A plaque remaining from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem.

Above, a 1934 plaque from the Big Apple Night Club at West 135th Street and Seventh Avenue in Harlem. Discarded as trash in 2006.

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Entry from May 28, 2019
“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch”

"Democracy is two wolves and a lamb/sheep voting on what to have for lunch/dinner” is a saying that has been printed on many images. Although it has often been credited (since about 2000) to Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790), he never said it. The saying means that in a pure democracy, the majority would literally eat the minority for lunch/dinner. The saying is often used by those who point out that the United States is a republic, not a democracy.

“Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to have for lunch” was printed in the journal Nomos: Studies in Spontaneous Order in 1987. Authorship is unknown.

These variations were posted on the newsgroup misc.activism.militia by Bill K. on October 15, 1996:

“A Democracy: Three wolves and a sheep voting on dinner.
A Republic: The flock gets to vote for which wolves vote on dinner.
A Constitutional Republic:  Voting on dinner is expressly forbidden, and the sheep are armed.
Federal Government: The means by which the sheep will be fooled into voting for a Democracy…
Democrats and Republicans: sheep who think they are wolves.
--me”


“This quote from Benjamin Franklin says it all: ‘Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote’” was printed in the Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN) on January 27, 2000.


Wikiquote: Benjamin Franklin
Benjamin Franklin (17 January 1706 – 17 April 1790) was one of the Founding Fathers of the United States. A renowned polymath, Franklin was a leading author, printer, political theorist, politician, postmaster, scientist, inventor, civic activist, statesman, and diplomat.
(...)
Misattributed
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.
. Widely attributed to Franklin on the Internet, sometimes without the second sentence. It is not found in any of his known writings, and the word “lunch” is not known to have appeared anywhere in English literature until the 1820s, decades after his death. The phrasing itself has a very modern tone and the second sentence especially might not even be as old as the internet. Some of these observations are made in response to a query at Google Answers.
..The earliest known similar statements are:
..A democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.
...Gary Strand, Usenet group sci.environment, 23 April 1990.
..Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.
...Marvin Simkin, “Individual Rights”, Los Angeles Times, 12 January 1992.
..Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.
...James Bovard, Lost Rights: The Destruction of American Liberty (1994), ISBN 0312123337, p. 333.
...Also cited as by Bovard in the Sacramento Bee (1994)

Google Books
Nomos: Studies in Spontaneous Order
Volume 5
1987
Pg. 32:
Democracy is two wolves and a lamb, voting on what to have for lunch.

28 April 1989, The Journal Times (Racine, WI), “A right of choice for all” by Kay Rouse ("an unsuccessful Libertarian Party candidate for Legislature last fall"), pg. 1C, col. 5:
This country is still a republic, not a democracy. A democracy could be “two wolves and a lamb voting about what to have for dinner.”

1 March 1990, Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY), “Letters to the Editor,” pg. 11A, col. 1:
Liberty, not democracy
DEMOCRACY has been described as two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for lunch. Individual liberty is a better deal for all people, especially minority groups of various types, no matter how small in number. For more information write: Society for Individual Liberty, P.O.Box 10224, Rochester, New York 14610.
John C. Sproul Rochester

Google Groups
From: (Gary Strand)
Newsgroups: sci.environment
Subject: Re: One Person’s Impact
Message-ID: <7098@ncar.ucar.edu>
Date: 23 Apr 90 17:49:55 GMT
References: <7007@ncar.ucar.edu> <1497@gara.une.oz.au> <7031@ncar.ucar.edu> <3174@astroatc.UUCP> <7083@ncar.ucar.edu> <1990Apr23.163121.7119@tc.fluke.COM>
Sender:
Reply-To: (Gary Strand)
Organization: Climate and Global Dynamics Division/NCAR, Boulder, CO
Lines: 48
Posted: Mon Apr 23 18:49:55 1990
(...)
A democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.

26 July 1990, The Courier-Journal (Louisville, KY), “Judge rules write-in votes are proper, says state is violating rights of citizens” by Jodi Perras (AP), pg. A10, col. 4:
“It seems like our idea of democracy is two wolves and a lamb deciding on what to have for dinner,” Dillon said. “We’ve felt like as an independent, we’re being squeezed out of the process.”
(Stephen W. Dillon, vice chairman of the state Libertarian Party.—ed.)

Los Angeles (CA) Times
‘Mainstream Values’ Vs. Campus Pluralism : Campus Correspondence : The Privileged Classes Must Yield in the Name of Equality
Charles Flatt and Sheila Allen are co-chairs of the Harvard-Radcliffe Bisexual, Gay and Lesbian Students Assn
NOVEMBER 25, 1990 CAMBRIDGE, MASS.
Democracy has been described as four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Unmoderated majority rule means that the mistakes, the ignorance and the prejudices of the majority will become law. Minorities will be devoured, and the resulting society will be one of enforced and fearful homogeneity.

23 April 1991, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Low Turnout for Election” (letter), pg. 6:
Democracy has been compared to a vote among four wolves and a sheep as to what they will have for dinner. The tendency of democracy toward majoritarian tyranny is the reason why our forefathers established this nation as a republic and that is why The Times should reconsider its editorial “Silencing the Voting Majority” (April 12).
(...)
TOM BLAIR, San Pedro

Google Groups: talk.politics.misc
“...And to the Republic” (Republic, not Democracy)
John Sulak
9/18/91
I enjoyed watching C-SPAN’s coverage of the Libertarian Party convention in Chicago. One item from the convention is worth discussing. When Dick Bodie was running against Andre Marrou for the party’s nomination, a CSPAN interviewer asked him why he could oppose some laws that the majority are in favor, after all, the interviewer stated, “We are a democracy.”

Mr. Bodie replied that we are first a Republic and than a Democracy. The difference being that the Bill of Rights and Constitution restrict what the government (theoretically representing the majority) can do.

Mr. Boddie had a colorful definition of Democracy without such restriction: “It is when two wolves and one sheep decide to vote on ‘What’s for dinner?’”

Los Angeles (CA) Times
12 January 1992, Los Angeles (CA) Times, “Individual Rights” (letter), San Diego sec., pg. 2:
Democracy is not freedom. Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to eat for lunch. Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote. Those rights are spelled out in the Bill of Rights and in our California Constitution. Voters and politicians alike would do well to take a look at the rights we each hold, which must never be chipped away by the whim of the majority.
MARVIN SIMKIN, San Diego

Google Books
Lost Rights:
The Destruction of American Liberty

By James Bovard
New York, NY: St. Martin’s Griffin
1994, 1995
Pg. 333:
Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner.

Google Books
Politics and Dirty Tricks:
A Guide to Screwing Up the System

By V. R. Farb
Boulder, CO: Paladin Press, 1995
Pg. VIII:
Those who espouse this often laudatory goal fail to realize that a democracy is best described as two wolves and a lamb voting about what to have for lunch.

Google Books
California Government
By John L. Korey
Lexington, MA: D.C. Heath
1995
Pg. 7:
Direct democracy, which the initiative process promotes, has been described as “four wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”

Google Groups: misc.activism.militia
a society without guns—intent on banning even replica weapons
Bill K.
10/15/96
(...)
A Democracy: Three wolves and a sheep voting on dinner.
A Republic: The flock gets to vote for which wolves vote on dinner.
A Constitutional Republic:  Voting on dinner is expressly forbidden, and the sheep are armed.
Federal Government: The means by which the sheep will be fooled into voting for a Democracy…
Democrats and Republicans: sheep who think they are wolves.
--me

27 January 2000, Journal and Courier (Lafayette, IN), “Letters to the Editor: Gun control debate takes scary turn,” pg. A9, cols. 2-3:
This quote from Benjamin Franklin says it all: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”
(...)
Steve Pahs
West Lafayette

Posted by Barry Popik
New York CityGovernment/Law/Politics/Military • Tuesday, May 28, 2019 • Permalink