Great Quotations on Power and Corruption

Photo credit: Parliamentary Recruiting Committee / Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary.  I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide. (Joseph P. Kennedy)

Even the best-intentioned of great men need a few scoundrels around them; there are some things you cannot ask an honest man to do. (La Bruyere)

When they call the roll in the Senate, the Senators do not know whether to answer “Present” or “Not Guilty.” (Theodore Roosevelt)

It could probably be shown by facts and figures that there is no distinctly native American criminal class except Congress. (Mark Twain)

When one gets in bed with government, one must expect the diseases it spreads. (Ron Paul)

It is not power that corrupts but fear. Fear of losing power corrupts those who wield it, and fear of the scourge of power corrupts those who are subject to it. (Aung San Suu Kyi)

Oddly, submission to powerful, frightening, even terrible persons, like tyrants and generals, is not experienced as nearly so painful as is submission to unknown and uninteresting persons — which is what all luminaries of industry are. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

Corruption, the most infallible symptom of constitutional liberty. (Edward Gibbon)

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The surest way to corrupt a youth is to instruct him to hold in higher esteem those who think alike than those who think differently. (Friedrich Nietzsche)

When people are free to do as they please, they usually imitate each other. (Eric Hoffer)

Everyone has observed how much more dogs are animated when they hunt in a pack, than when they pursue their game apart. We might, perhaps, be at a loss to explain this phenomenon, if we had not experience of a similar in ourselves. (David Hume)

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Never attempt to win by force what can be won by deception. (Niccolò Machiavelli)

The promise given was a necessity of the past. The word broken is a necessity of the present. (Niccolò Machiavelli)

If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back. (Carl Sagan)

Anyone who can handle a needle convincingly can make us see a thread which is not there. (E.H. Gombrich)

We become slaves the moment we hand the keys to the definition of reality entirely over to someone else, whether it is a business, an economic theory, a political party, the White House, Newsworld or CNN.  (B.W. Powe)

Frank and explicit — this is the right line to take when you wish to conceal your own mind and to confuse the mind of others. (Benjamin Disraeli)

There is nothing more deceptive than an obvious fact. (Arthur Conan Doyle)

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In politics, stupidity is not a handicap. (Napoleon)

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are stupider. (Plato)

Revolutionary movements attract those who are not good enough for established institutions as well as those who are too good for them. (Bernard Shaw)

Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.  (Pericles)

Freedom isn’t free. It shouldn’t be a bragging point that ‘Oh, I don’t get involved in politics,’ as if that makes someone cleaner. No, that makes you derelict of duty in a republic. Liars and panderers in government would have a much harder time of it if so many people didn’t insist on their right to remain ignorant and blindly agreeable. (Bill Maher)

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The most effective way to destroy people is to deny and obliterate their own understanding of their history.  (George Orwell)

I sit on a man’s back, choking him and making him carry me, and yet assure myself and others that I am very sorry for him and wish to ease his lot by all possible means — except by getting off his back. (Leo Tolstoy)

Nothing appears more surprising to those who consider human affairs with a philosophical eye, than the easiness with which the many are governed by the few. (David Hume)

Power worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible. (George Orwell)

When smashing monuments, save the pedestals — they always come in handy. (Stanislaw Lem)

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I have a problem with people who take the Constitution loosely and the Bible literally. (Bill Maher)

Religion: a sixteenth-century term for nationalism. (Sir Lewis Namier)

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful. (Seneca)

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All truths that are kept silent become poisonous. (Friedrich Nietzsche)


Related front page panorama photo credit: Adapted by WhoWhatWhy from Plato etching by D. Cunego, 1783 (Wellcome Trust / Wikimedia – CC BY 4.0)

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