Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “G” Quotes
On Power


John Kenneth Galbraith (1908-)
American Economist and Ambassador to India

“You will find that the State is the kind of organization which, though it does big things badly, does small things badly, too.”

“The sudden loss of power leaves you suddenly, unimaginably empty, facing decompression and a psychic case of the bends. You are assailed, however unnaturally, by self-doubt. And by continuous thought of the decisions that now lack your guiding hand. Worst of all, and least expected, you are now naked to your enemies.” [having been ousted as Director of the Office of Price Administration in 1943]

“Nothing is so admirable in politics as a short memory.”

Albert Gallatin (1830-1864)
U.S. Secretary of the Treasury and Congressman

“Government prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated; and it is not without much hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate the concerns of individuals, as if he could do it better than themselves.”

“The whole of the Bill [of Rights] is a declaration of the right of the people at large or considered as individuals. . . It establishes some rights of the individual as unalienable and which consequently, no majority has the right to deprive them of.”

“Government prohibitions do always more mischief than had been calculated; and it is not without much hesitation that a statesman should hazard to regulate the concerns of individuals, as if he could do it better than themselves.”

Mahatma [Mohandas Karamchand] Gandhi (1869-1948)
Indian Social Reformer and Spiritual Leader

“No society can possibly be built on a denial of individual freedom.”

“Coercion cannot but result in chaos in the end.”

“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.”

“One who uses coercion is guilty of deliberate violence. Coercion is inhuman.”

“Freedom is not worth living if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that previous right.”

“I look upon an increase of the power of the State with the greatest fear, because although while apparently doing good by minimizing exploitation, it does the greatest harm to mankind by destroying individuality, which lies at the root of all progress. We know of so many cases where men have adopted trusteeship, but none where the State has really lived for the poor.”

“The state represents violence in a concentrated and organized form. The individual has a soul, but as the state is a soulless machine, it can never be weaned from violence to which it owes its very existence.”

“An eye for eye only ends up making the whole world blind.”

“First they ignore you. Then they laugh at you. Then they fight you. Then you win.”

“I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.”

“What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or in the holy name of liberty and democracy?”

“Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest. If we want the Arms Act to be repealed, if we want to to learn the use of arms, here is a golden opportunity. If the middle classes render voluntary help to the Government in the hour of its trial, distrust will disappear, and the ban on possessing arms will be withdrawn.”

Garet Garrett [Edward Peter Garrett] (1878-1954)
American Journalist and Author

“We have crossed the boundary that lies between Republic and Empire. If you ask when, the answer is that you cannot make a single stroke between day and night: the precise moment does not matter. There was no painted sign to say: ‘You now are entering Imperium.’ Yet it was a very old road and the voice of history was saying: ‘Whether you know it or not, the act of crossing may be irreversible.’ And now, not far ahead, is a sign that reads: ‘No U-turns.’”

“How now, thou American, frustrated crusader, do you know where you are?”

“Is it security you want? There is no security at the top of the world. To thine own self a liberator, to the world an alarming portent, do you know where you are going from here? . . . Be that as it may, how now do you project yourself? Will you go on crashing the barriers of time and space? And when you can travel so fast that you arrive ahead of your own sound, what will you bring to the world at that speed? Not peace. Peace would be happy to fly no faster than a dove.”

“The idea of imposing universal peace on the world by force is a barbarian fantasy.”

“What we now write is to complete the record. We have no idea what the next consequences will be or what will have happened by the time these words appear. But as in time to come it may be bitterly remembered, so now be it said that in the one hundred and fifty years of its existence the house of constitutional republican government was betrayed, even as the builders feared. Unawares to the people, the exalted Executive principle could involve them in a war.”

“The Congress has not been told. The President did it all by executive will, one thing at a time, and the news came afterward, not in any case, perhaps, all of the news, but as much only as was necessary for the people and the Congress to know.”

“The American revolution was a pilot flame that leaped the Atlantic and lighted holocaust in the Old World. But its character was misunderstood and could not have been reproduced by any other people. It was a revolution exemplary.”

“Beyond all considerations of an economic or financial character, there is pressing upon us all the time that sense of obligation to save Europe. [That same motive] seized us deeply during the war. It carried us into the war. We were going to save Europe from Germany, the German people from the Hohenzollerns, little nations from big ones, all the people from the curse of war forever.” [on the build-up to World War II]

“The war had profoundly altered the significance and status of American industry. . . . During and after the war, industry came to be regarded as an attribute of state power, almost as clearly such as the military establishment. And why not? Security, independence, national welfare, economic advantage, diplomatic prestige--were not all as dependent upon efficient machine industry as upon an army or navy? . . . The new way of thinking about industry, therefore, was basically political. A factory thereafter would be like a ship--a thing to be privately owned and privately enjoyed only in time of peace, always subject to mobilization for war.”

William Lloyd Garrison (1805-1879)
American Abolitionist and Journalist

“With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will plea; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.”

“Are right and wrong convertible terms, dependant upon popular opinion?”

“Little boldness is needed to assail the opinions and practices of notoriously wicked men; but to rebuke great and good men for their conduct, and to impeach their discernment, is the highest effort of moral courage.”

“On this subject I do not which to think, or speak, or write, with moderation. No! No! Tell a man whose house is on fire to give a moderate alarm; tell him to moderately rescue his wife from the hands of the ravisher; tell the mother to gradually extricate her babe from the fire into which it has fallen; but urge me not to use moderation in a cause like the present. I am in earnest; I will not equivocate; I will not retreat a single inch; and I will be heard.”

John W. Gardner (1913-2002)
U.S. Secretary of Health, Education and Welfare

“It is hard to feel individually responsible with respect to the invisible processes of a huge and distant government.”

Henry George (1839-1897)
American Economist and Author

“It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.”

David Lloyd George [Earl Lloyd-George of Dwyfor] (1863-1945)
British Prime Minister, President of the Board of Trade, Chancellor of
the Exchequer, Arms Minister and War Minister

“Independent thinking is not encouraged in a professional Army. It is a form of mutiny. Obedience is the supreme virtue.”

“He would make a drum out of the skin of his mother in order to sound his own praises.” [on Winston Churchill]

“Death is the most convenient time to tax rich people.”

“If you want to succeed in politics you must keep your conscience firmly under control.”

“A fully equipped Duke costs as much to keep up as two Dreadnoughts, and Dukes are just as great a terror, and they last longer.”

“A politician is a person with whose politics you don’t agree; if you agree with him he’s a statesman.”

“Liberty is not merely a privilege to be conferred; it is a habit to be acquired.”

“War has always been fatal to liberalism.”

“We are muddled into war.”

Edward Gibbon (1737-1894)
English Historian and Author

“What protectionism teaches us, is to do to ourselves in time of peace what enemies seek to do to us in time of war.”

“It is not the business of government to make men virtuous or religious, or to preserve the fool from the consequences of his own folly. Government should be repressive no further than is necessary to secure liberty by protecting the equal rights of each from aggression on the part of others, and the moment governmental prohibitions extend beyond this line they are in danger of defeating the very ends they are intended to serve.”
Henry George

“In the end, more than they wanted freedom, they wanted security.”

“As long as mankind shall continue to bestow more liberal applause on their destroyers than on their benefactors, the thirst of military glory will ever be the vice of exalted characters.”

Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)
Lebanese Poet, Philosopher and Artist

“Life without liberty is like a body without spirit.”

“What do the nationalists say about killers punishing murderers and thieves sentencing looters?”

André Gide (1869-1951)
French Author and 1947 Nobel Prize-Winner in Literature

“It is easier to lead men to combat, stirring up their passion, than to restrain them and direct them toward the patient labors of peace.”

William Ewart Gladstone (1809-1898)
British Prime Minister

“Liberalism is trust of the people tempered by prudence. Conservatism is distrust of the people tempered by fear.”

“Justice delayed, is justice denied.”

“Here is my first principle of foreign policy: good government at home.”

William Godwin (1756-1836)
English Philosopher and Author

“Above all we should not forget that government is an evil, a usurpation upon the private judgement and individual conscience of mankind.”

“Once annihilate the quackery of government, and the most homebred understanding might be strong enough to detect the artifices of the state juggler that would mislead him.”

“I ought to appropriate such part of the fruits of the earth as by any accident comes into my possession, and is not necessary to my benefit, to the use of others; but they must obtain it from me by argument and expostulation, not by violence. It is in this principle that what is commonly called the right of property is founded. Whatever then comes into my possession, without violence to any other man, or to the institutions of society, is my property.”

“It might then be sufficient for juries to recommend a certain mode of adjusting controversies, without assuming the prerogative of dictating that adjustment. It might then be sufficient for them to invite offenders to forsake their errors. If their expostulations proved, in a few instances, ineffectual, the evils arising out of this circumstance would be of less importance than those which proceed from the perpetual violation of the exercise of private judgement. But, in reality, no evils would arise: for, where the empire of reason was so universally acknowledged, the offender would either readily yield to the expostulations of authority; or, if he resisted, though suffering no personal molestation, he would feel so uneasy, under the equivocal disapprobation, and observant eye, of public judgement, as willingly to remove to a society more congenial to his errors.”

Joseph P. Goebbels (1897-1945)
German Propaganda Leader

“. . . the rank and file are usually much more primitive than we imagine. Propaganda must therefore always be essentially simple and repetitious.”

“The most brilliant propagandist technique will yield no success unless one fundamental principle is borne in mind constantly. . . it must confine itself to a few points and repeat them over and over.”

Hermann Goering (1893-1946)
German Commander-in-Chief of the Luftwaffe,
President of the Reichstag, Prime Minister of Prussia

“Why of course the people don't want war. Why should some poor slob on a farm want to risk his life in a war when the best he can get out of it is to come back to his farm in one piece? Naturally, the common people don't want war: neither in Russia, nor in England, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all it is the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it is always a simple matter to drag the people along, whether it is a democracy, or a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship . . . Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is to tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger.” [at the Nuremberg Trials before he was sentenced to death]

“You must choose between butter or guns.”

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832)
German Author

“None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.”

Emma Goldman (1869-1940)
American Writer and Women’s Rights Advocate

“The majority cannot reason; it has no judgment. It has always placed its destiny in the hands of others; it has followed its leaders even into destruction. The mass has always opposed, condemned, and hounded the innovator, the pioneer of a new truth.”

“How long would authority . . . exist, if not for the willingness of the mass to become soldiers, policemen, jailers, and hangmen.”

“Resistance to tyranny is man’s highest ideal.”

“If voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

“We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens.”

“No real social change has ever been brought about without a revolution. . . revolution is but thought carried into action.”

“The people are urged to be patriotic . . . by sacrificing their own children. Patriotism requires allegiance to the flag, which means obedience and readiness to kill father, mother, brother, sister.”

“The powers know that the people at large are like children whose despair, sorrow, and tears can be turned into joy with a little toy. . . . An army and navy represents the people’s toys.”

“The individual is the true reality of life. A cosmos in himself, he does not exist for the State, nor for that abstraction called ‘society,’ or the ‘nation,’ which is only a collection of individuals.”

“We Americans claim to be a peace-loving people. We hate bloodshed; we are opposed to violence. Yet we go into spasms of joy over the possibility of projecting dynamite bombs from flying machines upon helpless citizens.”

“Public school--where the human mind is drilled and manipulated into submission to various social and moral spooks, and thus fitted to continue our system of exploitation and oppression.”

“The majority cares little for ideals and integrity. What it craves is display.”

“Conceit, arrogance, and egotism are the essentials of patriotism.”

“If education should mean anything at all, it must insist on the free growth and development of the innate forces and tendencies of the child. In this way alone can we hope for the free individual and eventually also for a free community, which shall make interference and coercion of human growth impossible.”

“[Anarchism is the] philosophy of a new social order based on liberty unrestricted by man-made law; the theory that all forms of government rest on violence, and are therefore wrong and harmful, as well as unnecessary.”

Barry Goldwater (1909-1998)
U.S. Senator

“I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.”

“I have little interest in streamlining government or in making it more efficient, for I mean to reduce its size. I do not undertake to promote welfare, for I propose to extend freedom. My aim is not to pass laws, but to repeal them. It is not to inaugurate new programs, but to cancel old ones that do violence to the Constitution, or that have failed in their purpose, or that impose on the people an unwanted financial burden. . . . And if I should later be attacked for neglecting my constituents’ ‘interests,’ I shall reply that I was informed that their main interest is liberty and in that cause I am doing the very best I can.”

“A government that is big enough to give you all you want is big enough to take it all away.”

Samuel Gompers (1850-1924)
American Labor Leader and Founder/Leader of War Committee on Labor

“The worst crime against working people is a company which fails to operate at a profit.”

Mikhail Gorbachev (1931-)
President, U.S.S.R. and 1990 Nobel Prize-Winner for Peace

“The social model of the Bolsheviks failed, as will any model that denies individual rights, intellectual freedom, and freedom of competing political parties. Without these freedoms and rights, there is no motivation for people to work. Such a system cannot be sustained, especially in light of the technological revolution of the information era.”

Thomas Gordon (1698?-1750)
American Author and Revolutionary

“By Liberty I understand the Power which every Man has over his own Actions, and his Right to enjoy the Fruits of his Labour, Art, and Industry, as far as by it he hurts not the Society, or any Members of it, by taking from any Member, or by hindering him from enjoying what he himself enjoys. The Fruits of a Man’s honest Industry are the just Rewards of it, ascertained to him by natural and eternal Equity, as is his Title to use them in the Manner which he thinks fit: And thus, with the above Limitations, every Man is sole Lord and Arbitrer of his own private Actions and Property.”

“In most Parts of the Earth there is neither Light nor Liberty; and even in the best Parts of it they are but little encouraged, and coldly maintained; there being, in all Places, many engaged, through Interest, in a perpetual Conspiracy against them. They are the two greatest Civil Blessings, inseparable in their Interests, and the mutual Support of each other; and whoever would destroy one of them, must destroy both. Hence it is, that we every where find Tyranny and Imposture, Ignorance and Slavery, joined together; and Oppressors and Deceivers mutually aiding and paying constant Court to each other. Whereever Truth is dangerous, Liberty is precarious.”

Katherine Graham (1918-2001)
American Publisher and Business Executive

“We live in a dirty and dangerous world. There are some things the general public does not need to know, and shouldn’t. I believe democracy flourishes when the government can take legitimate steps to keep its secrets and when the press can decide whether to print what it knows.”

Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885)
18th President of the United States and General-in-Chief, Army of the Potomac

“I have never advocated war except as a means of peace.”

“I know no method to secure the repeal of bad or obnoxious laws so effective as their stringent execution.”

“If men make war in slavish obedience to rules, they will fail.”

Germaine Greer (1822-1885)
Australian Author and Women’s Rights Advocate

“Freedom is fragile and must be protected. To sacrifice it, even as a temporary measure, is to betray it.”

“Security is when everything is settled. When nothing can happen to you. Security is the denial of life.”

Angelica Grimke (Weld) (1805-1879)
American Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Advocate

“The doctrine of blind obedience and unqualified submission to any human power, whether civil or ecclesiastical, is the doctrine of despotism, and ought to have no place among Republicans and Christians.”

Sarah Moore Grimke (1792-1873)
American Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Advocate

“I surrender not our claim to equality. All I ask of our brethren is that they will take their feet from off our necks, and permit us to stand upright on the ground which God has designed for us to occupy.”

Erwin N. Griswold (1904-1994)
Member, U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

“The right to be let alone is the underlying principle of the Constitution’s Bill of Rights.”

Elgin Groseclose
Financial Analyst and Author

“Until government administrators can so identify the interests of government with those of the people and refrain from defrauding the masses through the device of currency depreciation for the sake of remaining in office, the wiser ones will prefer to keep as much of their wealth in the most stable and marketable forms possible--forms which only the precious metals provide.”

"The use of the word ‘royalty,’ as fee to a proprietor for the exploitation of a work or property, derives from the period when the sovereign assumed title to all wealth of the realm. It was the struggle for freedom from these encroachments of the state that chiefly marked the Nineteenth Century, and established everywhere constitutional regimes of limited authority. In the Twentieth Century, however, we have witnessed a gradual and almost unrestricted movement back to state authoritarianism, primarily in the economic sphere, accompanied by the spread of state monopoly and intervention.”

Hugo Grotius (1583-1645)
Dutch Advocate-General, Philosopher and Author

“Liberty is the power that we have over ourselves.”

“He knows not how to rule a kingdom, that cannot manage a province; nor can he wield a province, that cannot order a city; nor he order a city, that knows not how to regulate a village; nor he a village, that cannot guide a family; nor can that man govern well a family that knows not how to govern himself; neither can any govern himself unless his reason be lord, will and appetite her vassals; nor can reason rule unless herself be ruled by God, and be obedient to Him.”

Doug Gwyn

“Truth is not determined by majority vote.”