William Graham Sumner

William Graham

American Classical Liberal Social Scientist, Professor at Yale

Author Quotes

Men never cling to their dreams with such tenacity as at the moment when they are losing faith in them, and know it, but do not dare yet to confess it to themselves.

The great hindrance to the development of this continent has lain in the lack of capital.

There is every indication that we are to see new developments of the power of aggregated capital to serve civilization, and that the new developments will be made right here in America.

Men of routine or men who can do what they are told are not hard to find; but men who can think and plan and tell the routine men what to do are very rare.

The history of civil liberty is made up of campaigns against abuses of taxation. Protectionism is the great modern abuse of taxation; the abuse of taxation which is adapted to a republican form of government. Protectionism is now corrupting our political institutions just as slavery used to do.

There is no boon in nature. All the blessings we enjoy are the fruits of labor, toil, self-denial, and study.

Moreover, there is an unearned increment on capital and on labor, due to the presence, around the capitalist and the laborer, of a great, industrious, and prosperous society.

The invectives against capital in the hands of those who have it are double-faced, and when turned about are nothing but demands for capital in the hands of those who have it not, in order that they may do with it just what those who have it now are doing with it.

There is no device whatever to be invented for securing happiness without industry, economy, and virtue.

No scheme which has ever been devised by them has ever made a collapsed boom go up again.

The lobby is the army of the plutocracy.

There ought to be no laws to guarantee property against the folly of its possessors.

Now what will hasten the day when our present advantages will wear out and when we shall come down to the conditions of the older and densely populated nations? The answer is: war, debt, taxation, diplomacy, a grand governmental system, pomp, glory, a big army and navy, lavish expenditures, political jobbery - in a word, imperialism?

The man who started with the notion that the world owed him a living would once more find, as he does now, that the world pays him its debt in the state prison.

Undoubtedly there are, in connection with each of these things, cases of fraud, swindling, and other financial crimes; that is to say, the greed and selfishness of men are perpetual.

One thing must be granted to the rich: they are good-natured.

The men, women, and children who compose a society at any time are the unconscious depositaries and transmitters of the mores. They inherited them without knowing it; they are molding them unconsciously; they will transmit them involuntarily. The people cannot make the mores. They are made by them.

We are born into no right whatever but what has an equivalent and corresponding duty right alongside of it. There is no such thing on this earth as something for nothing.

Perhaps they do not recognize themselves, for a rich man is even harder to define than a poor one.

The millionaires are a product of natural selection ... the naturally selected agents of society for certain work. They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society.

We are to see the development of the country pushed forward at an unprecedented rate by an aggregation of capital, and a systematic application of it under the direction of competent men.

Property left to a child may soon be lost; but the inheritance of virtue- -a good name an unblemished reputation- -will abide forever. If those who are toiling for wealth to leave their children, would but take half the pains to secure for them virtuous habits, how much more serviceable would they be. The largest property may be wrested from a child, but virtue will stand by him to the last.

The mores come down to us from the past. Each individual is born into them as he is born into the atmosphere, and he does not reflect on them, or criticize them any more than a baby analyzes the atmosphere before he begins to breathe it.

We live in a war of two antagonistic ethical philosophies, the ethical policy taught in the books and schools, and the success policy.

Society needs first of all to be free from meddlers that is, to be let alone.

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William Graham
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American Classical Liberal Social Scientist, Professor at Yale