To know what you prefer, instead of humbly saying Amen to what the world tells you you ought to prefer, is to have kept your soul alive.

— Robert Louis Stevenson

Optimism is a duty. The future is open. It is not predetermined. No one can predict it, except by chance. We all contribute to determining it by what we do. We are all equally responsible for its success.

— Karl Popper

In the name of the best within you, do not sacrifice this world to those who are its worst. In the name of the values that keep you alive, do not let your vision of man be distorted by the ugly, the cowardly, the mindless in those who have never achieved his title. Do not lose your knowledge that man’s proper estate is an upright posture, an intransigent mind and a step that travels unlimited roads. Do not let your fire go out, spark by irreplaceable spark, in the hopeless swamps of the approximate, the not-quite, the not-yet, the not-at-all. Do not let the hero in your soul perish, in lonely frustration for the life you deserved, but have never been able to reach. Check your road and the nature of your battle. The world you deserved can be won, it exists, it is real, it is possible, it is yours.

— Ayn Rand

Liberty & Economics

Nothing whatever but the constitutional law, the political structure, of these United States protects any American from arbitrary seizure of his property and his person, from the Gestapo and the Storm Troops, from the concentration camp, the torture chamber, the revolver at the back of his neck in a cellar.

Rose Wilder Lane

The end of the law is, not to abolish or restrain, but to preserve and enlarge freedom. For in all the states of created beings capable of laws, where there is no law there is no freedom. For liberty is to be free from restraint and violence from others; which cannot be where there is no law: and is not, as we are told, a liberty for every man to do what he lists. (For who could be free when every other man’s humour might domineer over him?) But a liberty to dispose, and order as he lists, his person, actions, possessions, and his whole property, within the allowance of those laws under which he is, and therein not to be the subject of the arbitrary will of another, but freely follow his own.

— John Locke

Liberty is not a means to a higher political end. It is itself the highest political end.

— John Dalberg-Acton, 1st Baron Acton

Madison understood that if you want to protect rights from government abuse, you would be wise not to give government the power in the first place that can be used to abuse rights. That is a lesson we have forgotten. As we have asked government to do more and more for us, we have forgotten that a government big enough to give us everything we want will be powerful enough to take everything we have.

— Roger Pilon

In a country where the sole employer is the State, opposition means death by slow starvation. The old principle: who does not work shall not eat, has been replaced by a new one: who does not obey shall not eat.

— Leon Trotsky

Libertarians don’t expect miracles from individuals. We just expect individuals to be individuals, with the limited scope for evil that individuals enjoy. Real evil is coercive, and an individual does not have the power of coercion that a government has. Real good is voluntary, and no government, however democratic, is fully voluntary — as Florida voters discovered in November 2000. Only individuals have free will; systems do not. Voluntary good is done by individuals, for the benefit of individuals. Some of that voluntary good is going to be tasteless and dumb and shortsighted, of little value to mankind as a whole. But the ugliest strip mall is better than the most beautiful gulag.

— P. J. O’Rourke

Business is serving the needs and wants of other people. You don’t succeed unless the others are happy. That forces you to pay attention to people. Even if you have a lousy personality that makes babies cry, and you think you’re just in it for yourself, if the customer ultimately isn’t happy, you fail. So it has a moral foundation, and you’re examples of it: How do you make these people happy so you succeed?

— Steve Forbes, The Apprentice, Season 2

Being good in business is the most fascinating kind of art. Making money is art and working is art and good business is the best art.

Andy Warhol

People who decry the fact that businesses are in business “just to make money” seldom understand the implications of what they are saying. You make money by doing what other people want, not what you want.

Thomas Sowell

A major source of objection to a free economy is precisely that it does this task so well. It gives people what they want instead of what a particular group thinks they ought to want. Underlying most arguments against the free market is a lack of belief in freedom itself.

Milton Friedman

Though my heart may be left of centre, I have always known that the only economic system that works is a market economy… This is the only natural economy, the only kind that makes sense, the only one that can lead to prosperity, because it is the only one that reflects the nature of life itself.

— Václav Havel

Communism produces neither dignity nor prosperity. It takes all power away from the people and places it in the hands of a self-appointed elite. And because it distorts and manipulates the distinctive talents of individuals rather than letting those talents flourish, it prevents progress and prosperity.

Margaret Thatcher

When the individual betrays the state, they call it “treason.” When the state betrays the individual, they call it “social justice.”

Phillip McGough

But we know that freedom cannot be served by the devices of the tyrant. As it is an ancient truth that freedom cannot be legislated into existence, so it is no less obvious that freedom cannot be censored into existence. And any who act as if freedom’s defenses are to be found in suppression and suspicion and fear confess a doctrine that is alien to America.

— Dwight D. Eisenhower

The real alternative to power of the rich is not power of the poor. It’s just plain power.

— P.J. O’Rourke

Socialists cry “Power to the people” and raise the clenched fist as they say it. We all know what they really mean – power over people, power to the State.

Margaret Thatcher

The evolution of a bourgeoisie is a healthy phenomenon when it grows and prospers thanks to bourgeois values: hard work, honesty, personal responsibility.

— Anne Applebaum, A Dearth of Feeling

Liberty is the essential precondition for achieving virtue… In order to exercise virtue, we need to have the ability to choose freely.

— Dinesh D’Souza

The society that puts equality before freedom will end up with neither. The society that puts freedom before equality will end up with a great measure of both.

— Milton Friedman

Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children of men as a whole experience it. Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.

— Helen Keller

Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy. Its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.

— Sir Winston Churchill

Some … regard private enterprise as a predatory tiger to be shot. Others look on it as a cow they can milk. Only a handful see it for what it really is — the strong and willing horse that pulls the whole cart along.

— Sir Winston Churchill

Throughout history, poverty is the normal condition of man. Advances which permit this norm to be exceeded — here and there, now and then — are the work of an extremely small minority, frequently despised, often condemned, and almost always opposed by all right-thinking people. Whenever this tiny minority is kept from creating, or (as sometimes happens) is driven out of a society, the people then slip back into abject poverty.

This is known as “bad luck.”

Robert Heinlein

Prior to capitalism, the way people amassed great wealth was by looting, plundering and enslaving their fellow man. Capitalism made it possible to become wealthy by serving your fellow man.

— Walter E. Williams

A creative man is motivated by the desire to achieve, not by the desire to beat others.

— Ayn Rand

The foundations of liberty are private property and the rule of law; this system guarantees the fewest possible forms of injustice, produces the greatest material and cultural progress, most effectively stems violence and provides the greatest respect for human rights. According to this concept of liberalism, freedom is a single, unified concept. Political and economic liberties are as inseparable as the two sides of a medal.

— Mario Vargas Llosa, Confessions of a Liberal

The guiding principle of any attempt to create a world of free men is this. A policy of freedom for the individual is the only truly progressive policy.

— F.A. Hayek

We can walk our road together
if our goals are all the same.
We can run alone and free
if we pursue a different aim.
Let the truth of Love be lighted
Let the love of Truth shine clear
Sensibility, armed with Sense and Liberty
With the heart and mind united in a single, perfect sphere.

— Rush, Hemispheres

Administer the empire by engaging in no activity.
The more taboos and prohibitions there are in the world,
The poorer the people will be.
The more laws and orders are made prominent,
The more thieves and robbers there will be.
Therefore, the sage [ruler] says:
I take no action and the people of themselves are transformed.
I engage in no activity and the people of themselves become prosperous.

— Lao Tzu, Tao Te Ching

A wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. This is the sum of good government, and all that is necessary to close the circle of our felicities.

— Thomas Jefferson

Let us never forget this fundamental truth: the State has no source of money other than money which people earn themselves. If the State wishes to spend more, it can do so only by borrowing your savings or by taxing you more. It is no good thinking that someone else will pay – that “someone else” is you. There is no such thing as public money; there is only taxpayers’ money.

— Margaret Thatcher

Government is not reason, it is not eloquence, it is force; like fire, a troublesome servant and a fearful master. Never for a moment should it be left to irresponsible action.

— George Washington

Beware the greedy hand of government, thrusting itself into every corner and crevice of industry.

— Thomas Paine

No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the Congress is in session.

— Mark Twain

Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.

— P.J. O’Rourke

The best minds are not in government. If they were, business would hire them away.

— Ronald Reagan

The government solution to a problem is usually as bad as the problem.

— Milton Friedman

The American Republic will endure, until politicians realize they can bribe the people with their own money.

— Alexis de Tocqueville

Experience should teach us to be most on our guard to protect liberty when our government’s purposes are beneficent. Men are born to liberty, are naturally alert to repel invasion of their liberty by evil-minded rulers. The greatest dangers to liberty lie in the insidious encroachment by men of zeal — well-meaning, but without understanding.

— Justice Brandeis

When authority presents itself in the guise of organization, it develops charms fascinating enough to convert communities of free people into totalitarian states.

— F. Hölderlin

The uncontested absurdities of today are the accepted slogans of tomorrow. They come to be accepted by degrees, by precedent, by implication, by erosion, by default, by dint of constant pressure on one side and constant retreat on the other — until the day when they are suddenly declared to be the country’s official ideology.

Ayn Rand

Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachments of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.

James Madison

Liberty lies in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it; no constitution, no law, no court can even do much to help it.

Billings Learned Hand

The price of Liberty is eternal vigilance.

— Wendell Phillips

As you can imagine, I have a deeply personal interest in people learning to at least be tolerant of homosexuals. My life depends on it. And as I wish to be left alone, I realize it is not in my interest to interfere with how other people choose to lead their lives, or raise their children. All totalitarian arguments that restrict people’s freedom have been based in the “it’s best for everyone” framework.

— Tammy Bruce, The Death of Right and Wrong

There are people out there who maintain that we are a strong nation only because of our military might.

That’s exactly wrong.

Our military might does not make us strong. We have military might because we are strong. It is a by-product of our strength, not the source of it.

Any idiot can build bombs. Our Trinity sits not on some desert sand seared into glass at an abandoned, sad pillar of stones. It’s in our heads and our hearts, it’s in our genes, this beautiful, gorgeous marriage of money, freedom and ingenuity.

— Bill Whittle, Trinity (part 2)

The United States is like a gigantic boiler. Once the fire is lighted under it there is no limit to the power it can generate.

— Edward Grey

Find it and keep it and hold on to it,
For there’s a buried thing in all of us,
Deeper than all the noise of the parade,
The thing the haters never understand
And never will, the habit of the free.
Out of the flesh, out of the minds and hearts
Of thousand upon thousand common men,
Cranks, martyrs, starry-eyed enthusiasts,
Slow-spoken neighbors, hard to push around,
Women whose hands were gentle with their kids
And men with a cold passion for mere justice.
We made this thing, this dream.
This land unsatisfied by little ways,
Open to every man who brought good will,
This peaceless vision, groping for the stars,
Not as a huge devouring machine
Rolling and clanking with remorseless force
Over submitted bodies and the dead
But as live earth where anything could grow,
Your crankiness, my notions and his dream,
Grow and be looked at, grow and live or die.
But get their chance of growing and the sun.
We made it and we make it and it’s ours.
We shall maintain it. It shall be sustained.

— Stephen Vincent Benét, Listen to the People

Cultural Confidence

I used to wonder why civilizations fell. No longer. I see it now before my eyes, every day. Civilizations do not fall because the Barbarians storm the walls. The forces of civilization are far too powerful, and those of barbarism far too weak, for that to happen.

Civilizations fall because the people inside the Sanctuary throw open the gates.

— Bill Whittle, Sanctuary, Part I

Because our theory of people works so much better than those who oppose us, America can afford to be unconquerable by force of arms. With many, many millions of well-armed and deeply patriotic citizens, it is essentially unbeatable even without a Defense Department. America’s strength is broad and it is very, very deep.

You have one chance to defeat America today. You must shut down her reactor. You must kill the confidence, lie about the history, slander the Founders, undermine the morality, question the decency, mock the very ideas of self-sufficiency and self-defense, banish self-determination as a goal for individuals and the nation, destroy the intricate and delicately made checks and balances that inhibit state power, divide the people among racial and economic lines, and under no circumstances allow America be seen to actually do what it claims to do: be a force for liberation, creativity, prosperity and freedom to all people, everywhere.

— Bill Whittle, Victory

Anti-Americanism persists … because it is a requirement of moral relativism. If a student is to be successfully indoctrinated with the idea that all cultures and ideas are equal, then pride and loyalty to our nation, her past, and our heroes becomes anathema, and must be eradicated.

— Tammy Bruce, The Death of Right and Wrong

A civilization that feels guilty for everything it is and does will lack the energy and conviction to defend itself.

— Jean-François Revel

If I could issue one warning to the American people, it is that you’re about to lose your sense of history, and your sense of what it is that makes America special and unique — that we are founded on an idea, and on ideals. Many of us who are over the age of 35 grew up in a different America. We were taught very directly what it means to be an American, and we absorbed almost in the air a love of country and an appreciation of its institutions. We have got to teach history once again based not on what’s in fashion but what’s important. If we forget what we did, we won’t know who we are. I am warning of an eradication of the American memory in our public schools that could result ultimately in an erosion of the American spirit. Let’s start with some basics: more attention to American history.

— Ronald Reagan, 1989 Farewell Address


The passion for power over others can never cease to threaten mankind, and is always sure of finding new and unforseen allies in continuing its martyrology.

— Lord Acton

War is an ugly thing but not the ugliest of things; the decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feelings which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. A man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

— John Stuart Mill

With reasonable men I will reason; with humane men I will plea; but to tyrants I will give no quarter, nor waste arguments where they will certainly be lost.

William Lloyd Garrison

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.

— Sir Winston Churchill

We are at war with the most dangerous enemy that has ever faced mankind, and if we lose that war, and in doing so lose this way of freedom of ours, history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose did the least to prevent its happening.

— Ronald Reagan

Tolerance becomes a crime when applied to evil.

— Thomas Mann

We can’t share the earth with pure evil anymore than we can share the earth with smallpox.

— David Gelernter

Evil must be confronted in its womb and, if it can’t be done otherwise, then it has to be dealt with by the use of force.

— Václav Havel

The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

— Edmund Burke

We sleep soundly in our beds because rough men stand ready in the night to visit violence on those who would do us harm.

— Sir Winston Churchill / George Orwell †

Evil must be examined — as an act of self-preservation — to keep it from poisoning one’s soul with the slightest bit of pessimistic despair…

Crucial to a villain’s success is the sanction of his victims. Evil men must cloak themselves in a veneer of righteousness, they must seek the moral approval of the producers they exploit…

Honest men are scrupulously conscientious in striving to be moral. A villain must deceive them into believing that he is, too. … He seeks to disarm his victims of their moral certainty, he seeks to undermine their belief in the justice of their fight. He seeks to appropriate the moral high ground. …

Morality is man’s most powerful weapon. Evil men sense this and deploy it as their heaviest gun in the battle to enslave the good.

— Andrew Bernstein, Villainy

No weapon in the arsenals of the world is so formidable as the will and moral courage of free men and women.

— Ronald Reagan

We fight wars not to have peace, but to have a peace worth having. Slavery is peace. Tyranny is peace. For that matter, genocide is peace when you get right down to it. The historical consequences of a philosophy predicated on the notion of no war at any cost are families flying to the Super Bowl accompanied by three or four trusted slaves and a Europe devoid of a single living Jew.

— Bill Whittle, History

It is foolish and wrong to mourn the men who died. Rather we should thank God that such men lived.

— General George S. Patton, Jr.

To be prepared for war is one of the most effective means of preserving peace.

— George Washington

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, in order to assure the survival and the success of liberty.

John F. Kennedy

We shall not fail or falter; we shall not weaken or tire. Neither the sudden shock of battle nor the long-drawn trials of vigilance and exertion will wear us down.

— Sir Winston Churchill

The front line now, at this critical time, is in the hearts and minds of our own people. That’s where the real battle is now. That is our weakest point, our breach, our point of failure. We have not made the case to enough people and time is running out.

So maybe now, at this absurd point in this new kind of war, we’re the crack troops, we old and useless pajama patriots reduced to printing up pamphlets to sell war bonds to the weary, to make the case for holding on to an unglamorous, uninspiring, relentless grind because that — not Normandy and Midway — is the face of war in this gilded age of luxury and safety and plenty.

Maybe that’s our job. Maybe we can help cover some small gap in the lines.

— Bill Whittle, Deterrence (part 1)

† The “rough men stand ready” quote is frequently attributed to both Winston Churchill and George Orwell in various forms. It is a beautifully focused statement, whatever its true origin.