Several important quotes from history – some famous, some infamous, some little known:

“Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” – historian, politician, and writer Sir John Dalberg-Acton (a.k.a. Lord Acton)

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” and “[O]nly the dead have seen the end of war.”” – philosopher, essayist, poet, and novelist George Santayana

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.” – author Richard Jackson published by inventor, journalist, printer, diplomat, and statesman Benjamin Franklin

“And it is absurd to suppose that the state changes into oligarchy merely because the ruling class are lovers and makers of money, and not because the very rich think it unfair that the very poor should have an equal share in the government with themselves.” – philosopher and polymath Aristotle

“The experiment known as democracy is devolving into fascism before our eyes; the ‘iron law of oligarchy’ is once again asserting itself. From the Founding Fathers on, we have known that you cannot have a concentration of vast wealth and Democracy at the same time – and we currently have the greatest concentration of wealth in the history of the United States. As former Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis once said, ‘We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can’t have both.’ The power struggle between democracy and the concentration of power represented within private banking interests has been a war raging throughout American history. Our Founders and early Presidents were very explicit in their opposition and our need to vigilantly guard against any private interests who sought control over our economy. In fact, our current crisis and power structure were summed up with stunning accuracy by the Founding Fathers themselves. What James Madison called, ‘the daring depravity of the times.’ As he described, ‘The stock-jobbers will become the praetorian band of the government, at once its tools and its tyrants, bribed by its largesse, and overawing it by clamors and combinations. Substituting the motive of private interest in place of public duty, leading to a real domination of the few under an apparent domination of the many.’ Leave it to Madison, the Father of the Constitution, to give us one of the most prescient quotes on modern-day America you can find.” – journalist David DeGraw

“’Yes, we may all congratulate ourselves that this cruel war is nearing a close. It has cost a vast amount of treasure and blood. The best blood of the flower of American youth has been freely offered upon our country’s altar that the nation might live. It has been, indeed, a trying hour for the republic; but I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudice of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the republic is destroyed. I feel at this moment more anxiety for the safety of my country than ever before, even in the midst of the war. God grant that my suspicion may prove groundless.’ Thus spake the sainted Lincoln. These are not the words of a brain crazed with fanaticism, but of a patriot purified by the great ordeal through which he had almost passed. Less than twenty-five years have gone and the prophesy is partially fulfilled.” – Journal of United Labor Vol 8, no. 20 Nov. 19, 1887 pg. 2 (What Will The Future Bring) in reference to Abraham Lincoln’s Corporations Enthroned letter to Colonel William F. Elkins

“A major distinction of the past from the present is that corporations and trading oligarchies were largely based in the nation-state, empowered by it as they were ultimately regulated by it. Fundamentally, they were formations of the state or nation-state (the freebooting extension of the state that acted as if it was independent) that operated a state-like bureaucratic system, which continued through into post-colonial state orders. Apparently independent of the state, they were not bound by state legitimating moralities but were nevertheless under the cover of the state, acting in its interests. In the current context, the situation is almost reversed. Nation-states are becoming the instrumentality of oligarchic empires and corporations. (The influence of News Corp and Fox is one example, but there are many others less publicly visible.) These, as I have said, are not only independent of states (are deterritorialized states) but have a state form all their own, managerial rather than bureaucratic, with a tension to person-centered autocracy stressing flexibility rather than rule-driven impersonality (Sennett 2000). Moreover, the modern state (the nation state) is transforming in the corporate direction rather than the other way around, as in the past. Corporate forms and practices are being fused with state processes so that the state itself is taking a corporate shape, as well as a more overt oligarchic political form.” – University of Bergen professor of social anthropology Bruce Kapferer

“But still, the chief principle of banana-ism [a banana republic] is that of kleptocracy, whereby those in positions of influence use their time in office to maximize their own gains, always ensuring that any shortfall is made up by those unfortunates whose daily life involves earning money rather than making it. At all costs, therefore, the one principle that must not operate is the principle of accountability.” – journalist Christopher Hitchens

“But there’s a deeper and more disturbing similarity [between U.S. and emerging market crises]: elite business interests – financiers, in the case of the U.S. – played a central role in creating the crisis, making ever-larger gambles, with the implicit backing of the government, until the inevitable collapse. More alarming, they are now using their influence to prevent precisely the sorts of reforms that are needed, and fast, to pull the economy out of its nosedive. The government seems helpless, or unwilling, to act against them.” – economist Simon Johnson

“Rectification of this unsavory situation poses stark alternatives: either the powerful financial interests, using the state power, succeed in collecting their debt claims by impoverishing the public; or the public will get tired of the vicious cycle of debt and depression, and will rise in protest – akin to the ‘IMF riots’ in Argentina – to repudiate the largely fictitious and illegitimate debt. This is of course a class war. The real question is when the working people and other victims of the unjust debt burden will grasp the gravity of this challenge, and rise to the critical task of breaking free from the shackles of debt and depression.” – Drake University professor of economics Ismael Hossein-zadeh

“Until the latest of our world conflicts, the United States had no armaments industry. American makers of plowshares could, with time and as required, make swords as well. But now we can no longer risk emergency improvisation of national defense; we have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Added to this, three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. We annually spend on military security more than the net income of all United States corporations. This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every State house, every office of the Federal government. We recognize the imperative need for this development. Yet we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications. Our toil, resources and livelihood are all involved; so is the very structure of our society. In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the militaryindustrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.” – five star general, Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces in Europe (WWII), Supreme Commander of NATO, and 34th President of the United States Dwight D. Eisenhower

“From warrantless wiretapping to the suppression of information under cover of state secrets, and from the waging of imperialist wars of conquest to torture, the militarist mind-set driving capitalist elites at warp speed towards an abyss of their own creation, are signs that new political provocations are being prepared by America’s permanent ‘shadow government’ – the military-intelligence-corporate apparatus.” – researcher and activist Tom Burghardt

“For more than a century, ideological extremists at either end of the political spectrum have seized upon well-publicized incidents such as my encounter with Castro to attack the Rockefeller family for the inordinate influence they claim we wield over American political and economic institutions. Some even believe we are part of a secret cabal working against the best interests of the United States, characterizing my family and me as ‘internationalists’ and of conspiring with others around the world to build a more integrated global political and economic structure – one world, if you will. If that is the charge, I stand guilty, and I am proud of it.” – banker and philanthropist David Rockefeller

“Today, America would be outraged if U.N. troops entered Los Angeles to restore order [referring to the 1991 LA Riot]. Tomorrow they will be grateful! This is especially true if they were told that there were 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 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 the World Government.” – writer, political scientist, diplomat, and businessman Henry Kissinger

“Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power.” – politician Benito Mussolini.  Note:  There is some dispute about the accuracy of this exact quote;  however, there is little doubt that it accurately reflects Mussolini’s political philosophy which is well established.

“Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to a point where it becomes stronger than their democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is Fascism—ownership of Government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. The second truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if its business system does not provide employment and produce and distribute goods in such a way as to sustain an acceptable standard of living.” – 32nd President of the United States Franklin Delano Roosevelt in a message to Congress on curbing monopolies, April 29, 1938

“Educate and inform the whole mass of the people. Enable them to see that it is their interest to preserve peace and order, and they will preserve them. And it requires no very high degree of education to convince them of this. They are the only sure reliance for the preservation of our liberty.” – American Founding Father, principal author of the Declaration of Independence, and third President of the United States Thomas Jefferson

“Some states [nations] have lost their liberty by particular accidents: But this calamity [social unrest in the American Colonies] is generally owing to the decay of virtue. A people is travelling fast to destruction, when individuals consider their interests as distinct from those of the public.” – American Founding Father, solicitor and politician John Dickinson

“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.” – French mathematician, physicist, inventor, writer, and Christian philosopher Blaise Pascal

“When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.” – pastor, activist, humanitarian, and civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his Beyond Vietnam speech on April 4, 1967

“For me, it is far better to grasp the Universe as it really is than to persist in delusion, however satisfying and reassuring.” – astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist, author, and science communicator in astronomy and natural sciences Carl Sagan

“I do not see in religion the mystery of the incarnation so much as the mystery of the social order.  It introduces into the thought of heaven an idea of equalization, which saves the rich from being massacred by the poor.” – Emperor and military leader of France Napoleon Bonaparte

Knowing something to be true requires empirical reasoning and evidentiary proof.  Believing in something only requires faith.  Both are important to the human experience, but are uniquely separate concepts.  Conflating the two is the clinical definition of irrationality.” – author Robert A. Vella

“A people who tolerate corrupt behavior by their leaders, whether from misjudgment or negligence, have corrupted themselves and are deserving of the grave repercussions which must follow.” – author Robert A. Vella

I see a nation [America] deeply troubled by its own delusions, where sublime fantasy is accepted as fact and where inconvenient truths are buried in a cesspool of denial. – author Robert A. Vella

“Authoritarianism begins when we can no longer tell the difference between the true and the appealing. At the same time, the cynic who decides that there is no truth at all is the citizen who welcomes the tyrant.” – historian Timothy Snyder

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction ( i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false ( i.e ., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” – philosopher and political theorist Hannah Arendt

“Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” – Auschwitz survivor Primo Levi

5 thoughts on “Historical Quotes

  1. Pingback: Historical Quotes | A World Affair

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