Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Louis D. Brandeis, fully Louis Dembitz Brandeis

American Justice U.S. Supreme Court

"The great developer is responsibility."

"The great happiness in life is not to donate but to serve."

"America has believed that in differentiation, not in uniformity, lies the path of progress. It acted on this belief; it has advanced human happiness, and it has prospered."

"Behind every argument is someone's ignorance."

"I have not much faith in "good government." What we need is the development of the individual."

"Fear of serious injury cannot alone justify suppression of speech and assembly. Men feared witches and burned women. It is the function of speech to free men from the bondage of irrational fears."

"Equity does not demand that its suitors shall have led blameless lives."

"The brain is like the hand. It grows with using."

"The curse of bigness has prevented proper thinking."

"The right to be alone - the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized man."

"In the field of modern business, so rich in opportunity for the exercise of man's finest and most varied mental faculties and moral qualities, mere money-making cannot be regarded as the legitimate end... since with the conduct of business human happiness or misery is inextricably interwoven."

"Most of the things worth doing in the world had been declared impossible before they were done."

"Secrecy necessarily breeds suspicion."

"The margin between that which men naturally do, and that which they can do, is so great that a system which urges men on to action and develops individual enterprise and initiative is preferable, in spite of the wastes that necessarily attend their process."

"To secure respect for law, we must make the law respectable."

"Nine-tenths of the serious controversies which arise in life result from misunderstandings; result from one man not knowing the facts which to the other man seem important, or otherwise failing to appreciate his point of view."

"Lack of imagination causes cruelty."

"What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual through liberty and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice."

"We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."

"When property is used to interfere with that fundamental freedom of life for which property is only a means, then property must be controlled."

"You cannot eradicate disease from the human body unless you eradicate it from the body politic."

"No danger flowing from speech can be deemed clear and present, unless the incidence of the evil apprehended is so imminent that it may befall before there is opportunity for full discussion. If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence."

"Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means – to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal – would bring terrible retribution."

"Those who won our independence believed that the final end of the State was to make men free to develop their faculties… They valued liberty both as an end and as a means. They believed liberty to be the secret of happiness and courage to be the secret of liberty. They believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak"

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding."

"They [the makers of the Constitution] conferred, as against the Government, the right to be let alone...the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men."

"The right to be let alone is the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized man."

"The Jews gave to the world its three greatest religions, reverence for the law, and the highest conceptions of morality."

"I abhor averages. I like the individual case. A man may have six meals one day and none the next, making an average of three meals per day, but that is not a good way to live."

"If we would guide by the light of reason we must let our minds be bold."

"If we desire respect for the law, we must first make the law respectable."

"Neutrality is at times a graver sin than belligerence."

"Our government... teaches the whole people by its example. If the government becomes the lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy."

"There are no shortcuts in evolution. "

"The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding."

"We are not won by arguments that we can analyze, but by tone and temper; by the manner, which is the man himself."

"In the frank expression of conflicting opinions lies the greatest promise of wisdom in governmental action."

"The most important political office is that of the private citizen."

"To declare that in the administration of criminal law the end justifies the means to declare that the Government may commit crimes in order to secure conviction of a private criminal would bring terrible retribution."

"The greatest menace to freedom is an inert people."

"The right to be alone, the most comprehensive of rights, and the right most valued by civilized man."

"Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government's purposes are beneficent."

"The intensity and complexity of life, attendant upon advancing civilization, have rendered necessary some retreat from the world."

"Few laws are of universal application. It is of the nature of our law that it has dealt not with man in general, but with him in relationships."

"Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman."

"When a man feels that he cannot leave his work, it is a sure sign of an impending collapse."

"No people ever did or ever can attain a worthy civilization by the satisfaction merely of material needs."

"The general rule of law is, that the noblest of human productions -- knowledge, truths ascertained, conceptions, and ideas -- become, after voluntary communication to others, free as the air to common use."

"If we would guide by the light of reason, we must let our minds be bold."

"What are the American ideals? They are the development of the individual for his own and the common good; the development of the individual through liberty, and the attainment of the common good through democracy and social justice."