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Quotes

It is a certain sign of a wise government and proceeding, when it can hold men’s hearts by hopes, when it cannot by satisfaction.

—Francis Bacon, 1625

It is impossible to tell which of the two dispositions we find in men is more harmful in a republic, that which seeks to maintain an established position or that which has none but seeks to acquire it.

—Niccolò Machiavelli, c. 1515

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

On the loftiest throne in the world, we still sit only on our own rump.

—Michel de Montaigne, 1580

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

—Aristophanes, c. 424 BC

Whether for good or evil, it is sadly inevitable that all political leadership requires the artifices of theatrical illusion. In the politics of a democracy, the shortest distance between two points is often a crooked line.

—Arthur Miller, 2001

A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always count on the support of Paul.

—George Bernard Shaw, 1944

Let him who desires peace prepare for war.

—Vegetius, c. 385

Politics, n. A strife of interests masquerading as a contest of principles. The conduct of public affairs for private advantage.

—Ambrose Bierce, 1906

A riot is at bottom the language of the unheard.

—Martin Luther King Jr., c. 1967

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

—Laozi

Do that which consists in taking no action, and order will prevail.

—Laozi, c. 500 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