I’ve just finished Ron Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto, and am once again floored by Dr. Paul’s ability to identify the most important issues facing this country and explain their libertarian solutions in “honest, direct language,” as George Carlin would say.
In seven concise chapters, heavy with notable quotes from the founders, American historical figures, social researchers and Austrian economists, Dr. Paul destroys the myths of governmental benevolence and benefit on nearly every issue of importance for the present and future of this country.
He begins, of course, with foundational explanations of natural rights and the limits placed on the general government by the constitution which allows its existence. Paul then excoriates the government and explains the solution to its problems of empire, war, terrorism, conscription, violations of the Bill of Rights, spying, torture, the drug wars, health care, the welfare state, regulatory state, managed trade and the destruction of the American economy at the hands of the Federal Reserve system. He points out that the differences in the positions of the major parties and politicians are nearly meaningless as our country becomes a de facto one-party state under the centrist Democrats and neoconservative-controlled Republicans. They fight all day about meaningless details while we descend into tyranny.
Dr. Paul, whose steadfast opposition to warfare in the U.S. Congress extends back to his first terms in office in the 1970s, makes his standard case that rather than leading to some abstract “national greatness,” empire, in fact, weakens America. He says the cost of maintaining our empire is nearly a trillion dollars a year and that we just can’t afford it. Paul maintains that rather than protecting our freedom, war is nearly as destructive to our society as those of the people we wage them against. War leads to unchecked executive power and the destruction of our most highly valued liberty. Paul denounces our government’s policy of “preemptive” aggressive war as always morally and consequentially wrong and never justified. He also explains the anti-imperialist legacy of the Old Right and the antiwar sentiments of the more thoughtful leaders of the middle-to-New Right such as Russell Kirk, Richard Weaver, and Robert Nisbet. Paul explains that there is nothing conservative about waging war; it undermines every principle that conservatives claim to cherish (i.e., the Constitution, the rule of law, family values, free markets, fiscal restraint.)
Paul thrashes the War Party over the subject of the next aggressive war on the horizon: Iran. He reminds us that he’s been correct for years in saying there was no evidence of a secret nuclear weapons program in Iran as all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies confirmed in their National Intelligence Estimate last fall and shows clearly that to this administration, as with their invasion of Iraq, the agenda is war and any excuse or varied combination of excuses will do.
Terrorism, the current excuse for our world empire, he explains, is not an enemy, but a strategy employed by enemies. People in occupied countries, Muslim or otherwise, have used this tactic to try to force the democratic societies which occupy them to withdraw their combat forces due to the expense of the predictable overreaction. He quotes intelligence beat journalist James Bamford’s reporting of Ayman al Zawahiri’s stated goal of trapping us in the Middle East to give us a “desert Vietnam” – to bleed us dry and force us out as the Reagan administration helped them do to the Russians in the 1980s. This being the case, Paul concludes further invasions and occupations of their countries is exactly the wrong policy to follow. It is the founders’ foreign policy of peace, commerce and honest friendship which best protects Americans from terrorism. (In this section, Paul quotes former CIA counter-terrorism agents Michael Scheuer and Philip Giraldi from my interviews of them for Antiwar Radio.)
Paul says we should demand the immediate repeal of the Military Commissions Act of 2006 and insist on the protection of habeas corpus for all detainees unless the most immediate circumstances on the battlefield prevent it and that no American should ever be held by the military and subjected to torture as was Jose Padilla. He has introduced legislation in Congress to ensure those very things, among others, in the American Freedom Agenda Act of 2007.
Paul says that torture is always wrong and should never be tolerated for one second by the proud residents of a free society no matter what excuse those with power can conjure.
Paul also makes an eloquent case against conscription, calling it “slavery” and quoting Daniel Webster and Ronald Reagan to make the case that the draft contradicts the very premise of a free society, the constitution forbids it and that it should never be allowed in this country ever again.
He explains in detail how the administration has told lie after lie in order to justify their blatantly unconstitutional, unnecessary and illegal spying on Americans.
Economist Paul also explains his moral and practical opposition to managed trade organizations like NAFTA and the WTO, since they are unconstitutional transfers of Congress’ delegated powers and they actually sanction trade wars, require our Congress to raise taxes when they feel like it and otherwise interrupt peaceful trade. He points out that nothing new needs to be done to have free trade with other countries; all the government has to do is stop interfering. Presto, no tariffs, no subsidies.
It should be no surprise that a free market fundamentalist like Paul opposes all foreign aid and “restructuring” of other countries’ economies though the IMF and the World Bank, whose proclaimed purpose is to help the poor, when all they do is prop up governments that the locals oppose, distort and disrupt local markets and generally impoverish those who are supposedly being helped.
In The Revolution, as on the House floor, Paul takes a heroic stand against the federal government’s war on drugs and the entire policy in general. It is the creation of the black market by the congress and state legislatures which creates the environment in which murder, extortion and gang wars prevail, he explains. He gives special attention to the long history of frauds perpetrated by government in order to criminalize marijuana possession and sale. It was simply racist bigotry against Mexicans and a desire to persecute them which motivated the early American drug warriors. Their legacy is one of lives destroyed not by drugs, but by the state in its post-constitutional, “we own you and will decide what’s good for you” role it now plays in our society.
In the book Paul brings up the issue of race in terms of a limited national government, the unfair prosecution and sentencing of minorities in the drug wars and in terms of the impossibly burdensome regulatory state. The solution, he maintains, is a belief in individualism and a willingness of people to enforce their rights from the bottom up rather than looking to Washington DC. He explains how government serves only to divide us more even when attempting to ameliorate the problems of the past.
Paul also explains how government drives up the cost of health care for everyone and how the current welfare state is simply unaffordable and unsustainable by any measure. He explains how government interventions have led us to our current crisis and how real laissez-faire – not corporatist or socialist – reforms would fix the problems.
Another example of government failure cited is the current state of public education in this country. While not calling for abolition of all public schools, Paul does demand we get rid of the federal Department of Education and also explains how incredible amounts of resources are wasted into oblivion by the bureaucrats in ways that would never happen at private schools, making a strong case that parents could afford many more choices in education without the oppressive tax burdens they carry and that they would be well served to seek education outside the strictures of the state. Always tying political questions back to individual liberty, Paul also asks a basic question almost unheard of in polite company: why should anyone be forced to pay for the education of another and particularly when that person disagrees with the slant of the instruction? As just one example of the direction DC is leading us, Paul points out a little noticed but obviously dangerous move by the pharmaceutical companies and the national government to give mandatory “mental health” exams to all school children in order to force many millions more of them to take psychotropic drugs at the threat of removal from their parents. He rightly complains that even 20 years ago the people of this country would have been absolutely outraged. Maybe it’s the Prozac.
Dr. Paul also excoriates the modern regulatory state and explains how it makes us all poorer in order to benefit those who are already rich. Paul sticks up for the individual and his property rights against all, the rich, the poor or anyone else’s attempts to separate him from it with force – personally or through the state. It is our free economy, not government intervention which has made us so prosperous. Paul’s argument is nowhere close to an apologia for big business. It is they who have pushed all along for the governmental cartelization and regulation of business. The state is the mechanism by which those connected to its power can stifle competition and socialize their costs onto the rest of society. Questions of environmental pollution are one of Paul’s favorite examples of the failures of regulation, and for good reason. Really, no EPA is necessary – to protect the victims of the crime. Pollution can be handled simply by protecting people’s basic property rights with local courts. In fact, the purpose of the EPA is to protect the polluters from competition first and the consequences of polluting the environment second by claiming “public” ownership of the affected area (the air, bodies of water, etc.) and then providing immunity to those politically connected corporations who are within the “guidelines” they set for themselves. The right of the average guy to seek redress in a local court is then circumvented by the regulation of the executive branch. The explanation of why this is so, contained in The Revolution, should be enough to educate even the most pointy-headed of your liberal and leftist friends.
Paul, a supposed student, but really an Austrian school economist in his own right, also gives a concise explanation of the criminal Federal Reserve System which robs the poor to benefit the bankers and merchants of death. Inflation, Paul explains, is a hidden tax, one that hurts the poor, working and retired people most for the benefit of these war-mongering plutocrats. They try to make the system seem too mysterious for the average guy to understand but it’s not. Stealing is stealing. The central bank causes the booms and busts they claim to “smooth out” with their process of artificially inflating the supply of money, causing bubbles of malinvestment in the market and setting us up for recessions. The popular line that “we the people,” through “our” Congress, use the state’s regulation to protect us from the “excesses” of capitalism must be the greatest line of bull fed to a population since the Aztec Flower Wars. Again, the light shed by Paul provides clarity to a subject extremely important and yet opaque to the people most affected.
Dr. Paul ends the book with a celebration of the wide and varied millions who’ve rallied around his campaign and a call for those of us who love liberty to stand up for ourselves and put our out-of-control empire back in its place.
The joy I feel knowing that millions will eventually read this concise libertarian primer just makes me want to celebrate.
The heroic Ron Paul has done it again.
April 21, 2008