|…I wish that I may never think the smiles of the great and powerful a sufficient inducement to turn aside from the straight path of honesty and the convictions of my own mind.|
The study of history is a powerful antidote to contemporary arrogance. It is humbling to discover how many of our glib assumptions, which seem to us novel and plausible, have been tested before, not once but many times and in innumerable guises; and discovered to be, at great human cost, wholly false.
Half the harm that is done in this world is due to people who want to feel important. They don’t mean to do harm– but the harm does not interest them. Or they do not see it, or they justify it because they are absorbed in the endless struggle to think well of themselves.
—T. S. ELiot3
There is no safety for honest men but by believing all possible evil of evil men.
…you can never be happy and dress yourself solely in the glass of other men’s approval.
—Nicholas Flood Davis5
If I could think that I had sent a spark to those who come after I should be ready to say Goodbye.
—Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes6
We shall not grow wiser before we learn that much that we have done was very foolish.
—F. A. Hayek7
You know, doing what is right is easy. The problem is knowing what is right.
—Lyndon B. Johnson8
The first thing a man will do for his ideals is lie.
—Joseph A. Schumpeter9
Civilization is not inherited; it has to be learned and earned by each generation anew; if the transmission should be interrupted for one century, civilization would die, and we should be savages again.
—Will and Ariel Durant10
Certainly, it is a world of scarcity. But the scarcity is not confined to iron ore and arable land. The most constricting scarcities are those of character and personality.
—William R. Allen11
The task of weaning various people and groups from the national nipple will not be easy. The sound of whines, bawls, screams and invective will fill the air as the agony of withdrawal pangs finds voice.
This war was a revolution against the moral basis of civilization. It was conceived by the Nazis in conscious contempt for the life, dignity and freedom of individual man and deliberately prosecuted by means of slavery, starvation and the mass destruction of noncombatants’ lives. It was a revolution against the human soul.
—Time, May 14, 194513
The gods mercifully gave mankind this little moment of peace between the religious fanaticisms of the past and the fanaticisms of class and race that were speedily to arise and dominate time to come.
—G. M. Trevelyan14
Publicly inconsolable about the fact that racism continues, these activists seem privately terrified that it has abated.
Everybody has asked the question. . .”What shall we do with the Negro?” I have had but one answer from the beginning. Do nothing with us! Your doing with us has already played the mischief with us. Do nothing with us! If the apples will not remain on the tree of their own strength, if they are worm eaten at the core, if they are early ripe and disposed to fall, let them fall! I am not for tying or fastening them on the tree in any way, except by nature’s plan, and if they will not stay there, let them fall. And if the Negro cannot stand on his own legs, let him fall also. All I ask is, give him a chance to stand on his own legs! Let him alone!
Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would 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.
—C. S. Lewis17
…mercy to the guilty is cruelty to the innocent…
Examine the records of history, recollect what has happened within the circle of your own experience, consider with attention what has been the conduct of almost all the greatly unfortunate, either in private or public life, whom you may have either read of, or hear of, or remember, and you will find that the misfortunes of by far the greater part of them have arisen from their not knowing when they were well, when it was proper for them to set still and to be contented.
The quality of ideas seems to play a minor role in mass movement leadership. What counts is the arrogant gesture, the complete disregard of the opinion of others, the singlehanded defiance of the world.
There are many who find a good alibi far more attractive than an achievement. For an achievement does not settle anything permanently. We still have to prove our worth anew each day: we have to prove that we are as good today as we were yesterday. But when we have a valid alibi for not achieving anything we are fixed, so to speak, for life.
—Eric Hoffer 21
A ruling intelligentsia, whether in Europe, Asia or Africa, treats the masses as raw material to be experimented on, processed, and wasted at will.
The intellectuals and the young, booted and spurred, feel themselves born to ride us.
Nowhere at present is there such a measureless loathing of their country by educated people as in America.
From my earliest childhood I have been toiling & wearing my heart out for other people, who took all I could do & suffer for them as no more than their just dues.
. . .time misspent and faculties mis-employed, and senses jaded by labor, or impaired by excess, cannot be recalled any more than that freshness of the heart, before it has become aware of the deceits of others, and of its own.
Alas, how many have been persecuted for the wrong of having been right?
To put meaning in one’s life may end in madness,
But life without meaning is the torture
Of restlessness and vague desire—
It is a boat longing for the sea and yet afraid.
—Edgar Lee Masters28
N O T E S
- The Works and Correspondence of David Ricardo, Vol. VII, p. 372.
- Paul Johnson, The Quotable Paul Johnson: A Topical Compilation of His Wit, Wisdom and Satire, edited by George J. Marlin, et al (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994), p. 138.
- T. S. Eliot, The Cocktail Party, (London: Faber and Faber, 1974), p. 111.
- Edmund Burke, Reflections on the Revolution in France, p. 249.
- Nicholas Flood Davis, The Irishman in Canada, p. vii.
- Oliver Wendell Holmes, The Mind and Faith of Justice Holmes, edited by Max Lerner (New York: Modern Library), p. 451.
- Friedrich A. Hayek, The Road to Serfdom (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1972)
- Robert L. Hardesty, The Johnson Years: The Difference He Made (Austin: Lyndon Baines Johnson Library, 1993), p. 181.
- Joseph A. Schumpeter, History of Economic Analysis (New York: Oxford University Press, 1954), p. 43n.
- Will and Ariel Durant, The Lessons of History, p. 101.
- William R. Allen, “Bunnie Rabbit, Winnie, and the Grand Plan,” California Political Review, Winter 1993, p. 13.
- Linda Bowles, “The Weaning Process, ” Washington Times, December 20, 1994, p. A16.
- Time, May 14, 1945, p. 17.
- G. M. Trevelyan, English Social History, p. 354.
- Dinesh D’Souza, The End of Racism: Principles for a Multiracial Society (New York: The Free Press, 1995), p. 554.
- Frederick Douglass, “What the Black Man Wants,” Negro Social and Political Thought 1850-1920: Representative Texts, edited by Howard Brotz (New York: Basic Books, Inc. 1962), p. 283.
- C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock (Grand Rapids: W.B. Eerdmans,2002), p. 292.
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 170.
- Adam Smith, The Theory of Moral Sentiments, p. 252.
- Eric Hoffer, The True Believer, p. 107.
- Eric Hoffer, The Passionate State of Mind, p. 181.
- Eric Hoffer, The Temper of Our Time, p. 83.
- Eric Hoffer, First Things, Last Things, p. 65.
- Eric Hoffer, First Things, Last Things, p. 71.
- John Randolph, Collected Letters of John Randolph of Roanoke to Dr. John Brockenbrough, 1812-1833, edited by Kenneth Shorey (New Brunswick, N. J.: Transaction Books, 1988), p. 124
- John Randolph, Collected Letters of John Randolph of Roanoke to Dr. John Brockenbrough: 1812-1833, edited by Kenneth Shorey (New Brunswick, N. J.: Transaction Books, 1988), p. 53
- Jeam-Baptiste Say, An Economist in Troubled Times: Writings Selected and Translated by R. R. Palmer (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997), p. 154.
- Edgar Lee Masters, Spoon River Anthology (New York: Simon & Schuster, 1997), p.87.