Unlike the original articles produced by ‘blogspammers’ such as myself – that barely receive at most a few hundred views (and usually end up with negative vote tallies) – various repostings of an image of Ron Paul with the caption “Called Congress A Bunch of Psychopathic Authoritarians To Their Faces in his Farewell Address”, have garnered thousands of upvotes on the social bookmarking site Reddit, and I write this within only a few hours of the address in question.
To me, this sloganistic adulation raises 3 main questions: 1. Did Ron Paul in fact call his fellow members of Congress what is claimed? 2. If he did, so what? 3. Why does a quickly-made JPEG of Ron Paul’s face with the claim attached underneath in the ‘Demotivational’ style get such enormous publicity, especially when compared to the carefully-thought out and well-researched articles that writers such as myself produce?
In order to answer the first question, I will embark on an analysis of Ron Paul’s ‘Farewell Address’, and in doing so, pick out some points that I feel need addressing.
1. In his speech, Paul first reminds us of the fact that he spent 23 years as a member of government. He did this whilst pretending to hold thinkers like Rothbard in high regard and with a sign on his desk that labels government as an institution of theft. So what was he doing there? It is inarguable that there ARE far, far better ways of championing freedom than holding government offices. In a previous article or comment I once made the point that seeking a governmental solution for government is like turning up at a job interview for McDonald’s and declaring your career aim to be the abolition of fast food franchises.
2. He then tells us that his “goals in 1976 were the same as they are today”. Though he touches on it in passing, and then from a third-person, some-might-say perspective, he does not explicity admit he has failed. His methods were wrong. End of. Even Ralph Nader was honest enough to admit he had wasted his own (and everyone else’s) time.
3. Freedom, says Paul “should be an easy sell”. And he puzzles over why the 200 or so million ‘voters’ in the USA don’t vote for his conception of freedom. But if freedom was his aim then his chosen method is just about the worse he could have picked. It does not support the argument for liberty to be part of an institution which, for the quarter of a century he was part of it, did everything it could to erode liberty – and not only to be a part of that institution, but to call upon others in America to embrace it.
4. Paul then tells us that there is “good news” in the form of grassroots movements. Are we supposed to believe that these movements are any different to those that built up around Goldwater or Reagan? Will the energy of the Ron Paul ‘revolution’ be successful at a third attempt with a new figurehead (presumably the old man himself is hanging up his spurs)? These ‘movements’ are almost entirely focused on the electoral process, not on liberty. They use figureheads like Paul and others as icons, symbols of change they don’t really want to make their selves, and certainly not outside of the institution of government and outside of the perspective of “taking back the country/streets/banks”. They refuse to see how they can change things in their own lives without taking part in the electoral process: the importance of living by your principles.
5. Thereafter, Ron Paul’s speech descends into commentary, pragmatism and ‘inside baseball’ political rhetoric. In any speech on freedom I think it’s OK to provide a few examples of how liberty is being violated, but why does he go to such length in his farewell address, given that these speeches have had no noticeable effect in 23 years? It’s not clear from the footage, since there is no pull-away shot that I can remember, but my intuition tells me he’s not talking to a packed room.
At one stage, Paul asks (paraphrased) “why did the big banks, the large corporations, and foreign banks and foreign central banks get bailed out in 2008 and the middle class lost their jobs and their homes?”.
The answer of course is government, and not just the particular ‘kind’ of government, but the institution itself. It’s simple: if there are bad people and good people in a group and the good people decide to form some sort of special institution within the overall group that protects the good people from the bad people, and the bad people are free to sign up (especially if they pretend NOT to be bad people), then where do you think they’re gonna run and hide? Stefan Molyneux has already made the argument well countless times, but for anyone wanting a refresher, he recently went over this again at Libertopia.
Predation by heteronomous elites will never end as long as there exist forceful institutions – such as governments – for them to use as their vehicle.
And this again prompts the question as to why Ron Paul served the government for 23 years.
Shortly after he posed the above question about the bank ‘bail outs’, he said, “real patriotism is a willingness to challenge the government when its wrong”…
…which is all of the time. And Ron, in case you’re reading, challenging government all the time is called insurrectionary anarchism. It’s very different from being a Congressman.
Then Paul asks a series of questions, which I’m all too happy to answer:
“Why did we ever give government a safe haven for initiating violence?”
A: Because without that monopoly position, it would not be a government. And because you (wrongly and stupidly in light of how long it’s been going on) thought that you could protect the good people from the bad by ‘forcing the good’.
“Why are there not more individuals to intellectually influence others?”
A: Because so many are sold the ‘Governmental Change Hypothesis’ and encouraged to take part in elections, a hypothesis of which Paul himself is typical to the point of iconic.
“Why should anyone be surprised that Congress [ed:- which includes RP] has no credibility since there is such a disconnect between what politicians say and what they do?”
Ron Paul IS a politician. He talks of liberty, yet practices government. Could that answer his question any better?
And finally, he says, “initiating violence for humanitarian reasons is still violence. good intentions are no excuse”.
For me, that is the whole notion of government shredded in one sentence, by an agent of government no less. No defender of government, even the so-called ‘limited government’ has ever defended government on moral grounds. Such advocates MUST, by definition, resort to pragmatist, consequential arguments (which are also false). In other words, they ignore the means, and morality is cast aside.
“Psychopathic authoritarians endorse government-initiated force to change the world”
So…he did say it, but it was not specifically aimed at just ‘the other’ congressmen, but his self as well. This farewell speech might well rank among the self-detonating speeches of the decade.
Paul continues to speak the truth by noting that “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.”
It would be difficult (though not impossible) to find more poetic and poignant words describing the heteronomous horrors of government, yet they are spoken by an agent of that very institution.
Are we then to believe then, as so many claim, that Ron Paul is a secret voluntaryist who has infiltrated congress for the express purpose of saying these things? Nonsense. He could have said them without election, like Hans-Hermann Hoppe or Walter Block, or any other truly voluntaryist commentator.
Bizarrely, Paul then says “No Government Monopoly over Initiating Violence is what we need” (capitals are his own from his transcript)
Without a monopoly, a government ceases to exist. So Ron Paul called for an end to government. Shame that he did that only at the end of his own 23 years inside that organisation, and only by means of a contradictory and self-detonating series of remarks.
“Government in a free society should have no authority to meddle in social activities or the economic transactions of individuals.”
Again, no government.
“When will the people start shouting, “enough is enough,” and demand Congress cease and desist.”
Didn’t he just do that? Didn’t he just demand for the cessation of Congress? For what use is Congress without the monopoly of force to back up its edicts?
“Liberty can only be achieved when government is denied the aggressive use of force.”
Without a monopoly, a ‘government’ becomes a mere security contractor. Whether or not that contractor uses force for aggression or defense makes no difference to its status as government or not. However, unlike the anarchists, my position is to oppose all heteronomy, not just the common form of it in government, so a land inhabited by people that cant agree on their fundamental principles, or commit to non-violence, and so need security contractors – the absurd DROs modelled by some theorists – is not a place I want to be at all. Real freedom is wanted here please.
“Government is given a strictly limited authority to enforce contracts, property ownership, settle disputes, and defend against foreign aggression.”
Enforce contracts? On what basis? Why can’t I break my word and face the ensuing ostracism that would go with it? Why should I be met with force for doing so?
And property ownership? According to what conception of property? One that depends on a labyrinthine system of nonentities called ‘rights’? Who writes these rights and decides on what is right or wrong?
What about mandatory national defense? This was debunked by Hans-Hermann Hoppe some time ago. Perhaps if Ron Paul is to flirt with playing at anarchism he should try for a more consistent approach?
Maybe the truth, that no libertarian wants to admit, is that Ron Paul is just a paleoconservative that makes libertarian noises because it makes him feel better…
I could go on through the whole speech and continue to demonstrate the obvious, but I’d rather get on with the real work of constructing a corpus of genuine freedom-supporting philosophy, not the watered-down, principle-sacrificing strain put forward by Ron Paul for 23 years.
Which brings us onto our last question: why is it that libertarians lap up virtually everything Ron Paul does or says whilst ignoring real philosophies of freedom?
This part, I’m afraid, you libertarians are going to help me with. I have my theories as to why, but I’d rather receive your confessions.