Justice William O. DouglasJustice William O. Douglas, (1898-1980), U. S. Supreme Court Justice

Famous Justice William O. Douglas Quote

“The right to be let alone is indeed the beginning of all freedom.”

Justice William O. DouglasJustice William O. Douglas
~ Justice William O. Douglas

Public Utilities Commission v Pollack, 1952

Ratings and Comments

Matt, Las Vegas

This is one of the greatest quotes in American History when looking at an Americans 4th Amendment Right To Be Let Alone.

Bruce, Alabama

This quote is appealing but standing alone it is bombastic and anarchistic. The idea of organized society, government is that we are in something together. Folks within that society have some obligation. Thus if one wants to truly be left alone he must leave the society of his fellow citizens, and give up the "benefits" of socializing with such a society. If one is plugged into the water, electricity, sewer, cable , transportation system, education system is it fair to shout out to the world "leave me alone".

Rober, Sarasota

The essence of this quote is exactly what it is - encroachment on an individuals freedom (if they have not encroached on yours) by force or any other means is wrong. If you wish to be totally left alone that is your unalienable right regardless of the mechanics of society - it is your decision, your right, and not the utilities of this world.

E Archer, NYC

Yes, it is a right to be left alone -- as it is also the responsibility to take care of oneself. In order to be free, one must be responsible for oneself. If I choose to contract service providers for water, electricity, and telecommunications, then so be it as long as each abide by their agreement.

Mike, Norwalk

Said well Robert and Archer. Compelled compliance, license, victimless crimes, theft of the noble labor's fruits, forced charity-ID-insurance are but just some of what comes to mind in the violation of this inalienable right. I, as sovereign, am uniquely and personally responsible for my associations.

Bruce, Alabama

It appears you guys are of the camp that would make airport security a voluntary rather than a required search. The left alone crowd often does not want to be inconvenienced for the common good. If we all want to be left alone then we should abolish all government, from the block captain all the way up to the United Nations and resort to anarchy. How on earth can you correlate the word "govern" with the phrase "be left alone". To govern means to rule, regulate, control. Thankfully our rules, regulation, control, and "theft of the noble laborer's fruits" is done entirely with the consent of the governed. I fully understand that no one personally wants to be governed but generally we do want the other guy to be governed. I respectfully submit that as our species has grown in numbers and in proximity to each other the less alone we are able to be and unfortunately the more government we have required and asked for. As far as being alone I love parking my RV deep into the National Forest where I never see another person for weeks. If you all like poetry you may remember this one "No man is an island unto himself." It is nice to try but in a world of 6 billion homo sapiens I think it is the height of naivety to think each and every one of us can be left alone. I mean it would be great for the five of us to be left alone but if one of those others is throwing their raw garbage on "our" street is he entitled to be left alone also.

Randy, Canoga Park, PRK

You have SERIOUSLY missed the POINT, Bruce....

Lucy, Pandemonium

Don't get your ni****s twisted like B., this quote was about being forced to listen to audio messages on a streetcar.

Bruce, Alabama

Sorry. I know we all wish to be left alone but there is a contraian view here. Have you ever hear of the Possee Comitatus. They teach that all governing power should go to the county thus they say that they should be left alone by the state and the federal governments. I get incensed over ugly and idiotic bumper stickers and yes other peoples radios on public trans etcetera but this quote was about being left alone by government not our fellow citizens. The courts have ruled that we have no legal right not to be offended by our fellow citizens.

warren, olathe

People who don't want to leave others alone flock to government jobs.

Anonymous, duluth

well people who are alone are actually people

  • Reply
Forrest    7/14/09

We do need to be let alone as long as we are doing the RIGHT thing - not as to someones opinion.

Rick, Anchorage

All commerce involves individuals who enter into contracts which they feel are beneficial to their own situation. It matters not that they may not result in mutual benefit; as if I purchased beachfront property prior to a hurricane. This is the fundamental basis of capitalism and the interaction of people in successful economies. I, as a member of this society, should have the right to enter into a contract or to be " let alone" . When we are forced to act for the common good of a society or group seeking advantage through cronyism, special interest,etc., we are acting in ways contrary to The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution, and the Bill of Rights. There is a difference between left alone and "let alone". There is a place for all you socialists. Try the European Union and leave the rest of us "alone" and " free."

John, Orange, CA

I remember reading this quote in the newspaper when I was young. I fell in love with it right away, but I have been unable to find it again until now. The words of Justice Douglas encapsulate the drive of our American Spirit that has lead us to world greatness in so short of a time. Individual freedom is not worth perserving if it does not exist.

Dave, Detroit

Does this apply to DRONES circling over my back yard with my daughter swimming in our pool??

cal, Lewisville, Texas

Strange to hear this from a liberal justice whose decisions centralized more power to D.C.

Mick, Glasgow

Let alone to eat yourselves to death and shoot each other? Since 1968 more Americans have been killed in America by their own hand (guns) or other Americans than the cumulative American dead in all wars.

Mike, Norwalk

Bruce, Your idea of getting rid of occupying statist theocracies infesting this world (from block captains to the UN) would be a great start to re-establishing order based on the laws of nature and of natures God (where people can be left alone). Your arrogated use of diminishing anarchy needs not be resorted to when a representative republic (where the individual sovereigns rights are protected by a body politic of servants - not over lording governors) can be implemented. Order at natural law befits the quote, your diatribe does not. No word has developed in any language, that Im aware of, that describes a representative republic of sovereign individuals with inalienable rights (united as averse to union) with no one to govern or lord over them. The de jure body politic intended on this land was explained: In free governments the rulers are the servants and the people their superiors and sovereigns. (Benjamin Franklin) AND; Governments are the servants, not the masters of the people. (Thomas Jefferson). Theft of the noble labors fruit is Grand Larceny and Enslavement and I, as an individual sovereign, do NOT ! ! ! consent to theft of my labors, slavery or being governed. I neither want to be governed, I do not want others to be governed, nor do I want to govern others - that is antithetical to inalienable rights, freedom, liberty, the laws of nature and of natures God, justice and the possibility of individual sovereigns uniting. I refuse to be part of that criminal rabble that participates in Grand Larceny and Slavery.

Your diatribe of being left alone is typical liberal / progressive off topic rambling exaggerations having little to nothing to do with the stated subject matter. Being left alone here means having no inalienable rights infringed upon by government or other people - that is the beginning of all freedom. Your reference to if someone was to throw their raw garbage on "our" street, is an exercise in your referenced anarchy not a body politic of free individual sovereigns at law that are left alone. Youre here example is a criminal offense that infringes on others right of way and endangers individual sovereign health - that has nothing to do with the quotes being left alone.

Jim, Raton NM

I expect Bruce would take issue with this observation:

"We are fast approaching the stage of the ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission; which is the stage of the darkest periods of human history, the stage of rule by brute force."
-- Ayn Rand (The Nature of Government)

Jim, Raton NM

Another good definition of freedom:

Freedom is the ability to act without the initiation of force (or its threat) being used against you. You have a right to freedom because your life is your property, yours to live as you see fit (as long as you do not violate the right to life and liberty of another). If you are free, you have the unfettered ability to pursue your own happiness, to make those choices needed for the sustenance of your own life. In a semi-free society, such as we have today, your options are forcibly limited by statist politicians on the implicit claim that your life is not your own. But take special note of this important fact: your ability, in a free society, to make unfettered choices is the consequence of being unfettered, i.e., of being unconstrained by the initiation of force. "Having choices" is not the definition of freedom, it is simply one of the consequences of being free.
Fulton Huxtable, 1998

Jim, Raton NM

Perhaps this opinion is more to the liking of some folks. Its author believed individuals should subordinate their interestes to that of the collective:

The greater the readiness to subordinate purely personal interests, the higher rises the ability to establish comprehensive communities.... This state of mind, which subordinates the interests of the ego to the conservation of the community, is really the first premise of every truly human culture.
-- Adolph Hitler, Mein Kampf, Chapter 11, Ralph Manheim translation

Jim, Raton NM

Another excellent definition of liberty:

"Rightful liberty is unobstructed action, according to our will, within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others."
-- Thomas Jefferson

jim k, Austin

The difference between a politician and a rattlesnake ? A rattlesnake won't bother you unless you bother it.

Tony, Silver Spring, Md

Unfortunately the judge rarely lived up to this quote on his legal opinions while on the Supreme Court. 


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