Whatever your expectations for Ron Paul’s book The Revolution: A Manifesto, I can say with confidence that they have been exceeded. By a mile.
Ron Paul has produced the kind of book that changes the person who reads it. It is one of the most persuasively argued and beautifully written defenses of the free society I have ever encountered. No president, no presidential candidate, indeed no American politician has ever written anything like this. But that is such faint praise, and such an unjust understatement, that I almost regret uttering it.
From the first page of this book to the last, Ron Paul tells his fellow Americans things that — if the usual political and media fare we are offered is any indication — they are not supposed to hear. As I’ve said in another context, Ron Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto is, to the establishment, rather like the man who shouts out in the middle of the show how the magician is really sawing the woman in half.
What does it cover? Oh, just the Constitution, war, terrorism, the economy, trade, civil liberties, the war on drugs, the dollar, gold, abortion, executive orders, taxation, the housing bubble, the Federal Reserve, education, health care, the environment, conservatism, entitlements, foreign aid, regulation, and presidential war powers.
In order to make progress toward liberty, economist and libertarian Murray Rothbard used to say, the benign façade of the state has to be dramatically torn down. The people must be made to understand that this institution, which they’ve been taught to venerate since elementary school as the expression of the popular will, is ripping them off.
Well, this is the book Murray was waiting for.
After describing the income tax as merely a species of forced labor, for example, Dr. Paul concludes: "Strip away the civics-class platitudes about u2018contributions’ to u2018society,’ which are mere obfuscations designed to engineer the people’s consent to the system, and that is what the income tax amounts to." The word "exploited" appears several times in the book — to refer to government’s treatment of its subject population. He likewise writes, after having shown how the so-called distribution effects of inflation hurt the middle class and the working poor, that "the average person is silently robbed through this invisible means, and usually doesn’t understand what exactly is happening to him. And almost no one in the political establishment has an incentive to tell him."
One of the things that frustrated me most during 2007 was the way Ron Paul’s enemies employed predictable "anti-American" and "appeasement" rhetoric against his foreign policy views. Dr. Paul gets the last laugh here: his chapter on foreign policy is the most persuasive short statement of the non-interventionist position I have ever read. It turns the tables completely: suddenly it is the neoconservatives who are on the defensive, and Ron Paul the knowledgeable and wise statesman steering his country to safety. As a former neocon myself — who knew my enthusiasm for this book would elicit that awful confession? — I can confidently say that I would have changed my mind a lot sooner if I had been exposed to arguments like these.
It’s also a little unusual for an American presidential candidate to refer to and quote from Alexis de Tocqueville, Frdric Bastiat, Thomas Aquinas, Robert Nozick, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, George Washington, John Adams, Daniel Webster, John Quincy Adams, Henry Clay, Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, William Graham Sumner, Ludwig von Mises, and other figures of comparable renown.
Now trust me that I am not doing this book justice, but here’s a sample of its style and content.
On the conservative movement:
A substantial portion of the conservative movement has become a parody of its former self. Once home to distinguished intellectuals and men of letters, it now tolerates and even encourages anti-intellectualism and jingoism that would have embarrassed earlier generations of conservative thinkers.
The question [CIA bin Laden expert Michael] Scheuer and I are asking is not who is morally responsible for terrorism — only a fool would place the moral responsibility for terrorism on anyone other than the terrorists themselves. The question we are asking is less doltish and more serious: given that a hyper-interventionist foreign policy is very likely to lead to this kind of blowback, are we still sure we want such a foreign policy?… I have [n]ever said or believed that Americans had it coming on 9/11, or that the attacks were justified, or any of this other nonsense. The point is a simple one: when our government meddles around the world, it can stir up hornets’ nests and thereby jeopardize the safety of the American people. That’s just common sense. But hardly anyone in our government dares to level with the American people about our fiasco of a foreign policy.
On the idea of a "living" Constitution:
A "living" Constitution is just the thing any government would be delighted to have, for whenever the people complain that their Constitution has been violated, the government can trot out its judges to inform the people that they’ve simply misunderstood: the Constitution, you see, has merely evolved with the times. Thus, as in Orwell’s Animal Farm, "no animal shall sleep in a bed" becomes "no animal shall sleep in a bed with sheets," "no animal shall drink alcohol" becomes "no animal shall drink alcohol to excess," and "no animal shall kill any other animal" becomes "no animal shall kill any other animal without cause."
On civil liberties:
We have allowed the president to abduct an American citizen on American soil, declare him an "enemy combatant" (a charge the accused has no power to contest, which is rendered by the president in secret and is unreviewable), detain him indefinitely, deny him legal counsel, and subject him to inhumane treatment…. Have we been so blinded by propaganda that we have forgotten basic American principles, and legal guarantees that extend back to our British forbears eight centuries ago?… Claims that these powers will be exercised only against the bad guys are not worth listening to.
Toward the end of 2007, Senator Jeff Sessions declared, "Some people in this chamber love the Constitution more than they love the safety of this nation. We should all send President Bush a letter thanking him for protecting us." What kind of sheep must politicians take Americans for if they expect them to fall for creepy propaganda like this?
Every last prediction they made about the Iraq debacle — e.g., it would be a cakewalk, the cost would be paid by oil revenues, the prospect of sectarian fighting was slim — has been resolutely falsified by events, and yet they continue to grace the pages of major American newspapers and appear regularly on cable television talk shows. Instead of being disgraced, as common sense might lead us to expect, they continue to be exalted for a wisdom they obviously do not possess. I am reminded of George Orwell’s reference to "the streamlined men who think in slogans and talk in bullets."
On our foreign-policy debate:
The possibility that we should avoid bleeding ourselves dry in endless foreign meddling is not raised. For heaven’s sake, what kind of debate is it in which all sides agree that America needs troops in 130 countries?
The leadership of al Qaeda hoped to lure us into a "desert Vietnam," an enormously expensive war that would deplete our resources and help their own recruitment by stirring up the locals against us. And that is just what happened. The war’s ultimate cost is being estimated in the trillions. The dollar is collapsing. And more terrorists are being created. According to a study by the Global Research in International Affairs Center in Herzliya, Israel, the vast bulk of the foreign fighters in Iraq are people who had never been involved in terrorist activity before but have been radicalized by the U.S. presence in Iraq — the second-holiest place in Islam.
The terrorists, in short, have played us like a fiddle.
On the Federal Reserve:
Even if the Fed chairman really possessed the singular genius our media and politicians regularly ascribe to him, what if things have reached a point at which the Fed simply cannot stop the collapse? What if economic law, which the Fed can no more defy than it can repeal the law of gravity, is about to hit the Fed and the American people like a tidal wave, before which little rate cuts here and there are like the tiny umbrella Wile E. Coyote puts over his head to protect himself from falling boulders?
This book will change minds. Of that I am absolutely certain. That’s why our chief task right now is getting it into people’s hands.
This is the next major grassroots mission: thinking up creative ways to distribute this book, in the process making it an unavoidable part of current-day political discourse. Nothing would be more satisfying than to disrupt the lead-up to the establishment’s November bore-a-thon with — gasp — a discussion of things that actually matter, aimed at the non-catatonic segment of the population.
In the short run, buy copies for yourself and your friends. Of course, lending the book also works, but actually buying them copies serves two useful purposes: 1) boosting Ron Paul’s bestseller status (dare we hope for a debut at #1?) and 2) guilting your friends into actually reading it, since they know you put down your own money on it.
The prospect that by means of this book hundreds of thousands, perhaps even millions, of Americans may be exposed to these ideas — which this book explains and defends more compellingly than any other book of its length I have ever read — is among the happiest and most exciting developments I can recall in years. I’d say more about the book’s potential, but everything I write comes out like a cliché. This time, though, believe the clichés. Ron Paul has taken the gloves off, and the result is a thing of beauty.
Toward the very end, Dr. Paul writes:
Ours is not a fated existence, for nowhere is our destiny etched in stone. In the final analysis, the last line of defense of freedom and the Constitution consists of the people themselves. If the people want to be free, if they want to lift themselves out from underneath a state apparatus that threatens their liberties, squanders their resources on needless wars, destroys the value of their dollar, and spews forth endless propaganda about how indispensable it is and how lost we would all be without it, there is no force that can stop them.
To my supporters:
I have never been more humbled and honored than by your selfless devotion to freedom and the Constitution.
The American Revolutionaries did the impossible.
So can we.
The Revolution: A Manifesto makes one thing abundantly clear: anybody who thought Ron Paul’s moment was over is sorely mistaken.
He’s just getting started.
Thomas E. Woods, Jr. [view his website; send him mail] is senior fellow in American history at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and the author, most recently, of Sacred Then and Sacred Now: The Return of the Old Latin Mass and 33 Questions About American History You’re Not Supposed to Ask. His other books include How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization (get a free chapter here), The Church and the Market: A Catholic Defense of the Free Economy (first-place winner in the 2006 Templeton Enterprise Awards), and the New York Times bestseller The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History.