Thank Goodness We Don’t Get As Much Government As We Pay For

Will Rogers? Charles F. Kettering? Max Denney? Thomas Jefferson? Robert Heinlein? Anonymous?

Dear Quote Investigator: Many complain about the burdensome taxes collected by some governments. Many also complain about the counter-productive and wasteful actions taken by those governments. These criticisms have been combined to produce the following comical remark:

Thank heavens we don’t get all the government we pay for.

This saying has been attributed to Charles F. Kettering who was the head of research at General Motors Corporation for many years. The quip has also been credited to the popular humorist Will Rogers. Would you please explore this topic?

Quote Investigator: This quip is difficult to trace because its phrasing is highly variable. The earliest match located by QI appeared in a Fairbury, Nebraska newspaper in 1947. Local businessman Max Denney addressed a meeting of Rotarians and discussed government spending. He employed the joke but disclaimed credit. Boldface added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1947 June 11, The Fairbury Daily News, Says Public Interest Answer To Worry Over Tax Burdens, Quote Page 1, Column 8, Fairbury, Nebraska. (Newspapers_com) .

The only bright spot in the cost of government Denney said, is one man’s observation that “Thank goodness we don’t get as much government as we pay for”

QI thinks that an anonymous jokesmith should receive credit for this saying based on current knowledge. Will Rogers died in 1935, and he received posthumous credit in 1966, but the long delay meant that this was very weak evidence.

Charles F. Kettering used the joke in 1949, but he disclaimed credit. See below. Here are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading Thank Goodness We Don’t Get As Much Government As We Pay For

References

References
1 1947 June 11, The Fairbury Daily News, Says Public Interest Answer To Worry Over Tax Burdens, Quote Page 1, Column 8, Fairbury, Nebraska. (Newspapers_com)

In Theory There Is No Difference Between Theory and Practice, While In Practice There Is

Yogi Berra? Albert Einstein? Richard Feynman? Benjamin Brewster? Charles F. Kettering? Walter J. Savitch? Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut? Dave Jeske? Chuck Reid?

Dear Quote Investigator: The following popular adage balances unsteadily between brilliance and absurdity:

In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they are not.

This notion has been attributed to many people including famous baseball player Yogi Berra, scientific genius Albert Einstein, and prominent physicist Richard P. Feynman. What do you think?

Quote Investigator: There is no substantive reason to credit Berra, Einstein, or Feynman. The expression was coined before Einstein had reached his third birthday and before the other two were born.

The earliest strong match located by QI appeared in “The Yale Literary Magazine” of February 1882 which was written and edited by students. Benjamin Brewster who was a member of the class of 1882 wrote about an argument he had engaged in with a philosophical friend about theory versus practice. His companion accused him of committing a vulgar error. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[1]1882 February, The Yale Literary Magazine, Conducted by the Students of Yale College, Volume 47, Number 5, Portfolio: Theory and Practice by Benjamin Brewster, Quote Page 202, New Haven, Connecticut. … Continue reading

I heard no more, for I was lost in self-reproach that I had been the victim of “vulgar error.” But afterwards, a kind of haunting doubt came over me. What does his lucid explanation amount to but this, that in theory there is no difference between theory and practice, while in practice there is?

Brewster was humorously summarizing the position of his friendly opponent, and QI believes that the saying should be credited to Brewster.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading In Theory There Is No Difference Between Theory and Practice, While In Practice There Is

References

References
1 1882 February, The Yale Literary Magazine, Conducted by the Students of Yale College, Volume 47, Number 5, Portfolio: Theory and Practice by Benjamin Brewster, Quote Page 202, New Haven, Connecticut. (Google Books Full View) link

You Can’t Have a Better Tomorrow If You Are Thinking About Yesterday All the Time

Charles F. Kettering? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Charles F. Kettering was a prominent inventor and the head of research at General Motors for more than twenty-five years. I believe he said that one couldn’t envision a better tomorrow if one was always thinking about yesterday. I am not sure of the precise phrasing he used. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: In 1961 a collection of speeches by Kettering was published under the title “Prophet of Progress”. He spoke at a luncheon in his honor on the twenty-fifth anniversary of his development of the electric self-starter for automobiles. Emphasis added to excerpts:[1]1961, Prophet of Progress: Selections from the Speeches of Charles F. Kettering, Edited by T. A. Boyd, Speech Title: Opportunities Unlimited, Start Page 15, Quote Page 16, E. P. Dutton and Company, … Continue reading

I have said I was pretty sure that man came from the crab family because we back into everything. We don’t go straight forward at all. I think it is time we turned around and faced the future with our backs to history. You can’t have a better tomorrow if you are thinking about yesterday all the time. If you want to back into history far enough to get some bearings, that is perfectly all right.

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading You Can’t Have a Better Tomorrow If You Are Thinking About Yesterday All the Time

References

References
1 1961, Prophet of Progress: Selections from the Speeches of Charles F. Kettering, Edited by T. A. Boyd, Speech Title: Opportunities Unlimited, Start Page 15, Quote Page 16, E. P. Dutton and Company, New York. (Verified with scans)

We Should All Be Concerned About the Future Because We Will Have To Spend the Rest of Our Lives There

Charles F. Kettering? Apocryphal?

Dear Quote Investigator: Charles F. Kettering was a prolific inventor and the head of research for General Motors for many years. During an interview he apparently uttered a line about the future that was simultaneously humorous and insightful:

We should all be concerned about the future because we will have to spend the rest of our lives there.

I am having trouble finding a solid citation. Would you please help?

Quote Investigator: Charles F. Kettering discussed this theme several times, and his remarks were refined over time. In 1938 he addressed a testimonial dinner of the Chamber of Commerce held in Lansing, Michigan. Emphasis added to excerpts by QI:[1] 1938 December 2, The State Journal (Lansing State Journal), Technological Lag Blamed By Kettering for Slumps, Start Page 1, Quote Page 11, Column 2 and 3, Lansing, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)

“Tomorrow will be exactly what you think it ought to be and the accomplishments of the future depend entirely on the amount of imagination we have got, the amount of industry we have got in pursuing them, and when we think they are worth while.

“I am not worried about the future at all. In fact I think it is the most wonderful future I ever had. I have got to spend all the rest of my life in that future, and I don’t want to run it down. It is going to be a wonderful place to live, I think,” Mr. Kettering concluded.

In July 1939 Kettering spoke at a joint luncheon held by the Los Angeles Chamber of Commerce and the Advertising Club. He employed a compact version of the saying based on “I” instead of “we”:[2] 1939 July 19, Los Angeles Times, Future Hailed by Kettering, Part 2, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)

“You know,” the speaker remarked with a serious face, “I am interested in the future because I expect to spend the rest of my life in the future.”

Below are additional selected citations in chronological order.

Continue reading We Should All Be Concerned About the Future Because We Will Have To Spend the Rest of Our Lives There

References

References
1 1938 December 2, The State Journal (Lansing State Journal), Technological Lag Blamed By Kettering for Slumps, Start Page 1, Quote Page 11, Column 2 and 3, Lansing, Michigan. (Newspapers_com)
2 1939 July 19, Los Angeles Times, Future Hailed by Kettering, Part 2, Quote Page 3, Column 1, Los Angeles, California. (Newspapers_com)