Isabel Paterson

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Isabel Paterson (22 January 1886 – 10 January 1961) was a best-selling writer, influential literary critic, and libertarian philosopher.



The God of the Machine (1943)

  • What the past shows, by overwhelming evidence, is that the imponderables outweigh every material article in the scales of human endeavor.
    • p. 13
  • In human affairs, all that endures is what men think.
    • p. 15
  • An army is a diversion of energy from the productive life of a nation.
    • p. 30
  • Money is indispensable to a long-circuit heavy load energy system. It must be used when a sufficient surplus is being produced to allow a margin for exchange, and cost of transport, over a considerable distance. Money represents a storage battery when idle, and a generalized mode of the conversion of energy when it is in motion, with a function of equating time and space.
    • p. 32
  • More and more of the flow was diverted from production into the political mechanism. Whatever elements in motion compose a stream of energy, enough must go through to complete the circuit and renew production. Water running in an aqueduct to turn a millwheel is a stream of energy; or electricity going through insulated wires; or goods in process from raw materials to finished product and conveyed by a system of transport. If the water channel is pierced with many small openings en route; or electricity taken off by more and more outlets; or the goods expropiated piecemeal at each stage of the process, finally not enough will go through for maintenance of the system. In the energy system comprised in an exchange of goods, the producers and processors have to get back enough to enable them to keep on producing and working up the raw materials and to provide transport...
    • p. 39
  • These are not sentimental considerations; they constitute the mechanism of production and therefore of power. Personal liberty is the pre-condition of the release of energy. Private property is the inductor which initiates the flow. Real money is the transmission line; and the payment of debts comprises half the circuit. An empire is merely a long circuit energy-system. The possibility of a short circuit, ensuing leakage and breakdown or explosion, occurs in the hook-up of political organization to the productive processes. This is not a figure of speech or analogy, but a specific physical description of what happens.
    • p. 62
  • Men are born free, that since they begin with no government, they must therefore institute government by voluntary agreement, and thus government must be their agent, not their superior. Since volition is a function of the individual, the individual has the precedent right. Then even if it was presumed that government did equate roughly with the moral shorcomings of humanity, it should still be limited and subsidiary. If everyone were invariably honest, able, wise, and kind, there should be no occasion for government. Everyone would readily understand what is desirable and what is possible in given circumstances, all would concur upon the best means toward their purpose and for equitable participation in the ensuing benefits, and would act without compulsion or default. The maximum production was certainly obtained from such voluntary action arising from personal initiative. But since human beings will sometimes lie, shirk, break promises, fail to improve their faculties, act imprudently, seize by violence the goods of others, and even kill one another in anger or greed, the government might be defined as the police organization. In that case, it must be described as a necessary evil. It would have no existence as a separate entity, and no intrinsic authority; it could not be justly empowered to act excepting as individuals infringed one another's rights, when it should enforce prescribed penalties. Generally, it would stand in the relation of a witness to contract, holding a forfeit for the parties. As such, the least practicable measure of government must be the best. Anything beyond the minimum must be oppression.
    • p. 69
  • When the word leader, or leadership, returns to current use, it connotes a relapse into barbarism. For a civilized people, it is the most ominous word in any language.
    • p. 80
  • Whether it does any good or not, a law enforced must hurt someone.
    • p. 92
  • The only way to prevent prostitution altogether would be to imprison one half of the human race.
    • p. 93
  • But in reason if one man has no right to command all other men--the expedient of despotism--neither has he any right to command even one other man; nor yet have ten men, or a million, the right to command even one other man, for ten times nothing is nothing, and a million times nothing is nothing.
    • p. 122
  • The humanitarian in theory is the terrorist in action.
    • p. 242
  • The philanthropist, the politician, and the pimp are inevitably found in alliance because they have the same motives, they seek the same ends, to exist for, through, and by others.
    • p. 250
  • But when the good people do know, as they certainly do, that three million persons (at the least estimate) were starved to death in one year by the methods they approve, why do they still fraternize with the murderers and support the measures? Because they have been told that the lingering death of the three millions might ultimately benefit a greater number. The argument applies equally well to cannibalism.
    • p. 250, emphasis in the original
  • There can be no greater stretch of arbitrary power than is required to seize children from their parents, teach them whatever the authorities decree they shall be taught, and expropriate from the parents the funds to pay for the procedure.
    • p. 255
  • A tax-supported, compulsory educational system is the complete model of the totalitarian state.
    • p. 258
  • Whoever is fortunate enough to be an American citizen came into the greatest inheritance man has ever enjoyed. He has had the benefit of every heroic and intellectual effort men have made for many thousands of years, realized at last. If Americans should now turn back, submit again to slavery, it would be a betrayal so base the human race might better perish.
    • p. 292
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