Walter Lippmann Quotes (101 Quotes)


    You must not complicate your government beyond the capacity of its electorate to understand it.

    The final test of a leader is that he leaves behind him in other men the conviction and the will to carry on.

    Private property was the original source of freedom. It still is its main ballpark.

    An alliance is like a chain. It is not made stronger by adding weak links to it. A great power like the United States gains no advantage and it loses prestige by offering, indeed peddling, its alliances to all and sundry.

    The genius of a good leader is to leave behind him a situation which common sense, without the grace of genius, can deal with successfully.


    This is one of the paradoxes of the democratic movement --that it loves a crowd and fears the individuals who compose it --that the religion of humanity should have no faith in human beings.

    Most men, after a little freedom, have preferred authority with the consoling assurances and the economy of effort it brings.



    People that are orthodox when they are young are in danger of being middle-aged all their lives.

    If all power is in the people, if there is no higher law than their will, and if by counting their votes, their will may be ascertained -- then the people may entrust all their power to anyone, and the power of the pretender and the usurper is then legitimate. It is not to be challenged since it came originally from the sovereign people.

    Ages when custom is unsettled are necessarily ages of prophecy. The moralist cannot teach what is revealed; he must reveal what can be taught. He has to seek insight rather than to preach.

    When philosophers try to be politicians they generally cease to be philosophers.

    No amount of charters, direct primaries, or short ballots will make a democracy out of an illiterate people.

    Corrupt, stupid grasping functionaries will make at least as big a muddle of socialism as stupid, selfish and acquisitive employers can make of capitalism.

    Where mass opinion dominates the government, there is a morbid derangement of the true functions of power. The derangement brings about the enfeeblement, verging on paralysis, of the capacity to govern.

    Football strategy does not originate in a scrimmage it is useless to expect solutions in a political compaign.

    The principles of the good society call for a concern with an order of being -- which cannot be proved existentially to the sense organs -- where it matters supremely that the human person is inviolable, that reason shall regulate the will. . .

    What we call a democratic society might be defined for certain purposes as one in which the majority is always prepared to put down a revolutionary minority.

    In government offices which are sensitive to the vehemence and passion of mass sentiment public men have no sure tenure. They are in effect perpetual office seekers, always on trial for their political lives, always required to court their restless constituents.

    Upon the standard to which the wise and honest will now repair it is written You have lived the easy way henceforth, you will live the hard way.... You came into a great heritage made by the insight and the sweat and the blood of inspired and devoted and courageous men thoughtlessly and in utmost self-indulgence you have all but squandered this inheritance. Now only by the heroic virtues which made this inheritance, can you restore it again. You took the good things for granted. Now you must earn them again.... For every right that you cherish, you have a duty which you must fulfill. For every hope that you entertain, you have a task that you must perform. For every good that you wish to preserve, you will have to sacrifice your comfort and your ease. There is nothing for nothing any longer.

    Success makes men rigid and they tend to exalt stability over all the other virtues; tired of the effort of willing they become fanatics about conservatism.

    Social movements are at once the symptoms and the instruments of progress. Ignore them and statesmanship is irrelevant; fail to use them and it is weak.

    We are quite rich enough to defend ourselves, whatever the cost. We must now learn that we are quite rich enough to educate ourselves as we need to be educated.

    A man who has humility will have acquired in the last reaches of his beliefs the saving doubt of his own certainty.

    You don't have to preach honesty to men with creative purpose. Let a human being throw the engines of his soul into the making of something, and the instinct of workmanship will take care of his honesty.

    In a democracy, the opposition is not only tolerated as constitutional, but must be maintained because it is indispensable.

    The press is no substitute for institutions. It is like the beam of a searchlight that moves restlessly about, bringing one episode and then another out of darkness into vision. Men cannot do the work of the world by this light alone.

    The best servants of the people, like the best valets, must whisper unpleasant truths in the master's ear. It is the court fool, not the foolish courtier, whom the king can least afford to lose.

    Only the consciousness of a purpose that is mightier than any man and worthy of all men can fortify and inspirit and compose the souls of men.

    The man who will follow precedent, but never create one, is merely an obvious example of the routineer. You find him desperately numerous in the civil service, in the official bureaus. To him government is something given as unconditionally. . .

    A country survives its legislation. That truth should not comfort the conservative nor depress the radical. For it means that public policy can enlarge its scope and increase its audacity, can try big experiments without trembling too much. . .

    The chief element in the art of statesmanship under modern conditions is the ability to elucidate the confused and clamorous interests which converge upon the seat of government.

    The simple opposition between the people and big business has disappeared because the people themselves have become so deeply involved in big business.

    Ideals are an imaginative understanding of that which is desirable in that which is possible.

    The central drama of our age is how the Western nations and the Asian peoples are to find a tolerable basis of co-existence

    In making the great experiment of governing people by consent rather than by coercion, it is not sufficient that the party in power should have a majority. It is just as necessary that the party in power should never outrage the minority.

    Whether we wish it our not we are involved in the world's problems, and all the winds of heaven blow through our land.

    Successful democratic politicians are insecure and intimidated men. They advance politically only as they placate, appease, bribe, seduce, bamboozle, or otherwise manage to manipulate the demanding and threatening elements in their constituencies. The de.

    A long life in journalism convinced me many presidents ago that there should be a large air space between a journalist and the head of a state.

    It is impossible to abolish either with a law or an ax the desires of men

    Robinson Crusoe, the self-sufficient man, could not have lived in New York City.

    The disesteem into which moralists have fallen is due at bottom to their failure to see that in an age like this one the function of the moralist is not to exhort men to be good but to elucidate what the good is. The problem of sanctions is secondary.



    When men can no longer be theists, they must, if they are civilized, become humanists.

    To understand is not only to pardon but in the end to love.

    A useful definition of liberty is obtained only by seeking the principle of liberty in the main business of human life, that is to say, in the process by which men educate their responses and learn to control their environment.

    The effort to calculate exactly what the voters want at each particular moment leaves out of account the fact that when they are troubled the thing the voters most want is to be told what to want.

    Nobody has worked harder at inactivity with such a force of character, with such unremitting attention to detail, with such conscientious devotion to the task.


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    Tom Wolfe - Peter Jennings - Pat Buchanan - John Reed - John Chancellor - Ellen Goodman - Carl Bernstein - Arianna Huffington - Andrew Tobias - Anderson Cooper


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