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Why should you give a fig about liberty quotes?
Have you ever spoken with someone who has just discovered a new television show, and they’re going absolutely bananas about how you need to watch it too? “Oh, I just know you’re going to love The Foolish Man and the German Shepherd Dog,” they’ll coo. “I know the title sounds a little weird, but it stars an actor I love, and there’s this one episode where the German Shepherd Dog gets jam on his necktie before a big job interview that will split you in half with laughter!” And you kind of have to smile and promise you’ll watch it, and ask them to please stop touching you.
Libertarians are the same way about liberty. “Don’t you love liberty?” they will ask you. “Well, how would you like more liberty? Imagine how much more liberty everyone could have if we only did X, Y and Z! I love liberty so much I’d squirt it on my waffles every morning if only it were viscous instead of an abstract concept!”
But in the libertarian’s defense, liberty really is that good.
To be sure, no libertarian who hasn’t had key parts of their brain deactivated with giant magnets will argue that liberty should extend to harming others. “My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins” is one of the foundational rules of libertarianism. No, liberty is about living your life the way you would like to.
Liberty can be very productive. Write a book that challenges the status quo effectively enough and you can compel people to voluntarily change their lives for the better. Explore a taboo theme in a great movie, and you won’t have to worry about puritans manifesting themselves outside of your house in order to burn it down. Challenge an aspiring tyrant’s claims and woo away their supporters – you may just prevent an atrocity.
Liberty can also be thoroughly unproductive. You may only wish to wear khaki shorts on the beach, drink cinnamon schnapps, and play terrible ukulele songs. You will torture fellow beachgoers’ ears by doing this and possibly bother some seagulls, but you will be happy. And free. And hungover throughout half of your lifetime, in all fairness, but the other half should be pleasant enough.
Never accept limits to your liberty in consideration of greater protection. The people offering you that protection are by far the most dangerous thing you will ever encounter. And although liberty must be earned by the hardest of people making the greatest of sacrifices, it is as vulnerable as a Fabergé egg in a daycare for children with inner ear infections. Forfeit even the tiniest little piece of it, and the despots, the bureaucrats, and the sadists who infest government will inevitably clamor for the next. And the next. And the next.
Give a mouse a cookie and he will ask for a glass of milk. With that, here are some of our favorite quotes about liberty.
Quotes About Liberty
“Give me liberty or give me death!”
– Patrick Henry, Speech to the Second Virginia Convention, March 23, 1775
“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Silence Dogood, the Busy‑Body, and Early Writings
“This is my doctrine: Give every other human being every right you claim for yourself.”
– Robert G. Ingersoll, The Liberty Of Man, Woman And Child
“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom, must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”
– Thomas Paine, The Crisis, no. 4, September 11, 1777
“Liberty means responsibility. That is why most men dread it.”
– George Bernard Shaw, Man and Superman
“Without Freedom of Thought, there can be no such Thing as Wisdom; and no such Thing as publick Liberty, without Freedom of Speech; which is the Right of every Man, as far as by it, he does not hurt or controul the Right of another: And this is the only Check it ought to suffer, and the only Bounds it ought to know.”
– Benjamin Franklin, The New-England Courant, July 9, 1722
“Every friend of freedom, and I know you are one, must be as revolted as I am by the prospect of turning the United States into an armed camp, by the vision of jails filled with casual drug users and of an army of enforcers empowered to invade the liberty of citizens on slight evidence.”
– Milton Friedman, An Open Letter To Bill Bennett
“The ideal Government of all reflective men, from Aristotle onward, is one which lets the individual alone – one which barely escapes being no government at all.”
– H. L. Mencken, A Mencken Chrestomathy
“Whenever a separation is made between liberty and justice, neither, in my opinion, is safe.”
– Edmund Burke, Letter to M. de Menonville, 1789
“The idea of restraining the legislative authority, in the means for providing for the national defence, is one of those refinements, which owe their origin to a zeal for liberty more ardent than enlightened.”
– Alexander Hamilton, The Federalist Papers
“If ye love wealth better than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, go home from us in peace. We ask not your counsels or arms. Crouch down and lick the hands which feed you. May your chains set lightly upon you, and may posterity forget that ye were our countrymen.”
– Samuel Adams
“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of the government. The history of liberty is a history of resistance. The history of liberty is a history of the limitation of governmental power, not the increase of it.
– Woodrow Wilson, Address to the New York Press Club, September 9, 1912
“In the early ages of the world, according to the scripture chronology, there were no kings; the consequence of which was there were no wars; it is the pride of kings which throws mankind into confusion.”
– Thomas Paine, Common Sense
“Even despotism does not produce its worst effects, so long as individuality exists under it; and whatever crushes individuality is despotism, by whatever name it may be called, and whether it professes to be enforcing the will of God or the injunctions of men.”
– John Stuart Mill, On Liberty
“Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when the government’s purposes are beneficent. Men born to freedom are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well-meaning but without understanding.”
– Louis D. Brandeis, Olmstead v. U.S., 277 U.S. 438 (1928) (dissenting)
“Doesn’t matter what the press says. Doesn’t matter what the politicians or the mobs say. Doesn’t matter if the whole country decides that something wrong is something right. This nation was founded on one principle above all else: The requirement that we stand up for what we believe, no matter the odds or the consequences. When the mob and the press and the whole world tell you to move, your job is to plant yourself like a tree beside the river of truth, and tell the whole world – ‘No, YOU move.’”
– Captain America, The Amazing Spider-Man: Civil War
“Every law that curbs my basic human freedom; every lie about the things I care for; every crime committed against me by their politics; that what’s makes me get up and hound these *******, and I’ll do that until the day I die … or until my brain dries up or something.”
– Spider Jerusalem, Transmetropolitan
And I keep on fighting for the things I want
Though I know that when you’re dead you can’t
I’d rather be a free man in my grave
Than living as a puppet or a slave
– Jimmy Cliff, “The Harder They Come”
Famous Liberty Quotes
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
– The US Declaration of Independence
“It is the common fate of the indolent to see their rights become a prey to the active. The condition upon which God hath given liberty to man is eternal vigilance.”
– John Philpot Curran
“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.”
– Napoleon Bonaparte
“I would die to preserve the law upon a solid foundation; but take away liberty, and the foundation is destroyed.”
– Alexander Hamilton, A Full Vindication of the Measures of Congress, December 15, 1774
“They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”
– Benjamin Franklin, Memoirs of the Life and Writings of Benjamin Franklin
“Liberty, once lost, is lost forever.”
– John Adams, Letter to Abigail Adams, July 17, 1775
“Don’t interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.”
– Abraham Lincoln, Speech at Kalamazoo, Michigan, August 27th, 1856
“I would rather be exposed to the inconveniences attending too much liberty than to those attending too small a degree of it.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to Archibald Stuart, December 23, 1971
“For to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”
– Nelson Mandela
“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn’t pass it on to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children what it was once like in the United States where men were free.”
– Ronald Reagan, Encroaching Control, March 30, 1961
“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it’s natural manure.”
– Thomas Jefferson, Letter to William Stephens Smith, November 13,1787
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