The Ron Paul Awakening

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The New York Sun

One of the things we did this morning was go up on and watch Congressman Ron Paul deliver what is being called his “farewell address.” It is an affecting speech, capping the end of his congressional career; it lasts about an hour. It is about the same length as President Washington’s farewell address. We don’t want to make any inappropriate comparisons between Dr. Paul and the most famous Founder. But we were struck with the similarity between the key themes that Washington sounded and those struck by the Texas Republican who, just in respect of his service in Congress, has regularly over 23 years sworn an oath to support and defend the Constitution over the writing of which Washington presided.

Dr. Paul is not as optimistic as Washington was at the dawn of the American republic. “It was my opinion,” Dr. Paul said, “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 he sought, “government,” he said, “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.” His basic prescription (he’s a physician by trade) was, as he put it for starters, “just following the constraints placed on the federal government by the Constitution.”

The congressman acknowledged that, “according to conventional wisdom,” his “off-and-on career in Congress, from 1976 to 2012, accomplished very little.” He noted that it includes no named legislation, nor federal buildings or highways. “Thank goodness,” he said. He rued the fact that “in spite of my efforts,” the government “has grown exponentially, taxes remain excessive, and the prolific increase of incomprehensible regulations continues.” He also noted that “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, Dr. Paul noted, has come upon us with “minimal concerns for the deficits and unfunded liabilities that common sense tells us cannot go on much longer.” He confessed he has 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.” He asks: “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, he noted, history has shown that the American public has been “receptive to the promises of authoritarians,” a development that he contrasted with the founding era and that, he reckons, has ushered in an “age of redistribution.”

Our own view is that the congressman should not get quite so down on himself. He believes that the only way to avert a crisis that will bring America to its knees is what he calls “an intellectual awakening.” In our estimation there is something intellectually astir in our republic, and we have no doubt that Dr. Paul has had an outsized hand in starting it. These columns spent the just-ended election campaign pleading for Governor Romney and the rest of the Republican leadership to be more bold in putting out there the kinds of ideas that Dr. Paul has made his trademark, and it has to be said that Governor Romney, in particular, shrank from the task. Such a tack turned out to be tragic.

Dr. Paul’s ideas, though, are more broadly discussed today than at any time we can remember in our career. The constitutional fundamentals (enumerated powers, separated powers, limited government, rights secured by restrictions on government) are being discussed on the airwaves. In recent years voters have handed up to both the House and Senate a number of new, young leaders who grasp these points down to the ground. None of them are laughing at Dr. Paul. They are reading the same texts he has studied, they are working through the problems with an eye on the principles he has pressed at every turn.

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And why not? When Washington himself delivered his own farewell address, he admonished his countrymen to “cherish public credit.” He called it a “very important source of strength and security” and wrote: “One method of preserving it is to use it as sparingly as possible, avoiding occasions of expense by cultivating peace, but remembering also that timely disbursements to prepare for danger frequently prevent much greater disbursements to repel it, avoiding likewise the accumulation of debt, not only by shunning occasions of expense, but by vigorous exertion in time of peace to discharge the debts which unavoidable wars may have occasioned, not ungenerously throwing upon posterity the burden which we ourselves ought to bear.” Ron Paul, in other words, moves on to the next phase of his career in the best of company.

The New York Sun

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