Bertrand Russell? Leo Rosten? Apocryphal?
Dear Quote Investigator: The relationship between government and law can be deftly summarized with two contrasting statements:
- Government can exist without law(s).
- Law(s) cannot exist without government.
These dual notions have been attributed to the famous British mathematician and social critic Bertrand Russell. Would you please help me to find a citation?
Quote Investigator: In 1950 Bertrand Russell published a collection titled “Unpopular Essays”. The quotation appeared in the essay “Ideas That Have Helped Mankind”. Boldface added to excerpts by QI: 1
Government can easily exist without law, but law cannot exist without government—a fact which was forgotten by those who framed the League of Nations and the Kellogg Pact. Government may be defined as a concentration of the collective forces of a community in a certain organization which, in virtue of this concentration, is able to control individual citizens and to resist pressure from foreign states.
The elegance of the statement stems from the repetition of the key words “government” and “law” in transposed order. Variant statements attributed to Russell have entered circulation over time. The word “law” is sometimes replaced by “laws”. This replacement occurs for either one or both instances of “law”.
Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.
- 1950, Unpopular Essays by Bertrand Russell, Chapter 9: Ideas That Have Helped Mankind, Start Page 124, Quote Page 140, Simon and Schuster, New York. (Verified with scans) ↩