Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan

Center on Peace & Liberty “W” Quotes
On Power


Nicolas Walter (1934-2000)
English Journalist and Philosopher

“Many people say that government is necessary because some men cannot be trusted to look after themselves, but anarchists say that government is harmful because no men can be trusted to look after anyone else.”

Josiah Warren (1798-1874)
American Reformer, Inventor, Musician and Writer

Every man should be his own government, his own law, his own church.”

“Liberty, then, is the sovereignty of the individual, and never shall man know liberty until each and every individual is acknowledged to be the only legitimate sovereign of his or her person, time, and property, each living and acting at his own cost; and not until we live in a society where each can exercise his right of sovereignty at all times without clashing with or violating that of others.”

Mercy Otis Warren (1728-1814)
American Playwright, Poet and Historian

“The rights of the individual should be the primary object of all governments.”

George Washington (1789-1797)
1st President of the United States, Member of the Second
Continental Congress, Commander in Chief of the Continental Army

“Observe good faith and justice towards all Nations; cultivate peace and harmony with all. Religion and Morality enjoin this conduct; and can it be, that good policy does not equally enjoin it? It will be worthy of a free, enlightened, and, at no distant period, a great Nation, to give to mankind the magnanimous and too novel example of a people always guided by an exalted justice and benevolence.”

“A free people ought. . . to be armed. . . ”

“It is our true policy to steer clear of any permanent alliances with any portion of the foreign world.”

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force. Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

“The constitution vests the power of declaring war in Congress; therefore no offensive expedition of importance can be undertaken until after they shall have deliberated upon the subject and authorized such a measure.”

“My first wish is to see this plague of mankind, war, banished from the earth.”

“Against the insidious wiles of foreign influence (I conjure you to believe me, fellow-citizens) the jealousy of a free people ought to be constantly awake, since history and experience prove that foreign influence is one of the most baneful foes of republican government. But that jealousy to be useful must be impartial; else it becomes the instrument of the very influence to be avoided, instead of a defense against it. Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people, to surrender their interests.”

“Let me now warn you in the most solemn manner. Observe good faith and justice toward all nations. Cultivate peace and harmony with all. The Nation which indulges toward another an habitual hatred or an habitual fondness is in some degree a slave. It is a slave to its animosity or to its affection, either of which is sufficient to lead it astray from its duty and its interest.”

“Let me . . . warn you in the most solemn manner against the baneful effects of the spirit of party.”

“Tis our true policy to steer clear of permanent alliances, with any portion of the foreign world.”

Alan Watts (1915-1973)
Philosopher and Theologian

“But when no risk is taken there is no freedom. It is thus that, in an industrial society, the plethora of laws made for our personal safety convert the land into a nursery, and policemen hired to protect us become self-serving busybodies.”

Henry Grady Weaver (1889-1949)
American Author and Business Executive

“Most of the major ills of the world have been caused by well-meaning people who ignored the principle of individual freedom, except as applied to themselves, and who were obsessed with fanatical zeal to improve the lot of mankind.”

Richard M. Weaver (1910-1963)
American Philosopher and Author

“Man is constantly being assured today that he has more power than ever before in history, but his daily experience is one of powerlessness. If he is with a business organization, the odds are great that he has sacrificed every other kind of independence in return for that dubious one known as financial. Modern social and corporate organization makes independence an expensive thing; in fact, it may make common integrity a prohibitive luxury for the ordinary man.”

"The most insidious idea employed to break down society is an undefined equalitarianism. . . . [Once the egalitarians achieve their goals], they merely substitute a bureaucratic hierarchy [for natural social differentiations].”

“The bomb was an unparalleled means; was this not enough? . . . [If the specialists had] known that their efforts were being directed to the slaughter of noncombatants on a scale never before contemplated, or to a perfection of brutality . . . , [a few] might have refused complicity. . . . Perhaps [these few] would have had some concept of war as an institution which forbids aimless killing . . . .”

“Two rights must be respected: the right of cultural pluralism where different cultures have developed, and the right of cultural autonomy in the development of a single culture.”

“[World War II] ended in a situation in which we make ‘perpetual war’ in order to have a distant ‘perpetual peace’.”

Daniel Webster (1782-1852)
U.S. Senator

“A country cannot subsist well without liberty, nor liberty without virtue.”

“The world is governed more by appearance than realities so that it is fully as necessary to seem to know something as to know it.”

“Good intentions will always be pleaded for every assumption of authority. It is hardly too strong to say that the Constitution was made to guard the people against the dangers of good intentions. There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

“An unlimited power to tax involves, necessarily, the power to destroy.”

“God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.”

“No man can suffer too much, and no man can fall too soon, if he suffer or if he fall in defense of the liberties and Constitution of his country.”

“No power but Congress can declare war, but what is the value of this constitutional provision, if the President of his own authority may make such military movements as must bring on war?”

“Human beings will generally exercise power when they can get it, and they will exercise it most undoubtedly in popular governments under pretense of public safety.”

“He who tampers with the currency robs labor of its bread.”

“Liberty exists in proportion to wholesome restraint; the more restraint on others to keep off from us, the more liberty we have.”

“Justice, sir, is the great interest of man on earth. It is the ligament which holds civilized beings and civilized nations together.”

“The contest for ages has been to rescue liberty from the grasp of executive power.”

“God grants liberty only to those who love it, and are always ready to guard and defend it.”

“The contest, for ages, has been to rescue liberty from the grasp of executive power.”

“No government is respectable which is not just.-Without unspotted purity of public faith, without sacred public principle, fidelity, and honor, no machinery of laws, can give dignity to political society.”

“The people’s government, made for the people, made by the people, and answerable to the people.”

“I shall exert every faculty I possess in aiding to prevent the Constitution from being nullified, destroyed, or impaired; and even though I should see it fail, I will still, with a voice feeble, perhaps, but earnest as ever issued from human lips, and with extinguish, call on the people to come to its rescue.”

“Human beings will generally exercise power when they can get it; and they will exercise it most undoubtedly, in popular governments, under pretense of public safety.”

Noah Webster (1758-1843)
American Educator and Author

“Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom of Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any body of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.”

“There are men in all ages who mean to govern well, but they mean to govern. They promise to be good masters, but they mean to be masters.”

“Another source of power in government is a military force. But this, to be efficient, must be superior to any force that exists among the people, or which they can command; for otherwise this force would be annihilated, on the first exercise of acts of oppression. Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States. A military force, at the command of Congress, can execute no laws, but such as the people perceive to be just and constitutional; for they will possess the power, and jealousy will instantly inspire the inclination, to resist the execution of a law which appears to them unjust and oppressive.”

H. G. [Herbert George] Wells (1866-1946)
English Author

“If we don’t end war, war will end us.”

“The Social Contract is nothing more or less than a vast conspiracy of human beings to lie to and humbug themselves and one another for the general Good. Lies are the mortar that bind the savage individual man into the social masonry.”

General William C. Westmoreland (1914-)
Army Chief of Staff

“Without censorship, things can get terribly confused in the public mind.”

“The military don’t start wars. Politicians start wars.”

“War is fear cloaked in courage.”

E. B. White (1899-1985)
American Author

“Liberty is never out of bounds or off limits; it spreads wherever it can capture the imagination of men.”

Walt Whitman (1819-1892)
American Poet

“What do you suppose will satisfy the soul, except to walk free and own no superior.”

“The shallow consider liberty a release from all law, from every constraint. The wise see in it, on the contrary, the potent Law of Laws.”

“To the States or any one of them, or any city of the States: Resist much, obey little. Once unquestioning obedience, once fully enslaved, . . . no nation, state, city, on this earth ever afterward assumes its liberty.”

“Where the populace rise at once against the never-ending audacity of elected persons.”

Elie Wiesel (1928-)
Journalist, Author and 1986 Nobel Prize-Winner for Peace

“Does there exist a nobler inspiration than the desire to be free? It is by his freedom that a man knows himself, by his sovereignty over his own life. To violate freedom, to flout that sovereignty, is to deny man the right to live his life, to take responsibility for himself with dignity.”

Oscar Wilde (1854-1900)
English Playwright and Poet

“Disobedience, in the eyes of anyone who has read history, is man’s original virtue. It is through disobedience that progress has been made, through disobedience and through rebellion.

“Patriotism is the virtue of the vicious.”

“To believe is very dull. To doubt is intensely engrossing. To be on the alert is to live, to be lulled into security is to die.”

“As long as war is regarded as wicked, it will always have its fascination,”

Woodrow Wilson (1856-1924)
28th President of the United States, Governor of New Jersey

“The history of liberty is a history of limitation of government power, not the increase of it.”

“Liberty has never come from the government. Liberty has always come from the subjects of it. The history of liberty is a history of resistance.”

“Since trade ignores national boundaries and the manufacturer insists on having the world as a market, the flag of his nation must follow him, and the doors of the nations which are closed against him must be battered down. Concessions obtaind by financiers must be safeguarded by ministers of state, even if the sovereignty of unwilling nations be outraged in the process.” [from unpublished paper in 1907, quoted in William E. Diamond, The Economic Thought of Woodrow Wilson]

“Our industries have expanded to such a point that they will burst their jacksts if they cannot find a free outlet to the markets of the world . . . . Our domestic markets no longer suffice. We need foreign markets.” [1912, quoted in William Appleman Williams, The Tragedy of American Diplomacy]

Fred Woodworth
American Journalist and Author

“Government is an unnecessary evil. Human beings, when accustomed to taking responsibility for their own behavior, can cooperate on a basis of mutual trust and helpfulness.”

“No true reform is possible that leaves government intact. Appeals to a government for a redress of grievances, even when acted upon, only increase the supposed legitimacy of the government's acts, and add to its amassed power.”

“Government will be abolished when its subjects cease to grant it legitimacy. Government cannot exist without at least the tacit consent of the populace. This consent is maintained by keeping people in ignorance of their real power. Voting is not an expression of power, but an admission of powerlessness, since it cannot do otherwise than reaffirm the government's supposed legitimacy.”

“Every person must have the right to make all decisions about his or her own life. All moralistic meddling in the private affairs of freely-acting persons is unjustified. Behavior which does not affect uninvolved persons is nobody's business but the participants.”

“We are not bound by constitutions or agreements made by our ancestors. Any constitution, contract, or agreement that purports to bind unborn generations or in fact anyone other than the actual parties to it, is a despicable lie and a presumptuous fraud. We are free agents liable only for such as we undertake.”

“All governments survive on theft and extortion, called taxation.”

“All governments force their decrees on the people, and command obedience under threats.”

“The principal outrages of history have been committed by governments, while every advancement of thought, every betterment in the human condition, has come about through the practices of voluntary coöperation and individual initiative. The principle of government, which is force, is opposed to the free exercise of our ability to think, act and coöperate.”

“Whenever government is established, it causes more harm than it forestalls.”

“All governments enlarge upon and extend their powers. Under government, the rights of individuals constantly diminish.”