100+ Democracy Quotes

100+ 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 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?

Direct Democracy, and Participation

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

Aristotle

“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

“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.”

Aristoteles

“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 

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

Art Spander, US sport journalist

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

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

Noam Chomsky

“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

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

Hannah Arendt

“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

“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

“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.”

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

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

Malcolm X

Truth and Trust

“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.”

Confucius

“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 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

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

Voltaire

“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.”

Anonymous

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

Voltaire

“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

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

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

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

Buckminster Fuller

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

America Ferrera, US Actress

“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

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

Socrates

“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

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.”

Confucius

“… 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

“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

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

Noam Chomsky

“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

“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.”

Unknown

“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

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?”

Unknown, 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.”

Unknown, wyriwif blog

Institutions and Control

“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

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

“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.”

Larry 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?’ “

Larry 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

EU Politics

“We decide on something, leave it lying around and wait and see what happens. If no one kicks up a fuss, because most people don’t understand what has been decided, we continue step by step until there is no turning back.“

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

Science

“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

“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 

“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

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.”

Unknown

“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’.”

Unknown

“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

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

Plato

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

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

“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

“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.”

unknown

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

Otto von Bismarck, German Politician (1815-1898)

“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.

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