Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “F” Quotes
On Power


William Faulkner (1897-1962)
American Author and 1950 Nobel Prize-Winner for Literature

“We cannot choose freedom established on a hierarchy of degrees of freedom, on a caste system of equality like military rank. We must be free not because we claim freedom, but because we practice it.”

Adam Ferguson (1723-1816)
Scottish Philosopher

“Liberty or Freedom is not, as the origin of the name may seem to imply, an exemption from all restraints, but rather the most effectual applications of every just restraint to all members of a free society whether they be magistrates or subjects.”

“We may, with good reason, congratulate our species on their having escaped from a state of barbarous disorder and violence, into a state of domestic peace and regular policy; when they have sheathed the dagger, and disarmed the animosities of civil contention; when the weapons with which they contend are the reasonings of the wise, and the tongue of the eloquent. But we cannot, mean-time, help to regret, that they should ever proceed, in search of perfection, to place every branch of administration behind the counter, and come to employ, instead of the statesman and warrior, the mere clerk and accountant.”

“Every step and every movement of the multitude, even in what are termed enlightened ages, are made with equal blindness to the future; and nations stumble upon establishments, which are indeed the result of human action, but not the execution of any human design.” [from An Essay on the History of Civil Society]

W. C. Fields [William Claude Dukenfield] (1880?-1946)
American Actor and Comedian

“Hell, I never vote for anybody, I always vote against.”

John T. Flynn (1882-1964)
American Journalist and Author

“The enemy aggressor is always pursuing a course of larceny, murder, rapine, and barbarism. We are always moving forward with high mission, a destiny imposed by the deity to regenerate our victims while incidentally capturing their markets, to civilize savage and senile and paranoidal peoples while blundering accidentally into their oil wells or metal mines.”

“No matter what the cause, even though it be to conquer with tanks and planes and modern artillery some defenseless black population, there will be no lack of poets and preachers and essayists and philosophers to invent the necessary reasons and gild the infamy with righteousness. To this righteousness there is, of course, never an adequate reply. Thus a war to end poverty becomes an unanswerable enterprise. For who can decently be for poverty? To even debate whether the war will end poverty becomes an exhibition of ugly pragmatism and the sign of an ignoble mind.”

“The so-called Christian virtues of humility, love, charity, personal freedom, the strong prohibitions against violence, murder, stealing, lying, cruelty--all these are washed away by war. The greatest hero is the one who kills the most people. Glamorous exploits in successful lying and mass stealing and heroic vengeance are rewarded with decorations and public acclaim. You cannot, when the war is proclaimed, pull a switch and turn the community from the moral code of peace to that of war and then, when the armistice is signed, pull another switch and reconnect the whole society with its old moral regulations again. Thousands of people of all ranks who have found a relish in the morals of war come back to you with these rudimentary instincts controlling their behavior while thousands of others, trapped in a sort of no man’s land between these two moralities, come back to you poisoned by cynicism.”

“The test of fascism is not one’s rage against the Italian and German war lords. The test is--how many of the essential principles of fascism do you accept and to what extent are you prepared to apply those fascist ideas to American social and economic life? When you can put your finger on the men or the groups that urge for America the tax-supported state, the autarchival corporative state, the state bent on the socialization of investment and the bureaucratic government of industry and society, the establishment of the institution of militarism as the great glamorous public works project of the nation and the institution of imperialism under which it proposes to alter the forms of our government to approach as closely as possible the unrestrained, absolute government--then you will know you have located the authentic fascist. . . . Fascism will come at the hands of perfectly authentic Americans, as violently against Hitler and Mussolini as the next one. but who are convinced that the present economic system in America has outlived its usefulness and who wish to commit this country to the rule of the bureaucratic state; interfering in the affairs of the states and cities; taking part in the management of industry and finance and agriculture; assuming the role of great national banker and investor, borrowing billions every year and spending them on all sorts of projects through which such a government can paralyze opposition and command public support; marshaling great armies and navies at cushing costs to support the industry of war and preparation for war which will become our greatest industry; and adding to all this the most romantic adventures in global planning, regeneration, and domination all to be done under the authority of a powerfully centralized government in which the executive will hold in effect all the powers with Congress reduced to the role of a debating society. There is your fascist.”

“Fascism is a system of social organization in which the political state is a dictatorship supported by a political elite and in which the economic society is an autarchial capitalism, enclosed and planned, in which the government assumes responsibility for creating adequate purchasing power through the instrumentality of national debt and in which militarism is adopted as a great economic project for creating work as well as a great romantic project in the service of the imperialist state.” [As We Go Marching, p. 161, 2nd ed.]

Ferdinand Foch (1851-1929)
Marshall of France, Chief of the General Staff

“The will to conquer is the first condition of victory.”

“A battle won, is a battle in which one will not confess oneself beaten.”

“Bringing up the forces piecemeal . . . amounts to throwing drops of water into a sea.”

“Battles are lost or won by generals, not by the rank and file.”

Gerald R. Ford (1913-)
38th President of the United States, Vice President and Congressman

“All of us who served in one war or another know very well that all wars are the glory and the agony of the young.”

“A government big enough to give you everything you want is a government big enough to take from you everything you have.” [Address to Congress, August 12, 1974]

“I cannot imagine any other country in the world where the opposition would seek, and the chief executive would allow, the dissemination of his most private and personal conversations with his staff, which, to be honest, do not exactly confer sainthood on anyone concerned.”

“The political lesson of Watergate is this: Never again must America allow an arrogant, elite guard of political adolescents to by-pass the regular party organization and dictate the terms of a national election.”

Theodore J. Forstmann
American Business Executive and Philanthropist

“In a state-run society the government promises you security. But it’s a false promise predicated on the idea that the opposite of security is risk. Nothing could be further from the truth. The opposite of security is insecurity, and the only way to overcome insecurity is to take risks. The gentle government that promises to hold your hand as you cross the street refuses to let go on the other side.”

Henry E. Fosdick (1878-1969)

“The tragedy of war is that it uses man’s best to do man’s worst.”

“Liberty is always dangerous, but it is the safest thing we have.”

“I hate war for its consequences, for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the undying hatreds it arouses, for the dictatorships it puts in the place of democracies, and for the starvation that stalks after it. I hate war, and never again will I sanction or support another.”

Felix Frankfurter (1882-1965)
Associate Justice, U.S. Supreme Court

“Personal freedom is best maintained . . . when it is ingrained in a people’s habits and not enforced against popular policy by the coercion of adjudicated law.”

“Freedom of the press is not an end in itself but a means to the end of {achieving} a free society.”

“The ultimate touchstone of constitutionality is the Constitution itself and not what we have said about it.” [from Graves v. New York, 1939]

Benjamin Franklin (1706-1790)
American Revolutionary, Publisher, Entrepreneur and Scientist

“Where liberty dwells, there is my country.”

“There was never a good war or a bad peace.”

“Much of the strength and efficiency of any government, in procuring & securing happiness to the people, depends on . . . the general opinion of the goodness of that government.”

“I have lived, Sir, a long time, and the longer I live the more convincing proofs I see of this truth: that God governs in the affairs of men. And if a sparrow cannot fall to the ground without His notice, is it probable that an empire can arise without His aid?. . . I. . . believe that without His concurring aid we shall succeed in this political building no better than the builders of Babel. We shall be divided by our little partial local interests; our projects will be confounded; and we ourselves shall become a reproach and byword down to future ages. And, what is worse, mankind may hereafter from this unfortunate instance despair of establishing governments by human wisdom and leave it to chance, war, and conquest.”

“Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freedom of speech.”

“They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.”

“Make yourself sheep and the wolves will eat you.”

Frederick the Great [Frederick II of Prussia] (1740-1786)
King of Prussia

“My people and I have come to an agreement which satisfies us both. They are to say what they please, and I am to do what I please.”

“If my soldiers began to think, not one would remain in the ranks.”

Sigmund Freud (1856-1939)
Austrian Psychoanalyst

“Civilization began the first time an angry person cast a word instead of a rock.”

Milton Friedman (1912-)
American Economist and 1976 Nobel Prize-Winner in Economics

“The economic miracle that has been the United States was not produced by socialized enterprises, by government-union-industry cartels or by centralized economic planning. It was produced by private enterprises in a profit-and-loss system. And losses were at least as important in weeding out failures as profits in fostering successes. Let government succor failures, and we shall be headed for stagnation and decline.”

“Whenever we depart from voluntary cooperation and try to do good by using force, the bad moral value of force triumphs over good intentions.”

“There was a time when we [the U.S.] had completely unrestricted immigration, when anybody could come to these shores and the motto on the Statue of Liberty had some real meaning. This was a country of hope and of promise for immigrants and their children, and as many as a million immigrants a year came in 1906 and ’07 and ’08. By 1914, roughly a third of the population was foreign-born or the immediate descendants of foreign-born . . . The fact that year after year hundreds of thousands of people left the countries of Europe to come to this country was persuasive evidence that they were coming to improve their lot, not to worsen it.”

“Why have we had such a decline in moral climate? I submit to you that a major factor has been a change in the philosophy which has been dominant, a change from belief in individual responsibility to belief in social responsibility. If you adopt the view that a man is not responsible for his own behavior, that somehow or other society is responsible, why should he seek to make his behavior good?”

“The essential notion of a capitalist society . . . is voluntary cooperation, voluntary exchange. The essential notion of a socialist society is force.”

“The preservation of liberty, not the promotion of efficiency, is the primary justification for private property. Efficiency is a happy, though not accidental, by-product--and a most important by-product because liberty could not have survived if it had not also produced affluence.”

“The great virtue of free enterprise is that it forces existing businesses to meet the test of the market continuously, to produce products that meet consumer demands at lowest cost, or else be driven from the market. It is a profit-and-loss system. Naturally, existing businesses generally prefer to keep out competitors in other ways. That is why the business community, despite its rhetoric, has so often been a major enemy of truly free enterprise.”

“Adam Smith’s key insight was that both parties to an exchange can benefit and that, so long as cooperation is strictly voluntary, no exchange can take place unless both parties do benefit.”

“There’s a widespread belief and common conception that somehow or other business and economics are the same, that those people who are in favor of a free market are also in favor of everything that big business does. And those of us who have defended a free market have, over a long period of time, become accustomed to being called apologists for big business. But nothing could be farther from the truth. There’s a real distinction between being in favor of free markets and being in favor of whatever business does.”

“Most economic fallacies derive. . . from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.”

“I’m in favor of legalizing drugs. According to my value system, if people want to kill themselves, they have every right to do so. Most of the harm that comes from drugs is because they are illegal.”

“Fundamentally, there are only two ways of coordinating the economic activities of millions. One is central direction involving the use of coercion--the technique of the army and of the modern totalitarian state. The other is voluntary cooperation of individuals--the technique of the marketplace.”

“If you put the federal government in charge of the Sahara Desert, in 5 years there would be a shortage of sand.”

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

“Freedom in economic arrangements is itself a component of freedom broadly understood, so economic freedom is an end in itself . . . Economic freedom is also an indispensable means toward the achievement of political freedom.”

“We have a system that increasingly taxes work and subsidizes non-work.”

“Hell hath no fury like a bureaucrat scorned.”

“Political freedom means the absence of coercion of a man by his fellow men.”

“A society that puts equality. . . ahead of freedom will end up with neither equality nor freedom.”

“Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.”

“Nothing is so permanent as a temporary government program.”

“The great virtue of a free market system is that it does not care what color people are; it does not care what their religion is; it only cares whether they can produce something you want to buy. It is the most effective system we have discovered to enable people who hate one another to deal with one another and help one another.”

“Inflation is taxation without legislation.”

“What kind of a society isn’t structured on greed? The problem of social organization is how to set up an arrangement under which greed will do the least harm.”

“Self-interest is not myopic selfishness. It is whatever it is that interests the participants, whatever they value, whatever goals they pursue. The scientist seeking to advance the frontiers of his discipline, the missionary seeking to convert infidels to the true faith, the philanthropist seeking to bring comfort to the needy—all are pursuing their interests, as they see them, as they judge them by their own values.”

“The Great Depression, like most other periods of severe unemployment, was produced by government mismanagement rather than by any inherent instability of the private economy.”

“History suggests that capitalism is a necessary condition for political freedom.”

“The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.”

“Most economic fallacies derive . . . from the tendency to assume that there is a fixed pie, that one party can gain only at the expense of another.”

“When a man spends his own money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about how much he spends and how he spends it. When a man spends his own money to buy something for someone else, he is still very careful about how much he spends, but somewhat less what he spends it on. When a man spends someone else’s money to buy something for himself, he is very careful about what he buys, but doesn’t care at all how much he spends. And when a man spends someone else’s money on someone else, he does’t care how much he spends or what he spends it on. And that’s government for you.”

Erich Fromm (1900-1980)
German-born American Psychoanalyst

“The successful revolutionary is a statesman, the unsuccessful one a criminal.”

Robert Frost (1874-1963)
American Poet

“A jury consists of twelve persons chosen to decide who has the better lawyer.”

“The strongest and most effective force in guaranteeing the long-term maintenance of power is not violence in all the forms deployed by the dominant to control the dominated, but consent in all the forms in which the dominated acquiesce in their own domination.”

J. William Fulbright (1905-1995)
U.S. Senator

“The citizen who criticizes his country is paying it an implied tribute.”

“We have the power to do any damn fool thing we want to do, and we seem to do it about every 10 minutes.”

Thomas Fuller (1608-1661)
English Clergyman and Historian

“The more laws the more offenders.”