William Graham Sumner

William Graham

American Classical Liberal Social Scientist, Professor at Yale

Author Quotes

Now what will hasten the day when our present advantages will wear out and when we shall come down to the conditions of the older and densely populated nations? The answer is: war, debt, taxation, diplomacy, a grand governmental system, pomp, glory, a big army and navy, lavish expenditures, political jobbery - in a word, imperialism?

The man who started with the notion that the world owed him a living would once more find, as he does now, that the world pays him its debt in the state prison.

Undoubtedly there are, in connection with each of these things, cases of fraud, swindling, and other financial crimes; that is to say, the greed and selfishness of men are perpetual.

One thing must be granted to the rich: they are good-natured.

The men, women, and children who compose a society at any time are the unconscious depositaries and transmitters of the mores. They inherited them without knowing it; they are molding them unconsciously; they will transmit them involuntarily. The people cannot make the mores. They are made by them.

We are born into no right whatever but what has an equivalent and corresponding duty right alongside of it. There is no such thing on this earth as something for nothing.

Perhaps they do not recognize themselves, for a rich man is even harder to define than a poor one.

The millionaires are a product of natural selection ... the naturally selected agents of society for certain work. They get high wages and live in luxury, but the bargain is a good one for society.

We are to see the development of the country pushed forward at an unprecedented rate by an aggregation of capital, and a systematic application of it under the direction of competent men.

Property left to a child may soon be lost; but the inheritance of virtue- -a good name an unblemished reputation- -will abide forever. If those who are toiling for wealth to leave their children, would but take half the pains to secure for them virtuous habits, how much more serviceable would they be. The largest property may be wrested from a child, but virtue will stand by him to the last.

The mores come down to us from the past. Each individual is born into them as he is born into the atmosphere, and he does not reflect on them, or criticize them any more than a baby analyzes the atmosphere before he begins to breathe it.

We live in a war of two antagonistic ethical philosophies, the ethical policy taught in the books and schools, and the success policy.

Society needs first of all to be free from meddlers that is, to be let alone.

The point which I have tried to make in this lecture is that expansion and imperialism are at war with the best traditions, principles, and interests of the American people, and that they will plunge us into a network of difficult problems and political perils, which we might have avoided, while they offer us no corresponding advantage in return.

We shall find that every effort to realize equality necessitates a sacrifice of liberty.

Such is the Forgotten Man. He works, he votes, generally he prays?but he always pays?yes, above all, he pays.

The real danger of democracy is, that the classes which have the power under it will assume all the rights and reject all the duties-that is, that they will use the political power to plunder those-who-have.

We throw all our attention on the utterly idle question whether A has done as well as B, when the only question is whether A has done as well as he could.

It used to be believed that the parent had unlimited claims on the child and rights over him. In a truer view of the matter, we are coming to see that the rights are on the side of the child and the duties on the side of the parent.

The advantage of some is won by an equivalent loss of others.

The State cannot get a cent for any man without taking it from some other man, and this latter must be a man who has produced and saved it. This latter is the Forgotten Man.

What man ever blamed himself for his misfortune?

It would be hard to find a single instance of a direct assault by positive effort upon poverty, vice, and misery which has not either failed or, if it has not failed directly and entirely, has not entailed other evils greater than the one which it removed.

The aggregation of large fortunes is not at all a thing to be regretted.

The State, it cannot be too often repeated, does nothing and can give nothing which it does not take from somebody. The Forgotten Man works and votes -generally he prays-but his chief business in life is to pay.

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William Graham
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American Classical Liberal Social Scientist, Professor at Yale