shall be heard and considered side-by-side with the greatest. – Learned Hand

What would you do, cut a great road through the law to get after the Devil? … and when the law was down and the Devil turned round on you, where would you hide … the laws all being flat? This country is planted thick with laws from coast to coast. Man’s laws, not God’s. And if you cut them down … do you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes, I give the Devil benefit of law for my own safety’s sake. – Robert Bolt, A Man for all Seasons

When I look at the remarkable prosperity of some of the best democracies in the world, I am convinced beyond every reasonable doubt that democracy is all we need. – Unknown

When Jefferson and the Republicans rallied to the Union and to the existing Federalist organization, the fabric of traditional American democracy was almost completely woven. – Herbert Croly

When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was to find that things were just as bad as we’d been saying they were. – John F. Kennedy

Whenever the people are well informed, they can be trusted with their own government; that whenever things get so far wrong as to attract their notice, they may be relied on to set them to rights. – Thomas Jefferson, 1788

Whenever war is declared, truth is the first casualty. – Arthur Ponsonby, Falsehood in Wartime: Propaganda Lies of the First World War, 1928

Where everyman is … participator in the government of affairs, not merely at an election one day in the year but every day … he will let the heart be torn out of his body sooner than his power be wrested from him by a Caesar or a Bonaparte. – Thomas Jefferson, 1816

Where liberty dwells, there is my country. – Latin phrase of unknown authorship; motto of Algernon Sydney and James Otis

Wherever Law ends, Tyranny begins. – John Locke, 1690

Whether in private or in public, the good citizen does something to support democratic habits and the constitutional order. – Judith N. Shklar, 1991

While democracy must have its organizations and controls, its vital breath is individual liberty. – Charles Evans Hughes

Without democracy, the United States wouldn’t be the most powerful nation in the world. This goes to show how indispensable democracy is to our prosperity as a people. – Unknown

Without deviation, without exception, without any ifs, buts, or whereases, freedom of speech means you shall not do something to people for views they have, express, speak, or write. – Hugo L. Black

Without general elections, without unrestricted freedom of press and assembly, without a free struggle of opinion, life dies out in every public institution, becomes a mere semblance of life, in which only the bureaucracy remains as the active element. Public life gradually falls asleep. – Rosa Luxemburg

Without the ability to participate intelligently in politics, one cannot use one’s votes to advance one’s aims nor can one be said to participate in a process of reasoned deliberation among equals. – Tom Christiano, Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy

Yet as I read the Constitution, one of its essential purposes was to take government off the backs of people and keep it off. – William O. Douglas

You can only protect your liberties in this world by protecting the other man’s freedom. You can only be free if I am free. – Clarence Darrow

You will never fully appreciate the true blessings of democracy until you have lived in North Korea. – Unknown

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  • The manifest, the avowed difficulty is that democracy, no less than monarchy or aristocracy, sacrifices everything to maintain itself, and strives, with an energy and a plausibility that kings and nobles cannot attain, to override representation, to annul all the forces of resistance and deviation, and to secure, by Plebiscite, Referendum, or Caucus, free play for the will of the majority. The true democratic principle, that none shall have power over the people, is taken to mean that none shall be able to restrain or to elude its power. The true democratic principle, that the people shall not be made to do what it does not like, is taken to mean that it shall never be required to tolerate what it does not like. The true democratic principle, that every man‘s free will shall be as unfettered as possible, is taken to mean that the free will of the collective people shall be fettered in nothing. Religious toleration, judicial independence, dread of centralisation, jealousy of State interference, become obstacles to freedom instead of safeguards, when the centralised force of the State is wielded by the hands of the people. Democracy claims to be not only supreme, without authority above, but absolute, without independence below; to be its own master, not a trustee. The old sovereigns of the world are exchanged for a new one, who may be flattered and deceived, but whom it is impossible to corrupt or to resist, and to whom must be rendered the things that are Caesar’s and also the things that are God’s. The enemy to be overcome is no longer the absolutism of the State, but the liberty of the subject.
    • Lord Acton, in his review of “Sir Erskine May’s Democracy in Europe” in The Quarterly Review (January 1878), p. 73
  • As surely as the long reign of the rich has been employed in promoting the accumulation of wealth, the advent of the poor to power will be followed by schemes for diffusing it. Seeing how little was done by the wisdom of former times for education and public health, for insurance, association, and savings, for the protection of labour against the law of self-interest, and how much has been accomplished in this generation, there is reason in the fixed belief that a great change was needed, and that democracy has not striven in vain. Liberty, for the mass, is not happiness; and institutions are not an end but a means. The thing they seek is a force sufficient to sweep away scruples and the obstacle of rival interests, and, in some degree, to better their condition. They mean that the strong hand that heretofore has formed great States, protected religions, and defended the independence of nations, shall help them by preserving life, and endowing it for them with some, at least, of the things men live for. That is the notorious danger of modern democracy. That is also its purpose and its strength. And against this threatening power the weapons that struck down other despots do not avail. The greatest happiness principle positively confirms it. The principle of equality, besides being as easily applied to property as to power, opposes the existence of persons or groups of persons exempt from the common law, and independent of the common will; and the principle, that authority is a matter of contract, may hold good against kings, but not against the sovereign people, because a contract implies two parties.
    • Lord Acton, in his review of “Sir Erskine May’s Democracy in Europe” in The Quarterly Review (January 1878), p. 74
  • The one pervading evil of democracy is the tyranny of the majority, or rather of that party, not always the majority, that succeeds, by force or fraud, in carrying elections. To break off that point is to avert the danger. The common system of representation perpetuates the danger. Unequal electorates afford no security to majorities. Equal electorates give none to minorities. Thirty-five years ago it was pointed out that the remedy is proportional representation. It is profoundly democratic, for it increases the influence of thousands who would otherwise have no voice in the government; and it brings men more near an equality by so contriving that no vote shall be wasted, and that every voter shall contribute to bring into Parliament a member of his own opinions.
    • Lord Acton, in his review of “Sir Erskine May’s Democracy in Europe” in The Quarterly Review (January 1878), p. 75
  • “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)
  • Fear and destructiveness are the major emotional sources of fascism, eros belongs mainly to democracy.
    • Theodor Adorno, Else Frenkel-Brunswik, Daniel Levinson, and Nevitt Sanford in The Authoritarian Personality (1950), p. 976
  • 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, Politics, book IV, 1291.b34
  • The last form of democracy, that in which all share alike, is one which cannot be borne by all states, and will not last long unless well regulated by laws and customs. The more general causes which tend to destroy this or other kinds of government have been pretty fully considered. In order to constitute such a democracy and strengthen the people, the leaders have been in the habit including as many as they can, and making citizens not only of those who are legitimate, but even of the illegitimate, and of those who have only one parent a citizen, whether father or mother; for nothing of this sort comes amiss to such a democracy. This is the way in which demagogues proceed. Whereas the right thing would be to make no more additions when the number of the commonalty exceeds that of the notables and of the middle class beyond this not to go. When in excess of this point, the constitution becomes disorderly, and the notables grow excited and impatient of the democracy, as in the insurrection at Cyrene; for no notice is taken of a little evil, but when it increases it strikes the eye. Measures like those which Cleisthenes passed when he wanted to increase the power of the democracy at Athens, or such as were taken by the founders of popular government at Cyrene, are useful in the extreme form of democracy. Fresh tribes and brotherhoods should be established; the private rites of families should be restricted and converted into public ones; in short, every contrivance should be adopted which will mingle the citizens with one another and get rid of old connections. Again, the measures which are taken by tyrants appear all of them to be democratic; such, for instance, as the license permitted to slaves (which may be to a certain extent advantageous) and also that of women and children, and the allowing everybody to live as he likes. Such a government will have many supporters, for most persons would rather live in a disorderly than in a sober manner.
  • Aristotle, Politics, book VI, section 4
  • The populousness of democracies generally preserves them (for number is to democracy in the place of justice based on merit); whereas the preservation of an oligarchy clearly depends on an opposite principle, viz. good order.
  • Aristotle, Politics, book VI, section 6
  • There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there always has been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that “my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
    • Isaac Asimov, “A Cult of Ignorance”, Newsweek (21 January 1980)
  • I believe that every human being with a physically normal brain can learn a great deal and can be surprisingly intellectual. I believe that what we badly need is social approval of learning and social rewards for learning.
    We can all be members of the intellectual elite and then, and only then, will a phrase like “America’s right to know” and, indeed, any true concept of democracy, have any meaning.

    • Isaac Asimov, “A Cult of Ignorance”, Newsweek (21 January 1980)
  • Tyrannies, when they are strong, and democracies, when they are weak, can not tolerate criticism.
    • Joxe Azurmendi, Sokratesen Defentsa (Donostia: 1999), p. 57
  • True democracy consists not in lowering the standard but in giving everybody, so far as possible, a chance of measuring up to the standard.
    • Irving Babbitt, “English and the Discipline of Ideas” (1920), Irving Babbitt: Representative Writings (1981), p. 65
  • When true freedom covers the earth, we shall see the end of tyranny – politically, religiously and economically. I am not here referring to modern democracy as a condition which meets the needs, for democracy is at present a philosophy of wishful thinking, and an unachieved ideal.
    • Alice Bailey The Reappearance of the Christ (1947) p. 164/5
  • Democracy is the menopause of Western society, the Grand Climacteric of the body social. Fascism is its middle-aged lust.
  • Jean Baudrillard, in Cool Memories, ch. 1 (1987; tr. 1990)
  • People at the top do not want to share their power. They’ve always got some marvellous reason: I’m following my religion; I’m following the laws of economics. Even Stalin: I’m representing the vanguard of the working class, so please don’t cause trouble. That is the battle that every generation has, and yet we mustn’t be pessimistic about it…
    • Tony Benn in Tony Benn interview “Hope is the key, Share International” (January 2003)
  • I think people have to have some feeling that they have some role in shaping their own future and that they are not just spectators on the [lives] of kings, presidents, prime ministers and so on which is on the whole what modern democracies — America, Britain, Europe — tend to do. They turn people into spectators. Spectators who can be bought by clever advertising to appear to support [the people] — but once they’ve granted their support then they’re expected just to sit back for five years and watch the great and the good they’ve elected governing the country. That is not democratic in the proper sense, but it’s better than not being able to get rid of people who govern you. So it’s a very imperfect democracy: it has no industrial elements, no democracy in the media or business, and not necessarily much democracy in education. The conclusion I’ve reached over the years is that democracy is the most controversial idea. Nobody in power wants democracy. The Pope didn’t want it: he picks all the cardinals. The Church of England doesn’t have it because the Prime Minister picks the leader. Stalin didn’t like it. Hitler didn’t like it, New Labour doesn’t like it. They just want to use an idea to control.
    • Tony Benn in Tony Benn interview “Hope is the key, Share International” (January 2003)
  • I have tried to define democracy, and worked out five criteria. If you meet a powerful person, ask them five questions: What power have you got? Where did you get it from? In whose interest do you exercise it? To whom are you accountable? How could we get rid of you?
    Because if you can’t get rid of the people who have power over you they don’t have to listen to you. The reason the members of parliament and prime ministers, with all their defects, have to listen is because the Day of Judgement comes on polling day, whereas the bankers, the World Trade Organization, the IMF, the Pope, the mullahs, the rabbis, don’t have to listen — because they are there. Some of them say they’re there because God gave them power, others say they are following the inescapable conclusions of a market-related society. But whatever justification they give they aren’t accountable and can’t be removed — and I will not be governed by people I can’t get rid of. For that very reason, people who do have power don’t like democracy because it will undermine the security they think they have.

    • Tony Benn in Tony Benn interview “Hope is the key, Share International” (January 2003)
  • Contempt for the heroic is only an extension of the perversion of the democratic principle that denies greatness and wants everyone to feel comfortable in his skin without having to suffer unpleasant comparisons. Students have not the slightest notion of what an achievement it is to free oneself from public guidance and find resources for guidance within oneself. … Liberation from the heroic only means that they have no resource whatsoever against conformity to the current “role models.” They are constantly thinking of themselves in terms of fixed standards that they did not make. Instead of being overwhelmed by Cyrus, Theseus, Moses or Romulus, they unconsciously act out the roles of the doctors, lawyers, businessmen or TV personalities around them. One can only pity young people without admirations they can respect or avow, who are artificially restrained from the enthusiasm for great virtue.
    • Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: 1988), pp. 66-67
  • I believe in democracy, but in real democracy, not a phony democracy in which just powerful people can speak. For me, in a democracy everyone speaks.
    • Augusto Boal, as quoted in “To Dynamize the Audience: Interview with Augusto Boal” by Robert Enight, in Canadian Theatre Review 47 (Summer 1986), pp. 41-49
  • Tonight, as I see the drama of democracy unfolding around the globe, perhaps—perhaps we are closer to that new world than ever before.
    • George H. W. Bush, in Televised address on Reducing U.S. and Soviet Nuclear Weapons (28 September 1991)
  • Democracy allows people to have different views, and democracy makes it also — makes us also responsible for negotiating an answer for those views. […] So we would like to — it’s not just a matter of debating the case in parliament and winning Brownie points or Boy Scout points, or whatever they’re called. But it’s just a case of standing up for what we think our country needs. And we would like to talk to those who disagree with us. That, again, is what democracy is about. You talk to those who disagree with you; you don’t beat them down. You exchange views. And you come to a compromise, a settlement that would be best for the country. I’ve always said that dialogues and debates are not aimed at achieving victory for one particular party or the other, but victory for our people as a whole. We want to build up a strong foundation for national reconciliation, which means reconciliation not just between the different ethnic groups and between different religious groups, but between different ideas — for example, between the idea of military supremacy and the idea of civilian authority over the military, which is the foundation of democracy.
    • Aung San Suu Kyi, Remarks by President Obama and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi of Burma in Joint Press Conference at Aung San Suu Kyi Residence in Rangoon, Burma on (14 November 2014)
  • 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.
    • Benazir Bhutto, Speech at Harvard University (1989)
  • 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
  • For poets (bear the word)
    Half-poets even, are still whole democrats.

    • Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Aurora Leigh (1856), Book 4
  • 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.
    • Lord Byron, Don Juan (1818-24), Canto X, Stanza XXIV
  • Human affairs have scarcely ever been so happily constituted as that the better course pleased the greater number. Hence the private vices of the multitude have generally resulted in public error.
    • John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Preface, as translated by Henry Beveridge, p. 23
  • Be it so that public error must have a place in human society, still, in the kingdom of God, we must look and listen only to his eternal truth, against which no series of years, no custom, no conspiracy, can plead prescription. Thus Isaiah formerly taught the people of God, “Say ye not, A confederacy, to all to whom this people shall say, A confederacy;” i.e. do not unite with the people in an impious consent.
    • John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, Preface, as translated by Henry Beveridge, p. 23
  • The 20th century has been characterised by three developments of great political importance. The growth of democracy; the growth of corporate power; and the growth of corporate propaganda against democracy.
    • Alex Carey, Taking the Risk out of Democracy, 1997, University of Illinois Press, ch. 2 p. 18.
  • 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, 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 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).
  • Democracy, which means despair of finding any Heroes to govern you, and contented putting up with the want of them,—alas, thou too, mein Lieber, seest well how close it is of kin to Atheism, and other sad Isms: he who discovers no God whatever, how shall he discover Heroes, the visible Temples of God?
    • Thomas Carlyle, Past and Present (1843).
  • What is Democracy; this huge inevitable Product of the Destinies, which is everywhere the portion of our Europe in these latter days? There lies the question for us. Whence comes it, this universal big black Democracy; whither tends it; what is the meaning of it? A meaning it must have, or it would not be here. If we can find the right meaning of it, we may, wisely submitting or wisely resisting and controlling, still hope to live in the midst of it; if we cannot find the right meaning, if we find only the wrong or no meaning in it, to live will not be possible!
    • Thomas Carlyle, Latter-Day Pamphlets, The Present Time 1850
  • America no longer has a functioning democracy.
    • Jimmy Carter quoted in [

The Curious Case of the Missing Quotation: Jimmy Carter says the U.S. has no functioning democracy at present, and the press goes silent, Michael Ventura, The Austin Chronicle,] (6 September 2013)

  • 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.
  • Democracy is the power of equal votes for unequal minds.
    • Charles I of England, Columbia Dictionary of Quotations (1989), p. 76.
  • 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.
    • G. K. Chesterton, “The Ethics of Elfland,” Orthodoxy (1908), p. 85.
  • 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.
  • On n’exporte pas la démocratie dans un fourgon blindé.
    • One does not export democracy in an armored vehicle.
    • Jacques Chirac, as attributed by Jean-Pierre Raffarin, when Jacques Chirac addressed Silvio Berlusconi over the invasion of Iraq, 20 O’clock News, TF1, (11 March 2007).
  • Under capitalism we can’t have democracy by definition. Capitalism is a system in which the central institutions of society are in principle under autocratic control. Thus, a corporation or an industry is, if we were to think of it in political terms, fascist; that is, it has tight control at the top and strict obedience has to be established at every level — there’s a little bargaining, a little give and take, but the line of authority is perfectly straightforward. Just as I’m opposed to political fascism, I’m opposed to economic fascism. I think that until major institutions of society are under the popular control of participants and communities, it’s pointless to talk about democracy.
    • Noam Chomsky, “One Man’s View : Noam Chomsky interviewed by an anonymous interviewer,” Business Today, May 1973.
  • According to the common sense meaning, a society is democratic to the extent that people can participate in a meaningful way in managing their affairs. But the doctrinal meaning of democracy is different – it refers to a system in which decisions are made by sectors of the business community and related elites. The public are to be only ‘spectators of action,’ not ‘participants,’ as leading democratic theorists (in this case, Walter Lippmann) have explained. They are permitted to ratify the decisions of their betters and to lend their support to one or another of them, but not to interfere with matters – like public policy – that are none of their business.
    If segments of the public depart from their apathy and begin to organize and enter the public arena, that’s not democracy. Rather, it’s a crisis of democracy in proper technical usage, a threat that has to be overcome in one or another way: in El Salvador, by death squads – at home, by more subtle and indirect means.

    • Noam Chomsky, “War is Peace. Freedom is Slavery. Ignorance is Strength” in What Uncle San Really Wants (1992)
  • A study of the inter-American system published by the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London concluded that, while the US pays lip service to democracy, the real commitment is to “private, capitalist enterprise.” When the rights of investors are threatened, democracy has to go; if these rights are safeguarded, killers and torturers will do just fine.
    • Noam Chomsky, What Uncle Sam Really Wants (1993), Chapter 2: “Our Commitment to Democracy,” p. 19
  • 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 spreading across the world. Democracy is only possible with easy access to information and good communications. And technology is a way of facilitating communications.
    • Tom Clancy, as quoted in “Vonnegut and Clancy on Technology”, by David H. Freedman and Sarah Schafer
  • The ship of Democracy, which has weathered all storms, may sink through the mutiny of those aboard.
    • Grover Cleveland, letter to his law partner, Wilson S. Bissell (February 15th, 1894); quoted in The American Mercury (1961).
  • 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.
    • The Club of Rome, The First Global Revolution (1993).
  • As during the time of kings it would have been naive to think that the king’s firstborn son would be the fittest to rule, so in our time it is naive to think that the democratically elected ruler will be the fittest. The rule of succession is not a formula for identifying the best ruler, it is a formula for conferring legitimacy on someone or other and thus forestalling civil conflict.
    • J. M. Coetzee, Diary of a Bad Year (2008), p. 14.
  • 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.
  • The purpose of capitalist democracy is to provide a favorable situation for the exercise of free enterprise and not for the planning of a society that will make business a social service. If the commonality attempts to take the latter view of democracy and to implement it, the capitalist will quickly scrap the institution.
    • Oliver Cox, Caste, Class, and Race: A Study in Social Dynamics (1948), p. 190
  • Events shortly to occur will redistribute the power of governments and emancipate the people. The sham democracy of today will give way to true participation, and open a new chapter in man’s long quest for justice and freedom.
    • Benjamin Creme in The One who knocks, Share International magazine (July 2016)
  • I had this sense that ideas about democracy, theories of democracy which I had learned about of course from graduate school on, from Aristotle and Plato onward, that they were inadequate. I don’t want to diminish them; I have always retained a great respect for classical and medieval and eighteenth-century theory, but meanwhile a whole new kind of political system emerged to which the term democracy became attached, and for which democracy remained an ideal, even though classical democracy as an ideal was so far removed from reality. The gap between that ideal and the actual political institutions that had developed, particularly from about the sixteenth, seventeenth century on, was just enormous. And what we didn’t have enough of, had very little of, was an adequate description of what the actual institutions of so-called democracy, modern democracy, representative democracy, were.
    • Robert A. Dahl, in “A Conversation with Robert A. Dahl” by Margaret Levi, Annual Review of Political Science (2009)
  • It is very significant that there has never been a war between genuine and universal democracies. There have been countless wars between totalitarian and authoritarian states. There have been wars between democracies and dictatorships – most often in defense of democratic values ​​or in response to aggression.
    • F. W. de Klerk, Nobel Peace Prize speech (10 December 1993)
  • Le Césarisme, c’est la démocratie sans la liberté.
    • Cæsarism is democracy without liberty.
    • Taxile Delord, L’Histoire du Second Empire, as reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 188
  • The world is weary of statesmen whom democracy has degraded into politicians.
    • Benjamin Disraeli, Lothair, Chapter XVII
  • Democracy is on trial in the world, on a more colossal scale than ever before.
    • Charles Fletcher Dole, The Spirit of Democracy, as reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 188
  • The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it.
    • Edward Dowling, Editor and Priest, Chicago Daily News (28 July 1941).
  • Drawn to the dregs of a democracy.
    • John Dryden, Absalom and Achitopel (1681), Part I, line 227
  • 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.
    • Richard Dreyfuss, Real Time with Bill Maher, episode 4×24, 17 November 2006; YouTube video, 0:00:15 ff
  • 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.
    • Will Durant in his book The Lessons of History, chapter “Governement and History” p. 78
  • War is one of the constants of history, and has not diminished with civilization or democracy.
    • Will and Ariel Durant, Watchtower ONLINE LIBRARY
  • 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
  • People think they have taken quite an extraordinarily bold step forward when they have rid themselves of belief in hereditary monarchy and swear by the democratic republic. In reality, however, the state is nothing but a machine for the oppression of one class by another, and indeed in the democratic republic no less than in the monarchy.
    • Friedrich Engels, Introduction to 1891 edition of Karl Marx’s, The Civil War in France
  • Do nine tenants in a residential building have the right to place the dumpsters in front of the tenth tenant’s door? Seemingly, they enjoy a clear majority. But the role of democracy is not only to assure the governance of the majority, but to protect the rights of the minority.
    • Yoel Esteron, Who’s for destroying democracy?, Ynetnews (14-02-2016)
  • Democracies that are under threat of destruction face the impossible dilemma of either yielding to that threat by insisting on preserving the democratic niceties, or violating their own principles by curtailing democratic rights.
    • Richard J. Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich (2003), p. 452.
  • The whole dream of democracy is to raise the proletarian to the level of bourgeois stupidity.
    • Gustave Flaubert, Letter to George Sand (1871)
  • 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 it deserves our support. It does start from the assumption that the individual is important, and that all types are needed to make a civilization. It does not divide its citizens into the bossers and the bossed — as an efficiency-regime tends to do. The people I admire most are those who are sensitive and want to create something or discover something, and do not see life in terms of power, and such people get more of a chance under a democracy than elsewhere. They found religions, great or small, or they produce literature and art, or they do disinterested scientific research, or they may be what is called “ordinary people”, who are creative in their private lives, bring up their children decently, for instance, or help their neighbours. All these people need to express themselves; they cannot do so unless society allows them liberty to do so, and the society which allows them most liberty is a democracy.
    • E. M. Forster, in “What I Believe”, in The Nation (16 July 1938)
  • Whether Parliament is either a representative body or an efficient one is questionable, but I value it because it criticizes and talks, and because its chatter gets widely reported. 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.
    • E. M. Forster, in “What I Believe”, in The Nation (16 July 1938)
  • “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.
    • David Friedman, The Machinery of Freedom (1973), p. 88
  • 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.
    • John Kenneth Galbraith, The Age of Uncertainty (1977), Chapter 12, p. 330
  • The evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy. The people do not want virtue, but are the dupes of pretended patriots.
    • Elbridge Gerry, Constitutional Convention (31 May 1787)
  • Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence. The results provide substantial support for theories of Economic-Elite Domination and for theories of Biased Pluralism, but not for theories of Majoritarian Electoral Democracy or Majoritarian Pluralism.
    • Martin Gilens and Benjamin I. Page, “Testing Theories of American Politics: Elites, Interest Groups, and Average Citizens,” Perspectives on Politics, vol. 12, no. 3 (September 2014)
  • We are now forming a republican government. Real liberty is neither found in despotism or the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments.
    • Alexander Hamilton, in debates of the Federal Convention (26 June 1787), as published in The Works of Alexander Hamilton (1904) edited by Henry Cabot Lodge, Vol. I: Speeches in the Federal Convention
  • 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.
    • Alexander Hamilton, speech in New York, urging ratification of the U.S. Constitution (21 June 1788)
  • Well, I would say that, as long-term institutions, I am totally against dictatorships. But a dictatorship may be a necessary system for a transitional period. At times it is necessary for a country to have, for a time, some form or other of dictatorial power. As you will understand, it is possible for a dictator to govern in a liberal way. And it is also possible for a democracy to govern with a total lack of liberalism. Personally I prefer a liberal dictator to democratic government lacking liberalism. My personal impression — and this is valid for South America — is that in Chile, for example, we will witness a transition from a dictatorial government to a liberal government. And during this transition it may be necessary to maintain certain dictatorial powers, not as something permanent, but as a temporary arrangement.
    • Friedrich Hayek, Interview in El Mercurio (1981)
  • A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise. If Mrs. Thatcher said that free choice is to be exercised more in the market place than in the ballot box, she has merely uttered the truism that the first is indispensable for individual freedom, while the second is not: free choice can at least exist under a dictatorship that can limit itself but not under the government of an unlimited democracy which cannot.
    • Friedrich Hayek, Letter to The Times (11 July 1978)
  • The conception that government should be guided by majority opinion makes sense only if that opinion is independent of government. The ideal of democracy rests on the belief that the view which will direct government emerges from an independent and spontaneous process. It requires, therefore, the existence of a large sphere independent of majority control in which the opinions of the individuals are formed.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)
  • It is no accident that on the whole there was more beauty and decency to be found in the life of the small peoples, and that among the large ones there was more happiness and content in proportion as they had avoided the deadly blight of centralization.
    Least of all shall we preserve democracy or foster its growth if all the power and most of the important decisions rest with an organization far too big for the common man to survey or comprehend.
    Nowhere has democracy ever worked well without a great measure of local self-government, providing a school of political training for the people at large as much as for their future leaders.

    • Friedrich Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (1944)
  • It is when it is contended that “in a democracy right is what the majority makes it to be” that democracy degenerates into demagoguery.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (1960), p. 94
  • 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.
  • If democracy is a means rather than an end, its limits must be determined in the light of the purpose we want it to serve.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: 1960), p. 107
  • Once wide coercive powers are given to governmental agencies for particular purposes, such powers cannot be effectively controlled by democratic assemblies.
    • Friedrich Hayek, The Constitution of Liberty (Chicago: 1960), p. 116
  • It is not democracy but unlimited government that is objectionable, and I do not see why the people should not learn to limit the scope of majority rule as well as that of any other form of government. At any rate, the advantages of democracy as a method of peaceful change and of political education seem to be so great compared with those of any other system that I can have no sympathy with the antidemocratic strain of conservatism. It is not who governs but what government is entitled to do that seems to me the essential problem.
    • Friedrich Hayek, Why I Am Not a Conservative
  • Democracy, in this late stage of capitalism, has been replaced with a system of legalized bribery. All branches of government, including the courts, along with the systems of entertainment and news, are wholly owned subsidiaries of the corporate state. Electoral politics are elaborate puppet shows.
    • Chris Hedges, “Reform or Revolution,” May 22, 2016
  • Our democracy, as Snowden I think has revealed, has become a fiction. The state, through elaborate forms of political theater, seeks to maintain this fiction to keep us passive. And if we wake up, the state will not shy away from draconian measures. The goal is complete subjugation, the iron rule of our corporations and our power elite.
    • Chris Hedges, “Our Only Hope Will Come Through Rebellion” (2014), 25:13
  • Democracy does not reside in speeches but in actual practices of its votaries.
    • K. B. Hedgewar. Quoted from Dr Rakesh Sinha: Hedgewar, for posterity, Indian Express, [1]
  • Democracy can’t work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that’s all there is — so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.
    “But a democratic form of government is okay, as long as it doesn’t work. Any social organization does well enough if it isn’t rigid. The framework doesn’t matter as long as there is enough looseness to permit that one man in a multitude to display his genius. Most so-called social scientists seem to think that organization is everything. It is almost nothing — except when it is a straitjacket. It is the incidence of heroes that counts, not the pattern of zeros.

    • Robert A. Heinlein, in Glory Road (1963) , Ch. 20; Rufo to Oscar
  • 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?
    • Robert A. Heinlein in Stranger in a Strange Land (1991 edition), p. 232
  • When its existence is threatened and it has to unify its people and generate in them a spirit of utmost self-sacrifice, the democratic nation must transform itself into something akin to a militant church or a revolutionary party. …The mastery of the art of religiofication is an essential requirement in the leader of a democratic nation… Only a goal which lends itself to continued perfection can keep a nation potentially virile even though its desires are continually fulfilled. The goal need not be sublime. The gross ideal of an ever-rising standard of living has kept this nation fairly virile.
    • Eric Hoffer, The True Believer (1951) Ch.18 : Good and Bad Mass Movements, §124
  • You measure democracy by the freedom it gives its dissidents, not the freedom it gives its assimilated conformists.
    • Abbie Hoffman, Tikkun (July-August 1989); also quoted in The Best Liberal Quotes Ever : Why the Left is Right (2004) by William P. Martin, p. 51
  • 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.
    • Max Horkheimer, Eclipse of Reason (1947), p. 18
  • 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.
    • Hans-Hermann Hoppe, Reflections on State and War (2006)
  • 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.
  • By means of ever more effective methods of mind-manip­ulation, the democracies will change their nature; the quaint old forms— elections, parliaments, Supreme Courts and all the rest—will remain. The underlying substance will be a new kind of non-violent totalitari­anism. All the traditional names, all the hallowed slo­gans will remain exactly what they were in the good old days. Democracy and freedom will be the theme of every broadcast and editorial—but democracy and free­dom in a strictly Pickwickian sense. Meanwhile the ruling oligarchy and its highly trained elite of sol­diers, policemen, thought-manufacturers and mind-manipulators will quietly run the show as they see fit.
    • Aldous Huxley, Brave New World Revisited (1958), Chapter 3, p. 25
  • An electoral choice of ten different fascists is like choosing which way one wishes to die. The holder of so-called high public office is always merely an extension of the hated ruling corporate class.
    • George L. Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1971), p. 72
  • The fascist arrangement tolerates the existence of no valid revolutionary activity. It has programmed into its very nature a massive, complex and automatic defense mechanism for all our old methods for raising the consciousness of a potentially revolutionary class of people. The essence of a U.S.A. totalitarian socio-political capitalism is concealed behind the illusion of a mass participatory society. We must rip away its mask. Then the debate can end, and we can enter a new phase of struggle based on the development of an armed revolutionary culture that will triumph.
    • George L. Jackson, Blood in My Eye (1971), p. 138
  • Democracy has always been a problem. The truly attractive features of the Western tradition that we accidentally—and it really is accidentally—get the benefit of are the rule of law, liberalism and tolerance, all of which are virtues inherited from predemocratic societies, whether they were based in eighteenth-century Anglo-American aristocratic individualism or nineteenth-century European forms of a type of developed postfeudal legal state. Democracy comes last. Democracy is simply a system of selection of people to rule over you. And it’s not accidental that everyone is now a democrat. The Chinese are for democracy. George Bush was for democracy. The Burmese believe in it; they just call it something slightly different. South African whites believed in democracy; they just thought it should be arranged differently for blacks. Democracy is a dangerously empty term, and to the extent that it has substance, and the substance consists of allowing people to select freely how they live, the chance that they will choose to live badly is very high.
    • Tony Judt, quoted in “Talking With Tony Judt”, The Nation (April 29, 2010) by Christine Smallwood
  • 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.
    • Immanuel Kant, Perpetual Peace, II, (1795)
  • The respondents in this case insist that a difficult question of public policy must be taken from the reach of the voters, and thus removed from the realm of public discussion, dialogue, and debate in an election campaign. Quite in addition to the serious First Amendment implications of that position with respect to any particular election, it is inconsistent with the underlying premises of a responsible, functioning democracy. One of those premises is that a democracy has the capacity—and the duty—to learn from its past mistakes; to discover and confront persisting biases; and by respectful, rationale deliberation to rise above those flaws and injustices. That process is impeded, not advanced, by court decrees based on the proposition that the public cannot have the requisite repose to discuss certain issues. It is demeaning to the democratic process to presume that the voters are not capable of deciding an issue of this sensitivity on decent and rational grounds. The process of public discourse and political debate should not be foreclosed even if there is a risk that during a public campaign there will be those, on both sides, who seek to use racial division and discord to their own political advantage. An informed public can, and must, rise above this. The idea of democracy is that it can, and must, mature. Freedom embraces the right, indeed the duty, to engage in a rational, civic discourse in order to determine how best to form a consensus to shape the destiny of the Nation and its people.
    • Anthony Kennedy , Schuette v. Coalition to Defend Affirmative Action, 572 U. S. ____, (2016), plurality opinion.
  • 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, 1964 Memorial Edition of Profiles in Courage, p. 264
  • 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.
    • John F. Kennedy, 1964 Memorial Edition of Profiles in Courage, p. 265
  • 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.
    • George F. Kennan, in American Diplomacy (1951)
  • If the genuine self-rule of the people is impossible, according his somber realism, the only choice is one between leaderless and leadership democracy. When advocating a sweeping democratization of defeated Germany, thus, Weber envisioned democracy in Germany as a political marketplace in which strong charismatic leaders can be identified and elected by winning votes in a free competition, even battle, among themselves. Preserving and enhancing this element of struggle in politics is important since it is only through a dynamic electoral process that national leadership strong enough to control an otherwise omnipotent bureaucracy can be made. […] For a fair and comprehensive assessment, however, it should also be brought into the purview that Weber’s leadership democracy is not solely reliant upon the fortuitous personality traits of its leaders, let alone a caesaristic dictator. In addition to the free electoral competition led by the organized mass parties, Weber saw localized, yet public associational life as a breeding ground for the formation of charismatic leaders.
    • Sung Ho Kim, “Max Weber”, The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Fall 2012 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.)
  • If we are to be a great democracy, we must all take an active role in our democracy. We must do democracy. That goes far beyond simply casting your vote. We must all actively champion the causes that ensure the common good.
    • Martin Luther King III, Speech at the Democratic Convention (28 August 2008)
  • You cannot have democratic accountability in anything bigger than a nation state.
    • Václav Klaus, The Sierra Staff Strikes Back, With Some Help From The SPLC, Czech warns Europe of ‘dream world’ woes
  • The cultivated mind is the guardian genius of democracy and, while guided and controlled by virtue, the noblest attribute of man. It is the only dictator that freemen acknowledge and the only security that freemen desire.
    • Mirabeau B. Lamar, 2nd President of the Republic of Texas, as quoted in Hargrave Military Academy: Catalog and Announcements for session 1944-1945 (1944), the yearbook of Hargrave Military Academy
  • The oppressed are allowed once every few years to decide which particular representatives of the oppressing class shall represent and repress them in parliament.
    • Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917)
  • Democracy for an insignificant minority, democracy for the rich – that is the democracy of capitalist society. If we look more closely into the machinery of capitalist democracy, we see everywhere, in the “petty” – supposedly petty – details of the suffrage (residential qualifications, exclusion of women, etc.), in the technique of the representative institutions, in the actual obstacles to the right of assembly (public buildings are not for “paupers”!), in the purely capitalist organization of the daily press, etc., etc., – we see restriction after restriction upon democracy. These restrictions, exceptions, exclusions, obstacles for the poor seem slight, especially in the eyes of one who has never known want himself and has never been in close contact with the oppressed classes in their mass life (and nine out of 10, if not 99 out of 100, bourgeois publicists and politicians come under this category); but in their sum total these restrictions exclude and squeeze out the poor from politics, from active participation in democracy.
    • Vladimir Lenin, The State and Revolution (1917), Ch. 5
  • Polls show that (in the U.S.) on the major issues of our time — the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, Wall Street bailouts and health insurance — the opinion of We the People has been ignored on a national level for quite some time. … It is a myth that the United States of America was ever a democracy (most of the famous founder elite such as John Adams equated democracy with mob rule and wanted no part of it). The United States of America was actually created as a republic, in which Americans were supposed to have power through representatives who were supposed to actually represent the American people. The truth today, however, is that the United States is neither a democracy nor a republic. Americans are ruled by a corporatocracy: a partnership of “too-big-to-fail” corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.
    • Bruce E. Levine in The Myth of U.S. Democracy and the Reality of U.S. Corporatocracy, Huffington Post, (25 May 2011)
  • In the U.S. corporatocracy, corporations and the wealthy elite directly and indirectly finance candidates, who are then indebted to them. It’s common for these indebted government officials to appoint to key decision-making roles those friendly to corporations, including executives from these corporations… The United States is not ruled by a single deranged dictator but by an impersonal corporatocracy. Thus, there is no one tyrant that Americans can first hate and then finally overthrow so as to end senseless wars and economic injustices…. he first step in recovering democracy is the psychological courage to face the humiliation that we Americans have neither a democracy nor a republic but are in fact ruled by a partnership of “too-big-to-fail” corporations, the extremely wealthy elite, and corporate-collaborator government officials.
    • Bruce E. Levine in The Myth of U.S. Democracy and the Reality of U.S. Corporatocracy, Huffington Post, (25 May 2011)
  • Socialism without democracy is pseudo-socialism, just as democracy without socialism is pseudo-democracy.
    • Wilhelm Liebknecht, On The Political Position of Social-Democracy (1869 & 1889)
  • If Voting Changed Anything They’d Abolish It.
    • Ken Livingstone, title of his 1988 autobiographical memoirs. ISBN 9780006373353
  • 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 (17 May 1932), reported in Congressional Record, vol. 75, p. 10394
  • Puritanism, believing itself quick with the seed of religious liberty, laid, without knowing it, the egg of democracy.
    • James Russell Lowell, Among My BooksNew England Two Centuries Ago, as reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 188
  • Democ’acy gives every man
    A right to be his own oppressor.

    • James Russell Lowell, Biglow Papers, Series 2, No. 7, as reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 188
  • The institutions which are democratic in form are in substance instruments of the dominant class interest. This is most obvious in the fact that so soon as democracy shows a disposition to deny its class character and to become an instrument of the real interest of the people, the democratic forms themselves are sacrificed.
    • Rosa Luxemburg, Gesammelte Werke, III, pp. 59—60, cited in Paul M. Sweezy, Theory of Capital Development, p. 251
  • 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.”
    • Lycurgus in Plutarch’s Apophthegms of Kings and Great Commanders, as reported in Hoyt’s New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 188
  • 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.
    • John Stuart Mackenzie , in An Introduction to Social Philosophy‎ (1895), p. 383
  • 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.
    • James Madison, Federalist Paper #10
  • 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.
    • James Madison, Federalist No. 10
  • 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.
    • Mao Zedong, in his 1949 essay “On the People’s Democratic Dictatorship”
  • Our democracy was from an early period the most aristocratic, and our aristocracy the most democratic.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay, History, Vol. I, p. 20
  • 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), The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1981) edited by Thomas Pinney, 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), The Letters of Thomas Babington Macaulay (1981) edited by Thomas Pinney, Vol. 6, p. 94
  • 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.

    • Herbert Marcuse, One Dimensional Man (1964), p. 116
  • No one can define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. […] But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, if we don’t speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.
    • Donella Meadows, Thinking in Systems: A Primer, Chelsea Green Publishing, 2008, page 176 (ISBN 9781603580557).
  • Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want, and deserve to get it good and hard.
    • H.L. Mencken, A Little Book in C Major (1916), p. 19
  • Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.
    • H.L. Mencken, “Notes On Journalism,” Chicago Tribune (September 19, 1926)
  • 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.
    • H.L. Mencken, In Defense of Women (1918)
  • 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 (26 July 1920)
  • The cure for the evils of democracy is more democracy!
    • H.L. Mencken, Notes on Democracy (1926), p. 4 and p. 73
  • 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, Introduction to The Antichrist
  • Politics, under a democracy, reduces itself to a mere struggle for office by flatterers of the proletariat.
    • H. L. Mencken, Introduction to The Antichrist
  • Democracy is the theory that the common people know what they want and deserve to get it good and hard.
    • H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy (1949).
  • 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.
    • John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (Henry Holt, New York: 1895), Chapter 3, p. 119
  • “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”.
    • C. Wright Mills, on Democracy in The Power Elite (1956)
  • Pareto, Georges Sorel, Lenin, Hitler, and Mussolini were right in denouncing democracy as a capitalist method. Every step which leads from capitalism toward planning is necessarily a step nearer to absolutism and dictatorship.
    • Ludwig von Mises, Omnipotent Government: The Rise of the Total State and the Total War, Mises Institute (2010) p. 53. First published in 1944 by Yale University Press.
  • 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
  • Democracy is beautiful in theory; in practice it is a fallacy. You in America will see that some day.
    • Benito Mussolini to Edwin L James of the New York Times (1928)
  • 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.
    • Benito Mussolini, in The Doctrine of Fascism
  • Democratic institutions are quarantine mechanisms for that old pestilence, tyrannic lust. As such they are very useful and very boring.
    • Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too Human, Section 2, Aphorism 298
  • America is the world’s oldest constitutional democracy; that means we’re going to stand up for democracy — it’s a part of who we are. And we do this not only because we think it’s right, but because it’s been proven to be the most stable and successful form of government. In recent decades, many Asian nations have shown that different nations can realize the promise of self-government in their own way; they have their own path. But we must recognize that democracies don’t stop just with elections; they also depend on strong institutions and a vibrant civil society, and open political space, and tolerance of people who are different than you. We have to create an environment where the rights of every citizen, regardless of race or gender, or religion or sexual orientation are not only protected, but respected.
    • Barack Obama, [Remarks by President Obama at Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative Town Hall, University of Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (27 April 2014)
  • Democracy will win — because a government’s legitimacy can only come from citizens; because in this age of information and empowerment, people want more control over their lives, not less; and because, more than any other form of government ever devised, only democracy, rooted in the sanctity of the individual, can deliver real progress.
    • Barack Obama, Remarks by President Obama to the People of Estonia at the Nordea Concert Hall in Tallinn, Estonia (3 September 2014)
  • [W]hat I want to focus on tonight [is the] state of our democracy. Understand, democracy does not require uniformity. Our founders argued. They quarreled. Eventually they compromised. They expected us to do the same. But they knew that democracy does require a basic sense of solidarity – the idea that for all our outward differences, we’re all in this together; that we rise or fall as one.
    • Barack Obama, Source: “President Obama’s Farewell Address,” delivered in Chicago on January 10, 2017, from the White House archives (transcript and video)
  • Democracy can buckle when we give in to fear. So, just as we, as citizens, must remain vigilant against external aggression, we must guard against a weakening of the values that make us who we are. […] Our democracy is threatened whenever we take it for granted. All of us, regardless of party, should be throwing ourselves into the task of rebuilding our democratic institutions. When voting rates in America are some of the lowest among advanced democracies, we should be making it easier, not harder, to vote. When trust in our institutions is low, we should reduce the corrosive influence of money in our politics, and insist on the principles of transparency and ethics in public service. When Congress is dysfunctional, we should draw our congressional districts to encourage politicians to cater to common sense and not rigid extremes. But remember, none of this happens on its own. All of this depends on our participation; on each of us accepting the responsibility of citizenship, regardless of which way the pendulum of power happens to be swinging. […] It falls to each of us to be those those anxious, jealous guardians of our democracy; to embrace the joyous task we’ve been given to continually try to improve this great nation of ours. Because for all our outward differences, we, in fact, all share the same proud title, the most important office in a democracy: Citizen. Citizen. So, you see, that’s what our democracy demands. It needs you. Not just when there’s an election, not just when your own narrow interest is at stake, but over the full span of a lifetime.
    • Barack Obama, Source: “President Obama’s Farewell Address,” delivered in Chicago on January 10, 2017, from the White House archives (transcript and video)
  • Our democracy is not the buildings, not the monuments. It’s you being willing to work to make things better and being willing to listen to each other and argue with each other and come together and knock on doors and make phone calls and treat people with respect.
    • Barack Obama, Farewell to members of his staff on January 20, 2017 at Joint Base Andrews in Maryland before departing with his family for a vacation in California. Source: Obama’s post-inauguration remarks: Full text by CNN on January 20, 2017.
  • When words stop meaning anything, when truth doesn’t matter, when people can just lie with abandon, democracy can’t work.
    • Barack Obama, Speech at political rally on November 2, 2018. Source: Obama rips hecklers: Why are the people who won the last election ‘so mad all the time?’
  • But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void. A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. […] The biggest threat to our democracy is indifference. The biggest threat to our democracy is cynicism – a cynicism that’s led too many people to turn away from politics and stay home on election day. […] So if you don’t like what’s going on right now – and you shouldn’t – do not complain. Don’t hashtag. Don’t get anxious. Don’t retreat. Don’t binge on whatever it is you’re bingeing on. Don’t lose yourself in ironic detachment. Don’t put your head in the sand. Don’t boo. Vote. You’ve got to vote.
    • Barack Obama, Speech at the University of Illinois (7. September 2018). As quoted in the September 8, 2018 The Guardian article “Barack Obama: you need to vote because our democracy depends on it”.
  • Democracy is a garden that has to be tended.
    • Remarks during conference held on March 6, 2019 by Qualtrics, a tech company in Salt Lake City. As quoted in the March 7, 2019 article “Obama warns that if the world isn’t careful, democracy could be in danger: ‘Democracy is a garden that has to be tended'” by Business Insider Deutschland author Julie Bort.
  • 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.
    • José Ortega y Gasset, The Revolt of the Masses, p. 17
  • 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.
    • George Orwell, in Politics and the English Language: An Essay (1947)
  • [D]emocracy is something that if you’re going to be really up-to-date, you just can’t do without–like a compact-disc player.
    • P. J. O’Rourke, Holidays in Hell: In Which Our Intrepid Reporter Travels to the World’s Worst Places and Asks, “What’s Funny About This?” (1988), New York: Grove Press. p. 48
  • 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.
    • P. J. O’Rourke, in Parliament of Whores (1991)
  • When citizens are relatively equal, politics has tended to be fairly democratic. When a few individuals hold enormous amounts of wealth, democracy suffers. The reason for this pattern is simple. Through campaign contributions, lobbying, influence over public discourse, and other means, wealth can be translated into political power. When wealth is highly concentrated—that is, when a few individuals have enormous amounts of money—political power tends to be highly concentrated, too. The wealthy few tend to rule. Average citizens lose political power. Democracy declines.
    • Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens, Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It (University of Chicago Press: 2017), p. 19
  • Average Americans have little or no influence over the making of U.S. government policy. … Wealthy Americans wield a lot of influence. By investing money in politics, they can turn economic power into political power.
    • Benjamin I. Page and Martin Gilens, Democracy in America?: What Has Gone Wrong and What We Can Do About It (University of Chicago Press: 2017), p. 90
  • 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.
    • Muhammad Reza Pahlavi, as quoted in Alam, Asadollah (1991), The Shah and I, I. B. Tauris, page 506
  • Never be deceived that the rich will allow you to vote away their wealth.
    • Lucy Parsons, Lucy Parsons: Freedom, Equality & Solidarity – Writings & Speeches, 1878-1937
  • In 1975 just 46 countries were considered to be electoral democracies; forty years later, according to The Global State of Democracy report 2017, the number had risen to 132, accounting for 68% of nations. The bulk of the increase occurred after 1989 following the collapse of the Soviet Union and what was to be the beginning of the global protest movement. While staging general elections every five years or so is an important step away from the autocratic alternative, unless democratic values are embraced and introduced, true democracy remains little more than a slogan, social injustice and suppression in various forms continue and concentrations of power persist.
    Although the number of electoral democracies continues to increase, throughout the world democracy is in crisis; governments have become increasingly partisan…Politicians are viewed…as ambitious, ideologically compromised men and women with little concern for the majority, who make policy based on self-interest…

    • The Growth of Popular Democracy, CounterPunch,Graham Peebles, (3 May 2019)
  • Democracy has been hijacked by ‘the economy’ – twinned with capitalism and the ‘free market’, and corrupted thereby. Democracy is, or should be, a living organism, an evolving form that sets the parameters within which society functions, based on principles that are rooted in and cultivate expressions of unity and love. …Within the evolving democratic environment the role of politicians as co-workers, as collaborators for the common good, becomes ever more important. They need to engage with activists, listen – not to the loudest flag-waving faction, not just to their own supporters, but to the broad consensus, and respond, and not, as has historically been the case, reluctantly and over decades, but swiftly and whole-heartedly.
    • The Growth of Popular Democracy, CounterPunch, Graham Peebles, (3 May 2019)
  • Democratic forms need to change, to be allowed to evolve – to be re-imagined. Crucially democracy needs to be unshackled from economics and the socio-economic system reexamined in light of the growing demands for social justice, environmental action and freedom. The principle of sharing is a core democratic ideal that, if incorporated into all areas of life, would allow democratic values to be made manifest: students sharing in the organization of schools and the design of curricula; employees sharing in the management and standards of businesses; sharing animating the socio-economic systems under which we all live and coloring geo-political decisions. Sharing, responsibility and participation are interrelated; they sit together and reinforce one another. An unstoppable movement of change is being created by the growing inculcation and expression of these democratic principles; a momentum that may just be strong enough to save the planet and usher in a new and just way of living.
    • The Growth of Popular Democracy, CounterPunch, Graham Peebles, (3 May 2019)
  • 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.
    • Laura Penny, More Money Than Brains, p. 13
  • 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
  • A charming form of government, full of variety and disorder, and dispensing a sort of equality to equals and unequaled alike.
    • Plato, describing democracy, 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.
    • Neil Postman, Teaching as a Subversive Activity (1969)
  • The other day, someone told me the difference between a democracy and a people’s democracy. It’s the same difference between a jacket and a straitjacket.
    • Ronald Reagan, Remarks at Human Rights Day event (10 December 1986)
  • 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.
    • Ernest Renan, cited in Eric Hoffer, Between the Devil and the Dragon (New York: 1982), p. 111
  • Democracy has turned out to be not majority rule but rule by well-organized and well-connected minority groups who steal from the majority.
    • Llewellyn Rockwell, Jr., in “Why Hate Monarchs?” in The Free Market Vol. 19, No. 8 (August 2001)
  • But Lincoln also understood that after such a decision, 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. Never can it have as much ability and purpose as it needs in that striving; the end of battle does not end the infinity of those needs. That is why Lincoln—commander of a people as well as of an army—asked that his battle end “with malice toward none, with charity for all.”
    • Franklin D. Roosevelt, Franklin D. Roosevelt: “Address at the Dedication of the Memorial on the Gettysburg Battlefield, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania” (3 July 1938)
  • Citizens of a Jeffersonian democracy can be as religious or irreligious as they please as long as they are not “fanatical.” That is, they must abandon or modify opinion on matters of ultimate importance, the opinions that may hitherto have given sense and point to their lives, if these opinions entail public actions that cannot be justified to most of their fellow citizens.
    • Richard Rorty, “The Priority of Democracy to Philosophy,” Objectivity, Relativism and Truth (Cambridge: 1991), p. 175
  • Democracy is the great love of the failures and cowards of life.
    • R. J. Rushdoony, Thy Kingdom Come (1970)
  • 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.
    • R. J. Rushdoony , The Institutes of Biblical Law (1973), as quoted in

The Secrets of the Kingdom: Religion and Concealment in the Bush Administration(2007) by Hugh B. Urban, p. 39

  • Envy is the basis of democracy.
    • Bertrand Russell, The Conquest of Happiness (1930), Ch. VI
  • A fanatical belief in democracy makes democratic institutions impossible.
    • Bertrand Russell, Unpopular Essays (1950), Ch. 1: Philosophy and Politics, p. 15
  • 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.
    • George William Russell, “Open Letter to the Masters of Dublin” (1913)
  • From Machiavelli to the present, thinkers have distinguished between the adept elite and the incompetent many. We may think that anyone who draws such a distinction and in such terms can be no friend to democracy; that is not true.
    • Alan Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (2012), Introduction: Thinking about Politics
  • We are very attached to describing ourselves as the Greeks described themselves; try persuading a friend that the United States is not really a democracy. But it is not clear that their ideals, and ambitions, and the assumptions embodied in that vocabulary, or the views on the best way to govern ourselves of those who created that vocabulary, make much sense in a world as different as ours.
    • Alan Ryan, On Politics: A History of Political Thought: From Herodotus to the Present (2012), Ch. 1 : Why Herodotus?
  • 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?
    • José Saramago, Conference at Fórum Social Mundial (December 2007)
  • Democracy has no place for the kind of justice implied in an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Democracy is a system for the resolution of conflict, not for vengeance. Simple black-white notions of right and wrong do not fit into democratic politics. Political controversies result from the fact that the issues are complex, and men may properly have differences of opinion about them. The most terrible of all over-simplifications is the notion that politics is a contest between good people and bad people. Democracy is based on a profound insight into human nature, the realization that all men are sinful, all are imperfect, all are prejudiced, and none knows the whole truth. That is why we need liberty and why we have an obligation to hear all men. Liberty gives us a chance to learn from other people, to become aware of our own limitations, and to correct our bias. Even when we disagree with other people we like to think that they speak from good motives, and while we realize that all men are limited, we do not let ourselves imagine that any man is bad. Democracy is a political system for people who are not sure that they are right.
    • Elmer Eric Schattschneider, Two Hundred Million Americans in Search of a Government (1969), p. 53
  • 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.
    • Bob Schieffer, “Free Speech”, The CBS Evening News, 14 September 2006
  • Democracy is best seen as the opportunity of participatory reasoning and public decision making – as “government by discussion”. Voting and balloting are, in this perspective, just part of a much larger story. The ancestry of democracy goes much beyond the strictly confined history of some narrowly designated practices. Tribute must, of course, be paid to the powerful role that modern western thinking, linked with European enlightenment, played in the development of liberal and democratic ideas. But the roots of these general ideas can be found in Asia and Africa as well as in Europe and America.
    • Amartya Sen, “The Diverse Ancestry of Democracy”, The Financial Times (June 13, 2005)
  • The requirements of democracy include the development of opportunities for participatory public reasoning, not least in Iraq. This calls for the promotion of civil rights, including freedom from arbitrary arrest (and, of course, from torture), facilities for public gathering and fuller media freedom. It is important to assist, rather than hinder, the development of non-sectarian identities of women and men, and restoration of the self-respect of Iraqis as Iraqis. The first step is to have a clearer understanding of the nature of government by discussion.
    • Amartya Sen, “The Diverse Ancestry of Democracy”, The Financial Times (June 13, 2005)
  • Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.
    • George Bernard Shaw, cited in The Last Word, p. 223
  • If Despotism failed only for want of a capable benevolent despot, what chance has Democracy, which requires a whole population of capable voters?
    • George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman (1903), Epistle Dedicatory
  • Democracy is a procedure to change rulers. To qualify democracy with an adjective–”people’s democracy” during communism, “sovereign democracy” thereafter–means eliminating that procedure.
    • Timothy Snyder, The Road to Unfreedom, p. 47
  • If by “democracy” we mean the form which the Third Estate as such wishes to impart to public life as a whole, it must be concluded that democracy and plutocracy are the same thing under the two aspects of wish and actuality, theory and practice, knowing and doing. It is the tragic comedy of the world‑improvers’ and freedom‑teachers’ desperate fight against money that they are ipso facto assisting money to be effective. Respect for the big number—expressed in the principles of equality for all, natural rights, and universal suffrage—is just as much a class‑ideal of the unclassed as freedom of public opinion (and more particularly freedom of the press) is so. These are ideals, but in actuality the freedom of public opinion involves the preparation of public opinion, which costs money; and the freedom of the press brings with it the question of possession of the press, which again is a matter of money; and with the franchise comes electioneering, in which he who pays the piper calls the tune. The representatives of the ideas look at one side only, while the representatives of money operate with the other. The concepts of Liberalism and Socialism are set in effective motion only by money. … There is no proletarian, not even a Communist movement, that has not operated in the interests of money, and for the time being permitted by money—and that without the idealists among its leaders having the slightest suspicion of the fact.
  • Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West. Vol. II, Alfred A. Knopf, 1928, pp. 401–02
  • To-day we live so cowed under the bombardment of this intellectual artillery that hardly anyone can attain to the inward detachment that is required for a clear view of the monstrous drama. The will-to-power operating under a pure democratic disguise has finished off its masterpiece so well that the object’s sense of freedom is actually flattered by the most thorough-going enslavement that has ever existed.
  • Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West. Vol. II, Alfred A. Knopf, 1928, p. 461
  • 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 they will be all the same.
    • Gertrude Stein, in Paris France (1940), p. 28
  • 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.
    • Jon Stewart, 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.
    • Jon Stewart, 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
  • This is supposed to be a participatory democracy and if we’re not in there participating then the people that will manipulate and exploit the system will step in there. So I’ve been a political activist all my life and I think in a large measure it’s because of the internment that we experienced 50 years ago.
    • George Takei interview, November 21, 1994 at 8:30pm eastern, conducted by Peter Anthony Holder, the evening talk show host on CJAD [2]
  • The conception of man as a product of economics is the essence of the philosophy of Communism. The conception of man as a biological product, his destiny entirely determined by his racial chromosomes, is the essence of Nazism. The conception of man as a child of God—that is to say, as a soul capable or reason, capable of developing and perfecting himself in the image of the ideal—is the basis of democracy.
    • Dorothy Thompson, Let The Record Speak, Boston: MA, Houghton Mifflin Company (1939) p. 278
  • 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.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, as translated by Harvey Mansfield (2000), p. 236
  • 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.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, in Democracy in America, as translated by Harvey Mansfield (2000), p. 509
  • The public, therefore, among a democratic people, has a singular power, which aristocratic nations cannot conceive; for it does not persuade others to its beliefs, but it imposes them and makes them permeate the thinking of everyone by a sort of enormous pressure of the mind of all upon the individual intelligence. In the United States the majority undertakes to supply a multitude of ready-made opinions for the use of individuals, who are thus relieved from the necessity of forming opinions of their own. Everybody there adopts great numbers of theories, on philosophy, morals, and politics, without inquiry, upon public trust; and if we examine it very closely, it will be perceived that religion itself holds sway there much less as a doctrine of revelation than as a commonly received opinion.
    • Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, Volume 2, Book 1, Chapter 2, J. Spencer, trans.
  • 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.
  • A Democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of Government. It can only exist until the voters discover they can vote themselves largess out of the public treasury. From that moment on the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that Democracy always collapses over a loose fiscal policy, always to be followed by a Dictatorship and a Monarchy.
    • Alexander Fraser Tytler, as attributed in Michigan Courthouse Review vols. 10–11, 1951
  • 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.
  • Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
    • Gore Vidal, “Gods and Greens” (1989), in A View from the Diner’s Club (1991).
  • 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.
    • Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man, 1949
  • Thunder on! Stride on! Democracy. Strike with vengeful strokes.
    • Walt Whitman, Drum-TapsRise O Days From Your Fathomless Deep, No. 3
  • As long as health ins & Big Pharma determine so much health care policy, gun manufacturers so much gun safety policy, oil & gas companies so much environmental policy & defense contractors so much defense policy, we’re functioning not as a democracy but as a corporate aristocracy.
    • Marianne Williamson,Twitter (22 Oct 2019)
  • 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.
    • Ellen Willis, “Freedom from Religion”, The Nation (February 19, 2001)
  • We rightly rejected the divine right of kings, but now too many of us believe in a divine right of majorities and pluralities. We wrongly assume that no empathy is required for minority viewpoints, provided a vote was taken.
    But fundamental moral principles, like the Zero Aggression Principle, cannot be voted out of existence.

    • Perry Willis and Jim Babka, “How do libertarians view democracy?,” Zero Aggression Project (cited 20 July 2015)
  • 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.
    • Woodrow Wilson, address to Congress (2 April 1917)
  • I believe in Democracy because it releases the energies of every human being.
    • Woodrow Wilson, at the Workingman’s Dinner, New York (4 September 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 the US Congress on war with Germany (2 April 1917)
  • It is doubtful that democracy could survive in a society organized on the principle of therapy rather than judgment, error rather than sin. If men are free and equal, they must be judged rather than hospitalized.
    • Francis D. Wormuth, The Origins of Modern Constitutionalism (1949), p. 212
  • You and I have never seen democracy; all we’ve seen is hypocrisy. … We haven’t benefited from America’s democracy; we’ve only suffered from America’s hypocrisy. And the generation that’s coming up now can see it and are not afraid to say it.
    • Malcolm X, Speech in Detroit, Michigan (12 April 1964)
  • We in the United States are still quite a long way from democracy and certainly a long way from economic democracy. Because of the control of the economy by corporations and the tax structure, which is set up by an unrepresentative Congress and approved by a president, a tax structure which has so far channeled the wealth of the country towards the richest one percent of the population.
    • Howard Zinn in What is the state of democracy in America? (5 July 2008)


  • 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.
    The quote can be traced to an article that appeared in the Los Angeles Times on Nov. 25, 1990[3]. “Democracy has been described as four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch”
    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.[4]
    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):
    Historian Shelby Foote also used the term “Democracy is like two wolves and a lamb deciding on what they want for dinner” in Ken Burns 1990 Civil War documentary.

    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.

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