As I’ve traveled around the country making speeches at college campuses, I’ve noticed that very few young people want war. In fact, I’d say that 90 percent of the people I come into contact with are opposed to new wars. So, the question is this: If so few people seem to want war, why do we keep getting so many of them?
The answer lies on how politics works in Washington, DC, and it lies in what kinds of people want political power.
Thanks to public apathy, combined with aggressive politicians, we get wars, even when so much of the population doesn’t want them.
The ordinary people — the ones who suffer the most from war and who pay for it — aren’t the ones making policy.
It may be true that a large majority of the people don’t want war. But it’s unfortunately also true that the minority that does want war is especially influential in Washington.
Why It’s So Hard to Oppose War in DC
I’ve seen a lot of people with good intentions come to Washington. They come thinking they’re going to support peace and freedom, and they’ll stand up to the people who keep pushing through new wars and who keep attacking our freedoms. But, they soon came to believe that in order to do the good things they had in mind, they must become powerful in Washington first. And then they decide it’s necessary to compromise and to be “moderate,” and they end up going along with the pro-war policies of those who are already very powerful.
And this is one of the reasons that I’m opposed to the idea of being “moderate” in Washington.
I think that being moderate is a sacrifice of principle. When it comes to setting things straight in politics, a better strategy is to work with coalitions. There are a lot of people who may not be true libertarians, but they have a set of principles in which they’d like to see a lot less killing and a lot less war. So, I see no problem with the Dennis Kuciniches of the world, because those people have principles that can help us forward our pro-peace views.
We don’t have to sacrifice our principles to work with other pro-peace candidates. But when the moderates come together, they often end up sacrificing any pro-peace convictions they might have had.
Electing the “Right People” Won’t Fix Things
In fact, the reality in Washington should make it clear to us now that simply “sending the right people” to Washington isn’t going to solve the problem.
I think the Founding Fathers tried to do that. They tried to set up rules that would keep evil people from gaining too much power.
But, I think the Founders basically failed. To have been successful, they would have needed to have designed a constitution that is much more powerful in limiting government power than it is.
Jefferson understood that the Constitution was too weak and that it didn’t provide ways for really fighting unrestrained growth in government power in Washington.
Relying on the Constitution and moral politicians hasn’t worked. Clearly, we need to do something different.
What to Do
Always, the most important thing we need to do is fight the battle of ideas. Ideas really are more powerful than any government, but we don’t even need a majority of the population to agree with us.
I’ve long believed that we really only need a minority of the population to actively agree with us because so much of the population will be apathetic no matter what.
But what can that minority do?
The first and most important thing to do is educate ourselves. Leonard Read always said that our first responsibility is to know the issues and be able to explain what’s going on. If we can’t clearly explain what’s going on, we aren’t going to convince anyone of anything.
Beyond that, there’s no one thing people should do. I did my thing, and we also have Thomas Massie here from Congress, and Lew Rockwell from the Mises Institute, and we have Bill Greene who voted for me in the Electoral College. Some ask me about running for office, and that can be good at times, but there’s so much more that can be done.
But it’s important to remember that we don’t need a national majority of any kind to press for two key strategies in preserving liberty: secession and nullification.
We must have a system in which states always have a right to secede. Does that mean we always have to have a pro-secession position? It doesn’t mean that. But the option to secede should always be there.
And when people tell me that secession is terrible, I ask them if they opposed secession of Eastern Europe from the Soviet Bloc and if they opposed secession of the United States from Britain. They’re of course fine with those secession movements.
We also need nullification, which Thomas Jefferson supported because he knew there must be a way for the states to act as a check on the federal government.
But you know what? All of this is coming whether we like it or not. As the world turns against us, and as the economy weakens, we are going to see more and more chances for nullification, and more demands for secession.
All of these strategies are important in bringing peace because, in the end, the best thing we can do to fight all these wars is to make government smaller and less powerful. Only when a government is huge like ours, can it go around the world telling everyone else how to live. Right now, we see the US bombing other countries in the name of protecting civil liberties, but the US government should only be worried about protecting civil liberties here at home.
The government doesn’t have to be anywhere near the size it is now to do the one thing it’s supposed to do, which is protect our rights. And until we make government smaller, we’re not going to have peace. The US government is doing a lot to self-destruct, but in the meantime, we need to continue to spread the ideas of liberty, to fight against the Federal Reserve — which makes so much of this war spending possible — and to do whatever we can to get in the way of an out-of-control government that brings so much killing, so much violence, and so much war.
This article is adapted from Ron Paul’s talk at the April 2017 foreign policy symposium in Lake Jackson, Texas, hosted by the Mises Institute and the Ron Paul Institute.