william o. douglas Quotes

William O. Douglas Quotes

Birth Date: 1898-10-16 (Sunday, October 16th, 1898)
Date of Death: 1980-01-19 (Saturday, January 19th, 1980)

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Quotes

    • The whole, though larger than any of its parts, does not necessarily obscure their separate identities.
    • The law is not a series of calculating machines where answers come tumbling out when the right levers are pushed.
    • We have here the problem of bigness. Its lesson should by now have been burned into our memory by Brandeis. The Curse of Bigness shows how size can become a menace - both industrial and social. It can be an industrial menace because it creates gross inequalities against existing or putative competitors. It can be a social menace - because of its control of prices. Control of prices in the steel industry is powerful leverage on our economy. For the price of steel determines the price of hundreds of other articles. Our price level determines in large measure whether we have prosperity or depression - an economy of abundance or scarcity. Size in steel should therefore be jealously watched. In final analysis, size in steel is the measure of the power of a handful of men over our economy. That power can be utilized with lightning speed. It can be benign or it can be dangerous. The philosophy of the Sherman Act is that it should not exist. For all power tends to develop into a government in itself. Power that controls the economy should be in the hands of elected representatives of the people, not in the hands of an industrial oligarchy. Industrial power should be decentralized. It should be scattered into many hands so that the fortunes of the people will not be dependent on the whim or caprice, the political prejudices, the emotional stability of a few self-appointed men. The fact that they are not vicious men but respectable and social minded is irrelevant. That is the philosophy and the command of the Sherman Act. It is founded on a theory of hostility to the concentration in private hands of power so great that only a government of the people should have it.
    • Absolute discretion is a ruthless master. It is more destructive of freedom than any of man's other inventions.
    • These days I see America identified more and more with material things, less and less with spiritual standards. These days I see America acting abroad as an arrogant, selfish, greedy nation interested only in guns and dollars, not in people and their hopes and aspirations. We need a faith that dedicates us to something bigger and more important than ourselves or our possessions. Only if we have that faith will we be able to guide the destiny of nations in this the most critical period of world history.
    • We need to be bold and adventurous in our thinking in order to survive.
    • We are a religious people whose institutions presuppose a Supreme Being.
    • The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.
    • All executive power - from the reign of ancient kings to the rule of modern dictators - has the outward appearance of efficiency.
    • Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.
    • The Fifth Amendment is an old friend and a good friend. one of the great landmarks in men's struggle to be free of tyranny, to be decent and civilized.
    • The critical point is that the Constitution places the right of silence beyond the reach of government.
    • Free speech is not to be regulated like diseased cattle and impure butter. The audience ... that hissed yesterday may applaud today, even for the same performance.
    • The right to dissent is the only thing that makes life tolerable for a judge of an appellate court... the affairs of government could not be conducted by democratic standards without it.
    • The Constitution favors no racial group, no political or social group.
    • The liberties of none are safe unless the liberties of all are protected.
    • The conception of political equality from the Declaration of Independence, to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address, to the Fifteenth, Seventeenth, and Nineteenth Amendments could mean only one thing - one person, one vote.
    • Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.
    • We must realize that today's Establishment is the New George III. Whether it will continue to adhere to his tactics, we do not know. If it does, the redress, honored in tradition, is also revolution.
    • The first opinion the Court ever filed has a dissenting opinion. Dissent is a tradition of this Court... When someone is writing for the Court, he hopes to get eight others to agree with him, so many of the majority opinions are rather stultified.
    • The Court's great power is its ability to educate, to provide moral leadership.
    • The struggle is always between the individual and his sacred right to express himself and the power structure that seeks conformity, suppression, and obedience.
    • For there is no constitutional right for any race to be preferred... If discrimination based on race is constitutionally permissible when those who hold the reins can come up with 'compelling' reasons to justify it, then constitutional guarantees acquire an accordion-like quality.
    • One who comes to the Court must come to adore, not to protest. That's the new gloss on the First Amendment.
    • A function of free speech under our system of government is to invite dispute. It may indeed best serve its high purposes when it induces a condition of unrest, creates dissatisfaction with conditions as they are, or even stirs people to anger. Speech is often provocative and challenging. It may strike at prejudices and preconceptions and have profound unsettling effects as it presses for acceptance of an idea.
    • As nightfall does not come all at once, neither does oppression. In both instances, there is a twilight when everything remains seemingly unchanged. And it is in such twilight that we all must be most aware of change in the air - however slight - lest we become unwitting victims of the darkness.
    • Big Brother in the form of an increasingly powerful government and in an increasingly powerful private sector will pile the records high with reasons why privacy should give way to national security, to law and order, to efficiency of operation, to scientific advancement and the like.
    • But our society - unlike most in the world - presuppose that freedom and liberty are in frame of reference that makes the individual, not the government, the keeper of his tastes, beliefs, and ideas. That is the philosophy of the First Amendment; and it is the article of faith that sets us apart from most nations in the world
    • Christianity has sufficient inner strength to survive and flourish on its own. It does not need state subsidies, nor state privileges, nor state prestige. The more it obtains state support the greater it curtails human freedom.
    • Common sense often makes good law.
    • It is our attitude toward free thought and free expression that will determine our fate. There must be no limit on the range of temperate discussion, no limits on thought. No subject must be taboo. No censor must preside at our assemblies.
    • It seemed to me that I had barely reached the Court when people were trying to get me off.
    • Literature should not be suppressed merely because it offends the moral code of the censor.
    • No patent medicine was ever put to wider and more varied use than the Fourteenth Amendment.
    • Restriction of free thought and free speech is the most dangerous of all subversions. It is the one un-American act that could most easily defeat us.
    • Since when have we Americans been expected to bow submissively to authority and speak with awe and reverence to those who represent us?
    • Tell the FBI that the kidnappers should pick out a judge that Nixon wants back.
    • The association promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in any prior decisions.
    • The Constitution is not neutral. It was designed to take the government off the backs of people.
    • The great and invigorating influences in American life have been the unorthodox: the people who challenge an existing institution or way of life, or say and do things that make people think.
    • The privacy and dignity of our citizens [are] being whittled away by sometimes imperceptible steps. Taken individually, each step may be of little consequence. But when viewed as a whole, there begins to emerge a society quite unlike any we have seen - a society in which government may intrude into the secret regions of a [person's] life.
    • The right to revolt has sources deep in our history.
    • The way to combat noxious ideas is with other ideas. The way to combat falsehoods is with truth.
    • We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights-older than our political parties, older than our school system.
    • We do not sit as a superlegislature to weigh the wisdom of legislation.
    • We who have the final word can speak softly or angrily. We can seek to challenge and annoy, as we need not stay docile and quiet.
    • When a legislature undertakes to proscribe the exercise of a citizen's constitutional rights it acts lawlessly and the citizen can take matters into his own hands and proceed on the basis that such a law is no law at all.
    • At the constitutional level where we work, ninety percent of any decision is emotional. The rational part of us supplies the reasons for supporting our predilections.
    • william o. douglas

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