Quotations about   money

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‘Tis a hard task not to surrender morality for riches.

[Ardua res haec est opibus non tradere mores.]

Martial (AD c.39-c.103) Spanish Roman poet, satirist, epigrammatist [Marcus Valerius Martialis]
Epigrams [Epigrammata], Book 11, epigram 5 [tr. in Harbottle (1897)]
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Alt. trans.:
  • It is an arduous task to preserve morality from the corruption of riches. [tr. Bohn (1871)]
  • 'Tis rare, when riches cannot taint the mind. [tr. Anon. (1695)]
  • 'Tis a hard task this, not to sacrifice manners to wealth. [tr. Ker (1919)]
  • It is a hard business, not to compromise morals for riches. [tr. Nisbet (2015)]
Added on 14-Nov-18 | Last updated 14-Nov-18
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You can buy a man’s time; you can buy a man’s physical presence at a given place; you can even buy a measured number of skilled muscular motions per hour or day. But you cannot buy enthusiasm; you cannot buy initiative; you cannot buy loyalty; you cannot buy the devotion of hearts, minds and souls. You have to earn those things.

Clarence Francis (1888-1985) American business executive, food industry consultant
“The Causes of Industrial Peace,” speech, National Association of Manufacturers (4 Dec 1947)
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Sometimes titled "Philosophy of Management".
Added on 17-Nov-17 | Last updated 20-Nov-17
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The trail of the serpent reaches into all the lucrative professions and practices of man, Each has its own wrongs. Each finds a tender and very intelligent conscience a disqualification for success. Each requires of the practitioner a certain shutting of the eyes, a certain dapperness and compliance, an acceptance of customs, a sequestration from the sentiments of generosity and love, a compromise of private opinion and lofty integrity.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Man the Reformer,” lecture, Boston (25 Jan 1841)
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Money is said to be power, which is, in some cases, true; and the same may be said of knowledge; but superior sobriety, industry and activity, are a still more certain source of power; for without these, knowledge is of little use; and, as to the power which money gives, it is that of brute force, it is the power of the bludgeon and the bayonet, and of the bribed press, tongue and pen.

William Cobbett (1763-1835) English politician, agriculturist, journalist, pamphleteer
Advice to Young Men, Letter 1, #40 (1829)
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Added on 7-Nov-17 | Last updated 7-Nov-17
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The art of living easily as to money, is to pitch your scale of living one degree below your means.

Henry Taylor (1800-1886) English dramatist, poet, bureaucrat, man of letters
Notes from Life, “Of Money” (1853)
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Added on 12-Sep-17 | Last updated 12-Sep-17
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She ate her trifle, reflecting that grinding poverty, though loathsome while one is in it, has the advantage of making one enjoy money in a way denied to the rich-from-birth.

Kerry Greenwood (b. 1954) Australian author and lawyer
Flying Too High, ch. 2 (1990)
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Added on 13-Jul-17 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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“Rich people show their appreciation through favors,” I said. “When everyone you know has more money than they know what to do with, money stops being a useful transactional tool. So instead you offer favors. Deals. Quid pro quos. Things that involve personal involvement rather than money. Because when you’re that rich, your personal time is your limiting factor.”

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Lock In (2014)
Added on 14-Mar-17 | Last updated 14-Mar-17
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People say law, but they mean wealth.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
Journal (1841)
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Added on 13-Mar-17 | Last updated 13-Mar-17
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When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession — as distinguished from the love of money as a means to the enjoyments and realities of life — will be recognised for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities which one hands over with a shudder to the specialists in mental disease.

But beware! The time for all this is not yet. For at least another hundred years we must pretend to ourselves and to everyone that fair is foul and foul is fair; for foul is useful and fair is not. Avarice and usury and precaution must be our gods for a little longer still. For only they can lead us out of the tunnel of economic necessity into daylight.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren” (1930)
Added on 14-Feb-17 | Last updated 14-Feb-17
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By fixing men’s minds, not upon the discharge of social obligations, which restricts their energy, because it defines the goal to which it should be directed, but upon the exercise of the right to pursue their own self-interest, it offers unlimited scope for the acquisition of riches, and therefore gives free play to one of the most powerful of human instincts. To the strong it promises unfettered freedom for the exercise of their strength; to the weak the hope that they too one day may be strong. Before the eyes of both it suspends a golden prize, which not all can attain, but for which each may strive, the enchanting vision of infinite expansion. It assures men that there are no ends other than their ends, no law other than their desires, no limit other than that which they think advisable. Thus it makes the individual the center of his own universe, and dissolves moral principles into a choice of expediences.

R. H. Tawney (1880-1962) English writer, economist, historian, social critic [Richard Henry Tawney]
The Acquisitive Century, ch. 3 “The Acquisitive Society” (1920)
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Added on 26-Jan-17 | Last updated 26-Jan-17
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Experienced men of the world know very well that it is best to pay scot and lot as they go along, and that a man often pays dear for a small frugality.

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882) American essayist, lecturer, poet
“Compensation,” Essays: First Series (1841)
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Added on 9-Jan-17 | Last updated 9-Jan-17
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Money is that dear thing which
if you’re not careful, you can squander
your whole life thinking of …

salter-money-is-that-dear-thing-wist_info-quote

Mary Jo Salter (b. 1954) American poet, editor, academic
“A Benediction,” part 6, ll. 1-3 (1994)
Added on 26-Dec-16 | Last updated 26-Dec-16
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The old saying holds. Owe your banker £1000 and you are at his mercy; owe him £1 million and the position is reversed.

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946) English economist
“Overseas Financial Policy in Stage III” (15 May 1945)

Unpublished memo distributed to the British Cabinet. Variant: "If you owe your bank a hundred pounds, you have a problem. But if you owe a million, it has."
Added on 20-Dec-16 | Last updated 20-Dec-16
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Rich people show their appreciation through favors. When everyone you know has more money than they know what to do with, money stops being a useful transactional tool. So instead you offer favors. Deals. Quid pro quos. Things that involve personal involvement rather than money. Because when you’re that rich, your personal time is your limiting factor.

John Scalzi (b. 1969) American writer
Lock In (2014)
Added on 4-Oct-16 | Last updated 4-Oct-16
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This planet has — or rather had — a problem, which was this: most of the people living on it were unhappy for pretty much all of the time. Many solutions were suggested for this problem, but most of these were largely concerned with the movement of small green pieces of paper, which was odd because on the whole it wasn’t the small green pieces of paper that were unhappy.

Douglas Adams (1952-2001) English writer
The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Preface (1979)
Added on 8-Aug-16 | Last updated 8-Aug-16
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Money dishonestly acquired is never worth its cost, while a good conscience never costs as much as it is worth.

Jean-Antoine Petit-Senn (1792-1870) French-Swiss poet
Maxims and Ethical Sentences
Added on 26-Jul-16 | Last updated 26-Jul-16
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Of great riches there is no real use, except it be in the distribution; the rest is but conceit.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Added on 9-Jun-16 | Last updated 9-Jun-16
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I cannot call riches better than the baggage of virtue. The Roman word is better, impedimenta. For as the baggage is to an army, so are riches to virtue. It cannot be spared or left behind, but it hindereth the march: yea, and the care of it, sometimes, loseth the victory.

Bacon - loseth the victory - wist_info quote

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Added on 2-Jun-16 | Last updated 2-Jun-16
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To have money is a feare, not to have it a griefe.

George Herbert (1593-1633) Welsh priest, orator, poet.
Jacula Prudentum (1640)
Added on 24-Mar-16 | Last updated 18-Mar-16
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“Money does not bring happiness” — only the wherewithal, perhaps, to endure its absence.

Ehrenreich - money happiness - wist_info quote

Barbara Ehrenreich (b. 1941) American feminist, journalist, political activist
Fear of Falling: The Inner Life of the Middle Class, ch. 6 (1990)
Added on 15-Jan-16 | Last updated 1-Jun-16
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SYDNEY: You don’t seem to realize that a poor person who is unhappy is in a better position than a rich person who is unhappy. Because the poor person has hope. He thinks money would help.

Jean Kerr (1922-2003) American author and playwright [b. Bridget Jean Collins]
Poor Richard, Act 1 (1965)
Added on 12-Oct-15 | Last updated 12-Oct-15
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Money can’t buy you friends, but you get a better class of enemy.

Terence Alan "Spike" Milligan (1918-2002) Anglo-Irish comedian, writer, actor
(Attributed)
Added on 30-Jul-15 | Last updated 30-Jul-15
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Money can’t buy you happiness, but it does bring you a more pleasant form of misery.

Terence Alan "Spike" Milligan (1918-2002) Anglo-Irish comedian, writer, actor
(Attributed)
Added on 23-Jul-15 | Last updated 23-Jul-15
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Managers who don’t know how to measure what they want settle for wanting what they can measure. For example, those who want a high quality of work life but don’t know how to measure it, often settle for wanting a high standard of living because they can measure it.

Russell L. Ackoff (1919-2009) American organizational theorist, consultant, management scientist
A little book of f-laws: 13 common sins of management (2006)
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One of the oldest Russian proverbs remains as inexorably true in modern America: “No one is hanged who has money in his pocket.” Or, one might say, capital punishment is only for those without capital.

Sydney J. Harris (1917-1986) Anglo-American columnist, journalist, author
Syndicated column, Chicago Daily News (Apr 1971)
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MAL: How come you didn’t turn on me, Jayne?
JAYNE: Money wasn’t good enough.
MAL: What happens when it is?
JAYNE: Well, that’ll be an interesting day.
MAL: I imagine it will.

Joss Whedon (b. 1964) American screenwriter, author, producer [Joseph Hill Whedon]
Firefly, 1×01 “Serenity” (pilot) (20 Dec 2002)
Added on 12-Mar-15 | Last updated 12-Mar-15
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It’s all about money, not freedom, y’all, okay? Nothing to do with fuckin’ freedom. If you think you’re free, try going somewhere without fucking money, okay?

Bill Hicks (1961-1994) American stand-up comedian, social critic, satirist, musician [William Melvin "Bill" Hicks]
In American: The Bill Hicks Story (2009)
Added on 6-Feb-15 | Last updated 6-Feb-15
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It is a basic economic proposition that as long as a relatively few men own the railroads, the telegraph, the telephone, own the oil fields and the gas fields and the steel mills and the sugar refineries and the leather tanneries — own, in short, the sources and means of life — they will corrupt our politics, they will enslave the working class, they will impoverish and debase society, they will do all things that are needful to perpetuate their power as the economic masters and the political rulers of the people.

Eugene V. Debs (1855-1926) American union leader, activist, socialist, politician
“The Issue,” Speech, Girard, Kansas (23 May 1908)
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Added on 28-Jan-15 | Last updated 28-Jan-15
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Poor and free rather than rich and enslaved. Of course, men want to be both rich and free, and this is what leads them at times to be poor and enslaved.

[Pauvre et libre plutôt que riche et asservi. Bien entendu les hommes veulent être et riches et libres et c’est ce qui les conduit quelquefois à être pauvres et esclaves.]

Albert Camus (1913-1960) Algerian-French novelist, essayist, playwright
Notebooks (1942-1951)
Added on 17-Nov-14 | Last updated 17-Nov-14
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One cause of this situation is found in our relationship with money, since we calmly accept its dominion over ourselves and our societies. The current financial crisis can make us overlook the fact that it originated in a profound human crisis: the denial of the primacy of the human person! We have created new idols. The worship of the ancient golden calf has returned in a new and ruthless guise in the idolatry of money and the dictatorship of an impersonal economy lacking a truly human purpose. The worldwide crisis affecting finance and the economy lays bare their imbalances and, above all, their lack of real concern for human beings; man is reduced to one of his needs alone: consumption.

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 55 (24 Nov 2013)
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Added on 23-Jul-14 | Last updated 23-Jul-14
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Behind this attitude lurks a rejection of ethics and a rejection of God. Ethics has come to be viewed with a certain scornful derision. It is seen as counterproductive, too human, because it makes money and power relative. It is felt to be a threat, since it condemns the manipulation and debasement of the person. In effect, ethics leads to a God who calls for a committed response which is outside the categories of the marketplace. When these latter are absolutized, God can only be seen as uncontrollable, unmanageable, even dangerous, since he calls human beings to their full realization and to freedom from all forms of enslavement. Ethics — a non-ideological ethics — would make it possible to bring about balance and a more humane social order. With this in mind, I encourage financial experts and political leaders to ponder the words of one of the sages of antiquity: “Not to share one’s wealth with the poor is to steal from them and to take away their livelihood. It is not our own goods which we hold, but theirs.”

Francis I (b. 1936) Argentinian Catholic Pope (2013- ) [b. Jorge Mario Bergoglio]
Evangelii Gaudium, sec. 57 (24 Nov 2013)
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Quoting St. John Chrysostom, De Lazaro Concio, II, 6
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A miser grows rich by seeming poor; an extravagant man grows poor by seeming rich.

William Shenstone (1714-1763) English poet
“Of Men and Manners,” sec. 86, Men and Manners (1804)
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Rich men without convictions are more dangerous in modern society than poor women without chastity.

George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) British playwright and critic
Plays Unpleasant, Preface (1898)
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You make a living by what you earn, you make a life by what you give.

Winston Churchill (1874-1965) British statesman and author
(Spurious)

Frequently attributed to Churchill, but not found in any of his writings or records of his spoken words by the Churchill Centre.
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The darkest day in any man’s earthly career is that wherein he first fancies there is some easier way of gaining a dollar than by squarely earning it.

Horace Greeley (1881-1872) American newspaper editor, reformer, politician
(Attributed)

In Friends' Intelligencer (31 Aug 1867)
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What the object of senile avarice may be I cannot conceive. For can there be anything more absurd than to seek more journey money, the less there remains of the journey?

Marcus Tullius Cicero (106-43 BC) Roman orator, statesman, philosopher
“On Old Age” [tr. Shuckburgh (1909)]

Alt. trans.: "Advice in old age is foolish; for what can be more absurd than to increase our provisions for the road the nearer we approach to our journey's end."
Added on 21-Apr-14 | Last updated 13-Jul-17
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We may see the small value God has for riches by the people he gives them to.

Alexander Pope (1688-1744) English poet
“Thoughts on Various Subjects.” Miscellenies in Prose and Verse [pub. with Jonathan Swift], Vol. 2 (1727)

May be quoting his friend, Dr. John Arbuthnot.
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The wise man does not deem himself undeserving of any of the gifts of Fortune. He does not love riches, but he would rather have them; he does not admit them to his heart, but to his house, and he does not reject the riches he has, but he keeps them and wishes them to supply ampler material for exercising his virtue.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On the Happy Life” [De Vita Beata]“, 21.4 [tr. Basore (1932)]
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In my eyes riches have a certain place, in yours they have the highest; in fine, I own my riches, yours own you.

Seneca the Younger (c. 4 BC-AD 65) Roman statesman, philosopher, playwright [Lucius Annaeus Seneca]
Moral Essays, “On the Happy Life” [De Vita Beata]“, 22.5 [tr. Basore (1932)]
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It is the wretchedness of being rich that you have to live with rich people.

Logan Pearsall Smith (1865-1946) American-English essayist, editor, anthologist
Afterthoughts, ch. 4 (1931)
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What do you think God gave you more wealth than is requisite to satisfy your rational wants for, when you look around and see how many are in absolute need of that which you do not need? Can you not take the hint?

Josiah Gilbert Holland (1819-1881) American novelist, poet, editor [pseud. Timothy Titcomb]
(Attributed)

Quoted in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)
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Riches rather enlarge than satisfy Appetites.

Thomas Fuller (1654-1734) English writer, physician
Gnomologia, #4048 (1732)
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The insolence of wealth will creep out.

Samuel Johnson (1709-1784) English writer, lexicographer, critic
Comment (18 Apr 1778)

In James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson (1791)
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There is one thing that Christ and all the Christian saints have said with a sort of savage monotony. They have said simply that to be rich is to be in peculiar danger of moral wreck. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to kill the rich as violators of definable justice. It is not demonstrably un-Christian to crown the rich as convenient rulers of society. It is not certainly un-Christian to rebel against the rich or to submit to the rich. But it is quite certainly un-Christian to trust the rich, to regard the rich as more morally safe than the poor.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
Orthodoxy, ch. 7 “The Eternal Revolution” (1908)
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You will hear everlastingly, in all discussions about newspapers, companies, aristocracies, or party politics, this argument that the rich man cannot be bribed. The fact is, of course, that the rich man is bribed; he has been bribed already. That is why he is a rich man.

Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936) English journalist and writer
Orthodoxy, ch. 7 “The Eternal Revolution” (1908)
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Virtue has never been as respectable as money.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
Innocents Abroad, ch. 55 (1869)
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Riches are a good handmaid, but the worst mistress.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
De Augmentis Scientiarum [Advancement of Learning], Book 6, ch. 3, Antitheses #6 “Riches” (1605)
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Most people imagine that the rich are in heaven, but, as a rule, it is only a gilded hell. There is not a man in the city of New York with genius enough, with brains enough, to own five millions of dollars. Why? The money will own him. He becomes the key to a safe. That money will get him up at daylight; that money will separate him from his friends; that money will fill his heart with fear; that money will rob his days of sunshine and his nights of pleasant dreams. He cannot own it. He becomes the property of that money. And he goes right on making more. What for? He does not know. It becomes a kind of insanity. No one is happier in a palace than in a cabin.

Robert Green Ingersoll (1833-1899) American lawyer, agnostic, orator
“A Lay Sermon” (1886)
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The modern conservative is not even especially modern. He is engaged, on the contrary, in one of man’s oldest, best financed, most applauded, and, on the whole, least successful exercises in moral philosophy. That is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor. The man who has struck it rich in minerals, oil, or other bounties of nature is found explaining the debilitating effect of unearned income from the state. The corporate executive who is a superlative success as an organization man weighs in on the evils of bureaucracy. Federal aid to education is feared by those who live in suburbs that could easily forgo this danger, and by people whose children are in public schools. Socialized medicine is condemned by men emerging from Walter Reed Hospital. Social Security is viewed with alarm by those who have the comfortable cushion of an inherited income. Those who are immediately threatened by public efforts to meet their needs — whether widows, small farmers, hospitalized veterans, or the unemployed — are almost always oblivious to the danger.

Galbraith - selfishness - wist_info

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
“Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National Policy Committee on Pockets of Poverty (13 Dec 1963)

Galbraith used variations on this quote over the years.
  • The above quotation was from a speech given, that was then entered into the Congressional Record, Vol. 109, Senate (18 Dec 1963).
  • This material was reworked into an article "Let us begin: An invitation to action on poverty," in Harper's (March 1964), which was in turn again entered into the Congressional Record, Vol. 110 (1964).
  • One of the last is most often cited: "The modern conservative is engaged in one of man’s oldest exercises in moral philosophy, that is the search for a superior moral justification for selfishness. It is an exercise which always involves a certain number of internal contradictions and even a few absurdities. The conspicuously wealthy turn up urging the character-building value of privation for the poor." ["Stop the Madness," Interview with Rupert Cornwell, Toronto Globe and Mail (6 Jul 2002)]
Added on 19-May-09 | Last updated 20-Nov-15
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There is far too much law for those who can afford it and far too little for those who cannot.

Derek Bok (b. 1930) American lawyer, educator
Report to Harvard Board of Overseers (21 Apr 1983)
Added on 1-Oct-08 | Last updated 20-Aug-15
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The holy passion of friendship is so sweet and steady and loyal and enduring in nature that it will last through a whole lifetime, if not asked to lend money.

Mark Twain (1835-1910) American writer [pseud. of Samuel Clemens]
The Tragedy of Pudd’nhead Wilson, ch. 8, epigraph (1894)
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Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 26-Jan-19
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A billion here, a billion there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

Everett Dirksen (1896-1969) American politician
(Attributed)

Frequently attributed to Dirksen, but not found in his writings or speeches. An anonymous reference is made in "Topics of the Times," New York Times (10 Jan 1938): "Well, now, about this new budget. It's a billion here and a billion there, and by and by it begins to mount up into money."
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 14-Jul-16
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Debt is the slavery of the free.

Publilius Syrus (d. 42 BC) Assyrian slave, writer, philosopher [less correctly Publius Syrus]
Sententiae [Moral Sayings]
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 15-Feb-17
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All I ask is a chance to prove that money can’t make me happy.

Ashleigh Brilliant (b. 1933) Anglo-American writer, epigramist, cartoonist
Pot-Shots, #0398
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Seek not proud riches, but such as thou mayest get justly, use soberly, distribute cheerfully, and leave contentedly.

Francis Bacon (1561-1626) English philosopher, scientist, author, statesman
“Of Riches,” Essays, No. 34 (1625)
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Also attributed to Benjamin Franklin.

Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 16-May-16
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