"If you ever live in a community run by a committee, be on the committee” has been credited to American social scientist William Graham Sumner (1840-1910). It’s uncertain when he first said it, but he told it to a Yale University class he was teaching in the 1880s. As recorded in the book Quarter-centenary Record of the Class of 1885, Yale University (1913):
“He had a striking way of putting things which made them stick. I remember once there was under discussion the subject of socialism. In dismissing the class Sumner said: ‘If any of you are ever in a community where a committee runs the whole thing, take my advice and get on the committee.’”
Wikipedia: William Graham Sumner
William Graham Sumner (October 30, 1840 – April 12, 1910) was a classical liberal (now often called “libertarian") American social scientist. He taught social sciences at Yale, where he held the nation’s first professorship in sociology. He was one of the most influential teachers at Yale or any major schools. Sumner was a polymath with numerous books and essays on American history, economic history, political theory, sociology, and anthropology. He introduced the term “ethnocentrism” to identify the roots of imperialism, which he strongly opposed. He was a spokesman against imperialism and in favor of the “forgotten man” of the middle class, a term he coined. He had a long-term influence on conservatism in the United States.
Quarter-centenary Record of the Class of 1885, Yale University
By Yale University. Class of 1885
Boston, MA: Fort Hill Press
The class made its first public appearance on Sunday afternoon, when Henry DeF. Baldwin, of New York CIty, spoke at the Sumner memorial meeting. His address was, in part, as follows:
He had a striking way of putting things which made them stick. I remember once there was under discussion the subject of socialism. In dismissing the class Sumner said: “If any of you are ever in a community where a committee runs the whole thing, take my advice and get on the committee.” Nearly twenty-five years afterward I was sitting in Cooper Union, New York, enjoying the interesting experience of hearing a prospective candidate for President of the United States questioned by an audience politically, although not personally, hostile to him. He was asked some question about socialism, and he replied that he did not know very much about it; that he had read a book on it and had come to the conclusion that it involved having everything run by a committee, and that he preferred not to live in a community where a committee ran the whole thing—unless he were on the committee. I then realized that Professor Sumner had repeated himself at least once, and that the result of his teaching had not been entirely lost, even though it had not made a democrat of this distinguished Yale graduate.
30 October 1932, New York (NY) Times, “The Unforgetable Man,” pg. E1, col. 3:
He (William Graham Sumner—ed.) could put an immense amount of wisdom in a little package:
If you ever live in a community run by a committee, be on the committee.
1 November 1936, Washington (DC) Post, “Keller Sees Sumner As ANti-New Dealer:Yae Successor Of Scholar Who Coined ‘Forgotten Man’ Phrase Believes Sociologist WOuld Have ‘Taken Walk’” by Prof. A. G. Keller, pg. B7, col. 8:
FOLLOWING are a few of the many significant passages encountered in a perusal of Sumner’s essays. From them the reader can judge for himself what Sumner would have thought of today’s scene.
“If you live in a country run by committee, be on the committee.”
And I Quote:
The Definitive Collection of Quotes, Sayings and Jokes for the Contemporary Speechmaker (Revised Edition)
By Ashton Applewhite, William R. Evans III and Andrew Frothingham
New York, NY: Thomas Dunne Books
If you ever live in a country run by a committee, be on the committee. — William Graham Sumner
From Buddy to Boss:
Effective Fire Service Leadership
By Chase Sargent
Tulsa, OK: PennWell Corporation
Benjamin Franklin once said, “If you live in a country run by committee, you had better be on the committee.”
If you ever live in a country run by a committee, be on the committee. – William Graham Sumner
12:43 PM - 3 Feb 2016
New York City • Government/Law/Politics/Military • Friday, March 04, 2016 • Permalink