Quotations about   ends and means

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Today I bent the truth to be kind, and I have no regret, for I am far surer of what is kind than I am of what is true.

Robert Brault (b. c. 1945) American aphorist, programmer
(Attributed)
Added on 8-Sep-20 | Last updated 8-Sep-20
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Men of faith know that throughout history the crimes committed in liberty’s name have been exceeded only by those committed in God’s name.

Other Authors and Sources
Mills E. Godwin, Governor of Virginia (Dec 1966)

On KKK cross-burnings. Quoted in various papers of the time.
Added on 11-May-20 | Last updated 11-May-20
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Most of the great results of history are brought about by discreditable means.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
The Conduct of Life, “Considerations Along the Way” (1860)
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Added on 21-Apr-20 | Last updated 5-May-20
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Nations are most commonly saved by the worst men in them. The virtuous are too scrupulous to go to the lengths which are necessary to rouse the people against their tyrants.

Horace Walpole (1717-1797) English novelist, letter writer
Memoirs of the Reign of King George III, Vol. 1, ch. 12 (1859)
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Variants:
  • "The adventurer's career suggests the reflection that nations are usually saved by their worse men, since the virtuous are too scrupulous to go to the lengths needed to rouse the people against their tyrants." (Source)
  • "The virtuous are too scrupulous to go to the lengths that are necessary to rouse the people against their tyrants."
  • Modern paraphrase: "No great country was ever saved by good men because good men will not go to the lengths necessary to save it."
  • Modern paraphrase: "No great country was ever saved by good men, because good men may not go to the lengths that may be necessary."
Added on 7-Jan-20 | Last updated 7-Jan-20
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For the Bolsheviki the end to be achieved was the Communist State, or the so-called Dictatorship of the Proletariat. Everything which advanced that end was justifiable and revolutionary. The Lenins, Radeks, and Zorins were therefore quite consistent. Obsessed by the infallibility of their creed, giving of themselves to the fullest, they could be both heroic and despicable at the same time. They could work twenty hours a day, live on herring and tea, and order the slaughter of innocent men and women. Occasionally they sought to mask their killings by pretending a “misunderstanding,” for doesn’t the end justify all means? They could employ torture and deny the inquisition, they could lie and defame, and call themselves idealists. In short, they could make themselves and others believe that everything was legitimate and right from the revolutionary viewpoint; any other policy was weak, sentimental, or a betrayal of the Revolution.

Emma Goldman (1869-1940) Lithuanian-American anarchist, activist
My Disillusionment in Russia, ch. 12 (1920)
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Added on 26-Jul-19 | Last updated 26-Jul-19
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Every one sees what you appear to be, few really know what you are, and those few dare not oppose themselves to the opinion of the many, who have the majesty of the state to defend them; and in the actions of all men, and especially of princes, which it is not prudent to challenge, one judges by the result. For that reason, let a prince have the credit of conquering and holding his state, the means will always be considered honest, and he will be praised by everybody because the vulgar are always taken by what a thing seems to be and by what comes of it.

Niccolò Machiavelli (1469-1527) Italian politician, philosopher, political scientist
The Prince, ch. 18 (1513) [tr. Marriott (1908)]
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Origin of the paraphrase "The ends justify the means," which is generally attributed to Machiavelli.
Added on 6-Dec-17 | Last updated 6-Dec-17
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[Capitalism is] the astonishing belief that the nastiest motives of the nastiest men somehow or other work for the best results in the best of all possible worlds.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
(Attributed)

Attributed by Sir George Schuster, Christianity and Human Relations in Industry (1951). Frequently quoted, but no direct citation found. More information here.

Variations:
  • "... the extraordinary belief that the nastiest of men for the nastiest of motives will somehow work for the benefit of all."
  • "... the astounding belief that the most wickedest of men will do the most wickedest of things for the greatest good of everyone."
  • "The great merit of the capitalist system, it has been said, is that it succeeds in using the nastiest motives of nasty people for the ultimate benefit of society." (written by E. A. G. Robinson, Monopoly (1941). (Robinson was a colleague of Keynes.)
Added on 28-Mar-17 | Last updated 28-Mar-17
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Terror is the most effective political instrument. I shall not permit myself to be robbed of it simply because a lot of stupid, bourgeois mollycoddles choose to be offended by it.

Adolph Hitler (1889-1945) German leader
Table talk (1933)

Quoted in Hermann Rauschning, The Voice of Destruction, ch. 6 (1940). Note: I don't actually wish I'd said this, but it's a useful quotation for those who similarly think torture and terror are legitimate political tools to consider who their bedfellow is.
Added on 26-Dec-16 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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Obstinacy in a bad cause is but consistency in a good.

Thomas Browne (1605-1682) English physician and author
Religio Medici, Part 1, sec. 25 (1642) [ed. Symonds (1886)]
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Added on 18-May-16 | Last updated 17-Sep-20
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There are things a man must not do even to save a nation.

Kempton - even to save a nation - wist_info quote

Murray Kempton (1917-1997) American journalist.
“To Save a Nation,” America Comes of Age (1963)
Added on 18-Apr-16 | Last updated 18-Apr-16
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DARLA: You really think that safety can be plucked from the arms of an evil deed?

Steven S. DeKnight (b. 1964) American television screenwriter, producer
Angel, 4×17 “Inside Out” (2 Apr 2003)
Added on 22-Aug-14 | Last updated 24-Aug-20
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Self-interest sets in motion virtues and vices of all kinds.

François VI, duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613-1680) French epigrammist, memoirist, noble
Réflexions ou sentences et maximes morales [Maxims], #263 (1665-1678) [tr. Tancock (1959)]
Added on 4-Feb-14 | Last updated 31-May-19
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Give any orthodox church the power, and to-day they would punish heresy with whip, and chain, and fire. As long as a church deems a certain belief essential to salvation, just so long it will kill and burn if it has the power.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“Heretics and Heresies” (1874)
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Added on 5-Mar-08 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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Fanaticism consists in redoubling your efforts when you have forgotten your aim.

George Santayana (1863-1952) Spanish-American poet and philosopher [Jorge Agustín Nicolás Ruíz de Santayana y Borrás]
The Life of Reason or The Phases of Human Progress, Introduction (1905-06)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-Mar-20
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