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If Liberty Mattered … A Presidential Candidate’s Press Conference

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Election years are meant to be momentous events in the life of a nation. The electorate are given the opportunity to determine the political course of the country. And every four years, the electoral process includes the election of the president has come to symbolize the mood of the country — a statement by the people on the political direction towards that which they want America to move.

But behind all of the fanfare and mass-media hype, the unfortunate fact is that presidential elections are almost always nothing more than pathetic and nauseating contests among political power-lusters. The candidates are always willing to twist and turn in every direction in order to pander to every conceivable special-interest group — and all in the insatiable search for political-campaign dollars and election-day votes.

And to the extent that the candidates articulate a political philosophy, it is soon found that behind the apparent differences and distinctions that they attempt to draw among themselves, a common ideological premise binds all of them together: governmental control over the lives, liberties, and properties of the citizenry. The differences among the candidates are invariably reducible to questions concerning the type of control to be applied and which groups are to be the beneficiaries of governmental largess.

In frustration and bemusement, the friend of freedom finds himself daydreaming about what a presidential candidate might say if, in fact, he believed that human liberty really mattered. He imagines how such a candidate might handle himself in a press conference….

The Candidate: Ladies and gentlemen of the press, before I answer your questions, I want to make a brief opening statement. When I entered this race, I stated that my purpose was to offer a real alternative to the people of the United States. I declared that if elected, my program would be radical:

1. The abolition of the Federal Reserve System and all legal-tender laws.

2. The abolition of all federal departments, except the Departments of Justice and Defense.

3. The repeal of the Sixteenth Amendment (income tax) to the U.S. Constitution.

4. The immediate end to the welfare state, including all income-redistributive and affirmative-action programs.

5. The elimination of all regulatory agencies and all laws which, in any way, infringe upon the peaceful, free exchange of goods and services.

6. The immediate withdrawal of all U.S. armed forces stationed outside the territory of the United States.

7. The end of all federal-government expenditures not consistent with the government’s responsibility under the Constitution for the protection of the lives, liberties, and properties of the citizenry.

I still stand by this agenda. Indeed, after hearing the arguments and proposals of my opponents in this race, I am more convinced than ever that if the American people are to recapture their heritage of freedom and assure their continuing prosperity, the types of changes I propose are crucial and vitally necessary. Thank you.

The New York Times: Your critics have accused you of a callous disregard for the needs of the poor. Are you really ready to allow millions of those in poverty to be denied their only source of economic assistance?

The Candidate: The welfare state and the interventionist state have been the great perpetrators and perpetuators of poverty in our century. Minimum-wage laws have priced the low-skilled out of jobs. And regulatory agencies have denied the poor of opportunities to begin their own businesses in a free market. The welfare state has reduced millions to intergenerational wards of the state. These governmental programs have benefited only those who work in the government bureaucracies and those special-interest groups in the economy who feed at the trough of governmental welfare-spending. The elimination of these programs is the only — and the quickest — cure for poverty in America.

National Review: Your call for America’s disengagement from the world smacks of isolationism and a naive disregard for America’s national interest in maintaining global peace.

The Candidate: I have called for political and military non-intervention by the United States government. Every American should have the unrestricted freedom to trade with whom he wants and travel to wherever he desires. Every citizen of any other country should have the unrestricted freedom to trade, travel and reside in the United States. Once we allow the government to determine the “national interest,” we place the freedom, property, and wealth of every American under governmental control. The only national interest the government can properly serve is the protection of the United States from foreign aggression and the American citizenry from domestic aggression.

Ebony: In your campaign speeches, you talk about human freedom, but you seem willing to turn bark the clock on the progress made in the last twenty-five years in gaining civil rights for minorities. How do you propose to solve the problem of racism in American society?

The Candidate: The civil-rights laws passed since the 1960s have restrained freedom in America, not increased it. What these laws have done is to redefine freedom as an attribute belonging to groups rather than to individuals. And since legislatures have taken upon themselves the power to determine what constitutes a minority group and who belongs to it, practically all human relationships in American society have become politicized. America is moving towards a new caste society in which our individual destinies are inseparably tied to the political fortunes of the ethnic, gender or social groups to which we happen to belong. The rapid repeal of all of these civil-rights laws would be the most potent weapon for fighting racism in America, since their repeal would depoliticize human relationships. The focus would then be on individuals and their rights, rather than on racial groups and their political privileges.

Business Week: Your call for the abolition of the Federal Reserve System and practically every cabinet position in the executive branch of the government has been called political lunacy and economic stupidity. What is your view of the government’s role in the economy?

The Candidate: One of the greatest dangers to human freedom and prosperity is the government’s control over money. By having the legal authority to print unlimited quantities of money, government has the power to confiscate the wealth of all of us through the hidden tax of inflation. Furthermore, government’s control and manipulation of the supply of money has been the source of recurring booms and depressions. The only protection from this abuse is ending the government’s monopoly and control over money.

The various governmental departments have been used, since their inception, to serve various special-interest groups in society — at the expense of people who are not strong enough to win in the Washington political arena. Their continuation is inconsistent with a free-market way of life. And their abolition would be a forceful engine for opening market opportunities for everyone in America.

Government has no role in the economy — other than the protection of life and property — because government has no legitimate role in the peaceful and personal affairs of the nation’s citizens. For the government to try to influence production, provide full employment, guarantee income, or promote research and development requires the government to have the power to modify, restrain or hamper what would otherwise be the free and voluntary choices and decisions of a multitude of individuals.

The degree to which the government has a role in the economy is a measure of the extent to which the people have lost their freedom. The political program which I advocate, therefore, calls for no role for the government in the economy.

I’m afraid that that is all the time I have for your questions. In half an hour, I am delivering a speech on why the hot-lunch program for inner-city youth is harmful to the nutritional well-being of the young — and why it is nothing but a pork-barrel program for politically privileged groups of American farmers. Thank you.

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    Richard M. Ebeling is a professor of economics at Northwood University. He was formerly 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).