Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.

—Ambrose Bierce, 1906

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

—Herodotus, c. 425 BC

The affairs of the world are no more than so much trickery, and a man who toils for money or honor or whatever else in deference to the wishes of others, rather than because his own desire or needs lead him to do so, will always be a fool.

—Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, 1774

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


I work for a government I despise for ends I think criminal.

—John Maynard Keynes, 1917

Written laws are like spiderwebs: they will catch, it is true, the weak and poor but would be torn in pieces by the rich and powerful.

—Anacharsis, c. 550 BC

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

—George Bernard Shaw, 1944

All the ills of democracy can be cured by more democracy.

—Al Smith, 1933

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

Envy is the basis of democracy.

—Bertrand Russell, 1930

Treaties, you see, are like girls and roses: they last while they last.

—Charles de Gaulle, 1963

You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose.

—Mario Cuomo, 1985

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