Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), pictured earlier this year, delivered his final… (Charles Rex Arbogast / Associated…)
Libertarian icon and three-time presidential hopeful Ron Paul delivered his final address on the House floor Wednesday, admitting that while he sees little progress in favor of his defined cause of freedom, he sees a chance the tide can turn as he steps away from Congress.
Paul, a Republican who leans heavily toward libertarianism and has served Texas’ 22nd District intermittently since 1976, admitted that “according to conventional wisdom,” his tenure on Capitol Hill has “accomplished very little.”
“No named legislation, no named federal buildings or highways – thank goodness. In spite of my efforts, the government has grown exponentially, taxes remain excessive and the prolific increase of incomprehensible regulations continues,” Paul said. “Wars are constant and pursued without congressional declaration, deficits rise to the sky, poverty is rampant and dependency on the federal government is now worse than any time in our history.”
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Paul painted a portrait of a country with “no loot left to divvy up,” approaching a fiscal cliff “much bigger” than the one looming Jan. 1 and impending authoritarianism. Doom accompanied gloom in spades, with Paul’s frustration with his inability to stem what he sees as the constriction of freedom evident as he spoke.
It’s rare to find a member of Congress speaking from the floor and condemning the nation’s trajectory over the last century, accusing the populace of becoming beguiled by “endless” wealth, but there Paul was.
“As long as most people believed the material abundance would last forever, worrying about protecting a competitive productive economy and individual liberty seemed unnecessary,” he said.
The only solution Paul sees, as he makes a transition from lawmaker to figurehead, is “an intellectual awakening,” one that hearkens back to the founders’ views on civil liberties and eschews what Paul sees as the collusion between Democrats and Republicans.
“Everyone claims support for freedom. But too often it’s for one’s own freedom and not for others. Too many believe that there must be limits to freedom,” Paul said. “They argue that freedom must be directed and managed to achieve fairness and equality, thus making it acceptable to curtail, through force, certain liberties.”
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“The best chance for achieving peace and prosperity, for the maximum number of people worldwide, is to pursue the cause of liberty,” he concluded.
Paul’s speech was met with some applause, but was ultimately overshadowed by President Obama’s post-election news conference, which was already halfway over, and relegated to C-SPAN’s online streams. Which, ultimately, seems appropriate for a man whose underdog status has drawn increasingly large numbers to his cause, and whose supporters frequently clash with the Republican Party establishment.
In the end, perhaps nothing better summarizes Paul than a plea he made toward the end of his speech, in which he asked the nation to forego envy, greed and intolerance and supplant them with “love, compassion, tolerance and free-market economics.”
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