Quotes on Democracy

All deductions having been made, democracy has done less harm, and more good, than any other form of government. It gave to human existence a zest and camaraderie that outweighed its pitfalls and defects. It gave to thought and science and enterprise the freedom essential to their operation and growth. It broke down the walls of privilege and class, and in each generation it raised up ability from every rank and place.

— Will Durant, The Lessons of History

Democracy and liberty are not the same. Democracy is little more than mob rule, while liberty refers to the sovereignty of the individual.

— Walter Williams

No one will really understand politics until they understand that politicians are not trying to solve our problems. They are trying to solve their own problems – of which getting elected and re-elected are number one and number two. Whatever is number three is far behind.

— Thomas Sowell

Men in the mass never brook the destructive discussion of their fundamental beliefs, and that impatience is naturally most evident in those societies in which men in the mass are most influential. Democracy and free speech are not facets of one gem; democracy and free speech are eternal enemies.

— H. L. Mencken, Introduction to The Antichrist

Democracy can’t work. Mathematicians, peasants, and animals, that’s all there is – so democracy, a theory based on the assumption that mathematicians and peasants are equal, can never work. Wisdom is not additive; its maximum is that of the wisest man in a given group.

— Robert Heinlein

Democracy is based on the assumption that a million men are wiser than one man. How’s that again? I missed something.
Autocracy is based on the assumption that one man is wiser than a million men. Let’s play that over again, too. Who decides?

— Robert Heinlein

It is a general popular error to imagine the loudest complainers for the public to be the most anxious for its welfare.

— Edmund Burke

The free market is the only mechanism that has ever been discovered for achieving participatory democracy.

— Milton Friedman, Introduction to the Fiftieth Anniversary Edition of The Road to Serfdom

If Virtue & Knowledge are diffus’d among the People, they will never be enslav’d. This will be their great Security.

— Samuel Adams, Letter to James Warren (12 February, 1779)

Democratic institutions are quarantine mechanisms for that old pestilence, tyrannic lust. As such they are very useful and very boring.

— Friedrich Nietzsche, Human, All-Too Human, Section 2, Aphorism 298

Remember, democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts, and murders itself. There never was a democracy yet that did not commit suicide. It is in vain to say that democracy is less vain, less proud, less selfish, less ambitious, or less avaricious than aristocracy or monarchy. It is not true, in fact, and nowhere appears in history. Those passions are the same in all men, under all forms of simple government, and when unchecked, produce the same effects of fraud, violence, and cruelty. When clear prospects are opened before vanity, pride, avarice, or ambition, for their easy gratification, it is hard for the most considerate philosophers and the most conscientious moralists to resist the temptation. Individuals have conquered themselves. Nations and large bodies of men, never.

— John Adams, In a letter to John Taylor on 15 April, 1814.

Democracy extends the sphere of individual freedom; socialism restricts it. Democracy attaches all possible value to each man; socialism makes each man a mere agent, a mere number. Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word: equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.

— Alexis de Tocqueville, Discours pronounce a l’assemblee constituante le 12 septembre 1848 sur la question du droit at travail

It is a besetting vice of democracies to substitute public opinion for law. This is the usual form in which masses of men exhibit their tyranny.

— James Fenimore Cooper

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

— James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994)

The merit of our Constitution was, not that it promotes democracy, but checks it.

— Horatio Seymour

As democracy is perfected, the office represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last, and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.

— H. L. Mencken, “Bayard vs. Lionheart” – Baltimore Evening Sun, 26 July, 1920

People who object to weapons aren’t abolishing violence, they’re begging for rule by brute force, when the biggest, strongest animals among men were always automatically ‘right.’ Guns ended that, and social democracy is a hollow farce without an armed populace to make it work.

— L. Neil Smith

Democracy is a poor system of government at best; the only thing that can honestly be said in its favor is that it is about eight times as good as any other method the human race has ever tried. Democracy’s worst fault is that its leaders are likely to reflect the faults and virtues of their constituents – a depressingly low level, but what else can you expect?

— Robert Heinlein, Stranger in a Strange Land

Democracy is the worst form of government except all those other forms that have been tried.

— Winston Churchill, Speech in the House of Commons (11 November, 1947)

Democracy is a pathetic belief in the collective wisdom of individual ignorance.

— H. L. Mencken

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