America today confronts an unprecedented crisis. Our economy is collapsing, and the fake coronavirus “epidemic,” with its draconian restrictions, is destroying our liberty. What can we do? We’re fortunate that Dr. Ron Paul, our greatest living American, has provided a masterful diagnosis and offers us hope for a cure—if only we will listen.
The End of Unearned Opulence sums up and extends the message that Ron has given us in his many years of devoted service. In the book, he speaks of the “Faustian bargain” that Nixon imposed on the American people when he abandoned convertibility of the dollar into gold in 1971. He offered us fifty years of fake prosperity, but, inevitably, the bill from the devil came due. In telling us about this, Ron talks about the great German writer Johann Wolfgang Goethe and how he modified the Faust legend. As I read this, I thought about Goethe finishing his great play Faust in the wisdom of his old age. Ron has in like fashion offered us his mature wisdom in this book.
What is Ron’s message for us? He says,
The opulence of great wealth has been exposed. The grave danger we now face can no longer be denied. What we are witnessing today is what happens to a society when counterfeit wealth dissipates….A Ponzi scheme mentality which has existed for decades allows for constant pyramiding of debt as part of our fiat monetary system. This policy is a predictable event and is instrumental in the creation of financial bubbles. Fractional reserve banking is a major contributing factor in creating money out of thin air, which inflates the debt bubble. Much of the malinvestment that results appears as wealth, but is in reality an illusion that disappears with the bursting of the bubble.
The Austrian business cycle theory of Mises and Rothbard shows irrefutably that this policy won’t work. Why, then, has it been imposed on us? Ron gives us the answer. It benefits the crony capitalists—the opposite of genuine free market entrepreneurs—who are in bed with the government. He says, “The humanitarian claim of the welfare/warfare proponents is that their efforts have always been designed to care for the poor. The only problem is that as financial bubbles develop, the already wealthy receive most of the benefits….The huge bailouts in the 2008 recession saw the banks and mortgage companies benefitting while individuals lost their homes. With today’s lockdowns we see the large corporations avoiding the worst regulations and permitted to operate, while the mom and pop businesses go broke.”
Why do people allow that mad and evil policy to continue? Ron answers that the government deludes people with crusades against imaginary enemies, in order to gain more control over us. First and foremost, Ron is a critic of the warfare state. Ron is not a pacifist—an ancient charge against those who oppose constant war. He believes in the right to self-defense, but he does not believe in the initiation of violence, whether by private criminals or the state.
Still, this is the issue strategists would have had him avoid: just talk about the budget, talk about the greatness of America, talk about whatever everyone else was talking about, and you’ll be fine. And, they neglected to add, forgotten.
But had Ron shied away from this issue, there would have been no Ron Paul Revolution. It was his courageous refusal to back down from certain unspeakable truths about the American role in the world that caused Americans, and especially students, to sit up and take notice.
While still in his thirties, Murray Rothbard wrote privately that he was beginning to view war as “the key to the whole libertarian business.” Here is a key way Ron Paul has been faithful to the Rothbardian tradition. Time after time, in interviews and public appearances, Ron has brought the questions posed to him back to the central issues of war and foreign policy.
Worried about the budget? You can’t run an empire on the cheap. Concerned about TSA groping, or government eavesdropping, or cameras trained on you? These are the inevitable policies of a hegemon. In case after case, Ron pointed to the connection between an imperial policy abroad and abuses and outrages at home.
Inspired by Ron, libertarians began to challenge conservatives by reminding them that war, after all, is the ultimate government program. War has it all: propaganda, censorship, spying, crony contracts, money printing, skyrocketing spending, debt creation, central planning, hubris—everything we associate with the worst interventions into the economy.
But Ron Paul permanently changed the nature of the discussion on war and foreign policy. The word “nonintervention” rarely appeared in foreign policy discussions before 2007. Opposition to war was associated with anticapitalist causes. That is no longer the case.
Ron brilliantly extends his point to our present crises. The fake coronavirus menace has become the means by which the state criminals can distract the public from their disastrous economic policies and put us under their control. As Ron says,
The goal of the hysterical reaction to the coronavirus, from both local and national politicians, has been to distract from the much bigger crisis we face dealing with: the Fed’s responsibility for the economic collapse and its hunger for unlimited power. The fact that responding to the exaggerated coronavirus crisis made the economic downturn much worse was not a disappointment to those individuals who see economic turmoil as an opportunity to promote radical Marxist ideas.
Ron is of course a medical doctor, and he speaks with authority when he tells us that the health crisis is phony:
The coronavirus epidemic is not the bubonic plague….It’s now recognized that much of the data reported on the severity and extent of the disease was seriously flawed and misleading. The reports inevitably made it appear that the epidemic was much worse than it was. To many observers, this was more than just careless mistakes but rather a concerted effort to spread fear and panic. This effort amazingly led to a delusional and extreme reaction by the media, politicians, public health fanatics, drug companies, national and global governments, supporters of socialism, fascism, and Marxism, all promoting the infamous lockdown.
As if this weren’t bad enough, the Marxist BLM and Antifa are rioting and looting while left-wing elements in government aid and abet their revolutionary tactics. “Antifa, BLM, and cultural Marxism’s concerted efforts to topple the remainder of the American Republic means, ‘they smell blood.’”
We thus face a dire situation, but Ron inspires us to change things. I had the rare honor of serving as Ron Paul’s congressional chief of staff and observed him in many proud moments in those days, and in his presidential campaigns. People today sometimes compare Ron Paul with Bernie Sanders. The comparison of Bernie to Ron goes like this: both launched insurgent, antiestablishment presidential campaigns while in their 70s, shook up their respective party establishments, and attracted large youth followings. But Bernie is no Ron.
Just on the surface: Bernie is a grump and difficult to work with; Ron is a kindhearted gentleman who always showed his appreciation for the people in his office.
More importantly, Ron urged his followers to read and learn. Countless high school and college students began reading dense and difficult treatises in economics and political philosophy, because Ron encouraged them to. Ron’s followers were curious enough to dig beneath the surface. Is the state really a benign institution that can costlessly provide us whatever we might demand? Or might there be moral, economic, and political factors standing in the way of these utopian dreams?
It’s not hard to cultivate a raving band of people demanding other people’s things, as Bernie Sanders does. Such appeals arouse the basest aspects of our nature and will always attract a crowd. It’s very hard, on the other hand, to build up an army of young people intellectually curious enough to read serious books and consider ideas that go beyond the conventional wisdom they learned in school about government and the market. It’s hard to build up a movement of people whose moral sense is developed enough to recognize that barking demands and enforcing them with the state’s gun is the behavior of a thug, not a civilized person. And it’s hard to persuade people of the counterintuitive idea that society runs better and individuals are more prosperous when no one is “in charge” at all.
Yet Ron accomplished all these things. Ron knew that the philosophy of liberty, when explained persuasively and with conviction, had a universal appeal. Every group he spoke to heard a slightly different presentation of that message, as Ron showed how their particular concerns were addressed most effectively by a policy of freedom.
Before leaving Washington and electoral politics, Ron delivered an extraordinary farewell address to Congress. The very fact that Ron could deliver a wise and learned address only goes to show he was no run-of-the-mill congressman, whose intellectual life is fulfilled by talking points and focus-group results. When Ron first spoke to the so-called values voters, for example, he was booed for saying he worshipped the Prince of Peace. The second time, when he again made a moral case for freedom, he brought the house down. But he did not pander to them nor to anyone else, and he never abandoned the philosophy that brought him into public life in the first place. No one had the sense that there was more than one Ron Paul, that he was trying to satisfy irreconcilable groups. There was one Ron Paul.
That a farewell address seemed so appropriate for Ron in the first place, while it would have been risible for virtually any of his colleagues, reflected Ron’s substance and seriousness as a thinker and as a man.
In that address Ron did many things. He surveyed his many years in Congress. He made a reckoning of the advance of the state and the retreat of liberty. He explained the moral ideas at the root of the libertarian message: nonaggression and freedom. He posed a series of questions about the US government and American society that are hardly ever asked, much less answered. And he gave his supporters advice on spreading the message in the coming years.
“Achieving legislative power and political influence,” he said,
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.
I am convinced that historians, whether or not they agree with him, will continue to marvel at Ron Paul for many, many years to come. Libertarians a century from now will be in disbelief at the very notion that such a man actually served in the US Congress of our time.
One of the most thrilling memories of the 2012 campaign was the sight of those huge crowds that came out to see Ron. His competitors, meanwhile, couldn’t fill half a Starbucks. When I worked as Ron’s chief of staff in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I could only dream of such a day.
Now, what was it that attracted all these people to Ron Paul? He didn’t offer his followers a spot on the federal gravy train. He didn’t pass some phony bill. In fact, he didn’t do any of the things we associate with politicians. What his supporters love about him has nothing to do with politics at all.
Ron is the antipolitician. He tells unfashionable truths, educates rather than flatters the public, and stands up for principle even when the whole world is arrayed against him.
Of course, Ron Paul deserves the Nobel Peace Prize. In a just world, he would also win the Medal of Freedom, and all the honors for which a man in his position is eligible.
Young people are reading major treatises in economics and philosophy, because Ron Paul recommended them. Who else in public life can come close to saying that?
No politician is going to trick the public into embracing liberty, even if liberty were his true goal and not just a word he uses in fundraising letters. For liberty to advance, a critical mass of the public has to understand and support it. That doesn’t have to mean a majority, or even anywhere near it. But some baseline of support has to exist.
That is why Ron Paul’s work is so important and so lasting.
Ron concludes The End of Unearned Opulence with these challenging words: “Ideas whose times have come cannot be stopped by armies or political chicanery. Considering the intelligence and character of our enemies, it should never be said by us not resisting that we capitulated to their evil nonsense. We are indeed in unchartered waters surrounded by blood-thirsty sharks.” With Ron’s wisdom and courage, we can escape those waters.