Television has made dictatorship impossible, but democracy unbearable.

—Shimon Peres, 1995

There is no method by which men can be both free and equal.

—Walter Bagehot, 1863

My people and I have come to an agreement that satisfies us both. They are to say what they please, and I am to do what I please.

—Frederick the Great, c. 1770

The most hateful torment for men is to have knowledge of everything but power over nothing.

—Herodotus, c. 425 BC

He may be a patriot for Austria, but the question is whether he is a patriot for me.

—Emperor Francis Joseph, c. 1850

You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner.

—Aristophanes, c. 424 BC

I shall be an autocrat: that’s my trade. And the good Lord will forgive me: that’s his.

—Catherine the Great, c. 1796

To be turned from one’s course by men’s opinions, by blame, and by misrepresentation shows a man unfit to hold office.

—Quintus Fabius Maximus, c. 203 BC

Politics is the art of the possible.

—Otto von Bismarck, 1867

The best of all rulers is but a shadowy presence to his subjects.


A real leader is somebody who can help us overcome the limitations of our own individual laziness and selfishness and weakness and fear and get us to do better, harder things than we can get ourselves to do on our own.

—David Foster Wallace, 2000

The vice presidency isn’t worth a pitcher of warm piss.

—John Nance Garner, c. 1967

No human life, not even the life of a hermit, is possible without a world which directly or indirectly testifies to the presence of other human beings.

—Hannah Arendt, 1958