Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ron Paul’s Moral and Virtuous Farewell Speech

By now, the farewell speech given by Ron Paul has been read or watched by many.  While the audience assembled in Congress may not have been large, the audience enabled by the internet is significant.  The speech has attracted significant attention online; much of this rightly revolving around the “30 questions” raised by Dr. Paul.

I would instead focus on the root – the underlying reasons that give rise to the thirty questions, the reasons that disallow open dialogue surrounding these issues; that allow alternative views to be ignored or dismissed.  Ron Paul spent far more time in his speech on this root than he did on the questions.

He asks “why?”  Why are the issues raised in the questions ignored?

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.

The first layer of this onion is peeled back: he sees it as an intellectual failing:

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.

He shows a glimpse of the next layer: a moral awakening:
Our job, for those of us who believe that a different system than the one that we have had for the last 100 years, has driven us to this unsustainable crisis, is to be more convincing that there is a wonderful, uncomplicated, and moral system that provides the answers. We had a taste of it in our early history. We need not give up on the notion of advancing this cause.

The immoral use of force is the source of man’s political problems. Sadly, many religious groups, secular organizations, and psychopathic authoritarians endorse government initiated force to change the world. Even when the desired goals are well-intentioned – or especially when well-intentioned – the results are dismal. The good results sought never materialize. The new problems created require even more government force as a solution. The net result is institutionalizing government initiated violence and morally justifying it on humanitarian grounds.

Society has come to accept and expect government initiated violence.  Few speak of it in these terms – wars are fought to bring peace and democracy, domestic programs are deemed benevolent in one way or another.  However, at the root is theft; at the root is violence, initiated by the government against individuals foreign and domestic.

It is rather strange, that unless one has a criminal mind and no respect for other people and their property, no one claims it’s permissible to go into one’s neighbor’s house and tell them how to behave, what they can eat, smoke and drink or how to spend their money.

Yet, rarely is it asked why it is morally acceptable that a stranger with a badge and a gun can do the same thing in the name of law and order. Any resistance is met with brute force, fines, taxes, arrests, and even imprisonment. This is done more frequently every day without a proper search warrant.

The law is not law unless it is applied equally to all. 

American now suffers from a culture of violence. It’s easy to reject the initiation of violence against one’s neighbor but it’s ironic that the people arbitrarily and freely anoint government officials with monopoly power to initiate violence against the American people – practically at will.

Because it’s the government that initiates force, most people accept it as being legitimate. Those who exert the force have no sense of guilt. It is believed by too many that governments are morally justified in initiating force supposedly to "do good." They incorrectly believe that this authority has come from the "consent of the people." The minority, or victims of government violence never consented to suffer the abuse of government mandates, even when dictated by the majority. Victims of TSA excesses never consented to this abuse.

Yet it is the people that have given to the government this veil of legitimacy to initiate violence.

This attitude has given us a policy of initiating war to "do good," as well. It is claimed that war, to prevent war for noble purposes, is justified. This is similar to what we were once told that: "destroying a village to save a village" was justified. It was said by a US Secretary of State that the loss of 500,000 Iraqis, mostly children, in the 1990s, as a result of American bombs and sanctions, was "worth it" to achieve the "good" we brought to the Iraqi people. And look at the mess that Iraq is in today.

Horrendous.  Yet such words are offered by governmental leaders regularly, and there is almost no pushback from the people who send those leaders to office.  The people sanction violence.

Government use of force to mold social and economic behavior at home and abroad has justified individuals using force on their own terms. The fact that violence by government is seen as morally justified, is the reason why violence will increase when the big financial crisis hits and becomes a political crisis as well.

More and more people are conditioned by the behavior observed – a violent behavior, and behavior that not only allows for the initiation of violence, but sanctions it, legitimizes it, and praises it.

First, we recognize that individuals shouldn’t initiate violence, then we give the authority to government. Eventually, the immoral use of government violence, when things goes badly, will be used to justify an individual’s "right" to do the same thing. Neither the government nor individuals have the moral right to initiate violence against another yet we are moving toward the day when both will claim this authority. If this cycle is not reversed society will break down.
He plainly states the non-aggression principle:

To develop a truly free society, the issue of initiating force must be understood and rejected. Granting to government even a small amount of force is a dangerous concession.

He next speaks plainly about the shortcoming, and the need to strike at the root of the problem:

The real question is: if it is liberty we seek, should most of the emphasis be placed on government reform or trying to understand what "a virtuous and moral people" means and how to promote it. The Constitution has not prevented the people from demanding handouts for both rich and poor in their efforts to reform the government, while ignoring the principles of a free society.

The solution is not to be found in government – even a government based on a written constitution.   The problem that must be confronted is the virtue and morality of the people.

If the people are unhappy with the government performance it must be recognized that government is merely a reflection of an immoral society that rejected a moral government of constitutional limitations of power and love of freedom.

The solution will not come from politics as long as society is immoral.

Achieving legislative power and political influence should not be our goal. Most of the change, if it is to come, will not come from the politicians, but rather from individuals, family, friends, intellectual leaders and our religious institutions. The solution can only come from rejecting the use of coercion, compulsion, government commands, and aggressive force, to mold social and economic behavior. Without accepting these restraints, inevitably the consensus will be to allow the government to mandate economic equality and obedience to the politicians who gain power and promote an environment that smothers the freedoms of everyone. It is then that the responsible individuals who seek excellence and self-esteem by being self-reliance and productive, become the true victims.

He then rightly confronts those who claim that application of the non-aggression principle is idealistic, or utopian:

What a wonderful world it would be if everyone accepted the simple moral premise of rejecting all acts of aggression.

It would not take “everyone” to accept this – just a significant minority will make the difference in changing opinion.

The retort to such a suggestion is always: it’s too simplistic, too idealistic, impractical, naïve, utopian, dangerous, and unrealistic to strive for such an ideal.

The answer to that is that for thousands of years the acceptance of government force, to rule over the people, at the sacrifice of liberty, was considered moral and the only available option for achieving peace and prosperity.

What could be more utopian than that myth – considering the results especially looking at the state sponsored killing, by nearly every government during the 20th Century, estimated to be in the hundreds of millions. It’s time to reconsider this grant of authority to the state.

The burden of proof should not be placed on those who see non-aggression as the only moral means to a civil society, but on those who advocate for “government” as that term is understood today.

The government reflects the society, and the society is one that accepts the initiation of violence as the normal course:

The Founders were convinced that a free society could not exist without a moral people.

Benjamin Franklin claimed "only a virtuous people are capable of freedom." John Adams concurred: "Our Constitution was made for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other."

A moral people must reject all violence in an effort to mold people’s beliefs or habits.

A society that boos or ridicules the Golden Rule is not a moral society. All great religions endorse the Golden Rule. The same moral standards that individuals are required to follow should apply to all government officials. They cannot be exempt.

The solution resides in each one of us.  We must reject the idea that the initiation of violence can be justified:

The #1 responsibility for each of us is to change ourselves with hope that others will follow. This is of greater importance than working on changing the government; that is secondary to promoting a virtuous society. If we can achieve this, then the government will change.

Then he gets to the last layer of the onion – the root:

To achieve liberty and peace, two powerful human emotions have to be overcome. Number one is "envy" which leads to hate and class warfare. Number two is "intolerance" which leads to bigoted and judgemental policies. These emotions must be replaced with a much better understanding of love, compassion, tolerance and free market economics. Freedom, when understood, brings people together. When tried, freedom is popular.

This is a remarkable speech – not for the “30 questions” raised by Dr. Paul (although an honest dialogue around these will help to get to the source of the problems), but for the moral issues raised.  The government reflects the values of the people, and these values are based on envy and intolerance.  These result in justifying violence as a means to rectify perceived wrongs and potential threats.

Until these immoral values are confronted, the government will not be changed.  This is the powerful message of Ron Paul’s farewell speech.