Quotes Uncovered: Who Wanted the Least Government?

Quotes Uncovered

75 ThumbnailHere are more quote authors and origins Shapiro’s tracked down recently.

Ten weeks ago, I invited readers to submit quotations for which they wanted me to try to trace the origins, using The Yale Book of Quotations and more recent research by me. Scores of people have responded via comments or e-mails. I am responding as best I can, a couple per week.

James asked:

I’d like to know who originally said, “That government is best which governs least.” When trying to find the origin, I’ve run across John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and Thomas Paine. Who actually said this?

John L. O’Sullivan, the journalist and diplomat who also coined the phrase “manifest destiny,” is quoted by The Yale Book of Quotations as writing “The best government is that which governs least” in the United States Magazine and Democratic Review, October 1, 1837. Earlier, Jonathan Shipley wrote in 1773 that “The true art of government consist in not governing too much.”

fretal asked:

I would love to know the original source of this one: “A mathematician is a device for turning coffee into theorems.” I’ve seen it attributed most often to Paul Erdös or Alfred Renyi, [and] occasionally to other famous mathematicians/scientists.

The Yale Book of Quotations has the following:

“A mathematician is a machine for turning coffee into theorems.” Paul Erdös, Quoted in Atlantic, November 1987. Sometimes credited to other mathematicians before Erdös, such as Paul Turan or Alfred Renyi.

Do any readers have any other quotations whose origins they would like me to attempt to trace?

Sean Samis

AJ Venter,

I realized my quote was not from Clarke. but thanks anyway.

The quote you asked about is from Ben Franklin.

"They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety."
– in Pennsylvania Assembly: Reply to the Governor, November 11, 1755.—The Papers of Benjamin Franklin, ed. Leonard W. Labaree, vol. 6, p. 242 (1963)
– some sources date it to 1759 ; Historical Review of Pennsylvania
– This sentence was much used in the Revolutionary period. It occurs even so early as November, 1755, in an answer by the Assembly of Pennsylvania to the Governor, and forms the motto of Franklin's “Historical Review,” 1759, appearing also in the body of the work—Frothingham: Rise of the Republic of the United States, p. 413.


Who said “Put all of your eggs in one basket, and watch that basket”

I have seen it attributed to mark twain and andrew carnegie


Regarding the Turtles song 'Happy Together', I've heard two versions, one with the phrase "toss the dice", and the other with "cut the cards".
I can't find references to the "cut the cards" version. Does anyone know anything about this?

G Kooch

Of course Lao-Tzu's philosophy of minimalist government intervention is purely compatible with Libertarianism. This is self evident to anyone within a few hours of reading his texts. In fact, a study of his 100 top quotes would easily uncover the fact that he argues less government acts equals happier people, and that the people's happiness is paramount in importance, not the state. There is a Mises lectrure on the ancients that is simply brilliant (and free). Search the Mises blog site for a bunch of high quality information on ancient philosophers and economists...Lao Tzu being more the former.