The Ron Paul campaign has excited libertarians, but many people wonder what he could accomplish as president, facing a contrary Congress. While some of this is speculation and it's not my intention to put words in Dr. Paul's mouth, his inaugural address might sound something like this:
January 20, 2009
"My fellow citizens:
"On November 4th of last year, you, the American people, overwhelmingly rejected the erosion of liberty that has occurred in this country during the 20th Century and into the 21st.
"You rejected having your money stolen through taxes and the inflationary fiat money of the government's central bank.
"You rejected deficit spending.
"You rejected corporatism – the suppression of competition by government, at the behest of politically-connected businesses and at the expense of their competitors and of you, the consumer, under the guise of 'consumer protection;' forced cartelization of industry; and of businesses profiting through the theft of being financed by tax dollars.
"You rejected government healthcare.
"You rejected nation-building and wars of foreign aggression.
"You rejected the erosion of your civil liberties under the guise of fighting 'terrorism.'
"I know this because I promised, backed by a 30-year record of honesty and integrity, to do my best to put a stop to all of these things, and more, if you elected me to serve as your president. You had a choice to make that day: My agenda or the status quo. You chose my agenda. I humbly thank you, and I hope to repay your confidence during the next four years.
"Last year, the federal government spent $3 trillion, which is more money than it spent from 1787 to 1900 combined, in 2007 dollars.
"In 1963, John F. Kennedy was concerned when the budget hit $99 billion, because he didn't want to be the first president with a $100 billion budget.
"In 1980, when Ronald Regan promised to get government off of our backs, the federal budget was $500 billion.
"In 1990, just half a generation later, the federal budget had more than doubled, to more than $1 trillion.
"In 1995, when the Republicans took control of Congress, the federal budget was $1.5 trillion.
"In 2000, leading into the previous administration, the budget was $1.8 trillion.
"The budget last year was $3 trillion.
"In short, the budget has doubled in just 13 years. It's six times what it was in 1980, and 20 times what it was in 1960.
"What happened in 1995, 1990, 1960, or even 1900, with a much smaller government? The sky didn't fall, California didn't break off into the ocean, and people weren't starving in the streets.
"There's no question that our standard of living today is much higher than in previous years, but that's in spite of government spending and regulation, not because of it.
"Today, thanks to the degree of capitalism, liberty and property rights that remain in this country, the poor literally have a higher standard of living than the richest person in the world did less than 150 years ago. Consider that the wealthiest of the wealthy in the 19th Century didn't have indoor plumbing, electricity, central heating or air-conditioning, or life-saving antibiotics and other life-saving medical technologies of 2009, much less cars, airplanes, computers, televisions, telephones, cell phones, and on and on.
"Where did these things come from? Who makes life better for you: The private sector, or government?
"The standard of living we would enjoy without government boggles the mind.
"In contrast, what is the federal government giving us for our $3 trillion a year? It steals our money, through taxation and inflation, as the price of earning a living and attempting to save some of it. It tells us what we can buy and what we can sell, whom we can hire and whom we can fire, and with whom we can associate and with whom we cannot, as well as other impediments to the peaceful, voluntary interaction that makes civilization possible. It runs up the prices of the goods we buy and holds down the wages we earn. It keeps life-saving medicines and other products from us under the guise of 'consumer protection.' And that's just for starters; I don't have time today to even begin detailing the ways in which government abuses us.
"On what does the federal government spend the $3 trillion it extracts from the economy yearly?
"In 2007, the budget broke down as follows:
- $699 billion (+4.0%) - Defense
- $586.1 billion (+7.0%) - Social Security
- $394.5 billion (+12.4%) - Medicare
- $367.0 billion (+2.0%) - Unemployment and welfare
- $276.4 billion (+2.9%) - Medicaid and other health related
- $243.7 billion (+13.4%) - Interest on debt
- $89.9 billion (+1.3%) - Education and training
- $76.9 billion (+8.1%) - Transportation
- $72.6 billion (+5.8%) - Veterans' benefits
- $43.5 billion (+9.2%) - Administration of justice
- $33.1 billion (+5.7%) - Natural resources and environment
- $32.5 billion (+15.4%) - Foreign affairs
- $27.0 billion (+3.7%) - Agriculture
- $26.8 billion (+28.7%) - Community and regional development
- $25.0 billion (+4.0%) - Science and technology
- $20.1 billion (+11.4%) - General government
- $1.1 billion (+47.6%) - Energy
"And all of these figures represent increases over the previous year's budget." (Figures in parentheses show increase.)
"The income tax accounts for $1.1 trillion, which means if it were repealed, the federal government would still be roughly the size it was in 2000, just nine years ago,
"The interest in the debt accounts for roughly 8% of the budget, so that could be eliminated with a balanced budget.
"Within 30 days, I will send Congress a budget for the new fiscal year that cuts federal spending by 50% immediately, repeals the income tax and replaces it with nothing, and requires that the budget be balanced. I'll let them figure out what to cut; most of this spending is blatantly unconstitutional and destructive to the average person's standard of living anyway, so overall I'm unconcerned with where the cuts will come from.
"If the budget they send back is one penny more, I will veto it.
"If they override my veto an enact their budget, then the battle will finally be joined and you will know exactly where your Senator or Representative stands on the issue of your liberty, and you can vote accordingly in the future.
"If at least one-third of one house stands up for liberty, we will reach an impasse and most of the government will be shut down. That will put no pressure on me, as I'm trying to shut most of it down – permanently. I will hold out for as long as it takes for them to pass my budget – not their budget.
"Today I will begin a policy of automatically vetoing any bill which allows the federal government to do anything not authorized by the constitution.
"As a former Congressman, I know that Congresspersons and Senators often vote for bills which they haven't read. I also know that bills are typically thousands of pages long; they receive votes based on their virtuous-sounding titles, which usually have nothing to do with the contents of the bill, which is usually full of pork and hidden tyrannical authorizations.
"Based on this, I will also automatically veto any bill if I'm not convinced that every Congressperson and Senator has read it and knows what's in it, or if it's too long for me to read in one hour.
"I urge Congress to make the military budget a large percentage of the cuts, as it's the cost of empire and policing the world and is bankrupting us.
"Toward that end, as commander-in-chief of the armed forces, today I will order the complete, immediate removal of all U.S. troops from foreign soil.
"I sincerely hope that another budget cut Congress chooses to make will be the complete repeal of all foreign aid, which accomplishes little but to prop up thugs, dictators and brutal, oppressive regimes.
"And, freed from the income tax, individual Americans will have the resources to send money to causes they support; if they wish to send their money to suffering foreigners, that's their business. But it has a much better chance of doing good, rather than evil, traveling through private channels.
"I want the United States to adopt a position of armed neutrality, able to defend herself, but aggressor against none; friend and trading partner with all. We are probably the most geographically-blessed nation on earth, with thousands of miles of ocean to the east and west, and friendly neighbors to the north and south. Why must we police the world?
"Beginning today, the U.S. armed forces will exist to maintain a border and shore patrol to repel an incoming military invasion and to maintain a missile defense, once one is developed.
"Regarding a missile defense, anyone who understands economics knows that the best way to accomplish something is through the profit motive, while the worst way is through a government bureaucracy. To that end, today I am offering a $100 billion reward to the first private company that can produce a working missile defense.
Osama bin Laden
"On September 11, 2001, the United States was hit with a brutal, devastating terrorist attack. While I sincerely believe that the attack was blowback for 50 years of U.S. government meddling in the Middle East, it was still a despicable, unacceptable criminal act.
"A criminal act – not an act of war. To respond by killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan and elsewhere is no better than the terrorists responding to U.S. foreign policy by killing innocent Americans.
"It is widely believed that former U.S. ally Osama bin Laden was responsible for 9/11. Yet in over seven years since the attack, he has been neither caught nor punished, largely because our government was too busy nation-building and policing the world.
"I will be reviewing the evidence for bin Laden's guilt with my Attorney General and his staff. If they agree that the evidence is strong enough to get an indictment in a normal criminal proceeding, and if the networks and cable news outlets will be so kind as to give me some time, I will go on television, lay the evidence out before the world, and offer a ransom for anyone who can deliver bin Laden, and any accomplices the evidence indicts, alive to U.S. custody. If you kill any of them, you won't get a dime; we don't execute people without trials here.
"If they are captured, they will receive fair public trials, with all of the habeas corpus and other rights that would be afforded to any American citizen. I want America to be an example to the world at all times, even trying times such as these.
The War on Terror
"Regarding the overall War on Terror: Terrorism is a tactic, an abstraction; you can't have a war against an abstraction. Terrorism is not a person who can surrender, or an organization or nation-state with a leader who can surrender. The concept is inherently nonsense.
"And the evidence is overwhelming that America's aggressive, proactive War on Terror has significantly increased, not decreased, terrorism.
"There's no way that the government, or anyone else, can possibly anticipate every possible place and every possible way that a terrorist could strike, especially in a country this size. If it's going to happen, it's going to happen; foil one plot, and the terrorists will just hatch another. It was the government that failed to protect us on 9/11; why should we look to them now? The best defense against terrorism is armed neutrality and not giving anyone a reason to hate, fear or want to attack us.
"Yet the government constantly tells us that we must trade our civil liberties for safety. As Benjamin Franklin said, "He who sacrifices freedom for security deserves neither." As president, I will immediately begin pressuring Congress to repeal all so-called anti-terrorism measures enacted since 9/11 that infringe on civil liberties, including the Patriot Act and the Real I.D. Act.
"An issue of great concern for many Americans today is vices, such as illicit drugs.
"The constitution gives the federal government no jurisdiction over vices. Yet the federal government continually wastes billions of dollars, and destroys thousands and thousands of lives, trying to stop peaceful, voluntary activities.
"A government is not the arbiter of morality; it's nothing but a group of people who grant themselves a legal monopoly on the use of force within a certain area. Governments routinely engage in behavior that would be universally regarded as criminal in the private sector.
"Liberty is the condition of being legally free to do as you choose, so long as you're not forcibly intruding on anyone else's body or property.
"Naturally, a great deal of peaceful, voluntary behavior that falls within the guidelines of liberty is personally destructive. But, if it should be illegal to buy, sell or ingest certain drugs, for example, why shouldn't it be illegal to smoke, drink too much, eat a bad diet, go into too much debt, marry the wrong person, not get an education, or choose a career for which one is ill-suited? If personal harm is the standard for illegality, we should all be in prison.
"It may shock many to hear, but 100 years ago, there were no drug laws in this country, not even prescription laws, and a 10-year-old child could walk into a drug store and buy marijuana, cocaine or even heroin. In fact, Bayer – the same company that makes Bayer aspirin today – used to manufacture heroin, and even introduced heroin to the market the year before they introduced aspirin, in the 1880s, because they believed at the time that aspirin was the more dangerous drug. Heroin was sold as a pain reliever and sedative and was perfectly safe; it only became a deadly, toxic substance once it was outlawed, much like gin became a deadly, toxic substance during Prohibition, when it was produced in people's bathtubs instead of in legitimate distilleries.
"Please understand that I am not condoning recreational drug use. As a medical doctor, I have seen the destruction to lives that drugs can cause. But most of that destruction, such as high prices requiring theft to support the habits, drive-by shootings, gang warfare and pushers on schoolyards, is caused by the black market created by illegality, not by the drugs themselves.
"Nor am I saying that some people won't still take drugs if they're legal; of course they will. I live in the real world, not the ridiculous "Drug Free America" utopia that the government is always promising – and failing miserably – to create. But I sincerely believe that drug use, and its negative effects on society, will be minimized with a free, legal market.
"In a free society, people should be free to make their own mistakes, harm themselves, even harm their loved ones indirectly through their behavior, and pay the consequences that naturally follow from their actions. The legal system should only get involved if the behavior forcibly violates another person's body or property.
"And, again, the constitution gives the federal government no jurisdiction over drugs or any other vice.
"So today I will grant a full, unconditional pardon to anyone who has been convicted of a federal, non-violent drug offense. I will order them all to be released from prison within 90 days – unfortunately, there are a lot of people to process and it will take some time, and I will restore their full civil and voting rights.
"The constitution only allows three federal crimes: Treason, piracy and counterfeiting. So today I will also begin granting pardons to anyone convicted of any other federal, victimless crime, such as non-violent gun control offenses, federal tax charges, and insider trading.
"Today I will issue an Executive Order, temporarily freezing all previous Executive Orders and regulations put in place by previous presidents until I can review the constitutionality of each one. If I deem one to be unconstitutional, I will issue another Executive Order, repealing it.
The Federal Reserve
"In 1913, the Federal Reserve system was sold to the American people as a way to 'stabilize' the banking industry and avoid bank runs and panics. Since then, the Federal Reserve has presided over a decade-plus depression, numerous recessions and near-constant inflation. A 1913 dollar is now worth about four cents. Inflation is a hidden tax by the wealthy against the poor and middle class.
"Fiat money and the artificial expansion of credit also causes the boom-and-bust cycle, such as the stock market bubble in 2000 and the housing market bubble today. Many poor and middle class Americans have had their standards of living significantly damaged by this cycle, which wouldn't occur in a free market with sound money.
"Today I will begin urging Congress to amend banking regulations to allow for a much more competitive, freer market in banking, including the legalization of private money to compete with fiat Federal Reserve Notes.
"Another important issue today is health care.
"Despite its flaws, and despite propaganda to the contrary, America's health care system is still the envy of the world. Stories abound of people from countries with socialized healthcare, such as Canada, traveling to the U.S. for live-saving procedures either the bureaucrats in their own country had denied or to avoid a many-month or many-year wait.
"Unfortunately, there is only one way ration scarce resources: By price. The alternative is forced rationing and waiting lines; governments cannot create resources out of thin air. In a free market, competition and innovation drive prices down, and charity exists for life-and-death services for those who need them and cannot pay.
"And there is nothing compassionate about forcing people at gunpoint to wait in line for treatment, to put life-or-death decisions about their health in the hands of bureaucrats, or to create a dangerous black market in health care, which is the market's attempt to circumvent the government's failures.
"Some say that essential services, like health care, should be beyond pricing and profit. This is nonsense; there is no such thing as a right to something for which someone else has to pay.
"Furthermore, unless someone has an immediately life-threatening injury or illness, food is more essential for life than healthcare; by this logic, people should have a 'right' to 'free' food too.
"If this seems like a good idea, consider that in countries that have preached such beliefs and forcibly nationalized food production and distribution, there was mass starvation on a scale that Americans cannot begin to comprehend.
"But, in countries like the U.S., where people are 'exploited' by greedy, selfish food manufacturers, supermarkets and restaurants, even the poorest people have more food than they can eat, and the government still makes food more expensive than it would otherwise be, though things like farm subsidies.
"And health care is technology-driven, so people should also consider how it is that things like cell phones, DVD players, plasma televisions and computers have fallen 50-90% in price over the past 10 years, even while the quality goes up, while health care continues to get more and more expensive.
"Health care is one of the most-regulated industries in America today. It began in earnest in the late-19th Century, through the forced cartelization of the industry through things like licensing laws. As a medical doctor, I know that these laws were not enacted to protect the public; they were enacted at the behest of the health care industry, to artificially inflate their incomes by restricting the supply.
"Government regulation of health care and insurance has continued unabated throughout the 20th Century.
"As recently as the mid-1960s, a one-week hospital stay for an average surgical procedure was $1,000 in today's dollars – and that was the total bill, not what remained to be paid after insurance paid its part. And health insurance was cheaply available to all who needed it.
"By the government's own figures, health care costs seniors twice what it did before Medicare, even after adjusting for inflation.
"The FDA approval process drives up the prices of drugs and delays their arrival on the market for years. The FDA has killed more people by keeping life-saving drugs off the market for too long than it has saved by preventing potentially dangerous drugs from being sold. It's common sense that it's not in the self-interest of a pharmaceutical company to poison its customers.
"HMOs became powerful because of legislation enacted on their behalf in the 1970s.
"There are many other ways government impeded health care, and I don't have time to detail them all today.
"But rest assured that, as president, I will urge Congress to repeal all federal regulations on the health care and insurance industries.
Social Security and Medicare
"Two other pressing issues are Social Security and Medicare.
"Unfortunately, several generations of Americans have been conditioned to look to the government as their provider, and now many people, especially seniors, are dependent on government for their survival. While I sincerely believe that these programs never should've been started, I want to assure seniors that I have no intention of cutting off their benefits without making provisions for them.
"When Congress debates my budget proposal, I will urge them to make provisions for Social Security and Medicare for the next fiscal year. And I will urge them to alter how Social Security operates, to change it from a Ponzi Scheme where the incoming money is spent immediately, to a program where the money is saved.
"I will also push for people who are not already collecting Social Security to be allowed to opt out of it, to be freed from the 15% tax in exchange for renouncing their claim to any future benefits. Unfortunately, the money they've already paid into the system can't be refunded, because the politicians already spent it.
"If my other health care proposals are enacted and the market is freed, health care should become so inexpensive that the need for Medicare will evaporate and it can eventually be repealed, but it may take a few years.
"Later in my term, I hope to explore alternatives for completely privatizing Social Security, such as buying lifetime annuities with private insurance companies for everyone who's already collecting, or will be within the next 10 years.
"Finally today, let me address the issue of Congress.
"There are a lot of people in Congress who believe in the State, in the virtue of using force to remake society.
"Many expect Congress to fight me tooth and nail. They may, but I want to warn them that they will be taking an enormous political risk if they defy me. Again, the American people had a choice to make last November, and they chose the agenda I've outlined today.
"I ask the American people to contact their Representatives and Senators and urge them to help me restore liberty to America.
"To the Congress, I say that, if you fight the work I have been sent here to do, I will ask the American people to begin sending me better people to work with in next year's mid-term elections. I hope, instead, that you will choose to work with me.