Ron Paul's Texas Straight Talk - A weekly Column

December 8, 1997

Taxes and regulations will never lead to prosperity
"Command economy" stifling liberty, freedoms of American heritage By US Representative Ron Paul
We do not live in a free society, all the puffy rhetoric aside. In fact, it is accurate to say that we live in what economists correctly call a "command society." But all is not lost, and there is reason for hope.

In a free society, social and economic problems are solved through voluntary and free market solutions. Compassion is real and charity honest in a free society, where no one is compelled to assist another.

But today, whether the problem is food for the poor, homes for the homeless, or medical care for the sick, our society endlessly calls upon government to redistribute resources contrary to the needs of the market and producers of prosperity. In fact, in government's rush to distribute welfare, there is a total disregard for the conditions required to produce the wealth. So as they rob resources to pay for these supposedly humanitarian concerns, the government "do-gooders" not only harm those who work and save for their own families, the government hurts all of society by violating the tenets of a moral, free nation; finally, it rubs salt in the wound by crippling the very system needed to produce more wealth.

Further, in this misdirected humanitarianism, great harm is done to the very people who are supposed to be helped by the government welfare: the direct recipients, who become trapped in a perpetual degrading dependency, and the working poor, who bear the greatest burden of taxes and inflation. In a command society, the government continuously says, "do this," "do that," and we must obey -- "Or else," hangs the threat.

We are endlessly compelled to be licensed for all that we do, so as to provide government more funding for our trouble. Rules and regulations are all around us, from morning to night, cradle to grave. Government taxes life, taxes death, taxes success and taxes savings. We suffer from double and triple taxation.

We run into government regulations, rules and paperwork everywhere we go. We cannot walk, talk, pray, or own a gun without a government sanction and permit, payable at the check-out window. We cannot drive a car without bells and buzzers and horns and belts and bags, all serving as a reminder that Big Brother is watching, just waiting for one misstep. Meanwhile, the rapists and murderers go unpunished. We are intimidated by political correctness to the point that innocent humor is a crime, and the law is laughable.

Our businesses are subject to invasion at will by government bureaucracy without warning, to save us from ourselves, while destroying our freedoms. As the bureaucracy thrives, the command society expands.

I see no evidence, sadly, of a reversal of this trend. We continue to tinker with the bureaucracy and talk of the benefits of block grants, yet we never are allowed to discuss in polite society the philosophic and moral principles which permit the command society to exist. In order for a command society to exist, individuals must concede to government the completely arbitrary use of force to mold personal behavior. For a command society to operate, the government's threat and use of force -- economic or physical -- is essential.

All decisions and systems of government have a distinct moral base. When we grant government the right to be charitable for us, we also grant government the right to force us to be charitable when we otherwise would not. And the use of force to compel an act of charity is, to borrow a phrase from Thomas Jefferson, "sinful and tyrannical."

The command society is the epitome of sin and tyranny, though in our age it often hides behind the mask of compassion. We must not be fooled by the masks, and we must commit ourselves to work for freedom and liberty. In a command society, all are beaten to the lowest denominator, while in a free society all have the opportunity to soar. It is only in a free society in which the hungry are fed, the homeless housed and the illiterate educated. And it is only in a free society in which the creative are rewarded, the producers encouraged and the industrious promoted.

Without a change in our philosophic and moral approach to government, we will find that all the adjustments, tinkering, reinventing and revamping of the "command society" will not and cannot bring us freedom. It would be easy to fall into pessimism and think all hope is lost for the nation, but that is not the case. While the politicians in Washington, DC, have accepted the "command society" point of view, the people have not. As I travel the 14th District, I am encouraged that the people are not being fooled. And as the Washington politicians start to hear the voices of those calling for liberty, there will be changes!

After all, just as no man achieves political freedom after being forced into slavery, no nation can tax and regulate its people into prosperity and liberty. Eventually, the arguments for liberty and freedom will carry the day.

Ron Paul represents the 14th District of Texas. His office may be contacted at 203 Cannon, Washington, DC 20515.