Power and Personal Sovereignty: Quotes on Individual Freedom and the State

Second Amendment Quotes on Power and Personal SovereigntyPower and personal sovereignty go hand in hand. While our individual freedoms and natural rights must be protected, the 20th century was a harsh reminder that when the state maintains a "monopoly on violence" it can become the greatest threat to one's liberty. Below are some of our favorite quotes about the fragility of personal sovereignty.

Power Within The People

“There's a difference between us. You think the people of this country exist to provide you with position. I think your position exists to provide those people with freedom. And I go to make sure that they have it.”

“The smaller the domain where choices among alternatives are made collectively, the smaller will be the probability that any individual's preference gets overruled.”

“Never do anything against conscience, even if the state demands it.”

“To damage the sovereignty of the individual is to replace a community inspired by love, benevolence, and beauty by another based solely on power.”

“Most people do not really want freedom, because freedom involves responsibility, and most people are frightened of responsibility.”

“As for politics, I’m an anarchist. I hate governments and rules and fetters. Can’t stand caged animals. People must be free.”

“Mastering others is strength. Mastering yourself is true power.”

“There is a certain enthusiasm in liberty, that makes human nature rise above itself, in acts of bravery and heroism.”

“Either we believe that the State exists to serve the individual or that the individual exists to serve the State.”

“In the beginning of a change the patriot is a scarce man, and brave, and hated and scorned. When his cause succeeds, the timid join him, for then it costs nothing to be a patriot.”

“If an injury has to be done to a man it should be so severe that his vengeance need not be feared.”

“That city is well-fortified which has a wall of men instead of brick.”

Lycurgus, the legendary Spartan law-giver

“This manual of the Communist Party should be in the hands of every loyal American, that they may be alerted to the fact that it is not always by armies and guns that a nation is conquered.”

“Don't interfere with anything in the Constitution. That must be maintained, for it is the only safeguard of our liberties. And not to Democrats alone do I make this appeal, but to all who love these great and true principles.”

Abraham Lincoln, running for election to the U.S. Senate as a Republican in 1856

“To be prepared against surprise is to be trained. To be prepared for surprise is to be educated.”

“The Second Amendment is a doomsday provision, one designed for those exceptionally rare circumstances where all other rights have failed — where the government refuses to stand for reelection and silences those who protest; where courts have lost the courage to oppose, or can find no one to enforce their decrees. However improbable these contingencies may seem today, facing them unprepared is a mistake a free people get to make only once.

Fortunately, the Framers were wise enough to entrench the right of the people to keep and bear arms within our constitutional structure. The purpose and importance of that right was still fresh in their minds, and they spelled it out clearly so it would not be forgotten.”

“The power to cause pain is the only power that matters, the power to defend yourself and your loved ones, because if you cannot inflict pain on others then you are always subject to those who can, and nothing and no one will ever truly protect you.”

Unknown

“Free men own the means to protect themselves; serfs and slaves do not. Which are you?”

Unknown

“I bark at no man’s bid. I will never come and go, and fetch and carry, at the whistle of the great man in the White House no matter who he is.”

“I heartily accept the motto, “That government is best which governs least”; and I should like to see it acted up to more rapidly and systematically. Carried out, it finally amounts to this, which also I believe — “That government is best which governs not at all”; and when men are prepared for it, that will be the kind of government which they will have.”

“The less government we have, the better, - the fewer laws, and the less confided power. The antidote to this abuse of formal Government, is, the influence of private character, the growth of the Individual; the appearance of the principal to supersede the proxy; the appearance of the wise man, of whom the existing government, is, it must be owned, but a shabby imitation.”

“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what a people will submit to, and you have found out the exact amount of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them; and these will continue till they are resisted with either words or blows, or with both. The limits of tyrants are prescribed by the endurance of those whom they oppress. Men may not get all they pay for in this world; but they must pay for all they get.”

“It used to be the boast of free men that, so long as they kept within the bounds of the known law, there was no need to ask anybody’s permission or to obey anybody’s orders. It is doubtful whether any of us can make this claim today.”

Power Within The State

“We are fast approaching the stage of ultimate inversion: the stage where the government is free to do anything it pleases, while the citizens may act only by permission.”

“A man may conduct himself well in both adversity and good fortune, but if you want to test his character, give him power.”

“All government is authoritarian; and the more democratic a government is the more authoritative it is; for with the people behind it, it can push authority further than any Tsar or foreign despot dare do.”

“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.”

“If you take all the machinery in the world and dump it in the ocean, within months more than half of all humanity will die and within another six months they’d almost all be gone; if you took all the politicians in the world, put them in a rocket, and sent them to the moon, everyone would get along fine.”

“We are powerfully imprisoned in these Dark Ages simply by the terms in which we have been conditioned to think.”

“For in order to turn the individual into a function of the State, his dependence on anything beside the State must be taken from him.”

“Do not blame Caesar, blame the people of Rome who have so enthusiastically acclaimed and adored him and rejoiced in their loss of freedom and danced in his path and gave him triumphal processions. Blame the people who hail him when he speaks in the Forum of the 'new, wonderful good society' which shall now be Rome, interpreted to mean 'more money, more ease, more security, more living fatly at the expense of the industrious.' ”

“Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction.”

“A nation of sheep breeds a government of wolves!”

Unknown

“The tragedy of modern war is that the young men die fighting each other – instead of their real enemies back home in the capitals.”

“You can have peace. Or you can have freedom. Don't ever count on having both at once.”

“Liberty, as we all know, cannot flourish in a country that is permanently on a war footing, or even a near-war footing. Permanent crisis justifies permanent control of everybody and everything by the agencies of central government.”

“History does not long entrust the care of freedom to the weak or timid.”

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

“Where you find the laws most numerous, there you will find also the greatest injustice.”

Arcesilaus, Greek philosopher and student of Plato

“There is no difference between communism and socialism, except in the means of achieving the same ultimate end: communism proposes to enslave men by force, socialism – by vote. It is merely the difference between murder and suicide.”

Ayn Rand, in the L.A. Times on September 2, 1962

“School is the advertising agency which makes you believe you need the society as it is.”

“The plain fact is that education is itself a form of propaganda – a deliberate scheme to outfit the pupil, not with the capacity to weigh ideas, but with a simple appetite for gulping ideas ready-made. The aim is to make ‘good’ citizens, which is to say, docile and uninquisitive citizens.”

“Men fight for liberty and win it with hard knocks. Their children, brought up easy, let it slip away again, poor fools. And their grandchildren are once more slaves.”

“Among the many misdeeds of British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest.”

“When only cops have guns, it's called a police state.”

Unknown

“Think of the press as a great keyboard on which the government can play.”

“The urge to save humanity is almost always only a false-face for the urge to rule it.”

“In proportion as you give the state power to do things for you, you give it power to do things to you.”

“Instead of being taught independence, energy, and enterprise, our youth today is taught to look for security.”

“People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.”

“Everything within the State, nothing outside the State, nothing against the State.”

“And remember, where you have a concentration of power in a few hands, all too frequently men with the mentality of gangsters get control. History has proven that. All power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely.”

“From the beginning of our history the country has been afflicted with compromise. It is by compromise that human rights have been abandoned.”

“Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is what the Serbs have in Bosnia. Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. It's not entitlement. An entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It's not an endlessly expanding list of rights - the "right" to education, the "right" to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery - hay and a barn for human cattle.”

“If you've got them by the balls, their hearts and minds will follow.”

“Of course the people don’t want war. But after all, it’s the leaders of the country who determine the policy, and it’s always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it’s a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship. Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism, and exposing the country to greater danger.”

“As the old saying goes, 'money is power' and the more money the government takes, the more power it has over individuals.”

On Evil Being Real

“We mute the realization of malevolence- which is too threatening to bear - by turning offenders into victims themselves and by describing their behavior as the result of forces beyond their control.”

“If only it were all so simple! If only there were evil people somewhere insidiously committing evil deeds, and it were necessary only to separate them from the rest of us and destroy them. But the line dividing good and evil cuts through the heart of every human being. And who is willing to destroy a piece of his own heart?”

On The Ethics Of Self-Defense

“The necessary consequence of man's right to life is his right to self-defense. In a civilized society, force may be used only in retaliation and only against those who initiate its use. All the reasons which make the initiation of physical force an evil, make the retaliatory use of physical force a moral imperative. If some "pacifist" society renounced the retaliatory use of force, it would be left helplessly at the mercy of the first thug who decided to be immoral. Such a society would achieve the opposite of its intention: instead of abolishing evil, it would encourage and reward it.”

“You can be full of kindness and love, but you cannot sleep next to a mad dog.”

“Resistance to sudden violence, for the preservation not only of my person, my limbs, and life, but of my property, is an indisputable right of nature which I have never surrendered to the public by the compact of society, and which perhaps, I could not surrender if I would.”

John Adams, Boston Gazette, September 5, 1763, reprinted in 3 The Works of John Adams 438 (Charles F. Adams ed., 1851)

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