Economics Quotes


When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it. When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less what he spends it on. When a man spends someone else’s money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn’t care at all how much he spends. And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he doesn’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you. – Milton Friedman

The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another. – Milton Friedman

If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free. – P.J. O’Rourke (1993)

In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other. – Voltaire (1764)

There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as caring and sensitive because he wants to expand the government’s charitable programs is merely saying that he’s willing to try to do good with other people’s money. Well, who isn’t? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he’ll do good with his own money – if a gun is held to his head. – P.J. O’Rourke

Government is the great fiction, through which everybody endeavors to live at the expense of everybody else. – Frederic Bastiat

Whoever prefers life to death, happiness to suffering, well-being to misery must defend without compromise private ownership in the means of production. – Ludwig von Mises (1920)

We contend that for a nation to try to tax itself into prosperity is like a man standing in a bucket and trying to lift himself up by the handle. – Winston Churchill (1903)

If you have been voting for politicians who promise to give you goodies at someone else’s expense, then you have no right to complain when they  take your money and give it to someone else, including themselves. – Thomas Sowell (1992)

Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer. – Ludwig von Mises

The national budget must be balanced. The public debt must be reduced; the arrogance of the authorities must be moderated and controlled. Payments to foreign governments must be reduced. If the nation doesn’t want to go bankrupt, people must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance. – Marcus Tullius Cicero, 55 BC

America’s abundance was not created by public sacrifices to the common good, but by the productive genius of free men who pursued their own personal interests and the making of their own private fortunes. – Ayn Rand

Every individual necessarily labors to render the annual revenue of society as great as he can. He generally neither intends to promote the public interest, nor knows how much he is promoting it. He intends only his own gain, and he is, in this, as in many other cases, led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was not part of his intention. – Adam Smith, Wealth of Nations

When you subsidize poverty and failure, you get more of both. – James Dale Davidson, National Taxpayers Union

The welfare state reduces a citizen to a client, subordinates them to a bureaucrat, and subjects them to rules that are anti-work, anti-family, anti-opportunity and anti-property … Humans forced to suffer under such anti-human rules naturally develop pathologies. The evening news is the natural result of the welfare state. – Unknown

Manufacturing and commercial monopolies owe their origin not to a tendency imminent in a capitalist economy but to governmental interventionist policy directed against free trade and laissez faire. – Ludwig  von Mises

Tariffs, quotas and other import restrictions protect the business of the rich at the expense of high cost of living for the poor. Their intent is to deprive you of the right to choose, and to force you to buy the high-priced inferior products of politically favored companies. – Alan Burris, A Liberty Primer

Perhaps the removal of trade restrictions throughout the world would do more for the cause of universal peace than can any political union of peoples separated by trade barriers. – Frank Chodorov

The high rate of unemployment among teenagers, and especially black teenagers, is both a scandal and a serious source of social unrest. Yet it is largely a result of minimum wage laws. We regard the minimum wage law as one of the most, if not the most, anti-black laws on the statute books. – Milton Friedman, Nobel Prize winning economist

Every man has a property in his own person. This nobody has any right to but himself. The labor of his body and the work of his hands are properly his. – John Locke, 1690

Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor. Seizing the results of someone’s labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities. – Robert Nozick, Harvard philosopher

What’s *just* has been debated for centuries but let me offer you my definition of social justice: I keep what I earn and you keep what you earn. Do you disagree?  Well then tell me how much of what I earn *belongs* to you – and why? – Walter Williams

A society that robs an individual of the product of his effort … is not strictly speaking a society, but a mob held together by institutionalized gang violence. – Ayn Rand

There are people who think that plunder loses all its immorality as soon as it becomes legal. Personally, I cannot imagine a more alarming situation. – Frédéric Bastiat

The New Deal began, like the Salvation Army, by promising to save humanity. It  ended, again like the Salvation Army, by running flop-houses and disturbing the peace. – H. L. Mencken

Everyone wants to live at the expense of the State. They forget that the State lives at the expense of everyone. – Frédéric Bastiat

We are living in a sick society filled with people who would not directly steal from their neighbor but who are willing to demand that the government do it for them. – William L. Comer

Fundamentally, there are only two ways of coordinating the economic activities of millions. One is central direction involving the use of coercion – the technique of the army and of the modern totalitarian state. The other is voluntary cooperation of individuals – the technique of the marketplace. – Milton Friedman

Past studies by and large confirm the prediction that higher minimum wages reduce employment opportunities and raise unemployment, particularly among teenagers, minorities and other low-skilled workers. – Masanori Hashimoto

It’s no accident that capitalism has brought with it progress, not merely in production but also in knowledge. Egoism and competition are, alas, stronger forces than public spirit and sense of duty. – Albert Einstein

Depressions and mass unemployment are not caused by the free market but by government interference in the economy. – Ludwig von Mises

It is a popular delusion that the government wastes vast amounts of money through inefficiency and sloth. Enormous effort and elaborate planning are required to waste this much money. – P.J. O’Rourke

The higher entry standards imposed by licensing laws reduce the supply of professional services … The poor are the net losers, because the availability of low-cost service has been reduced. In essence, the poor subsidize the information research costs of the rich. – S. David Young

People who create things nowadays can expect to be prosecuted by highly moralistic people who are incapable of creating anything. There is no way to measure the chilling effect on innovation that results from the threats of taxation, regulation and prosecution against anything that succeeds. We’ll never know how many ideas our government has aborted in the name protecting us. – Joseph Sobran May 13, 1998 (commenting on US vs. Microsoft)

The politician attempts to remedy the evil by increasing the very thing that caused the evil in the first place: legal plunder. – Frédéric Bastiat

Conservatives and liberals are kindred spirits as far as government spending is concerned. First, let’s make sure we understand what government spending is.  Since government has no resources of its own, and since there’s no Tooth Fairy handing Congress the funds for the programs it enacts, we are forced to recognize that government spending is no less than the confiscation of one person’s property to give it to another to whom it does not belong – in effect, legalized theft. – Walter Williams

Wealth comes from successful individual efforts to please one’s fellow man … that’s what competition is all about: “out-pleasing” your competitors to win over the consumers. – Walter Williams

Ever since its founding in 1913, the Fed has described itself as an “independent” agency operated by selfless public servants striving to “fine-tune” the economy through monetary policy. In reality, however, a non-political governmental institution is as likely as a barking cat. – Thomas J. DiLorenzo

Public works are not accomplished by the miraculous power of a magic wand.  They are paid for by funds taken away from the citizens. – Ludwig von Mises

A [tax loophole is] something that benefits the other guy. If it benefits you, it is tax reform. – Russell B. Long

There’s another major hurdle to a new year of prosperity: our tax code. No human being understands it. The current code, which runs over 8,000 pages and countless thousands more pages of IRS rulings and interpretations, is beyond redemption… Incalculable amounts of the nation’s intellectual brainpower are devoted to the dead-end task of coping with the current tax code. Over one-half million people in the U.S. make their living off it, whether in lobbying, lawyering, tax preparing, or accounting. … Americans spend five and one-half billion hours a year filling out tax forms … and spend between $100 billion and $300 billion to comply with the current code. – Malcolm S. Forbes

In increasing numbers, Americans believe that it is the responsibility – nay, the duty – of the federal government to take the earnings of some Americans and redistribute them to other Americans for various and sundry “good” reasons including “fairness.” Citizens who know it is wrong to use force to take money from a neighbor have rationalized that it is OK for the government to do it for them. – Linda Bowles, nationally syndicated columnist

Once upon a time, government budgets were balanced, our money was sound, the streets were safe, and taxes imposed by all levels of government took less than 10% of our income. – Harry Browne

By the year 2012, projected outlays for entitlements and interest on the national debt will consume all tax revenues collected by the federal government … There will not be one cent left over for education, children’s programs, highways, national defense, or any other discretionary program. – Bipartisan U.S. Commission on Entitlement and Tax Reform

Christmas is a time when kids tell Santa what they want and adults pay for it.  Deficits are when adults tell the government what they want and their kids pay for it. – Richard Lamm, former Gov of Colorado

A government debt is a government claim against personal income and private property – an unpaid tax bill. – Hans F. Sennholz, Debts & Deficits

The Social Security system did not begin as an attempt to sabotage people’s ability to plan for retirement, but it has worked out that way. The politicians who originally planned the system probably had no idea how it would turn out. But today’s politicians know the system is rotted, and yet they refuse to make the changes necessary to free the American people from it. Instead, they make it worse. – Ed Clark 1980 Libertarian Party presidential candidate, A New Beginning

The one with the primary responsibility to the individual’s future is that individual. – Dorcas Hardy, Director, Social Security System

It is a socialist idea that making profits is a vice; I consider the real vice is making losses. – Winston Churchill

It is well enough that people of the nation do not understand our banking and monetary system, for if they did, I believe there would be a revolution before tomorrow morning. – Henry Ford

The standard of living of the common man is higher in those countries which have the greatest number of wealthy entrepreneurs. – Ludwig von Mises

Voters who live off taxpayers are the Democrats’ ace in the hole. The Democrats created big programs and never let the recipients forget it. This gives them an initial advantage of tens of millions of votes in any presidential election. – Joseph Sobran

If you would not confront your neighbor and demand his money at the point of a gun to solve every new problem that may appear in your life, you should not allow the government to do it for you. – William E. Simon

Taxation with representation ain’t so hot either. – Gerald Barzan

We have rights, as individuals, to give as much of our own money as we please to charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of public money. – David Crockett, Congressman 1827-35

You can’t get rid of poverty by giving people money. – P.J. O’Rourke

Politics is the art of obtaining money from the rich and votes from the poor on the pretext of protecting each from the other. – Anonymous

The free market punishes irresponsibility. Government rewards it. – Harry Browne

Political leaders in capitalist countries who cheer the collapse of socialism in other countries continue to favor socialist solutions in their own. They know the words, but they have not learned the tune. – Milton Friedman

The welfare state is the oldest con game in the world. First you take people’s money away quietly, and then you give some of it back to them flamboyantly. – Thomas Sowell

If politicians were serious about day care for children, instead of just sloganizing about it, nothing they could do would improve the quality of child care more than by lifting the heavy burden of taxation that forces so many families to have both parents working. – Thomas Sowell

The economic miracle that has been the United States was not produced by socialized enterprises, by government-union-industry cartels or by centralized economic planning. It was produced by private enterprises in a profit-and-loss system. And losses were at least as important in weeding out failures, as profits in fostering successes. Let government succor failures, and we shall be headed for stagnation and decline. – Milton Friedman

Economic freedom is an essential requisite for political freedom. By enabling people to cooperate with one another without coercion or central direction, it reduces the area over which political power is exercised. – Milton Friedman

The elementary truth is that the Great Depression was produced by government mismanagement [of money]. It was not produced by the failure of private enterprise. – Milton Friedman

Consider Social Security. The young have always contributed to the support of the old. Earlier, the young helped their own parents out of a sense of love and duty. They now contribute to the support of someone else’s parents out of compulsion and fear. The voluntary transfers strengthened the bonds of the family; the compulsory transfers weaken those bonds. – Milton Friedman

The fact throughout history is that whenever government dominates the economic affairs of its citizenry, a free society is eroded, then destroyed, and a minority government ensues. Personal liberty without economic liberty is an absolute contradiction; the one cannot exist without the other. – William E. Simon

Throughout forty centuries of human experience, price controls at their best have always been a miserable failure. At their worst, they have led to famine and bloodshed – to defeat and to disaster. – Irving S. Olds

Somehow, the fact that more poor people are on welfare, receiving more generous payments, does not seem to have made this country a nice place to live – not even for the poor on welfare, whose condition seems not noticeably better than when they were poor and off welfare. Something appears to have gone wrong; a liberal and compassionate social policy has bred all sorts of unanticipated and perverse consequences. – Irving Kristol

The essential quality of a free economy is that it cannot be planned. It leaves the solution of problems to the inspiration of the individuals in the untrammeled population. When something approaching a free economy has existed, it has always worked better than the schemes of any planners. – Thomas H. Barber

The greatest productive force is human selfishness. – Robert Heinlein

Don’t go around saying the world owes you a living. The world owes you nothing. It was here first. – Mark Twain

A traffic jam is a collision between free enterprise and socialism. Free enterprise produces automobiles faster than socialism can build roads and road capacity. – Andrew Galambos

According to the Tax Foundation, taxes now consume more than 38% of the average family’s budget. That is more than is spent on food, clothing, housing, and transportation combined. Compare this to the plight of medieval serfs. They only had to give the lord of the manor one-third of their output — and they were considered slaves. So what does that make us? – Daniel Mitchell, The Washington Times, 3/9/99

He who disdains the fall in infant mortality and the gradual disappearance of famines and plagues may cast the first stone upon the materialism of the economists. – Ludwig von Mises

Asking liberals where wages and prices come from is like asking six-year-olds where babies come from. – Thomas Sowell

The whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but 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. – Henry Hazlitt in Economics in One Lesson

The average American family head will be forced to do twenty years’ labor to pay taxes in his or her lifetime. – James Bovard, Lost Rights

It’s illegal to say to a voter “Here’s $100, vote for me.” So what do the politicians do? They offer the $100 in the form of Health Care, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance, Food Stamps, tobacco subsidies, grain payments, NEA payments, and jobs programs. – Don Farrar

Every movement that seeks to enslave a country, every dictatorship or potential dictatorship, needs some minority group as a scapegoat which it can blame for the nation’s troubles and use as a justification of its own demand for dictatorial powers. In Soviet Russia, the scapegoat was the bourgeoisie; in Nazi Germany, it was the Jewish people; in America, it is the businessmen. – Ayn Rand

All the fiery rhetoric of the Founders was directed at a “tyrant” who taxed his subjects at a rate of about three percent. Today, we in “the land of the free” are taxed at about 50 percent when you add federal, state, and local taxes. What kind of government would do this? A dictatorship would. – Doug Newman

We don’t have a budget crisis. We have a spending crisis. – Jonathan Hill, Citizens for a Sound Economy

If taxation without consent is not robbery, then any band of robbers have only to declare themselves a government, and all their robberies are legalized. – Lysander Spooner

If you feel driven to feed the poor, get your checkbook out and keep your tyrannical mouth shut about it. – Lew Goldberg

Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself. – Milton Friedman

We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes non-work. – Milton Friedman

I feel obliged to withhold my approval of the plan to indulge in benevolent and charitable sentiment through the appropriation of public funds … I find no warrant for such an appropriation in the Constitution. – Grover Cleveland, 22nd and 24th US President

It is easy to be conspicuously “compassionate” if others are being forced to pay the cost. – Murray N. Rothbard

The desire of businessmen for profits is what drives prices down unless forcibly prevented from engaging in price competition, usually by governmental activity. – Thomas Sowell

All the Congress, all the accountants and tax lawyers, all the judges, and a convention of wizards all cannot tell for sure what the income tax law says. – Walter B. Wriston

An inevitable consequence of socialism is the division of society into two groups: those who are consuming government “services” and those who are paying for them. – Lee Robinson

It is much cheaper and enormously more profitable for the special interests to purchase the regulatory favors of Washington’s political harlots than to compete in a fair, unsubsidized marketplace. – Lee Robinson

Expecting the government to fight the deficit is like expecting the Mafia to fight crime. – Anonymous

The power to tax, once conceded, has no limits. – Anonymous

We cannot restore traditional American freedom unless we limit the government’s power to tax. No tinkering with this, that, or the other law will stop the trend toward socialism. We must repeal the Sixteenth Amendment. – Frank Chodorov



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