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Will Rogers on Government

October 25, 2002

Will Rogers, one of America's best-loved humorists, once said he'd never met a man he didn't like. But that amiability did not extend to the government. He gave free rein to his 1st Amendment freedom to criticize our government, using his wit, and the threat of public embarrassment that went with it, to keep politicians and bureaucrats in their place.

Will Rogers' approach seems even more necessary today, with the almost unrestricted influence the government has assumed over American since he passed from the scene in a tragic 1935 plane crash. And there is no better time to remember his humorous insights about our government than on his birthday, November 4, especially as it is the day before an election.

"I don't make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts."

"This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when a baby gets hold of a hammer."

"With Congress, every time they make a joke it's a law, and every time they make a law it's a joke."

"Never blame a legislative body for not doing something. When they do nothing, that don't hurt anybody. When they do something is when they become dangerous."

"Be thankful we're not getting all the government we're paying for."

"Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate; now what's going to happen to us with both a Senate and a House?"

"The trouble with practical jokes is that very often they get elected."

"On account of us being a democracy and run by the people, we are the only nation in the world that has to keep a government four years, no matter what it does."

"The short memories of American voters is what keeps our politicians in office."

"The more you read and observe about this Politics thing, you got to admit that each party is worse than the other. The one that's out always looks the best."

"Our public men are speaking every day on something, but they ain't saying anything."

"If we got one-tenth of what was promised to us in these acceptance speeches there wouldn't be any inducement to go to heaven."

"The budget is a mythical bean bag. Congress votes mythical beans into it, and then tries to reach in and pull real beans out."

"If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics."

"Everything is changing. People are taking the comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke."

"There's no trick to being a humorist when you have the whole government working for you."

"Next to guinea pigs, taxes have been the most prolific animal."

"If you make any money, the government shoves you in the creek once a year with it in your pockets, and all that don't get wet you can keep."

"The only thing I would advise you to do [for lower taxes] is not to have anything they can tax away from you."

"The income tax has made liars out of more Americans than golf."

"The only difference between death and taxes is that death doesn't get worse every time Congress meets."

"I don't want to complain, but every time they build a tax structure, the first thing they nail is me."

Humor is one of the most effective ways to protest government abuse, to highlight the frequent lack of logic behind government pronouncements and programs, to expose government corruption, and to deflate those who grow too self-important as our "public servants." And Will Rogers' sense of humor can help keep our spirit of liberty alive by openly ridiculing what is in fact ridiculous about how government really operates.


Gary M. Galles is a professor of economics at Pepperdine University. Send him MAIL, and see his Mises.org Daily Articles Archive.


Note: The views expressed on Mises.org are not necessarily those of the Mises Institute.

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