Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. What’s the One Quote Everyone Should Know?

 

If you could pick one quote that everyone in the country had to memorize, what would it be? There’s no shortage of good ones, but what is the one concept that you wish every American understood better than they do today, and what quote gets that point across like no other? Here’s my current choice:

C. S. Lewis: “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.”

This has always been one of my favorites, but for obvious reasons (looking at you, “Karen”) it’s especially relevant right now.

A few other suggestions:

P. J. O’Rourke: “A little government and a little luck are necessary in life, but only a fool trusts either of them.”

Benjamin Franklin: “The best way to save face is to keep the lower half shut.” (Poor Richard’s Almanack)

C. S. Lewis: “A man can no more diminish God’s glory by refusing to worship Him than a lunatic can put out the sun by scribbling the word ‘darkness’ on the walls of his cell.”

George Orwell: “We sleep safe in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.”

There could be a whole post of good Freidrich Hayek quotes.

“‘Emergencies’ have always been the pretext on which the safeguards of individual liberty have been eroded.”

“The reasons why the adoption of a system of central planning necessarily produces a totalitarian system are fairly simple. Whoever controls the means must decide which ends they are to serve. … Totalitarianism is nothing but consistent collectivism, the ruthless execution of the principle that ‘the whole comes before the individual’ and the direction of all members of society by a single will supposed to represent the ‘whole’.”

“The more the state ‘plans’ the more difficult planning becomes for the individual.”

“Since the value of freedom rests on the opportunities it provides for unforeseen and unpredictable actions, we will rarely know what we lose through a particular restriction of freedom.”

“A limited democracy might indeed be the best protector of individual liberty and be better than any other form of limited government, but an unlimited democracy is probably worse than any other form of unlimited government, because its government loses the power even to do what it thinks right if any group on which its majority depends thinks otherwise.”

“It is no exaggeration to say that the central aim of socialism is to discredit those traditional morals which keep us alive.”

“The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

What is your one quote?

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  1. Jim McConnell Member
    Jim McConnell Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nick, I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of your quotes for our retirement community newsletter. Thanks!

    • #1
    • April 8, 2020, at 9:33 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. RightAngles Member

    Thanks, Nick. The C.S. Lewis and Hayek ones have special importance right now.

    • #2
    • April 8, 2020, at 9:37 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  3. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Nick, I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of your quotes for our retirement community newsletter. Thanks!

    Of course not. As a wise man once said…

    Abraham Lincoln:
    All the best quotes have been copied off the internet and they’re all 100% true.

    • #3
    • April 8, 2020, at 9:38 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  4. RightAngles Member

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Nick, I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of your quotes for our retirement community newsletter. Thanks!

    Of course not. As a wise man once said…

    Abraham Lincoln:
    All the best quotes have been copied off the internet and they’re all 100% true.

    Also Abe Lincoln, when an opponent called him two-faced: “If I had two faces, do you think I’d be wearing this one?”

    • #4
    • April 8, 2020, at 9:45 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  5. Judge Mental Member

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Nick, I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of your quotes for our retirement community newsletter. Thanks!

    Of course not. As a wise man once said…

    Abraham Lincoln:
    All the best quotes have been copied off the internet and they’re all 100% true.

    I’ve found that people will buy almost anything if you put quotes around it, as if it was once said by someone wise.

    • #5
    • April 8, 2020, at 9:45 AM PDT
    • 8 likes
  6. danok1 Member

    Patrick Henry, Speech Before Virginia Ratifying Convention 5 June 1788:

    You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

    • #6
    • April 8, 2020, at 9:52 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  7. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H

    danok1 (View Comment):

    Patrick Henry, Speech Before Virginia Ratifying Convention 5 June 1788:

    You are not to inquire how your trade may be increased, nor how you are to become a great and powerful people, but how your liberties can be secured; for liberty ought to be the direct end of your government.

    Excellent suggestion.

    • #7
    • April 8, 2020, at 10:02 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  8. Brian Clendinen Member
    Brian Clendinen Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “There is Lies, there’s dam Lies, and there is statistics”.

    Mark Twain’s version of that quote.

    I love statistics to (bit of a data scientist myself). However math is a language and had the strength and weaknesses of all languages.

    ” I try to not let schooling get in the way of my education”

    Mark Twain

    “Suppose you were an idiot, and suppose you were a member of Congress; but I repeat myself.”

    Mark Twain

    Replace congress with Politician and its more accurate.

    However your two C.S. Lewis Quotes are two of my favs also.

    • #8
    • April 8, 2020, at 10:15 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  9. Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito Contributor

    Nick H: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

    Memorize is one thing. Understand?

    • #9
    • April 8, 2020, at 10:21 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Bruce Caward Thatcher
    Bruce Caward Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “You can’t save everybody, folks. Just try not to be living next to them when they go off.” – Dennis Miller

    • #10
    • April 8, 2020, at 10:30 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  11. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    — John Stuart Mill

    As required to be memorized via USAF Contrails, 1984.

    • #11
    • April 8, 2020, at 10:33 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  12. RightAngles Member

    “We didn’t all come over on the same ship, but we’re all in the same boat.”

    “Men are all the same. They just have different heads so you can tell them apart.”

    “Hatred is a poison that corrodes its container.”

    “You can’t have a mink before you’re 40. Everyone will wonder what you did to get it.”

    ——My Mom Carolyn McMaster

    • #12
    • April 8, 2020, at 10:36 AM PDT
    • 18 likes
  13. Headedwest Coolidge

    When I saw P. J. O’Rourke in your list it reminded me of the line of his I always liked:

    ”Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

    • #13
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:02 AM PDT
    • 16 likes
  14. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    A common mistake that people make when trying to design something completely foolproof is to underestimate the ingenuity of complete fools – Douglas Adams

    • #14
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:12 AM PDT
    • 15 likes
  15. SkipSul Coolidge
    SkipSul Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The major problem—one of the major problems, for there are several—one of the many major problems with governing people is that of whom you get to do it; or rather of who manages to get people to let them do it to them.
    To summarize: it is a well-known fact that those people who must want to rule people are, ipso facto, those least suited to do it.
    To summarize the summary: anyone who is capable of getting themselves made President should on no account be allowed to do the job. – 
    Also Douglas Adams

    • #15
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:13 AM PDT
    • 9 likes
  16. danok1 Member

    H. L. Mencken, “Notes on Democracy”:

    No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

    • #16
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:19 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  17. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    The one most relevant to right now would be “In a decent health care system, the sick are quarantined; inside tyranny, everyone is.” (I’m paraphrasing and I don’t know who actually came up with this one.)

    • #17
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:33 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. CarolJoy, Above Top Secret Coolidge

    RightAngles (View Comment):

    “We didn’t all come over on the same ship, but we’re all in the same boat.”

    “Men are all the same. They just have different heads so you can tell them apart.”

    “Hatred is a poison that corrodes its container.”

    “You can’t have a mink before you’re 40. Everyone will wonder what you did to get it.”

    ——My Mom Carolyn McMaster

    Those are brilliant.

    • #18
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:35 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  19. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H

    Hank Rhody, Badgeless Bandito (View Comment):

    Nick H: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

    Memorize is one thing. Understand?

    Gotta start somewhere.

    • #19
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:36 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  20. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H

    Instugator (View Comment):

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    — John Stuart Mill

    As required to be memorized via USAF Contrails, 1984.

    Was still there in Contrails in 1989. Still have it memorized. 

    • #20
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:37 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. Spin Coolidge
    Spin Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son…”

    • #21
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:47 AM PDT
    • 13 likes
  22. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H

    danok1 (View Comment):

    H. L. Mencken, “Notes on Democracy”:

    No one in this world, so far as I know—and I have researched the records for years, and employed agents to help me—has ever lost money by underestimating the intelligence of the great masses of the plain people. Nor has anyone ever lost public office thereby.

    That’s an interesting one. As the quote implies, the “great masses” of people can do some incredibly dumb stuff, but the thing is that it’s usually less dumb than whatever program the government will come up with regarding the same problem. 

    • #22
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:51 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. Bishop Wash Member

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Jim McConnell (View Comment):

    Nick, I hope you don’t mind if I borrow some of your quotes for our retirement community newsletter. Thanks!

    Of course not. As a wise man once said…

    Abraham Lincoln:
    All the best quotes have been copied off the internet and they’re all 100% true.

    • #23
    • April 8, 2020, at 11:54 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  24. Bishop Wash Member

    I like your first one. I forget when I first read it, but it needs internalized by so many. 

    • #24
    • April 8, 2020, at 12:07 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  25. Nick H Coolidge
    Nick H

    Bishop Wash (View Comment):

    I like your first one. I forget when I first read it, but it needs internalized by so many.

    Yeah, maybe memorization isn’t enough. Perhaps we should require that all HOA presidents, neighborhood watch leaders, and politicians of any stripe have it tattooed somewhere. Anyone making an unsolicited report to family services or to local police regarding a neighbor should have it tattooed somewhere sensitive.

    • #25
    • April 8, 2020, at 12:15 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  26. Instugator Thatcher
    Instugator Joined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Nick H (View Comment):

    Instugator (View Comment):

    War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things: the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety is a miserable creature, who has no chance of being free, unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

    — John Stuart Mill

    As required to be memorized via USAF Contrails, 1984.

    Was still there in Contrails in 1989. Still have it memorized.

    The versions I found on the internet are not the same as we memorized.

    • #26
    • April 8, 2020, at 12:22 PM PDT
    • Like
  27. RightAngles Member

    Another Abe Lincoln: “If this is coffee, please bring me tea. If this is tea, please bring me coffee.”

    • #27
    • April 8, 2020, at 12:54 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  28. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    There is no such thing as a “peace process”. Peace must be the result of victory in conflict, and the victor dictates the terms of peace. 

    RushBabe49

     

    • #28
    • April 8, 2020, at 1:06 PM PDT
    • 5 likes
  29. repmodad Coolidge

    Nick H: “The curious task of economics is to demonstrate to men how little they really know about what they imagine they can design.”

    Your last Hayek quote was my choice. I would imagine that listeners of the EconTalk podcast are 500% more likely to choose this as their one quote to memorize. 

    • #29
    • April 8, 2020, at 1:19 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  30. Gumby Mark (R-Meth Lab of Demo… Thatcher

    “You know, there’s a philosopher who says, ‘As you live your life, it appears to be anarchy and chaos, and random events, smashing into each other and causing this situation or that situation, and then, this happens, and it’s overwhelming, and it just looks like what in the world is going on. And later, when you look back at it, it looks like a finely crafted novel. But at the time, it don’t’ “.

    Joe Walsh

    • #30
    • April 8, 2020, at 1:35 PM PDT
    • 1 like