Tom Purcell, 8/7/2013 [Archive]

Great Minds on Government

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Great Minds on Government

By Tom Purcell

Too many of our political leaders see government as the solution to our challenges. If only they paid more consideration to what some of our great minds had to say about government.

My favorite quotations reveal a general wariness of government -- a key principle upon which our republic was founded:

"A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take everything you have."

-- Barry Goldwater

"A patriot must always be ready to defend his country -- against his government."

-- Edward Abbey

"The greater the power, the more dangerous the abuse."

-- Edmund Burke

Well, Eddie, you got that right. Before we allow President Obama to commence "making government cool again," we may want to consider this:

"The single most exciting thing you encounter in government is competence, because it's so rare."

-- Daniel Patrick Moynihan

"Government is inherently incompetent, and no matter what task it is assigned, it will do it in the most expensive and inefficient way possible."

-- Charley Reese

"Government is an association of men who do violence to the rest of us."

-- Leo Tolstoy

Sorry, Leo, but folks often forget how unpleasant government can be. Just ask someone who recently got audited for supporting the wrong political party.

Here is where government is really effective:

"The government is good at one thing: It knows how to break your legs, then hand you a crutch and say, 'See, if it weren't for the government you wouldn't be able to walk.'"

-- Harry Browne

"Government's view of the economy can be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it."

-- Ronald Reagan

"Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer."

-- Ludwig von Mises

We citizens must be more skeptical about well-meaning politicians. We must look past their flowery words to understand what they really may be up to:

"The urge to save humanity is almost always a false front for the urge to rule."

-- H.L. Mencken

"One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation."

-- Thomas Reed

"A government that robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul."

-- George Bernard Shaw

Excellent quote, Georgie. You described the 2012 elections more accurately than 99 percent of America's journalists -- and you've been dead since 1950.

Look, it's long been time that America gets back to the basics. American citizens must stand up and demand a return to the principles of SMALL government:

"That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves."

-- Thomas Jefferson

"The Constitution is not an instrument for the government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government -- lest it come to dominate our lives and interests."

-- Patrick Henry

"Our best protection against bigger government in Washington is better government in the states."

-- Dwight D. Eisenhower

Unfortunately, Dwight, we abandoned that concept some time ago. Unless Americans wake up and remember the origin of our greatness -- it's the people, not the government -- we are poised for the government to expand more, and take more and control us more.

Humorists understand the ramifications better than anyone:

"The primary function of the government is -- and here I am quoting directly from the U.S. Constitution -- 'to spew out paper.'"

-- Dave Barry

"The difference between death and taxes is death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."

-- Will Rogers

"Did you ever notice that when you put the words 'the' and 'IRS' together, it spells 'THEIRS?'"

-- Unknown

© 2013 Tom Purcell. Tom Purcell, author of "Misadventures of a 1970's Childhood" and "Comical Sense: A Lone Humorist Takes on a World Gone Nutty!" is a Pittsburgh Tribune-Review humor columnist and is nationally syndicated exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. For info on using this column in your publication or website, contact or call (805) 969-2829. Send comments to Tom at

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