Quotations about   policy

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Such closet politicians never fail to assign the deepest motives for the most trifling actions; instead of often ascribing the greatest actions to the most trifling causes, in which they would be much seldomer mistaken. They read and write of kings, heroes, and statesmen, as never do anything but upon the deepest principles of sound policy. But those who see and observe kings, heroes, and statesmen, discover that they have headaches, indigestions, humors, and passions, just like other people; every one of which, in their turns, determine their wills, in defiance of their reason.

Lord Chesterfield (1694-1773) English statesman, wit [Philip Dormer Stanhope]
Letter to his son (5 Dec 1749)
Added on 25-Mar-21 | Last updated 25-Mar-21
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The worst error a president can make is to assume the automatic implementation of his own decisions. In certain respects, having able subordinates aggravates that problem, since strong personalities tend to have strong ideas of their own. Civil government operates by consent, not by command; the President’s task, even within his own branch of government, is not to order but to lead.

Arthur M. Schlesinger, Jr. (1917-2007) American historian, author, social critic
The Age of Roosevelt: The Coming of the New Deal, ch. 33, sec. 3 (1959)
Added on 28-May-20 | Last updated 28-May-20
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Policies are judged by their consequences but crusades are judged by how good they make the crusaders feel.

Thomas Sowell (b. 1930) American economist and political commentator
Compassion vs. Guilt, and Other Essays (1987)
Added on 18-May-20 | Last updated 18-May-20
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BETTY OLDHAM: Look, Sir Humphrey, whatever we ask the Minister, he says is an administrative question for you, and whatever we ask you, you say is a policy question for the Minister. How do you suggest we find out what is going on?

SIR HUMPHREY: Yes, yes, yes, I do see that there is a real dilemma here. In that, while it has been government policy to regard policy as a responsibility of Ministers and administration as a responsibility of Officials, the questions of administrative policy can cause confusion between the policy of administration and the administration of policy, especially when responsibility for the administration of the policy of administration conflicts, or overlaps with, responsibility for the policy of the administration of policy.

BETTY OLDHAM: Well, that’s a load of meaningless drivel. Isn’t it?

SIR HUMPHREY: It’s not for me to comment on government policy. You must ask the Minister.

Jonathan Lynn (b. 1943) English actor, comedy writer, director
Yes Minister, S2E7 “A Question of Loyalty” (9 Apr 1981) [with Anthony Jay]
Added on 10-Mar-20 | Last updated 10-Mar-20
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We ought to consider what is the end of government before we determine which is the best form. Upon this point all speculative politicians will agree that the happiness of society is the end of government, as all divines and moral philosophers will agree that the happiness of the individual is the end of man. From this principle it will follow that the form of government which communicates ease, comfort, security, or, in one word, happiness, to the greatest number of persons, and in the greatest degree, is the best.

John Adams (1735-1826) American lawyer, Founding Father, statesman, US President (1797-1801)
“Thoughts on Government,” letter to George Wythe (Jan 1776)
Added on 8-Feb-17 | Last updated 8-Feb-17
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And from your policy do not wholly banish fear,
For what man living, freed from fear, will still be just?


Aeschylus (525-456 BC) Greek dramatist (Æschylus)
The Eumenides
Added on 3-Nov-16 | Last updated 3-Nov-16
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To live bravely by convictions from which the free peoples of the world can take heart, the American people must put their faith in long-range policies — political, economic, and military — programs that will not be heated and cooled with the brightening and waning of tensions. The United States has matured to world leadership; it is time we steered by the stars, not by the lights of each passing ship.

Omar Bradley (1893-1981) American general
Speech, Memorial Day, Longmeadow, Mass. (31 May 1948)
Added on 4-Feb-16 | Last updated 4-Feb-16
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War is not violence and killing, pure and simple; war is controlled violence, for a purpose. The purpose of war is to support your government’s decisions by force. The purpose is never to kill the enemy just to be killing him — but to make him do what you want him to do. Not killing — but controlled and purposeful violence.

Robert A. Heinlein (1907-1988) American writer
Starship Troopers, ch. 5 [Zim] (1959)
Added on 8-Sep-15 | Last updated 8-Sep-15
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Despite considerable propaganda to the contrary, the greatest need of the moment is not a decision to be tender to the well-to-do. Their situation is not so desperate as popularly represented. Also one makes an economy work not by rewarding the rich but by rewarding all who contribute to its success.

John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-2006) Canadian-American economist, diplomat, author
“Wealth and Poverty,” speech, National Policy Committee on Pockets of Poverty (13 Dec 1963)
Added on 31-Aug-15 | Last updated 31-Aug-15
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Whenever a single definite object is made the supreme end of the State, be it the advantage of a class, the safety of the power of the country, the greatest happiness of the greatest number, or the support of any speculative idea, the State becomes for the time inevitably absolute. Liberty alone demands for its realisation the limitation of the public authority, for liberty is the only object which benefits all alike, and provokes no sincere opposition.

John Dalberg, Lord Acton (1834-1902) British historian
“Nationality,” Home and Foreign Review (Jul 1862)
Added on 7-Jan-14 | Last updated 12-Feb-20
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If there is distrust out there — and there is — perhaps it is because there is so much partisan jockeying for advantage at the expense of public policy. At times it feels as if American politics consists largely of candidates without ideas, hiring consultants without convictions, to stage campaigns without content. Increasingly the result is elections without voters.

Gerald R. Ford (1913-2006) US President, (1974-77) [b. Leslie Lynch King, Jr.]
Speech, Profiles in Courage Award Acceptance, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library (2001)
Added on 3-Jan-14 | Last updated 2-Jun-16
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War is not merely a political act but a real political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, a carrying out of the same by other means.

[Der Krieg ist nichts anderes als die Fortsetzung der Politik mit anderen Mitteln.]

Karl von Clausewitz (1780-1831) Prussian soldier, historian, military theorist
On War [Vom Kriege], Book 1, ch. 1, sec. 24 (1832) [tr. Jolles (1943)]

Alt. trans.:
  • "War is not merely a political act, but also a real political instrument, a continuation of political commerce, a carrying out of the same by other means." [tr. Graham (1873)]
  • "War is not merely an act of policy but a true political instrument, a continuation of political intercourse, carried on with other means." [tr. Howard and Paret (1976)]
  • Often quoted or paraphrased using "a continuation of policy ....".
Added on 19-Mar-08 | Last updated 3-Apr-20
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Justice is itself the great standing policy of civil society; and any eminent departure from it, under any circumstances, lies under the suspicion of being no policy at all.

Edmund Burke (1729-1797) Anglo-Irish statesman, orator, philosopher
“Reflections on the Revolution in France” (1790)
Added on 27-Nov-07 | Last updated 8-Dec-20
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To those peoples in the huts and villages of half the globe struggling to break the bonds of mass misery, we pledge our best efforts to help them help themselves, for whatever period is required — not because the communists may be doing it, not because we seek their votes, but because it is right. If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich.

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963) US President (1961-63)
Inaugural Address (20 Jan 1961)
Added on 1-Feb-04 | Last updated 29-Mar-17
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