Sunday, January 15, 2006

Buttons and Bumperstickers

An underappreciated art form--in some ways closer to poetry than to prose. The goods ones make an argument or tell a joke or story in an impossibly small number of words.

Consider one of my favorites: "What If They Had a War and Nobody Came?" Nine words to sketch a profound and debatable point--that there is no "they," that state action always comes down to choices by individuals. Auden did it in eight--"There is no such thing as the state"--but not as well. The same point is, I hope, one of the ideas implicit in the novel I have forthcoming from Baen this spring--but it took me a lot more words.

Or, another favorite of mine, "Don't Commit Suicide: It is Illegal to Destroy Government Property." My wife offers, as a different example of the same art form, the title of an essay by Thomas Sowell: "Pink and Brown People." And, for maximum offensiveness in minimum words: "Nuke the Whales."

Herewith two of mine, both for specialized audiences. One, intended as a button to be sold at events of the Federalist Society: "Lochner v. New York was Rightly Decided." The other, a bumper sticker for those of us who spend too much time in multiplayer online games: "My Alt is a BMW."

Commenters are invited to post their favorites.


At 10:08 PM, January 15, 2006, Blogger Brian Dunbar said...

Display some adaptability.

But move forward, too. Light a candle, yes. But also drive a rivet.

Get to low-earth orbit and you're halfway to anywhere in the solar system.

At 3:22 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't steal. The government HATES competition.

At 3:23 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Don't drive faster than your guardian angel can fly.

At 5:51 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous JA$ON said...

I like "Real Rebels Don't Support Centralized State Authority."

At 7:51 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"If you vote, you have no right to complain"

At 8:39 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous robbbbbb said...

A favorite among gun rights enthusiasts:

"Ted Kennedy's Car Has Killed More People Than My Gun."

I've been thinking of putting this one together and selling it:

"Better a failed businessman than a successful politician."

At 9:54 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Peter K. said...


At 10:24 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger said...

I enjoy the ongoing debate expressed via the Darwin "fish" and the Jesus fish. What I enjoy most is the irony of the Christian counterattack: the Jesus fish (often with "Truth" written on it) devouring the Darwin "fish." There's nothing quite as odd as fighting against the theory of evolution by using one of its base tenets: survival of the fittest.

At 10:38 AM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

"The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it."

~ Thomas Jefferson

I had this one on CafePress for a awhile.

At 11:22 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

""The beauty of the second amendment is that it will not be needed until they try to take it."

~ Thomas Jefferson"

Not bad, although a bit wordy. Do you have any evidence Jefferson actually said it? It sounds more like a modern comment.

At 11:24 AM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Rob Dawg said...

"Nuke the Whales" is brief but the whole saying achieves maximum offense:

"Nuke the Gay Whales for Jesus"

At 12:09 PM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your instincts are right, David. That Jefferson quote is, unfortunately, not real. This one, however, is authentic (if verbose):

"One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them." --Thomas Jefferson

At 12:17 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger said...

Back around election time I wanted to have a bumper sticker that said something like:

Choosing the lesser of two evils gets you evil every time.

At 12:50 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Beelzebub said...

I remember one from way back (late 70s , I think): "Love the Country, Loathe the Nation". I don't remember who, if anybody, was being quoted. Another from the late 70s: "US Out of North America!"

At 12:57 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger John T. Kennedy said...

"Vote or Die" - Puff Daddy

"Giant Douche or Turd Sandwich" - South Park

At 1:01 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger John T. Kennedy said...

Whether you agree with the sentiment or not "Choose Life" does pretty well for two words.

At 1:27 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

"US Out of North America!"

"Choose Life"

Both are punchy, but I find both ambiguous. The first could either be an anarchist slogan or a deliberate spoof of an anti-Vietnam War (or anti-Gulf War or ...) slogan, designed to make fun of the anti-war position. The second could be anti-abortion, or anti-death penalty, or any of a variety of other things.

Along the lines of spoof slogans, I'm fond of "Reunite Gondwanaland."

"Real Rebels Don't Support Centralized State Authority" is too explicit and preachy for my taste. "Real Rebels Don't Fight for Power" might make the point better.

At 1:42 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Todd Mitchell said...

"Dog is my co-pilot"

At 2:47 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Ryan said...

While not a bumber sticker or button, there was a guy standing outside one of those TV studios with windows that allow you to see people outside on election night 2004 that was wearing a shirt that read, "Fuck this shit."

At 4:41 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger Sean Strasburg said...

From a paper on tyranny and liberty by Rebecca Brown the very fine slogan:

Honk if you are tired of constitutional theory.

At 5:49 PM, January 16, 2006, Blogger GodlessZone said...

I prefer two bumper stickers next to each other. The first says "Question Authority!"

The second: "Why?"

At 6:58 PM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Alex J. said...

Not a bumpersticker, but close:

"Jesus died for my sins, and all I got was this lousy T-shirt."

At 7:23 PM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous billswift said...

Don't give all your baskets to one egghead.

Not a bumpersticker, it was Arthur Clarke warning against too centralized planning & devolopment for space.

Guns cause crime like flies cause garbage.

At 7:30 PM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

not political....but one of my favorites as a kid:

"Meter maids eat their young."

At 7:50 PM, January 16, 2006, Anonymous Lemur said...

The funniest far-right bumper sticker I've ever seen:

"To find Jesus, turn right and go straight!"

At 6:53 AM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Vache Folle said...

Earth First- We'll log the other planets later.

Jesus is Coming. Look Busy.

I'd Rather Be Driving.

God is Not a Republican... or a Democrat.

At 6:54 AM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous albatross said...

From _Oath of Fealty_:
"Think of it as evolution in action."

"An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind"

I always wanted to get a Darwin fish and a Jesus fish, face them together, and surround them with hearts.

At 7:40 AM, January 17, 2006, Blogger doc said...

A button, white type on a red background:


I've had mine for more than 30 years.

At 10:24 AM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I made up a rather wordy one a few years back...

"Congress spends half its time with its thumb up its arse, and the other half with its fingers in everyone's pies; this explains the bad taste in your mouth."

At 12:52 PM, January 17, 2006, Blogger Wirkman Virkkala said...

To annoy nearly everyone, I conceived a two-sided t-shirt, years ago, but never did anything with it. Side A: "Put religion back in the schools" and Side B: "and put the Coke back in Coca-Cola."

Doesn't quite encapsulate my philosophy, however. Some election years, this does, though: "I'm Pro-choice so I DON'T Vote!"

At 1:41 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous Alex J. said...

Vote from the rooftops.

At 8:40 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous Hinheckle Jones said...

Speed on brother, Hell aint half full.

I may be slow, but I'm ahead of you.

If you can read this, you're driving upside down.

At 9:58 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous Bryan Eastin said...

Not all who wander are lost.

Who would Jesus bomb?

A variant on one posted earlier:
Earth first, we'll mine the other planets later.

We're making enemies faster than we can kill them.

And finally, a button given to me by a girlfriend of mine many years ago:
I smile because I don't know what's going on.

At 11:01 PM, January 17, 2006, Anonymous chas99 said...

Not political, but an old favorite:

Plus the one I wished I had used when Hillary was running:

At 5:59 AM, January 18, 2006, Blogger Einzige said...

Government is for slaves
Free men govern themselves

At 6:02 AM, January 18, 2006, Blogger Einzige said...

Wirkman Virkkala's comment reminded me of a shirt a friend of mine used to have.

On the front it said, "Have you forgotten about Jesus?"

Then, on the back it said, "Isn't it about time you did?"

At 7:30 AM, January 18, 2006, Blogger primenumbergirl said...

Don't know if it's a bumpersticker or not. But I have always liked:

Complacency begs to be punished

At 10:01 AM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course, you can't do better than Nancy Leibowitz's buttons:

At 1:36 PM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous Fabian Wallen said...

In the 1973 movie Sleeper, Miles Monroe (Woody Allen) is accidentally being frozen down for 200 years. He wakes up in 2173, only to find out that the US has become a fascist style police state. He falls in love with a girl, and joins her in a revolutionary underground movement.

In one scene, they run into a 200 year old, run-down, car with the funniest bumper sticker:


The girlfriend doesn’t understand the message, and hence Miles Monroe explains:

“Oh, he was probably a member of the National Rifle Association. There was a group that helped criminals get guns so they could shoot citizens.”

At 5:48 PM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A number of years ago in Louisiana we had a corrupt former governor (now in Prison) running against a former wizard of the Klan. I had a bumper sticker which said "Vote for the Crook - Its important"

At 8:30 PM, January 18, 2006, Anonymous Keith G. Derrick said...

Nothing below is original, but H.L. Mencken is always good for a quip.

Adultery is the application of democracy to love. (H.L. Mencken)

Democracy: The worship of jackals by jackasses. (H.L. Mencken)

Communism comes by way of rape, socialism by seduction. (Charles Adams)

At 3:54 AM, January 19, 2006, Anonymous Julius Blumfeld said...

Not a bumper sticker, but a ritual phrase my wife and I say whenever a police car drives past at high speed with lights flashing:

"There's nothing worse than cold pizza"

At 9:36 AM, January 19, 2006, Anonymous Fabian Wallen said...

Some years ago, at a gas station somewhere in the deepest south, I found a bumper sticker with the following message:


I still got it attached to the wall in my office. The sad part is, though, that it is just as relevant where I live, in Sweden, a country with merely 9 million inhabitants...

At the same gas station I found a nice baseball hat with a lighter message, simple and clear cut:


At 7:10 PM, January 19, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

One more idea of mine--a T-shirt for my kids:

Front: Agent of Entropy

Back: It's not just chaos, it's the law.

At 9:47 PM, January 19, 2006, Blogger Larry White said...

A couple of my favorite bumper stickers...

Support Feudalism--Your Count Votes!

I brake whenever the Voices tell me to.

At 10:21 PM, January 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A t-shirt that says "Pedro lacks political experience"

At 3:04 PM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Kyle Bennett said...

Best bumper sticker I ever saw (not political): printed in bright red was "If this looks blue, you're driving too fast".

And a related joke my all time favorite, (though I guess jokes are off topic): "Werner Heisenberg was pulled over for speeding. Cop asks him 'Do you know how fast you were going?', 'No', Heisenberg replied, 'but I know exactly where I was'.

At 3:22 PM, January 20, 2006, Anonymous Pete Bessman said...


At 7:52 PM, January 20, 2006, Blogger Scott said...


Not my favorites, but the three stickers currently on my bumper:

"Remember, the government big enough to give you everything want is big enough to take away everything you have."

"No taxation... period."

"I wish I could go back in time and murder FDR."

I was a more rambunctious libertarian when I bought them.

I'm curious, David, as to your fondness for the Lochner decision. It's distinctly anti-federalist, and--if you think that federalism is a good thing--there's a bit of tension there. How do you justify thinking it was right?

Originalist grounds? Or just a provocative thing to say?

At 12:40 AM, January 21, 2006, Blogger David Friedman said...

"I'm curious, David, as to your fondness for the Lochner decision. It's distinctly anti-federalist, and--if you think that federalism is a good thing--there's a bit of tension there. How do you justify thinking it was right?

Originalist grounds? Or just a provocative thing to say?"

Mainly to be provocative.

I think Lochner's originalist grounds are pretty shaky. Some years ago, I published in _Liberty_ a review of a biography of Stephen Field. I entitled it "Earl Warren in a White Hat." So far as I can tell, Field did what Warren was accused of doing--first decided what the Constitution ought to say, and then went looking for some way of claiming it said it.

The difference, of course, is that Field was, on the whole, on the right side. The Constitution ought to protect freedom of exchange and freedom of contract.

At 3:19 PM, January 21, 2006, Blogger Scott said...

The difference, of course, is that Field was, on the whole, on the right side. The Constitution ought to protect freedom of exchange and freedom of contract.

At the price of federalism?

At 1:15 PM, January 22, 2006, Anonymous js290 said...

"If you vote, you have no right to complain"

I think that's George Carlin.

Maybe someone has said: "Freedom can't be legislated."

At 6:17 PM, January 22, 2006, Blogger daYDreAmErX said...

On my bumper :

Fighting for the rights of the individual against a government gone bad.

Shame on me, I'm living in a French-speaking province ;)

At 7:53 PM, January 23, 2006, Blogger Malachi said...

Give Iraq OUR constitution; we're not using it.

Vote Libertarian and win a free country!

I wonder if that last one qualifies as vote buying?

At 6:48 PM, February 11, 2006, Anonymous Kevin S. Van Horn said...

Gov't attracts thieves like shit attracts flies.

The means determine the ends.

At 5:22 PM, January 09, 2007, Blogger chriscal12 said...

I had a custom bumper sticker made that has a big red "X" through, "Article I, Section 8, Clause 3", which is of course the commerce clause. It's mainly good as a conversation starter, since few people would know off hand what it meant.


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