What's Wrong with America and How to Fix It
Are We Doomed to Be a Police State?
The following speech was given by Mr. Ron Paul to the U.S. House of Representatives on June 27, 2002.
Most Americans believe we live in dangerous times, and I must agree. Today I want to talk about how I see those dangers and what Congress ought to do about them. Of course, the Monday morning quarterbacks are now explaining, with political overtones, what we should have done to prevent the 9/11 tragedy. Unfortunately, in doing so, foreign policy changes are never considered.
I have, for more than two decades, been severely critical of our post-World War II foreign policy. I have perceived it to be not in our best interest and have believed that it presented a serious danger to our security.
For the record, in January of 2000 I stated the following on this floor:
Our commercial interests and foreign policy are no longer separate... as bad as it is that average Americans are forced to subsidize such a system, we additionally are placed in greater danger because of our arrogant policy of bombing nations that do not submit to our wishes.
This generates hatred directed toward America... and exposes us to a greater threat of terrorism, since this is the only vehicle our victims can use to retaliate against a powerful military state... the cost in terms of lost liberties and unnecessary exposure to terrorism is difficult to assess, but in time, it will become apparent to all of us that foreign interventionism is of no benefit to American citizens, but instead is a threat to our liberties.
Again, let me remind you I made these statements on the House floor in January 2000. Unfortunately, my greatest fears and warnings have been borne out.
I believe my concerns are as relevant today as they were then. We should move with caution in this post-9/11 period so we do not make our problems worse overseas while further undermining our liberties at home.
So far our post-9/11 policies have challenged the rule of law here at home, and our efforts against the al Qaeda have essentially come up empty-handed. The best we can tell now, instead of being in one place, the members of the al Qaeda are scattered around the world, with more of them in allied Pakistan than in Afghanistan. Our efforts to find our enemies have put the CIA in 80 different countries. The question that we must answer some day is whether we can catch enemies faster than we make new ones. So far it appears we are losing.
As evidence mounts that we have achieved little in reducing the terrorist threat, more diversionary tactics will be used.
The big one will be to blame Saddam Hussein for everything and initiate a major war against Iraq, which will only generate even more hatred toward America from the Muslim world. But, Mr. Speaker, my subject today is whether America is a police state.
I'm sure the large majority of Americans would answer this in the negative. Most would associate military patrols, martial law and summary executions with a police state, something obviously not present in our everyday activities. However, those with knowledge of Ruby Ridge, Mount Carmel and other such incidents may have a different opinion.
The principal tool for sustaining a police state, even the most militant, is always economic control and punishment by denying disobedient citizens such things as jobs or places to live, and by levying fines and imprisonment. The military is more often used in the transition phase to a totalitarian state.
Maintenance for long periods is usually accomplished through economic controls on commercial transactions, the use of all property, and political dissent. Peaceful control through these efforts can be achieved without storm troopers on our street corners.
Terror and fear are used to achieve complacency and obedience, especially when citizens are deluded into believing they are still a free people.
The changes, they are assured, will be minimal, short-lived, and necessary, such as those that occur in times of a declared war. Under these conditions, most citizens believe that once the war is won, the restrictions on their liberties will be reversed.
For the most part, however, after a declared war is over, the return to normalcy is never complete. In an undeclared war, without a precise enemy and therefore no precise ending, returning to normalcy can prove illusory.
We have just concluded a century of wars, declared and undeclared, while at the same time responding to public outcries for more economic equity. The question, as a result of these policies, is: "Are we already living in a police state?" If we are, what are we going to do about it? If we are not, we need to know if there's any danger that we're moving in that direction.
Most police states, surprisingly, come about through the democratic process with majority support. During a crisis, the rights of individuals and the minority are more easily trampled, which is more likely to condition a nation to become a police state than a military coup. Promised benefits initially seem to exceed the cost in dollars or lost freedom. When people face terrorism or great fear - from whatever source - the tendency to demand economic and physical security over liberty and self-reliance proves irresistible.
The masses are easily led to believe that security and liberty are mutually exclusive and demand for security far exceeds that for liberty.
Once it's discovered that the desire for both economic and physical security that prompted the sacrifice of liberty inevitably led to the loss of prosperity and no real safety, it's too late.
Reversing the trend from authoritarian rule toward a freer society becomes very difficult, takes a long time, and entails much suffering. Although dissolution of the Soviet empire was relatively nonviolent at the end, millions suffered from police suppression and economic deprivation in the decades prior to 1989. But what about here in the United States?
With respect to a police state, where are we and where are we going?
Let me make a few observations:
Our government already keeps close tabs on just about everything we do and requires official permission for nearly all of our activities.
One might take a look at our Capitol for any evidence of a police state. We see: barricades, metal detectors, police, military soldiers at times, dogs, ID badges required for every move, vehicles checked at airports and throughout the Capitol. The people are totally disarmed, except for the police and the criminals.
But worse yet, surveillance cameras in Washington are everywhere to ensure our safety. The terrorist attacks only provided the cover for the do-gooders who have been planning for a long time before last September to monitor us "for our own good." Cameras are used to spy on our drug habits, on our kids at school, on subway travelers, and on visitors to every government building or park. There's not much evidence of an open society in Washington, D.C., yet most folks do not complain - anything goes if it's for government-provided safety and security.
If this huge amount of information and technology is placed in the hands of the government to catch the bad guys, one naturally asks, What's the big deal? But it should be a big deal, because it eliminates the enjoyment of privacy that a free society holds dear.
The personal information of law-abiding citizens can be used for reasons other than safety - including political reasons. Like gun control, people control hurts law-abiding citizens much more than the law-breakers.
Social Security numbers are used to monitor our daily activities. The numbers are given at birth, and then are needed when we die and for everything in between. This allows government record keeping of monstrous proportions, and accommodates the thugs who would steal others' identities for criminal purposes.
This invasion of privacy has been compounded by the technology now available to those in government who enjoy monitoring and directing the activities of others. Loss of personal privacy was a major problem long before 9/11.
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