Favorite Quotes

And at some point, you've got to go--and I realize that people don't even hear this any more--with the First Amendment defense: Congress shall make no law. As Justice Douglas said, those are the only words you need in that amendment. "Congress shall make no law respecting the establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press." Do we need to see it [before we decide]? No: Congress shall make no law. It's not, "Congress shall make no law, unless it's African-American people in Florida saying things about fucking women in the ass." No, it's Congress shall make no law.

Penn, of the magician duo Penn & Teller discussing the 2 Live Crew album in an interview with Reason magazine,  4/94.

The fundamental class division in any society is not between rich and poor, or between farmers and city dwellers, but between taxpayers and tax consumers.

David Boaz (CATO)

We have no intention, however, of making a fetish of democracy. It may well be true that our generation talks and thinks too much of democracy and too little of the values which it serves. It cannot be said of democracy, as Lord Acton truly said of liberty, that it "is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end. It is not for the sake of a good public administration that it is required, but for the security in the pursuit of the highest objects of civil society, and of private life." Democracy is essentially a means, a utilitarian device for safeguarding internal peace and individual freedom. As such it is by no means infallible or certain. ... A true "dictatorship of the proletariat," even if democratic in form, if it undertook centrally to direct the economic system, would probably destroy personal freedom as completely as any autocracy has ever done.

The Road to Serfdom by Friedrich Hayek

Puritanism: The haunting fear that someone, somewhere, may be happy.

Conscience is the inner voice that warns us somebody is looking.

H.L. Mencken

When we must wait for Washington to tell us when to sow and when to reap, we shall soon want for bread. --Thomas Jefferson

a biography by Albert Jay Nock

When they discover resentment among students over preferential treatment and minority separatism, university administrators conclude that they have discovered the latent bigotry for which they have been searching. Consequently, many universities institute "sensitivity" training programs such as Harvard's notorious AWARE week, to cure white students of their prejudice. As at Michigan, the University of Connecticut, Stanford, and Emory, some schools go so far as to outlaw racially or sexually "stigmatizing" remarks--even "misdirected laughter" and "exclusion from conversation" --which are said to make learning for minorities impossible. On virtually every campus, there is a de facto taboo against a free discussion of affirmative action or minority self-segregation, and efforts to open such a discussion are considered presumptively racist. Thus measures taken to enhance diversity have instead created a new regime of intellectual conformity.

Illiberal Education by Dinesh D'Souza

The Bill of Rights goes way too far. It should have stopped at "Congress shall make no law".

Libertarian proverb

'That product has not been examined by the FDA, and is therefore illegal.' Elliot Kessler, head of the FDA, being interviewed on "60 Minutes".

Yet another government official who cannot count to the 9th...

When the law contradicts what most people regard as moral and proper, they will break the law -- whether the law is enacted in the name of a noble ideal ... or in the naked interest of one group at the expense of another. Only fear of punishment, not a sense of justice and morality, will lead people to obey the law.

When people start to break one set of laws, the lack of respect for the law inevitably spreads to all laws, even those that everyone regards as moral and proper -- laws against violence, theft, and vandalism.

Free To Choose by Milton Friedman

In a free country, you can be as socialist as you want. In a socialist country, you are not free.

Milton Friedman, paraphrased from memory

The powers of the legislature are defined and limited; and that those limits may not be mistaken, or forgotten, the constitution is written. To what purpose are powers limited, and to what purpose is that limitation committed to writing, if these limits may, at any time, be passed by those intended to be restrained? The distinction between a government with limited and unlimited powers is abolished, if limits do not confine the persons on whom they are imposed....

John Marshall in the majority opinion of Marbury vs. Madison, 1803

Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.

Clarence Thomas, dissenting in Gonzales v. Raich, 2005 (on whether Congress can prevent states from legalizing medical marijuana).

Democrats like welfare-ism.
Republicans like warfare-ism.
Libertarians don't like either.

Democrats want to force you to do good.
Republicans want to force you to be good.
Libertarians don't want to force you do or be anything.

Democrats want to be your mommy and tell you how to live your life.
Republicans want to be your daddy and punish for not obeying their whim.
Libertarians don't want to be either.

Democrats are afraid that somebody somewhere is making money.
Republicans are afraid that somebody somewhere is having fun.
Libertarians like money & fun and think more of both is good.

Libertarians would allow you do anything you want so long as you don't use force or fraud.

paraphrased from André Marrou's speech (as best I can remember it)

In Washington there isn't any plan
With "feeding David" on page sixty-four;
It must be accidental that the milk man
Leaves a bottle at my door.

It must be accidental that the butcher
Has carcasses arriving at his shop
The very place where, when I need some meat,
I accidently stop.

My life is chaos turned miraculous;
I speak a word and people understand
Although it must be gibberish since words
Are not produced by governmental plan.

Now law and order, on the other hand
The state provides us for the public good;
That's why there's instant justice on demand
And safety in every neighborhood.

The Machinery of Freedom by David Friedman

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect our liberty when the Government's purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.

J. Brandeis, dissenting, Olmstead v. United States, October 1927.

When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators

P.J. O'Rourke.

Ayn Rand

Objectivists are not 'conservatives.' We are radicals for capitalism.

From Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, Introduction

To a concrete-bound, range-of-the-moment, primitive socialist mentality -- a mentality that clamors for a "redistribution of wealth" without any concern for the origin of wealth-- the enemy is all those who are rich, regardless of the source of their riches. Such mentalities, those aging, graying "liberals," who had been the "idealists" of the 30's, are clinging desperately to the illusion that we are moving toward some sort of socialist state inimical to the rich and beneficial to the poor-- while frantically evading the spectacle of what kind of rich are being destroyed and what kind are flourishing under the system they, the "liberals" have established. The grim joke is on them: their alleged "ideals" have paved the way, not toward socialism, but toward fascism. The collector of their efforts is not the helplessly, brainlessly virtuous "little man" of their flat-footed imagination, and shopworn fiction, but the worst type of predatory rich, the rich-by-force, the rich-by-political- privilege, the type who has no chance under capitalism, but who is always there to cash in on every collectivist "noble experiment."

From Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal, The New Fascism: Rule by Consensus

A society that robs an individual of the product of his efforts, or enslaves him, or attempts to limit the freedom of his mind, or compels him to act against his own rational judgment -- a society that sets up a conflict between its edicts and the requirements of man's nature -- is not, strictly speaking, a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang-rule.

"He [Galileo] discovered the satellites of Juptier, ... There was, however, a difficulty. There had always been seven heavenly bodies, the five planets and the sun and moon; now seven is a sacred number. Is not the Sabbath the seventh day? ... But if we have to add Jupiter's four moons, that makes eleven---a number which has no mystic properties. On this ground the tradionalists denounced the telescope, refused to look through it, and maintained that it revelaed only delusions. ... The Inquisition was successful in putting an end to science in Italy, which did not revive there for centuries. But it failed to prevent men of science from adopting the heliocentric theory, and did considerable damage to the Church by its stupidity. Fortunately there were Protestant countries, where the clergy, however anxious to do harm to science, were unable to gain control of the State."

A History of Western Philosophy p. 534, Bertrand Russell

My own view on religion is that of Lucretius. I regard it as a disease born of fear and as a source of untold misery to the human race. I cannot, however, deny that it has made some contributions to civilization. It helped in early days to fix the calendar, and it caused Egyptian priests to chronicle eclipses with such care that in time they became able to predict them. These two services I am prepared to acknowledge, but I do not know of any others.

---Bertrand Russell

Apart from logical cogency, there is to me something a little odd about the ethical valuations of those who think that an omnipotent, omniscient, and benevolent Deity, after preparing the ground by many millions of years of lifeless nebulae, would consider Himself adequately rewarded by the final emergence of Hitler and Stalin and the H-bomb.

---Bertrand Russell

The problem with the emotions is not that they are untamed forces or vestiges of our animal past; it is that they were designed to propagate copies of the genes that built them rather than to promote happiness, wisdom, or moral values.

How the Mind Works, p.370, Steven Pinker

Was there to be any end to the gradual improvement in the techniques and artifices used by the replicators to ensure their own continuance in the world? There would be plenty of time for improvement. What weird engines of self-preservation would the millennia bring forth? Four thousand million years on, what was to be the fate of the ancient replicators? They did not die out, for they are past masters of the survival arts. But do not look for them floating loose in the sea; they gave up that cavalier freedom long ago. Now they swarm in huge colonies, safe inside gigantic lumbering robots, sealed off from the outside world, communicating with it by tortuous indirect routes, manipulating it by remote control. They are in you and in me; they created us, body and mind; and their preservation is the ultimate rationale for our existence. They have come a long way, those replicators. Now they go by the name of genes, and we are their survival machines.

The Selfish Gene p. 21, Richard Dawkins

I used to train to do centuries. Now, I do centuries to train.

---Johnny Roberts

Sure enough, several listeners called in asking for information about how to obtain a personal [biorhythm] chart. I selected one woman who was willing to cooperate in a test, and who agreed to accept a free chart in return for a report at the end of two months stating how successful the chart seemed to be. She promised to keep a day-by-day diary and to rate the chart for accuracy.

The results were quite interesting. At the end of the two months, she telephoned to tell me that I should take this matter very seriously, since the chart had been "at least ninety percent accurate" in her case. I expressed interest in these results and told her I wanted to check the identification on the folder to be sure that she had received the correct chart. To our "mutual" astonishment, we discovered that she had been sent my chart, not the one intended for her. .... and promised to send her the correct chart to check against her diary. The very next day she called to report that this one was even more accurate, if that was possible! We were thrilled, until we checked further, and I announced that--by mistake, of course--she had received my secretary's chart. There was a short pause, then a snort, and the woman hung up the phone.

Flim Flam by James Randi

Richard Feynman:

'I don't believe it. It's too crazy. I'm not going to accept it.' ...  You'll have to accept it. It's the way nature works. If you want to know how nature works, we looked at it, carefully. Looking at it, that's the way it looks. You don't like it? Go somewhere else, to another universe where the rules are simpler, philosophically more pleasing, more psychologically easy. I can't help it, okay? If I'm going to tell you honestly what the world looks like to the human beings who have struggled as hard as they can to understand it, I can only tell you what it looks like.

    discussing QED At Auckland University, delivered in 1979, as the Sir Douglas Robb Lectures.  

Do not keep saying to yourself, if you can possibly avoid it, 'But how can it be like that?' because you will get 'down the drain', into a blind alley from which nobody has yet escaped.  Nobody knows how it can be like that.

The Character of Physical Law, p. 123

When you can measure what you are speaking about, and express it in numbers, you know something about it; but when you cannot measure it, when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meager and unsatisfactory kind: it may be the beginning of knowledge, but you have scarcely, in your thoughts, advanced to the stage of science.

Lord Kelvin, Popular Lectures and Addresses, 1894

The difference between smart people and dumb people is not in the mistakes they make, for they make the same ones. The difference is that when you present smart people with their error, they respond "how could I have been so dumb?", but when you present dumb people with their error, they defend it.

Amos Tversky, Paraphrased loosely from a colloquium at Rice, about 1990, the context was a variety of psychological tests he had used to probe how statistical absurdities cloud rational thinking.

Burning Man aphorisms:

If you have never been to Burning Man, no explanation is possible. If you have been, no explanation is necessary.

(It's about) Radical self-expression.

No spectators (only participants).

The problem with anarchy is that it degenerates into government.

Life is fatal. Enjoy it while it lasts.