Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “R” Quotes
On Power


Ayn Rand [Alissa Rosenbaum] (1905-1982)
Novelist and Philosopher

“Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman’s tool is values; the bureaucrat’s tool is fear.”

“There can be no such thing, in law or in morality, as actions forbidden to an individual, but permitted to a mob.”

“Volumes can be and have been written about the issue of freedom versus dictatorship, but, in essence, it comes down to a single question: do you consider it moral to treat men as sacrificial animals and to rule them by physical force?”

“Volumes can be and have been written about the issue of freedom versus dictatorship, but, in essence, it comes down to a single question: do you consider it moral to treat men as sacrificial animals and to rule them by physical force?”

“It is a grave error to suppose that a dictatorship rules a nation by means of strict, rigid laws which are obeyed and enforced with rigorous, military precision. Such a rule would be evil, but almost bearable; men could endure the harshest edicts, provided these edicts were known, specific and stable; it is not the known that breaks men’s spirits, but the unpredictable. A dictatorship has to be capricious; it has to rule by means of the unexpected, the incomprehensible, the wantonly irrational; it has to deal not in death, but in sudden death; a state of chronic uncertainty is what men are psychologically unable to bear.”

“It makes no difference whether government controls allegedly favor the interests of labor or business, of the poor or the rich, of a special class or a special race: the results are the same. The notion that a dictatorship can benefit any one social group at the expense of others is a worn remnant of the Marxist mythology of class warfare, refuted by half a century of factual evidence. All men are victims and losers under a dictatorship; nobody wins--except the ruling clique.”

“Today, when a concerted effort is made to obliterate this point, it cannot be repeated too often that the Constitution is a limitation on the government, not on private individuals---that it does not prescribe the conduct of private individuals, only the conduct of the government--that it is not a charter for government power, but a charter of the citizen’s protection against the government.”

“Economic power is exercised by means of a positive, by offering men a reward, an incentive, a payment, a value; political power is exercised by means of a negative, by the threat of punishment, injury, imprisonment, destruction. The businessman’s tool is values; the bureaucrat’s tool is fear.”

“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).”

“There’s no way to rule innocent men. The only power any government has is the power to crack down on criminals. Well, when there aren’t enough criminals, one makes them. One declares so many things to be a crime that it becomes impossible for men to live without breaking laws.”

“Money is the barometer of a society’s virtue. When you see that trading is done, not by consent, but by compulsion--when you see that in order to produce, you need to obtain permission from men who produce nothing--when you see that money is flowing to those that deal, not in goods, but in favors--when you see that men get richer by graft and pull tan by work, and yoru laws don’t protect you against them, but protect them against you--when you see corruption being rewarded and honestly becoming self-sacrifice--you may know that your society is doomed.”

“Just as Wilson, a ‘liberal’ reformer, led the United States into World War I ‘to make the world safe for democracy’--so Franklin D. Roosevelt, another ‘liberal’ reformer, led it into World War II, in the name of the ‘Four Freedoms.’ In both cases
the ‘conservatives’--and the big business interests--were overwhelmingly opposed to war but were silenced. In the case of World War II they were smeared as ‘isolationists,’ ‘reactionaries,’ and ‘America-First’ers. World War I led, not to ‘democracy,’ but to the creation of three dictatorships: Soviet Russia, Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany. World War II led, not to ‘Four Freedoms,’ but to the surrender of one-third of the world’s population into communist slavery. If peace were the goal of today’s intellectuals, a failure of that magnitude--and the evidence of unspeakable suffering on so large a scale--would make them pause and check their statist premises. Instead, blind to everything but their hatred for capitalism, they are now asserting that ‘poverty breeds wars’ (and justifying war by sympathizing with a ‘material greed’ of that kind). But the question is: What breeds poverty? If you look a the world of today and if you look back at history, you will see the answer: the degree of a country's freedom is the degree of its prosperity. Another current catch-phrase is the complaint that the nations of the world are divided into ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots.’ Observe that the ‘haves’ are those who have freedom, and that it is freedom that the ‘have-nots’ have not. If men want to oppose war, it is statism that they must oppose. So long as they hold the tribal notion that the individual is sacrificial fodder for the collective, that some men have the right to rule others by force, and that some (any) alleged ‘good’ can justify it--there can be no peace within a nation and no peace among nations.” [from Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal]

Leonard E. Read (1898-1983)
Educator and Author

“Businessmen who ask for tariffs, quotas, and other barriers to free entry and competition cannot logically criticize strikers who threaten or use force to keep others from jobs the strikers have vacated. The latter claim ownership of those jobs, whereas, protectionists among businessmen claim the ownership of customers and their trade. There is no difference in principle; coercion is employed in either case. Each restricts our freedom to exchange goods and services.”

“The advancement of freedom is not a matter of who wields political power over creative actions; rather, it depends upon the disassembling of such power.”

“The American people are becoming more and more afraid of, and are running away from, their own revolution.”

“To live on loot appears to be no further removed from evil than to take the loot.”

“There is really nothing that can be done except by an individual. Only individuals can learn. Only individuals can think creatively. Only individuals can cooperate. Only individuals can combat statism.”

“ . . . statism is but socialized dishonesty; it is feathering the nests of some with feathers coercively plucked from others--on the grand scale. There is no moral difference between the act of a pickpocket and the progressive income tax or any other social program.”

“Does any able adult person ‘in need’ really benefit by living on the confiscated income of others? Does this ever improve his character or his mental and physical faculties? His Growth? Does anyone ever benefit by the removal of self-responsibility?”

Ronald W. Reagan (1911-)
40th U.S. President, Governor of California

“No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. Government programs, once launched, never disappear. Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal life we’ll ever see on this earth.”

“Man is not free unless government is limited. There’s a clear cause and effect here that is as neat and predictable as a law of physics: As government expands, liberty contracts.”

“Government’s view of the economy could be summed up in a few short phrases: If it moves, tax
it. If it keeps moving, regulate it. And if it stops moving, subsidize it.”

“History teaches that wars begin when governments believe the price of aggression is cheap.”

“Freedom is a fragile thing and is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

Red Cloud [Makhpiya-luta] (1822-1909)
Native American Chief of the Oglala Sioux

“. . . I am poor and naked, but I am the chief of the nation. We do not want riches but we do want to train our children right. Riches would do us no good. We could not take them with us to the other world. We do not want riches. We want peace and love.”

“In 1868, men came out and brought papers. We could not read them and they did not tell us truly what was in them. We thought the treaty was to remove the forts and for us to cease from fighting. But they wanted to send us traders on the Missouri, but we wanted traders where we were. When I reached Washington, the Great Father explained to me that the interpreters had deceived me. All I want is right and just.”

Thomas B. Reed (1839-1902)
U.S. Congressman

“One of the greatest delusions in the world is the hope that the evils in this world are to be cured by legislation.”

“One, with God, is always a majority, but many a martyr has been burned at the stake while the votes were being counted.”

“A statesman is a successful politician who is dead.”

Erich M. Remarque [Erich Paul Kramer] (1898-1970)
German Author

“It is just as much a matter of chance that I am still alive as that I might have been hit. In a bomb-proof dug-out I may be smashed to atoms and in the open may survive ten hour's bombardment unscratched. No soldier outlives a thousand chances. But every soldier believes in Chance and trusts his luck.” [from All Quiet on the Western Front]

“We see men living with their skulls blown open; we see soldiers run with their two feet cut off, they stagger on their splintered stumps into the next shell-hole; a lance corporal crawls a mile and half on his hands dragging his smashed knee after him; another goes to the dressing station and over his clasped hands bulge his intestines; we see men without mouths, without jaws, without faces; we find one man who has held the artery of his arm in his teeth for two hours in order not to bleed to death.” [from All Quiet on the Western Front]

David Ricardo (1772-1823)
English Economist

“To produce the wine in Portugal, might require only the labour of 80 men for one year, and to produce the cloth in the same country, might require the labour of 90 men for the same time. It would therefore be advantageous for her to export wine in exchange for cloth. This exchange might even take place, notwithstanding that the commodity imported by Portugal could be produced there with less labour than in England. Though she could make the cloth with the labour of 90 men, she would import it from a country where it required the labour of 100 men to produce it, because it would be advantageous to her rather to employ her capital in the production of wine, for which she would obtain more cloth from England, than she could produce by diverting a portion of her capital from the cultivation of vines to the manufacture of cloth.”

“A great manufacturing country is peculiarly exposed to temporary reverses and contingencies, produced by the removal of capital from one employment to another. The demands for the produce of agriculture are uniform, they are not under the influence of fashion, prejudice, or caprice. To sustain life, food is necessary, and the demand for food must continue in all ages, and in all countries. It is different with manufactures; the demand for any particular manufactured commodity, is subject not only to the wants, but to the tastes and caprice of the purchasers. A new tax too may destroy the comparative advantage which a country before possessed in the manufacture of a particular commodity; or the effects of war may so raise the freight and insurance on its conveyance, that it can no longer enter into competition with the home manufacture of the country to which it was before exported. In all such cases, considerable distress, and no doubt some loss, will be experienced by those who are engaged in the manufacture of such commodities; and it will be felt not only at the time of the change, but through the whole interval during which they are removing their capitals, and the labour which they can command, from one employment to another.”

Condoleeza Rice (1954-)
U.S. National Security Advisor, Provost of Stanford University

“We need a common enemy to unite us.”

“Let’s take one thing at a time. Settlements will eventually be an issue. But I think we have to get the context right here. We need to end the terror, create a situation in which there is better security and no violence.” [regarding Israeli/Palestinian conflict]

“If Saddam Hussein is left in power doing the things he s doing now, he ll wreak havoc again. This is a threat that will emerge in a very great way. History is littered with cases where inaction has come back [to haunt people]. . . . An enormous threat looms on the horizon. As we go out to meet the challenge, don’t hamper our efforts to disarm it.” [August 15, 2002]

“In the context of this ongoing war, it is extremely important to protect the sources and the methods and the information so that we can try and disrupt further attacks. . . . The problem is that this is an act that is not finished. It is ongoing. We are still fighting a war on terrorism.” [regarding her opposition to an investigation of 9/11]

“[Saddam Hussein is] an imminent threat to our existence.”

“No one could have conceived of planes as a weapon. . . . None of the White House staff nor the President had any idea this kind of threat existed. In retrospect, we now see that our intelligence community was well aware of the possibility.” [while intelligence reports received earlier by the White House showed otherwise]

Admiral Hyman G. Rickover (1900-1986)
Chief of the Naval Reactors Branch of the Atomic Energy Commission

“If you are going to sin, sin against God, not the bureaucracy. God will forgive you but the bureaucracy won’t.”

David Rockefeller, Jr. (1915-)
Chairman, Rockefeller Financial Services, Inc.; Chairman, Chase Manhattan Bank

“We are on the verge of a global transformation. All we need is the right major crisis and the nations will accept the New World Order.”

“Whatever the price of the Chinese Revolution, it has obviously succeeded not only in producing more efficient and dedicated administration, but also in fostering high morale and community of purpose. The social experiment in China under Chairman Mao's leadership is one of the most important and successful in human history.”

Will Rogers (1879-1935)
American Humorist, Actor and Author

“I don’t make jokes. I just watch the government and report the facts.”

“You can’t say civilization isn’t advancing: in every war they kill you in a new way.”

“This country has come to feel the same when Congress is in session as when the baby gets hold of a hammer.”

“Those who complain about the high cost of government should be glad we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for!”

“I don’t know how a lot of these nations existed as long as they have till we could get some of our people around and show ’em how to be good and pure like us.”

“There ought to be one day--just one--when there is open season on senators.”

“Ancient Rome declined because it had a Senate, now what’s going to happen to us with both a House and a Senate?”

“Liberty doesn’t work as well in practice as it does in speeches.”

“The only real diplomacy ever performed by a diplomat is in deceiving their own people after their dumbness has got them into a war.”

“If you ever injected truth into politics you have no politics.”

“The income tax has made more liars out of the American people than golf has.”

“You shake a slogan at an American and it’s just like showing a hungry dog a bone.”

“I have a scheme for stopping war. It’s this--no nation is allowed to enter a war till they have paid for the last one.”

“If all politicians fished instead of spoke publicly, we would be at peace with the world.”

“Politics is the best show in America. I love animals and I love politicians and I love to watch both of ’em play either back home in their native state or after they have been captured and sent to the zoo or to Washington.”

“If we ever pass out as a great nation we ought to put on our tombstone, ‘America died from a delusion that she has moral leadership.’”

“The budget is a mythical bean bag. Congress votes mythical bean into it, and then tries to reach in and pull real beans out.”

“Diplomats are just as essential in starting a war as soldiers are in finishing it.”

“The short memories of the American voters is what keeps our politicians in office.”

Anna Eleanor Roosevelt (1884-1962)
First Lady, Diplomat and Reformer

“It isn’t enough to talk about peace. One must believe in it. And it isn’t enough to believe in it. One must work at it.”

“Anyone who knows history, particularly the history of Europe, will, I think, recognize that the domination of education or of government by any one particular religious faith is never a happy arrangement for the people.”

“Hate and force cannot be in just a part of the world without having an effect on the rest of it.”

“The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.”

“When all is said and done, and statesmen discuss the future of the world, the fact remains that people fight these wars.”

Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945)
32nd U.S. President, Governor of New York

“In politics, nothing happens by accident. If it happens, you can bet it was planned that way.”

“Those (who) seek to establish systems of Government based on the regimentation of all Human Beings by a handful of individual rulers. . . call this a new order. It is not new and it is not order.”

“If I gave him [Stalin] everything I possibly can, and ask nothing of him in return, [then] noblesse oblige, he won’t try to annex anything and will work with me for a world of peace and democracy.”

“[John] Flynn should be barred hereafter from the columns of any presentable daily paper, monthly magazine or national quarterly, such as the Yale Review.” [for Flynn’s critical writings against FDR]

[The Great Depression is] “a crisis in our national life comparable to war.”

Theodore Roosevelt (1858-1919)
26th U.S. President, U.S. Vice President,
Governor of New York, 1906 Nobel Prize-Winner for Peace

“No triumph of peace can equal the armed triumph of war. . . . In strict confidence . . . I should welcome almost any war, for I think this country needs one.”

“Of course, our whole national history has been one of expansion. . . . That the barbarians recede or are conquered, with the attendant fact that peace follows their retrogression or conquest, is due solely to the power of the mighty civilized races which have not lost the fighting instinct, and which by their expansion are gradually bringing peace into the red wastes where the barbarian peoples of the world hold sway.”

“It it becomes necessary to intervene I intend to establish a precedent for good by refusing to wait for a long wrangle in Congress. You know as well as I do that it is for . . . the enormous interest of this Government to strengthen and give independence to the Executive in dealing with foreign powers, for a legislative body, because of its very good qualities in domestic matters, is not well fitted for shaping foeign policy on occasions when instant action is demanded. Therefore, the important thing to do is for a president who is willing to accept responsibility to establish precedents which successors may follow even if they are unwilliung to take the initiative themselves.”

“...When compared with the suppression of anarchy every other question sinks into insignificance. The anarchist is the enemy of humanity, the enemy of all mankind, and his is a deeper degree of criminality than any other. No immigrant is allowed to come to our shores if he is an anarchist; and no paper published here or abroad should be permitted circulation in this country if it propagates anarchist opinions.” [“Message to the Senate Committee on the Judiciary Regarding Transmission Through the Mails of Anarchistic Publications,” April 9, 1908]

“Even to be defeated in war may be far better than not to have fought.”

Clinton Rossiter (1917-1970)
American Historian

“The Americans of 1776 were among the first men in modern society to defend rather than to seek an open society and constitutional liberty. . . . Perhaps the most remarkable characteristic of this political theory sits in its deep-seated conservatism. However radical the principles of the Revolution may have seemed to the rest of the world, in the minds of the colonists they were thoroughly preservative and respectful of the past.”

“Dictatorship played a decisive role in the North’s successful effort to maintain the Union by force of arms [in the U.S. Civil War]. . . . one man was the government of the United States. . . . Lincoln was a great dictator. . . . This great constitutional dictator was self-appointed.”

Murray N. Rothbard (1926-1995)
American Economist, Historian, Political Theorist and Author

“On the free market, it is a happy fact that the maximization of the wealth of one person or group redounds to the benefit of all; but in the political realm, the realm of the State, a maximization of income and wealth can only accrue parasitically to the State and its rulers at the expense of the rest of society.”

“A group of people may have rights, but it is their responsibility, and theirs alone, to defend or safeguard such rights.”

“If liberty should be the highest political end, then what is the grounding for that goal? It should be clear . . . that, first and foremost, liberty is a moral principle, grounded in the nature of man. In particular, it is a principle of justice, of the abolition of aggressive violence in the affairs of men. Hence, to be grounded and pursued adequately, the libertarian goal must be sought in the spirit of an overriding devotion to justice. But to possess such devotion on what may well be a long and rocky road, the libertarian must be possessed of a passion for justice, an emotion derived from and channeled by his rational insight into what natural justice requires. Justice, not the weak reed of mere utility, must be the motivating force if liberty is to be attained.”

“The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, including classical Aristotelian and Thomist philosophers, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.”

“There can be no truly moral choice unless that choice is made in freedom; similarly, there can be no really firmly grounded and consistent defense of freedom unless that defense is rooted in moral principle. In concentrating on the ends of choice, the conservative, by neglecting the conditions of choice, loses that very morality of conduct with which he is so concerned. And the libertarian, by concentrating only on the means, or conditions, of choice and ignoring the ends, throws away an essential moral defense of his own position.”

“Without justice, the state (is) nothing but a band of robbers.”

“The necessary consequence of an egalitarian program is the decidedly inegalitarian creation of a ruthless power elite.”

“Gold was not selected arbitrarily by governments to be the monetary standard. Gold had developed for many centuries on the free market as the best money; as the commodity providing the most stable and desirable monetary medium.”

“It is not the business of the law to make anyone good or reverent or moral or clean or upright.

“It is easy to be conspicuously ‘compassionate’ if others are being forced to pay the cost.”

“[Ludwig von] Mises demonstrated that, in any economy more complex than the Crusoe or primitive family level, the socialist planning board would simply not know what to do, or how to answer any of these vital questions. Developing the momentous concept of calculation, Mises pointed out that the planning board could not answer these questions because socialism would lack the indispensable tool that private entrepreneurs use to appraise and calculate: the existence of a market in the means of production, a market that brings about money prices based on genuine profit-seeking exchanges by private owners of these means of production. Since the very essence of socialism is collective ownership of the means of production, the planning board would not be able to plan, or to make any sort of rational economic decisions. Its decisions would necessarily be completely arbitrary and chaotic, and therefore the existence of a socialist planned economy is literally ‘impossible’ (to use a term long ridiculed by Mises’s critics).”

“The basic axiom of libertarian political theory holds that every man is a self-owner, having absolute jurisdiction over his own body. In effect, this means that no one else may justly invade, or aggress against, another’s person. It follows then that each person justly owns whatever previously unowned resources he appropriates or ‘mixes his labor with’. From these twin axioms--self-ownership and ‘homesteading’--stem the justification for the entire system of property rights titles in a free market society.”

“It is perfectly possible, in theory and historically, to have efficient and courteous police, competent and learned judges, and a body of systematic and socially accepted law—and none of these things being furnished by a coercive government.”

“The assertion of human. . . (as opposed to animal). . . rights is not properly a simply emotive one; individuals possess rights not because we ‘feel’ that they should, but because of a rational inquiry into the nature of man and the universe. In short, man has rights because they are natural rights. They are grounded in the nature of man; the individual’s capacity for conscious choice, the necessity for him to use his mind and energy to adopt goals and values, to find out about the world, to pursue his ends in order to survive and prosper, his capacity and need to communicate and interact with other human beings and to participate in the division of labor. In short, man is a rational and social animal. No other animal or beings possess this ability to reason, to make conscious choices, to transform their environment in order to prosper, to collaborate consciously in society and the division of labor.”

“The great non sequitur committed by defenders of the State, including classical Aristotelian and Thomist philosophers, is to leap from the necessity of society to the necessity of the State.”

“If government can find ways to engage in counterfeiting--the creation of money out of thin air--it can quickly produce its own money without taking the trouble to sell services. It can appropriate resources slyly and almost unnoticed, without rousing the hostility touched off by taxation. In fact, counterfeiting can create in its very victims the blissful illusion of unparalleled prosperity. Counterfeiting is another name for inflation. And now we see why governments are inherently inflationary: because inflation is a powerful and subtle means for government acquisition of the public’s resources, a painless and all the more dangerous form of taxation.”

“The glory of the human race is the uniqueness of each individual, the fact that every person, though similar in many ways to others, possesses a completely individualated personality of his own. It is the fact of each person’s uniqueness . . . that makes us care whether he lives or dies, whether he is happy or oppressed. . . It is the fact that these unique personalities need freedom for their full development that constitutes one of the major arguments for a free society.”

“Mercantilism, which reached its height in the Europe of the seventeenth and eighteeenth centuries, was a system of statism which employed economic fallacy to build up a structure of imperial state power, as well as special subsidy and monopolistic privilege to individuals or groups favored by the state.”

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712-1778)
French Philosopher

“Man was born free, and everywhere he is in chains.”

“Free people, remember this maxim: we may acquire liberty, but it is never recovered if it is once lost.”

Rudolph J. Rummel (1932-)
Historian, Political Theorist, and Author

“Concentrated political power is the most dangerous thing on earth.”

“Nobody can be trusted with unlimited power. The more power a regime has, the more likely people will be killed. This is a major reason for promoting freedom.”

“Political scientists almost everywhere have promoted the expansion of government power. They have functioned as the clergy of oppression.

“Power kills, absolute power kills absolutely.”

“The way to virtually eliminate genocide and mass murder appears to be through restricting and checking power. This means to foster democratic freedom.”

“The more power a government has the more it can act arbitrarily according to the whims and desires of the elite, and the more it will make war on others and murder its foreign and domestic subjects. The more constrained the power of governments, the more power is diffused, checked, and balanced, the less it will aggress on others and commit democide.”

“[During the 20th century] . . . 170 million men, women, and children have been shot, beaten, tortured, knifed, burned, starved, frozen, crushed, or worked to death; buried alive, drowned, hung, bombed, or killed in any other of the myriad ways governments have inflicted death on unarmed, helpless citizens and foreigners.”

Bertrand Russell (1872-1970)
English Philosopher, Author and 1950 Nobel Prize-Winner in Literature

“The fundamental difference between the liberal and the illiberal outlook is that the former regards all questions as open to discussion and all opinions as open to a greater or lesser measure of doubt, while the latter holds in advance that certain opinions are absolutely unquestionable, and that no argument against them must be allowed to be heard. What is curious about this position is the belief that if impartial investigation were permitted it would lead men to the wrong conclusion, and that ignorance is, therefore, the only safeguard against terror. This point of view cannot be accepted by any man who wishes reason rather than prejudice to govern human action.”

“Patriotism is the willingness to kill and be killed for trivial reasons.”

“War does not determine who is right--only who is left.”

“When the state intervenes to insure the indoctrination of some doctrine, it does so because there is no conclusive evidence in favor of that doctrine.”

“Patriots always talk of dying for their country and never of killing for their country.”

“Against the vast majority of my countrymen, even at this moment, in the name of humanity and civilization, I protest against our share in the destruction of Germany. A month ago Europe was a peaceful comity of nations; if an Englishman killed a German, he was hanged. Now, if an Englishman kills a German, or if a German kills an Englishman, he is a patriot, who has deserved well of his country.” [1914 on World War I]

“And all this madness, all this rage, all this flaming death of our civilization and our hopes, has been brought about because a set of official gentlemen, living luxurious lives, mostly stupid, and all without imagination or heart, have chosen that it should occur rather than that any one of them should suffer some infinitesimal rebuff to his country`s pride.” [1914 on World War I]

“At all times, except when a monarch could enforce his will, war has been facilitated by the fact that vigorous males, confident of victory, enjoyed it, while their females admired them for their prowess.”