In The Revolution: A Manifesto, Ron Paul says he doesn’t believe the claim that most people are indifferent about freedom as long as they’re kept entertained and well fed. It’s more a lack of knowledge, he says, that keeps people from embracing the free society.
I’ve gone back and forth on this, and I’m inclined to think the truth is somewhere in between. But I think the cynics, who hold out no hope for the American people at all, are surely wrong.
Case in point: this thread.
This nurse had accidentally left her copy of The Revolution: A Manifesto at her nurses’ station overnight. When she arrived the next morning, fearing the book might be lost, she found to her amazement that the overnight nurse had actually read the entire thing. Not only that, but she had become an instant convert, wanting to spread Ron Paul’s message to her friends and family, and get extra copies of his book.
This is a person who, just a day earlier, had supported Hillary Clinton on the grounds that she wanted to see a woman in the White House.
Another person in the same discussion thread says that his own father, once a staunch McCain supporter, is now firmly for Ron Paul and withdrawal from Iraq. Having had a chance to read Dr. Paul’s positions for himself, he is now convinced that if all Americans could do so, Ron Paul would be president.
And then there’s my own experience. I’ll be frank: like most people, I wasn’t intellectually creative enough to break free of the phony choices our political system gives us. All I knew for sure was that I wasn’t a leftist. Therefore, I lazily concluded, I must be in Rush Limbaugh’s camp.
Yes, I was once a full-fledged neoconservative, pretty much from the moment I became politically aware until around 1993.
What jolted me out of it? Among other things, I attended Mises University 1993, put on by the Ludwig von Mises Institute, while a junior at Harvard. It was far and away the most intellectually exciting experience of my college career. (Now I’m on the other side of things, actually lecturing at the Mises University program, and almost envious of the students who are about to be introduced to the intellectual pleasures of the Austrian School for the first time.)
Then there’s my experience teaching American history and Western civilization to students in New York. I didn’t propagandize them, since that isn’t appropriate in a college history classroom, but the brighter ones perceived soon enough the chasm separating the late-eighteenth-century America I was describing and the America of today.
From time to time they demanded to know my views on this or that subject, or my political philosophy in general. My protests that I did not want to politicize the classroom or intimidate students who had views different from my own were brushed aside: we just want to know what you think, man!
Lo and behold, it made sense to them. And they’d never heard it before. I found myself making converts without really trying. (And no, they weren’t just saying so in order to ingratiate themselves into the professor’s favor; most of these testimonies came in the form of emails well after the semester had ended.)
All these experiences, I suspect, are not really so unusual.
Set aside those who ( la The Matrix) prefer the blue pill and ignorance over the red pill and knowledge. The fact is, plenty of people want that red pill, even if they don’t know it yet — as I myself did not, some 15 years ago now.
But these things can do the work they are intended to do only if we bring them to people’s attention — friends, family, co-workers, whatever.
You know what to do next.
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.