A Review of The Revolution: A Manifesto

Many politicians have written books to popularize their political ideas during the campaign season, and as Dr. Paul notes in his new book, these kinds of books “tend to have (deservedly) short self lives.” The Revolution: A Manifesto is not a campaign book, rather it is an educational book that presents valuable lessons from history, economics, and libertarian ethics as a unified philosophy of freedom.

Foreign Policy and The Founders

Dr. Paul begins his book with a history lesson about foreign policy in the United States. He quotes the words from Jefferson’s first inaugural address which should be the motto of the State Department: “peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling alliances with none.” As Dr. Paul points out,

Unfortunately, we have spent the past century spurning this sensible advice. If the Founders’ advice is acknowledged at all, it is dismissed on the grounds that we no longer live in their times. The same hackneyed arguments could be used against any of the other principles the Founders gave us. Should we give up the First Amendment because times have changed?

This statement sums up every argument against the case for individual liberty. As Dr. Paul points out, John Quincy Adams had a similar position:

Wherever that standard of freedom and Independence has been or shall be furled, there will her heart, her benedictions and her prayers be. But she goes not abroad in search of monsters to destroy. […] She well knows that by once enlisting under other banners than her own, were they even banners of foreign independence, she would involve herself beyond the power of extrication, in all the wars of interest and intrigue, of individual avarice, envy and ambition, which assume the colors and usurp the standard of freedom.

There it is—the almost prophetic vision that these men had when they constructed this country. Paul continues, “This wasn’t ‘isolationism.’ It was a beautiful and elegant statement of common sense, and of principles that at one time were taken for granted by nearly everyone.” He later says,

There are those who condemn noninterventionists for being insufficiently ambitious, for their unwillingness to embrace “national greatness” […] These critics should have the honesty to condemn the Founding Fathers for the same defect. They wouldn’t dare.

Constitution and the Rule of Law

They may not dare to outright condemn the Founders, but their stark difference in philosophy is evident in the last century of American jurisprudence. In his chapter on The Constitution, Dr. Paul points out that contrary to popular belief, the Constitution is not a living document that could be interpreted according to the political whims of the day. As he says, “If we feel the need to change our Constitution, we are free to amend it.” He continues,

They [advocates of a living Constitution] favor a system in which the federal government, and in particular the federal courts, are at liberty—even in the absence of any amendment—to interpret the Constitution altogether differently from how it was understood by those who drafted it and those who voted to ratify it.

But what about the Framers’ intentions? Should we value them today? What is so bad about a “living Constitution?” Dr. Paul argues that the Constitution is a contract between the government and the people. Contracts are the foundation of civilized behavior. Without a prearranged agreement, all association between consenting parties regresses into a “He said, she said” mess. The Constitution is no different. If the courts can simply change the meaning of its words, there is no true contract; under this current situation, we simply live by the often-irrational caprices of the current regime. As Dr. Paul writes,

If the people agreed to a particular understanding of the Constitution, and over the course of intervening years they have performed no official act (such as amending the Constitution in accordance with their evolved ideas) reversing that original understanding, by what right may government unilaterally change the terms of its contract with the people, interpreting its words to mean something very different from what the American people had all along been told they meant?

Dr. Paul later relates the story of when he proposed that Congress should actually declare war, as the Constitution demands, instead of simply giving the authority to the President. When he proposed the declaration in the International Relations Committee, the chairman responded by saying that, “there are things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events […] We are saying to the President, use your judgment. [What you have proposed is] inappropriate, anachronistic; it isn’t done anymore.”

Perhaps it isn’t done anymore, but it should be. And by the way, what are the things in the Constitution that have been overtaken by events? Can we merely pick and choose those things? If the declaration of war is anachronistic, does that also apply to freedom of speech and the separation of powers? It seems that this trend is what creates the monolithic state that the Founders would not recognize. Dr. Paul analyzes the situation thusly:

We have come to consider it normal for nine judges in Washington to decide on social policies that affect every neighborhood, family, and individual in America. One side of the debate hopes the nine will impose one set of values, and the other side favors a different set. The underlying premise—that this kind of monolith is desirable, or that no alternative is possible—is never examined, or at least not nearly as often as it should be. The Founding Fathers did not intend for every American neighborhood to be exactly the same—a totalitarian impulse if there ever was one—or that disputes over competing values should be decided by federal judges. This is the constitutional approach to deciding all issues that are not spelled out explicitly in our founding documents: let neighbors and localities govern themselves.

Economics and Human Action

In his chapter on economic freedom, Dr. Paul does an excellent job of explaining why economic freedom is morally just: “Economic freedom is based on a simple moral rule: everyone has a right to his or her life and property, and no one has a right to deprive anyone of these things.”

Most people would agree with this statement, but somehow the government has convinced almost everyone that it is wrong for one individual to steal from another, but perfectly just for the government to steal from individuals. Not only is taxation and inflation morally wrong, but they are impractical at achieving their results. Dr. Paul gives an example of this in the National Endowment for the Arts. He explains that although the NEA was only created in 1965, many people cannot imagine how the arts could flourish without the agency. Never mind the fact that, according to Dr. Paul, “While the government requested $121 million for the NEA in 2006, private donations to the arts totaled $2.5 billion that year, dwarfing the NEA budget.” He continues,

The NEA represents a tiny fraction of all arts funding, a fact few Americans realize. Freedom works after all. And that money is almost certainly better spent that government money: NEA funds go not necessarily to the best artists, but to people who happen to be good at filling out government grant applications. I have my doubts that the same people occupy both categories.

As he says, “People loose their political imagination.” The nation has forgotten how to be responsible, because after all, the ever present, all-knowing government is always here to take care of us. He goes on to say that,

Repealing the new bureaucracy becomes unthinkable. Mythology about how terrible things were in the old days becomes the conventional wisdom. Meanwhile, the bureaucracy itself, with a vested interest in maintaining itself and increasing its funding, employs all the resources it can to ensuring that it gets a bigger budget next year, regardless of its performance.

If a reader only takes one thing away from this book, it should be the aforementioned quote. In three sentences Ron Paul explains exactly how bureaucracy has grown into the corrupt and productivity-looting machine of today. Government expansion over time will take progressively bigger chunks of the nation’s productivity every year until the government sector completely dominates the private sector. The solution that Ron Paul offers to this enormous problem is the elimination of all government programs that are not explicitly outlined in the Constitution. This basically amounts to the elimination of all executive departments besides Defense, State, and Justice. But this does not have to be done overnight.

As he says, Social Security and other entitlements will go bankrupt without double-digit economic growth for the next seventy-five years; this at a time when most analysts would be excited about a three or four percent growth. His plan for funding the current Social Security obligations is to use the savings that will come from bringing all the troops home from the far reaches of our empire.

Eventually, imperial adventurism in foreign lands and despotic statism at home will spell the end of our Republic. In his closing arguments, Dr. Paul writes,

The empire game our government has been playing is coming to an end one way or another. This is the fate of all empires: they overextend themselves and then suffer a financial catastrophe, typically involving the destruction of the currency. We are already seeing the pattern emerging in our own case. We can either withdraw gracefully, as I propose, or we can stay in our fantasy world and wait until bankruptcy forces us to scale back our foreign commitments. Again, I know which option I prefer.

If you too prefer the option of freedom, prosperity and peace, join the Ron Paul Revolution and help us put the government back where it belongs: to Washington D.C. and out of our daily lives.

  • Ron Paul has a great look on foreign policy as well as what should be done with our national efforts. The revolution a manifesto is a great book to read over once or twice BUT it will odds are stay in your library.

    Get a few copies to give to your friends and family as well, keep the revolution moving.


  • Jake, I like your use of the word “vision” because that is what’s at issue here. There are two different visions of how a society functions that divide Americans. There is the original vision of the many immigrants who came here for freedom, to own property, earn a living, and keep the fruits of their toil. The Founders wrote a Constitution that allowed all that and prohibited governmental interference. The resultung economic and personal freedom empowered the citizenry and they built a great nation. The alternative new vision, fostered by the intellectual elites that have taken control of our institutions and schools during the past 75 years sees the role of government as one to administer assistance to its helpless victimized citizenry. It is a vision motivated by self-interest because it allows this new elite to rule from above, following their favored abstract ideological policies. Their snake oil sells by taking advantage of the lure of populist democracy, seducing those who will trade security and a free lunch for liberty. Thomas Sowell’s “A Conflict of Vision” provides a look at these differing visions and blames the faulty “liberal” vision as one based on the utopian belief that society should be based not on how men think, or how economies work, but on how they both should work in a perfect world. His other book “Is Reality Optional?” covers similar ground and examines the unreality of centrist and socialist policies. One of the reasons this destructive vision has spread is covered in Julian Simon’s “Hoodwinked” which details how the media, colleges, foundations, and other major institutions are dominated by purveyors of “false bad news” which undermines the traditional American way of life. These trends are in the ascendancy and may be irreversible so you have reason to fear “the cataclysmic fall” that has witnessed the collapse of alll prior great nations. Jared Diamond’s “Collapse” makes the rather unsupported case that climate, pollution and inept garbage disposal caused the collapse of past societies. But, barring a meteor strike, those factors will not destroy America (just as they did not ruin Greece, Rome, or the emasculated western-European nations)–it will be the growing cadre that supports Big Government and promotes moral relativity that will kill us from within.

  • Jake

    I’ts frustrating when I talk to people about Ron Paul, as an avid supporter, because like this review said, the American public is convinced by the government that there is no alternative to the “Big Brother” aproach taken to a “living” Constitution. People I talk to say that Ron Paul is just another politician. Dr. Paul is just saying what he thinks he has to to get elected, that it’s all just a bunch of false promises like everyone else is spewing. I ask then who they do support and they say that they’re just not going to vote, because it doesn’t really matter who ends up in the White House. In this, I think their apathy is well founded. Any more, it really doesn’t matter who ends up in the White House on what promises, all the candidates are Big Government advocates. Except of course for Ron Paul. Dr. Paul’s vision is the same vision held by the founding fathers, and unfortunately today, by many considered on the far end of the cook fringe, including myself, who put far more stock in our own abilities as liberated Americans to take care of ourselves and our neighbors than we do in the government’s. That vision is one of freedom, individuality, and strength through a trully representative democratic republic. What we have now, and what we seem so inextricably bound into is no less harmful or inappropriate than the classic codependant relationship found in the lives of so many addicts in this country. We hang on to our government like a drug, even as it hinders and scars us financially, socially and legally simply because it enables us and feeds our rationalizations that life is actually better as it is now. I’m done. The fog is lifted now thanks to Ron Paul. He says and votes and believes all the things that I know in my heart to be true and right for this country if we are to survive, indeed if we are to avoid the same cataclysmic fall suffered by the great empires of the past: Rome, Egypt, The Ottoman’s, Greece, Persia. Our founding fathers had the right idea, all we need to do is stick to it and subscribe to it. Bless America with a vote for Ron Paul.

  • Ron Paul’s opinions, so well summarized here, are different from those of most public officials, because they are not merely “ideas,” but reflect important principles that have stood the test of time. As an economic historian I have looked at the actual record of the last 3,000 years to determine why and where progress occurred, and found that there are enduring lessons from history that should be used as guides for today’s policies. This approach reveals the principles of sound government, and Ron Paul’s positions pretty much adhere to history’s best lessons. His point that the Constitution is “a contract between the government and its people” is an excellent reminder that the Founders also looked to history when they developed that particular contract. Our Constitution represents the best assemblage of history’s many Ferderal/democratic experiments, sorted and adapted to America’s needs by those wise men at the Convention a little more than 200 years ago. They understood that history and economics are best looked at by the case method to avoid getting lost in abstract ideologies and complex reasoning. And they realized the primary objective of a Constitution was to limit government’s role. My examination of history was also based, like the Fouders’ work in designing the Constitution, on the hundreds of actual past governments that at least came close to providing widespread opportunity and freedom to more than just a few favored upper and aristocratic classes. Those hundreds of past republics pioneered the various mechanics of representative assemblies, judicial systems, the division and separation of executive power, and legal systems providing for personal liberty and the safety of persons and property. To the Founders’ credit, the exact combination and structure that shaped American government had never been done quite as well before, and its obvious and great success over the past 200 years attests to the merit of the design. The mechanics and principles employed are so well grounded and tested over time that they deserve continuing respect and care. And that is why we should resist calling it a “living document.” Since most of these principles of liberty and economic freedom were stated and utilized over 500 and a 1,000 years ago–even 2,000 plus years ago–it should be clear they are relatively timeless and need little modification or explanation.