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Government

  • Generosity is a virtue for individuals, not governments. When governments are generous it is with other people's money, other people's safety, other people's future.

  • ... the whole flavor and quality of the American representative government turns to ashes on the tongue, if one regards that government as simply an inferior and rather second-rate sort of corporation.

  • Under a Labour government, there's virtually nowhere you can put your savings where they would be safe from the state. ... If you put money in a sock they'd probably nationalize socks.

  • By assigning his political rights to the state the individual also delegates his social responsibilities to it: he asks the state to relieve him of the burden of caring for the poor precisely as he asks for protection against criminals. The difference between pauper and criminal disappears — both stand outside society.

  • ... the fateful equating of power with violence, of the political with government, and of government with a necessary evil has begun.

  • You cannot tell the truth when words are corrupted. Our country was founded on the notion that the plain words of the people are more important than the fancy words of kings.

  • All public projects are mausoleums, not always in shapes, but always in cost.

  • ... consider the extent of the moral and political inversion in today's prevalent view of government. Instead of being a protector of man's rights, the government is becoming their most dangerous violater; instead of guarding freedom, the government is establishing slavery; instead of protecting men from the initiators of physical force, the government is initiating physical force and coercion in any manner and issue it pleases; instead of serving as the instrument of objectivity in human relationships, the government is creating a deadly, subterranean reign of uncertainty and fear, by means of nonobjective laws whose interpretation is left to the arbitrary decisions of random bureaucrats; instead of protecting men from injury by whim, the government is arrogating to itself the power of unlimited whim — so that we are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force.

  • There is only one institution that can arrogate to itself the power legally to trade by means of rubber checks: the government. And it is the only institution that can mortgage your future without your knowledge or consent: government securities (and paper money) are promissory notes on future tax receipts, i.e., on your future production.

  • I'm sorry that government involves filling out a lot of forms. ... I'm sorry myself that we're not still on the frontier, where we could all tote guns, shoot anything that moved and spit to our hearts' content. But we live in a diverse and crowded country, and with civilization comes regulation.

  • It's all very well to run around saying regulation is bad, get the government off our backs, etc. Of course our lives are regulated. When you come to a stop sign, you stop; if you want to go fishing, you get a license; if you want to shoot ducks, you can shoot only three ducks. The alternative is dead bodies at the intersections, no fish and no ducks. OK?

  • Personally, I think government is a tool, like a hammer. You can use a hammer to build or you can use a hammer to destroy; there is nothing intrinsically good or evil about the hammer itself. It is the purposes to which it is put and the skill with which it is used that determine whether the hammer's work is good or bad.

  • How the American right managed to convince itself that the programs to alleviate poverty are responsible for the consequences of poverty will someday be studied as a notorious mass illusion.

  • Most of us think of government as them. Yet government isn't Them: It's us.

  • The last thing it [government] ought to do is to ground its proceedings on the ignorance of the people, — to yield them that which they will hereafter despise the donors for granting them.

  • Even if their outward fortunes could be absolutely equalized, there would be, from individual constitution alone, an aristocracy and a democracy in every land. The fearful by nature would compose an aristocracy, the hopeful by nature a democracy, were all other causes of divergence done away.

  • The government's like a mule, it's slow and it's sure; it's slow to turn, and it's sure to turn the way you don't want it.

  • A well ordered society would be one where the State only had a negative action, comparable to that of a rudder: a light pressure at the right moment to counteract the first suggestion of any loss of equilibrium.

  • Anything that the private sector can do, the government can do it worse.

  • ... there are no honorable rulers ...

  • ... in a democracy such as ours the leading minds seldom achieve a place of permanent influence. And the men who sit in Congress or even in the White House are usually not our leading minds. They are not the thinkers. Still less have they time for reflection ...

  • The complete overturn every four years in our central government, or at least the effort to make the overturn, the intervening upset of local politics, the shortness of the term of office, not only for major officials, but for the lesser ones as well, make impossible the development of enduring policies and principles. A sense of haste and hurry pervades our daily life, bred of the necessity for action before the change again, and this permeates our thinking. ... To this, more than to any other single cause, I began to ascribe the superficiality of American life and thought. We live from day to day unable to plan for long years ahead, lest a new goverment bring about far-reaching changes.

  • After a lifetime of war-watching, I see war as an endemic human disease, and governments are the carriers.

  • By its existence, the Peace Movement denies that governments know best; it stands for a different order of priorities: the human race comes first.

  • Americans did not acquire their fear neurosis as the result of a traumatic experience — war devasting their country, pestilence sweeping the land, famine wiping out helpless millions. Americans had to be taught to hate and fear an unseen enemy. The teachers were men in official positions, in government, men whom Americans normally trust without question.

  • I believe — indeed, I know — that whatever is fine and beautiful in the human expresses and asserts itself in spite of government, and not because of it.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • "What I Believe," in The New York World ()
  • The State is the altar of political freedom and, like the religious altar, it is maintained for the purpose of human sacrifice.

  • ... all government, whatever its forms or pretenses, is a dead weight that paralyzes the free spirit and activities of the masses.

  • The State, every government whatever its form, character or color — be it absolute or constitutional, monarchy or republic, Fascist, Nazi or bolshevik — is by its very nature conservative, static, intolerant of change and opposed to it.

  • There is no such thing as a good government. There never was. There can't be.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • in Katherine Anne Porter, The Never-Ending Wrong ()
  • The State is a term for the legislative and administrative machinery whereby certain business of the people is transacted, and badly so.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • "The Individual, Society and the State" (1940), in Alix Kates Shulman, ed., Red Emma Speaks ()
  • The State has no more existence than gods and devils have. They are equally the reflex and creation of man, for man, the individual, is the only reality. The State is but the shadow of man, the shadow of his opaqueness, of his ignorance and fear.

    • Emma Goldman,
    • "The Individual, Society and the State" (1940), in Alix Kates Shulman, ed., Red Emma Speaks ()
  • The difference between government and leadership is that leadership has a soul.

  • ... the separation of church and state grew out of a desire, not so much to protect government from religion, but to protect religion from government.

  • Cynics about government find much to be cynical about.

  • I do not wish to know what the country does for the rich, they can take care of themselves; but what it does for the poor determines the decency, not to say the civilization, of a government.

  • Policy is formed by preconceptions, by long implanted biases. When information is relayed to policy-makers, they respond in terms of what is already inside their heads and consequently make policy less to fit the facts than to fit the notions and intentions formed out of the mental baggage that has accumulated in their minds since childhood.

  • A phenomenon noticeable throughout history regardless of place or period is the pursuit by governments of policies contrary to their own interests.

  • Wooden-headedness, the source of self-deception, is a factor that plays a remarkably large role in government. It consists in assessing a situation in terms of preconceived fixed notions while ignoring or rejecting any contrary signs. It is acting according to wish while not allowing oneself to be deflected by the facts.

  • Government remains the paramount area of folly because it is there that men seek power over others — only to lose it over themselves.

  • In America, where the electoral process is drowning in commercial techniques of fund-raising and image-making, we may have completed a circle back to a selection process as unconcerned with qualifications as that which made Darius King of Persia. ... he whose horse was the first to neigh at sunrise should be King.

  • Language is being laundered in the west wing of the White House ...

  • The idea of self-government is foreign to Americans. ... Self-government is a form of self-control, self-limitation. It goes against our whole grain. We're supposed to go after what we want, not question whether we really need it.

  • The inside operation of Congress — the deals, the compromises, the selling out, the co-opting, the unprincipled manipulating, the self-serving career-building — is a story of such monumental decadence that I believe if people find out about it they will demand an end to it.

  • We've got to bring the government up to date. It's insane to try to live under the same governmental structures set up nearly two hundred years ago.

  • ... corporate America corrupted the watchdogs that were supposed to be guarding the public interest by feeding them under the table.

  • This used to be a government of checks and balances. Now it's all checks and no balances.

  • It is easy to overthrow a government but very difficult to build a new one ...

  • In America ... who is to stop congress from spending too much money. They will not stop themselves, that is certain. Everybody has to think about that now. Who is to stop them.

    • Gertrude Stein,
    • "More About Money" (1936), How Writing Is Written ()
  • The system is rigged. Look around. Oil companies guzzle down billions in profits. Billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. And Wall Street CEOs — the same ones who wrecked our economy and destroyed millions of jobs — still strut around Congress, no shame, demanding favors, and acting like we should thank them.

  • There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there, good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate.

  • We can't have self-government without the self-confidence that is at the root of it.

  • Till I see money spent on the betterment of man instead of on his idleness and destruction, I shall not believe in any perfect form of government ...

  • ... no one sex can govern alone. I believe that one of the reasons why civilisation has failed so lamentably is that it has had one-sided government.

  • No government that is for the profiteers can also be for the people, and I am for the people, while the government is for the profiteers.

    • Rose Pastor Stokes,
    • 1918, in Herbert Stokes and David L. Sterling, eds., "I Belong to the Working Class": The Unfinished Autobiography of Rose Pastor Stokes ()
  • Are all Cabinets congeries of little autocrats with a super-autocrat presiding over them?

  • In a republican land the power behind the throne is the power.

  • A government is just only when the whole people share equally in its protection and advantages.

  • Public money is like found money, I guess; almost anybody'll take a piece of it that can get it, they don't feel as if it's stealing.

  • 'Your laws are ineffective,' Wen declared. 'Why? Because no system of control will work as long as most of those administering the law against an evil have more than a finger dipped into it themselves.'

  • Perhaps the one comforting thought I got out of this whole disgusting affair was that over the years when the government was tapping my telephone, it must certainly have heard some home truths from me about themselves, often couched in good Anglo-Saxon terms.

  • I had always believed government was not a fungus: It could survive in sunshine.

  • The advance planning and sense stimuli employed to capture a $10 million cigarette or soap market are nothing compared to the brainwashing and propaganda blitzes used to insure control of the largest cash market in the world: the Executive Branch of the United States Government.

  • Government has become a machine that runs only when gold coins are inserted.

  • Big money tries to purchase its own agenda. Money does too much talking in Washington. Every senator, every representative, even the president awakens each morning with a number in his head that will drive the whole day. The number is the amount of money that must [be] raised that day for his reelection. If he fails, the next day's number will be even higher.

  • A government which can protect and defend its citizens from wrong and outrage and does not is vicious. A government which would do it and cannot is weak; and where human life is insecure through either weakness or viciousness in the administration of law, there must be a lack of justice and where this is wanting, nothing can make up the deficiency.

  • ... the poverty industry has become a veritable fifth estate. Acting as stand-ins for actual poor people, they mediate the politics of poverty with government officials. The fifth estate is a large and ever-growing power bloc that routinely and by whatever means necessary trades off the interests of poor people to advance its own parochial agenda. From the charities fleecing the state and the public, to the champagne fund-raisers charged off to Uncle Sam ... the fix is in.

  • It didn't take too much intelligence to figure out the idiocy of paying thousands of dollars a month to 'shelter' a homeless family instead of paying for a real apartment. Various layers of government blamed one another — but they were setting the rules, not Martians. Taxpayers were bilked and poor people were sacrificed as hundreds of millions of dollars were poured into the sinkholes of the social welfare establishment. Shelters. Soup kitchens. Name it. Nationwide, poverty is big business — as long as you are politically connected.

  • ... incompetence is a heavy contender with greed as prime motivator of the bureaucracy. ... any time there's money to be had, every manner of opportunist crawls out for a piece. Combined, these fundamentals form the basis of public policy.

  • As the misery of poor people increased, so did the cacophony of private interests competing for government contracts, foundation grants, donations by individuals and corporations, and tax advantages for the donations to 'correct' their version of the problem. The only people who did not cash in, the only ones absent from the debate in any public way, as ever, were poor.

  • As the agencies that did cash in [on the welfare business] grew and reinvented themselves, it became apparent that they were in an inherent conflict of interest with poor people. Welfare mothers, for instance, wanted an adequate guaranteed income, which would have rendered many of the activities of the social welfare professionals meaningless. The agencies wanted a guaranteed income, too: for themselves. With the money and power to lobby effectively, they got it.

  • ... if you want to achieve immortality, see what you can do about getting yourself turned into a Pentagon program.

  • For twenty years it had been generally known that an insidious Lobby was maintained in Washington to influence legislation and executive action on behalf of vested interests. ... The lobby was a creature of darkness. It worked behind closed doors and whispered in corners. This ancient industry was one form of invisible government.

  • ... the State only aims at instilling those qualities in its public by which its demands are obeyed, and its exchequer is filled. Its highest attainment is the reduction of mankind to clockwork. In its atmosphere all those finer and more delicate liberties, which require treatment and spacious expansion, inevitably dry up and perish. The State requires a taxpaying machine in which there is no hitch, an exchequer in which there is never a deficit, and a public, monotonous, obedient, colorless, spiritless, moving humbly like a flock of sheep along a straight high road between two walls.

    • Ouida,
    • in Emma Goldman, title essay, Anarchism ()
  • We don't solve problems so much as we colonize them. First comes the problem, then come the 'pilot projects' and the speeches and the legislation ... and then the consultants and bureaucrats and the contractors and subcontractors ... and the next thing you know there is a settlement the size of Virginia living on it.

  • In government and out, there are vast realms of the bureaucracy dedicated to seeking more information, in perpetuity if need be, in order to avoid taking action.

  • Washington, under Democrats and Republicans, has a profoundly neurotic attitude toward 'the people.' It is built on equal parts of suspicion, loathing, fear, respect and dependence.

  • Every program develops a constituency. That's why it's such perfect hell trying to cut anything, not just good programs, but also dopey ones, spectacularly cost-ineffective ones and some that are, by any known measure, at least three quarters of a century out of date.

  • Since when do grown men and women, who presume to hold high government office and exercise what they think of as 'moral leadership,' require ethics officers to tell them whether it is or isn't permissible to grab the secretary's behind or redirect public funds to their own personal advantage?

  • If there is one thing the past years have taught us, it is the importance of a keen and high sense of honor in those who handle our governmental affairs.

  • We must have government, but we must watch them like a hawk.

  • There is hardly a facet of life that is now free of some sort of federal action.

  • ... our government system has become so complex, so specialized, and so varied that it is slowly but surely being taken over by the trained specialist and the professional civil servant who are just as apt to obstruct progress as to further it ...

  • ... a government, radically bad in the very basis of its structure, diffuses its noxious influence upon the most private feelings and intimate associations of life ...

  • Government itself is an awesome strategy for avoiding pain and conflict. For a considerable price, it relieves us of responsibilities, performing acts that would be as unsavory for most of us as butchering our own beef. As our agent, the government can bomb and tax. As our agent, it can relieve us of the responsibilities once borne face to face by the community: caring for the young, the war-wounded, the aged, the handicapped. It extends our impersonal benevolence to the world's needy, relieving our collective conscience without uncomfortable first-hand involvement. It takes our power, our responsibility, our consciousness.

  • Government! Government! What do I get for all I give, I'd like to know! Potholes and bombs!

  • Haven't you ever noticed how highways always get beautiful near the state capital?

  • Governments never do any great good things from mere principle, from mere love of justice ... You expect too much of human nature when you expect that.

    • Susan B. Anthony,
    • speech, 1891, in Lynn Sherr, ed., Failure Is Impossible: Susan B. Anthony in Her Own Words ()
  • The government cannot do everything all at once. It can't wave a magic wand and meet everyone's demands simultaneously ...

  • A government is not legitimate merely because it exists.

  • ... despite all the talk about bringing brain power into the government, it is hard to keep intellectual mavericks in an atmosphere clogged with memoranda, clearances, and channels.

  • The Pentagon is the greatest power on earth today. ... There it sits, a terrible mass of concrete, on our minds, on our hearts, squat on top of our lives. Its power penetrates into every single life. It is in the very air we breathe. The water we drink. Because of its insatiable demands we are drained and we are polluted.

  • The problem with addicted people, communities, corporations, or countries is that they tend to lie, cheat, or steal to get their 'fix.' Corporations are addicted to profit and governments to power ...

  • To make certain crime doesn't pay, the government should take it over and run it.

  • Along my three thousand miles through the heart of America, did I meet anyone who thought that their voice as an equal citizen now counts for much in the corrupt halls of Washington? No, I did not. Did I meet anyone who felt anger or pain over this? I did indeed, and I watched them shake with rage ...

    • Doris Haddock,
    • with Dennis Burke, Granny D: Walking Across America in My 90th Year ()
  • Politics is only the servant of industry.

    • Mother Jones,
    • in Mary Field Parton, ed., The Autobiography of Mother Jones ()
  • The stakes ... are too high for government to be a spectator sport.

  • Boundless greed, immense hubris, criminal carelessness, rabid dishonesty, utter disregard for life, and a psychotic detachment from reality are endemic at the highest levels of government and industry.

  • Sure, now ivery child knows what's guvermint. It's half a dozen gintlemen an' the loike maybe, that meets an' thinks what's best fer thimsilves, an' thin says that's best fer us — an' that's guvermint.

    • Anonymous,
    • Civil War widow, in Gerald F. Lieberman, ed., 3,500 Good Quotes for Speakers ()
  • The rules are simple: they lie to us, we know they’re lying, they know we know they’re lying, but they keep lying to us, and we keep pretending to believe them.

  • The difficulty ... is not to govern people, but to make them govern themselves.

  • Government is a tool, like a hammer. You can use a hammer to build with or you can use a hammer to destroy with.