Quotations about   inequality

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Where some possess much, and the others nothing, there may arise an extreme democracy, or a pure oligarchy; or a tyranny may grow out of either extreme.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 4, ch. 11 / 1296a.1-3 [tr. Jowett (1885)]
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Alternate translations:

  • "When some possess too much, and others nothing at all, the government must either be in the hands of the meanest rabble or else a pure oligarchy; or, from the excesses of both, a tyranny." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "Where some own a very great deal of property and others none there comes about either an extreme democracy or an unmixed oligarchy, or a tyranny may result from both of the two extremes." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "Where some possess very many things and others nothing, either rule of the people in its extreme form must come into being, or unmixed oligarchy, or -- as a result of both of these excesses -- tyranny." [tr. Reeve (2007)]
  • "Where some people are very wealthy and others have nothing, the result will be either extreme democracy or absolute oligarchy, or despotism will come from either of those excesses."
Added on 19-Feb-21 | Last updated 19-Feb-21
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In our time, as in times before, creep on the insidious forces that, producing inequality, destroy Liberty. On the horizon the clouds begin to lower. Liberty calls to us again. We must follow her further; we must trust her fully. Either we must wholly accept her or she will not stay. It is not enough that men should vote; it is not enough that they should be theoretically equal before the law. They must have liberty to avail themselves of the opportunities and means of life; they must stand on equal terms with reference to the bounty of nature. Either this, or Liberty withdraws her light! Either this, or darkness comes on, and the very forces that progress has evolved turn to powers that work destruction. This is the universal law. This is the lesson of the centuries. Unless its foundations be laid in justice the social structure cannot stand.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
The Law of Human Progress, Book 10, ch. 5 “The Central Truth” (1879)
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Added on 15-Feb-21 | Last updated 15-Feb-21
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I don’t long for the good old days when there was no servant problem. Back in those days, I’d have been a servant.

Isaac Asimov (1920-1992) Russian-American author, polymath, biochemist
(Attributed)
Added on 4-Feb-21 | Last updated 4-Feb-21
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Where Plenty smiles — alas! she smiles for few,
And those who taste not, yet behold her store,
Are as the slaves that dig the golden ore,
The wealth around them makes them doubly poor.

George Crabbe (1754-1832) English poet, writer, surgeon, clergyman
The Village, Book 1, line 136 (1783)
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Added on 2-Oct-17 | Last updated 2-Oct-17
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The urge to distribute wealth equally, and still more the belief that it can be brought about by political action, is the most dangerous of all popular emotions. It is the legitimation of envy, of all the deadly sins the one which a stable society based on consensus should fear the most. The monster state is a source of many evils; but it is, above all, an engine of envy.

Paul Johnson (b. 1928) English journalist, historian, speechwriter, author
The Recovery of Freedom (1980)
Added on 11-Apr-17 | Last updated 11-Apr-17
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What has destroyed every previous civilization has been the tendency to the unequal distribution of wealth and power. This same tendency, operating with increasing force, is observable in our civilization to-day, showing itself in every progressive community, and with greater intensity the more progressive the community. Wages and interest tend constantly to fall, rent to rise, the rich to become very much richer, the poor to become more helpless and hopeless, and the middle class to be swept away.

Henry George (1839-1897) American economist
Progress and Poverty, “How Modern Civilization May Decline” (1879)
Added on 22-Mar-17 | Last updated 22-Mar-17
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In our industrial and social system the interests of all men are so closely intertwined that in the immense majority of cases a straight-dealing man who by his efficiency, by his ingenuity and industry, benefits himself must also benefit others. Normally the man of great productive capacity who becomes rich by guiding the labor of other men does so by enabling them to produce more than they could produce without his guidance; and both he and they share in the benefit, which comes also to the public at large. The superficial fact that the sharing may be unequal must never blind us to the underlying fact that there is this sharing, and that the benefit comes in some degree to each man involved.

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919) US President (1901-1909)
Fifth Message to Congress (5 Dec 1905)
Added on 11-May-16 | Last updated 11-May-16
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The central belief of every moron is that he is the victim of a mysterious conspiracy against his common rights and true desserts. He ascribes all his failure to get on in the world, all of his congenital incapacity and damnfoolishness, to the machinations of werewolves assembled in Wall Street, or some other such den of infamy. If these villains could be put down, he holds, he would at once become rich, powerful and eminent. Nine politicians out of every ten, of whatever party, live and have their being by promising to perform
this putting down. In brief, they are knaves who maintain themselves by preying on the idiotic vanities and pathetic hopes of half-wits.

H.L. Mencken (1880-1956) American writer and journalist [Henry Lewis Mencken]
Baltimore Evening Sun (15 Jun 1936)
Added on 8-Mar-16 | Last updated 8-Mar-16
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All of them perceived that American Democracy did not imply any equality of wealth, but did demand a wholesome sameness of thought, dress, painting, morals, and vocabulary.

Sinclair Lewis (1885-1951) American novelist, playwright
Babbitt, ch. 34 (1922)
Added on 27-Oct-15 | Last updated 27-Oct-15
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Law and Justice play no role in the relations of peoples of unequal strength.

Gustave LeBon (1841-1931) German psychologist
Aphorisms of Present Times, 2.6 (1913)
Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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The future is already here — it’s just not very evenly distributed.

William Gibson (b. 1948) American-Canadian speculative fiction novelist and essayist
Comment (1990s)

Original use is unconfirmed, earliest reference is in 1992. See here.
Added on 1-Jan-15 | Last updated 1-Jan-15
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This Nation was founded by men of many nations and backgrounds. It was founded on the principle that all men are created equal, and that the rights of every man are diminished when the rights of one man are threatened.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Report to the American People on Civil Rights (11 Jun 1963)
Added on 24-Dec-14 | Last updated 24-Dec-14
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While the earnings of a minority are growing exponentially, so too is the gap separating the majority from the prosperity enjoyed by those happy few. This imbalance is the result of ideologies which defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation. Consequently, they reject the right of states, charged with vigilance for the common good, to exercise any form of control. A new tyranny is thus born, invisible and often virtual, which unilaterally and relentlessly imposes its own laws and rules.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 56 (24 Nov 2013)
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Added on 30-Jul-14 | Last updated 30-Jul-14
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Human rights are not only violated by terrorism, repression or assassination, but also by unfair economic structures that creates huge inequalities.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
(Attribute)
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Criticizing in 2009 the Argentinian government of Néstor Kirchner. Quoted in Mark Rice-Oxley, "Pope Francis: the humble pontiff with practical approach to poverty," The Guardian (13 Mar 2013).
Added on 2-Jul-14 | Last updated 2-Jul-14
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Sir, there is one Mrs. Macaulay in this town, a great republican. One day when I was at her house, I put on a very grave countenance, and said to her, “Madam, I am now become a convert to your way of thinking. I am convinced that all mankind are upon an equal footing; and to give you an unquestionable proof, Madam, that I am in earnest, here is a very sensible, civil, well-behaved fellow-citizen, your footman; I desire that he may be allowed to sit down and dine with us.” I thus, Sir, shewed her the absurdity of the levelling doctrine. She has never liked me since. Sir, your levellers wish to level down as far as themselves; but they cannot bear levelling up to themselves.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (12 Jul 1763)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
Added on 28-Feb-14 | Last updated 28-Feb-14
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During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons, to canonize them, … and to hallow their names to a certain extent for the “consolation” of the oppressed classes and with the object of duping the latter, while at the same time robbing the revolutionary theory of its substance, blunting its revolutionary edge and vulgarizing it.

Vladimir Ilich Lenin (1870-1924) Russian politician, revolutionary, political theorist [b. Vladimir Ilich Ulyamov]
The State and Revolution, 1.1 (1917)
Added on 28-Jan-14 | Last updated 28-Jan-14
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We are convinced that liberty without socialism is privilege, injustice; and that socialism without liberty is slavery and brutality.

Mikhail Bakunin (1814-1876) Russian anarchist, political theorist
“Federalism, Socialism, Anti-Theologism” (Sep 1867)
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Added on 24-Jan-14 | Last updated 24-Jan-14
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The sheltering of upper income children in private schools not only accelerates the deterioration of public education, it hides its consequences from precisely those people who could do something about it.

Hodding Carter III (b. 1935) American journalist and politician [William Hodding Carter III]
“In Public Schools, Class Will Tell,” New York Times (13 Jun 1990)
Added on 22-Jan-14 | Last updated 22-Jan-14
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Again, the male is by nature superior, and the female inferior; and the one rules, and the other is ruled; this principle, of necessity, extends to all mankind.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 1, ch. 5 / 1254b [tr. B. Jowett (1885)]
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Aristotle is arguing that there is a natural distinction between the rulers and ruled, starting first with animals, then with sex. Alternate translations:
  • "Again, the relation of male to female is naturally that of superior and inferior, ruling and ruled, and the same kind of relation must necessarily exist in the case of all men generally." [tr. Bolland (1877)]
  • "So is it naturally with the male and the female; the one is superior, the other inferior; the one governs, the other is governed; and the same rule must necessarily hold good with respect to all mankind." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "Again, as between the sexes, the male is by nature superior and the female inferior, the male ruler and the female subject. And the same must also necessarily apply in the case of mankind as a whole." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "Further, the relation of male to female is by nature a relation of superior to inferior and ruler to ruled. The same must of necessity hold in the case of human being generally." [tr. Lord (1984)]
Added on 9-Jan-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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Never trust a country where the rich live behind high walls and tinted windows. That is a place that is not prospering as one country. That is a place where the rich not only say, “I don’t want you to see how I live,” but “I don’t want to see how you live.”

Thomas Friedman (b. 1953) American journalist, columnist, author
“Tinted Windows,” New York Times (23 Jun 1997)
Added on 9-Jan-14 | Last updated 9-Jan-14
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Everywhere inequality is a cause of revolution, but an inequality in which there is no proportion — for instance, a perpetual monarchy among equals; and always it is the desire of equality which rises in rebellion.

Aristotle (384-322 BC) Greek philosopher
Politics [Πολιτικά], Book 5, ch. 1, sec. 11 / 1301b [tr. Jowett (1865)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • "Inequality is always the occasion of sedition, but not when those who are unequal are treated in a different manner correspondent to that inequality. Thus kingly power is unequal when exercised over equals. Upon the whole, those who aim after an equality are the cause of seditions." [tr. Ellis (1912)]
  • "For party strife is everywhere due to inequality, where classes that are unequal do not receive a share of power in proportion (for a lifelong monarchy is an unequal feature when it exists among equals); for generally the motive for factious strife is the desire for equality." [tr. Rackham (1932)]
  • "Factional conflict is everywhere the result of inequality, at any rate where there is no proportion among those who are unequal (a permanent kingship is unequal if it exists among equal persons); in general, it is equality they seek when they engage in factional conflict." [tr. Lord (1984)]
  • "Faction, indeed, is everywhere due to inequality, when unequals do not receive what is proportionate (for example, a permanent kingship is unequal if it exists among equals), since people generally engage in faction in pursuit of equality." [tr. Reeve (2007)]
Added on 30-Jul-13 | Last updated 12-Feb-21
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Comparison, more than Reality, makes Men happy or wretched.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia: Adages and Proverbs, #1133 (1732)
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Added on 23-Jun-11 | Last updated 26-Jan-21
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There is something wrong in a government where they who do the most have the least. There is something wrong when honesty wears a rag, and rascality a robe; when the loving, the tender, eat a crust, while the infamous sit at banquets.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“A Lay Sermon” (1886)
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Added on 21-Aug-09 | Last updated 2-Feb-16
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ALL ANIMALS ARE EQUAL
BUT SOME ANIMALS ARE MORE
EQUAL THAN OTHERS

George Orwell (1903-1950) English writer [pseud. of Eric Arthur Blair]
Animal Farm, ch. 10 (1946)
Added on 3-Sep-07 | Last updated 6-Jan-16
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The inherent vice of capitalism is the unequal sharing of blessings. The inherent virtue of socialism is the equal sharing of miseries.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
Speech, House of Commons (22 Oct 1945)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 25-Sep-20
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