Quotation: "A government big enough to give you everything you need, is a government big enough to take away everything that you have."
- "Government that is big enough to give everything you need and want is also strong enough to take it away."
- "Any government powerful enough to give the people all that they want is also powerful enough to take from the people all that they have."
Earliest known appearance in print: 1965 (as variation #1)
Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Jefferson:
Comments: Neither this quotation nor any of its variant forms has been found in the writings of Thomas Jefferson. Gerald R. Ford, who said, "A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have," in an address to a joint session of Congress on August 12, 1974.
This quotation is sometimes followed by, "The course of history shows that as a government grows, liberty decreases," which is most likely a misquotation of Jefferson's comment, "The natural progress of things is for liberty to yeild, and government to gain ground."
- Anna Berkes, 2007; revised 1/15/13
- Jefferson Library. "Finding Jefferson Quotations." Lists a number of sources helpful in locating specific Jefferson quotations, or quotations on a given topic.
- 1. Suzy Platt, ed., Respectfully Quoted: A Dictionary of Quotations Requested from the Congressional Research Service (Washington, D.C.: Library of Congress, 1989), 140. Available online at http://www.bartleby.com/73/714.html. See the text of Ford's speech at the American Presidency Project.
- 2. Note that "yeild" was Jefferson's original spelling."