(If you read the book, please post your review below).
Ron Paul’s The Revolution: A Manifesto is an educational book that presents valuable lessons from history, economics, and libertarian ethics as a unified philosophy of freedom. While the book is not available as a free PDF download, you can order the Hardcover, Kindle and Audio CD editions at Amazon.com.
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.
Thanks to Andy for this great review!
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