200+ Democracy Quotes

200 Democracy Quotes

Quotes as a primer for a new breed of a political party: grassroots democratic, yet efficient and effective, with safeguarded info and democratic processes, and a 1:1 transfer to parliament.

A Great Democracy

“A great democracy has got to be progressive or it will soon too cease to be great or a democracy.”

Theodore Roosevelt

“Democracy is always a work in progress, it’s never an absolute idea or it would otherwise be a totalitarian ideology just like the rest of them.”

José Mujica, President of Uruguay (2010-2015)

“Democracy is not a done deal.”

Hanzi Freinacht, Nordic Ideology

“The point with democracy isn’t that the majority is always right. The point is that there is a process of free and sufficiently systemized truth-seeking and dialogue going on for small groups to be able to prove the rest of us wrong, again and again, so that values, opinions and laws can evolve and adapt.”

Hanzi Freinacht, Nordic Ideology

“Democracy has always been in crisis: democracy is all about practicing the art of bearable dissatisfaction. In democratic societies, people often complain about their leaders and their institutions. The gap between the ideal democracy and the existing one cannot be bridged.”

Ivan Krastev, In Mistrust we Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don’t Trust Our Leaders?

“The more that people feel that their voice counts, the more likely it is that public life will come alive and enhance the quality of our political imagination.”

Frank Furedi, Democracy Under Siege: Don’t Let Them Lock It Down!

“The ability to turn problems into progress and learn from mistakes — this is the reason for the dynamism, flexibility, and resilience of open societies that ultimately make them so successful.”

Sukhayl Niyazov, The Antifragile Society

“However, the very attempt to live democratically is a good in and of itself. A democratic life assists cultural and intellectual development, by stimulating questioning and debate. Living democratically means just that: a life where deliberating and questioning becomes the norm to the point that people’s active side comes into its own, and their capacity for making sound choices is enhanced.”

Frank Furedi, Democracy Under Siege: Don’t Let Them Lock It Down!

Direct Democracy, and Participation

“Representative democracy should be tempered by participatory democracy so that we can refine our political choices, and that choice should be exercised as much as possible at the local level.”

George Monbiot, Ted Talk: The New Political Story that Could Change Everything

“The many are more incorruptible than the few; they are like the greater quantity of water which is less easily corrupted than a little.”


“There is no reason that bureaucrats and politicians, no matter how well meaning, are better at solving problems than the people on the spot, who have the strongest incentive to get the solution right.”

Elinor Ostrom, American Political Economist, Nobel Prize Winner

“I am a firm believer in the people. If given the truth, they can be depended upon to meet any national crisis. The great point is to bring them the real facts.”

Abraham Lincoln

“If the natural tendencies of mankind are so bad that it is not safe to permit people to be free, how is that the tendencies of these organizers are always good? Do not legislators and their appointed agents also belong to the human race? Or do they believe that they are themselves are made of a finer clay than the rest of mankind?”

Frédéric Bastiat, The Law

“Enlightenment is man’s exit from his self-inflicted immaturity. Immaturity is the inability to use one’s mind without the guidance of another. This immaturity is self-inflicted when the cause of it is not the lack of intelligence but the resolution and courage to make use of it without the guidance of another. Sapere aude! “Have the courage to use your own mind!” is the motto of the Enlightenment.”

Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher

“Democracy means government by discussion, but it is only effective if you can stop people talking.”

Clement Atlee, UK Prime Minister (1945-1951)

“The idea of democracy is if you have to live with the decisions, then you must be able to participate in making them.”

Prof. Richard Wolff

“Unlimited democracy, like oligarchy, is tyranny extended to a large group of people.”


“Nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Madness is rare among individuals, but it is the rule among groups, parties, peoples, times.“

Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

“Overall, there are no indications that financially strong circles have been able to manipulate the people in such a way that they managed to pass laws whose results were rejected by the majority of the people. Business associations therefore usually prefer lobbying in parliaments. Here the influence is more effective, cheaper and more independent of public opinion.”

Professor Hermann Heußner

“Democracy is the government of the people, by the people, for the people.”

Abraham Lincoln

“It is hard to imagine a more stupid or more dangerous way making decisions than by putting those decisions in the hands of people who pay no price for being wrong.”

Thomas Sowell, American Economist and Social Theorist 

“Direct democracy is indispensable in order to bind the state’s decision-making in parliament to the political decision-making of the people. State decision-making requires the comprehensive involvement of the people in all relevant political decision-making processes. Only if this is done will parliament and government fulfil their duty to advise and inform the people.”

Friedemann Willemer, German Lawyer and Author

“Representative democracy is the perfect system to prevent democracy – rule of the people. It is the most elegant way to incapacitate the people.”

Friedemann Willemer, German Lawyer and Author

“The great thing about democracy is that it gives every voter a chance to do something stupid.”

Art Spander, US sport journalist

“Overall, our analysis shows that – in contrast to a widespread belief – citizens care about democratic procedures.” .. “When it comes to the question of what citizens want from democratic governance, our results thus suggest that they primarily care about performance, but that democratic involvement and transparency in decision-making processes are important secondary features.”

Democratic Audit, Empirical test with 5,000 participants in 8 European metropoletan areas

“Since the beginning of mankind 300,000 years ago, we’ve followed some kind of leader. Why do we lack the courage to decide our own fate?”

Freidemann Willemer, German Lawyer and Author

New Political Models

“You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a better new model that makes the existing model obsolete.”

Buckminster Fuller

“Apathy can only be overcome by enthusiasm, and enthusiasm can only be aroused by two things: first, an ideal which takes the imagination by storm, and second, a definite intelligible plan for carrying that ideal into practice.”

Arnold J. Toynbee, British Historian and Philosopher

“We shouldn’t be looking for heroes, we should be looking for good ideas.”

Noam Chomsky

“It is not enough to criticize individual wrong decisions or to point out wrong developments. Rather, the system at the root of the problem must be reformed. Anything else is an ineffective cure for the symptoms.”

Friedemann Willlemer, German Lawyer and Author

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

Albert Einstein

“I do not believe that the solution to our problem is simply to elect the right people. The important thing is to establish a political climate of opinion which will make it politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing. Unless it is politically profitable for the wrong people to do the right thing, the right people will not do the right thing either, or it they try, they will shortly be out of office.”

Milton Friedmann

“It is … far more important to resist apathy than anarchy or despotism for apathy can give rise, almost indifferently, to either one.”

Alexis De Tocqueville

“Parliamentarism lacks capacity to handle enough questions in a democratic way.”

Manifest of the Aktiv Demokrati party (swedish for “Active Democracy”)

“Do we want to keep handing out blank checks to politicians for 4 years?” 

Peter Monien, Upgrading Democracy: Claiming a Say to Achieve True Democracy

“Trust no party you don’t (co-)control.”

Peter Monien, Upgrading Democracy: Claiming a Say to Achieve True Democracy

“What we lack dramatically today is what I call democratic reformism — political actions that are not just control of those in power or pressure for a certain cause or in favor of a certain group, but a political strategy that tries to envision the improvement of society as a whole.”

Ivan Krastev, In Mistrust we Trust: Can Democracy Survive When We Don’t Trust Our Leaders?

Deliberation, Finding the Way Together

“Democracy is the art of thinking independently together.”

Alexander Meiklejohn, Philosopher

“If someone wants to see and experience the world as it really is,  he can do so by only understanding that it is something is shared with many people, lies between them, separated and links them, showing itself differently to each  and comprehensible only to the extent that many people can talk about it and exchange their opinions and perspectives with one another over and against one another.”

Hannah Arendt

“In order to perceive ambiguity as enriching, a somewhat relaxed and rested life in halfway stable circumstances is required. Ambiguity and uncertainty are unsettling. In order to be able to deal with it, reserves are needed – reserves that fewer and fewer people have at their disposal in today’s constant stress. Threatened by fear and danger, views become more radical, the view narrows, people become easier to control.”

Paul Schreyer, German Author

“Men in plural […] can experience meaningfulness only because they can talk with and make sense to each other and themselves.”

Hannah Arendt

“There are, in other words, a plurality of respectable values that can contradict each other at critical points. This is a simple fact that we must endure. More precisely, the conflict of values must be fought out in a liberal order. Berlin takes the idea no further, but here lies one of the fundamental justifications for democratic institutions.”

Ralf Darendorf paraphrasing Isaiah Berlin

“The only way in which a human being can make some approach to knowing the whole of a subject, is by hearing what can be said about it by persons of every variety of opinion, and studying all modes in which it can be looked at by every character of mind. No wise man ever acquired his wisdom in any mode but this.”

John Stuart Mill

“Division is always a disturbance and means: either – or! Thus, a fixation on only one side with denial, suppression and defamation of the other side takes place. This means the loss of free deliberation with dynamic decisions. To overcome a division, one must be capable of as well as.”

Hans-Joachim Maaz, German Author, The Divided Country: A Psychogram

“A problem well understood is half solved.”


“If you are not conflicted you are either lying to you or you are not very smart.”

Meghan Daum

“I never learned from a man who agreed with me.”

Robert A. Heinlein, Science Fiction Author

“A wise man never knows all, only the fools know everything.”

African Proverb

“He who dares not offend cannot be honest.”

Thomas Paine

“It is impossible to carry the torch of truth through a crowd without singeing someone’s beard.”

Georg Christoph Lichtenberg, Swiss Author and Journalist

“One of the greatest advantages of the totalitarian elites of the twenties and thirties was to turn any statement of fact into a question of motive.”

Hannah Arendt

“I need information. I’ll make up my own mind.”

Charles Dickens, English writer

“You’re entitled to your own opinions, but not your own facts.”

Michael Bloomberg

“The advancement and diffusion of knowledge is the only guardian of true liberty.”

James Madison, Author of United States Bill of Rights

“Whenever you find yourself on the side of the majority, it is time to pause and reflect.”

 Mark Twain

“Look, we disagree agree about really important things. Let’s not be kumbaya about it. There are really important differences about politics in America. But we ougtha be able to agree about this. And if we can find issues where we can get that dynamic going then the energy behind those reform movements would be orders of magnitude bigger than the energy behind the politics of hate movements.”

Lawrence Lessig, Another Way Podcast ‘Alan Khazei on our ‘Great Awakeneing‘, min. 52:23

“Irrationalism also accepts inequality, the division of humanity into friend and foe, hence intolerance and the abuse of power. Rationalism, on the other hand, suggests an impartial, tolerant, responsible attitude.”

Ralf Darendorf paraphrasing Karl Popper

“A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.”

Malcolm X

 “The problem with the world is that the intelligent people are full of doubts. While the stupid ones are full of confidence.”

Charles Bukowski, American poet and writer

Truth and Trust

“Blind belief in authority is the greatest enemy of truth.”

Albert Einstein

“I don’t know what the truth is, but I know this much; the truth does not become angry when ridiculed, it does not ignore unpleasent information, it does not employ irrational rationalizations, to keep itself intact and above all, the truth does not fear questions.”

Michael Sherlock, Exec Director AAI

“If the terms are not correct, then what is said is not what is meant. If what is said is not what is meant, then the deeds are not right either. If the deeds are not right, then the morals are corrupted. If the morals perish, then justice is overtaxed. When justice is overburdened, the people do not know where to turn. That is why one has to make sure that the terms are correct. That is the most important thing of all.”


“All is what it is: freedom is freedom, not equality or fairness or justice or culture, or human happiness or a quiet conscience.”

Isaiah Berlin

“Peace is only possible through freedom, freedom only through truth. Therefore, untruth is the real evil that destroys all peace: untruth from concealment to blind nonchalance, from lie to inner mendacity, from thoughtlessness to doctrinal fanaticism of truth, from the untruthfulness of the individual to the untruthfulness of the public state.”

Karl Jaspers, German psychiatrist and philosopher

“The truth is often buried under better-funded or more appealing intrigue, entertainment, or propaganda. False or malicious arguments often prevail over true and well-reasoned ones, an issue even more
acute in the age of rapid, global, mass electronic communication. The wrong issues are identified for redress by the government and incompetent leaders get selected for public office. Important issues go unaddressed. Misinformation or disinformation negatively bias the functioning of government and spreads without correction (and what is labeled “misinformation” often depends on one’s political orientation). In such a situation, democracy has essentially failed.”

Democracy and the Epistemic Commons, The Consilience Project

“For many years mankind has been told what to think and want to believe by shamans, priests and ideologues. There is an alternative: free thought, trusting our ability to find out, investigate, question and test according to repeatable, reliable evidence.”

Stephen Fry

“..the more you know, the less you trust, as the gap between reality and the authorities’ claims of competence becomes impossible to ignore.”

Martin Gurri, The Revolt of The Public and the Crisis of Authority in the New Millennium

“In so far as a scientific statement speaks about reality, it must be falsifiable; and in so far as it is not falsifiable, it does not speak about reality.”

Karl Popper, British Philosopher and Scientific Logician

“Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.”


“If you want to know who controls you, look at who you are not allowed to criticize.”


“The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.”

George Orwell

“Repetition does not transform a lie into a truth.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“When exposing a crime is treated as committing a crime, you are ruled by criminals.”


“It’s dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”


“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”

Aldous Huxley

“For the bullshitter, however, all these bets are off: he is neither on the side of the true nor on the side of the false. His eye is not on the facts at all, as the eyes of the honest man and of the liar are, except insofar as they may be pertinent to his interest in getting away with what he says. He does not care whether the things he says describe reality correctly. He just picks them out, or makes them up, to suit his purpose.”

Harry G. Frankfurt, On Bullshit

“Believe in truth. To abandon facts is to abandon freedom. If nothing is true, then no one can criticize power, because there is no basis upon which to do so. If nothing is true, then all is spectacle. The biggest wallet pays for the most blinding lights.”

Timothy Snyder, ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

“Don’t just teach you children to read … teach them to question what they read. Teach them to question everything.”

George Carlin, US Comedian

“So, if we lie to the government it’s a felony. But if they lie to us its politics.”

Bill Murray, US Actor

“The secret of freedom lies in educating people, whereas the secret of tyranny is in keeping them ignorant.”

Maximilien Robespierre

A Call to Action

“We have a historic opportunity to transform ourselves from cynical and suspicious spectators of our current political system to engaged participants and actors in the governance of our communities and society at large.”

Alan Watkins, Iman Stratenus, Crowdocracy: The end of politics

“You must never stop imagining the world as it would be most reasonable.”

Friedrich Dürrenmatt

“It is very important that we develop real democracy while it is still possible.”

Manifest of the Aktiv Demokrati party (swedish for “Active Democracy”)

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.”

Barack Obama

“We are called to be architects of the future, not its victims.”

Buckminster Fuller

“We need to understand and embrace our paleolithic emotions. We have to upgrade our medieval institutions and our philosophy. We need to develop our wisdom to guide our god-like technology.”

Your Undivided Attention Podcast, Two Million Years in Two Hours

“We Have to Fix Our Democracy Before We Lose It.”

America Ferrera, US Actress

“Fight for the things you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Supreme Court Judge

“We have a historic opportunity to transform ourselves from cynical and suspicious spectators of our current political system to engaged participants and actors in the governance of our communities and society at large.”

Alan Watkins, Iman Stratenus, Crowdocracy: The end of politics

“The secret, even of big and revolutionary actions, is to find out the small step, which is at the same time also a strategic step, because it entails further steps of a better reality.”

Gustav Heinemann, Third German President

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

Margaret Mead, American Anthropologist

“Only a crisis – actual or perceived – produces real change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are taken depend on the ideas that are lying around.”

Milton Friedmann

“If revolution there is to be, let us rather undertake it not undergo it. Society will change either before or after the revolution. I choose before.”

Otto von Bismarck, German Chancellor

“First question is: As individuals what can we do? – the answer is: practically nothing! What could be done and always has been done in history is by people who are organized. The labor movement, women’s movement, anti-war movement, environmental movement. These can do things. And that’s one of the reasons why powerful systems are so intent on atomizing people.”

Noam Chomsky

“We need the freedom of lots and lots of small, autonomous units, and, at the same time, the orderliness of large-scale, possibly global, unity and co-ordination.”

E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful

“How can we assure that we don’t just dream up the nicest fantasy and drift of a cliff in search for it but look at the real world, be strong enough to face it – and from there on, try to do what’s best and most realistic given the circumstances?”

Hanzi Freinacht, Nordic Ideology

“Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”


“Real change happens only through ideas, even if they themselves never materialize. Only a new idea will replace an old idea. Only a new idea will crack and dismantle the guard of the old, conventional truth.”

Tim Leberecht, In Defense of Ideas

“I’m tired of hearing it that democracy doesn’t work. Of course, it doesn’t work. We are supposed to work it.”

Alexander Woollcott, American Critic and Commentator

“If we are to survive as a species, we must address our collective challenges and existential risks — from rogue A.I. to environmental disaster. To do so, we’re going to have to build the bridge from storming to norming. This norming phase may not involve feel-good utopianism, but it must involve deep negotiations and compromises between tribes, or alternatively, a peaceful geopolitical instantiation of the growing memetic divides.”

Peter N. Limberg and Conor Barnes, The Memetic Tribes Of Culture War 2.0

“Developing a future-oriented alternative to the perspective of fear is a key challenge facing society.”

Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century

“The absence of positive ideals and objectives that could constitute a focus for unity and legitimacy has led to the emergence of a fear-based negative conception of authority.”

Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century

“When a system is far from equilibrium, small islands of coherence have the capacity to shift the entire system.”

Ilya Prigogene

Propaganda and Media and Freedom of Expression

“If the terms are not correct, then what is said is not what is meant. If what is said is not what is meant, then the deeds are not right either. If the deeds are not right, then the morals are corrupted. If the morals perish, then justice is overtaxed. When justice is overburdened, the people do not know where to turn. That is why they make sure that the terms are correct. That is the most important thing of all.”


Freedom of expression and diversity of opinion are important “because humanity is not infallible, and its truths are largely half-truths.” From this it follows that in the State “a uniform opinion, except it results from the fullest and freest comparison of opposite opinions, is not desirable, and diversity is not an evil, but good.”

Free form citation according to John Stuart Mills

Free expression of opinion is a must in a free society. The opinion can be correct or partially correct and must be heard for this reason alone, in order to be able to correct your own mistakes. Even if a contrary opinion is not correct, its dissemination can lead to a better recognition of the truth and thus prevent the truth from degenerating into a dogma that can no longer be justified and defended effectively against deviating positions (i.e. false views).

Free form citation according to John Stuart Mills

“There is no such a thing in America as an independent press, unless it is out in country towns. You are all slaves. You know it, and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to express an honest opinion. If you expressed it, you would know beforehand that it would never appear in print.”

John Swinton, Editor of the New York Times in his farewell address to the New York Press Club, 1953

“If every mediating voice is automatically attributed to the other side, then at some point there will be no more mediating voices.”

Barbara Stollberg-Rilinger

“Political arguments have become indistinguishable from moral arguments, and one cannot challenge political positions without implicitly possessing suspect morals.”

Peter N. Limberg and Conor Barnes, The Memetic Tribes Of Culture War 2.0

“… Half of politics is “image-making”, the other half is the art of making people believe the image.”

Hannah Arendt

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed: everything else is public relations.”

George Orwell

“A journalist must not associate himself with anything, not even good things.”

Hans-Joachim Friedrich, German Journalist

“Orwell feared those who withheld information from us. Huxley feared those who overwhelm us with information so much that we can only save ourselves from them through passivity and self-reflection. Orwell feared that the truth could be hidden from us. Huxley feared that the truth could be lost in a sea of trivialities.”

Neil Postman

“Nothing spoils a good story like the arrival of an eye witness.”

Mark Twain

“Name me a country where journalists and politicians get along, and I’ll tell you, there’s no democracy there.”

Hugh Carleton Greene, Journalist

“Political language is designed to make lies sound truthful and murder respectable, and to give an appearance of solidity to pure wind.”

George Orwell

“The smart way to keep people passive and obedient is to strictly limit the spectrum of acceptable opinion but allow very lively debate within that spectrum.”

Noam Chomsky

“Political correctness is fascism pretending to be manners.”

George Carlin, US Comedian

“Political correctness is a weapon used to silence people who tell the truth.”

Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Islam Critic

“The Media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses.”

Malcolm X

“Truth isn’t a process of collective discovery, but an orthodoxy already known to an enlightened few whose job is to inform everyone else.”

Bari Weiss, US Journalist

“We should not underestimate the capacity of well-run propaganda systems to drive people to irrational, murderous, and suicidal behavior.”

Noam Chomsky

“He who wants nothing but to tell the truth is outside the political struggle, and he forfeits this position and his own credibility as soon as he tries to use this position to intervene in politics itself.”

Hannah Arendt

“Uncomfortable historical facts are treated as if they were not facts, but things about which one could be of this or that opinion. .. What is at stake here is factual reality itself, and this is indeed a political problem of the first order.”

Hannah Arendt

“The result is by no means that the lie is now accepted as true and the truth defamed as lie, but that the human sense of orientation, which cannot function without the distinction between truth and untruth, is destroyed. .. Consistent lying is bottomless in the truest sense of the word, and plunges men into the abyss, not being able to build up another ground on which men could stand.”

Hannah Arendt

“In the long run, propaganda can corrode and pervert democratic processes. Genuine democracy and propaganda are fundamentally incompatible.”

Ulrich Teusch, The War before the War: How Propaganda decides about Life and Death

“The abolition of freedom of expression or the dominance of an opinion that seeks to destroy any contradiction by all means leads to a totalitarian state.”

Friedemann Willemer, German Lawyer and Author

“Listen for dangerous words. Be alert to the use of the words extremism and terrorism. Be alive to the fatal notions of emergency and exception. Be angry about the treacherous use of patriotic vocabulary.”

Timothy Snyder, ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

“If you are afraid to say something on the internet because you fear your government then you may need a new government.”

Michael S. King

“One believes things because one has been conditioned to believe them.”

Aldous Huxley, Brave New World

“If we do not believe in freedom of speech for those we despise we do not believe in it at all.”

Noam Chomsky

“In the case of zero tolerance towards offensive speech on campuses, it means sparing people the burden of having to draw their own conclusions about the merits of an argument.”

Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century

“If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.”

George Orwell

“Some people’s idea of free speech is that they are free to say what they like, but if anyone says anything back, that is an outrage.”

Sir Winston Churchill

“You may not want to hear this, but oppression isn’t hearing a word that offends you. oppression is being told you can’t say certain words because you’ll offend someone else.”


“It is clear, then, that those who are determined to be ‘offended’ will discover a provocations somewhere? We cannot possibly adjust enough to please the fanatics, and it is degrading to make the attempt.” 

Christopher Hitchens

“Before mass leaders seize the power to fit reality to their lies, their propaganda is marked by its extreme contempt for facts as such.”

Hannah Arendt

“(Having worked at) The Sun and the Daily Mail, I count myself as something of an expert on the insidious nature of the process. To survive and rise in or on the ‘Game’, you pander to the political prejudice of your paymasters, giving them the stories that you know will make them salivate.”

Anthony Bevins, UK Journalist

“Arguing that you don’t care about the right to privacy is no different than saying you don’t care about free speech because you have nothing to say.”

Edward Snowden

“The opponent of the new moralism is stamped as a patient. The ideological opponent becomes a pathological case. And patients are not to be discussed, patients are to be cured.”

Alexander Grau, German Author

“Media reduce complexity not in order to allow an analytical exploration of a topic, but to sharpen and polarize it. Only in this way can they achieve the emotionalization that guarantees a lasting connection with their recipients. Therefore, mass media do not have the task of representing reality. Their products are not designed to be objective, but to fascinate and excite. And there is – apart from sex and violence – hardly anything that excites the primate brain as much as a possible catastrophe.”

Alexander Grau, German Author

“In contrast, those who remain calm, question the media mechanisms of threat staging and refuse to be moralized are either considered to be unreasonable, poorly informed or cynical. For the mass media discourse does not tolerate factual arguments, and least of all freedom from emotion. The moral discourse becomes a substitute for rationality. I feel and judge, therefore I am.”

Alexander Grau, German Author

“Rational argumentation confuses. After all, it could be that you have a break out of familiar patterns of thinking or that you come to an uncomfortable result. That is irritating. That is why the mass media divide the world into good and evil. This is manageable and reassuring. Moreover, it relieves from thinking. Because if you have the right moral attitude, you don’t need any expertise. That’s why morality is so media-savvy.”

Alexander Grau, German Author

“In the long run, propaganda can corrode and pervert democratic processes. Genuine democracy and propaganda are fundamentally incompatible.”

Ulrich Teusch, German Author

“Without debate, without criticism, no Administration and no country can succeed–and no republic can survive. That is why the Athenian lawmaker Solon decreed it a crime for any citizen to shrink from controversy. And that is why our press was protected by the First Amendment– the only business in America specifically protected by the Constitution- -not primarily to amuse and entertain, not to emphasize the trivial and the sentimental, not to simply “give the public what it wants”–but to inform, to arouse, to reflect, to state our dangers and our opportunities, to indicate our crises and our choices, to lead, mold, educate and sometimes even anger public opinion.”

J.F. Kennedy, Address before the American THE Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961

“No President should fear public scrutiny of his program. For from that scrutiny comes understanding; and from that understanding comes support or opposition. And both are necessary. I am not asking your newspapers to support the Administration, but I am asking your help in the tremendous task of informing and alerting the American people. For I have complete confidence in the response and dedication of our citizens whenever they are fully informed.”

J.F. Kennedy, Address before the American THE Newspaper Publishers Association, April 27, 1961

Social Media

“The chief reason we have free speech in democracy is to facilitate public discourse about policy on the part of citizens and their representatives. But the kind of debate where one shrieks insults at another, not to mention engages in physical violence and then denounces protest as an attack on speech, is not the relevant kind of public discourse that free speech rights are meant to protect.”

Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

“Ultimately, democracy works only if we citizens are capable of thinking beyond our narrow self-interest. But to do so, we need a shared view of the world we cohabit. We need to come into contact with other people’s lives and needs and desires. The filter bubble pushes us in the opposite direction—it creates the impression that our narrow self-interest is all that exists. And while this is great for getting people to shop online, it’s not great for getting people to make better decisions together.”

Bob Garfield, American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves

“Things have to push emotional buttons with a whole lot of strength to really carry through Facebook’s ecosystem. And the effect that it’s having on us is clear. It is hurting our ability to operate as citizens in a republic. It’s hurting our ability to make sense of the world. It’s harming our ability to think through complex problems.”

-Siva Vaidhyanathan, Professor of Media Studies at the University of Virginia

“The monopolies of the mind – manipulated by opening and closing the taps of the neurotransmitter dopamine— is a frightening notion.”

Bob Garfield, American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves

“As the slicing of political and ethnic cohorts gets thinner and thinner, we edge closer and closer to the theoretical possibility that we will have eight billion people on earth in eight billion discrete groups of one. Which means very little consensus, diminishing tolerance, and an infinite opportunity for animosity.”

Bob Garfield, American Manifesto: Saving Democracy from Villains, Vandals, and Ourselves

“In the social fabric we have shortening of attention spans, more outrage driven news media, we have more polarization, we have more breakdown of truth, we have more conspiracy-minded thinking. These seem like separate events and separate phenomena but they are actually all part of this attention extraction paradigm, that the companies’ growth depends on, extracting more of our attention, which means more polarization, more extreme material, more conspiracy thinking, and shortening attention spans.”

Tristan Harris, Joe Rogan Podcast #1558

Demagoguery and Democracy

“Democracy presumes that we can behave as one community, caring together for our common life, and disagreeing productively and honestly with one another. Demagoguery rejects that pragmatic acceptance and even valuing of disagreement in favor of a world of certainty, purity, and silencing of dissent.”

Patricia Roberts-Miller, Demagoguery and Democracy

“Demagoguery is about identity. It says that complicated policy issues can be reduced to a binary of us (good) versus them (bad). It says that good people recognize there is a bad situation, and bad people don’t; therefore, to determine what policy agenda is the best, it says we should think entirely in terms of who is like us and who isn’t.”

Patricia Roberts-Miller, Demagoguery and Democracy

“When demagoguery becomes the normal way of participating in public discourse, then it’s just a question of time until a demagogue arises.”

Patricia Roberts-Miller, Demagoguery and Democracy

“In such a world, a leader who says that things are complicated, that there isn’t an easy solution, that we have made mistakes, and who argues for a slow, nuanced, and inclusive consideration of all the options seems to be a poor choice; it appears that we should instead listen to people who say it’s clear and obvious to them, and they know exactly what we need to do now. Because under those circumstances, we don’t want someone who cares about details; we don’t care if they get the details wrong. They have the big picture right—we’re good, and they’re bad—and that’s all the ‘truth’ we need.”

Patricia Roberts-Miller, Demagoguery and Democracy


“We need bureaucracy to solve our problems. But once we have it, it prevents us from doing what we need it to do.”

Ralf Dahrendorf, german Sociologist

“Up to now, the inertia of bureaucracy has protected citizens from many attacks of bureaucracy. Now the computer comes and does it all in milliseconds.”

Conrad Zuse

“If bureaucracy continues to spread as it has done up to now, God will have the next Flood not with water, but with paper.”

Cyril Northcote Parkinson


“Modern technology needs no further legitimacy. You rule with it because it works. Nobody rules here anymore. There is only an apparatus that wants to be operated properly.”

Helmut Schelsky, German Sociologist

“The technical state, without being anti-democratic, deprives democracy of its substance.”

Helmut Schelsky, German Sociologist


“When you legitimize yourself entirely by inventing enemies, the truth ceases to matter, normal restraints of civilization and decency cease to matter, the checks and balances of normal politics cease to matter.”

Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

“The most telling symptom of fascist politics is division. It aims to separate a population into an ‘us’ and a ‘them.’”

Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

“Intelligent debate is impossible without an education with access to different perspectives, a respect for expertise when one’s own knowledge gives out, and a rich enough language to precisely describe reality. When education, expertise, and linguistic distinctions are undermined, there remains only power and tribal identity.”

Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

“The goal of fascist propaganda is not merely to mock and sneer at robust and complex public debate about policy; it is to eliminate its possibility.”

Jason Stanley, How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them

Divide and Conquer

“By dividing the voter through the political party system, we can get them to expend their energies in fighting for questions of no importance.”

Montagu Norman, Governor of The Bank of England

Political Parties and Professional Politicians

“However [political parties] may now and then answer popular ends, they are likely in the course of time and things, to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government, destroying afterwards the very engines which have lifted them to unjust dominion.”

George Washington

“The common and continual mischiefs of the spirit of party are sufficient to make it the interest and duty of a wise people to discourage and restrain it.”

George Washington

“Parties are completely counterproductive for a democratic form of politics. Political parties so obviously counteract all intentions and positive effects of democracy that we really have to ask ourselves how we could ever come up with the idea of organizing democracy through parties?”

Ardalan Ibrahim, wyriwif blog

“Whereas today professional politicians try to govern the citizens (with secret despair of the politicians and very moderate satisfaction of the citizens), in a democracy the citizens govern their professional politicians.”

Ardalan Ibrahim, wyriwif blog

Institutions and Control

“The serious threat to our democracy is not the existence of foreign totalitarian states but the existence within our personal attitudes and within our own institutions of conditions which have given a victory to external authority, discipline, uniformity and dependence upon The Leader.“

John Dewey cited by Frank Furedi in “Democracy Under Siege”

“It is the first responsibility of every citizen to question authority.”

Benjamin Franklin

“When the people fear the government, we have tyranny. When the government fears the people, you have liberty.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Politicians and diapers must be changed often, and for the same reason.”

Mark Twain

“Three groups spend other people’s money: children, thieves and politicians. All three need supervision.”

Dick Armey, US Politician

“Defend institutions. It is institutions that help us to preserve decency. They need our help as well. Do not speak of “our institutions” unless you make them yours by acting on their behalf. Institutions do not protect themselves. They fall one after the other unless each is defended from the beginning. So choose an institution you care about—a court, a newspaper, a law, a labor union—and take its side.”

Timothy Snyder, ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

“If we are not smart enough to question authority, how can we be smart enough to engage in a democratic system? Democracies only work when people hold authority figures to account!”

Joss Sheldon, Democracy: A user’s guide

“This abolition of the concrete individual in a moral whole has become precisely an invitation to usurpers to set themselves up as representatives of that whole and, in the name of the whole, to ignore the actual desires of people, even to suppress them in the name of a ‘true freedom’.”

Isaiah Berlin

“Authoritarianism and rationalism in our sense are irreconcilable, since reasoning, which includes criticism, and the art of listening to criticism, are the basis of being reasonable.”

-Karl Popper

US Politics

“When you have a duopoly, there is no incentive to work together to create something better… We’re incentivized for more extreme candidates, for more extreme partisanship, for more conflict and permanent campaigning.”

Jon Stewart

The two parties continue to go at each other in the conviction that winning political advantage for the tribe is more important than improving living conditions for all.”

Peter Hartcher, Author and Journalist

“Our politics is in a partisan death spiral.”

Justin Amash, US Michigan representative

“Bipartisan usually means that a larger-than-usual deception is being carried out.”

George Carlin, US Comedian

“Our politics today encourages confrontation over compromise. The political system now rewards ideology over pragmatism. It is designed to sharpen disagreements rather than construct consensus. It is built on exposing and inflaming the differences that separate Americans rather than the shared priorities and values that unite them. It produces too much animosity and too few solutions.”

Ronald Brownstein, The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America

“Many Americans voting for outsider candidates believe that government pretty much ignores people like them. We think they’re right.”

Washington Post

“Corruption is legal in America.”

RepresentUS, https://youtu.be/5tu32CCA_Ig

“The game became no longer ‘How do we legislate for America?’ But ‘How do we rally our troops to raise the money we need to win the next election?’. The game is just about the election.”

Lawrence Lessig, Joe Rogan Podcast 1214, https://youtu.be/Igc_1TPfK9Y?t=636

“We have a system where both, the house of representatives and the senate, is filled with people who are obsessed with a single question: ‘What do my funders want?’ “

Lawrence Lessig, Joe Rogan Podcast 1214 , https://youtu.be/Igc_1TPfK9Y?t=1656

“I am hoping that having him in office is that the whole thing is such a clusterfuck and that so many people are so disturbed that it is gonna make more people politically active and more aware of the consequences of having someone like that in office.”

Joe Rogan, Joe Rogan Podcast 1214, https://youtu.be/Igc_1TPfK9Y?t=1267

“The central obstacle to more effective action against our most pressing problems is an unrelenting polarization of American politics that has divided Washington and the country into hostile, even irreconcilable camps.”

Ronald Brownstein, The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America

“Our politics today encourages confrontation over compromise. The political system now rewards ideology over pragmatism. It is designed to sharpen disagreements rather than construct consensus. It is built on exposing and inflaming the differences that separate Americans rather than the shared priorities and values that unite them. It produces too much animosity and too few solutions.”

Ronald Brownstein, The Second Civil War: How Extreme Partisanship Has Paralyzed Washington and Polarized America

EU Politics

“We decree something, then float it and wait for some time to see what happens. If no clamour occurs…because most people do not grasp what had been decided, we continue – step by step, until the point of no return is reached.“

Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the European Commission (2014-2019)

Science & Politics

“Politicians rarely use the language of right or wrong to justify their decisions, instead hiding behind their experts. In effect, the outsourcing of policy-making to experts signals the idea that the issues they deal with are not political, and certainly not matters for public debate.”

Frank Furedi, Democracy Under Siege: Don’t Let Them Lock It Down!

“There is only one way of thinking that is capable of making progress, or of surviving in the long run, and that us the way of seeking good explanations through creativity and criticism. What lies ahead of us is in any case infinity. All we can choose us whether it is an infinity of ignorance or of knowledge, wrong or right, death or life.”

David Deutsch, The Beginning of Infinity

“Knowledge does not mean that you are 100% sure, but that you have enough facts to have a well-founded opinion. Because many people are offended when scientists change their mind: No, no! That is normal! Science is just that the opinion changes when the facts change. Because science is not a doctrine of salvation, not a religion that proclaims absolute truths. And those who constantly shout, ‘Follow science!’ have obviously not understood this. Science does not know everything, but it is the only reasonable knowledge base we have. That is why it is so important.”

Dieter Nuhr, German Comedian

“Science, the partisan of no country, but the beneficent patroness of all, has liberally opened a temple where all may meet. … The philosopher of one country sees not an enemy in the philosopher of another: he takes his seat in the temple of science and asks not who sits beside him.”

Thomas Paine

“Everyone can enjoy a life of luxurious leisure if the machine-produced wealth is shared, or most people can end up miserably poor if the machine-owners successfully lobby against wealth redistribution. So far, the trend seems to be toward the second option, with technology driving ever-increasing inequality.”

Stephen Hawking

“Once, men turned their thinking over to machines in the hope that this would set them free. But that only permitted other men with machines to enslave them.”

Frank Herbert, Science Fiction Author

“The development of science relies on an open-ended orientation towards experimentation and the testing of ideas. Science is an inherently sceptical enterprise and its findings are provisional, open to reinterpretation.”

Frank Furedi, How Fear Works: Culture of Fear in the Twenty-First Century

“If we are to bring the broad masses of the people in every land to the table of abundance, it can only be by the tireless improvement of all our means of technical production.“

Winston Churchill

“The scientific method is a method. It’s a process of discovery. If you don’t trust scientists because they can say one thing, then another, please consider how important it is to be able to change your mind based on new information. Refusing to accept new info isn’t a good thing.”

Scott Santens, Basic Income Advocate 

“Science is not perfect. it can be misused. It is only a tool. But it is by far the best tool we have self-correcting, ongoing, applicable to everything. It has two rules:
First: there are no sacred truth; all assumptions must be critically examined; arguments from authority are worthless.
Second: whatever is inconsistent with the facts must be discarded or revised. …
The obvious is sometimes false; the unexpected is sometimes true.”

Carl Sagan

“We are 21st century citizens doing our very best to interact with 19th century designed institutions built with an information technology of the 15th century.”

Pia Mancini, Co-Founder Open Collective and Democracy Earth, TED Speaker

“All great truths begin as blasphemies.”

George Bernhard Shaw

“A concentrated tech sector that works with authorities is a much more powerful ally in the project of mass state surveillance than a fragmented one composed of smaller actors.”

Cory Doctorow, How to Destroy Surveillance Capitalism

“Under surveillance capitalism, rendition is typically unauthorized, unilateral, gluttonous, secret, and brazen.”

Shoshana Zuboff, The Age of Surveillance Capitalism

Freedom and Liberty

“Any society that will give up a little liberty to gain a little security will deserve neither and lose both.”

Benjamin Franklin

“People who assure you that you can only gain security at the price of liberty usually want to deny you both.”

Timothy Snyder, ON TYRANNY: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century

“Freedom wears off if you don’t use it.”

Reinhard Mey, German Singer

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty. The manna of popular liberty must be gathered each day, or it is rotten.”

Wendell Phillips, US Politician

Political Rules to Remember

“Many forms of Government have been tried and will be tried in this world of sin and woe. No one pretends that democracy is perfect or all-wise. Indeed, 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

“If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably on the menu.”

Elizabeth Warren, US Senator

“Segregation was legal. Slavery was legal. War is legal. Never use legality as a guide to morality.”


“One off the great mistakes is to judge policies and programs by their intentions rather than their results.”

Milton Friedmann

“There’s no such thing as ‘government-funded’. It’s all ‘taxpayer-funded’.”


“Nearly all men stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

Abraham Lincoln

“It’s not the voting that’s democracy, it’s the counting.”

Tom Stoppard, British Playwright and Screenwriter

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.”

Thomas Jefferson

“Since freedom is a matter of degrees, there is a great danger that those who have not become immune through experience may imperceptibly slip into successive degrees of unfreedom. This is true of our entire Western civilization. The great catastrophes of history, such as the fall of Rome, did not come in a loud noise, but were like a gentle downward slide that can last for centuries or decades.”

Arthur Koestler, Hungarian-British writer

Bitter Truth

“We use it (democracy) as an excuse to make decisions based on opinions while most of them should be based on facts. Real democracy should be used to address only moral and philosophical values, where facts can’t be used to answer questions.”

Luca Rossi, Forget About Coding, The Job Of The Future Is Philosophy

“It is simply not possible for a few hundred individual politicians to find smart answers to an escalating number of highly complex interdependent issues that they may know nothing or very little about.”

Alan Watkins, Iman Stratenus, Crowdocracy: The end of politics

“Democracy is becoming a perpetual cycle of ‘elect and regret’.”

Eric X. Li, Venture Capitalist and TED-Speaker

“All government suffers a recurring problem: Power attracts pathological personalities. It is not that power corrupts but that it is magnetic to the corruptible.”

Frank Herbert, Dune

“The desire to be a politician should bar you from ever being one.”

Billy Connolly, Scottish Comedian

“Our world is not divided by race, color, gender, or religion. Our world is divided into wise people and fools. And fools divide themselves by race, color, gender, or religion.”

Nelson Mandela

“.. nowadays we abuse the power of democracy. We use it as an excuse to make decisions based on opinions while most of them should be based on facts. Real democracy should be used to address only moral and philosophical values, where facts can’t be used to answer questions.”

Luca Rossi, Forget About Coding, The Job Of The Future Is Philosophy

“Once we fully let in how Destructive Global Competition operates we realize the truth, that the quality of democracy has been subtly, but substantively, degraded and has been reduced to what we are calling pseudo-democracy.”

Nick Duffell and John Bunzl, The SIMPOL Solution: Solving Global Problems Could Be Easier Than We Think

“Many people prefer a comfortable lie to an uncomfortable truth.”

Patricia Roberts-Miller, Demagoguery and Democracy

“Politics is the art of preventing people from becoming involved in affairs which concerns them.”

Paul Valéry, French Philosopher

“The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”


“Democracy substitutes election by the incompetent many for appointment by the corrupt few.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”

George Bernard Shaw

“Democracy is being allowed to vote for the candidate you dislike the least.”

Robert Byrne, US Chess Player

“Democracy: When you get to choose who fucks you over.”

Hagen Rether, German cabaret artist

“If voting made any difference, they wouldn’t let us do it.”

Mark Twain

“As it stands, democracy requires largely disinterested, busy and sometimes uninformed people, to vote for conflicted, corruptible and often unqualified strangers.”

Tony Bracks, Solving for Democracy

“Successful problem solving requires the right solution for the right problem. We often fail because we solve the wrong problem, not because we get the wrong solution for the right problem.”

Russel Ackoff, American organizational theorist

“Politics is the rare sport where the amateur is better than the professional.”

 Lawrence Lessig, US Law Professor

“The almost insoluble task is not to let oneself be made stupid by the power of others or one’s own powerlessness.”

Theodor W. Adorno, German philosopher and sociologist

“When the Nazis took the Communists, I kept silent; I was not a Communist. When they imprisoned the social democrats, I kept silent; I was not a social democrat. When they took the trade unionists, I kept silent, because I was not a trade unionist. When they took me away, there was no one left to protest.”

Martin Niemöller, German Theologian

Other Quotes

“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this interregnum a great variety of morbid symptoms appear.”

Antonio Gramsci

“Politics is the art of looking for trouble, finding it everywhere, diagnosing it incorrectly and applying the wrong remedy.”

Groucho Marx

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely!”

Lord Acton, Historian

“I must commit myself to reforming the environment and not man; being absolutely confident that if you give man the right environment, he will behave favorably.”

Buckminster Fuller

“One of the most important reasons for studying history is that virtually every stupid idea that is en vogue today has been tried before and proved disastrous before, time and again.”

Thomas Sowell

“A basic principle of modern state capitalism is that costs and risks are socialized to the extent possible, while profit is privatized.”

Noam Chomsky

“In a democracy, dissent is an act of faith.”

J. William Fulbright

“People should not be judged by whether they are willing to risk their lives, but by whether they morally and politically kept their heads when others lost them.”

Isaiah Berlin

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Populism is not a philosophy or a concept, like socialism or capitalism, for example. Rather it is a cry of pain, where people are saying: Do something: help!”

Alan Greenspan

“When the people find that they can vote themselves money that will herald the end of the republic.”

Benjamin Franklin

“You’re not supposed to be so blind with patriotism that you can’t face reality. Wrong is wrong, no matter who does it or says it.”

Malcolm X

“Your words mean nothing if your actions are the exact opposite.”


“The less people know about making sausages and laws, the better they sleep.”

Otto von Bismarck, German Politician (1815-1898)

“In the name of tolerance, we should claim the right not to tolerate intolerance.”

Karl Raimund Popper, British Philosopher and Scientific Logician

“To not foresee a tsunami or a crash is forgivable; to build something fragile is not.”

Nassim Nicholas Taleb

This blog post is not static but constantly updated with new quotes. If you know a quote that might fit in, please write to me at contact (at) upgradingdemocracy.com.