Concentration of governmental powers

“The accumulation of all powers legislative, executive and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.” James Madison

“The concentrating these [legislative, executive, and judicial powers of government] in the same hands is precisely the definition of despotic government. . . . The powers of government should be so divided and balanced among several bodies . . . as that no one could transcend their legal limits without being effectually checked and restrained by the others.” Thomas Jefferson

“The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men.” John Adams

“It is not by the consolidation or concentration of powers but by their distribution that good government is effected.” Thomas Jefferson

“Remember, all men would be tyrants if they could.” Abigail Adams

“The only maxim of a free government ought to be to trust no man living with power to endanger the public liberty.” John Adams

“In questions of power, then, let no more be heard of confidence in man, but bind him down from mischief by the chains of the Constitution.” Thomas Jefferson

“Absolute monarchs will often make war when their nations are to get nothing by it, but for purposes . . . merely personal, such as a thirst for military glory, revenge for personal affronts; ambition or private compacts to aggrandize or support their particular families or partisans. These and a variety of motives . . . often lead him to engage in wars not sanctified by justice, or the voice and interests of his people.” John Jay

“The Constitution supposes what the history of all Governments demonstrates, that the executive is the branch of power most interested in war and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care vested the question of war in the Legislature.” James Madison

“[A] single legislature, on account of the superabundance of its power, and the uncontrolled rabidity of its execution, becomes as dangerous to the principles of liberty as that of a despotic monarch.” Thomas Paine

“Unbridled majorities are as tyrannical and cruel as unlimited despots.” John Adams

“In republican government the legislative authority necessarily predominates. The remedy for this . . . is to divide the legislature into different branches; and to render them by different modes of election, and different principles of action, as little connected with each other as the nature of their common functions, and their common dependence on the society, will admit.” James Madison

“The purpose of establishing different houses of legislation is to introduce the influence of different interests or different principles.” Thomas Jefferson

“The framers of the Constitution realized that . . . there needed to be some guardian of the sober second thought, and so they created the Senate to fulfill that high and vitally important duty.” Elihu Root

“[The Founders of the U.S. gave the senators] a term of office three times longer than that of a representative precisely to encourage a reflective frame of mind, a distance from the passions of the voters, and a capacity for deliberative consideration.” Al Gore

“[A] mere demarcation on parchment of the constitutional limits of the several departments is not a sufficient guard against those encroachments which lead to a tyrannical concentration of all the powers of government in the same hands.” James Madison

“When we resist . . . concentration of power, we are resisting the powers of death, because concentration of power is what always precedes the destruction of human liberties.” Woodrow Wilson

“[Those who seek absolute power] are the very ones who always create the most hellish tyrannies. Absolute power does corrupt, and those who seek it must be suspect and must be opposed.” Senator Barry Goldwater

Concentration of economic powers

“When economic power became concentrated in a few hands, then political power flowed to those possessors and away from the citizens, ultimately resulting in an oligarchy or tyranny.” John Adams

“As riches increase and accumulate in few hands . . . the tendency of things will be to depart from the republican standard.” Alexander Hamilton

“We can have democracy in this country or we can have great concentrated wealth in the hands of a few, but we cannot have both.” Justice Louis Brandeis

“An imbalance between rich and poor is the oldest and most fatal ailment of all Republics.” Plutarch

“Of all the potential perils to the new American republic, the prospect of concentrated power . . . troubled the intellectual leaders of the Revolutionary generation. Familiar as the founders were with old Europe . . . they understood why the accumulation of inherited wealth led to inequities and imbalances that inevitably corrupted any system of government.” Joe Conason

“I hope we shall . . . crush in [its] birth the aristocracy of our monied corporations.” Thomas Jefferson

“Of all forms of tyranny the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny of mere wealth.” Theodore Roosevelt

“As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed.” Abraham Lincoln

“It [concentration of wealth and power] has been a menace to . . . American democracy.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“If there are men in this country big enough to own the government of the United States, they are going to own it.” Woodrow Wilson

“The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism – ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“There is a long American tradition of suspicion of concentrated economic power because of its tendency to corrupt government and turn it from a democracy into a plutocracy.” Zephyr Teachout

“Competition is the hallmark of a free enterprise economy. For the past thirty years, however, corporate America has been doing everything it can to cut competition, with major corporations merging and consolidating at every opportunity.” Lou Dobbs

“President Eisenhower saw it coming, and it is here. Patriotism no longer exists among many of these corporations. Some companies have more economic clout than entire countries. They can make or break a politician.” Senator Byron L. Dorgan

“The gains we made in the United States that have made our country great have, in large part, been made over the opposition of major corporations. On nearly every issue, from fair labor standards, to the minimum wage, to environmental standards, to standards for a safe workplace, corporations have fought against them every step of the way.” Senator Byron L. Dorgan

“It is the members of this business elite . . . that pose the greatest danger to our American way of life. They are the ones who’ve bought and paid for members of both political parties. . . .” Lou Dobbs

“The ruling class is the rich. . . . And those people are so able to manipulate our democracy that they really control the democracy.” Walter Cronkite (2005)


“Truth is not to be found either in traditional capitalism or in Marxism. Each represents a partial truth. Historically, capitalism failed to discern the truth in collective enterprise and Marxism failed to see the truth in individual enterprise.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“I react pragmatically. Where the market works, I’m for that. Where the government is necessary, I’m for that. I’m deeply suspicious of somebody who says, ‘I’m in favor of privatization,’ or, ‘I’m deeply in favor of public ownership.’ I’m in favor of whatever works in the particular case.” John Kenneth Galbraith

“Of course I believe in free enterprise but in my system of free enterprise, the democratic principle is that there never was, never has been, never will be, room for the ruthless exploitation of the many for the benefit of the few.” Harry S. Truman

“Is this improvement in the circumstances of the lower ranks of the people to be regarded as an advantage or as an inconveniency to the society? . . . It is but equity . . . that they who feed, cloath and lodge the whole body of the people, should have such a share of the produce of their own labour as to be themselves tolerably well fed, cloathed and lodged.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

“A too great disproportion among the citizens weakens any state. Every person, if possible, ought to enjoy the fruits of his labour, in a full possession of all the necessities, and many of the conveniences of life. No one can doubt, but such an equality is most suitable to human nature, and diminishes much less from the happiness of the rich than it adds to that of the poor.” David Hume

“An underpaid man is a customer reduced in purchasing power. He cannot buy. Business depression is caused by weakened purchasing power. Purchasing power is weakened by uncertainty or insufficiency of income. The cure of business depression is through purchasing power, and the source of purchasing power is wages.” Henry Ford

“These low-paying jobs reduce economic growth by reducing the consumption of goods. More than two-thirds of American gross domestic product is based on personal consumption. . . . The failure of these jobs to provide adequate wages constricts the purchasing power of . . . workers and, in turn, decreases the gross domestic product.” Beth Shulman

“Market forces have no intrinsically moral direction, which is why, before he wrote The Wealth of Nations, Adam Smith wrote The Theory of Moral Sentiments. Ethics should precede economics. But it doesn’t have to. . . . We know this because we’ve seen the results of capitalism without conscience: the pollution of the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food we eat; the endangerment of workers; and the sale of dangerous products – from cars to toys to drugs. All in pursuit of ever-greater profits.” Arianna Huffington

“Business is correct to defend its right to act in order to produce a vigorous and engaging prosperity. But it is wrong if it forgets that this freedom can only be experienced within the discipline of social responsibility.” Paul Hawken”

“The unrestricted competition so commonly advocated does not leave us the survival of the fittest. The unscrupulous succeed best in accumulating wealth.” Rutherford B. Hayes

“One of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities.” John Kenneth Galbraith

“People of the same trade seldom meet together, even for merriment or diversion, but the conversation ends in a conspiracy against the public or in some contrivance to raise prices.” Adam Smith

“Contrary to the claims of free-market economists who insist that the market is a self-regulating system that leads to the best possible outcomes on all but a few matters without the guidance of government, research shows that all markets need guidance from government to operate well . . . .” Richard Gendron and G. William Domhoff

“The problem isn’t that conservatives are wrong about the efficiency of markets or the creativity of enterprise. It’s that they have made false idols of both, usually without acknowledging that markets work best when well regulated, that private enterprise cannot meet every human need, that government has always played a critical role in our economy, and that the profit motive can be socially and environmentally destructive as well as dynamic.” Joe Conason

“We have always known that heedless self-interest was bad morals; we know now that it is bad economics. Out of the collapse of a prosperity whose builders boasted their practicality has come the conviction that in the long run economic morality pays.” Franklin D. Roosevelt


“Taxes are what we pay for civilized society.” Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.

“The necessaries of life occasion the great expense of the poor. They find it difficult to get food, and the greater part of their little revenue is spent in getting it. . . . It is not very unreasonable that the rich should contribute to the public expense, not only in proportion to their revenue, but something more than in that proportion.” Adam Smith, The Wealth of Nations

“If the money is raised by taxation, then the burden will fall where it ought to fall, . . . and the rich and stingy will no longer be able to evade the duties of citizenship and of humanity.” Robert Ingersoll

“People know that vast personal incomes come not only through the effort or ability or luck of those who receive them, but also because of the opportunities for advantage which Government itself contributes. Therefore, the duty rests upon the Government to restrict such incomes by very high taxes.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“I believe in a graduated income tax on big fortunes, and in . . . a graduated inheritance tax on big fortunes, . . . increasing rapidly in amount with the size of the estate.” Theodore Roosevelt

“Either we pay the government’s bills, or we leave them for our kids to pay. It’s that simple.” Larry Kotlikoff and Scott Burns

“In FY 2006, interest payments alone on the national debt cost us $406 billion. . . . What a waste. . . . That $406 billion is pathetically squandered on interest, just because we lacked the discipline to pay our bills when due.” Bill Press


“When all governments, domestic and foreign, in little as in great things, shall be drawn to Washington as a center of power, it will render powerless the checks provided by one government over another and it will become just as venal and oppressive as the government from which we separated.” Thomas Jefferson

“It is one of the happy incidents of the federal system that a single courageous State may, if its citizens choose, serve as a laboratory; and try novel social and economic experiments without risk to the rest of the country.” Justice Louis Brandeis

Special Interests

“Government is instituted for the common good; for the protection, safety, prosperity and happiness of the people; and not for the profit, honor, or private interest of any one man, family, or class of men. . . .” John Adams

“It is doubtless important to the good of nations that those who govern have virtues or talents; but what is perhaps still more important to them is that those who govern do not have interests contrary to the mass of the governed; for in that case the virtues could become almost useless and the talents fatal.” Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America

“Big business and special-interest groups have been financing federal, state, and even local elections for both parties in America for decades, and getting substantial benefits in return that are directly antithetical to the general public’s interest and welfare.” Vincent Bugliosi

“To me, a very basic political principle is that you cannot take on the establishment when you take their money. It is simply not credible to believe that candidates who receive significant amounts of financial support from some of the most powerful special interests . . . would make decisions that would negatively impact the bottom lines of these donors.” Bernie Sanders

“Which shall rule – wealth or man; which shall lead – money or intellect; who shall fill public stations – educated and patriotic free men, or the feudal serfs of corporate capital?” Chief Justice Edward G. Ryan, Wisconsin Supreme Court (1873)

“We know now that Government by organized money is just as dangerous as Government by organized mob.” Franklin D. Roosevelt


“The belief in the possibility of a short decisive war appears to be one of the most ancient and dangerous of human illusions.” Robert Lynd

“War, at first, is the hope that one will be better off; next, the expectation that the other fellow will be worse off; then, the satisfaction that he isn’t any better off; and, finally, the surprise at everyone’s being worse off.” Karl Kraus

“War should never be entered upon until every agency of peace has failed.” President William McKinley

Social safety net

“A decent provision for the poor is the true test of civilization.” Samuel Johnson

“The test of a democracy is not the magnificence of buildings or the speed of automobiles or the efficiency of air transportation, but rather the care given to the welfare of all the people.” Helen Keller

“The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the unemployed.” Hubert Humphrey

“We should measure the prosperity of a nation not by the number of millionaires, but by the absence of poverty, the prevalence of health, the efficiency of the public schools, and the number of people who can and do read worthwhile books.” W. E. B. Du Bois

“The measure of a country’s greatness is its ability to maintain compassion in time of crisis.” Thurgood Marshall

“This country will not be a permanently good place for any of us to live in unless we make it a reasonably good place for all of us to live in.” Theodore Roosevelt

“If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.” John F. Kennedy

Public records and meetings

“History has shown, time and again, that people in public life claiming to protect the public good by secrets are protecting themselves.” Mark Rozell

“The liberties of a people never were, nor ever will be, secure, when the transactions of their rulers may be concealed from them. . . . To cover with the veil of secrecy the common routine of business, is an abomination in the eyes of every intelligent man.” Patrick Henry

“There is not a crime, there is not a dodge, there is not a swindle, and there is not a vice which does not live by secrecy.” Joseph Pulitzer

“Secrecy is the linchpin of abuse of power, . . . its enabling force. Transparency is the only real antidote.” Glenn Greenwald

“Secrecy – the first refuge of incompetents – must be at a bare minimum in a democratic society, for a fully informed public is the basis of self-government.” U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Government Operations, 1960

“The very word ‘secrecy’ is repugnant in a free and open society, and we are as a people inherently and historically opposed to secret societies, to secret oaths, and to secret proceedings.” John F. Kennedy

“Democracies die behind closed doors. . . . When government begins closing doors, it selectively controls information rightfully belonging to the people. Selective information is misinformation.” Judge Damon J. Keith

“Public records are the people’s records. The officials in whose custody they happen to be are mere trustees for the people.” Judge Rufus B. Smith

“As long as the government’s actions are secret, it cannot be held accountable. A government for the people and by the people should be transparent to the people.” Al Gore

“Secrecy destroys accountability.” Ralph Nader

“Secrecy begets tyranny.” Robert A. Heinlein

Governmental accountability

“Even though . . . 9/11 happened because . . . Bush’s FBI and CIA did not detect the Al Qaeda conspiracy . . . , Bush not only failed to apologize to the nation or the victims’ survivors, he demonstrated his total lack of leadership by refusing to fire or even criticize those in these agencies who, like Bush, let this nation down. As in private life, to stimulate excellence, good performances have to be rewarded and gross negligence and incompetence punished.” Vincent Bugliosi

“The executive branch of this government never has, nor will suffer, while I preside, any improper conduct of its officers to escape with impunity.” George Washington

Public officials’ private lives

“If a man’s public record be a clear one, if he has kept his pledges before the world, I do not inquire what his private life may have been.” Susan B. Anthony

Civil liberties

“He that would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty, he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.” Thomas Paine

“If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion, or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.” Justice Robert H. Jackson

“The very purpose of a Bill of Rights was to withdraw certain subjects from the vicissitudes of political controversy . . . and to establish them as legal principles to be applied by the courts. One’s right to life, liberty, and property, to free speech, a free press, freedom of worship and assembly, and other fundamental rights may not be submitted to vote; they depend on the outcome of no elections.” Justice Robert H. Jackson

“The kind of economic organization that provides economic freedom directly, namely, competitive capitalism, also promotes political freedom because it separates economic power from political power and in this way enables the one to offset the other. . . . I know of no example in time or place of a society that has been marked by a large measure of political freedom, and that has not also used something comparable to a free market to organize the bulk of economic activity.” Milton Friedman

“We have come to a clear realization . . . that true individual freedom cannot exist without economic security and independence.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“History shows that the mere existence of a mass surveillance apparatus, regardless of how it is used, is in itself sufficient to stifle dissent. A citizenry that is aware of always being watched quickly becomes a compliant and fearful one.” Glenn Greenwald

“The framers of our Constitution understood the dangers of unbridled government surveillance. They knew that democracy could flourish only in spaces free from government snooping and interference, and they put restraints on government overreaching in the Fourth Amendment of the Bill of Rights.” Elizabeth Holtzman and Cynthia L. Cooper

“It is a truth which the experience of all ages has attested, that the people are always most in danger when the means of injuring their rights are in the possession of those of whom they entertain the least suspicion.” Alexander Hamilton

“I believe there are more instances of abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.” James Madison

“The accretion of dangerous power does not come in a day. It does come, however slowly, from the generative force of unchecked disregard of the restrictions that fence in even the most disinterested assertion of authority.” Justice Felix Frankfurter

“As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such a twilight that we all must be aware of change in the air – however slight – lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.” Justice William O. Douglas

“If in the opinion of the people the distribution or modification of the constitutional powers be in any particular wrong, let it be corrected by an amendment in the way which the Constitution designates. But let there be no change through usurpation; for though this in one instance may be the instrument of good, it is the customary weapon by which free governments are destroyed.” George Washington.

“No nation could preserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.” James Madison

“The loss of liberty at home is to be charged to the provisions against danger, real or imagined, from abroad.” James Madison

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.” Benjamin Franklin

“After each perceived security crisis ended, the United States has remorsefully realized that the abrogation of civil liberties was unnecessary.” Justice William Brennan

“It is easy to make light of insistence on scrupulous regard for the safeguards of civil liberties when invoked on behalf of the unworthy. . . . History bears testimony that by such disregard are the rights of liberty extinguished, heedlessly, at first, then stealthily, and brazenly in the end.” Justice Felix Frankfurter

Primary Elections to Choose Party Candidates

“The destiny of America is always safer in the hands of the people than in the conference rooms of any elite.” George McGovern


“You make men love their government and their country by giving them the kind of government and the kind of country that inspire respect and love. . . .” Zechariah Chafee Jr.

“To believe that patriotism will not flourish if patriotic ceremonies are voluntary and spontaneous instead of a compulsory routine is to make an unflattering estimate of the appeal of our institutions to free minds.” Justice Robert H. Jackson

“Words uttered under coercion are proof of loyalty to nothing but self-interest. Love of country must spring from willing hearts and free minds.” Justice Hugo Black

“We must not confuse dissent with disloyalty. . . . We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason, if we dig deep in our history and our doctrine and remember that we are not descended from fearful men – not from men who feared to write, to speak, to associate and to defend causes that were, for the moment, unpopular. . . . We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home.” Edward R. Murrow

“Being critical of the nation is a far cry from being unpatriotic or anti-American. In fact, most social criticism . . . is based on a love of America’s ideals and a concern we’re not living up to them.” Robert Reich

“I criticize America because I love her. I want her to stand as a moral example to the world.” Martin Luther King Jr.

“As a matter of general principle, I believe . . . that criticism in time of war is essential to the maintenance of . . . democratic government. . . . Too many people desire to suppress criticism simply because they think that it will give some comfort to the enemy. . . . The right of criticism in the long run will do the country maintaining it a great deal more good than it will do the enemy, and will prevent mistakes which might otherwise occur.” Senator Robert A. Taft [From a speech given 12 days after the attack at Pearl Harbor and 11 days after the U.S. declared war on Japan.]

“Patriotism is not short, frenzied outbursts of emotion, but the tranquil and steady dedication of a lifetime.” Adlai E. Stevenson

“He loves his country best who strives to make it best.” Robert Ingersoll

Civil disobedience

“I submit that an individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, has in reality the highest respect for the law.” Martin Luther King Jr.