Location: CPAC 2010
Ron Paul: Thank you very much. Thank you. Wow, look at this. Thank you, thank you. It sounds to me like the revolution is alive and well. Wonderful, it’s great to see such a nice crowd. Quite a few here. 10,000 people, all interested in promoting good government, limited government, and personal liberty. I would say this is a grand opportunity for all of us to come together because something is brewing. Something is brewing big. This is a different year than anything we’ve ever experienced before, and I am optimistic to believe that a lot of good is going to come out of what is happening in this country today, whether it is the CPAC meeting or the Tea Party Movements or the recent victories in the elections. But believe me, by the end of this year I think this country is going to be a lot better off.
You know, the one thing I think brings so many of us together and what’s been happening since the last couple of years has been the idea of having change. Matter of fact, somebody won an election using that slogan: “a change”. But there is a change that we want that we haven’t gotten yet. And I think that’s what we’re here to talk about; what kind of change do we really want? And what can we agree on so that we’re not talking about different things? And to me it’s very important that we understand what conservatism means. To me, to be a conservative means to conserve the good parts of America and to conserve our Constitution.
I first got involved in politics in the 1970s because I was very concerned about the financial situation. The Bretton Woods agreement broke down, the gold standard was cast aside and I said, “This will usher in the age of big government”. And that came in under a Nixon administration and since that time we have been struggling. We have been struggling with the conservative message and we have had bits and pieces of this coming together. But we really haven’t had the follow through. We had a revolution of sorts in 1980 with Ronald Reagan. And then, of course, we had 1994 when we took over the Congress and that, of course, was very good, and that was designed to limit government. But government kept growing. Also in the year 2000 we had a remarkable event; something that hadn’t happen in more than 40 or 50 years when there was a Republican president, a Republican congress, a Republican house, and a Republican senate. But we didn’t get the revolution. There was a lot of desire and a lot of pressure by people like you, saying, “What we want is limited government. We want balanced budgets, we want our liberties back.”
You know, and I think what has happened, and I see what our problems are in philosophical terms, not in partisan terms. And I think what happened, especially back in the teens of the last century when Woodrow Wilson was president, and those boos are rightly deserved, let me tell you. But I also use this as an opportunity to put a little pressure on conservatives who had some of their views changed over time. Just think of what would Woodrow Wilson stood for. He stood for world government; he wanted an early United Nations, League of Nations. But it was the conservative Republicans that stood up against it. But how often have you heard today, maybe you did, but how many people are saying, “It’s the conservative position to not even belong to the United Nations”?
1913 wasn’t a very good year. 1913 gave us the income tax, the 16th amendment and the IRS. And what’s wrong with getting rid of the income tax and the 16th amendment. I think it would be a great idea. And, of course, I’ve already taken a very modest position on the monetary system. I do take the position that we should just end the Fed.
But there were other things that went on during Wilson’s administration. Our foreign policy changed, I think it was for the negative. His goal was to make the world safe for democracy and he prodded us into a war that we should have never gotten into. And we as conservatives, too many conservatives have accepted this principle that it is our moral and legal constitutional responsibility to engage ourselves and make the world safe for democracy. I don’t think it’s possible.
Matter of fact, if you think back just a short time ago to the year 2000 when George Bush was running, guess what he ran on, and guess what he won on? He was running against an interventionist foreign policy, he was running against Clinton’s policy of intervention and nation building and being the policeman of the world. And he was elected on that. There’s nothing wrong with being a conservative and come up with a conservative belief in foreign policy where we have a strong national defense and we don’t go to war so carelessly.
What is not conservative about saying, “Don’t go to war unless we go to war properly with a full declaration of war, and no other way”? Unconstitutional wars cost a lot of money, they undermine our constitutional principles, and, as Randolph Bourne said, “War is the health of the state”. So if you like small government, you need to work hard and have a strong national defense that is not so militant. Personal liberty is the purpose of government; to protect liberty, not to run your personal lives, not to run the economy, and not to pretend that we can tell the world how they ought to live.
Now for those who disagree, I have a few comments. Because I understand the disagreement; I’ve been there and I’ve been in the service and I’ve spent 5 years in service and I know all the argument. But the bottom line, eventually, for all conservatives and all constitutionalists will be, how are we going to pay for it? It’s driving us to bankruptcy. We are now spending 1 trillion dollars a year to manage our world empire. We’re in a 140 countries, we have 700 bases. And, quite frankly, have you noticed the debt is exploding and it’s not all because of Medicare. And believe me, we don’t have enough conservatives on the hill to start tinkering with Medicare; they’re not going to cut that.
So eventually this country probably won’t do what I suggest – that we back off and back down, spend only the money that’s constitutional. I’ve made to promises to my district. I will always vote what I have promised, I will always vote the Constitution, as well as I will not vote for one single penny that isn’t paid for, because debt is the monster, debt is what’s going to eat us up, and that is why our economy is on the brink. We haven’t had the collapse and we haven’t had the correction. We are on the brink of a financial cataclysmic event because what we’re leading to because we’re spending too much money, we borrowed too much. At the present time, the Chinese have backed off from what they’re loaning us, interest rates are starting to go up, inflation factors are coming up. Believe me, that next step is a currency crisis because there will be a rejection of the dollar. The rejection of the dollar is a big, big event.
And then your personal liberties are going to be severely threatened because then we’ll usher in people who say, well, just like they’ve had so far, “we’ve had an event”. And this is not the democrats alone. Democrats, Republicans … they said, “Oh, so what we should do is spend more money, stimulate the economy, borrow more money”. And still there won’t be enough, so what do they do? They go to the Fed and they tell the Fed, “Print more money”. Believe me, it won’t last. It’s going to end. You can’t double the money supply and not expect some really big events with inflation.
But back gain to Woodrow Wilson. He was not an individual who respected civil liberties. And the conservative Republicans at the time fought him on the Espionage and Sedition Act. The Republicans didn’t like him. He arrested thousands of people because they showed dissent against the war. Yes, how do you want it? You want it that way? Yes, you may have a position on the war. Others may have another position. But we all ought to be together, that you have a right of dissent and you should never be put in prison for dissenting.
A famous person was arrested back then. I wouldn’t have agreed with his political beliefs. But he was a famous person and he did speak out against the war; which he had a right to do. It was Eugene Debs. And he was put in prison because he spoke out and Woodrow Wilson didn’t like him and because the Congress passed these laws which the Republicans objected to. But he was put in prison indefinitely and I guess because of Woodrow Wilson’s illness and all towards the end, he never got a pardon. You know who gave him the pardon? Warren G. Hardy, a Republican.
There is nothing wrong with describing conservatism as protecting the Constitution, protecting all things that limit government. Government is the enemy of liberty. Government should be very restrained. And as I have said so many times, it’s time that we do study and understand from a conservative viewpoint on how much we should be engaged around the world. And we have good backing from good Republicans of the past. But now that is the past. I don’t live in the past because I see freedom as a very progressive modern movement. But in the past, since Woodrow Wilson’s time, we as conservatives, too many have taken on this saying that we are responsible, but that is a neoconservative viewpoint, and not true conservatism.
Who do you think it was that tried to keep us out of the wars? The Republicans did. One of the greatest republicans, and he’s called Mr. Republican, there’s a statue over in Washington of him, and that is Robert Taft. He worked hard to keep us out of war. He also thought that it was a violation of our rights to have a military draft. He strongly opposed the draft. He was strongly opposed to NATO and didn’t like the United Nations, and here we have casually accepted all this. But who was it that coined the word “The military-industrial complex, and beware of it”? It was Eisenhower that told us about that.
So there is every reason for us to think seriously about, you know, what we really believe in and what conservatism actually really means. You know, in 1956 I was in college but I thought a draft was coming because the French and the British got into a fight over the Suez canal with the Egyptians. The Egyptians wanted to run the canal. So I was worried because I thought I would be drafted. I wasn’t drafted for 10 years after that, but I thought I would be drafted because they came to Eisenhower and said, “Come help us, take care of us. We’re taking this canal.” And Eisenhower said, “I’ll have no part of it.”
But back a hundred years ago, especially around Woodrow Wilson, what happened in this country is we took freedom and we chopped it into pieces. We don’t think of freedom as something unified. There is only one kind of freedom, and that’s individual liberty. Our lives come from our creator and our liberty comes from our creator. It has not nothing to do with government granting it. If you want small government to protect liberty, that is well and good and that’s what the founders believed. And that is exactly what the Constitution was written for. But if we have some group over here defending, “Oh, economic liberty is good.” That’s right, we do. Accept a Republican president said, “We’re all Keynesians now”. We’ve been living with the Keynesian philosophy and economics are still all over the hill. And how many people on the hill are saying, “End the Fed”?
But personal liberty, if our liberties come to us as individuals, they are not collective, freedom does not come in groups. You don’t have freedom because you’re a hyphenated American. You have freedom because you’re an individual, and that should be protected.
But I do not believe freedom can survive and I do not believe we as conservatives can contribute much if we still think freedom only comes in pieces: that you can protect economic liberty but not personal liberty. Sure, I imagine everybody in this crowd would say, “Yes, protect our right of free speech. Protect our right to our religious values.” But as soon as it comes to putting something in your mouth or in your lungs, you say, “You don’t have enough sense to decide what you should do, so we are going to use the heavy hand of government, come down and protect you against yourself”.
But we have gone a long way from the dictates of the Constitution. The Constitution, of course, says that only under declaration can we go to war. But we’re in perpetual war now, in every country in the world and it’s going to last a long time until we go bankrupt. That is what I believe is happening. But we have done a few other things that aren’t conservative, as far as I’m concerned, endorsed by both political parties. And one is that we have now endorsed the principle of preventive war. Another term for preventive war is aggressive war; starting wars because someday somebody might do something to us. That is not part of the American tradition.
Just last week there was a hearing on the Hill. The subject of assassinations came up, and the administration was there and they explained that yes, they indeed do endorse the idea of assassination. And then they were asked, “Would you endorse the idea that we have the obligation to assassinate American citizens?” and the answer is yes, they do. They claim that they have a right to assassinate American citizens. Now what are the conditions? Somebody in the administration – we don’t know exactly who – makes the determination, that that individual is a threat. And if he is a threat, then he can be assassinated. Now you say, “Well, he is probably a bad guy” and he probably is… the people they pick. They only have three. But the principle is important. Some day there might be 6 or 8 or 10. What if that would have been the fact that Eugene Debs might not have been put in prison, he might have been assassinated because he was a threat.
So this is not just casual talk. This is not radical left-wing liberalism protecting civil liberties. This is protecting the whole integrity of our country and our Constitution and the rights of the individual. We now, as a country, have accepted the principle that Habeas Corpus is only worthwhile in a limited fashion; some people don’t deserve it. If they’re designed as a threat, they can be held for an unlimited time in secret detention, and still susceptible to torture. That is not what we’re all about. We’re much better than that. And we as conservatives have to realize that we have to bring this back together again. Good conservatives can believe that personal liberty is of the utmost value.
We all probably more easily agree the free market is a good way to go, and yet we still have a lot of people who reject the notion of regulations and benefits and bailouts for Wall Street and the Federal Reserve System and paper money. All these things have to be worked in. But there is nothing wrong with you being a conservative and saying the Republican conservative tradition, not too long ago, as recent as the year 2000 we won elections by saying we shouldn’t be the policeman of the world and that we shouldn’t be nation building, and it’s time we got those values back into this country.
I believe we’re on the verge of something very significant. I’ve spoken out quite a few times on college campuses in the last couple of years. And the reception is fantastic, and they want the whole package. They don’t want bits and pieces. They want their personal liberty, they want their economic liberty, and they don’t want dependency on the government because the government has failed and they know they’re not going to get their Social Security and they don’t want perpetual war. They’ll defend this country. I had more support from the military than any other one candidate during the campaign.
So let us take this opportunity. Let us take this opportunity, and for those of you who disagree, all I ask you to do is think seriously about it. Think about it and read about it and study it and put it in context and say, “Maybe that has a point”. You know, during the presidential campaign often they laughed at him all this stuff. Then all of a sudden, the crash that I was predicting and talking about and said we were on the verge of and we were beginning, it came. And then all of a sudden now Fox News Network had me on about 60 times since the campaign was over.
But let me finish by saying one reason why I really like this idea of bringing people together and why freedom works. Because I really think it brings people together. I do like different people coming together because freedom doesn’t challenge people’s personal values, they don’t challenge their religious values. They only say come together on your terms as long as you don’t mess around with me.
There are two rules that I have. One is that I want change and I want a lot of changes, but I preach nonviolent change. I want resistance to the current system. But the other thing that I have to keep reminding myself and I’ll remind others, that in the process of us pursuing our goals, that we should remain tolerant. People who disagree with you or look different or have different view, we have to allow freedom of expression. That will bring us together. Otherwise we can’t win.
So I thank you very much for this opportunity to visit with you. I hope it is challenging because we’re in challenging times. But, quite frankly, if we do the right things, we can pull out of the economic mess we have, and we can be better than ever. And I believe that’s what this type of organization and group of people coming together, because I know you want what is best for America. If we work together and are a bit more tolerant, I believe we can achieve it.
Thank you very much.