Justice Louis D. BrandeisJustice Louis D. Brandeis, (1856-1941) US Supreme Court Justice

Justice Louis D. Brandeis Quote

“We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.”

Justice Louis D. BrandeisJustice Louis D. Brandeis
~ Justice Louis D. Brandeis

Ratings and Comments

Bryan Morton, Stuart, FL

Louis D. Brandeis must have been a Socialist.

James Knox Polk, Leucadia, CA

We are no longer a democracy. Our country is not, "by the people, for the people". We are a Capitalist country run by corporations, for corporate GREED. If Americans don't know; they should know. The middle class is disappearing adding to the ranks of the poor. The average American does not want to admit that he's been duped; he wants to believe in America, it's elected officials, the inalienable right of the individual, fair elections... and the core values that have been instilled in us since birth. To defend our decisions at the polls, we resort to name calling of the messenger: Socialist, Communist, Fascist. I too, feel terrible that I bought the "down home images" and propaganda of politicians. In this political climate, if you speak out about elected officials and/or high ranking power mongers making decisions behind closed doors, you are unAmerican. "The people should not be afraid of the Government; the Government should be afraid of the people". Author unknown. I believe in my fellow Americans. We will change the course of this nation. We are the United States of America not the United States of America, Inc.

Mike, Norwalk

The first 2 lines are partially correct, democracy does destroy wealth. Democracy by design concentrates great wealth in the hands of a few. As per James comment, government of, by, and for the people has perished from the earth. It is now a government of alien despots, by an intangible ethos' agents, for a collectivist few. The slaves are allowed to elect those that represent an intangible ethos deity that holds all right (according to the Warren Court - assigning inherent right) having benefit of an ignorant populace and sufficient force to compel compliance, license, to commit non competitive larcenies (funny money, eminent domain without allodial freehold, theft of the laborer's fruit, etc.), define and enforce victimless crimes, torture at will for information, etc. AND, the middle class is vaporizing by design of socialism, fascism, and the democracy. Political double talk, complete with misleading sound bites, is slamming a proudfully ignorant people to their hungry knees.

jim k, austin

Jefferson said it well. "Where the people fear the govenment there is tyranny, where the government fears the people there is liberty." Our government stopped fearing the people a long time ago.

E Archer, NYC

This is the guiding plank of the Democratic Party. Unfortunately, it is a con to think that you can take from the productive and give to the unproductive. Socialism is the monopoly of production -- and a great fallacy to think that the monopolists will share the wealth they have confiscated from the people. It is due to massive government borrowing, which ends up in government contractors hands (like Enron, Halliburton, etc.) and recent bailouts (like the Wall Street banks, airline industry, auto industry, etc.), that the super rich get richer. It is not the big bad evil corporations that are the problem, but the economic system itself which takes from those with less and gives it to the super-rich via the fiat money system. Ask yourself, "Why am I in so much debt?" It is not because of the rich or the corporations -- it is because of the debtors' mentality and the fact that the only way to put more money into the economy is to borrow it. The result is mathematically unavoidable bankruptcies and inflation.

Anonymous, Reston, VA US

It is amazing how many people can not read... there is nothing in this quote that says that democracy destroys wealth... it says that you can't have democracy when you have a small set of rich power brokers... you know, like King George W & his Dick catered to while destroying the constitution...

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

I think Anonymous got this one correct.

Dick, Fort Worth

James Knox Polk said it beautifully. Mike seems not to know the least bit about the differences of socialism and fascism. They are not in the least similar. They cannot both be practiced at the same time. What we have been experiencing at our harm is FASCISM, not socialism.

Mike, Norwalk

Anon, from Reston I was being tongue in cheek facetious to make a point (but I think you're bright enough to know that - I do understand that it gave you cause to comment; you're welcome). Dick, what did I here write that would indicate similarities or differences between fascism, socialism, or democracy?

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

What did Mike say here that makes any sense at all. He used socialism, fascism, and democaracy all in close enough nexus to give a color of similarity between them. His blather flies in the face of the recent election indicating a choice by a free people. a choice that is breathtaking to most of the world and a choice that shows the US populace to be one who is not bound by the BS that Mike talks about or that Mike is bound with. He always spouts the same thoughtless, unthinking BS rhetoric.

Mike, Norwalk

Waffler, you're completely wrong about everything again. I did not use socialism, fascism, and democracy in a close enough nexus to give a color of similarity between them but rather, each was used in their specific domain as would be the ultimate instrument for eliminating freedom and liberty. The recent election absolutely proves my point and illuminates your errors, misinterpretations, and head in the sand substantiveless rhetoric. What part of socialism, fascism, democracy, etc. will be changed by the recent election? The only thing that changed is the specific methods of despotism that will inflict a once sovereign people. Has Obama said: he is going to return to a very limited government of, by, and for the people as was defined by the Republic's original intent and Constitution, he is going to do away with governmental administrations that are adverse to the individual's sovereignty, he is going to eliminate compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, governmental larceny or has Obama said,anything that would give hope to the freeman that is dreaming of true liberty? No, Obama has not. The election was all about, do we want a picture of an elephant or a donkey (or a red or a blue handle) on the whip that beats us.

Waffler, Smith, Arkansas

What the hell is compelled compliance Mike talk like a man! Is compelled complicance something like Law, if so say so. Fascism is the right wing opponent of socialim - study the Spanish Civil War. The fascists under Franco were aided and abetted by Hitler and Mussolini against the freely elected Repubilan-Socialists. Capitalism is a democratic from of economics in which free men can amass capital. In the American model capitalism and democracy go together. If you are going to run isms together separated only by commas you should be more careful. I am terribly sorry you feel whipped all of the time, living as you are in what is still considered the best economy and political environment in the world. I think you are derelict in not seeking a better situation for yourself, and just sitting in your misery and stupor all of the time, breathing stupidities that no one can relate to or understand what it is that you are saying.

Logan, Memphis, TN

Karl Marx praised Democracy as the stepping stone into Socialism; he also praised capitalism as the stepping stone from quagmire of feudal Europe into a new socialist/Utopian society. In fact, there isn't a political philosopher that I'm aware of that doesn't readily admit that Democracy is the very backbone of Socialism. Socialism praises that the people themselves take control of all property through majoritism stipulation -- this is the very essence of Democracy. If Socialism can force society to take responsibility of providing for the individual, then fascism can force the individual to provide for himself (by making life itself illegal unless in accordance to state statutes like mandatory health care in Massachusetts). When two men with guns can force -- by mere virtue of being a majority -- an innocent man to ask permission to act in something he was already free to do, this is compelled compliance. If it is my right to walk on the sidewalk, it is usurpation and tyranny for two men carrying guns (by "guns" I mean any stipulated power that threatens my personal safety/liberty) to force me to ask permission to walk on the public sidewalk. What is worse, is that these two goons have convinced other people that their permission is necessary to maintain safety and order on the sidewalk. As a myriad of political philosophers and history have masterfully shown, Democracies ALWAYS end in tyranny and single-rule dictatorships. This is one of the basic reasons why Socialism will never work, but will eventually disintegrate into tyrannical rule. Blathering idiots who won't read their history and accept it for what it is.

Joel, Ann Arbor, MI

You "thumb downers" who can't see the essential truth behind Justice Brandeis' words haven't been paying attention. Our political leaders get elected through donations and propaganda paid for by those with great wealth, and legislation gets written by lobbyists working for those with great wealth. Justice Brandeis' words were a warning when they were written; uttered today, they would be a mere observation of what we are living. If we can be said to have a democracy in America today, ladies and gentlemen, it is the best democracy money can buy.

O. Delusional Liberal

Obviously; just read the history books.

Eugene Barufkin, Waukesha, WI

In light of the Supreme Court ruling re Corp campaign funding and the descending comments, the learned Justice was correct. 1.23.10

Carl, Corvallis, OR

The U.S. currently has more of a Corporatocracy than an Oligarchy- huge corporations control the government, currency, and economic policies through lobbyists, access, influence, and donations. This subtle difference doesn't alter the truth of Justice Brandeis' fine observation, though. Instead of a few royal/powerful families we have corporations controlling the appearance of government and the conveyor belt of money from the Middle Class to the Stupidly Wealthy. It was just made more obvious lately by the Supreme Court's Citizens United decision by the five Conservative Corporate Whore Justices. Without a Constitutional Amendment to counterbalance this travesty of a decision it's "game over" for Democracy, or even the facade appearance of it.

Mitch, Petaluma, CA

From Wikipedia: In 1916, President Woodrow Wilson nominated Brandeis to become a member of the U.S. Supreme Court. However, his nomination was bitterly contested, partly because, as Justice William O. Douglas wrote, ■Brandeis was a militant crusader for social justice whoever his opponent might be. He was dangerous not only because of his brilliance, his arithmetic, his courage. He was dangerous because he was incorruptible. . . [and] the fears of the Establishment were greater because Brandeis was the first Jew to be named to the Court." He was eventually confirmed by the Senate by a vote of 47 to 22 on June 1, 1916, and would become one of the most famous and influential figures ever to serve on the high court. His case opinions were, according to legal scholars, some of the ■greatest defenses■ of freedom of speech and the right to privacy ever written by a member of the high court.

J., asheville

not sure why jim k gives a thumbs down and then quotes jefferson, who would probably agree with Brandeis. A government run by a small cadre of rich people does not fear the people, it fears the wealthy.

Kevin, Baltimore

The truth of Brandeis's quotation can be seen in today's United States. Concentrated corporate power, with 70% of the nation's wealth funneled to the top 1% elites, has created an oligarchy. Democracy has been corrupted so that voters are given two corporate-approved candidates - except for a small percentage that vote outside the Dem/Rep corporate duopoly. The "democracy" is manipulated with paperless electronic voting machines, gerrymandered voting districts to ensure the desired outcome, registration lists "cleansed" so that hundreds of thousands, usually working class and minority Americans are de-registered, debates orchraestrated by a private corporation funded by big business and on and on. Then the concentrated corporate media labels Obama's policies socialist when in realty they funnel hundreds of billions in tax dollars to concentrated corporate powers whether they be banks, health insurance, energy, weapons . . . Brandeis has been proven right by time and the maturation of corporate power. Now, which will it be - democracy or oligarchy - wealth in few hands? Right now, concentrated corporate power is organized and persistent -- it's demands are being met while people's necessities are not. The ONLY antidote - organized, conscious citizens making persistent demands. Does anyone know the context of the Brandeis quote? Where did it come from? KBZeese(at)gmail(dot)com.

Matt, Folsom, CA

The only people who disagree with this quote, are those who don't wish to feel that they've been lied to, that they're wrong, and that they will have to take matters into their own hands. "all experience hath shown that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed." -Declaration of Independence.

Avram Mirsky, Miami

Jefferson also said: "I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and to bid defiance to the laws of our country." ~ Thomas Jefferson, letter to George Logan. November 12, 1816 Those of you who oppose Brandeis' quote are either part of the oligarchy or else delusionally believe that you one day will be.

A nonny mouse, Sacramento, CA

How can you have democracy, when the politicians can be bought like slaves? Great wealth in the hands of a few allows politicians to be bought. That is what Justice Brandeis was saying. It has nothing to do with any isms. It is just the way of the marketplace. When wealth is more evenly distributed that doesn't happen. Bush sold us the tax cuts as a means of creating more jobs, he just neglected to say the jobs were overseas. The wealthy increased their fortunes as a result of this fraud, so I think it only fair that they forfeit that money back to the American people. That isn't socialism, that is justice.

Big Charlie, Poughkeepsie, NY

I have been reading a series of diatribes that are nothing short of exercises in futility. Nothing will change unless "We The People" have the right of recall at all governmental levels and term limits on all all officials including the Supreme Court. The "Golden Rule"--"He who has the gold rules".

  • Reply
greg    7/28/12
Rick Steward, Charleston, SC

As far as what Waffler, Smith, Arkansas said above about Fascism being the right wing opponent of Socialism: FASCISM IS NOT RIGHT WING ANYTHING!

Fascism is a form of Socialism Light. It allows private ownership of property, but the government gets to dictate what you can do with your property. The most obvious example of this is seen in Schindler's List, where the SS is dictating to Schindler how much he will pay for his Jewish and Polish workers. It's Schindler's plant, but the government dictates to him how much he will pay for his workers.

Only hard core communists can consider Fascism right wing. The fact that Franco was Fascist does not make him right wing. It only makes him not as far left as the socialists.

It did not become truly fashionable to refer to the right as "Fascist" until the 60's when the ignorati at UCBerkley, with no understanding of what the word meant, decided it was nasty enough to be used as invective against conservatives.
If you want to know more about Fascism, read Hayek's book "The Road to Serfdom". He was a conservative economist who made it out of Austria two steps ahead of the Nazi's.


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