Politics Is Not Just Spy versus Spy; It’s also Slogan versus Slogan

For as long as political and ideological movements have sought to engage large followings, they have embraced slogans and catch phrases that give pithy expression to their views, aversions, and objectives. Slogans are dangerous in that they substitute rote declarations for serious thought, yet they may sometimes serve a purpose even for thoughtful people as rhetorical hammers with which one hits potential listeners in the head to get their attention. In any event, it seems that slogans and politicking are inseparable under both democratic and revolutionary conditions. So, one must pick and choose. The following are two short lists of slogans and other such utterances that repel or attract me.

First, ten slogans that rub me the wrong way:

  1. Eat the rich
  2. Fifty-four forty or fight
  3. From each according to his ability, to each according to his need
  4. Vote yourself a farm
  5. Lips that touch liquor must never touch mine
  6. All power to the Soviets
  7. Tutto nello Stato, niente al di fuori dello Stato, nulla contro lo Stato
  8. Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Führer
  9. Nixon’s the One
  10. Country first

Now, ten slogans with which I am more comfortable:

  1. Give me liberty or give me death
  2. Laissez faire, laissez passer
  3. War is the health of the state
  4. The lesser of two evils is still evil
  5. England will fight to the last American
  6. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch
  7. Make love, not war
  8. Whoever you vote for, the government wins
  9. Ask not what your country can force other people to do for you
  10. Give peace a chance

Of course, anyone who knows a bit about history or current political affairs can flesh out such lists indefinitely. Doing so in competition, mano a mano—or, in this case, lista contra lista—might make a fun party game for geeks.

Robert Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at the Independent Institute, author or editor of over fourteen Independent books, and Editor at Large of Independent’s quarterly journal The Independent Review.
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