Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “P” Quotes
On Power


Thomas Paine (1737-1809)
American Revolutionary and Author

“The supposed quietude of a good man allures the ruffian; while on the other hand, arms, like laws, discourage and keep the invader and the plunderer in awe, and preserve order in the world as well as property. The same balance would be preserved were all the world destitute of arms, for all would be alike; but since some will not, others dare not lay them aside. . . horrid mischief would ensue were one half the world deprived of the use of them . . .”

“I am thus far a Quaker, that I would gladly argue with all the world to lay aside the use of arms and settle matters by negotiation, but unless the whole will, the matter ends, and I take up my musket and thank Heaven He has put it in my power.”

“Civil rights are those which appertain to man in right of his being a member of society.”

“Not a place upon earth might be so happy as America. Her situation is remote from all the wrangling world and she has nothing to do but trade with them.”

“Government ought to be as much open to improvement as anything which appertains to man, instead of which it has been monopolized from age to age, by the most ignorant and vicious of the human race. Need we any other proof of their wretched management, than the excess of debts and taxes with which every nation groans, and the quarrels into which they have precipitated the world?”

“Great part of that order which reigns among mankind is not the effect of Government. It has its origin in the principles of society and the natural constitution of man. It existed prior to Government, and would exist if the formality of Government was abolished. The mutual dependence and reciprocal interest which man has upon man, and all the parts of a civilised community upon each other, create that great chain of connection which holds it together. The landholder, the farmer, the manufacturer, the merchant, the tradesman, and every occupation, prospers by the aid which each receives from the other, and from the whole. Common interest regulates their concerns, and forms their law; and the laws which common usage ordains, have a greater influence than the laws of Government. In fine, society performs for itself almost everything which is ascribed to Government.”

“Those who expect to reap the blessings of freedom must, like men, undergo the fatigues of supporting it.”

“The instant formal government is abolished, society begins to act. A general association takes place, and common interest produces common security”

“Some writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices. The one encourages intercourse, the other creates distinctions. The first is a patron, the last a punisher.”

“The danger to which the success of revolutions is most exposed, is that of attempting them before the principles on which they proceed, and the advantages to result from them, are sufficiently seen and understood.”

“From the east to the west blow the trumpet to arms! Through the land let the sound of it flee; Let the far and the near all unite, with a cheer, In defense of our Liberty Tree.”

“When the government fears the people, it is liberty. When the people fear the government, it is tyranny.”

“He who would make his own liberty secure must guard even his enemy from oppression; for if he violates this duty he establishes a precedent that will reach to himself.”

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

“In a general view, there are few conquests that repay the charge of making them, and mankind are pretty well convinced that it can never be worth their while to go to war for profit’s sake. If they are made war upon, their country invaded, or their existence at stake, it is their duty to defend and preserve themselves, but in every other light, and from every other cause, is war inglorious and detestable.”

“Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one. Government, like dress, is the badge of lost innocence; the palaces of kings are built upon the ruins of the bowers of paradise.”

“. . . could we take of the dark covering of antiquity [pertaining to the origin of kings and of the State] and trace them to their first rise, we should find the first of them nothing better than the principle ruffian of some restless gang; whose savage manners or pre-eminence in subtlety obtained him the title of chief among plunderers; and who by increasing in power and extending his depredations, overawed the quiet and defenseless to purchase their safety by frequent contributions.”

“It is the duty of the patriot to protect his country from its government.”

“These are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country, but he that stands it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell, is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph.”

“Moderation in temper is always a virtue; but moderation in principle is always a vice.”

“War can never be in the interest of a trading nation any more than quarreling can be profitable to a man in business. But to make war with those who trade with us is like setting a bulldog upon a customer at the shop-door.”

“The most unprofitble of all commerce is that connected with foreign dominion. To a few individuals it may be beneficial, merely because it is commerce; but to the nation it is a loss. The expense of maintaining dominion more than absorbs the profit of any trade.”

Vilfredo Pareto (1848-1923)
Italian Economist and Sociologist

“Above, far above the prejudices and passions of men soar the laws of nature. Eternal and immutable, they are the expression of the creative power they represent what is, what must be, what otherwise could not be. Man can come to understand the: he is incapable of changing them.”

Albert R. Parsons (1848-1887)
Labor Leader and Haymarket Massacre Martyr

“Every great robbery that was ever perpetrated upon a people has been by virtue of an in-the-name-of law.”

“The people will never give up their liberties but under some delusion.”

“Formerly the master selected the slave; today the slave selects his master.”

Blaise Pascal (1623-1662)
French Mathematician

“Can anything be stupider than that a man has the right to kill me because he lives on the other side of a river and his ruler has a quarrel with mine, though I have not quarreled with him?”

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from mistaken conviction.”

Isabel Paterson (1886-1961)
American Author

“A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.”

“As freak legislation, the antitrust laws stand alone. Nobody knows what it is they forbid.”

“No law can give power to private persons; every law transfers power from private persons to government.”

“Certainly the slaughter committed from time to time by barbarians invading settled regions, or the capricious cruelties of avowed tyrants would not add up to one-tenth the horrors perpetrated by rulers with good intentions. We have the peculiar spectacle of the man [Stalin] who condemned millions of his own people to starvation, admired by philanthropists whose declared aim is to see to it that everyone in the world has a quart of milk.”

“The most dimwitted attempt at argument we’ve heard in this mortal world is the supposed retort to any advocate of freedom: ‘Do you mean to be free to starve?’ We mean, do you think you can’t starve with your hands tied?”

Pope John Paul II [Karol Joseph Wojtyla] (1920-)
Supreme Pontif of Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal, and Archbishop of Krakow

“The fundamental error of socialism is anthropological in nature. Socialism considers the individual person simply as an element, a molecule within the social organism, so that the good of the individual is completely subordinated to the functioning of the socio-economic mechanism. Socialism likewise maintains that the good of the individual can be realized without reference to his free choice, to the unique and exclusive responsibility which he exercises in the face of good or evil. Man is reduced to a series of social relationships, and the concept of the person as the autonomous subject of moral decisions disappears.”

“Where self-interest is suppressed, it is replaced by a burdensome system of bureaucratic control that dries up the wellsprings of initiative and creativity.”

“The first and fundamental structure for ‘human ecology’ is the family, in which man receives his first ideas about truth and goodness and learns what it means to love and be loved, and thus what it means to be a person.”

“. . . Christian reflection has sought a fuller and deeper understanding of what God’s commandment prohibits and prescribes. There are in fact situations in which values proposed by God’s Law seem to involve a genuine paradox. This happens for example in the case of legitimate defense, in which the right to protect one’s own life and the duty not to harm someone else’s life are difficult to reconcile in practice. Certainly, the intrinsic value of life and the duty to love oneself no less than others are the basis of a true right to self-defense.”

“. . . legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life, the common good of the family or of the State. Unfortunately, it happens that the need to render the aggressor incapable of causing harm sometimes involves taking his life. In this case, the fatal outcome is attributable to the aggressor whose actions brought it about, even though he may not be morally responsible because of a lack of the use of reason.”

“War should belong to the tragic past, to history: it should find no place on humanity's agenda for the future.”

“Will . . . the threat of common extermination continue?. . . Must children receive the arms race from us as a necessary inheritance?”

William Penn (1644-1718)
American Quaker Leader, First Governor of Pennsylvaia and Author

“Let the people think they govern and they will be governed.”

“Those people who will not be governed by God will be ruled by tyrants.”

“Justice is the insurance we have in our lives, and obedience is the premium we pay for it.”

“Between a man and his wife nothing ought to rule but love. Authority is for children and servants, yet not without sweetness.”

“Force may make hypocrites, but it can never make converts.”

“If we will not be governed by God then we must be governed by tyrants.”

Don José Julian Marti y Perez (1853-1895)
Cuban Revolutionary and Author

“To change masters is not to be free.”

"Once the U.S. military is in Cuba, who will drive it out?”

Pericles (493-429 B.C.)
Greek Statesman

“Just because you do not take an interest in politics doesn’t mean politics won’t take an interest in you.”

“Freedom is the sure possession of those alone who have the courage to defend it.”

Samuel B. Pettengill (1886-1974)
U.S. Congressman

“The second or third New Deal is fundamentally fascist.”

“That we are moving toward some form of National Socialism and away from our form of government seems hard not to believe.”

“Is freedom from fear, of the A-bomb and H-bomb, or freedom from conscription for our youth?”

“It is enough to ask whether the world could be worse off today if we had stayed at home and adhered to the teachings of Washington, Jefferson and Monroe.”

“With no valid plan for peace except naked power politics, we join up with every gangster with a bodyguard.”

“The unhappy supporters of European colonialism in Africa and Asia against a new tide of nationalism sweeping over the colored races as it swept over our shores in 1776.”

“Interventionism and one-worldism have put us on the wrong side of history.”

‘War--after all, what is it that the people get? Why--widows, taxes, wooden legs and debt.”

Wendell Phillips (1811-1884)
Orator, Abolitionist and Women’s Rights Advocate

“No free people can lose their liberties while they are jealous of liberty. But the liberties of the freest people are in danger when they set up symbols of liberty as fetishes, worshipping the symbol instead of the principle it represents.”

“Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty.”

Richard Pipes (1923-)
Historian and Author

“Hitler did not have Mussolini’s revolutionary socialist background. . . . Nevertheless, he shared the socialist hatred and contempt for the ‘bourgeoisie’ and ‘capitalism’ and exploited for his purposes the powerful socialist traditions of Germany. The adjectives ‘socialist’ and ‘worker’ in the official name of Hitler’s party (‘The Nationalist- Socialist German Workers’ Party’) had not merely propagandistic value. . . . On one occasion, in the midst of World War II, Hitler even declared that ‘basically National Socialism and Marxism are the same.’”

“As can be seen, the evolution in Russia of property in land ran in the diametrically opposite direction from the rest of Europe. At the time when Western Europe knew mainly conditional land tenure in the form of fiefs, Russia knew only allodial property. By the time conditional tenure in Western Europe yielded to outright ownership, in Russia allodial holding turned into royal fiefs and their onetime owners became the ruler’s tenants in chief. No single factor in Russia’s history explains better the divergence of her political and economic evolution from that of the rest of Western Europe, because it meant that in the age of absolutism in Russia, unlike most of Western Europe, property presented no barrier to royal power.”

William Pitt the Younger (1759-1806)
British Prime Minister, Chancellor of the Exchequer

“Necessity is the plea for every infringement of human freedom. It is the argument of tyrants; it is the creed of slaves.”

“Unlimited Power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it.”

“There is no principle of the laws of nations clearer than this, that, when in the cause of war any nation acquires new possessions, such nation has only temporary right to them, and they do not become property till the end of the war.”

“What we gain by war is all that we should have lost without it.”

Plato (429-347 B.C.)
Greek Philosopher and Author

“A tyrant . . . is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.”

“Only the dead have seen the end of the war.”

“The price good men pay for indifference to public affairs is to be ruled by evil men.”

“So, having all these needs, we call in one another's help to satisfy our various requirements; and when we have collected a number of helpers and associates to live together in one place, we call that settlement a state.”

“Good people do not need laws to tell them to act responsibly, while bad people will find a way around the laws.”

“The only thing worse than suffering an injustice is committing an injustice.”

“This and no other is the root from which a tyrant springs; when he first appears he is a protector.”

“When the tyrant has disposed of foreign enemies by conquest or treaty, and there is nothing to fear from them, then he is always stirring up some war or other, in order that the people may require a leader.”

Plutarch [Mestrius Plutarchus] (45-125 A.D.)
Greek Biographer and Philosopher

“The first destroyer of the liberties of a people is he who first gave them bounties and largess.”

“No beast is more savage than man when possessed with power answerable to his rage.”

“Perseverance is more prevailing than violence; and many things which cannot be overcome when they are together, yield themselves up when taken little by little.”

“The real destroyer of the liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties, donations and benefits.”

Lord Arthur Ponsonby (1871-1946)
Member of Parliament

“When war is declared, truth is the first casualty.”

Sir Karl R. Popper (1902-1994)
English Philosopher and Author

“No law can give power to private persons; every law transfers power from private persons to government.”

“But of all political ideals, that of making the people happy is perhaps the most dangerous one. It leads invariably to the attempt to impose our scale of ‘higher’ values upon others, in order to make them realize what seems to us of greatest importance for their happiness; in order, as it were, to save their souls. It leads to Utopianism and Romanticism. We all feel certain that everybody would be happy in the beautiful, the perfect community of our dreams. And no doubt, there would be heaven on earth if we could all love one another. But, as I have said before (in chapter 9), the attempt to make heaven on earth invaliably produces hell. It leads to intolerance. It leads to religious wars, and to the saving of souls through the inquisition. Ant it is, I believe, based on a complete misunderstanding of our moral duties. It is our duty to help those who need our help; but it cannot be our duty to make others happy, since this does not depend on us, and since it would only too often mean intruding on the privacy of those towards whom we have such amiable intentions. The political demand for piecemeal (as oposed to Utopian) methods corresponds to the decision that the fight against suffering must be considered a duty, while the right to care for happiness of others must be considered a privilege confined to the close circle of their friends. In their case, we may perhaps have a certain right to try to impose our scale of values---our preferences regarding music, for example. (And we may even feel it our duty to open to them a world of values which, we trust, can so much contribute to their happiness.) This right of ours exists only if, and because, they can get rid of us; because friendships can be ended. But the use of political means for imposing our scale of values upon others is a very different matter. Pain, suffering, injustice, and their prevention, these are the eternal problems of public morals, the ‘agenda’ of public policy (as Bentham would have said). The ‘higher’ values should very largely be considered ‘non-agenda’, and should be left to the realm of laissez-faire. Thus we might say: help your enemies; assist those in distress, even if they hate you; but love only your friends.”

“There is no history of mankind, there are only many histories of all kinds of aspects of human life. And one of these is the history of political power. This is elevated into the history of the world.”

Joseph Priestley (1732-1804)
English Scientist, Theologian and Philosopher

“Every man, when he comes to be sensible of his natural rights, and to feel his own importance, will consider himself as fully equal to any other person whatever.”

Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809-1865)
French Political Philosopher and Author

“To be governed is to be watched, inspected, spied upon, directed, law-driven, numbered, regulated, enrolled, indoctrinated, preached at, controlled, checked, estimated, valued, censured, commanded, by creatures who have neither the right nor the wisdom nor the virtue to do so. To be governed is to be at every operation, at every transaction noted, registered, counted, taxed, stamped, measured, numbered, assessed, licensed, authorized, admonished, prevented, forbidden, reformed, corrected, punished. It is, under pretext of public utility, and in the name of the general interest, to be placed under contribution, drilled, fleeced, exploited, monopolized, extorted from, squeezed, hoaxed, robbed; then at the slightest resistance, the first word of complaint, to be repressed, fined, vilified, harrassed, hunted down, abused, clubbed, disarmed, bound, choked, imprisoned, judged, condemned, shot, deported, sacrificed, sold, betrayed, and to crown all, mocked, ridiculed, derided, outraged, dishonored. That is government; that is its justice; that is its morality.”

“All men are equal and free: society by nature, and destination, is therefore autonomous and ungovernable. If the sphere of activity of each citizen is determined by the natural division of work and by the choice he makes of a profession, if the social functions are combined in such a way as to produce a harmonious effect, order results from the free activity of all men; there is no government. Whoever puts a hand on me to govern me is an usurper and a tyrant; I declare him my enemy.”