Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “V” Quotes
On Power


Martin van Buren (1782-1862)
8th President of the United States, U.S. Vice President

“To avoid the necessity of a permanent debt and its inevitable consequences, I have advocated and endeavored to carry into effect the policy of confining the appropriations for the public service to such objects only as are clearly with the constitutional authority of the Federal Government.”

“There is a power in public opinion which will not tolerate an incompetent or unworthy man to hold in his weak or wicked hands the lives and fortunes of his fellow citizens.”

Vincent van Gogh (1853-1890)
Dutch Impressionist Painter

“The right to buy weapons is the right to be free.”

Arthur H. Vandenburg (1884-1951)
U. S. Senator

“Scare the hell out of the American people.” [Telling President Truman what he needed to do in order to tax the American people to pay for the weapons and covert activities of the U.S. national security state.]

Gore (Eugene Luther) Vidal (1929-)
American Author

“. . . we have. . . got so far into the habit of dissembling motives, of denying certain dark constants of human behavior, that it is difficult to find a reputable American historian who will acknowledge the crude fact that a Franklin Roosevelt, say, wanted to be President merely to wield power, to be famed and to be feared. To learn this simple fact one must wade through a sea of evasions: history as sociology, leaders as teachers, bland benevolence as a motive force, when finally, power is an end to itself, and the instinctive urge to prevail the most important human trait, the necessary force without which no city was built, no city destroyed.”

“Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.”

“Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.”

“The genius of our ruling class is that it has kept a majority of the people from ever questioning the inequity of a system where most people drudge along, paying heavy taxes for which they get nothing in return.”

“In writing and politicking, it’s best not to think about it, just do it.”

“Terrorism is a direct response to the crimes our government has committed against foreigners (besides which, the actual terrorists are within our own government). . . .[concerning drugs]. If they didn’t exist, our government would have to invent them, the better to enact laws aimed at keeping the citizens ‘sinless and obedient.’”

Bertrand Barere de Vieuzac (1755-1841)
French Revolutionary

“The tree of liberty only grows when watered by the blood of tyrants.”

Voltaire [Francois Marie Arouet] (1694-1778)
French Philosopher and Author

“It is lamentable, that to be a good patriot one must become the enemy of the rest of mankind.”

“It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets.”

“It is dangerous to be right when the government is wrong.”

“The tyranny of the many would be when one body takes over the rights of others, and then exercises its power to change the laws in its favor.”

“History can be well written only in a free country.”

“In general, the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one party of the citizens to give to the other.”

“. . . [S]o long as the people do not care to exercise their freedom, those who wish to tyrannize will do so; for tyrants are active and ardent, and will devote themselves in the name of any number of gods, religious and otherwise, to put shackles upon sleeping men.”

“God is always on the side of the big battalions.”

“ . . . the art of government consists in taking as much money as possible from one class of citizens to give to the other.”

“The pleasure of governing must certainly be exquisite, if we may judge from the vast numbers who are eager to be concerned with it.”

“A great many laws in a country, like many physicians, is a sign of malady.”

Ludwig Heinrich Edler von Mises (1881-1973)
Austrian Economist and Author

“The market economy involves peaceful cooperation. It bursts asunder when the citizens turn into warriors and, instead of exchanging commodities and services, fight one another.”

“The market economy--capitalism--is based on private ownership of the material means of production and private entrepreneurship. The consumers by their buying or abstention from buying ultimately determine what should be produced and in what quantity and quality. They render profitable the affairs of those businessmen who best comply with their wishes and unprofitable the affairs of those who do not produce what they are asking for most urgently. . . ”

“Liberty is meaningless if it is only the liberty to agree with those in power.”

“What these people who call themselves ‘anticommunist liberals’ are aiming at is communism without those inherent and necessary features of communism which are still unpalatable to Americans. They make an illusory distinction between communism and socialism. They think that they have proved their case by employing such aliases for socialism as planning or the welfare state. What these self-styled ‘anticommunist liberals’ are fighting against is not communism as such, but a communist system in which they themselves are not at the helm. What they are aiming at is a socialist system in which they themselves or their most intimate friends hold the reigns of government. It would perhaps be too much to say that they are burning with a desire to liquidate other people. They simply do not wish to be liquidated. In a socialist commonwealth, only the supreme autocrat and his abettors have this assurance…. An ‘anti-something’ movement displays a purely negative attitude. It has no chance whatever to succeed. Its passionate diatribes virtually advertise the program that they attack. People must fight for something that they want to achieve, not simply reject an evil, however bad it may be. They must, without any reservations, endorse the program of the market economy.”

“Progress is precisely that which the rules and regulations did not foresee.”

“War prosperity is like the prosperity that an earthquake or a plague brings.”

“Military Socialism is the Socialism of a state in which all institutions are designed for the prosecution of war. It is a State Socialism in which the scale of values for determining social status and the income of citizens is based exclusively or preferably on the position held in the fighting forces. The higher the military rank the greater the social value and the claim on the national dividend. The military state, that is the state of the fighting man in which everything is subordinated to war purposes, cannot admit private ownership in the means of production. Standing preparedness for war is impossible if aims other than war influence the life of individuals. . . . The military state is a state of bandits. It prefers to live on booty and tribute.”

“The worst evils which mankind has ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster.”

“It is impossible to understand the history of economic thought if one does not pay attention to the fact that economics as such is a challenge to the conceit of those in power.”

“If history could teach us anything, it would be that private property is inextricably linked with civilization.”

“A nation’s policy form an integral whole. Foreign policy and domestic policy are closely linked together; they are but one system; they condition each other.”

“The meaning of economic freedom is this: that the individual is in a position to choose the way in which he wants to integrate himself into the totality of society.”

“The aim of all struggles for liberty is to keep in bounds the armed defenders of peace, the governors and their constables. The political concept of the individual's freedom means: freedom from arbitrary action on the part of the police power.”

“The state can be and has often been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster.”

“Government is beating into submission, imprisoning, and killing. . . The authority of man-made law is entirely due to weapons of the constables who enforce obedience to its provisions.”

“The philosophy called individualism is a philosophy of social cooperation and the progressive intensification of the social nexus.”

“The prevailing legal and moral views of a time are held not only by those whom they benefit but by those, too, who appear to suffer from them. Their domination is expressed in that fact that the people from whom they claim sacrifice accept them.”

“It is not conclusive proof of a doctrine's correctness that its adversaries use the police, the hangman, and violent mobs to fight it. But it is a proof of the fact that those taking recourse to violent oppression are in their subconsciousness convinced of the untenability of their own doctrines.”

“Society is joint action and cooperation in which each participant sees the other partner's success as a means for the attainment of his own.”

“If the small minority of enlightened citizens who are able to conceive sound principles of political management do not succeed in winning the support of their fellow citizens and converting them to the endorsement of policies that bring and preserve prosperity, the cause of mankind and civilization is hopeless. There is no other means to safeguard a propitious development of human affairs than to make the masses of inferior people adopt the ideas of the elite. This has to be achieved by convincing them. It cannot be accomplished by a despotic regime that instead of enlightening the masses beats them into submission. In the long run the ideas of the majority, however detrimental they may be, will carry on. The future of mankind depends on the ability of the elite to influence public opinion in the right direction.”

“To complain of lack of leadership is, in the field of political affairs, the characteristic attitude of all harbingers of dictatorship.”

“Government cannot make man richer, but it can make him poorer.”

“Government is the only agency which can take a useful commodity like paper, slap some ink on it, and make it totally worthless.”

“[They] are driven by the dictatorial complex. They want to deal with their fellow men in the way an engineer deals with the materials out of which he builds houses, bridges, and machines. They want to substitute ‘social engineering’ for the actions of their fellow citizens and their own unique all-comprehensive plan for the plans of all other people.”

“Man is a being capable of subduing his instincts, emotions, and impulses; he can rationalize his behavior. He renounces the satisfaction of a burning impulse in order to satisfy other desires. He is not a puppet of his appetites. A man does not ravish every female that stirs his senses; he does not devour every piece of food that entices him; he does not knock down every fellow he would like to kill. He arranges his wishes and desires into a scale, he chooses; in short, he acts.”

“Government . . . is by necessity the opposite of liberty. Government is a guarantor of liberty and is compatible with liberty only if its range is adequately restricted to the preservation of what is called economic freedom. Where there is no market economy, the best-intentioned provisions of constitutions and laws remain a deal letter.”

“Public works are not accomplished by the miraculous power of a magic wand. They are paid for by funds taken away from the citizens.”

“Where there is no market there is no price system, and where there is no price system there can be no economic calculation.”

“The paradox of planning is that it cannot plan, because of the absence of economic calculation. What is called a planned economy is no economy at all.”

“If we were to renounce monetary calculation, every economic computation would become absolutely impossible. . . . [The socialist society] must forgo the intellectual division of labor that consists in the cooperation of all entrepreneurs, landowners, and workers as producers and consumers in the formation of market prices. But without it, rationality, i.e., the possibility of economic calculation, is unthinkable.”

“It is important to remember that government interference always means either violent action or the threat of such action. . . . Taxes are paid because the taxpayers are afraid of offering resistance to the tax gatherers. They know that any disobedience or resistance is hopeless. As long as this is the state of affairs, the government is able to collect the money that it wants to spend. Government is in the last resort the employer of armed men, of policemen, gendarmes, soldiers, prison guards, and hangmen. The essential feature of government is the enforcement of its decrees by beating, killing, and imprisoning. Those who are asking for more government interference are asking ultimately for more compulsion and less freedom.”

“The gold standard makes the money's purchasing power independent of the changing, ambitions and doctrines of political parties and pressure groups. This is not a defect of the gold standard; it is its main excellence.”

“The standard of living of the common man is higher in those countries which have the greatest number of wealthy entrepreneurs.”

“As the prosperity of the nation and the height of wage rates depend on a continual increase in the capital invested in its plants, mines and farms, it is one of the foremost tasks of good government to remove all obstacles that hinder the accumulation and investment of new capital.”

“It is impossible to understand the history of economic thought if one does not pay attention to the fact that economics as such is a challenge to the conceit of those in power. An economist can never be a favorite of autocrats and demagogues. With them he is always the mischief-maker, and the more they are inwardly convinced that his objections are well-founded, the more they hate him.”

“Violent resistance against the power of the state is the last resort of the minority in its effort to break loose from the oppression of the majority. . . . The citizen must not be so narrowly circumscribed in his activities that, if he thinks differently from those in power, his only choice is either to perish or to destroy the machinery of state.”

“No socialist author ever gave a thought to the possibility that the abstract entity which he wants to vest with unlimited power--whether it is called humanity, society, nation, state, or government--could act in a way of which he himself disapproves.”

“Once it has been perceived that the division of labour is the essence of society, nothing remains of the antithesis between individual and society. The contradiction between individual principle and social principle disappears.”

“The program of [classical] liberalism, condensed into a single word, would have to read: property.”

“This, then, is freedom in the external life of man--that he is independent of the arbitrary power of his fellows.”

“The main political problem is how to prevent the police power from becoming tyrannical. This is the meaning of all the struggles for liberty.”

“Once the principle is admitted that it is the duty of government to protect the individual against his own foolishness, no serious objections can be advanced against further encroachments.”

“Marching ever further on the way of interventionism, first Germany, then Great Britain and many other European countries have adopted central planning, the Hindenburg pattern of socialism. It is noteworthy that in Germany the deciding measures were not resorted to be the Nazis, but some time before Hitler seized power by Brüning . . . and in Grerat Britain not by the Labour Party but by the Tory Prime Minister, Mr. Churchill.”

“The nations of the world must come to realize that the most important problem of foreign policy is the establishment of lasting peace, and they must understand that this can be assured throughout the world only if the field of activity permitted to the State is limited to the narrowest range. Only then will the size and extent of the territory subject to the sovereignty of the State no longer assume such overwhelming importance for the life of the individual as to make it seem natural, now as in the past, for the rivers of blood to be shed in disputes of boundaries.”

“Durable peace is only possible under perfect capitalism, hitherto never and nowhere completely tried or achieved. In such a Jeffersonian world of unhampered market economy the scope of government activities is limited to the protection of the lives, health, and property of individuals against violence or fraudulent aggression.”

“All the oratory of the advocates of government omnipotence cannot annul the fact that there is but one system that makes for durable peace: a free market economy. Government control leads to economic nationalism and thus results in conflict.”

“The state is essentially an apparatus of compulsion and coercion. The characteristic feature of its activities is to compel people through the application or the threat of force to behave otherwise than they would like to behave.”

“The state is a human institution, not a super human being. He who says ‘state’ means coercion and compulsion. He who says: There should be a law concerning this matter, means: The armed men of government should force people to do what they do not want to do, or not to what they like. . . . The worship of the state is the worship of force. There is no more dangerous menace to civilization than a government of incompetent, corrupt, or vile men. The worst evils which mankind ever had to endure were inflicted by bad governments. The state can be and has been in the course of history the main source of mischief and disaster.”

“The essential characteristic features of state and government do not depend on their particular structure and constitution. They are present both in despotic and in democratic governments. Democracy too is not divine. We shall later deal with the benefits that society derives from democratic government. But great as these advantages are, it should never be forgotten that majorities are no less exposed to error and frustation than kings and dictators. That a fact is deemed true by the majority does not prove its truth. That a policy is deemed expedient by the majority does not prove its expediency. The individuals who form the majority are not gods, and their joint conclusions are not necessarily godlike.”

Friedrich von Schiller (1759-1805)
German Dramatist and Poet

“Live and let live.”

Kurt Vonnegut Jr. (1922-)
American Author

“You needn’t worry about bombs, by the way. Dresden is an open city. It is undefended, and contains no war industries or troop concentrations of any importance.”