The Last Word

An eclectic collection that made us pause for thought.

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We must avoid arrogance. Vanity leads to mistakes.

— Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani, Emir of Qatar (in an inaugural speech after his father abdicated in his favour)

There’s no point in being an economist if you can’t manipulate statistics.

— Merryn Somerset Webb in the FT

Stay ahead of the avant garde.

— The personal motto of the artist Peter Blake.

Just for the record, I’m not in favour of sin.

— Justin Welby, Archbishop of Canterbury, BBC Radio 4

Definition of the monarchy:
The light above politics.

— Roger Scruton

It is not the business of the botanist to eradicate the weeds.

— C. Northcote Parkinson

She [Tracey Emin] is the Sarah Palin of the art world.

— Jeremy Deller, FT interview

Democracy is a like bus, we will get off when we get to our destination.

— Tayyip Erdogan, Prime Minister of Turkey

Science is the poetry of reality.

— Richard Dawkins

Everything has to be acted to be real.

— Mark Rylance, Interview in the FT by Peter Aspden

If a God has made this world, then I would not like to be the God; it’s misery and distress would break my heart.

— Arthur Schopenhauer

You’ll never have a good art career unless your work fits into the elevator of a New York apartment block.

— Grayson Perry, Reith lectures

It is a very long cultural decline from Lord Reith to the current Reith lectures: all the way from robust health to decadent triviality.

— Anne-Carole Chamier, FT

Watching the prime minister trying to run the country is like watching Edward Scissorhands trying to make balloon animals.

— Simon Hoggart

To experience sublime natural beauty is to confront the total inadequacy of language to describe what you see.

— Eleanor Catton, Man Booker prize winner, Article in The Guardian

Physically I’m a chicken. Mentally, I’m bold.

— Jeff Bezos, founder of Amazon, on himself

Fear is a far more dominant force in human behaviour than euphoria.

— Alan Greenspan, Interview by Gillian Tett, FT

Religion is the frozen thought of man out of which they build temples.

— J Krishnamurti, With thanks to Harry Eyres, FT

The English don’t understand music, but they love the noise it makes.

— Sir Thomas Beecham

If it weren’t for electricity, we’d all be watching television by candlelight.

— George Gobel

Limitless growth is the fantasy of economists, businesses and politicians.

— Vandana Shiva, philosopher, writing in the Guardian

When I was sitting there at the Fed, I would say “Does anyone know what is going on?” ….. I couldn’t tell what was really happening.

— Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the Federal Reserve of the United States, Interview with Gillian Tett in the FT

Music makes people less obsessed with consumerism because a performance is not a consumable or ownable. It’s not a commodity.

— Ian Bostridge, Interview by Andrew Clark in the FT

Spare me your sermons and I will fix your sewers.

— Teddy Kollek, former mayor of Jerusalem.

I don’t spend my days fussing about even large sums of money. It’s not that I’m rich, it’s just that I’d rather not look at a piece of paper with money written on it. It’s not what I do.

— Charles Saatchi, giving evidence in the trial of two former employees. Nov 2013

“What is the penalty for bigamy?”
“Two wives.”

— Traditional French joke

We pretend we’re run by people. We’re not run by anybody. The secret of modern Britain is that there is no power anywhere.

— Rory Stewart MP, interviewed by Decca Aitkenhead

Real concern for the future is always more persuasive in those who have a genuine feeling for the past.

— Nicolas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, Interview in the FT by Jackie Wullschlager

The curious phenomenon is that contemporary art is descended from the avant-garde but has taken something that was a radical, complex gesture and made it popular and simple, so it misrepresents modernism’s tradition.

— Nicholas Penny, Director of the National Gallery, FT interview

Definition of Peace in modern times:
Peace is merely the interval while everyone is reloading.

— John E Kiddell, Letter in FT

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

— Albert Einstein

The future is the only certain thing that does not exist.

— Otto Dov Kulka

I now want more time to devote to politics and more freedom to do so.

— Tony Benn in 1999 on his retirement as an MP

I would be ashamed if I ever said anything I didn’t believe in, to get on personally.

— Tony Benn, BBC radio interview

He (Tony Blair) squandered a massive landslide from an electorate hungry for change, poured billions of public pounds into private pockets and accelerated the growing gap between rich and poor.

— Bob Crow, RMT Union leader

To be honest, I don’t like students very much.

— Sir Andre Geim, Regius Professor of Physics, Manchester University, Radio 4, Desert Island Discs

There is no business on a dead planet.

— Petter Stordalen, billionaire environmentalist

Less inequality is likely to make economies work better by increasing the ability of the entire population to participate, on more equal terms. An important condition for this, in turn, is that politics not be unduly beholden to wealth.

— Martin Wolf in the Financial Times

When you have time to go fishing, you don’t have the money. And when you have the money, you don’t have the time.

— Jeremy Paxman

You can’t produce a baby in one month by getting nine women pregnant.

— Warren Buffett

The birth of the lounge suit has been the death of creativity for men’s dress.

— Dr Richard Chartres, Bishop of London, Quoted in Evening Standard

You should sleep as little as you can, and try and change the world.

— Matthieu Pigasse, Interview in FT

After you have about $5m to $10m, your lifestyle doesn’t really change that much.

— Clive Palmer, Australian minerals magnate and politician, Interview in FT

Doing nothing is not an option.

— Maathai Wangari

The question is, why are private details that are transmitted online any different from the details of our lives that are stored in our private journals? There shouldn’t be this distinction between digital and printed information.

— Edward Snowden, Interview in the Guardian

It will be a war in which we risk almost everything of which we are proud, and in which we stand to gain nothing.
Even those who have worked for the war will enter it without enthusiasm, and amongst the majority of our countrymen the thought of it has aroused the deepest misgivings and the most poignant regret.
Some day we shall all regret it.

— Manchester Guardian leading article 5 August 1914

What’s right is what’s left if you do everything else wrong.

— Robin Willliams

There are two things people always pay for, food and sex. I wasn’t any good at cooking.

— Madame Claude, a celebrated 20th century Paris brothel keeper

This world doesn’t make it easy with the constant pressures to conform and be ‘normal’. But when I realised that nobody was normal, it was a huge liberation, one that transformed my life.

— Francesca Martinez, comedian and actress, FT Magazine

A party full of ‘likeable’ people doesn’t bear contemplating.

— Will Self
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