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262 of 6,095 quotations related to Democracy, showing Hayek to O'Sullivan

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Hayek, Friedrich
The successful politician owes his power to the fact that he moves within the accepted framework of thought, that he thinks and talks conventionally. It would be almost a contradiction in terms for a politician to be a leader in the field of ideas. His task in a democracy is to find out what the opinions held by the largest number are, not to give currency to new opinions which may become the majority view in some distant future.

The increasing discredit into which democratic government has fallen is due to democracy having been burdened with tasks for which it is not suited.

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.

1944 - from The Road to Serfdom
Hazlitt, Henry
You can write limits into a constitution, but the question is, is there any way to ensure the preservation of a limited democracy? Even if you have a good system, if the majority has its way, it's sure to lead to bad policy, because the majority doesn't understand limited government.

Dec. 01, 1984 - from an interview published in Reason Magazine
Hazlitt, William
The evils of popular government appear greater than they are; there is compensation for them in the spirit and energy it awakens.

quoted in "Thoughts on the business of life", Forbes magazine, Jun. 15, 1998
Heinlein, Robert Anson
'Bread and Circuses' is the cancer of democracy, the fatal disease for which there is no cure.

1987 - from To Sail Beyond the Sunset
Democracy may not be the best system there is, but its the best we have.

1966 - from The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
Democracy is not an automatic condition resulting from laws and constitutions. It is a living, dynamic process which must be worked at by you yourself - or it ceases to be democracy, even if the shell and form remains.

1992 - from the posthumously published Take Back Your Government
Democracy is the most efficient form of government ever invented by the human race. On the record, it has worked better in peace and in war than fascism, communism, or any other form of dictatorship. As for the mythical yardstick of 'benevolent' monarchy or dictatorship -- there ain't no such animal!

1992 - from the posthumously published Take Back Your Government
Herbers, John
... democracy is not a matter of entertainment, it is a matter of engagement.

Apr. 1999 - from "Beaten", published in the American Journalism Review series "The State of the American Newspaper" (with James McCarthy)

Hobbes, Thomas
A democracy is no more than an aristocracy of orators.

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

Humphrey, Hubert H.
If there is dissatisfaction with the status quo, good. If there is ferment, so much the better. If there is restlessness, I am pleased. Then let there be ideas, and hard thought, and hard work.

Hunter, Ian  
... the judiciary has moved from being the least powerful branch of government to, arguably, the most powerful. Decision-making by the courts is the antithesis of democracy.

Nov. 1998 - from "From Christian Virtues to Judicial Values", his George Goth Memorial Lecture
The chivvying and badgering of citizens by uncivil servants, and by burgeoning government boards, agencies, and commissions (most egregiously by human rights commissions, which not only tell us how to act, but what to say and how to think), ... remains ... a threat to self-government; but at the end of the 20th century what is a more serious threat is judicial usurpation of democracy.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
When Canadians allow fundamental issues of public policy -- such as abortion, euthanasia, or whether possession of child pornography should be a crime -- to be decided by courts, rather than by Parliament, they are shrugging off the perhaps now irksome burden of self-government. At bottom, democracy is anti-authoritarian, not because it arrives at correct, or even principled, conclusions, but because it imposes on everyone the burden of thinking and deciding for oneself. How much easier to allow the nine philosopher-kings on the Supreme Court of Canada to think and decide for us.

Feb. 23, 1999 - from "Democracy and its discontents", published in the National Post newspaper
Hutchins, Robert Maynard
The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment.

1954 - from The Great Book of the Western World, Encyclopedia Britannica
Inge, William Ralph
It is astonishing with how little wisdom mankind can be governed, when that little wisdom is its own.

Jefferson, Thomas
All, too, will bear in mind this sacred principle, that 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 law must protect, and to violate would be oppression.

Mar. 4, 1801 - from his first Inaugural Address
Information is the currency of democracy.

I hold it that a little rebellion now and then is a good thing, and as necessary in the political world as storms in the physical. Unsuccessful rebellions indeed generally establish the encroachments on the rights of the people which have produced them. An observation of this truth should render honest republican governors so mild in their punishment of rebellions, so as not to discourage them too much. It is a medicine necessary for the sound health of government.

Jan. 30, 1787 - from a letter to James Madison
The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not.

Jingsheng, Wei
Every minute portion of democracy of real value was stained with the blood of martyrs and tyrants, and every step forward was met with strong attacks from the reactionary forces. Democracy has been able to surmount all these obstacles because it is highly valued and eagerly sought by the people. Therefore, this torrent is irresistible.

Johnson, Paul
Free institutions will only survive when there is the rule of law. This is an absolute on which there can be no compromise: the subjection of everyone and everything to the final arbitration of the law is more fundamental to human freedom and happiness than democracy itself... Once the law is humbled, all else that is valuable in a civilized society will vanish, usually with terrifying speed. On the other hand, provided the rule of law is maintained intact, the evil forces in society, however powerful, will be brought to book in the end.

1977 - from Enemies of Society
The art of politics is the minimization of unhappiness, or of unavoidable suffering... The process of avoiding suffering is greatly assisted by the existence of free institutions. The greater their number, variety and intrinsic strength, and the greater their individual independence, the more effective the democracy which harbours them will be. All such institutions should be treated like fortresses: that is, soundly constructed and continually manned.

1977 - from Enemies of Society
Jonas, George  
I'm part of Canada's 'multicultural reality.' I can confidently say that the immigrants I've known ­ and I have known many ­ had no difficulty swearing an oath of loyalty to the Queen. On the contrary. We came to Canada precisely because we liked, and wanted to adopt, the tradition that the Queen symbolized to us: Individual freedom, liberal democracy and the rule of law. It was indeed a 'British' tradition, because... it existed in few places outside of Great Britain and countries that have elected to model their systems after the best British institutions.

Aug. 1, 1999 - from "May the Queen preserve us", published in the Montreal Gazette newspaper
Kahn, Otto Herman
The deadliest foe of democracy is not autocracy but liberty frenzied.

Kedourie, Elie
[Samuel P. Huntington, Harvard professor of government] speaks as if democracy, 'participation' and egalitarianism necessarily go together. This, of course, is the cant of the age, and one might have hoped it would not have been accepted. For democracy which concerns the source of government authority entails nothing about participation (which relates to the way in which government if carried on); and it does not imply that the members of a democratic polity are, or ought to be, equal.

...democracy, which concerns the source of government authority, entails nothing about participation (which relates to the way in which government is carried on) and it does not imply that the members of a democratic polity are, or ought to be, equal.

Kemp, Jack
Democracy without morality is impossible.

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

The men who create power make an indispensable contribution to the nation's greatness. But the men who question power make a contribution just as indispensable for they determine whether we use power or power uses us.

Kennedy, Robert F.
One-fifth of the people are against everything all the time.

Kirk, Russell
Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.... A state in which an individual or a small group are able to dominate the wills of their fellows without check is a despotism, whether it is called monarchical or aristocratic or democratic.

1993 - from "Ten Conservative Principles", in the second chapter of The Politics of Prudence
Kirkpatrick, Jeanne
This period offers an enormous opportunity and obligation for the churches because religion has been so suppressed in the communist countries. But one of the things we’ve learned in the transition [of communist countries to democracy] is that societies turn out to be very tough. Like human infants, they survive more than you think they can survive. Just as the Russians and the Soviets didn’t manage to wipe out languages in Lithuania, neither have they managed to wipe out religion to the extent that we had feared.

Apr. 1992 - from "Toward Humane Governance", published in Religion and Liberty by the Acton Institute
Kristol, Irving
Democracy does not guarantee equality of conditions - it only guarantees equality of opportunity.

L'Amour, Louis
I want my son to learn what he can, bur most of all I wish him to be a citizen, to judge issues, to use logic in his thinking, to respect his country and its people.

1978 - from Bendigo Shafter
There is no greater role for a man to play than to assist in the government of a people, nor anyone lower then he who misuses that power.

1983 - from The Lonesome Gods
... civilization is a flimsy cloak, and just outside are hunger, thirst, and cold... waiting.

1978 - from Bendigo Shafter
Landon, Fred  
We hear much these days of education for citizenship, but the only real and effective education for citizenship lies in its actual practice.

quoted in Canadian by Conviction, Brune and Bulgutch, Gage Educational Publishing Company

Leishman, Rory  
[Supreme Court] ... judges who usurp the legislative authority of Parliament are an affront to democracy and the rule of law.

Sep. 05, 1998 - from "Chief Justice Should Explain the Egregious Feeney Ruling", published in the Montreal Gazette
Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich
Democracy is indispensable to socialism.

Lewis, C.S.
The very idea of freedom presupposes some objective moral law which overarches rulers and ruled alike. Subjectivism about values is eternally incompatible with democracy. We and our rulers are of one kind only so long as we are subject to one law. But if there is no Law of Nature, the ethos of any society is the creation of its rulers, educators and conditioners; and every creator stands above and outside his own creation.

1943 - from Christian Reflections, "The Poison of Subjectivism"
Lewis, David  
I would hate to think that I should ever have to choose between socialism and democracy, but if I had to, I would choose democracy.

quoted in Columbo's New Canadian Quotations by John Robert Columbo
Lieber, Francis
How... is real and essential self-government, in the service of liberty, to be obtained and to be perpetuated? There is no other means than by a vast system of institutions, whose number supports the whole, as the many pillars support the rotunda of our capitol.

1853 - from On Civil Liberty and Self-Government
Lincoln, Abraham
As I would not be a slave, so I would not be a master. This expresses my idea of democracy. Whatever differs from this, to the extent of the difference, is no democracy.

Lippmann, Walter
This is one of the paradoxes of the democratic movement - that it loves a crowd and fears the individuals who compose it - that the religion of humanity should have no faith in human beings.

The rule of 51 percent is a convenience... because we do not know any less troublesome method of obtaining a political decision. But it may easily become an absurd tyranny if we regard it worshipfully, as though it were more than a political device. We have lost all of its true meaning when we imagine the opinion of 51 percent is in some high fashion the true opinion of the whole 100 percent.

Popular government has not yet been proved to guarantee ... good government.

Long, Russell
Democracy is like a raft. It won't sink, but you'll always have your feet wet.

MacDonald, Oonagh
The record for nationalized industries even with the limited moves towards industrial democracy in the 1970's does not suggest that that form of common ownership can ever provide acceptable forms of democratic participation. It is time to move on.

1988 - from an essay published in New Socialist, x/xi
MacDonnell, James J.  
Accountability of public servants to government, of government to Parliament, and of Parliament to taxpayers can be achieved only if the MPs of all parties support these goals. Parliamentarians must never lose sight of the fact that in a democracy, accountability is the price exacted for the gift of power.

MacPherson, C.B.  
We are supposed to have a rwo-or three -party system in Canada, yet one party has been in office, with only two intervals, ever since 1896, and continuously since 1935. This has led one observer to speak of Canada as a one-party state, and to attribute the phenomenon to the skill of the Liberal party in representing the lowest common denominator of political opinion in a country with an unusual dispersion of racial, religious, and sectional interests. The one party, it is said, has been so successful at this that it is now widely considered to be the only party able to form a government; consequently, the greater the threat that it may lose an election, the more voters rally to it from protest parties.

1952 - from Democracy In Alberta: Social Credit and the Party System
Madison, James
We base all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self-government.

The ultimate authority resides in the people alone.

from the Federalist Paper No. 47
... 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.

A government, resting on a minority is an aristocracy, not a Republic, and could not be safe with a numerical and physical force against it, without a standing army, an enslaved press, and a disarmed populace.

from Madison's autobiography as published in a 1945 edition of the William and Mary Quarterly, Volume 2
The censorial power is in the people over the government and not in the government over the people.

Mailer, Norman
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.

Manning, Preston  
Some people ... want their MP to represent their views on a particular issue in the Parliament ... the 'delegate view of representation.' People say ... that they expect politicians to keep their promises and implement the program on which they sought public support in the first place ... the 'mandate theory of representation' ... People say ... they expect you to use your judgement on the issues that come up in the Parliament, ... the 'trusteeship theory of representation.' ... The challenge for modern democratic parties and institutions is to integrate these three into one coherent theory of representation and develop guidelines for voting in caucus and voting in Parliament in accordance with that model.

from "Obstacles and Opportunities for Parliamentary Reform", published in the Canadian Parliamentary Review

Effective representation in a modern democracy ... is not a matter of representing constituent interests only, or party principles and platform only, or member's judgement only, but a judicious and practical combination of the three in accordance with well-understood principles and practices.

Marx, Karl
Democracy is a form of government that cannot long survive, for as soon as the people learn that they have a voice in the fiscal policies of the government, they will move to vote for themselves all the money in the treasury, and bankrupt the nation.

McCain, John
[Democracy] We who have found shelter beneath the great oak must care for it in our time with as much devotion as had the patriots who preceded us.

Aug. 1, 2000 - from a speech delivered to the Republican National Convention nominating George W. Bush for president
To achieve the necessary changes to the practices and institutions of our democracy we need to be a little less content. We need to get riled up a bit, and stand up for the values that made America great.

Aug. 1, 2000 - from a speech delivered to the Republican National Convention nominating George W. Bush for president
McCarthy, James
... democracy is not a matter of entertainment, it is a matter of engagement.

Apr. 1999 - from "Beaten", published in the American Journalism Review series "The State of the American Newspaper" (with John Herbers)
McClung, Nellie  
Democracy has its faults; the people may run the country to the dogs, but they will run it back again.

quoted in Columbo's New Canadian Quotations by John Robert Columbo
McMurtry, Roy  
The fight to preserve freedom of the press is not a fight to preserve freedom for the publishers. It is a fight to preserve the freedom of us all. Freedom of the press fuels and keeps alive the flame of democracy.

quoted in Columbo's New Canadian Quotations by John Robert Columbo
Mencken, Henry Louis
Democracy is also a form of worship. It is the worship of Jackals by Jackasses.

... democracy is based upon so childish a complex of fallacies that they must be protected by a rigid system of taboos, else even half-wits would argue it to pieces. Its first concern must thus be to penalize the free play of ideas.

1918 - from Damn! A Book of Calumny
Government under democracy is thus government by orgy, almost by orgasm.

1926 - from Notes on Democracy

The aim of democracy is to break all... free spirits to the common harness. It tries to iron them out, to pump them dry of self-respect, to make docile John Does of them. The measure of its success is the extent to which such men are brought down, and made common. The measure of civilization is the extent to which they resist and survive. Thus the only sort of liberty that is real under democracy is the liberty of the have-nots to destroy the liberty of the haves.

Democracy is a form of worship. It is the worship of jackals by jackasses.

Democracy is the art of running the circus from the monkey cage.

A politician normally prospers under democracy in proportion ... as he excels in the invention of imaginary perils and imaginary defenses against them.

1918 - from Damn! A Book of Calumny
Democracy must be a sound scheme at bottom, else it would not survive such cruel strains.

What we confront is not the failure of capitalism, but simply the failure of democracy. Capitalism has really been responsible for all the progress of the modern age. Better than any other system ever devised, it provides leisure for large numbers of superior men, and so fosters the arts and sciences. No other system ever heard of is so beneficial to invention. Its fundamental desire for gain may be far from glorious per se, but it at least furthers improvement in all the departments of life. We owe to it every innovation that makes life secure and comfortable.

Miljan, Lidia  
... even if one could overcome the problem of access to technology, there is no compelling evidence to show that people would be interested in or able to vote on public policy issues. Over time, there has been a consistent decline in voter turnout not only in Canada, but in the US as well. The problem becomes more acute at the local level. In some municipal elections, a turnout of 30 percent decides government. Why should we expect the public to become involved and interested in the multitude of policy issues that are put before provincial and federal government legislatures?

Dec. 2000 - from "Can Technology Lead to Parlimentary Reform?" published in Fraser Forum
Mill, John Stuart
The worth of the state, in the long run, is the worth of the individuals composing it.

Montesquieu, Baron de
The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.

Democracy has two excesses to be wary of: the spirit of inequality, which leads it to aristocracy, and the spirit of extreme equality, which leads it to despotism.

1748 - from The Spirit of the Laws

Mount, Ferdinand
There is ... genuine virtue in the relative poverty of our political parties and the relative independence of their constituency associations. I cannot help believing that both the poverty and the independence would wither under most systems of Proportional Representation (PR). At the same time, the management of government under a PR system also has an introverted quality, which amounts to a further kind of centralisation. It is not simply that the electors cannot foresee and have no control over the policy trading between the parties which negotiate the virtually inevitable coalition after the election. If the coalition is to prosper, the eyes of its leaders must be constantly on the mood of their junior coalition partners, rather than on the mood of the nation; by contrast, a British Prime Minister or an American President in their simpler systems will be paying close attention to what the voters as a whole are saying. The conversation between governors and governed is more straightforward, more transparent.

May 11, 1992 - from "The Recovery of the Constitution", a lecture sponsored by Britain's Charter88 organization
Muldoon, Francis  
Canada proclaims itself to be a democratic country, but democracy itself is imperiled when judges arrogate the role of legislators.

1998 - from his decision in Re Ten
Murray, Charles
I finally [believe] that Jeffersonian democracy is still the best way to run society... it may just be that on certain fundamental questions of government, Jefferson and his colleagues were right more universally than they knew. In particular, they understood that the vitality of communities and the freedoms of individuals are intertwined.

from "In Pursuit of Happiness and Good Government"
Musgrove, F.
 It is the business of education in our social democracy to eliminate the influence of parents on the life chances of the young.

1965 - from The Family, Education and Society, Routledge and Paul, London
Nader, Ralph
There can be no daily democracy without daily citizenship. If we do not exercise our civil rights, who will? If we do not perform our civic duties, who can? The fiber of a just society in the pursuit of happiness is a thinking, active citizenry. That means you.

Needham, Richard J.  
In a dictatorship, the people are afraid to tell the truth to the leaders; in a democracy, the leaders are afraid to tell the truth to the people.

quoted in Columbo's New Canadian Quotations by John Robert Columbo
Newman, Peter C.  
Because of the unusually low voter turn out [in the 2000 federal election] a mere 26% of Canadians elected a cast-iron Liberal majority. ... The election's unintended result is that we have invented a new and potentially lethal political phenomenon: an elected dictatorship.

Dec. 30, 2000 - from "2000: The year the music died", National Post
Niebuhr, Reinhold
Democracy is finding proximate solutions to insoluble problems.

Man's capacity for justice makes democracy possible; but man's inclination to injustice makes democracy necessary.

Nietzsche, Friederich
Democracy represents the disbelief in all great men and elite societies.

Democratic institutions are quarantine arrangements to combat that ancient pestilence: lust for tyranny. As such they are very useful and very boring.

1880 - from The Wanderer and His Shadow
Novak, Michael
Our political intuitions work remarkably well. They are designed to clang against each other. The noise is democracy at work.

O'Rourke, P.J.
Our democracy, our culture, our whole way of life is a spectacular triumph of the blah.

Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy the whores are us.

1991 - from Parliament of Whores
Liberals are the ditch carp of democracy.

O'Scannlain, Diarmuid F.
A system which permits one judge to block with a stroke of a pen what 4,736,180 state residents voted to enact as law tests the integrity of our constitutional democracy.

Apr. 1997 - from his decision overturning a lower-court attempt to block the voter-approved California Proposition 209, which restrains racist state-sponsored affirmative action practices
O'Sullivan, John
What is happening today that most resembles that slow spread of Jacobinism? Any answer must be to some degree speculative. But my own is that the next great challenge can now be seen in the gradual undermining of democracy, and the shift of power and decision-making from institutions that are accountable to the voters to those that are either accountable to no-one but themselves or that inhabit a constitutional limbo where they cannot easily be held to account.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
We see the harbingers of [a growing challenge to democracy] in three developments: the shift of power from legislatures to bureaucratic agencies and the courts brought about by over-government; the shift of power from nation-states to supranational bodies; and the development of anti-democratic ideas that, lagging behind events, serve to justify these relatively new political practices and to defend the new loci of power.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
[Multiculturalism] ...is an attempt to replace the system of liberal democracy based upon the individual citizen operating through voluntary organizations, with a system of multicultural democracy in which the fundamental unit is not the individual citizen but distinct peoples, ethnic groups and cultural blocs, with their own world-views, values, histories, heritages and languages. It is through their membership of these groups that people should express their political aspirations. These groups in turn have a right to an equal place at the constitutional table. And to accommodate them, the liberal state must devolve power downwards to the groups and upwards to supranational institutions that will guarantee their rights internationally.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England
Multiculturalists ... re-define democracy in a non-majoritarian way - as power sharing among different culture groups (or peoples). To enforce and administer this power-sharing - and to secure the rights of minorities - there must be institutions not subject to majority rule. The courts already do this to some extent.

Feb. 16, 1999 - from his lecture to the Centre for Policy Studies in London, England