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If you are neutral in a situation of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor. If an elephant has his tail on the foot of a mouse, and you say you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
Let me make the superstitions of a nation and I care not who makes its laws or its songs either.
1897 - from
Following the Equator
First get your facts; then you can distort them at your leisure.
It is better to deserve honours and not have them than to have them and not to deserve them.
Always do right. This will gratify some people, and astonish the rest.
1901 - from a speech to the Young People's Society in Brooklyn, New York
We are discreet sheep; we wait to see how the drove is going, and then go with the drove. We have two opinions: one private, which we are afraid to express; and another one - the one we use - which we force ourselves to wear to please Mrs. Grundy, until habit makes us comfortable in it, and the custom of defending it presently makes us love it, adore it, and forget how pitifully we came by it. Look at it in politics.
One of the most striking differences between a cat and a lie is that the cat has only nine lives.
In the beginning of a change, the patriot is a scarce man brave, hated, and scorned. When his cause succeeds, however, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.
Facts are stubborn, but statistics are more pliable.
That's the difference between governments and individuals. Governments don't care, individuals do.
A Tramp Abroad
...no country can be well governed unless its citizens as a body keep religiously before their minds that they are the guardians of the law and that the law officers are only the machinery for its execution, nothing more.
The Gilded Age
Sacred cows make the best hamburger.
Thunder is good, thunder is impressive; but it is lightning that does the work.
1908 - from a letter
If you pick up a starving dog and make him prosperous, he will not bite you. This is the principal difference between a dog and a man.
1894 - from
There is no sadder sight than a young pessimist.
The man who does not read good books is at no advantage over the man that can't read them.
A man's character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.
It's noble to be good. It's nobler to teach others to be good, and less trouble.
Between believing a thing and thinking you know is only a small step and quickly taken.
We do no benevolences whose first benefit is not for ourselves.
Conformity - the natural instinct to passively yield to that vague something recognized as authority.
Corn Pone Opinions
Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to reform (or pause and reflect).
It is curious -- curious that physical courage should be so common in the world, and moral courage so rare.
Mark Twain in Eruption
Education that consists in learning things and not the meaning of them is feeding upon the husks and not the corn.
There are laws to protect the freedom of the press's speech, but none that are worth anything to protect the people from the press.
from "License of the Press", a speech
...the liberty of the Press is called the Palladium of Freedom, which means, in these days, the liberty of being deceived, swindled, and humbugged by the Press and paying hugely for the deception.
The government of my country snubs honest simplicity, but fondles artistic villainy, and I think I might have developed into a very capable pickpocket if I had remained in the public service a year or two.
It is by the goodness of God that in our country we have those three unspeakably precious things: freedom of speech, freedom of conscience, and the prudence never to practice either of them.
1897 - from
Following the Equator
The State... stands between me and my body, and tells me what kind of doctor I must employ. When my soul is sick, unlimited spiritual liberty is given me by the State. Now then, it doesn't seem logical that the State shall depart from this great policy...and take the other position in the matter of smaller consequences -- the health of the body...Whose property is my body? Probably mine...If I experiment with it, who must be answerable? I, not the State. If I choose injudiciously, does the State die? Oh, no.
1901 - from "Osteopathy"
The thing which has made Labor great and powerful is labor-saving machinery - and nothing else in the world could have done it. It has been labor's savior, benefactor; but Labor doesn't know it, and would ignorantly crucify it. But that is human and natural. Every great invention takes a livelihood away from 50,000 men - and within ten years creates a livelihood for half a million. But you can't make Labor appreciate that: he is laboring for himself, not the breadless half million that are issuing from his loins. They are somebody else's children; he fails to reflect that his own are among them.
It would not be possible for Noah to do in our day what he was permitted to do in his own...The inspector would come and examine the Ark, and make all sorts of objections.
Irreverence is the champion of liberty.
Man is the only animal that blushes. Or needs to.
The pitifulest thing out is a mob; that's what an army is- a mob; they don't fight with courage that's born in them, but with courage that's borrowed from their mass, and from their officers.
A nation is only an individual multiplied.
It has become a sarcastic proverb that a thing must be true if you saw it in a newspaper. That is the opinion intelligent people have of that lying vehicle in a nutshell. But the trouble is that the stupid people- who constitute the grand overwhelming majority of this and all other nations- do believe and are moulded and convinced by what they get out of a newspaper, and there is where the harm lies.
from "License of the Press", a speech
History has tried hard to teach us that we can't have good government under politicians. Now, to go and stick one at the very head of the government couldn't be wise.
To lodge all power in one party and keep it there is to insure bad government and the sure and gradual deterioration of the public morals.
I am quite sure now that often, very often, in matters concerning religion and politics a man's reasoning powers are not above the monkey's.
I am said to be a revolutionist in my sympathies, by birth, by breeding and by principle. I am always on the side of the revolutionists, because there never was a revolution unless there were some oppressive and intolerable conditions against which to revolute.
1906 - from a column in the
New York Sun
No people in the world ever did achieve their freedom by goody-goody talk and moral suasion: it being immutable law that all revolutions that will succeed must being in blood, whatever may answer afterward.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Every time you stop a school, you will have to build a jail. What you gain at one end you lose at the other. It's like feeding a dog on his own tail. It won't fatten the dog.
Nov. 23, 1900 - from a speech
What is the difference between a taxidermist and a tax collector? The taxidermist takes only your skin.
Familiarity breeds contempt. How accurate that is. The reason we hold truth in such respect is because we have so little opportunity to get familiar with it.
1898 - from a notebook
A man never reaches that dizzy height of wisdom that he can no longer be led by the nose.
Don't go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first.
Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear - not absence of fear.
1894 - from
The man with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.
The principle of give and take is the principle of diplomacy - give one and take ten.
Man has been here 32,000 years. That it took a hundred million years to prepare the world for him is proof that that is what it was done for. I suppose it is, I dunno. If the Eiffel Tower were now representing the world's age, the skin of paint on the pinnacle-knob at its summit would represent man's share of that age; and anybody would perceive that that skin was what the tower was built for. I reckon they would, I dunno.
The Damned Human Race
The fact that man knows right from wrong proves his intellectual superiority to other creatures; but the fact that he can do wrong proves his moral inferiority to any creature that cannot.
Civilization is a limitless multiplication of unnecessary necessaries.
The radical of one century is the conservative of the next.
The mania for giving the Government power to meddle with the private affairs of cities or citizens is likely to cause endless trouble ... there is great danger that our people will lose our independence of thought and action which is the cause of much of our greatness.
...honor is a harder master than the law.
Honor knows no statute of limitations.
The symbol of the race ought to be a human being carrying an ax, for every human being has one concealed about him somewhere, and is always seeking the opportunity to grind it.
Mark Twain, A Biography
There is no such thing as a new idea. It is impossible. We simply take a lot of old ideas and put them into a sort of mental kaleidoscope. We give them a turn and they make new and curious combinations. We keep on turning and making new combinations indefinitely; but they are the same old pieces of colored glass that have been in use through all the ages.
Mark Twain, A Biography
Independence ... is loyalty to one's best self and principles, and this is often disloyalty to the general idols and fetishes.
The quality of independence was almost wholly left out of the human race. The scattering exceptions to the rule only emphasize it, light it up, make it glare.
My kind of loyalty was loyalty to one's country, not to its institutions or its officeholders. The country is the real thing, the substantial thing, the eternal thing; it is the thing to watch over, and care for, and be loyal to; institutions are extraneous, they are its mere clothing, and clothing can wear out, become ragged, cease to be comfortable, cease to protect the body from winter, disease, and death.
A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court
Journalism is the one solitary respectable profession which honors theft (when committed in the pecuniary interest of a journal,) and admires the thief.
You cannot depend on your judgment when your imagination is out of focus.
The jury system puts a ban upon intelligence and honesty, and a premium upon ignorance, stupidity and perjury. It is a shame that we must continue to use a worthless system because it was good a thousand years ago...I desire to tamper with the jury law. I wish to so alter it as to put a premium on intelligence and character, and close the jury box against idiots, blacklegs, and people who do not read newspapers.
The humorist who invented trial by jury played a colossal practical joke upon the world, but since we have the system we ought to try and respect it. A thing which is not thoroughly easy to do, when we reflect that by command of the law a criminal juror must be an intellectual vacuum, attached to a melting heart and perfectly macaronian bowels of compassion.
The rain ...falls upon the just and the unjust alike; a thing which would not happen if I were superintending the rain's affairs. No, I would rain softly and sweetly on the just, but if I caught a sample of the unjust outdoors I would drown him.
Mark Twain, A Biography
All schools, all colleges, have two great functions: to confer, and to conceal, valuable knowledge. The theological knowledge which they conceal cannot justly be regarded as less valuable than that which they reveal. That is, when a man is buying a basket of strawberries it can profit him to know that the bottom half of it is rotten.
To arrive at a just estimate of a renowned man's character one must judge it by the standards of his time, not ours.
Tyrrell, R. Emmett
The American proclivity for conformity that William J. Lederer thought he espied back in the late 1950's when he was writing
A Nation of Sheep
has undoubtedly weakened. Authorities have broken down. Marketing geniuses appeal to every American's most particular taste. Yet that credulous pack that tunes in to television hour after hour is more conformist than any area of society ever contemplated by Lederer.
Jul. 23, 1999 - from his column "Tune Out, Turn Off"
The best way to restrain the politicians' impulse to spend and to expand government's reach is to keep the surplus modest. That means lowering taxes.
Jul. 2, 1999 - from his column "Who cares about high taxes?"
On the matter of improved education, the Clintonian Liberal stands four square for educational standards. Yet now when it comes to the standards maintained by SAT college-entrance examinations, the Liberals are against those standards. The SAT standards have for decades proved to be accurate predictors of a potential college student's likelihood to earn a college degree. Now, however, according to the U.S. Education Department's Office for Civil Rights, when those standards have what the bureaucrats call 'significant disparate impact' on members of a particular race, national origin, or sex, they are to be waived. Ill-prepared students are to be accepted by colleges on some other basis. Thus the Liberals are again on both sides of the issue: for standards but against them.
Jun. 18, 1999 - from his column "Pro and Con"
The absence of a literary sensibility among the conservatives abetted their proclivity for narrowness, for it shut them off from imagination and the capacity to dramatize ideas and personalities.
The Conservative Crackup
The only politicians who call their opponents extremists today are demagogues or extremists themselves.
For the most part neoconservatives are people who were once liberals but sobered up. The neoliberal is one who has always been a liberal but now replaces the sentimental pieties with brusque slogans ("High-Tech!") and unpronounceable programs. All else stays the same.
The intelligent quest is for the free society with equality of opportunity. The quest for equality of result is the path to the widest equality of all: despotism.
1984 - from
The Liberal Crack-Up
New Age Liberalism was in essence nothing more complicated or noble than a running argument with life as it was led by normal Americans.
The Liberal Crack-Up
Some years ago the World Bank released a report on the cost of low tax rates for government revenue. It found that countries with the lowest tax rates, for instance Hong Kong, had the revenue to increase government spending three times as fast as countries with high tax rates. The key is to have the overall economy grow faster than government. Hong Kong managed it and Ronald Reagan managed it.
Mar. 2, 2001 - from "The evolution of tax cuts", published by Creators Syndicate Inc.
Tytler, Alexander Fraser
A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasury. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidates promising the most benefits from the public treasury with the result that a democracy always collapses over loose fiscal policy followed by a dictatorship. The average age of the world's greatest civilizations has been 200 years. [Tytler describes the life cycle of civilization as from Bondage to Spiritual Faith to Great Courage to Liberty to Abundance to Selfishness to Complacency to Apathy to Dependency and back into Bondage.]
1776 - from
The Decline and Fall of the Athenian Republic
Truthful words are not beautiful, beautiful words are not truthful.
Regulating a large country is like boiling small fish.
Let your plans be dark and as impenetratable as night, and when you move, fall like a thunderbolt.
c. 510 B.C. - from
The Art of War
People in their handlings of affairs often fail when they are about to succeed. If one remains as careful at the end as he was at the beginning, there will be no failure.
Udall, Stewart L.
We have, I fear, confused power with greatness.
In California, everything is s-o-o-o touchy-feely. They are into this silly outcome-based education, where it doesn’t matter if she knew how to spell her name as long as she knew who she was. And it didn’t matter if she knew that two plus two was four as long as she had enough self-confidence to ask how to get ‘to the conclusion of the problem.’ What a crock! She was going to end up as dumb as a mudflap.
Canadians are the world's oldest and most continuing anti-Americans.
[Defence] We are guarded by Generals Atlantic and Pacific.
With the Liberals in power, what we have is a case of the bland leading the bland.
Civilizations do not give out, they give in. They come apart not in a flash but by the inch. In a society where anything goes, everything eventually will.
From his article "How Nasty Do We Wanna Be?"
... since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defence of peace must be constructed.
1946 - defining its original education objectives in its constitution
... education should aim not so much at acquisition of knowledge... there is less need to know the content of information. ... [Capitalism] lays the foundations of rivalry and aggression and encourages exaggerated consumption, making man a slave of ambition and status symbols. ... [Lifelong learning promotes] equality of end result, and not merely of opportunity... and fosters equality in terms of opinions, aspirations, motivations, and so on.
1976 - from its publication
Foundations of Lifelong Learning
, widely-hailed in the education movement
Tolerance is respect, acceptance and appreciation of the rich diversity of our world's cultures... It is not only a moral duty, it is also a political and legal requirement.
Nov. 16, 1995 - from Article 1.1 of the "Declaration of Principles on Tolerance" [UNESCO wants us to be morally and legally required to "appreciate" as well as respect and accept cultural diversity. Ed.]
Tolerance is not concession, condescension or indulgence. Tolerance is, above all, an active attitude prompted by recognition of the universal human rights and fundamental freedoms of others. In no circumstance can it be used to justify infringements of these fundamental values.
Nov. 16, 1995 - from Article 1.2 of the "Declaration of Principles on Tolerance"
Tolerance... involves the rejection of dogmatism and absolutism and affirms the standards set out in international human rights instruments.
Nov. 16, 1995 - from Article 1.3 of the "Declaration of Principles on Tolerance" [UNESCO seems to see itself defining "dogma" and standards of tolerance. Ed.]
Every state has the right to take the necessary steps to maintain under public control the use, posession, disposal and reservation of land. Every state has the right to plan and regulate the use of land, which is one of its most important resources, in such a way that the growth of population centers both urban and rural are based on a comprehensive land use plan.
Jun. 1976 - from its report
Habitat: United Nations Conference on Human Settlements
, quoted by Ronald Reagan in his radio address, Nov. 30, 1976
United States Army
Democracy, n.: A government of the masses. Authority derived through mass meeting or any other form of direct expression. Results in mobocracy. Attitude toward property is communistic... negating property rights. Attitude toward law is that the will of the majority shall regulate, whether it is based upon deliberation or governed by passion, prejudice, and impulse, without restraint or regard to consequences. Result is demagogism, license, agitation, discontent, anarchy.
1928 - from
U. S. Army Training Manual
No. 2000-25, in use from 1928-1932
The hand that rocks the cradle rules the nation and its destiny.
Only a fool tests the depth of a river with both feet.
A communist is a man who has nothing and wishes to share it with the world.
A little experience often upsets a lot of theory.
Attributed to Cadman
It is easier to believe a lie that one has heard a thousand times than to believe a fact that no one has heard before.