Quotations about   dictatorship

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The dividing line between those who want to think and therefore have to judge by themselves, and those who do not, strikes across all social and cultural or educational differences. In this respect, the total moral collapse of respectable society during the Hitler regime may teach us that under such circumstances those who cherish values and hold fast to moral norms and standards are not reliable: we now know that moral norms and standards can be changed overnight, and that all that then will be left is the mere habit of holding fast to something. Much more reliable will be the doubters and skeptics, not because skepticism is good or doubting wholesome, but because they are used to examine things and to make up their own minds. Best of all will be those who know only one thing for certain: that whatever else happens, as long as we live we shall have to live together with ourselves.

Hannah Arendt (1906-1975) German-American philosopher, political theorist
“Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship” (1964)
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Added on 4-Aug-20 | Last updated 4-Aug-20
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We have no small hope in our elections, but it is still uncertain. There is some suspicion of a dictatorship. We have peace in public but it is the calm of an old and tired state, not one giving consent.

[Erat non nulla spes comitiorum sed incerta, erat aliqua suspicio dictaturae, ne ea quidem certa, summum otium forense sed senescentis magis civitatis quam acquiescentis]

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
Letters to Quintus #19 (2.15) (Jun, AD 54) [tr. Bailey (1999)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "There was some expectation of the comitia, but a doubtful one: there was some suspicion of a dictatorship, but not even that was certain. There is a perfect cessation of all business in the courts of law, but more as if the state was growing indolent from age than from real tranquility." [Letter 14, tr. Watson (1855)]
  • "There is some hope of elections, but doubtful; some suspicion of a Dictatorship, but that too not definite; peace reigns in the Forum, but it's the peace of a senile community rather than a contented one." [Letter 19 (II.15), tr. @sentantiq (2020)]
Added on 3-Jun-20 | Last updated 3-Jun-20
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Monarchy is like a sleek craft, it sails along well until some bumbling captain runs it into the rocks. Democracy, on the other hand, is like a raft. It never goes down but, dammit, your feet are always wet.

Ames - feet are always wet - wist_info quote

Fisher Ames (1758-1808) American politician, orator
(Attributed)

This is the earliest reference I can find to this metaphor. Variants:
  • "A monarchy is a merchantman which sails well, but will sometimes strike on a rock and go to the bottom; a republic is a raft which will never sink, but then your feet are always in the water." This variant is often attributed to a speech in the House of Representatives in 1795, but is not found in records of Ames' speeches.
  • "A monarchy is like a man-of-war -- bad shots between wind and water hurt it exceedingly; there is danger of capsizing. But democracy is a raft. You cannot easily overturn it. It is a wet place, but it is a pretty safe one." -- Joseph Cook (1860-1947) Anglo-Australian politician
  • "Dictatorship is like a big proud ship -- steaming away across the ocean with a great hulk and powerful engines driving it. It’s going fast and strong and looks like nothing could stop it. What happens? Your fine ship strikes something -- under the surface. Maybe it’s a mine or a reef, maybe it’s a torpedo or an iceberg. And your wonderful ship sinks. Now take democracy. It’s like riding on a raft, a rickety raft that was put together in a hurry. We get tossed about on the waves, it’s bad going and our feet are always wet. But that raft doesn’t sink … It’s the raft that will get to the shore at last." --- Roaldus Richmond (fl. 1940) American writer. In, ed., "A Yankee Businessman in New Hampshire," American Life Histories: Manuscripts from the Federal Writers Project, 1936-1940
  • "Democracy is like a raft: It won't sink, but you will always have your feet wet." -- Russell B. Long (1918-2003) American politician
  • "But you have to understand, American democracy is not like the system you have. We're not an ocean liner that sails across the ocean from point A to point B at 30 knots. That's not American democracy. American democracy is kind of like a life raft that bobs around the ocean all the time. Your feet are always wet. Winds are always blowing. You're cold. You're wet. You're uncomfortable -- but you never sink." -- Colin Powell (b. 1937) American politician, diplomat, soldier
Added on 1-Apr-16 | Last updated 7-Aug-20
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The welfare of the people in particular has always been the alibi of tyrants, and it provides the further advantage of giving the servants of tyranny a good conscience. It would be easy, however, to destroy that good conscience by shouting to them: if you want the happiness of the people, let them speak out and tell what kind of happiness they want and what kind they don’t want! But, in truth, the very ones who make use of such alibis know they are lies; they leave to their intellectuals on duty the chore of believing in them and of proving that religion, patriotism, and justice need for their survival the sacrifice of freedom.

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
“Homage to an Exile” (1955)

Published as an essay in Actuelles III, originally a speech (7 Dec 1955) at a banquet in honor of President Eduardo Santos, editor of El Tiempo, driven out of Columbia by a dictatorship". Reprinted in Resistance, Rebellion, and Death (1960).
Added on 5-Jan-15 | Last updated 5-Jan-15
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If I had to choose, I should detest the tyranny of one man less than that of many. A despot always has his good moments; an assembly of despots never.

Voltaire (1694-1778) French writer [pseud. of Francois-Marie Arouet]
Philosophical Dictionary, “Tyranny” (1764) [tr. Gay (1962)]
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Added on 4-Nov-14 | Last updated 4-Nov-14
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Every dictatorship has ultimately strangled in the web of repression it wove for its people, making mistakes that could not be corrected because criticism was prohibited.

Robert Francis Kennedy (1925-1968) American politician
“Value of Dissent,” speech, Nashville, Tennessee (21 Mar 1968)
Added on 13-Oct-14 | Last updated 13-Oct-14
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The difference between a Democracy and a Dictatorship is that in a Democracy you vote first and take orders later; in a Dictatorship you don’t have to waste your time voting.

Charles Bukowski (1920-1994) German-American author, poet
Erections, Ejaculations, Exhibitions and Tales of Ordinary Madness (1972)
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Added on 16-May-07 | Last updated 17-Jan-20
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