Great Throughts Treasury

A database of quotes

Democracy

"How many of us are waiting for the opportunity to do some great thing for the betterment of our community, forgetting that the solution of the problem requires only the active intelligent fulfillment of individual civic duty. The only things which are wrong about our Government are the things which are wrong with you and me. Democracy is never a thing done; it is and always will be a goal to be achieved. It means action, not passive acquiescence in things as they are; it requires alertness to duty, a dynamic faith, a willingness to give for the good of all. It can live only as a result of loyalty and devotion to its principles expressed by daily needs." - Douglas L. Edmonds, fully Douglas Lyman Edmonds

"The ignorance of one voter in a democracy impairs the security of all." - John F. Kennedy, fully John Fitzgerald "Jack" Kennedy

"Freedom is a dreadful thing unless it goes hand in hand with responsibility. Democracy among men is a specter except when the hearts of men are mature." - Lillian Smith, fully Lillian Eugenia Smith

"The long fight to save wild beauty represents democracy at its best. It requires citizens to practice the hardest of virtues - self-restraint." -

"Intellectual and spiritual leaders hailed the cause of civil rights and gave little thought to where the civil disobedience road might end. But defiance of the law, even for the best reasons, opens a tiny hole in the dike and soon a trickle becomes a flood... And while no thinking person denies that social injustice exits, no thinking person can condone any group, for any reason, taking justice into his own hands. Once this is permitted, democracy dies; for democracy is sustained through one great premise: the premise that civil rights are balanced by civil responsibilities." - Spiro T. Agnew, fully Spiro Theodore Agnew

"People do not understand liberty or majorities. The will of the majority is the will of a rabble. Democracy is leveling - this is inconsistent with true liberty." - John Caldwell Calhoun

"Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy means government by the badly educated." - G. K. Chesterton, fully Gilbert Keith Chesterton

"(Congress is) functioning the way the Founding Fathers intended - not very well. They understood that if you move too quickly, our democracy will be less responsible to the majority." - Barber B. Conable, Jr.

"The fundamental defect in the present state of democracy is the assumption that political and economic freedom can be achieved without first freeing the mind. Freedom of mind is not something that spontaneously happens. It is not achieved by mere absence of obvious restraints. It is a product of constant unremitting nurture of right habits of observation and reflection." - John Dewey

"No attack on democracy can hide the fact that it can be replaced only by a system that substitutes coercion for persuasion; one that replaces the individual's choice with the choice of some ruler." -

"The two greatest obstacles to democracy in the United States are, first, the widespread delusion among the poor that we have a democracy, and second, the chronic terror among the rich, lest we get it." - Edward Dowling, S.J.

"The fundamental truth of democracy is that the real pleasures of life are increased by sharing them." -

"It was the scientists who first made true democracy possible, for not only did they lighten our daily tasks but they made the finest works of art and thought, whose enjoyment was until recently the privilege of the favored classes, accessible to all." - Albert Einstein

"Democracy is based upon the conviction that there are extraordinary possibilities in ordinary people." - Harry Emerson Fosdick

"To regard teachers - in our entire educational system from the primary grades to the university - as priests of our democracy is therefore not to indulge in hyperbole. It is the special task of teachers to foster those habits of open-mindedness and critical inquiry which alone make for responsible citizens, who in turn, make possible an enlightened and effective public opinion." - Felix Frankfurter

"Democracy is always a beckoning goal, not a safe harbor. For freedom is an unremitting endeavor, never a final achievement." - Felix Frankfurter

"Liberty and democracy become unholy when their hands are dyed red with innocent blood." -

"What difference does it make to the dead whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy." -

"What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the made destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?" -

"Of all obstacles to that complete democracy of which we dream, is there a greater than property?" -

"A true democracy rests on the differences between its citizens, as individuals or as groups." - Hayim Greenberg

"The test of democracy is freedom of criticism." -

"Democracy is predicated not on faith in man but on the conviction... that no man is good enough or wise enough to be entrusted with irresponsible power over his fellow-men." - Will Herberg

"Democracy is not tolerance. Democracy is a prescribed way of life erected on the premise that all men are created equal." - Chester Himes, fully Chester Bomar Himes

"I grew up with the idea that democracy is not something you believe in, or a place you hang your hat, but it’s something you do. You participate. If you stop doing it, democracy crumbles and falls apart." - Abbie Hoffman, fully Abbot Howard "Abbie" Hoffman

"The death of democracy is not likely to be an assassination from ambush. It will be a slow extinction from apathy, indifference, and undernourishment." - Robert Hutchins, fully Robert Maynard Hutchins

"People often say that, in a democracy, decisions are made by a majority of the people. Of course, that is not true. Decisions are made by a majority of those who make themselves heard and who vote - a very different thing." - Walter Judd, fully Walter Henry Judd

"Democracy, which began by liberating man politically, has developed a dangerous tendency to enslave him through the tyranny of majorities and the deadly power of their opinion." - Ludwig Lewisohn

"The essential ingredient of democracy is not doctrine but intelligence, not authority but reason, not cynicism but faith in men, faith in God. Our strength lies in the fearless pursuit of truth by the minds of men who are free." -

"No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people." - Walter Lippmann

"Successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. The decisive consideration is not whether the proposition is good but whether it is popular -- not whether it will work well and prove itself but whether the active talking constituents like it immediately. Politicians rationalize this servitude by saying that in a democracy public men are the servants of the people." - Walter Lippmann

"The world of science may be the only existing participatory democracy." - Salvador E. Luria, fully Salvador Edward Luria

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule - and both commonly succeed, and are right." - H. L. Mencken, fully Henry Louis Mencken

"The principle of democracy is corrupted not only when the spirit of equality is extinct, but likewise when they fall into a spirit of extreme equality, and when each citizen would fain to be upon a level with those whom he has chosen to command him. Then the people, incapable of bearing the very power they have delegated, want to manage everything themselves, to debate for the senate, to execute for the magistrate, and to decide for the judges." - Baron de Montesquieu, fully Charles-Louis de Secondat, Baron de La Brède et de Montesquieu

"Liberty and Equality are the twin ideals of American democracy. But they are not the same thing... Many person who would gladly die for liberty are appalled by equality. Many who are devoted to equality are puzzled and even troubled by liberty. Much of the political history of the American nation can be seen as a competition between these two ideals." - Daniel Patrick Moynihan, aka "Pat"

"I believe democracy to be of all forms of government the most natural and the most consonant with individual liberty. In it no one transfers his natural right so absolutely that he has no further voice in affairs, he only hands it over to the majority of a society, whereof he is a unit. Thus all men remain, as they were in the state of nature, equals." -

"Statistics are the heart of democracy." - Simeon Strunsky

"A democracy can obtain truth only as the result of experience; and many nations may perish while they are awaiting the consequences of their errors." - Alexis de Tocqueville, fully Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville

"A democracy cannot exist as a permanent form of government. It can only exist until the voters discover that they can vote themselves largesse from the public treasure. From that moment on, the majority always votes for the candidate promising the most benefits from the public treasure, with the result that a democracy collapses over loose fiscal policy." - Alexis de Tocqueville, fully Alexis-Charles-Henri Clérel de Tocqueville

"It required the Great Depression to open the eyes of the American people to the economic, cultural, social, political, and spiritual values inherent in a great democracy. For this I am thankful. As a distinctly finite being, man learns only through tragic experiences. Progress and Pain are Siamese twins." - Melvin Tolson, fully Melvin Beaunorus Tolson

"The final test of democracy is its capacity to breed leaders." - Alfred E. Wiggam

"Democracy is moral before it is political." - Joseph Wirth, fully Karl Joseph Wirth

"The greatest challenge for democracy is to persuade people not to eat the seed corn of tomorrow's harvest." - Clement Attlee, 1st Earl Attlee, fully Clement Richard Attlee

"So long as we have enough people in this country willing to fight for their rights, we'll be called a democracy." - Roger Baldwin, fully Roger Nash Baldwin

"Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner." - James Bovard

"Democracy means government by the uneducated, while aristocracy… means government by the badly educated." - Gilbert Keith "G.K." Chesteron

"It has been said that Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." - Winston Churchill, fully Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

"The best argument against democracy is a five minute conversation with the average voter." - Winston Churchill, fully Sir Winston Leonard Spencer-Churchill

"Chairman Mao once said that political power comes from the barrel of a gun. He was only partly right: power that comes from the barrel of a gun can be effective only for a short time. In the end, people’s love for truth, justice, freedom, and democracy will triumph. No matter what governments do, the human spirit will always prevail." -