Delivered on the House Floor, November 14, 2012
Farewell to Congress
This may well be the last time I speak on the House Floor. At the end of the year I’ll leave Congress after 23 years in office over a 36 year period. My goals in 1976 were the same as they are today: promote peace and prosperity by a strict adherence to the principles of individual liberty.
It was my opinion, that the course the U.S. embarked on in the latter part of the 20th Century would bring us a major financial crisis and engulf us in a foreign policy that would overextend us and undermine our national security.
To achieve the goals I sought, government would have had to shrink in size and scope, reduce spending, change the monetary system, and reject the unsustainable costs of policing the world and expanding the American Empire.
The problems seemed to be overwhelming and impossible to solve, yet from my view point, just following the constraints placed on the federal government by the Constitution would have been a good place to start.
How Much Did I Accomplish?
In many ways, according to conventional wisdom, my off-and-on career in Congress, from 1976 to 2012, accomplished very little. No named legislation, no named federal buildings or highways—thank goodness. In spite of my efforts, the government has grown exponentially, taxes remain excessive, and the prolific increase of incomprehensible regulations continues. Wars are constant and pursued without Congressional declaration, deficits rise to the sky, poverty is rampant and dependency on the federal government is now worse than any time in our history.
All this with minimal concerns for the deficits and unfunded liabilities that common sense tells us cannot go on much longer. A grand, but never mentioned, bipartisan agreement allows for the well-kept secret that keeps the spending going. One side doesn’t give up one penny on military spending, the other side doesn’t give up one penny on welfare spending, while both sides support the bailouts and subsidies for the banking and corporate elite. And the spending continues as the economy weakens and the downward spiral continues. As the government continues fiddling around, our liberties and our wealth burn in the flames of a foreign policy that makes us less safe.
The major stumbling block to real change in Washington is the total resistance to admitting that the country is broke. This has made compromising, just to agree to increase spending, inevitable since neither side has any intention of cutting spending.
The country and the Congress will remain divisive since there’s no “loot left to divvy up.”
Without this recognition the spenders in Washington will continue the march toward a fiscal cliff much bigger than the one anticipated this coming January.
I have thought a lot about why those of us who believe in liberty, as a solution, have done so poorly in convincing others of its benefits. If liberty is what we claim it is- the principle that protects all personal, social and economic decisions necessary for maximum prosperity and the best chance for peace- it should be an easy sell. Yet, history has shown that the masses have been quite receptive to the promises of authoritarians which are rarely if ever fulfilled.
Authoritarianism vs. Liberty
If authoritarianism leads to poverty and war and less freedom for all individuals and is controlled by rich special interests, the people should be begging for liberty. There certainly was a strong enough sentiment for more freedom at the time of our founding that motivated those who were willing to fight in the revolution against the powerful British government.
During my time in Congress the appetite for liberty has been quite weak; the understanding of its significance negligible. Yet the good news is that compared to 1976 when I first came to Congress, the desire for more freedom and less government in 2012 is much greater and growing, especially in grassroots America. Tens of thousands of teenagers and college age students are, with great enthusiasm, welcoming the message of liberty.
I have a few thoughts as to why the people of a country like ours, once the freest and most prosperous, allowed the conditions to deteriorate to the degree that they have.
Freedom, private property, and enforceable voluntary contracts, generate wealth. In our early history we were very much aware of this. But in the early part of the 20th century our politicians promoted the notion that the tax and monetary systems had to change if we were to involve ourselves in excessive domestic and military spending. That is why Congress gave us the Federal Reserve and the income tax. The majority of Americans and many government officials agreed that sacrificing some liberty was necessary to carry out what some claimed to be “progressive” ideas. Pure democracy became acceptable.
They failed to recognized that what they were doing was exactly opposite of what the colonists were seeking when they broke away from the British.
Some complain that my arguments makes no sense, since great wealth and the standard of living improved for many Americans over the last 100 years, even with these new policies.
But the damage to the market economy, and the currency, has been insidious and steady. It took a long time to consume our wealth, destroy the currency and undermine productivity and get our financial obligations to a point of no return. Confidence sometimes lasts longer than deserved. Most of our wealth today depends on debt.
The wealth that we enjoyed and seemed to be endless, allowed concern for the principle of a free society to be neglected. As long as most people believed the material abundance would last forever, worrying about protecting a competitive productive economy and individual liberty seemed unnecessary.
The Age of Redistribution
This neglect ushered in an age of redistribution of wealth by government kowtowing to any and all special interests, except for those who just wanted to left alone. That is why today money in politics far surpasses money currently going into research and development and productive entrepreneurial efforts.
The material benefits became more important than the understanding and promoting the principles of liberty and a free market. It is good that material abundance is a result of liberty but if materialism is all that we care about, problems are guaranteed.
The crisis arrived because the illusion that wealth and prosperity would last forever has ended. Since it was based on debt and a pretense that debt can be papered over by an out-of-control fiat monetary system, it was doomed to fail. We have ended up with a system that doesn’t produce enough even to finance the debt and no fundamental understanding of why a free society is crucial to reversing these trends.
If this is not recognized, the recovery will linger for a long time. Bigger government, more spending, more debt, more poverty for the middle class, and a more intense scramble by the elite special interests will continue.
We Need an Intellectual Awakening
Without an intellectual awakening, the turning point will be driven by economic law. A dollar crisis will bring the current out-of-control system to its knees.
If it’s not accepted that big government, fiat money, ignoring liberty, central economic planning, welfarism, and warfarism caused our crisis we can expect a continuous and dangerous march toward corporatism and even fascism with even more loss of our liberties. Prosperity for a large middle class though will become an abstract dream.
This continuous move is no different than what we have seen in how our financial crisis of 2008 was handled. Congress first directed, with bipartisan support, bailouts for the wealthy. Then it was the Federal Reserve with its endless quantitative easing. If at first it doesn’t succeed try again; QE1, QE2, and QE3 and with no results we try QE indefinitely—that is until it too fails. There’s a cost to all of this and let me assure you delaying the payment is no longer an option. The rules of the market will extract its pound of flesh and it won’t be pretty.
The current crisis elicits a lot of pessimism. And the pessimism adds to less confidence in the future. The two feed on themselves, making our situation worse.
If the underlying cause of the crisis is not understood we cannot solve our problems. The issues of warfare, welfare, deficits, inflationism, corporatism, bailouts and authoritarianism cannot be ignored. By only expanding these policies we cannot expect good results.
Everyone claims support for freedom. But too often it’s for one’s own freedom and not for others. Too many believe that there must be limits on freedom. They argue that freedom must be directed and managed to achieve fairness and equality thus making it acceptable to curtail, through force, certain liberties.
Some decide what and whose freedoms are to be limited. These are the politicians whose goal in life is power. Their success depends on gaining support from special interests.
Continue reading - Ron Paul's Farewell Address - Full Text
Ron Paul's Congressional Farewell Speech - C-SPAN 11/14/2012