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If Liberty Mattered — Once More, a Presidential Candidate’s Press Conference, Part 1


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Once again, the race for the White House has begun, and once more, the candidates are offering themselves to the American public. Once again, the public and the press are transfixed over who will occupy the Oval Office for the next four years — an incumbent Democratic president around whom there are suspicions of shady deals, sexual lechery, and unprincipled power-lusting; or one of a field of Republicans, each claiming to represent a conservative move to “the right” away from big government, extravagant government spending, and excessive centralized power in Washington.

And once again, alas, the cause of freedom is being compromised by many of those who claim to be freedom’s friend. In the second year of the Republican Revolution, it turns out that the revolution against big government has boiled down to slowing the rate at which big government grows. The welfare state is not to be repealed, but instead made financially secure for the next century, so that the present working-age generation of Americans can feel confident that Social Security and federal-level or state-level medical care will be there to provide for them. Interventionist and regulatory agencies and programs of the federal government will not be abolished; instead, they will be streamlined — made more “business-oriented” and economical. Feeding at the public trough will continue: “Just please excuse our mess at the trough while we finish our renovations to serve you better in the future.”

The tragedy is that never has freedom had a better window of opportunity than now. Socialism in the Soviet-dictatorial mold is defunct; even those former communists who have come to power in Eastern Europe through the ballot box shun any return to their tyrannical past. Western Europe’s interventionist welfare-states are ethically and financially bankrupt; practically every one of them is forced to accept the fact that cuts or slowdowns in spending and welfare coverage have to be introduced if their economies are not to be stuck in a permanent rut of slow growth and high unemployment. And in America, a growing number of people have become cynical and often angry about the extent to which the government intrudes into their business and personal affairs, taxes and redistributes their wealth, and tramples upon their individual liberty and private property.

Yet, among the major parties, no voice has been raised to make the principled and consistent case for liberty in the face of the ideological disintegration of collectivism. And, once again, as four years ago (see “If Liberty Mattered . . . A Presidential Candidate’s Press Conference,” Freedom Daily, April 1992), one imagines what a candidate might say before the nation and the press if liberty really mattered to him:

The Candidate: Ladies and gentlemen of the press, before I take your questions, I would like to read a brief opening statement. I was reluctant to enter this year’s race for the White House because it seemed that for the first time in several years, a group of potential candidates were all promising to repeal the over half-century legacy of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society. After carefully listening to the promises and proposals of my opponents, I’ve decided that none of them offers the American people a real program for freedom. Giving them the most favorable interpretation, their promises and proposals add up to agendas for slowdowns in the rate of government expansion, with a few real cuts only around the edges.

The regulatory agencies and departments that have made America a state-managed economy instead of a free market are not to be abolished. The welfare state is not to be repealed; it is to be reorganized at the federal level and partly transferred to the jurisdiction of the several states, and still partly funded at national taxpayers’ expense. Looking for scapegoats for their failure to eliminate the welfare state, proposals have been made to close the door even more to the freedom of people from other lands to make America their home — people who are basically no different than millions of others who have come to the United States in the past looking for the opportunity to make a better life for themselves and their children.

Nor are my opponents in this campaign willing to confront the fact that the decades-long government war on drugs has not only failed in stopping the trade and consumption of various chemical substances, it has generated crime, corruption, and contempt for the law. Furthermore, the powers given to various federal law enforcement agencies as a part of the war on drugs and against “money-laundering” has created legalized robbery and murder by agents of the federal government, as well as at the state and local levels of government. Federal land ownership and land-use regulation, especially in the western states of the country, have reached a point at which vast portions of these states have become out-and-out domains of national socialism; and the private owners of land in these areas of the country are under such threatened pressure and manipulation by federal agencies that open rebellion has almost broken out.

A few of my opponents have called for the repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution — the income tax amendment. I can only hail their courage in calling for the end to the most repugnant tax in the country, a tax that serves as the rationale for the federal government, through the IRS, to intrude into the private affairs of every American and to potentially confiscate everything he owns. But this tax is only one arm of the government’s financial oppression and manipulation of the American people. The other is the Federal Reserve System — America’s central bank. The capacity of the government to plunder the people will remain intact for as long as the monopoly power to create and control money remains in the hands of the state. The government’s ability to confiscate and redistribute wealth towards itself and those interests it wishes to benefit at the expense of others in society will be effectively eliminated only with the repeal of the Federal Reserve Act of 1913, along with the income tax amendment.

I offer myself as a candidate for the office of the president of the United States on the basis of the following program for my first term in office: The interventionist, regulatory, welfare state has, over the last seventy-five years, undermined and, in many cases, destroyed the traditional liberty of the American people. The welfare state has made several generations of Americans dependent wards of the government, unable and afraid to live free on their own. An expanding segment of the middle class has equally become dependent upon the state for subsidies of various and sundry types. Whether it be student loans, farm price supports, import protections, licensing restrictions, labor market regulations, government financing of the arts and sciences, affirmative-action programs, home-mortgage subsidy programs, and a seemingly endless number of other interventions in social and market life, the American people have become addicts hooked on the governmental habit.

Personal liberty and private property rights have never been so insecure in America as they are today. Federal agencies like the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms have become gangs of arrogant thugs with a literal license to kill. The environmental agencies trample upon and destroy the private property of thousands of people, with tactics including surveillance, confiscation, severe monetary fines, and imprisonment. The Internal Revenue Service is a law unto itself, seemingly answerable to no one — not even the courts of the land whose decisions it regularly ignores when the judgments are not to the agency’s liking.

These violations of liberty must end if Americans are to enjoy once again the fruits of freedom for which our Founding Fathers fought a revolution and established in this land a Constitution of strictly limited enumerated powers. What I hope to do in this campaign is to make my fellow citizens aware of just how much of their liberty has been lost and is being lost. Furthermore, I hope to make clear to them that as much as I admire my opponents in this race, they are merely proposing to reform and not change the increasingly antifreedom system that America has become during the last seventy-five years.

Therefore, if elected to the office of the presidency, I will do everything legally in my power to bring about the following:

1. The abolition of every federal department other than Departments of the Treasury, Justice, and Defense (which will be significantly downsized). The abolition of the following agencies: the Council of Economic Advisors; Office of Science and Technology Policy; Office of National Drug Control Policy; U.S. Trade Representative; and Council on Environmental Policy.

2. The abolition of most of the U.S. government’s independent agencies, including the Central Intelligence Agency; the Commission on Civil Rights; the Commodity Futures Trading Commission; the Consumer Protection Agency; the Environmental Protection Agency; the Equal Opportunity Commission; the Export-Import Bank; the Farm Credit Administration; the Federal Communications Commission; the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation; the Federal Housing Finance Board; Federal Labor Relations Authority; Federal Mine Safety and Health Review Commission; Federal Reserve System; Federal Trade Commission; the Interstate Commerce Commission; National Aeronautics and Space Administration; National Foundation of the Arts and the Humanities; National Labor Relations Board; National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak); National Science Foundation; the National Transportation Safety Board; Nuclear Regulatory Commission; Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission; the Peace Corps; Resolution Trust Commission; Securities and Exchange Commission; Selective Service System; Small Business Administration; Tennessee Valley Authority; Thrift Depositor Protection Oversight Board; Trade and Development Agency; United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency; United States Information Agency; United States International Trade Commission; and the United States Postal Service.

3. The abolition of the following federal bureaus and agencies: the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms; Bureau of Economic Analysis; Bureau of Indian Affairs; Federal Aviation Administration; Federal Highway Administration; Fish & Wildlife Service; the Food and Drug Administration; the Forest Service; the Immigration and Naturalization Service; Internal Revenue Service; Library of Congress (to be privatized through a closed-bid auction); National Institutes of Health; National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; National Park Service; Social Security Administration; Smithsonian Institute (to be privatized through closed-bid auction); and the Surgeon General’s Office.

Just to list these bureaus, agencies, departments, and commissions should itself demonstrate just how out of control government has become. What area of human life is left untouched by the state and its agents? With the abolition of these departments, agencies, and bureaus, the interventionist-regulatory, welfare state will have been brought to an end in the United States. The corruption, crime, and broken lives caused by the government’s perverse war on drugs will be ended. The bureaus and agencies, whose law enforcement agents have violated and hurt innocent people’s lives, will be out of business.

The right to a realm of privacy — which our leftist friends say they cherish so much — will have really been restored to every American, because no longer will the federal government have the authority to control, regulate, investigate, or pry into the personal, family, or business affairs of any American. Every American’s original constitutional right to be secure in his life, liberty, and property from federal encroachment will have been reestablished.

During my first term in office, I will also do my utmost to bring about the following additional changes:

4. The repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment to the Constitution.

5. The repeal of all laws and statutes restricting or regulating the freedom of trade between the United States and the other countries of the world. The repeal of all laws and statutes restricting or prohibiting the freedom of movement of people into or out of the United States.

6. The privatization of federally owned land. Of the 3,540,558 square miles comprising the territory of the United States, the federal government owns 1,131,353 square miles, or approximately one-third of the U.S. Practically all of this land should be transferred to private ownership, including all national parks and wildlife preserves.

7. The end of foreign alliances and foreign intervention. The United States will inform other countries with whom it is presently a partner in political and military alliances that the U.S. is withdrawing from these treaties and agreements at the earliest possible date. Furthermore, all U.S. military personnel stationed in any areas outside of the territory of the fifty states will be withdrawn in the shortest possible time and all American military bases and facilities abroad will be returned to the jurisdiction of the host countries.

This is the platform I am running on for the nomination to the presidency of the United States. It is a platform that I believe reflects the true American tradition of limited government and individual liberty. I believe that if properly presented to the people of America, it is a platform that can and will appeal to a majority of our fellow citizens. Now, I’d be happy to take your questions.

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    Dr. Richard M. Ebeling is the BB&T Distinguished Professor of Ethics and Free Enterprise Leadership at The Citadel. He was formerly professor of Economics at Northwood University, president of The Foundation for Economic Education (2003–2008), was the Ludwig von Mises Professor of Economics at Hillsdale College (1988–2003) in Hillsdale, Michigan, and served as vice president of academic affairs for The Future of Freedom Foundation (1989–2003).