The Words You Cite, The Words You Write

John Mariotti is an experienced author and former senior executive. His columns appear weekly on The Brenner Brief on Wednesdays.

John Mariotti is an experienced author and former senior executive. His columns appear weekly on The Brenner Brief on Wednesdays.

It was just about a year ago that Dave Lukas and I were right in the middle of writing Hope is NOT a Strategy: Leadership Lessons from the Obama Presidency. Of course we only had Barack Obama’s first term to work with, and not even that entire one. Still, it was easy to find a number of situations where we believed Obama’s leadership shortcomings led to trouble of various kinds.

I suspect we will continue to find more such errors, since we disagree with Obama ideologically, and since the results he has been getting — except for campaigning and being reelected — have been either poor, mediocre or non-existent. One of the tasks I undertook for the creation of the book was to select a series of quotes from others that reinforced what we were writing about, and then insert those at the end of chapters as sort of  “super-punctuation” to drive home the point.

As I read through them, I realized that they might be worthy of sharing again, in a different place. They fit so well in the book, that I hope you’ll get a copy and see the context. Whether you do or not, I’m going to share some of them with you, since I believe the wisdom of many people, over many years cannot — should not — be ignored.

This first one was not wholly in the book. I just chose the short middle sentence.  However, it is well worth being repeated here. It has been circulating about the Internet for some time, often attributed to Abe Lincoln.

You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for, that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.     ~ Dr. Adrian Rogers

As I became intrigued with the ideology of conservatism and limited government, I decided to arrange these quotes in chronological order.  This practice of Obama’s certainly goes much further back in time than I tracked, and some believe the heart of it is based on socialism, Marxism or even communism.  I’m not going to tackle that big issue here.  Just read ahead and see how prophetic many of these quotes are.

  • “In general, the art of government consists of taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.”  — Voltaire, 1764
  • “Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else.” —Frederic Bastiat, French economist, 1801-1850
  • “I contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle.” — Winston Churchill
  • “A government which robs Peter to pay Paul can always depend on the support of Paul.”  — George Bernard Shaw
  • “A liberal is someone who feels a great debt to his fellow man, which debt he proposes to pay off with your money.” — G. Gordon Liddy
  • “Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.” — James Bovard, Civil Libertarian, 1994

The next group deals with how the government takes our hard earned wealth and spends it— sometimes wisely, and at other times, foolishly.  One of my favorite personal lines is this:  “Government was intended to work for the people, not vice versa.”

Whether it is foreign aid or taxes or simply how the government wastes our hard earned money, there is not doubt that Barack Obama’s presiding over consecutive trillion dollar deficits en route to more than $16 trillion in debt reinforces most of what these humorists and political figures had to say.

  • Foreign aid might be defined as a transfer of money from poor people in rich countries to rich people in poor countries.”  —Douglas Casey, Classmate of Bill Clinton at Georgetown University
  • “Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases:  If it moves, tax it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.” —Ronald Reagan, 1986
  • “Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” —P.J. O’Rourke
  • “Talk is cheap…except when Congress does It.” —Cullen Hightower
  • “The only difference between a tax man and a taxidermist is that the taxidermist leaves the skin.”  —Mark Twain
  • “The government is like a baby’s alimentary canal, with a happy appetite at one end and no responsibility at the other.”  —Ronald Reagan
  • “If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free!” —P. J. O’Rourke

I’d like to close with a quote that has been widely attributed to Thomas Jefferson.  Lately there has been publicity about the fact that he may not have said everything that has been attributed to him.  I think this one is widely enough used and documented — and consistent with his ideology — that he either said it, or would have, given the opportunity.

“A government big enough to give you everything you want, is strong enough to take everything you have.” —Thomas Jefferson

In closing, it is perhaps the most frightening of all of the prophetic quotes included here.  Why?  Because it is coming to pass, before our very eyes, unless or until we can do something about it.  Can we?  Will we?  We’d better, if we care about America’s future.


  1. This really makes you think! I’m going to pass this on.

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