My fellow libertarians, I have a shameful secret to share. I have not, nor do I intend to, read Ayn Rand. I have no idea of the value of her work, but I have a lot more I would rather read. This will inevitably lead to me being stripped of my libertarian decoder ring, as any fool knows libertarians are all Rand worshipers and the libertarian thought definitely does not go back hundreds of years. Or thousands, if you believe a certain Murry R. who claims Taoism was sort of a precursor to libertarianism.
In fact, were I to recommend something to read to a person who want to get started on the politics of liberty, it would be Bastiat. It is short, clear and very relevant. Not the meandering obscurantist crap that passes for intellectualism on the left.
Which brings me to the idea of this post, although it is basically a lazy non-post, because I did not write much. While I know quotes and aphorisms are mostly meaningless nonsense in most context, one can agree that some people have a way with words others do not, and it is no shame to sometimes use someone else words to express ideas in a more poetic fashion than you could yourself (no, not you SugarFree, but for the others it applies).
So what are the quotes that I like and best express my view of liberty? I can give a few and leave more as an exercise to the class. In no particular order, here is a random quote dump.
“Socialism, like the ancient ideas from which it springs, confuses the distinction between government and society. As a result of this, every time we object to a thing being done by government, the socialists conclude that we object to its being done at all. We disapprove of state education. Then the socialists say that we are opposed to any education. We object to a state religion. Then the socialists say that we want no religion at all. We object to a state-enforced equality. Then they say that we are against equality. And so on, and so on. It is as if the socialists were to accuse us of not wanting persons to eat because we do not want the state to raise grain.” – Bastiat
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.” -Lord Acton
“Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm — but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.” -T. S. Eliot
“The first lesson of economics is scarcity: there is never enough of anything to fully satisfy all those who want it. The first lesson of politics is to disregard the first lesson of economics.” – Thomas Sowell
“Representative government cannot express the will of the mass of the people, because there is no mass of the people; The People is a fiction, like The State. You cannot get a Will of the Mass, even among a dozen persons who all want to go on a picnic. The only human mass with a common will is a mob, and that will is a temporary insanity. In actual fact, the population of a country is a multitude of diverse human beings with an infinite variety of purposes and desires and fluctuating wills. ” – Rose Wilder Lane
“The free market is not a creed or an ideology that political conservatives, libertarians, and Ayn Rand acolytes want Americans to take on faith. The free market is simply a measurement. The free market tells us what people are willing to pay for a given thing at a given moment. That’s all the free market does. The free market is a bathroom scale. We may not like what we see when we step on the bathroom scale, but we can’t pass a law making ourselves weigh 165. Liberals and leftists think we can.” —P.J. O’Rourke
“When plunder becomes a way of life for a group of men living together in society, they create for themselves in the course of time a legal system that authorizes it and a moral code that justifies it.” -Frederic Bastiat
“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.” -P.J. O’Rourke
“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through.” -Johnathan Swift
“Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty. This is known as “bad luck.” -Robert A. Heinlein
“I believe that liberty is the only genuinely valuable thing that men have invented, at least in the field of government, in a thousand years. I believe that it is better to be free than to be not free, even when the former is dangerous and the latter safe. I believe that the finest qualities of man can flourish only in free air – that progress made under the shadow of the policeman’s club is false progress, and of no permanent value. I believe that any man who takes the liberty of another into his keeping is bound to become a tyrant, and that any man who yields up his liberty, in however slight the measure, is bound to become a slave.” -H. L. Mencken
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” -C. S. Lewis
Walter Sobchak: Am I wrong?
The Dude: You’re not wrong Walter. You’re just an asshole.
“He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” -Thomas Paine
“The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule.” –H. L. Mencken
“Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.” – Mark Twain
Mongol General: Conan! What is best in life
Conan: Crush your enemies. See them driven before you. Hear the lamentations of their women.”
“Reasoning will never make a man correct an ill opinion, which by reasoning he never acquired.” – Johnathan Swift
“Political tags—such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal conservative, and so forth—are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire. The former are idealists acting from highest motives for the greatest good of the greatest number. The latter are surly curmudgeons, suspicious and lacking in altruism. But they are more comfortable neighbours than the other sort.” -Robert Heinlein
“The trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” -H. L. Mencken
“I hold it to be the inalienable right of anybody to go to hell in his own way.” -Robert Frost
“Back in my teaching days, many years ago, one of the things I liked to ask the class to consider was this: Imagine a government agency with only two tasks: (1) building statues of Benedict Arnold and (2) providing life-saving medications to children. If this agency’s budget were cut, what would it do? The answer, of course, is that it would cut back on the medications for children. Why? Because that would be what was most likely to get the budget cuts restored. If they cut back on building statues of Benedict Arnold, people might ask why they were building statues of Benedict Arnold in the first place.” – Thomas Sowell
“When law and morality contradict each other, the citizen has the cruel alternative of either losing his moral sense or losing his respect for the law.” ― Frédéric Bastiat
“Life, faculties, production-in other words, individuality, liberty, property-this is man. And in spite of the cunning of artful political leaders, these three gifts precede all human legislation, and are superior to it.” ― Frédéric Bastiat
“Laws were most numerous when the commonwealth was most corrupt,” – Tacitus
“Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.” – Daniel Webster
“To have a right to do a thing is not at all the same as to be right in doing it.” – G.K. Chesterton
“It’s now very common to hear people say, ‘I’m rather offended by that,’ as if that gives them certain rights. It’s actually nothing more… than a whine. ‘I find that offensive.’ It has no meaning; it has no purpose; it has no reason to be respected as a phrase. ‘I am offended by that.’ Well, so fucking what.” – Stephen Fry
“When applied to the ultimate ends of action, the terms rational and irrational are inappropriate and meaningless. The ultimate end of action is always the satisfaction of some desires of the acting man. Since nobody is in a position to substitute his own value judgments for those of the acting individual, it is vain to pass judgment on other people’s aims and volitions.” – Ludwig von Mises
“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is it that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not the legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they themselves are made of finer clay than the rest of mankind?” – Frédéric Bastiat
“Sooner or later, the people in this country are gonna realize the government does not give a fuck about them! The government doesn’t care about you, or your children, or your rights, or your welfare or your safety. It simply does not give a fuck about you! It’s interested in its own power. That’s the only thing. Keeping it and expanding it wherever possible.” – George Carlin
“First, given the existence of a powerful government, the people who are most likely to wind up in control of that government are those who (a) have the greatest drive for power, (b) have the skills needed for seizing it (for example, the ability to intimidate or manipulate others), and (c) are unperturbed by moral compunctions about doing what is required to seize power. These individuals are not in the game for the money. They are in it for the pleasure of exercising power. “- The Problem of Political Authority.
“The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups. Nine-tenths of the economic fallacies that are working such dreadful harm in the world today are the result of ignoring this lesson.” – Henry Hazlitt
“The Marxian definition of value is ridiculous. All the work one cares to add will not turn a mud pie into an apple tart; it remains a mud pie, value zero. By corollary, unskillful work can easily subtract value; an untalented cook can turn wholesome dough and fresh green apples, valuable already, into an inedible mess, value zero. Conversely, a great chef can fashion of those same materials a confection of greater value than a commonplace apple tart, with no more effort than an ordinary cook uses to prepare an ordinary sweet.” – Robert Heinlein
“If you require force to promote your ideal, there is something wrong with your ideal.” – JSB Morse
“There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as “caring” and “sensitive” because he wants to expand the government’s charitable programs is merely saying that he’s willing to try to do good with other people’s money. Well, who isn’t? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he’ll do good with his own money — if a gun is held to his head.” – PJ O’Rourke
“All governments suffer a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible. Such people have a tendency to become drunk on violence, a condition to which they are quickly addicted.” – Frank Herbert
“Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners” –George Carlin
“Don’t blame me, I voted for Kodos” – Homer Simpson
“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 to 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. Got any gin?”
“I said,” said Ford, with an increasing air of urgency creeping into his voice, “have you got any gin?”
“I’ll look. Tell me about the lizards.”
Ford shrugged again.
“Some people say that the lizards are the best thing that ever happened to them,” he said. “They’re completely wrong of course, completely and utterly wrong, but someone’s got to say it.”