"For in a Republic, who is 'the country?'
Is it the Government which is for the moment in the saddle?
Why, the Government is merely a servant -- merely a temporary servant;
it cannot be its prerogative to determine
what is right and what is wrong,
and decide who is a patriot and who isn't.
Its function is to obey orders, not originate them."
by:
Mark Twain
[Samuel Langhorne Clemens] (1835-1910) American author and humorist
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Reader comments about this quote:
Well, maybe it WAS that way. Unfortunately, we elected a bunch of lawyers to run it, and they think they are smart enough to tell everyone else what to do and how to do it.
 -- Senoir Reek, Corozal, Belize, Central America     
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    Would that we had lawyers running it now, it seems to be more the ex-doctors and ex-failed-oil-men and pseudo-preachers that are are ruining it for all of us in the U.S.A. right now.
     -- Anonymous, Reston, VA US     
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    Always good at the message, Mr. Clemens is right on again. Would that we had no one "running it." While we will always have some form of mixed economy, we must elect representatives that can determine the essential collective requirements and keep themselves out of the non-essential!
     -- Bob, Reston, VA USA     
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    This quote should be printed on T shirts and distributed to all government personnell, from each member of the House and Senate up to the President. Including all the Secretaries, Governors and all employees of the federal and state governments. They should be mandated to wear this T shirt each working day and they must all have to memorize this quote and write a 1,000 word essay on what it means to them.
     -- KS, Queensbury,NY     
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    Precisely! – It seems there must be a crisis or a catastrophe to allow new laws to be created and therefore the origin of the crisis or catastrophe is highly suspect. All this we allow to happen while we sit comfortably in our armchairs. If we would only elect representatives into the halls and corridors or power that were educated and had a history of intellectual political rhetoric much of what we are now experiencing would not happen. And, maybe just maybe a new age of enlightenment would twinkle on the horizon.
     -- Robert, Sarasota     
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    P.s. I think the T-Shirt idea is great - forget the trappings of lace and silk.
     -- RobertSRQ     
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    Its lawyers stupid. That is what should be on any t shirt that is talking about the problem with government. It is lawyers that are the problem. Lawyers are constantly perverting law and courts. It is lawyers we fill government with. It is lawyers we need to free ourselves from.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    Intellectual political rhetoric is the last thing we need. The stupidest things are always started by intellectuals.
     -- warren, olathe     
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    Unfortunately, we are in the death throes of 'Gotcha Politics'. The average person, sipping a few cool ones, flipping the channels on the Boob Tube, and living in his own make believe world, couldn't care less what their government does, regardless if DIM or PUB.
     -- Shooterman, Beaumont, TX     
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    This may have been true once, but it is dated. Mr. Clemens lived in an era before most people expected the government to be the solution to all their problems, and developed a bureaucracy to to fill those needs (wants). That bureaucracy is a shadow government that leaks and peeks, and manipulates the visible one. Politicians are temporary. Bureaucrats are forever. We have the government we deserve. A nanny state for a bunch of dependent whiners. We will never get rid of it because there are not enough people who want real liberty and freedom anymore. And when it comes to politicians I will take the doctors, oil men and ministers over lawyers and professional politicians any day.
     -- helorat, Milton     
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     -- Mike, Norwalk      
    I agree that the government is not the republic, nation or country. But politics is based on relationships among people. We most often defend a policy because of whose it is or who is on which side rather than on the absoute merits of the policy. We imbue the current leader or party with such awe that we no longer address the merit of a policy or decision. Thus we put party politics and politcal heros ahead of issues, nation, country, and republic.
     -- Bruce, 'Bama     
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    Bravo Mr. Clemens bravo. I am sure you have all heard the phrase "absolute power corrupts absolutely". We have given absolute power to our judicial system and it has become absolutely corrupt. When I see a "dog fighter" get more attention and (at least the threat) of harsher sentencing then child molesters (in some states) then I can't help but realize we are one confused people. Which takes me back the the James Monroe quote. Bruce I must agree with you on this or why would the same congressman senators keep there office so long? I don't see anyone willing or able to stand (for integrity and honesty) in Washington under the current system of corruption. We need a clean sweep from pages all the way to the top. Start fresh! We can make more laws if that is what you think it will take but we would be better to enforce the ones we have. I am for one new law, no lawyers in government. OK that will not work so lets start educating our children from the 3rd grade up in political science/government. When all the people know the rules the playing field is easier to level. Also right and wrong should not be determined by someones ability to manipulate words and suggest that this is what the law actually says. Once we said you have to be a lawyer to be a judge we tied the hands of the people. I am for prohibiting lawyers from the bench and returning judgment to men of integrity.
     -- Sam, Frisco City, Alabama     
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    "Government is ... merely a temporary servant; it cannot be its prerogative to determine what is right and what is wrong" -- got that folks? (Don't worry warren, I doubt you will ever be confused as being 'intellectual'.)
     -- E Archer, NYC     
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    For politicians intellect is much less important than integrity. They only need enough intellect to understand they need to leave everyone alone.
     -- Ken, Allyn, WA     
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    I fully understand your sentiment about bureaucrats Helorat, if you study the history of the US Government, however, you will find that bureaus and merit hiring and promotion was instituted to replace the spoils system and rampant cronism and unprofessionalism of politicians. The most recent example of professioanl bureaucrats versus political hacks is in the demotion by Condi Rice of the man most knowledgeable about terrorism. He reported directly to her and she pushed him down a notch. To make matters worse the politcal hack Ashcroft told the career bureaucrat who was the acting Director of the FBI "don't give me anymore reports about terrorism". When Ashcroft was asked directly whether or not he said that to the Acting Director of the FBI he could have said and should have said, Yes or No. Being a politician rather than an honest professional bureaucrat he said, "Of course I care about the safety of the American people." By this waffle answer he saved himself from 1) perjury and 2) total embarrassment and vilification. Lets not discuss the professional US Attorneys versus Bushes man Gonzales. It looks like the Texas crowd is about gone (including Rove) and professionals can have a new go at in DC. You are right Ken and they need to know when to listen to and leave bureaucrats alone to do their jobs professionally.
     -- Bruce, 'Bama     
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    What's wrong with intellectuals?
     -- Anonymous     
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    Short terms and a swing set on the lawn, as a reminder of, WE THE PEOPLE, they serve !
     -- Ronw13, Yachats Or     
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    Mark Twain usually gets it right.
     -- jim k, Austin     
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    Very astute words spoken by the great Samuel Clemens (Mark Twain).
     -- Mary - MI     
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    5 stars again.
     -- jim k, Austin     
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