Five Quotes By Richard Feynman On Politics

Physicist Richard Feynman did not like any politician. Feynman was an atheist who had no respect for authority. Feynman was a liberal or conservative?
richard feynman political views

Nobel Prize winning American physicist Richard Feynman, known for pioneering the field of quantum electrodynamics, was more famous for his outspokenness. "I learned from my father: have no respect whatsoever for authority," Feynman once said.

Richard never showed admiration for any politician. Given how individualistic and anti-authoritarian Feynman was, if forced to run for President, it would probably be as an independent. Following are Feynman's views on politics.


In 1963, Feynman stated during a lecture: I believe in limited government. I believe that government should be limited in many ways, and what I am going to emphasize is only an intellectual thing.

No government has the right to decide on the truth of scientific principles, nor to prescribe in any way the character of the questions investigated.

Feynman added: Neither may a government determine the aesthetic value of artistic creations, nor limit the forms of literary or artistic expression.

According to Richard Feynman, it is the duty of a government to its citizens to maintain the freedom, to let those citizens contribute to the further adventure and development of the human race.


Feynman played a crucial role on the Rogers Commission, which investigated the 1986 Challenger disaster. He was dying of cancer at the time, but felt it was necessary to use his last productive days on the government project.

Feynman wrote in his report: NASA owes it to the citizens from whom it asks support to be frank, honest, and informative. For a successful technology, reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled.


Feynman believed democracy to be a scientific type of government. Only in this system, Feynman declared, new ideas can be developed, tried out and tossed away if necessary, with more ideas brought in  — a trial and error system.

Feynman said: Democracy was a result of the fact that science was already showing itself to be a successful venture at the end of the eighteenth century. It was clear to people even then that doubt and discussion were essential to progress.


Feynman joked in 1987: There are 10^11 stars in the galaxy. That used to be a huge number. But it is only a hundred billion. It is less than the national deficit! We used to call them astronomical numbers. Now we should call them economical numbers.


Feynman demonstrated why a scientist can never become the president. Suppose two politicians are running for president, and one goes through the farm section and is asked, "What are you going to do about the farm question?" And he knows right away — bang, bang, bang.

The second campaigner goes: "I don't know anything about farming. But it seems to me it must be a very difficult problem, because for twelve, fifteen, twenty years people have been struggling with it. And it must be a hard problem...

…So the way I intend to solve the farm problem is to gather around me a lot of people who know something about it, to look at all the experience that we have had with this problem before, to take a certain amount of time at it, and then to come to some conclusion in a reasonable way about it."

According to Feynman, the second candidate would not get anywhere in America. This is in the attitude of mind of the populace, that they have to have an answer and that a man who gives an answer is better than a man who gives no answer, when in most cases, it is the other way around.

Because there is lack of respect for people who are trying to solve problems, such a candidate can get to nowhere. Whereas, the politician can make tall claims and promises and fool people time and time again. The attitude of the populace is to blame, says Feynman.

Summing up:

Richard Feynman favored democratically elected government and likened it to the scientific method. He envisions a system in which doubt and discussion are not frowned upon. As an independent thinker Feynman is against all kinds of authority — religious, political or scientific.

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