William Boetcker Quote

“You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away men's initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”

~ William Boetcker

"The Ten Cannots" (1916)
often falsely attributed to Abraham Lincoln:

Ratings and Comments

Anonymous, Chicago

Independence at the expense of another is merely Dependence with tyranny.

Ray, Davenport

This quote should be taught in every school.

Dave, Milford

This is a very insightful quote and I believe should be studied by everyone, especially those in government!

SK, Oklahoma City

Personal responsibility is indeed the cornerstone of any truly free people.

JR, Edmonton

This quote should be on every schoolroom wall and government office.

D.M., Bozeman, MT

Regarding: "You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong. You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer. You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich." Sometimes it is the big men, the strong, the wage-payer, and the rich who are keeping the small men, the weak, the wage earner, and the poor down. Look at all the multinational corporations that are run by rich people who are exporting our jobs overseas and preying upon the weak and the poor to enrich themselves. They certainly aren't blameless. They would rather make another dollar for themselves at the expense of Americans who need jobs. This is unpatriotic.

John-Douglas, Sarnia, Canada

Reverend Boetcker must be a sharpshooter. He hits them right between the eyes!

Jim Moravec, Lombard

Perfectly put and perfectly true.

D Wilson, Stockbridge, GA

Truer words were never spoken, but nowadays are never spoken. We wouldn't want to hurt anyones' feelings would we?

Yndrd1984, Ames, IA

D.M., you missed the point of the quote. He meant that you help people by building them up, not by tearing others down - that's pretty basic morality and common sense. As for "exporting jobs overseas", that just means getting jobs to desperately poor people whever they are, rather then giving them to slightly poor people that live closer to you.

David L Rosenthal

Maybe you cannot; but it sure doesn't stop them from trying.

Jack, Green, OH

I agree with D.M, Some are worth repeating but others unimaginative bromides, I might be more generous and raise it to two stars

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

D.M & Jack have it on this one.

William, St. Louis, Missouri

This message is for D.M, Jack and the anonymous writer. You convienently left out this passage, "You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred." All I see in you is bitterness, and unfounded anger toward the rich, which is exactly what this part of the quote addresses. Read the quote from me again, and then read the entire thing. Perhaps it should have been at the very start of the quote. This is the essential quote of a free society, and it is no wonder why such men as Abraham Lincoln, and Ronald Reagan have quoted it!!

William, St. Louis, Missouri

(Additional Thoughts) The quote that is the essestial quote of a free society is the quote in it's entirety, not the one line as quoted in my first response. Deserving of all it's five stars.

Ben Hochstatter, Davenport

In a society that is making slaves of it's population through entitlements, expanding and uncontrolable socialistic welfare grants, and litigation that denies any sense of responsibility, is it any wonder that meaning of this communication is lost on many citizens of the United States of America. We have lost our tolerance for one another. We have buried our willingness to 'compromise' on the miniscule and acceed to placing blame on others for the inertia in our own lives. We should not be surprised that individuals walk into a classroom where knowledge and diversity should exist, and express their individual anger for some perceived injury but taking the lives of others. We need to seek understanding and mutually beneficial solutions, the fundamental message of this communication. It is excellent in its attempt to shed light on how to build a healthy society.

SGT Daniel, Ft. Wainwright, AK

Dm, Jack, and Anonymous, so what freedoms would you take away and from whom? Who would you steal from in the name of equality. Would you take from each according to their ability, to each according to their need? Communists. It's my job to fight to support and defend the Constitution of the US of A, not the Communist Manifesto.

ksagnostic, Wichita, Kansas

The statements are true as far as they go, but they are pretty much a Rorsach Test when it comes to those who have poltical axes to grind, Right wingers will see the truth of the non-productive trying to live off the productive. The reality is, however, poor does not necessarily (and in fact more frequently than not does not) equal non-productive, and rich does not necessarily equal productive.

Green, Greenville, Ga

We must go "Green" and leave no carbon prints. If you do that, you will be a great American

William, St. Louis, Missouri

To all of those out there who read this quote and don't like it or get angry, you flat out do not understand the fundamental idea of FREEDOM upon which our Great Country was founded. We are a beacon of Hope, Freedom, and Liberty throughout the entire world. In our Free Society, you can do whatever you want with your life...our government doesn't interfere or tell you what to do. We are the first nation in the history of the world to become the Richest and sole superpower through economic means, not through war and the conquering of other nations as the Romans did. The only way for true Freedom and Liberty is through Economic and Capitalistic freedom, where by you can set your own course, and follow any dream or dreams you have. The ideas in this quote are a truth of our nation that help people understand what The USA is about, and how she operates. The terrible "Robin Hood" ideology, called Socialism is at America's doorstep knocking everyday, and if we aren't careful, someone will open the door and let the terrible monster in. GOD BLESS AMERICA!!! LONG LIVE CAPITALISM!!!!!!!!!

Gee-Gee, Sanford

May everyone in the USA not just read, but HEAR these words and have their true meaning seat in their hearts and brains. I do not resent those who have worked hard and have more than I do. Nor do I resent the companies that make profits to provide dividends, jobs, and products that we want.

Rebecca, Smithville, Texas

DM, Jack and supporters have it wrong. This should be taught in our schools. In this country we are free to get a good education and become whatever we want, at least for now. Those who call themselves the champions of the poor and down trodden are really just the new age slave masters. They need to keep people down so they can be elitists. Communism does not work in this world. So far, every time it has been tried it only ends up as a class system, with those in charge living the highlife on the backs of the majority. These new slave masters have been doing an excellent job, keeping people down. First, they attacked the school system; dumbed down the system because “Johnny couldn’t read.” It is easier to enslave the masses if you do not allow them a good education. Then when Johnny could not get a job, they gave him money. He was never given enough to get ahead, just enough to get by, so that he wanted more for nothing. Now they had him, and the millions of others denied an education. Therefore, year after year they said, “elect me and I will get you more free money”, poor Johnny he does not even realize who his enemy is. I cannot tell if DM and Jack are Johnnies just spouting party line or if they are hopeful elitists. Either way this is a 5 star quote.

Steve, St Cloud, FL

Great quotes. Unfortunately, the people who don't get it, never have and never will. They are the same folks who want to give us socialized medicine, take our guns and tax us to the point where the taxes become essentially a salary cap for anyone who tries to better themselves... with the specific aim of helping the "poor man" by bringing down the "rich", that's a fairly communistic approach in my book. But I've probably upset them with this comment because they don't like to be called socialists or communists....You can put lipstick on a donkey, but it's still a donkey.

evan philips, Boca Raton

It's not socialism to ask the top one percent of this nation to pay there fair share of taxes (Percentage Wise). Now I understand that the top one percent make up forty percent of the nations federal income wealth but that should not excuse the fact that a person making fifty thousand a year is paying between 19 and 23 percent federal income tax and a person making five hundred thousand a year is paying between 14 to 19 percent a year in federal income taxes. I am a full believer of capitalism and the American way but we can not continue this reckless behavior in Washington (That goes for Democrats and Republicans) and on Wallstreet. We do need a change (Insanity is doing the same thing in the same way and expecting different results)! I hope that who ever becomes President of this great country is to do whats in the best interest of all of us and not the few.

J.L., Madison, IN

Tell this to the black community...

Peter K, AMherst NH

You cannot help small men by tearing down big men. Slave owners were big men, Communist leaders were big men, Tyrants are big men, I'm up for helping some of the small men by tearing down some of the big ones

DS, Hopedale, IL

To Peter K, Regarding your comment "I'm up for helping some of the small men by tearing down some of the big ones," you are obviously a small man----but even if you "tear down" a big one, you will still be a midget.

Gary, Sun City, AZ

Look at all the quotes, they are all part of the picture. You cannot make a chain stronger by weakening the strongest link. How about everyone stop blaming their failures on those who have succeeded. Wealth comes by blood, sweat and HARD WORK, not by expecting someone else to give it to you. If you can't make it on one job, get a second job. Don't expect the best until you have given your best. How about making money the old fashioned way, -----EARN IT, save some, live within you means and build, NOT, spend spend spend and envy those who have accumulated expecting them to support you. This is the land of opportunity, ------another quote, "if you want to get to the top, get off your bottom". What about all the people who came to America without a penny and ended up rich. Most people are not born with a silver spoon in their mouth, they started off at the bottom and worked their way up. The only people who start at the top and work down are well diggers. I could go on and on but I will quit for now, hopefully you will get the drift.

John, Boston

Lincoln was dead when Boetcker was born, so he never quoted this. Reagan attributed it to Lincoln because that gave it more weight. For a quote, I prefer "To whom much is given is much required."[Luke 12:49] Employers who make their fortune off the sweat of others owe it to their employees to take care of them. Thanks to people like Jack Welch at GE and companies like Walmart, it seems companies feel no responsibility to their employees. This quote is often attributed to Lincoln. It would be interesting to hear what his opinion would be on companies that provide little or no benefits to their employees while paying millions to their fat @$$ CEO's.

Bob, DC area

To DM in Bozeman - Jobs aren't exported because "rich men want to keep poor men down." Jobs are exported because it's economically advantageous to do so. Think about it this - it's is not rocket surgery: if you owned a widget factory and you could either pay someone $35/hr to lean on a shovel and snarl at you or $5/hr to produce widgets, which would you do? Even if you had to spend $10/hr to ship them to market from Timbuktu, it's still a no brainer. And btw - everyone benefits when wealth is created more efficiently. The consumer (i.e., you) benefits by paying less for goods. The only one who you might say does not benefit is the guy who priced himself out of the market by demanding $35/hr. Don't price yourself out of the market and you won't lose your job. You might say, "But, the cost of living is so high - I need $35/hr to survive!" Well, maybe you don't need cable TV. Maybe you don't need to live in a house you can't afford. Maybe ... well, you get the idea. If you say, "I don't live extravagantly. I just want a modest lifestyle. But, I can't afford it as a widget maker here!" Well, one of the nice things about America is that (at least for the time being) we have the freedom to move around and the freedom to try other careers. Maybe you should consider moving and/or trying another line of work.

Bob, DC area

To John in Boston - In reality you very rarely ever find "employers who make their fortune off the sweat of others" without compensating them fairly. Unless of course, you look at places that reject the free market. In America you have the right to leave GE, or Walmart, or any other employer if you don't feel fairly compensated. BTW - I couldn't care less who to attribute it to. I'm more interested in the content. I rate these 5 stars!

  • Reply
Blue    2/17/09
jim k, austin

Obama should read this daily. Taxing the producers doesn't help the non-producers. Business owners need the tax breaks as they can expand and grow their businesses and create more jobs. Liberals, who are into power, do not understand this, or maybe they do.

Mike, Norwalk

"God is no respecter of persons", should we strive for the higher standard? I believe we should. I just read that in 1900, the Federal Government controlled about 4% of the GNP. In 2007 it controlled about 25% of the GNP. After the bail-outs, incentives, stimulus, etc it is estimated that the Federal Government will control near 50% of the GNP and it could go higher. Even if the percentages are wrong, the trend is extremely anti-liberty and freedom. There are 2 forms of socialism at work in the USA competing for supremacy (Hitler's & Lennon's) Hitler's version, among other things strengthens its equitable position in corporations and other structured forms of commerce as may exist. And, Lennon's version is simply, all is taken over outright. I've suggested to everyone to scan a new version, recently issued from the State, of your birth certificate, and enlarge it. You will find in small print hidden in the back ground - security paper bank note. Each individual has become financial chattel to the supreme socialistic despot. Socialism is a theocracy that, in fact, creates social wars (class economics, morality, energy level, materialism, races, etc.) and denies individual freedom and liberty contrary to false assertions by socialist patrons. To solve today's problems, this quote goes a long way towards a movement from a government of men to a government of law.

E Archer, NYC

This is just common sense. Social engineering is just another way to take away people's power. Independence and self-reliance have always been the bulwark of Peace and Prosperity. If you have a problem with the corporate take-over of America, you can blame the banks and politicians that make legislation to help big business corner their markets against the little guy. Unions (leftist mafias) have not helped the worker or America -- you can thank them for shipping most manufaturing jobs overseas. If America refuses to produce competively (and there is no reason why we shouldn't be first class), then we can expect the poorer nations to underbid us simply because they can. Also, when we buy goods from Communist slave labor, we aren't really saving that much -- in fact it is costing us our future.

  • Reply
RBESRQ    2/17/09

You have just named the one disease that reflects this quote, Cancer, it kills its host

warren, olathe

Jim, liberals do understand this. That is why they are so against it. The power they have comes from ignorance and class hatred. The stickituous bill is for creating even more of the same. As was said by a drunken governor some 15 years ago "it does no good to get em off welfare. They just turn into republicans." We have a group of people that are so into class envy that a recent poll came up with these results: The majority of those polled would rather loose income than have their pay doubled knowing that the wealthy would get even more increase than they did. It defies logic that anyone thinks like that but they do. We are looking at a possible end to economic freedom with this bill, and we voted for it. The very people most responsible for the economic mess gained power in the last election and are just going to create a much bigger one.

warren, olathe

D.M., Bozeman, MT huge corporations move the jobs out of this country because our government and the unions have made it unprofitable to operate here. We have (depending on which state you are in) either the highest or the next to highest corporate tax in the world. This is due largely to wasteful spending by the government, class envy, and to the fact that most do not care how much the "big guy" gets screwed. You can not screw the big guy with out screwing the little guy. You chase out an "evil" corporation then cry about how the jobs are going out of the country. This is the height of ignorance.

Marc, Green, Ohio

Nowhere does this quote say there is no need for a progressive tax system, or for deficit spending, or for passing laws that address individual or corporate inequalities, unfair behavior or actions. It does strongly suggest in a free society, when we attempt man-made solutions for solving our problems that we exercise first great self-discipline and personal responsibility, and that we don't allow our efforts to have a more just society push us to the extremes at the expense of making responsible behavior punished to help those who have been irresponsible.. If we do we will suffer. This quote above is similar to Proverbs in the Bible. It provides helpful insights and some cute axioms or sayings which expresses a truth, and is based on common sense or "the practical experience of humanity." They are not principles guaranteed to work the same in every instance, but that does not mean these words are not worthy of inculcation in our lives. If you test the truths in this quote long enough you will find it can bring more blessings into your lives. There are great truths in this quote and no one can ever convince me any differently. If more people heeded these words of wisdom we would have a significantly better society.

Joshua, Atlanta, GA

So True!!!

Mary, Cincinnati

This quote is exactly what the US was founded on...life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It is not a political statement, just realistic truth. History has proven that when a society relies on government to provide for their needs, democracy will cease to exist. Once government takes a foothold in any piece of the private sector it is impossible to remove it. It becomes a cancer on democracy. Thomas Jefferson said: "A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuit of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the good bread it has earned--this is the sum of good government. To compel a man to furnish funds for the propagation of ideas he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical."

Eliza, W.G. Pa

Very funny that the feeling here is so strong for those characteristics and yet the country is departing from them in an ever faster pace. Eliza

Greg, Dayton, OH

No one has mentioned a very important part of the quote: "You cannot establish security on borrowed money". Our representatives in government, Democrats and Republicans, have been doing this for as long as I can remember. This deficit spending is one of the biggest stressors of our economy and society. It must be stopped.

V.W., Houston, TX

President Obama, Representative Nancy Pelosi and Senator Harry Reid should read this quote. This quote should be required reading for anyone on the Whitehouse staff, the Cabinet and all of Congress. I would like to see all practice what it says, also! Stop blaming everyone else for the failings of Congress and the Whitehouse. Take responsibility for your comments.

Mike, Lake Charles, LA

The people that blame the rich for their lack of money are either lazy or waste their money on drugs, cigarettes, alcohol and porn.

Johnny, Houston

There will always be someone who has more than you do. You can be jealous and tear them down to your level, or you can work harder and try to reach theirs. Those who have the money are the ones who supply the jobs in any country. You can't create jobs by taxing the rich more. Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. teach him to fish and feed him for life. It's time to pick up a pole and go fishing!

Kathy, Lakeville, CT

D.M. from Bozeman, MT doesn't get it. You have fundamental laws against fraud, theft, cons, business practices, etc. and enforce them against those individuals and companies that violate them. You do not destroy every successful business or individual, or the whole free enterprise system. We have thoroughly stupid & corrupt politicians in government ripping off the people just as badly - do we fire everyone and close the doors of government wholesale? Hence the old adage :Don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

Ray, Belding, MI

We have always had takers and givers in society. Without government intervention our communities functioned just fine and for the most part took care of the TRULY needy. Even the poorest able bodied individuals knew that if they did not do something they would have nothing. Fast forward, in steps the politician who for hes/her own narcissistic gratification makes it easy for the ABLE BODIED poor to sit back and do nothing. The result is that our government has grown the pool of takers and manipulated them by telling them that it is their RIGHT be GIVEN a livelyhood. At the same time that same government attacks the givers by painting them as evil money hording elitiest who will not share. Since the evil money horders will not share we will take it from them in the name of the greater good of society, thus the justification for unbelievable tax increases. Think about this......what happens when the government has destroyed the pool of givers and all of their "loyal" constituants are their dependents. How long can a society of takers exist?

phildirt, bradenton, fl

ALL of you who believe in AMERICA need to run for office and replace those that we all know need to be removed. to write one blog comment is a disservice to yourself your neighboe and our country.PLEASE run for office if only one term to get back on track. Get in and lets limit the toooo long terms tah afflict our country noe no more thane 3 two year terms and 2 two year tems for our reps . We can go on with improvements from there. PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE.I am going to try so should you.

Kenneth Smith, Kissimmee

Every God fearing patriotic American should memorize this quote, no matter who said it. Truth is truth no matter the time or place it was revealed.

Bonnie Keeler, Kaw City, OK

Truer words were never spoken. All the politicians need to read this. Everyone needs to read this and apply it to their own lives.


So true.

Hank, Portland, ME

"You cannot help small men by tearing down big men." Just what is meant by 'big men' and 'small men?' I know many so called 'big men' who are really 'small' in my eyes. "You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer." If you do not lift the 'wage-earner' he/she will be unable to purchase what the 'wage-payer' has to sell. 'You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich.' You will destroy the rich man if you do not help the poor one. 'You cannot establish security on borrowed money.' Tell that one to AIG, BOA, and all those too big to fail banks

Hank, Portland, ME

. "You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer." If you do not lift the 'wage-earner' he/she will be unable to purchase what the 'wage-payer' has to sell.

Hank, Portland, ME

'You cannot help the poor man by destroying the rich' You will destroy the rich man if you do not help the poor one.

Hank, Portland, ME

'You cannot establish security on borrowed money.' Tell that one to AIG, BOA, and all those too big to fail banks

Jodi, Orlando, FL


JF, Colorado

To Boca Raton - I did not pay only 14-19% taxes - double that. Great content to this quote - try debating this content in China. We live in a country that an individual can decide for themselves where they want to shop, where they want to live and who they want to work for. I went from min. wage to 'rich' by going back to school, working hard and never blaming another for my deficencies. Once you start to demand a certain wage or limit profit from businesses or limit bonuses - where will it stop?? and worse - who decides?

Willy, Los Alamos

DM and some others obviously don't understand the quote. It isn't that there aren't big men who need to be taken down. It is that taking down everyone who is big won't solve the little guy's problems. In fact that will make everyone's problems bigger. That is exactly what most communist revolutions did and all sent their countries into dismal depressions that most never recovered from. China is finally emerging from that depression by letting some big men develop. Unfortunately, many of them are not yet understanding the responsibilities they should embrace along with their newfound wealth.

M.L., Rexburg, Idaho

Let's not forget that in a free country such as our own---the United States of America---that there may be wealthy people, but most of them came from humble beginnings and the opportunity to try is there for all. It doesn't matter if we reach great wealth, but it does matter if we work hard at our own initiative and not have the 'government' do things that we could do for ourselves. The job of elected government is to be a watchdog not a hound dog for your front porch.

M.L., Rexburg, Idaho

And to Sgt. Daniel at Fort Wainwright---thank you for your service and that of thousands of others. Without you we would all not be able to express our open comments! :)

J.P., Cary, NC

Fantastic quote; I'll be citing it often in the future.

dz, ardsley

Or to put it more simply, the rich deserve to be rich and the poor deserve to be poor.

Joe, Miller Place

The quote was written in another country 100 years ago, by a German man before WWI, so that's important context.He likely witnessed totalitarian governments first hand. In that context, there is a tenet of individual freedom, respect and accountability that's good.

joane pauline abinion, legazpi albay

game w/out a pain is just a game

Charles, Oceanside

I think DM from Boseman MT is a idiot. No one forces one to work for anyone, everyone has the right to quit and work elsewhere if they are unhappy, or better yet, start their own company.

And to evan philips, Boca Raton the top 1% pays 65% of all of Americas taxes, it the bottom 47% that pay 0 and NEED to pay their fair share!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Dr. P O-side Ca

Intelligent Compasion, Chicago

The successful carry the unsuccessful, the strong carry the weak, the rich carry the poor. Some say America should have less in order to reduce inequality in the world, but then our current overflow of charity to other nations would be stifled and bring greater poverty in the world...how would that be social justice???

Keith, Pensacola

Boetcker's 10 Cannots should be inscribed on the wall of every parliament, congress and senate chamber in the world. I'd include the UN but they are far beyond saving and not worth the cost to inscribe the words.

ken nash, sydney australia

tell this the labour party here in aus and in england and the democrats in the usa and the rest of the world

Ken, Oklahoma City

Almost 200 yrs old, and still fits the current times. One smart man....

Ronw13, Logsden

Wage slaves, wage payers, big, small, rich and poor. God is not a respecter of persons, nor is our Declaration and Constitution by design. Liberty based upon skill and determination moves onward, most set low goals. Independent Contracting is a right, to be used with caution. If one chooses to work for another, let it be done out of want not need. It is best to choose early in life as to those you wish to associate with. for the true Independents, Liberty can be likened to a chain your life hangs from, Now how many links have to be broken to fall ? There is nothing wrong in laboring for another, but still, Education is Key in climbing any ladder. Contentment in adverse times saves lives. envy has destroyed more lives than anything else. Times are tough, but you will find, life is what you make of it. It owes you nothing !

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Abby    5/4/21

"If some people had wings and others didn't, and the government wanted to enforce "fairness," soon no one would have wings. Because wings cannot be redistributed, they can only be broken. Likewise, a government edict cannot make people smarter or more capable, but it can impede the growth of those with the potential. Wouldn't it be fair if, in the name of equality, we scar the beautiful, cripple the athletes, lobotomize the scientists, blind the artists, and sever the hands of the musicians? Why not?" Oleg Atbashian (1960-) born in USSR, teacher, artist, journalist immigrated to USA in 1994 Source: Shakedown Socialism by Oleg Atbashian copyright 2009 Greenleaf Press pp 90-91


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