Saturday, January 26, 2008

Ron Paul and the Lodestar of Liberty

Ron Paul and the Lodestar of Liberty

By Bruce Walker

Ron Paul is not a nut. He is honorable and intelligent. I have talked with Congressman Paul about politics and policies. He is consistent and principled. Much of what he says is true. The Constitution is routinely ignored by politicians of both political parties. Government spending, particularly entitlements, is wildly out of control. The crucial constitutional concepts of federalism and limited government are tacitly denied and this denial is the crux of many of our social and political problems.

But Ron Paul holds the vain hope that American government would return to constitutional law anytime soon, even if he did win the presidency. Congress, the judiciary, legal education, and tradition have imparted momentum to the living constitution school of thought. Bring about an actual return to the Constitution requires more than a snap of the president's fingers. Federal courts routinely "interpret" the Constitution in ways directly in conflict with the plain language of the document. At best, a president can only appoint judges the Senate will confirm and wait for natural turnover.

A lot of persuasion is necessary before Americans (including our elites and their institutions) change their way thinking. We in fact still need a crusade to change hearts and minds more than a candidacy.

And if we are going to return to first principles, remember that the Constitution is not the foundational document of our American experiment in individual liberty. It was preceded by the Articles of Confederation. Prior to the Articles of Confederation, which were adopted after independence, the Continental Congress acted as the original government of the United States and successfully waged a war against the great superpower on the planet with very little real authority. The fundamental principles of American government were established long the Constitution was adopted.

What does matter is the Declaration of Independence. The divine endowment of all people with liberty comes directly out of this document of 1776 and it is to this document that serious friends of liberty should look for inspiration and restoration. And what was the Declaration of Independence? It was, in effect, a declaration of war against the British Empire.

It was not an isolationist document but a universalist document. It speaks, pointedly, to the rest of the world. It talks about the reasons that governments are formed (not just our government.) It was bold, sweeping, and international. And it was seen by the rest of the world as just that: A revolutionary document for all peoples, even if it applied specifically only to thirteen embattled colonies in North American.

Ron Paul wants to return us to the Constitution, as if it were a sacred document which granted us freedom. Our spiritual lodestar should be the Declaration of Independence, which remains a much more dangerous, much more powerful, and much more relevant document to our times.

Some policies Paul proposes are admirable. Why do we still have armies in Germany and in Korea, when both are rich, modern industrialized nations? Why does government have to do so much and why does "government" more and more mean centralized government in Washington? Why have a tax code which punishes productivity and which requires contortionist behavior from business?

But other parts of Paul's policies simply do not fit our age. The notion that we should disengage from the Middle East, for example, suggests that Israel is "just another nation," like, say, North Korea or Syria. The foundation of the Jewish state was based upon the undeniable facts of history continuing, dreadfully, through the Holocaust, that Jews are not "just another people," but are rather a persecuted people who were not welcome when escaping Nazified Europe. Ignoring that is ignoring salient history.

Likewise, the stark contrast between Israel and its neighbors (except, until the last three decades, the successful state of Lebanon) cannot be ignored, and the murderous intent of neighbors who seriously read in large numbers Mein Kampf and the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion is also a grim, absolute fact of the modern world. The notion that, on paper, Israel can make peace with these neighbors is not just pure theory, but it is theory which has failed the test of experience.

Paul also seems to doubt that people wish to do America harm because it is America, and that nuclear weapons change everything. Ever since H.G. Wells first used the term "atomic bomb" in his science fiction stories more than a century ago, it has become almost inevitable that true, horrific global war power was inevitable. Happily, America acquired fission weapons and then fusion weapons first. Happily also, America has had leaders willing to use that power to protect our nation and allies who would otherwise be unprotected.

And, as we learned from the Japanese in the Second World War and from radical Moslems today, the calculus of economic benefits and political rights which works very well in moderating and balancing the behavior of most people, simply does not work with everyone. Does anyone doubt that the Japanese would have used the atomic bomb on American cities or that radical Moslems will use thermonuclear bombs on America, if they can, even if it means massive casualties in our retaliation?

Liberty can no longer stand safely behind two vast oceans and decent men can no longer ignore their human brethren after Hitler, Stalin and Mao. As Lincoln today might have said "This world cannot long endure half slave and half free." This was also perhaps the greatest victory of the greatest conservative leader of our age: Ronald Reagan. Congressman Paul might recall the Gipper's Cold War strategy: "How about this: We win; they lose?"

Ronald Reagan, like Abraham Lincoln, understood the supra-constitutional importance of liberty in the fulfillment of America, and liberty to them meant more than just the liberty of American citizens. If the ideal which is America is to survive the totalitarian impulse which we see not only in North Korea and the Taliban, but among the Leftists in our own nation, then we need to recapture the fortitude of Washington, the vision of Lincoln and the clarity of Reagan. If we can do this and preserve the vestiges of the Constitution, fine.

But the vision of America is much more than the Constitution. It is much more than Congressman Paul sees. What Ron Paul proposes is not bad or dishonest. It is simply no longer enough for liberty and decency to survive in America or in the world.