Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “N” Quotes
On Power


George Jean Nathan (1882-1958)
Journalist, Drama Critic and Author

“Patriotism is often an arbitrary veneration of real estate above principles.”

Martin Niemoller (1892-1984)
German Theologian

“In Germany, first they came for the Communists, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Communist. Then they came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up, because I wasn’t a Jew. Then they came for the Catholics, and I didn’t speak up, because I was a Protestant.Then they came for me, and by that time there was no one left to speak up for me.” [1945]

“Our people are trying to break the bond set by God. That is human conceit rising against God. In this connection we must warn the Führer, that the adoration frequently bestowed on him is only due to God. Some years ago the Führer objected to having his picture placed on Protestant altars. Today his thoughts are used as a basis not only for political decisions but also for morality and law. He himself is surrounded with the dignity of a priest and even of an intermediary between God and man. . . . We ask that liberty be given to our people to go their way in the future under the sign of the Cross of Christ, in order that our grandsons may not curse their elders on the ground that their elders left them a state on earth that closed to them the Kingdom of God.” [1936]

Friedrich W. Nietzsche (1844-1900)
German Philosopher and Poet

“Then what is freedom? It is the will to be responsible to ourselves.”

“Beware that, when fighting monsters, you yourself do not become a monster . . . for when you gaze long into the abyss, the abyss gazes also into you.”

“How good bad music and bad reasons sound when we march against an enemy.”

“The punishment of the criminal is measured by the degree of astonishment of the judge who finds his crime incomprehensible.”

Robert A. Nisbet (1913-1996)
American Sociologist and Historian

“The militarization of intellectuals and from another point of view the intellectualization of the military. I am thinking of the fusion of the military and the university during the last half-century.”

“The history of a society can be considered in many aspects. It can be seen as the rise of democracy, the fall of aristocracy, the advance of technology, or the recession of religion. It can be conceived, as Tocqueville conceived it, as the work of equality; as Acton considered it, as the work of freedom; or in Bertrand Russell's terms, as the story of power. There is no limit to the ways of profitably regarding the history of any given society. Each mode of consideration is, as Whitehead reminded us, 'a sort of searchlight elucidating some of the facts, and retreating the remainder into an omitted background.”

“All wars of any appreciable length have a secularizing effect upon engaged societies, a diminution of the authority of old religious and moral values and a parallel elevation of new utilitarian, hedonistic, or pragmatic values. Wars, to be successfully fought, demand a reduction in the taboos regarding life, dignity, property, family, and religion; there must be nothing of merely moral nature standing between the fighting forces and victory, not even or especially, taboos on sexual encounters . . . Military, or at least war-born, relationships among individuals tend to supersede relationships of family, parish, and ordinary walks of life. Ideas of chastity, modesty, decorum, respectability change quickly in wartime.”

“World War I is the genesis of what I can think of only as the Great American Myth. The Great American Myth gave birth to other myths: Can Do, Know How, and No Fault, myths which abide to this day and yield up such disasters as Korea, Vietnam, Iran, Lebanon and Grenada. The myth also operates, and perhaps nowhere else so fatefully, in every new president’s conception of himself and his command of foreign affairs. Since FDR it has become almost de rigeur for each president to make it plain to all that he will be his own secretary of state.”

Richard M. Nixon (1913-1994)
37th U.S. President, U.S. Vice President,
U.S. Congressman, Governor of California

“A riot is a spontaneous outburst. A war is subject to advance planning.”

“Fighting for peace is like f***ing for virginity.”

“I am not a crook.”

“The White House has no involvement whatever in this particular incident.”

“I condemn any attempts to cover up in this case, no matter who is involved.”

“This office is a sacred trust and I am determined to be worthy of that trust.”

“One vote is worth a hundred obscene slogans.”

“When the president does it, that means that it is not illegal.”

“I would have made a good pope.”

“You don’t win campaigns with a diet of dishwater and milk toast.”

“Sure there are dishonest men in local government. But there are dishonest men in national government too.”

“If I could find a way to get [Saddam Hussein] out of there, even putting a contract out on him, if the CIA still did that sort of thing, assuming it ever did, I would be for it.”

“Any change is resisted because bureaucrats have a vested interest in the chaos in which they exist.”

“…in matters as sensitive as guarding the integrity of our democratic process, it is essential that not only rigorous legal and ethical standards be observed, but also that the public, you, have the total confidence that they are both being observed and enforced by those in authority and particularly by the president of the United States.” (1973)

Albert Jay Nock (1870-1945)
Journalist, Author and Essayist

“The State, both in its genesis and by its primary intention, is purely anti-social. It is not based on the idea of natural rights, but on the idea that the individual has no rights except those that the State may provisionally grant him. It has always made justice costly and difficult of access, and has invariably held itself above justice and common morality whenever it could advantage itself by so doing.”

“It is interesting to observe that in the year 1935 the average individual’s incurious attitude towards the phenomenon of the State is precisely what his attitude was toward the phenomenon of the Church in the year, say, 1500. . . . it does not appear to have occurred to the Church-citizen of that day, any more than it occurs to the State-citizen of the present, to ask what sort of institution it was that claimed his allegiance.”

“It can not even be said that the State has ever shown any disposition to suppress crime, but only to safeguard its own monopoly of crime.”

“Taking the State wherever found, striking into its history at any point, one sees no way to differentiate the activities of its founders, administrators and beneficiaries from those of a professional-criminal class.”

“The State always moves slowly and grudgingly towards any purpose that accrues to society’s advantage, but moves rapidly and with alacrity towards one that accrues to its own advantage; nor does it ever move towards social purposes on its own initiative, but only under heavy pressure, while its motion towards anti-social purposes is self-sprung.”

“There are two methods, or means, and only two, whereby man’s needs and desires can be satisfied. One is the production and exchange of wealth; this is the economic means. The other is the uncompensated appropriation of wealth produced by others; this is the political means.”

“The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner.”

“The positive testimony of history is that the State invariably had its origin in conquest and confiscation. No primitive State known to history originated in any other manner.”

“The war [World War I] immensely fortified a universal faith in violence; it set in motion endless adventures in imperialism, endless nationalistic ambition. Every war does this to a degree roughly corresponding to its magnitude. The final settlement at Versailles, therefore, was a mere scramble for loot.”

“It is unfortunately none too well understood that, just as the State has no money of its own, so it has no power of its own.  All the power it has is what society gives it, plus what it confiscates from time to time on one pretext or another; there is no other source from which State power can be drawn. Therefore every assumption of State power, whether by gift or seizure, leaves society with so much less power; there is never nor can be, any strengthening of State power without a corresponding and roughly equivalent depletion of social power.”

Charles Eliot Norton (1827-1908)
American Historian

“My friends, America has been compelled against the will of all her wisest and best to enter into a path of darkness and peril. Against their will she has been forced to turn back from the way of civilization to the way of barbarism, to renounce for the time her own ideals. With grief, with anxiety must the lover of his country regard the present aspect and the future prospect of the nation’s life. With serious purpose, with utter self-devotion he should prepare himself for the untried and difficult service to which it is plain he is to be called in the quick-coming years. Two months ago America stood at the parting of the ways. Her first step is irretrievable. It depends on the virtue, on the enlightened patriotism of her children whether her future steps shall be upward to the light or downward to the darkness.” [two months after beginning of Spanish-American War]

“‘There never was a good war,’ said Franklin. There have indeed been many wars in which a good man must take part, and take part with grave gladness to die if need be, a willing sacrifice, thankful to give life for what is dearer than life, and happy that even by death in war he is serving the cause of peace. But if a war be undertaken for the most righteous end, before the resources of peace have been tried and proved vain to secure it, that war has no defense, it is a national crime.”

“The voice of protest, of warning, of appeal is never more needed than when the clamor of fife and drum, echoed by the press and too often by the pulpit, is bidding all men fall in and keep step and obey in silence the tyrannous word of command. Then, more than ever, it is the duty of the good citizen not to be silent.”

Robert Nozick (1939-2002)
American Philosopher

“The socialist society would have to forbid capitalist acts between consenting adults.”

“Taxation of earnings from labor is on a par with forced labor. Seizing the results of someone’s labor is equivalent to seizing hours from him and directing him to carry on various activities.”

“Individuals have rights, and there are things no person or group may do (without violating their rights).”

“Each person possesses an inviobility founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot overide. For this reason justice denies that the loss of freedom for some is made right by a greater good shared by others. It does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many.”