Thursday, April 19, 2012

More Probably Bogus Quotes Showing Up In Print

I ran into this quote recently:
"The democracy will cease to exist when you take away from those who are willing to work and give to those who would not." Thomas Jefferson
I would love to believe that it's real, and I suspect that Jefferson would have agreed with it, but something very interesting happens if you search for it with books.google.com:--there seem to be no books that contain this quote before 1986, and that is from a book with the unlikely author name of "John Galt."

The Monticello.org website points out the same thing--no evidence for this in any of Jefferson's writings, anywhere.  At best:
It bears a very vague resemblance to Jefferson's comment in a prospectus for his translation of Destutt de Tracy's Treatise on Political Economy: "To take from one, because it is thought that his own industry and that of his fathers has acquired too much, in order to spare to others, who, or whose fathers have not exercised equal industry and skill, is to violate arbitrarily the first principle of association, ... the guarantee to every one of a free exercise of his industry, & the fruits acquired by it.'"
Unfortunately, libertarian and conservative writers have been using this Jefferson "quote" for years now, and it says little for their ability to critically think that they don't bother to verify it.

Look critically at stuff you disagree with, and even more critically at stuff that you agree with most wholeheartedly.

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