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Who Said What About Liberty? (a quiz)

The literature of liberty offers double pleasure. You can often enjoy both dynamic ideas and great eloquence.

Just for fun, see if you can match the following unforgettable quotations with their authors. The quotations are representative views of many of the greatest thinkers in the history of liberty:

A. Lord Acton

B. Benjamin Franklin

C. Milton Friedman

D. Legendre and Jacques C.M. Vincent de Gournay

E. F. A. Hayek

F. Henry Hazlitt

G. Thomas Jefferson

H. John Locke

I. Ludwig von Mises

J. Albert Jay Nock

K. P.J. O’Rourke

L. James Otis

M. Thomas Paine

N. Ayn Rand

O. Leonard E. Read

P. Murray N. Rothbard

Q. Adam Smith

R. Thomas Sowell

S. Mark Twain

T. Mary Wollstonecraft

1. Whenever the Legislators endeavor to take away, and destroy the Property of the People, or to reduce them to Slavery under Arbitrary Power, they put themselves into a state of War with the People, who are thereupon absolved from any farther Obedience. . . .

2. Laissez faire, laissez passer.

3. Taxation without representation is tyranny.

4. Society in every state is a blessing, but Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one.

5. The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is its natural manure.

6. Liberty is the mother of virtue, and if women be, by their very constitution, slaves, and not allowed to breathe the sharp invigorating air of freedom, they must ever languish like exotics, and be reckoned beautiful flaws of nature.

7. The State, both in its genesis and by its primary intention, is purely anti-social. It is not based on the idea of natural rights, but on the idea that the individual has no rights except those that the State may provisionally grant him. It has always made justice costly and difficult of access, and has invariably held itself above justice and common morality whenever it could advantage itself by so doing.

8. God helps them that helps themselves.

9. It is the highest impertinence and presumption, therefore, in kings and ministers to pretend to watch over the economy of private people, and to restrain their expense. . . . They are themselves always, and without any exception, the greatest spendthrifts in the society.

10. Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

11. Nothing so needs reforming as other people’s habits.

12. There’s no such thing as a free lunch.

13. The system of private property is the most important guaranty of freedom, not only for those who own property, but scarcely less for those who do not.

14. Capitalism is the only system that can be defended and validated by reason.

15. In the political democracy only the votes cast for the majority candidate or the majority plan are effective in shaping the course of affairs. The votes polled by the minority do not directly influence policies. But on the market no vote is cast in vain. Every penny spent has the power to work upon the production processes. The publishers cater not only to the majority by publishing detective stories, but also to the minority reading lyrical poetry and philosophical tracts. The bakeries bake bread not only for healthy people, but also for the sick on special diets. . . . The rich cast more votes than the poorer citizens. But this inequality is itself the outcome of a previous voting process. To be rich, in a market economy, is the outcome of success in filling best the demands of the consumers.

16. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

17. So-called ‘social justice’ should never be confused with humanitarianism. From a humanitarian viewpoint, it is infinitely more important to have a prosperous economy, in which the great masses of the people are beyond the reach of hunger and malnutrition, and beyond the reach of poverty-related diseases, than to stifle a relative handful of specially skilled or talented people who might be envied.

18. Anything that’s peaceful.

19. Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. It’s not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights—the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery—hay and a barn for human cattle. There’s only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.

20. For the libertarian, the main task of the present epoch is to cast off his needless and debilitating pessimism, to set his sights on long-run victory and to set about the road to its attainment . . . proceed in the spirit of radical long-run optimism.


1. (H.) English philosopher John Locke (1632-1704) in Second Treatise on Civil Government (1689).

2. (D.) The phrase laissez-faire has been attributed to the seventeenth-century French businessman Legendre and popularized by Jacques C.M. Vincent de Gournay (1712-1759).

3. (L.) Attributed to Boston attorney James Otis (1725-1783) in 1763.

4. (M.) Thomas Paine (1737-1809) in Common Sense (1776).

5. (G.) Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), in a letter to William Stevens Smith, November 13, 1787.

6. (T.) Mary Wollstonecraft (1759-1797) in her Vindication of the Rights of Woman (1792).

7. (J.) Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945), in Our Enemy, the State (1935).

8. (B.) Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), in his 1736 Poor Richard’s Almanac.

9. (Q.) Adam Smith (1723-1790), in The Wealth of Nations (1776).

10. (A.) Lord Acton (1834-1902), in his letter to Mandell Creighton, April 5, 1887.

11. (S.) Mark Twain (1835-1910), in Pudd’nhead Wilson (1894).

12. (C.) Milton Friedman (1912- ), in many talks since the 1960s.

13. (E.) F.A. Hayek (1899-1992), in The Road to Serfdom (1944).

14. (N.) Ayn Rand (1905-1982), in her March 1964 Playboy interview.

15. (I.) Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973), in Human Action (1949).

16. (F.) Henry Hazlitt (1894-1993), in Economics in One Lesson (1946).

17. (R.) Thomas Sowell (1930- ), in Is Reality Optional? and Other Essays (1993).

18. (O.) Leonard E. Read (1898-1983), Anything That’s Peaceful (1964).

19. (K.) P.J. O’Rourke (1947- ), in Age and Guile Beat Youth, Innocence, and a Bad Haircut (1995).

20. (P.) Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995), Left and Right: The Prospects for Liberty, in Left and Right (1965).

This brief quiz underscores the exhilarating sophistication and spirit of liberty.

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