The prudent, penniless beginner in the world labors for wages awhile, saves a
surplus with which to buy tools for land for himself, and at length hires another
new beginner to help him. This is the just and generous and prosperous system
which opens the way to all--gives hope to all, and consequent energy and progress
Abraham Lincoln, Message to Congress, 1861
The office of government is not to confer happiness, but to give men opportunity
to work out happiness for themselves.
To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells
you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.
No man, for any considerable period, can wear one face to himself, and another to
the multitude, without finally getting bewildered as to which may be the true.
Representative institutions are of little value, and may be a mere instrument of
tyranny or intrigue, when the generality of electors are not sufficiently
interested in their own government to give their vote, or, if they vote at all,
do not bestow their suffrages on public grounds, but sell them for money, or vote
at the beck of someone who has control over them, or whom for private reasons
they desire to propitiate.
The ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas. The best
test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the
competition of the market. We should be eternally vigilant against attempts to
check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with
death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful
and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the
Here is the beginning of philosophy:
Epictetus, Discourses, 1st century A.D.
If all mankind minus one were of one opinion, and only one person was of the
contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person
than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind.
The history of liberty is a history of the limitations of governmental power, not
the increase of it. When we resist...concentration of power, we are resisting
the powers of death, because concentration of power is is what always precedes
the destruction of human liberties.
Nothing that is wrong in principal can be right in practice.
I believe there are more instances of the abridgement of the freedom of the
people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and
Everything that enlarges the sphere of human powers, that shows man he can do
what he thought he could not do, is valuable.
No man is justified in doing evil on the ground of expediency.
The limits of my language mean the limits of my world.
Political Liberty consists in the power of doing whatever does not injure
another. The exercise of the natural rights of every man has no other limits
than those which are necessary to secure to every other man the free exercise of
the same rights; and these limits are determinable only by the law.
The tyranny of a prince in an oligarchy is not so dangerous to the public welfare
as the apathy of a citizen in a democracy.
Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves, and, under a just
God, cannot long retain it.
The people are the only legitimate fountain of power.
They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety
deserve neither liberty nor safety.
It is impossible, if no more than one opinion is uttered, to make choice of the
best: a man is forced then to follow whatever advice may have been given him; but
if opposite speeches are delivered, then choice can be exercised. In like manner
pure gold is not recognized by itself; but when we test it along with baser ore,
we perceive which is the better.
True education makes for inequality; the inequality of individuality, the
inequality of success; the glorious inequality of talent, of genius; for
inequality, not mediocrity, individual superiority, not standardization is the
measure of the progress of the world.
The perception of beauty is a moral test.
We can never be sure that the opinion we are endeavoring to stifle is a false
opinion; and, if we were sure, stifling it would be an evil still.
When you do a thing because you have determined that it ought to be done, never
avoid being seen doing it, even if the opinion of the multitude is going to
condemn you. For if your action is wrong, then avoid doing it altogether, but if
it is right, why do you fear those who will rebuke you wrongly?
Language is the armory of the human mind; and at once contains the trophies of
its past, and the weapons of its future conquests.
Necessity is the pleas for every infringement of human freedom. It is the
argument of tyrants.
Society exists for the benefit of its members; not the members for the benefit of
I have seen war. I have seen war on land and sea. I have seen blood running from the wounded... I have seen the dead in the mud. I have seen cities destroyed. I have seen children starving. I have seen the agony of mothers and wives. I hate war.
To be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.
By far the most numerous and most flagrant violations
of personal liberty and individual rights are performed by
governments ... The major crimes throughout history,
the ones executed on the largest scale, have been committed
not by individuals or bands of individuals but by governments,
as a deliberate policy of those governments ...that is, by the official
representatives of governments, acting in their official capacity.
Government is an evil; it is only the thoughtlessness and
vices of men that make it a necessary evil. When all
men are good and wise, government will of itself decay.
Let justice be done, though the world perish.
We can have justice whenever those who have not been injured
by injustice are as outraged by it as those who have been.
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be
the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than
under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes
sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us
for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the
approval of their own conscience.
The smallest minority on earth is the individual.
Those who deny individual rights cannot claim to be defenders of minorities.