Quotations on liberty


From the beginning of the world no revolt against a public infamy or oppression has ever been begun but by the one daring man in the 10,000, the rest timidly waiting, and slowly and reluctantly joining, under the influence of that man and his fellows from the other ten thousands.
-- Mark Twain, "The United States of Lyncherdom"

Church and State

Believing with you that religion is a matter which lies solely between man and his God, that he owes account to none other for his faith or his worship, that the legislative powers of government reach actions only, and not opinions, I contemplate with sovereign reverence that act of the whole American people which declared that their legislature should "make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof," thus building a wall of separation between Church and State."
-- Thomas Jefferson, letter to the Danbury Baptist Association, January 1, 1802


To ripen a person for self-sacrifice he must be stripped of his individual identity and distinctness. He must cease to be George, Hans, Ivan, or Tadao -- a human atom with an existence bounded by birth and death. The most drastic way to achieve this end is by the complete assimilation of the individual into a collective body. The fully assimilated individual does not see himself and others as human beings. When asked who he is, his automatic response is that he is a German, a Russian, a Japanese, a Christian, a Moslem, a member of a certain tribe or family. He has no purpose, worth and destiny apart from his collective body; and as long as that body lives he cannot really die.
--Eric Hoffer, The True Believer


The thing so great that "private capital could not have built it" has in fact been built by private capital -- the capital that was expropriated in taxes (or, if the money was borrowed, that eventually must be expropriated in taxes). Again we must make an effort of the imagination to see the private power plants, the private homes, the typewriters and radios that were never allowed to come into existence because of the money that was taken from people all over the country to build the photogenic Norris Dam.
-- Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson


As fancying that her glory would be great
According to his greatness whom she quench'd.
-- Alfred Lord Tennyson, Idylls of the King, "Merlin and Vivien"

Fantasy and Reality

Es gibt Menschen, die können nie nach Phantásien kommen, und es gibt Menschen,die können es, aber sie bleiben für immer dort. Und dann gibt es noch einige, die gehen nach Phantásien und kehren wieder zurück... Und die machen beide Welten gesund.
(There are people who can never come to Fantasia, and there are people who can but who remain there forever. And then there are a few who go to Fantasia and come back again... And they make both worlds whole.)
-- Michael Ende, Die Unendliche Geschichte


I am inclined to think that rulers have rarely been above the average, either morally or intellectually, and often below it... It appears to me madness to base all our political efforts upon the faint hope that we shall be successful in obtaining excellent, or even competent, rulers.
-- Karl Popper, The Open Society and its Enemies

After damning politicians up hill and down dale for many years, as rogues and vagabonds, frauds and scoundrels, I sometimes suspect that, like everyone else, I often expect too much of them. Though faith and confidence are surely more or less foreign to my nature, I not infrequently find myself looking to them to be able, diligent, candid, and even honest. Plainly enough, that is too large an order, as anyone must realize who reflects upon the manner in which they reach public office.
-- H. L. Mencken, "The Politician"


I am speaking to those who desire to live and to recapture the honor of their soul. Now that you know the truth about your world, stop supporting your own destroyers. The evil of the world is made possible by nothing but the sanction you give it. Withdraw your sanction. Withdraw your support. Do not try to live on your enemies' terms or to win at a game where they're setting the rules. Do not seek the favor of those who enslaved you, do not beg for alms from those who have robbed you, be it subsidies loans or jobs, do not join their team to recoup what they've taken by helping them rob your neighbors.
-- Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged


In every course dealing with the power of government and its delicate relationship to the individual (especially Constitutional Law), it quickly became apparent to me that the freedom I had long taken for granted was largely illusory, and that America was not then (and never had been!) as free as I thought. I learned that much of the blame, ironically, belonged to the ultimate guardian of the Constitution, the Supreme Court of the United States.
-- Henry Mark Holzer, Sweet Land of Liberty?


I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice, and let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue.
-- Karl Hess, as writer of Barry Goldwater's 1964 Presidential nomination acceptance speech


In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer I beg to submit that it is the first.
-- Ambrose Bierce, The Devil's Dictionary


The program of liberalism, therefore, if condensed into a single word, would have to read: property, that is, private ownership of the means of production ... All the other demands of liberalism follow from this fundamental demand.
Side by side with the word "property" in the program of liberalism one may quite appropriately place the words "freedom" and "peace."
-- Ludwig von Mises, Liberalism

Government has always been the chief enemy of the right to property. The officials of government, wishing to increase their power, and finding an increase of wealth an effective way to bring this about, seize some or all of what a person has earned -- and since government has a monopoly of physical force within the geographical area of the nation, it has the power (but not the right) to do this. When this happens, of course, every citizen of that country is insecure; he knows that no matter how hard he works the government can swoop down on him at any time and confiscate his earnings and possessions.
-- John Hospers, Libertarianism

Social Contract Theory

There never did, nor never can exist a parliament, or any description of men, or any generation of men, in any country, possessed of the right or the power of binding or controlling posterity to the "end of time," or of commanding for ever how the world shall be governed, or who shall govern it; and therefore all such clauses, acts, or declarations, by which the makers of them attempt to do what they have neither the right nor the power to do, nor the power to execute, are in themselves null and void.
-- Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

The State

State is the name of the coldest of all cold monsters. Coldly it tells lies too; and this lie crawls out of its mouth: "I, the State, am the people."
-- Nietzsche, Thus Spoke Zarathustra

The expression "welfare state" is an understatement. For the state is fast becoming not merely an administrator of the general welfare, but a veritable therapist...
Herein lies the gravest danger to personal liberties. For, in its therapeutic aspirations, the government is not content to offer help. In the classic spirit of "doctor knows best," it is ready and willing to coerce the "patient" to submit to treatment if he refuses to cooperate. Thus, the parallel between political and moral Fascism is close. Each offers a kind of protection. And upon those unwilling to heed peaceful persuasion, the values of the state will be imposed by force: in political Fascism by the military and the police; in moral Fascism by therapists, especially psychiatrists.
-- Thomas Szasz, Law, Liberty, and Psychiatry


Obedience is the precondition of totalitarianism. The preconditions of obedience are fear and guilt; not merely the existential fear created by terroristic policies, but the deeper, metaphysical fear created by inner helplessness, the fear of a living creature deprived of any means to deal with reality; not merely the guilt of committing some specific crime, but the deeper, metaphysical guilt of feeling that one is innately unworthy and immoral.
-- Leonard Peikoff, The Ominous Parallels
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