Crises and Power
U.S. Foreign Policy

Quotes on Power

About the book Crisis and Leviathan


Visit The Independent Institute


Center on Peace & Liberty “K” Quotes
On Power


Emmanuel Kant (1724-1804)
German Philosopher and Author

“The function of the true state is to impose the minimum restrictions and safeguard the maximum liberties of the people, and it never regards the person as a thing.”

Walter Karp (1934-1989)
American Journalist and Political Theorist

“The left and right wings of the party establishment--two great pinions of an ancient bird of prey.”

“The public school system: ‘Usually a twelve year sentence of mind control. Crushing creativity, smashing individualism, encouraging collectivism and compromise, destroying the exercise of intellectual inquiry, twisting it instead into meek subservience to authority.’”

“The most esteemed journalists are precisely the most servile. For it is by making themselves useful to the powerful that they gain access to the ‘best’ sources.”

Helen Keller (1880-1968)

“Strike against war, for without you no battles can be fought! Strike against manufacturing shrapnel and gas bombs and all other tools of murder! Strike against preparedness that means death and misery to millions of human beings! Be not dumb, obedient slaves in an army of destruction! Be heroes in an army of construction!”

“Our democracy is but a name. We vote? What does that mean? It means that we choose between two bodies of real, though not avowed, autocrats. We choose between Tweedledum and Tweedledee.”

John F. Kennedy (1917-1963)
35th President of the United States, U.S. Congressman

“Don’t buy a single vote more than necessary. I’ll be damned if I’m going to pay for a landslide.”

“But peace does not rest in the charters and covenants alone. It lies in the hearts and minds of all people. So let us not rest all our hopes on parchment and on paper, let us strive to build peace, a desire for peace, a willingness to work for peace in the hearts and minds of all of our people. I believe that we can. I believe the problems of human destiny are not beyond the reach of human beings.”

“We are not afraid to entrust the American people with unpleasant facts, foreign ideas, alien philosophies, and competitive values. For a nation that is afraid to let its people judge the truth and falsehood in an open market is a nation that is afraid of its people.”

“When we got into office, the thing that surprised me most was that things were as bad as we’d been saying they were.”

“Every time that we try to lift a problem from our own shoulders, and shift that problem to the hands of the government, to the same extent we are sacrificing the liberties of our people.”

“Conformity is the jailer of freedom and the enemy of growth.”

“Tolerance implies no lack of commitment to one’s own beliefs. Rather it condemns the oppression or persecution of others.”

“Mankind must put an end to war before war puts an end to mankind.”

“The same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe--the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state, but from the hand of God.”

“War will exist until that distant day when the conscientious objector enjoys the same reputation and prestige that the warrior does today.”

“Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.”

“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”

“The basic problems facing the world today are not susceptible to a military solution.”

John Maynard Keynes (1883-1946)
English Economist and Author

“The inhabitant of London could order by telephone, sipping his morning tea in bed, the various products of the whole earth . . . he could at the same time and by the same means adventure his wealth in the natural resources and new enterprise of any quarter of the world . . . he could secure forthwith, if he wished, cheap and comfortable means of transit to any country or climate without passport or other formality . . .”

“If the Treasury were to fill old bottles with bank-notes, bury them at suitable depths in disused coal-mines which are then filled up to the surface with town rubbish, and leave it to private enterprise on well-tried principles of laissez-faire to dig the notes up again (the right to do so being obtained, of course, by tendering for leases of the note-bearing territory), there need be no more unemployment and, with the help of repercussions, the real income of the community, and its capital wealth, would probably become a good deal greater than it actually is.”

“The theory of aggregate production, which is the point of the following book, nevertheless can be much easier adapted to the conditions of a totalitarian state than the theory of production and distribution put forth under conditions of free competition and a larger degree of laissez-faire.” [from the foreword of the 1936 German edition of Keynes’s book, General Theory of Employment, Interest, and Money]

“The ideas of economists and political philosophers, both when they are right and when they are wrong, are more powerful than is generally understood. Indeed, the world is ruled by little else.”

Nikita S. Khrushchev (1894-1971)
Premier of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics

“Politicians are the same all over: they promise to build a bridge even where there is no river.”

“Comrades! We must abolish the cult of the individual decisively, once and for all.”

Martin Luther King, Jr. (1929-1968)
Baptist Minister, Civil Rights Leader and 1964 Nobel Prize-Winner for Peace

“I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today – my own government. . . .There is something strangely inconsistent about a nation and a press that would praise you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward Jim Clark,’ but will curse and damn you when you say, ‘Be nonviolent toward little brown Vietnamese children!’ There is something wrong with that press.”

“Don’t let anybody make you think that God chose America as His divine messianic force to be--a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with judgment, and it seems that I can hear God saying to America: ‘You are too arrogant! If you don’t change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power. . . ’”
[Sermon at the Ebenezer Baptist Church on April 30, 1967]

“There is more power in socially organized masses on the march than there is in guns in the hands of a few desperate men.” The Social Organization of Nonviolence (1959) 1986:33.

“Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal.”

“If a man hasn’t discovered something that he will die for, he isn’t fit to live.”

“The greatest purveyor of violence on earth is my own government.”

“Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men. ”

“The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral begetting the very thing it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish the truth. Through violence you murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. . . Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.”

“Nothing good ever comes of violence.”

“A piece of freedom is no longer enough for human beings . . . unlike bread, a slice of liberty does not finish hunger.  Freedom is like life. It cannot be had in installments. Freedom is indivisible--we have it all, or we are not free.”

“Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time; the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence.”

“Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression, and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love.”

“An individual who breaks a law that conscience tells him is unjust, and who willingly accepts the penalty of imprisonment in order to arouse the conscience of the community over its injustice, is in reality expressing the highest respect for the law.”

Rudyard Kipling (1865-1936)
English Author and 1907 Nobel Prize-Winner for Literature

“The first casualty of war is truth.”

“If any question why we died,
Tell them, because our fathers lied.” [from the poem, “Common Form”]

Henry A. Kissinger (1923-)
56th U.S. Secretary of State and 1973 Nobel Prize-Winner for Peace

“Intelligence is not all that important in the exercise of power, and is often, in point of fact, useless.”

“The illegal we do immediately. The unconstitutional takes a little longer.”

“Today Americans would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order; tomorrow they will be grateful. This is especially true if they were told there was an outside threat from beyond, whether real or promulgated, that threatened our very existence. It is then that all peoples of the world will plead with world leaders to deliver them from this evil. The one thing every man fears is the unknown. When presented with this scenario, individual rights will be willingly relinquished for the guarantee of their well being granted to them by their world government.”

“Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad name.”

“We had been bombing the bejesus out of them since May.” [on the bombing of Cambodia, 19 July 1973]

“What are 3,000 MIRVs among friends? (laughter).” [to Soviet Premier Leonid Brezhnev, 27 March 1974]

“Power is the ultimate aphrodisiac.”

“The US must carry out some act somewhere in the world which shows its determination to continue to be a world power.” [April 1975]

“Covert action should not be confused with missionary work.” [on the U.S. sellout of the Kurds in Iraq in 1975]

“Why should we flagellate ourselves for what the Cambodians did to each other?” [regarding the impact of the massive bombing of Cambodia in 1973, which killed three-quarters of a million peasants and disrupted Cambodian society, setting the stage for Pol Pot to come to power and ultimately kill another one-and-a-half million people]

“No country can act wisely simultaneously in every part of the globe at every moment of time.”

Frank H. Knight (1885-1972)
American Economist and Author

“Liberals hold that men are not to be trusted, beyond necessity, with arbitrary power. As Lord Acton said, power corrupts--corrupts the initially good--and absolute power corrupts absolutely. But weakness in the face of power corrupts equally and apart from consequences, buth the power-seeking attitude and that of servility are inherently to be condemned.” [Intelligence and Democratic Action 1960:14]

Arthur Koestler (1905-1083)
English Novelist and Philosopher

“War is a ritual, a deadly ritual, not the result of aggressive self-assertion, but of self-transcending identification. Without loyalty to tribe, church, flag or ideal, there would be no wars.”

“Even a cursory glance at history should convince one that individual crimes committed for selfish motives play a quite insignificant part in the human tragedy, compared to the numbers massacred in unselfish loyalty to one’s tribe, nation, dynasty, church, or political ideology, ad majorem gloriam dei. The emphasis is on unselfish. Excepting a small minority of mercenary or sadistic disposition, wars are not fought for personal gain, but out of loyalty and devotion to king, country or cause. Homicide committed for personal reasons is a statistical rarity in all cultures, including our own. Homicide for unselfish reasons, at the risk of one’s own life, is the dominant phenomenon of history.”

“. . . we are apt to forget that the vast majority of men and women who fell under the totalitarian spell was activated by unselfish motives, ready to accept the role of martyr or executioner, as the cause demanded.”

“The most persistent sound which reverberates through men’s history is the beating of war drums.”

Gabriel Kolko
Historian and Author

“The fundamental assumption that the United States retains the right and obligation to intervene in the Third World in any way it ultimately deems necessary, including military, remains an article of faith among the people who guide both political parties.”

Charles Krauthammer (1950-)
Journalist and 1987 Pulitzer Prize-Winner

“The great divide in American foreign policy thinking is between those who believe in paper and those who believe in power.”

“Passing a law like the assault weapons ban is a symbolic--purely symbolic--move in that direction. Its only real justification is not to reduce crime but to desensitize the public to the regulation of weapons in preparation for their ultimate confiscation.” [April 5, 1996]

“After eight years during which foreign policy success was largely measured by the number of treaties the president could sign and the number of summits he could attend, we now have an administration willing to assert American freedom of action and the primacy of American national interests. Rather than contain American power within a vast web of constraining international agreements, the new unilateralism seeks to strengthen American power and unashamedly deploy it on behalf of self-defined global ends. . . . The new unilateralism recognizes the uniqueness of the unipolar world we now inhabit and thus marks the real beginning of American post-Cold War foreign policy.” [June 8, 2001]

Prince Peter A. Kropotkin (1842-1921)
Russian Revolutionary and Author

“Either the State for ever, crushing individual and local life, taking over in all fields of human activity, bringing with it its wars and its domestic struggles for power, its palace revolutions which only replace one tyrant by another, and inevitably at the end of this development there is . . . death! Or the destruction of States, and new life starting again in thousands of centers on the principle of the lively initiative of the individual and groups and that of free agreement. The choice lies with you!”

“The law is an adroit mixture of customs that are beneficial to society, and could be followed even if no law existed, and others that are of advantage to a ruling minority, but harmful to the masses of men, and can be enforced on them only by terror.”

“Anarchism (from the Greek an- and arche, contrary to authority), the name given to the principle or theory of life and conduct under which society is conceived without government--harmony in such a society being obtained, not by submission to law, or by obedience to any authority, but by free agreements concluded between the various groups, territorial and professional, freely constituted for the sake of production and consumption, as also for the satisfaction of the infinite variety of needsand aspirations of a civilized being.”

“Lenin is not comparable to any revolutionary figure in history. Revolutionaries have had ideals. Lenin has none.”