Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.
This and variants are attributed to Bismarck (no earlier than the 1930s), as well as to Kaiser Wilhelm, Benjamin Disraeli, and French statesman Honoré Gabriel de Riqueti. Variations on this theme were popular in late 19th Century America.
The precise wording above is attributed to Vermont lawyer and author John Godfrey Saxe, in University Chronicle, University of Michigan (27 Mar 1869).
Variants (usually cited to Bismarck):
- "If you like laws and sausages, you should never watch either one being made."
- "Laws are like sausages — it is best not to see them being made."
- "Laws are like sausages. It is better not to see them being made."
- "Laws are like sausages. You should never see them made."
- "Laws are like sausages. You should never watch them being made."
- "Law and sausage are two things you do not want to see being made."
- "No one should see how laws or sausages are made."
- "To retain respect for sausages and laws, one must not watch them in the making."
- "The making of laws like the making of sausages, is not a pretty sight."
- "Je weniger die Leute darüber wissen, wie Würste und Gesetze gemacht werden, desto besser schlafen sie nachts." [The less the people know about how sausages and laws are made, the better they sleep in the night.]
Note not all quotations have been tagged, so Search may find additional quotes on this topic.
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Even while I protest the assembly-line production of our food, our songs, our language, and eventually our souls, I know that it was a rare home that baked good bread in the old days. Mother’s cooking was with rare exceptions poor, that good unpasteurized milk touched only by flies and bits of manure crawled with bacteria, the healthy old-time life was riddled with aches, sudden death from unknown causes, and that sweet local speech I mourn was the child of illiteracy and ignorance. It is the nature of a man as he grows older, a small bridge in time, to protest against change, particularly change for the better.
Travels With Charley: In Search of America, Part 2 (1962)
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