An Evening With Dr. Ron Paul
Adams once observed how "it does not require a majority to
prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush
fires in peopleís minds." I donít know how irate he is, but
Dr. Ron Paul (R-Tx) is surely among the leaders of a tireless minority
in our time. If liberty by some chance does return to American soil
in our lifetimes, we will doubtless have Dr. Paul to thank for having
laid part of the groundwork over the past couple of decades.
April 2, Dr. Paul spoke to a crowded conference room at the Sheraton
Hotel in Columbia, South Carolina. The event, entitled "An
Evening With Ron Paul," was hosted by the South
Carolina Libertarian Party. His talk ranged across topics from
his enormous popularity in his own Texas district to the "foolishness
and silliness and ruthlessness" of the drug war to the dangers
of the Patriot Act and its successors.
his district, he is practically unopposed. He noted how he had voted
against 700 expansionist-government bills over his two most recent
terms in office, and won by a larger margin the second election
than he did the first. "People arenít begging for more laws,"
he said. He added, "What we ought to have is a moratorium on
all new legislation."
Paul threw cold water on so-called war on terrorism. Were we attacked
on September 11, 2001 because we are "free and prosperous"?
Switzerland is also "free and prosperous." Why werenít
the Swiss also attacked? Of course, Switzerland does not have an
interventionist foreign policy. Its government has not spent the
past 50 years attempting to dominate an entire region, against the
wishes of most of those living there. Switzerland is not in the
business of "nation building." It does not see its goal
as establishing "global democracy." Dr. Paul noted that
Al Qaidaís numbers are growing, not shrinking. The neoconsí foolish
and misguided war against Saddam Hussein and subsequent occupation
of Iraq hasnít reduced the dangers of terrorism one iota. Dr. Paul
wondered aloud, "Why donít we work to make America a more perfect
republic, and forget about using guns to spread democracy?"
for the Patriot Act, Dr. Paul pointed out that it was really little
more than the central government taking advantage of the American
publicís fear of more terrorism following 9/11 to pass a great deal
of legislation that had been desired by those in power for years.
Calling it "an atrocious piece of legislation," he observed
that nobody had read it in full. No one in Congress knew everything
that was in it. It was passed, nevertheless, just days following
the 9/11 attacks because "we needed to do something."
With its federalization of such things as search warrants, it essentially
gutted the Fourth Amendment. The Domestic Security Enhancement Act
of 2003 dubbed "Patriot II" would have been worse, with
its original version expanding the central governmentís wiretapping
authority and allowing authorities to come onto your property without
a warrant and without even informing you they had been there. The
contents of Patriot II were leaked via the Internet, and its enormous
unpopularity killed it, but again, what those in power want was
sneaked into new bills such as the almost unknown Intelligence Authorization
Agreement of 2004 (H.R. 2417). This new bill, originally introduced
right around the time of the hoopla surrounding Saddamís capture,
allows the federal government to snoop around in citizensí financial
records, allegedly looking for evidence of involvement in terrorist
activity. The central government of the post-9/11 world also wants
to know what websites you have been looking at, what library books
youíve been reading, etc.
Paul suggested that as central government attempts to expand, spending
money it does not have, the looming financial crisis will eventually
force it to scale back both its overseas and domestic efforts. "One
day weíre going to wake up, and have less warfare and less welfare
Ö because weíre going broke!" He noted our skyrocketing national
indebtedness. "Time is short, and we donít know when the crisis
is coming," but "[w]hen we run out of money, we will have
to come home." Of course, the central government owns the printing
presses and could just print more fiat money but this is not a process
that can continue indefinitely without bringing about an economically
disastrous hyperinflationary spiral.
bottom line, for Dr. Paul, is the U.S. Constitution. He refuses
to vote for any piece of legislation that is not explicitly authorized
by the Constitution, and his stinging critiques of much of the unconstitutional
legislation coming out of Rome on the Potomac are well known to
LewRockwell.com readers. Of course, Dr. Paulís words often
fall on deaf ears among his colleagues, many of whom doubtless share
the view recently expressed by Henry Hyde (R-IL) during the hearing
on H.J. Res. 114, "Authorization For Use of Military Force
Against Iraq." Hyde was discussing Ron Paulís motion, based
on the Constitution, to issue a Congressional declaration of war
before launching the invasion of Iraq. Here is what Hyde said:
are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events,
by time. Declaration of war is one of them. There are things no
longer relevant to a modern society. Why declare war if you donít
have to? We are saying to the President, use your judgment. So,
to demand that we declare war is to strengthen something to death.
You have got a hammerlock on this situation, and it is not called
for. Inappropriate, anachronistic, it isnít done anymore."
reflect a moment on this. What heís said is that the central government
ought to be able to do as those running it please, without the authorization
of any final encoded authority. This appears to be the prevailing
view throughout much of the central government, and is the primary
reason the central government continues getting larger, more intrusive,
and more expensive.
long and the short of it is, the suspicion of concentrations of
power on which this country was founded is just about gone. Beginning
one step at a time, first with Lincoln, then with the Progressive
movement, the rise of the Federal Reserve banking system and the
IRS, the first world war, and continuing into the Roosevelt era,
more and more people have assumed that expansionist government is
good, and not a menace to a free people. Expansionist government
can create safety nets for everyone via programs redistributing
wealth. It can create wealth out of nothing and micromanage the
economy. It can solve the problem of poverty. It can stop the spread
of drugs. It can eradicate discrimination. It can make people be
good. It can make us healthy. It can make our children smarter with
huge, expensive packages like No Child Left Behind. It can wage
foreign wars against international terrorism. It can protect us
if only we give it still more power.
mounting evidence suggests that in every one of these areas (and
more besides), expansionist government is simply in over its head.
Social Security will eventually go broke. The flood of unbacked
dollars may one day precipitate a currency collapse. The "war
on poverty" only institutionalized poverty, creating a host
of problems that hadnít been there before (such as the break-up
of the nuclear family). The "war on drugs" very probably
is a fraud, and always was.* Affirmative action
programs only reinstated discrimination, this time against white
men, and has arguably just about wrecked higher education. Wherever
we look, whatever the central government touches, it ruins. Regarding
terrorism, Dr. Paul observed that had the airlines been permitted
by the federal government to arm their pilots, no one would have
been able to overwhelm planes using boxcutters.
trade issues, Dr. Paul championed having as much free trade as possible.
Tariffs and protectionism amount to a tax. However, NAFTA and the
proposed Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) arenít really free
trade agreements. They micromanage trade through international government
expansion and the World Trade Organization, so that the primary
beneficiaries are the politically well-connected elites. In the
long run, such pseudo-free-trade agreements will diminish our standard
of living and eventually cost us our national sovereignty.
all this, Dr. Paul expressed optimism. Thinking again of the people
in his own district and elsewhere out west, he said, "The people
know and believe that the message of liberty is a positive message,
and will vote for it." He noted that President Bush has not
vetoed a single spending bill, and that a lot of conservatives are
wondering what is going on. (Last year Dr. Paul wrote a major
piece entered into the Congressional Record discussing the implications
of the take-over of the Republican Party by neocons.)
to the Internet, a lot more people are aware of what is going on
than otherwise would be, and are spreading the word on Internet
commentary sites such as this one, on message boards, on blogs,
via email, and so on. There is a determined opposition to global-statism,
and it is growing. "The real goal," he said, "has
to be information, and education, and learning. Everybody has a
responsibility, even if not everybody will do it the same way."
the government school system continues to deteriorate: as he put
it, "the public education system is on the verge of self-destruction,"
and this will leave education in the hands of home schoolers and
those ready and willing to set up private schools. The primary mission
here is educational. "It is in the interests of everybody to
believe in liberty," Dr. Paul said. Liberty, he observed, creates
a better environment for addressing social problems, be they caring
for the poor, taking care of the elderly, taking care of the environment,
or allowing the economy to create jobs. If a new, free system of
schools can be developed, we might see a renaissance of liberty
among a new citizenry with the ability to see alternatives to expansionist
I should note in closing that although "An Evening With Ron
Paul" was well-publicized in the sense that press releases
were sent out to all local media well in advance, not a single representative
from any mainstream media outlet showed up. No one came from The
State newspaper. There were no camera crews from any local television
network. The mainstream media, of course, simply blacks out events
such as this. There is, they must be aware, a grass-roots cauldron
of discontent brewing, much of it focused on a central government
perceived as out of control. So these events continue to be organized
and well-attended regardless of whether the mainstream media participates
or not. Those of us who were present can use resources such as the
Internet to continue lighting those brush fires in peopleís minds,
so that someday we can have that new citizenry.**
Michael Levine, "Mainstream Media: The Drug Warís Shills,"
the Buzzsaw: Leading Journalists Expose the Myth of a Free Press,
ed. Kristina Borjesson (Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 2002), pp.
wish to thank Cheryl Bates, Events Coordinator of the South Carolina
Libertarian Party for supplying the full Henry Hyde quotation and
with certain other details of this article.
April 7, 2004
Yates [send him mail]
Ph.D. in philosophy and is the author of Civil
Wrongs: What Went Wrong With Affirmative Action
(1994). He is an adjunct scholar with the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
His new book, In
Defense of Logic,
is almost completed. He lives in Columbia, South Carolina, and plans
to launch his authorís website soon.
© 2004 LewRockwell.com