Bertrand RussellBertrand Russell, [Bertrand Arthur William Russell] (1872-1970) Philosopher, educator

Bertrand Russell Quote

“Envy is the basis of Democracy.”

Bertrand RussellBertrand Russell
~ Bertrand Russell

The Conquest of Happiness, VI, 1930

Ratings and Comments

Mike, Norwalk

Though "envy" is an attribute of Democracy, it is not "the" sole basis.

Logan, Memphis, TN

While I agree with this quote, I think any real discussion on it will end in a battle of semantics. As I addressed in one of the other quotes, Democracy's ultimate social manifestation is Socialism/Communism. While I'll argue that the sole basis of Socialism/Communism is envy (one man envying the property of another, and seeking to take it by force, because he does not have equal property), the retort will certainly be presented that Socialism/Communism is not envy, but compassion. After this I'd argue that compassion is only truly shown if done so by choice and not coercion. Ultimately, someone would respond with something about the big-bad-nasty-selfish-corporations and how they're destroying the little-guy, and the need for forceful government charity/intervention... etc. and so on and so forth... Suffice it to say, I agree with the quote.

Your Name, Your Town,USA

I disagree with the quote.

  • Reply
RobertSRQ    3/11/08

Sorry fellows BR is right on, just think about what he is saying and take away your personal feelings. He is saying simply that envy is the driver not that it is bad or good - it is indeed the basis for Democracy - I need provided what I do not have.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

If envy is about desiring your neighbors property then it is about economics not democracy. Democracy is a political term not an economic term. Are industrialists who wish to get more and more increased profits by manipulating illegal aliens or cheap foreign labor guilty of envy. Again democracy is not an ECONOMIC term it is a POLITCAL term.

E Archer, NYC

I believe the desire for power is the basis of democracy. When as an individual I do not have enough power to compete with others with more power, I look for ways to enroll others to my way and use that collective power to compete (or defeat) the most powerful (i.e. wealthy and influential). That is why those with no property are all for democracy and those with private property are not -- the result will be that the majority (those with less power and property) will vote away the power and property of those that have it. I would say 'envy' has a lot do with a man's lust for power.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Archer threre have been a lot of wealthy members of the Democratic party in our nation. Are you saying perchance that members of the Demorcatic party are poor and Republicans are rich. You have of course heard of the Roosevelts, Kennedys, Kerry, Jay Rockefeller, Warren Buffet etcetera, democrats all. Your simplistic statement above is just that simplistic. You may agree with me that the policies advanced by these people and the democratic party in general throughout its history dating at lest from Andrew Jackson and maybe from Thomas Jefferson was more in favor of the people, the little man as opposed to the wealthier faction of society. The Clinton admistration proved that when the little guy does well we all do well.

E Archer, NYC

Waffler, you have explained my point well -- the ruling class are indeed the rich and powerful. No one can run for president today who is not a millionaire. Both parties are controlled by the rich and powerful -- and both parties' candidates LIE THROUGH THEIR TEETH to get elected -- the Democrat candidates appeal to the lower classes with promises of government handouts, while the GOP promises limited government and lower taxes -- both, however, serve the same cause, the acquisition of power. With this power they are able to enrich themselves further at the expense of those that did not vote for them (and even those that did). If we were truly a democracy, then why are there only 2 parties monopolizing everything? We should have hundreds of parties, hundreds of candidates with more qualities than being well-connected and beholden to the banking cartel. And excuse me, but in Jefferson's day, his party was called the Democratic-Republican party and resembles neither the Democrats or Republicans of today. Interestingly, you have chosen the only 2 presidents that successfully killed the private national banks that were bankrupting the nation, thus they are heroes to me. In fact, I would say, all talk of parties and politics is moot if the money system is monopolized by private central banks like the Fed/IMF/World Bank. And the Rockefellers and Roosevelt have sold us a bill of goods with their Federal Reserve System -- it is not federal and there are no reserves. It is via the Rockefellers particularly that the CFR has become the shadow government of the US -- and all the people you mentioned are in it. Kennedy had the guts to re-issue silver certificates instead of borrowing confederate money from the Fed -- you see where that landed him. You have demonstrated my point well, Waffler, your indoctrination by the ruling class is first rate.

Logan, Memphis, TN

Archer is not talking about the Democratic Party, the ideas he expressed are in reference to Aristotle's Republic. There are two basic groups that Aristotle separated political systems by: (1) The self-interested systems and (2) the systems of the common good. Each system analyzed a differing form of government on an individual, group, and societal level. Self-interested groups included: dictatorships/tyrannies (rule of the individual), oligarchies (rule of few), Democracy (rule of the many). The systems of the common good included: Monarchies (rule of the individual), Aristocracies (rule of the few), and Constitutional Republics (rule of the many). Aristotle argued, for various reasons, that Constitutional Republics were the best systems of government. In pitting these Republics against Democracies he resolved the issue of economics. He argued for a large and strong middle class, because it would balance the dichotomy of rich and poor. The poor, he argued, wanted their rights to be secure at the expense of the rich man's property; the rich, he further argued, wanted their property to be secure and the expense of the poor man's rights. A large middle-class is the only way to balance the dichotomy equitably. Democracies, he argued, would either favor the rich or poor (depending on who was in the majority at the time) and perpetuate oppression of either side exponentially until everything fell apart. A government based presumed principles with a strong middle-class, he argued, in a Constitutional Republic is the only way to solve this paradox; otherwise, the poor would always vote against the property of the rich, and the rich would always vote against the rights of the poor.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

Good stuff Logan. Thanx.

warren, olathe

Envy is what a socialist/fascist politician uses to pervert the democratic process to take us away from out founder’s intent. It is the emotion that the founding fathers were warning could take over and destroys the country. They acknowledged that the public could eventually vote themselves a piece of the public pie which would devour the freedoms we have. Democracy, or at least our form of it, is not in any way based on envy. It is based on the philosophy that the common moral man can be trusted to participate in self government. To say that democracy is based on envy is to say it is not based on reason.

E Archer, NYC

Logan, you've explained it well.

jim k, austin tx

I also agree with Logan.


Get a Quote-a-Day!

Liberty Quotes sent to your mail box daily.