"Democracy is mob rule” was not said by the founding fathers of the United States, although they did make similar critical comments about pure democracy. “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%” has been credited to Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826) since at least 2002, but he never wrote or said this.
The Greek philosopher Plato (424/423 BC–348/347 BC) did write something similar to “democracy is mob rule.” The Greek historian Polybius (ca. 200–118 BC) wrote that democracy descends into mob rule (or “ochlocracy"). An 1888 book titled Democracy stated, “The fear of democracy is mob rule.”
“Democracy is mob rule, but with income taxes” is a humorous saying that has been cited in print since at least 1993.
A somewhat similar phrase is “One man’s mob is another man’s democracy.”
Ochlocracy (Greek: οχλοκρατία or okhlokratía; Latin: ochlocratia) or mob rule is government by mob or a mass of people, or the intimidation of legitimate authorities. As a pejorative for majoritarianism, it is akin to the Latin phrase mobile vulgus meaning “the fickle crowd”, from which the English term “mob” was originally derived in the 1680s.
Ochlocracy ("rule of the general populace") is democracy ("rule of the people") spoiled by demagoguery, “tyranny of the majority” and the rule of passion over reason, just like oligocracy ("rule of a few") is aristocracy ("rule of the best") spoiled by corruption. Ochlocracy is synonymous in meaning and usage to the modern, informal term “Mobocracy,” which emerged from a much more recent colloquial etymology.
The term appears to have been coined by Polybius in his Histories (6.4.6). He uses it to name the ‘pathological’ version of popular rule in opposition to the good version, which he refers to as democracy. There are numerous mentions of the word “ochlos” in the Talmud (where “ochlos” refers to anything from “mob,” “populace” to “armed guard"), as well as in Rashi, a Jewish commentary on the Bible. The word is recorded in English since 1584, derived from the French ochlocratie (1568), which stems from the original Greek okhlokratia, from okhlos “mob” and kratos “rule, power, strength”
Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello
Quotation: “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.”
1."A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51 percent of the people may take away the rights of the other 49.”
2."A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”
Earliest known appearance in print: 2004
Other attributions: None known.
Status: We currently have no evidence to confirm that Thomas Jefferson ever said or wrote, “Democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%” or any of its listed variations. We do not know the source of this statement’s attribution to Thomas Jefferson.
By James Platt
London: Simpkin, Marshall and Co.
The fear of democracy is mob rule — a reign of terror; when the majority, imperfectly acuainted with the facts and the arguments on which sound political judgments must be founded, and necessarily the most ignorant portion of the community, have tghe power to exercise, by their greater number, a tyranny over the more enlightened minority.
Democracy, its defects and advantages
By Cecil Delisle Burns
New York, NY: Macmillan
It is therefore equally true to say that democracy is mob-rule, or that the voice of the people is the voice of God; but each is true only of a particular situation, and neither is always true.
The Philosophy of Plato
By Raphael Demos
New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons
Democracy is mob rule. Both states are divided and both are selfish; the democratic government is a class society too, in which the erstwhile poor have all the rights and the rich are exploited
Google News Archive
18 June 1944, St. Petersburg (FL) Times, “Washington Merry-Go-Round” by Drew Pearson, pg. 30, col. 7:
“Then I am against you, because I am against democracy. I am for a republic but I am against democracy because democracy is mob rule.”
(Republican Representative Fred Crawford of Michigan—ed.)
Google News Archive
19 October 1961, Oxnard (CA) Press-Courier, “Washington Merry-Go-Round” by Drew Pearson, pg. 24, col. 4:
Robert Welch, founder of the secret John Birch Society, is teaching his followers that democracy is “mob rule.” He describes it as “the worst form of government there is.” Even worse than communism.
Google Groups: net.politics
Date: Wed, 6-Mar-85 15:17:31 EST
Local: Wed, Mar 6 1985 2:17 pm
Subject: Is this a Republic or a Democracy?
In the really far out sense democracy is nothing but mob rule.
Google Groups: misc.legal
Newsgroups: alt.censorship, misc.legal
From: (Paul Campbell)
Date: 24 Oct 91 13:03:34 GMT
Local: Thurs, Oct 24 1991 7:03 am
Subject: Re: Is censorship of NEA inevitable?
Democracy is mob rule.
Google Groups: alt.quotations
From: (Richard M. Romanowski)
Date: Wed, 15 Dec 1993 00:47:11 GMT
Local: Tues, Dec 14 1993 6:47 pm
Subject: Re: democracy
That’s diplomacy. Democracy is mob rule, but with income taxes.
Google Groups: alt.politics.org.covert
From: (T MAG300)
Subject: Democracy vs. Republic
Do you actually know what a democracy is ?
About 370 BC, Plato wrote: “A democracy is a state in which the poor, gaining the upper hand, kill some and banish others, and then divide the offices among the remaining citizens equally.”
About 126 BC, Polybius wrote: “The common people feel themselves oppressed by the grasping of some, and their vanity is flattered by others. Fired with evil passions, they are no longer willing to submit to control, but demand that everything be subject to their authority. The invariable result is that the government assumes the noble names of free and popular, but becomes in fact the most execrable thing, mob rule,”
6 August 1998, Washington (DC) Post, “Still More: The Best T-Shirts of 1998” by Bob Levey, pg. C16:
“Democracy Is Mob Rule with Income Taxes”—anonymous
Google Groups: soc.culture.argentina
Newsgroups: alt.culture.argentina, soc.culture.argentina
Date: Fri, 28 Jun 2002 16:48:56 -0400
Local: Fri, Jun 28 2002 2:48 pm
Subject: Re: “Deja Vú”
Lo que se olvidan es que Jefferson también dijo lo siguiente:
“A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.”—“Una democracia es nada más que un gobierno por multitud, en donde el cincuenta y un por ciento del pueblo le puede quitar los derechos a los otros cuarenta y nueve.”
Big Big Forums
11-14-2002 02:35 PM
Democracy is mob rule, but with income taxes.
Democracy is mob rule, but with income taxes.
01-23-03, 12:33 PM
7. Democracy is mob rule, but with income taxes.
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • (0) Comments • Tuesday, December 06, 2011 • Permalink