Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “O” Quotes
On Power


J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967)
Nuclear Physicist and Director of the Manhattan Project

“We knew the world would not be the same. A few people laughed, a few people cried. Most people were silent. I remembered the line from the Hindu scripture, the Bhagavad Gita. . . ‘I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds.’ I suppose we all felt that, one way or another.”

“The atomic bomb made the prospect of future war unendurable. It has led us up those last few steps to the mountain pass; and beyond there is a different country.”

“The open society, the unrestricted access to knowledge, the unplanned and uninhibited association of men for its furtherance - these are what may make a vast, complex, ever growing, ever changing, ever more specialized and expert technological world, nevertheless a world of human community.”

“There must be no barriers for freedom of inquiry. There is no place for dogma in science. The scientist is free, and must be free to ask any question, to doubt any asssertion, to seek for any evidence, to correct any errors.”

P. J. [Patrick Jake] O’Rourke (1947-)
Journalist and Author

“A little government and a little luck are necessary in life; but only a fool trusts either of them.”

“The mystery of government is not how Washington works but how to make it stop.”

“Every government is a parliament of whores. The trouble is, in a democracy, the whores are us.”

“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”

“When buying and selling are controlled by legislation, the first things to be bought and sold are legislators.”

“There is no virtue in compulsory government charity, and there is no virtue in advocating it. A politician who portrays himself as ‘caring’ and ‘sensitive’ because he wants to expand the government’s charitable programs is merely saying that he’s willing to try to do good with other people’s money. Well, who isn’t? And a voter who takes pride in supporting such programs is telling us that he’ll do good with his own money -- if a gun is held to his head.”

“There are just two rules of governance in a free society: Mind your own business. Keep your hands to yourself.”

“When politics are used to allocate resources, the resources all end up being allocated to politics.”

“This country was founded by religious nuts with guns.”

“The Democrats are the party that says government will make you smarter, taller, richer, and remove the crabgrass on your lawn. The Republicans are the party that says government doesn’t work and then they get elected and prove it.”

“The three branches of government . . . are not, in any sense, ‘branches’ since that would imply that there is something they are all attached to besides self-aggrandizement and our pocketbooks.”

“There is only one basic human right, the right to do as you please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

“Money is preferable to politics. It is the difference between being free to be anybody you want and to vote for anybody you want. And money is more effective than politics both in solving problems and in providing individual independence. To rid ourselves of all the trouble in the world, we need to make money. And to make money, we need to be free.”

“What is this oozing behemoth, this fibrous tumor, this monster of power and expense hatched from the simple human desire for civic order? How did an allegedly free people spawn a vast, rampant cuttlefish of dominion with its tentacles in every orifice of the body politic?”

“Wealth is, for most people, the only honest and likely path to liberty. With money comes power over the world. Men are freed from drudgery, women from exploitation. Businesses can be started, homes built, communities formed, religions practiced, educations pursued. But liberals aren’t very interested in such real and material freedoms. They have a more innocent--not to say toddler-like--idea of freedom. Liberals want the freedom to put anything into their mouths, to say bad words and to expose their private parts in art museums.”

“If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see what it costs when it’s free.”

“Free societies often do what they should, usually by default. Freedom is, after all, a matter of letting other people alone, and that’s best done by default.”

“One of the annoying things about believing in free will and individual responsibility is the difficulty of finding somebody to blame your problems on. And when you do find somebody, it’s remarkable how often his picture turns up on your driver’s license.”

“Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. It’s not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It’s not an endlessly expanding list of rights--the ‘right’ to education, the ‘right’ to health care, the ‘right’ to food and housing. That’s not freedom, that’s dependency. Those aren’t rights, those are the rations of slavery--hay and a barn for human cattle. There’s only one basic human right, the right to do as you damn well please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the consequences.”

“Politicians are always interested in people. Not that this is always a virtue. Fleas are interested in dogs.”

José Ortega y Gasset (1883-1955)
Spanish Philosopher and Essayist

“This is the gravest danger that today threatens civilization: State intervention; the absorption of all spontaneous social effort by the State, that is to say, of spontaneous historical action, which in the long run sustains, nourishes, and impels human destinies.”

“The common man, finding himself in a world so excellent, technically and socially, believes it has been produced by nature, and never thinks of the personal efforts of highly endowed individuals which the creation of this new world presupposed. Still less will he admit the notion that all these facilities still require the support of certain difficult human virtues, the least failure of which would cause the rapid disappearance of the whole magnificent edifice.”

“Civilization is nothing else but the attempt to reduce force to being the last resort.”

“As one advances in life, one realizes more and more that the majority of men--and of women--are incapable of any other effort than that strictly imposed on them as a reaction to external compulsion. And for that reason, the few individuals we have come across who are capable of a spontaneous and joyous effort stand out isolated, monumentalized, so to speak, in our experience. These are the select men, the nobles, the only ones who are active and not merely reactive, for whom life is a perpetual striving, an incessant course of training.”

“In our days the State has come to be a formidable machine . . . set up in the midst of society . . . anonymous . . . a machine whose existence and maintenance depend on the vital supports around it . . . sucking out the very marrow of society.”

George Orwell [Eric Arthur Blair] (1903-1950)
English Author

“War against a foreign country only happens when the moneyed classes think they are going to profit from it. Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.”

“A world in which it is wrong to murder an individual civilian and right to drop a thousand tons of high explosive on a residential area does sometimes make me wonder whether this earth of ours is not a loony bin made use of by some other planet.”

“If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face--forever.”

“Power-worship blurs political judgment because it leads, almost unavoidably, to the belief that present trends will continue. Whoever is winning at the moment will always seem to be invincible.”

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.”

“The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, but he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.”

“In such a force, cooperation among different parts of society would replace the traditional reliance on upper-class leadership, and a large, well-armed popular militia would act as a sort of insurance policy against government tyranny at home. At the end of an article on the Home Guard in Tribune, Orwell wrote: ‘That rifle hanging on the wall of the working-class flat or laborer’s cottage is the symbol of democracy. It is our job to see that it stays there.’”

“Rifles, muskets, long-bows and hand-grenades are inherently democratic weapons. A complex weapon makes the strong stronger, while a simple weapon--so long as there is no answer to it--gives claws to the weak.”

“The quickest way of ending a war is to lose it.”

“Specifically, the danger lies in the structure imposed on Socialist and on liberal capitalist communities by the necessity to prepare for total war with the USSR and the new weapons, of which of course the atomic bomb is the most powerful and the most publicized. But danger also lies in the acceptance of a totalitarian outlook by intellectuals of all colours. . . . If these two great blocs [the Anglo-American Oceania and a Soviet-dominated Eurasia] line up as mortal enemies it is obvious that the Anglo-Americans will not take the name of their opponents. . . .The name suggested in 1984 is of course Ingsoc, but in practice a wide range of choices is open. In the USA the phrase ‘American’ or ‘hundred per cent American’ is suitable and the qualifying adjective is as totalitarian as any could wish.” [from The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4, p. 504]

“The atomic bomb may complete the process by robbing the exploited classes and peoples of all power to revolt, and at the same time putting the possessors of the bomb on a basis of equality. Unable to conquer one another they are likely to continue ruling the world between them, and it is difficult to see how the balance can be upset except by slow and unpredictable demographic changes.”

“[T]he fear inspired by the atomic bomb and other weapons yet to come will be so great that everyone will refrain from using them. . . . It would mean the division of the world among two or three vast super-states, unable to conquer one another and unable to be overthrown by any internal rebellion. In all probability their structure would be hierarchic, with a semi-divine caste at the top and outright slavery at the bottom, and the crushing out of liberty would exceed anything the world has yet seen. Within each state the necessary psychological atmosphere would be kept up by complete severance from the outer world, and by a continuous phony war against rival states. Civilization of this type might remain static for thousands of years.” [from "Toward European Unity," Partisan Review (July-August 1947), reprinted in from The Collected Essays, Journalism and Letters of George Orwell, Vol. 4, pp. 370–75]

Peter D. Ouspensky (1878-1947)
Russian Psychologist and Philosopher

“The number of laws is constantly growing in all countries and, owing to this, what is called crime is very often not a crime at all, for it contains no element of violence or harm.”

“In existing criminology there are concepts: a criminal man, a criminal profession, a criminal society, a criminal sect, and a criminal tribe, but there is no concept of a criminal state, or a criminal government, or criminal legislation. Consequently, the biggest crimes actually escape being called crimes.”