Abstain from Beans
and other Political Pearls
Pythagoras (570-495 BC) was a Greek philosopher, mathematician (especially geometry), mystic and scientist. We'll start with a couple of tips from him.
"Abstain from beans." (Pythagoras)
The casting of fava beans (white or black) was used by politicians to cast votes. The advice against beans by Pythagoras was intended to curb his followers from giving in to the itch for power and profit associated with public office.
"Wear not a straight ring." (Pythagoras)
A plain iron ring was the emblem of a slave in ancient times.
This aphorism means that you should not allow others to constrict your speech and control your thoughts through the promise of favor or the threat of punishment - but should always think freely and act according to your own conscience.
If we are to keep our democracy, there must be one commandment: 'Thou shalt not ration justice.'
Democracy is "government of, by and for the people".
The best weapon of a dictatorship is secrecy, but the best weapon of a democracy should be the weapon of openness.
Integrity is the lifeblood of democracy. Deceit is a poison in its veins.
Public confidence in the integrity of the Government is indispensable to faith in democracy; and when we lose faith in the system, we have lost faith in everything we fight and spend for.
Adlai E. Stevenson
Candor and accountability in a democracy is very important. Hypocrisy has no place.
The basis of effective government is public confidence, and that confidence is endangered when ethical standards falter or appear to falter.
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
Only a knowledgeable, empowered and vocal citizenry can perform well in democracy.
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
A full and fair discussion is essential to democracy.
Propaganda is to a democracy what the bludgeon is to a totalitarian state.
When even one American - who has done nothing wrong - is forced by fear to shut his mind and close his mouth - then all Americans are in peril.
Harry S. Truman
Ignorance is an evil weed, which dictators may cultivate among their dupes, but which no democracy can afford among its citizens.
America's corporate and political elites now form a regime of their own and they're privatizing democracy. All the benefits - the tax cuts, policies and rewards flow in one direction: up.
A power has arisen up in the Government greater than the people themselves, consisting of many and various and powerful interests, combined into one mass, and held together by the cohesive power of the vast surplus in the banks.
John Caldwell Calhoun
We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both.
Louis D. Brandeis (Supreme Court Judge)
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
Dwight David Eisenhower
The bedrock of our democracy is the rule of law and that means we have to have an independent judiciary, judges who can make decisions independent of the political winds that are blowing.
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. To destroy this invisible government, to befoul the unholy alliance between corrupt business and corrupt politics is the first task of the statesmanship of the day.
The government, which was designed for the people, has got into the hands of the bosses and their employers, the special interests. An invisible empire has been set up above the forms of democracy.
It is difficult for the common good to prevail against the intense concentration of those who have a special interest, especially if the decisions are made behind locked doors.
The American polity is infected with a serious imbalance of power between elites and masses, a power which is the principal threat to our democracy.
Well the protester I think is a very powerful thing. It's basically a mechanism of democracy that, along with capitalism, scientific innovation, those things have built the modern world. And it's wonderful that the new tools have empowered that protestor so that state secrets, bad developments are not hidden anymore.
Despotism and freedom of the press cannot exist together.
Leon Michel Gambetta
As virtue is necessary in a republic, and honor in a monarchy, fear is what is required in a despotism. As for virtue, it is not at all necessary, and honor would be dangerous there.
Charles de Montesquieu
The strength and power of despotism consists wholly in the fear of resistance.
Nothing can be more abhorrent to democracy than to imprison a person or keep him in prison because he is unpopular. This is really the test of civilization.
Many of the greatest tyrants on the records of history have begun their reigns in the fairest manner. But the truth is, this unnatural power corrupts both the heart and the understanding.
Dictatorship is like a giant beech-tree--very magnificent to look at in its prime, but nothing grows underneath it.
The benevolent despot who sees himself as a shepherd of the people still demands from others the submissiveness of sheep.
Concentration of executive power, unless it's very temporary and for specific circumstances, let's say fighting world war two, it's an assault on democracy.
How fortunate for governments that the people they administer don't think.
Government big enough to supply everything you need is big enough is big enough to take everything you have. . . . The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases.
The deterioration of a government begins almost always by the decay of its principles.
Charles de Montesquieu
Nothing is more deceptive or more dangerous than the pretence of a desire to simplify government. The simplest governments are despotisms; the next simplest, limited monarchies; but all republics, all governments of law, must impose numerous limitations and qualifications of authority, and give many positive and many qualified rights.
A politician thinks of the next election; a statesman, of the next generation.
James Freeman Clarke
Politicians are the same all over. They promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.
The great nations have always acted like gangsters, and the small nations like prostitutes.
Politics, as a trade, finds most and leaves nearly all dishonest.
The whole aim of practical politics is to keep the populace alarmed (and hence clamorous to be led to safety) by menacing it with an endless series of hobgoblins, all of them imaginary.
Henry Louis Mencken
Nothing is politically right which is morally wrong.
Something is rotten in the state of Denmark.
Politics is perhaps the only profession for which no preparation is thought necessary.
Robert Louis Stevenson
Politics is war without bloodshed while war is politics with bloodshed.
Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung) (Chairman Mao)
At court one becomes a sort of human ant eater, and learns to catch one's prey by one's tongue.
Edward George Earle Lytton Bulwer-Lytton
When the people fear the government, there is tyranny. When the government fears the people, there is liberty.
I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies.
A Bill of Rights is what the people are entitled to against every government, and what no just government should refuse, or rest on inference.
Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.
When a man assumes a public trust he should consider himself a public property.
I've said many a time that I think the Un-American Activities Committee in the House of Representatives was the most un-American thing in America!
Harry S. Truman
Whenever the people are well-informed, they can be trusted with their own government.
The spirit of resistance to government is so valuable on certain occasions that I wish it to be always kept alive.
Enlighten the people generally, and tyranny and oppressions of body and mind will vanish like evil spirits at the dawn of day.
I know of no safe depository of the ultimate powers of the society but the people themselves; and if we think them not enlightened enough to exercise their control with a wholesome discretion, the remedy is not to take it from them but to inform their discretion.
Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same.
To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last - but eat you he will.
No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we'll ever see on this earth!
People do not make wars; governments do.
Information is the oxygen of the modern age. It seeps through the walls topped by barbed wire, it wafts across the electrified borders.
Politics is not a bad profession. If you succeed there are many rewards, if you disgrace yourself you can always write a book.
A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.
How much pain they have cost us, the evils which have never happened.
The two enemies of the people are criminals and government, so let us tie the second down with the chains of the Constitution so the second will not become the legalized version of the first.
To announce that there must be no criticism of the president... is morally treasonable to the American public.
Concentrated power has always been the enemy of liberty.
The contest for ages has been to rescue liberty from the grasp of executive power.
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