Walter Bagehot Quotations

Walter Bagehot

A bureaucracy is sure to think that its duty is to augment official power, official business, or official members, rather than to leave free the energies of mankind; it overdoes the quantity of government, as well as impairs its quality. The truth is, that a skilled bureaucracy is, though it boasts of an appearance of science, quite inconsistent with the true principles of the art of business.

It is an inevitable defect, that bureaucrats will care more for routine than for results.

It is the life of teachers which is catching, not their tenets.

Men of business who are used to a high percentage of profit in their own trade despise 3 or 4 per cent., and think that they ought to have much more. In consequence there is no money so often lost as theirs; there is an idea that it is the country clergyman and the ignorant widow who mostly lose by bad loans and bad companies. And no doubt they often do lose. But I believe that it is oftener still men of business, of slight education and of active temperament, who have made money rapidly, and who fancy that the skill and knowledge of a special trade which have enabled them to do so, will also enable them to judge of risks, and measure contingencies out of that trade; whereas, in fact, there are no persons more incompetent, for they think they know everything, when they really know almost nothing out of their little business, and by habit and nature they are eager to be doing.

The best reason why monarchy is a strong government is that it is an intelligible government: the mass of mankind understand it, and they hardly anywhere in the world understand any other.

The greatest pleasure in life is doing what people say you cannot do.

The notion of a farseeing and despotic statesman, who can lay down plans for ages yet unborn, is a fancy generated by the pride of the human intellect to which facts give no support.

The reason why so few good books are written is that so few people who write know anything.