Friday, April 24, 2009

Up From Conservatism

I remember studying the U.S. Constitution for the first time in eighth grade and being perplexed that things were not the way they were intended by the founding fathers. Since then I have always yearned to see our government work the way it was intended to work. Yet at the same time I was firmly committed to the principles espoused by the conservative wing of the Republican Party.

I had been persuaded that if Republicans were in power in Washington that the government power would be restrained and we would thrive as a nation. I believed that the way things were was basically working. The Federal Reserve System was managing the economy well, we have freedoms many other nations yearn to possess, and our economy was strong and showed no signs of mortality.

Though I still wished things were as the Constitutional framers had intended them to be, things were working, and I thought it wasn't realistic to upset a functioning system. So I supported George W. Bush for president in 2000 and 2004, believing that he would govern fundamentally differently than Al Gore and John Kerry.

After 9/11 I too began to believe that we must take action against radical Islamic terrorists and part of that action must ultimately include dealing with Iraq, which I'd believed that George H. Bush and Bill Clinton had dealt with inadequately. I was enthusiastic about the prospect of overthrowing the tyrannical regime of Saddam Hussein and bringing peace and democracy to Iraq. I fiercely defended the war and had contempt for those that opposed the war and later worked to end it.

I was a strong proponent of the Patriot Act and believed it was a much needed piece of legislation that would protect America from Islamic terrorism. As for the massive budget deficits of the Bush administration I wished that he and the Congress would use restraint, but I still supported the president and much of the other policies he enforced. I kept thinking, if only Bush had restrained spending, what a great president he could have been. I honestly believed that George W. Bush would go down in history as one of our best presidents—going against the conventional wisdom of the day.

But these beliefs have undergone a radical transformation since Barack Obama took office in January. President Obama has continued many of the policies of his predecessor including bank bailouts, continuing in Iraq, and continued trust in the Federal Reserve System. While President Bush pushed the budget deficit into unprecedented heights, President Obama has already spent more than Bush ever did.

The likeness between the two men's policies has given credence to the notion that the two parties have more in common than not. The two political parties have false disagreements—meaning they are arguing over the wrong questions, arguing with the wrong presuppositions.

Enter Ron Paul, Austrian Economic Theory, and Libertarianism. I was introduced to Austrian Economics through Peter Schiff, a financial pundit that is all over cable news shows. He predicted the economic collapse years ago, and was ridiculed for it. I wanted to know why he was so prescient, so after some research I found that he was connected to the Austrian school of thought on economics. The more I read the more convinced I was that the current political and financial structure was inherently immoral, deceptive, destructive, and unconstitutional.

I found that Congressman Ron Paul of Texas had also been predicting economic collapse for years and had been actively opposed to most everything that Congress has done during his tenure in Washington. I'd known of Ron Paul during the 2008 Republican Primaries and I thought he was a naïve third party candidate with no hope of winning, and I didn't even consider supporting him for these reasons.

I finally broke down and read Ron Paul's book entitled The Revolution: A Manifesto. I thought that I might at least appreciate his stance on small government and sound money, but I thought I would be unconvinced about his opposition to the Iraq War and supporting Israel financially and militarily. To my surprise I found myself in complete agreement with everything he wrote in the book.

As Paul argues, our intervention in the affairs of Afghanistan and Iraq are the foreign policy results of an out of control federal government. If the federal government was restrained as the Constitution and our framers intended, wars would be a very rare thing—and only defensive. Our intervention in foreign states would be non-existent and consequently we would be at peace with other nations, rather than the target of animosity, threats, and violence.

This may seem naïve at first, but imagine how other nations would perceive us if we did not have hundreds of military bases on foreign soil all over the world. Imagine if we had no military presence in the Middle East, if we did not supply foreign aid to despotic regimes all over the world. Do you still think it likely that we would have the enemies we do now? Would we be forced to protect our borders with the measures currently in place?

What if we let other nations govern themselves and we didn't meddle in the affairs of foreign governments? What if other nations were not so mistrustful of our intentions, aims, and interests? Think about the interventions the CIA and the intelligence services have taken abroad in the past 100 years. Think about the money being spent, the power being wielded.

Our foreign policy is directly linked to our economic policies. We would be unable to cast our influence so forcefully abroad were it not for the massive deficit spending and high taxation that conservatives have been arguing against for decades. If our government were forced to limit taxation as the Constitution intended, our ability to influence and wage war would be severely restricted. This is a good thing!

Ron Paul's manifesto is an expression of the legacy of our founding fathers. I was delighted to see these issues are not Republican or Democrat issues—these are fundamentally American issues. All freedom loving Americans ought to resonate with Ron Paul's message of peace, prosperity, and freedom.

In The Revolution Paul demonstrates that both major political parties have far more in common than not. The Democratic Party has the reputation (and deservedly so) of being the party of big government. They often say they want it to be "smarter" or "more efficient," but it is always big. Republicans want "smaller" government, but their idea of small is clearly meaningless, as they had been responsible for the largest increase in government and spending until President Obama took office. Our federal government is massive—there can be no doubt about this. It is undeniable that both parties are for big government, they disagreement is merely superficial concerning how much bigger or how much smaller. This is a false disagreement.

The framers sought to devise a system of states allied with one another through a small, central government. They gave limited rights to the central government bestowing all other rights unto the states. This is clearly not the way things currently stand. Over the years Washington has centralized the power given to the states, subordinating state's rights. This power grab has had profound effects on our nation and has led toward what Ron Paul calls the "Imperial Presidency." The "Imperial President" has taken upon himself powers not granted to the executive branch by the Constitution, and this has been accepted by both political parties. Congress has been complicit in this power grab, granting rights to the executive branch that only they can wield.

I am now fully persuaded that our nation will not have positive, meaningful change until either the Democratic or Republican parties embrace the kind of limited government that the framers intended. I do not believe that either party is capable of this right now. What is required is a fundamental change in governance. There must be either a third party to overthrow the tyranny of the American government or a radical change in the makeup of an established political party. The revolution must happen to save America from the certain ruin that both political parties have been, and are driving toward.

I now repudiate my previously held positions regarding the war in Iraq and the Patriot Act. I now believe that history will regard George W. Bush as one of the worst presidents in our nation's history, and properly so. George W. Bush oversaw the largest increase in government spending in history (prior to Obama at least), he took no meaningful action toward restricting the Fed's easy money policy that directly led to the housing bubble which has now decimated our economy, he waged war against another nation that had not attacked us, he expanded the power of the government with the Patriot Act, he further legitimized the role of the federal government in educating children, and on and on. These are not constitutional policies, and should be strongly criticized by those that love liberty and freedom.

Here is in essence is a brief list of some of the most important reforms that must be taken to restore the liberties granted by our founding documents:

  • Dismantle the Federal Reserve
  • Return to the gold standard (a gold backed currency)
  • Repeal the Income Tax and eliminate the IRS
  • Eliminate welfare programs that encourage people to not work and have encouraged the massive illegal immigration problem
  • Close all military bases on foreign soil
  • Terminate all foreign aid
  • Work toward eliminating both Social Security and Medicaid
  • Privatize all government sponsored enterprises such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac
  • Revoke most of the legislation of the last thirty years including the Patriot Act, and all gun control legislation
  • Eliminate all extraneous cabinet departments including Education, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, etc.
  • Privatize all public schools and end the federal influence over schools
  • Terminate college and university subsidies
  • Terminate all agricultural subsidies
  • Terminate all federal restrictions on oil drilling on public lands and offshore
  • Repeal narcotic laws
  • Outlaw federal employee unions
  • Terminate the congressional pension program and lower salaries for congressmen
  • Withdraw from unconstitutional treaties including WTO and NAFTA
  • Terminate early withdrawal penalties for tax sheltered investments including 401k, 403b, and Roth IRAs
  • Terminate Capital Gains tax

1 comment:

A. B. Caneday said...

The problem, however, is that what you propose to happen would be tantamount to unscrambling an egg and getting it back into its shell intact.

As much as we would like our ideals to become reality, which would entail reversals of many things, our political endeavors usually take on a slowing effect, that is, a slowing of the erosion of the founders' ideals.

The great danger of granting the executive office certain powers under one administration that is restrained in its use of those powers is that subsequent unprincipled executives will surely abuse those powers. Plenty of prudent-minded individuals warned about such things during the past eight plus years. Now we face the unintended consequences of many such decisions under the previous administration. Once governors grab powers they do not relinquish those powers.