Spurious Quotation of the Day: Big Government

A photo of Abraham Lincoln used for a text macro

Don’t believe everything you read on the internet just because there’s a picture with a quote next to it. ~ Abraham Lincoln

A government big enough to give you everything you want, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have.
often attributed to Thomas Jefferson

Amongst monticello.org’s extensive listing of spurious Jeffersonian quotations they have a nice piece of sleuthery on how this quote’s purported provenance has changed over the decades of its rhetorical deployment:

Earliest known appearance in print: 1952 [1]

Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson: 2005[2]

This particular saying seems to be getting a huge workout at the moment in anti-Obama commentary around the web, usually with the Jefferson misattribution. I expect there’s a fair bit of overuse in anti-Gillard rhetoric as well.

I’m always struck by how often the USA’s Founding Fathers get dragged into modern political debates, often with words that were never theirs in the first place.



Categories: culture wars, history, parties and factions

Tags: , ,

4 replies

  1. Mark Twain’s another person that gets saddled with so much stuff that isn’t his.

  2. I find it interesting that so many people are worried about “big government” but don’t seem to worry nearly so much about “big business”. After all, a corporation large enough to give you everything you think you want is also large enough to take it away from you as well. The corporation is also less accountable than any government department, being trans-national in nature, and therefore inclined to shift actions between jurisdictions depending on legalities. At least with our current form of government we get to have a say every so often (and without having to purchase shares in the wretched thing as a prerequisite).

  3. Spot on, Megpie71. Big govt is the least of our worries set against big business and even more sinister, News Ltd. Look at all of the lickspittle behaviours libertarians have to exhibit to get a few crumbs from the table.

  4. Of course as Ralph Keyes said: “Famous dead people make excellent commentators on current events”.

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