When the history of the Twentieth Century is written, our descendants will shake their heads and wonder how any decent, rational person could have supported such collective insanity. They'll marvel at how we, our parents, and our grandparents managed to endure a hundred years during which our leaders murdered tens of millions of citizens; a century in which political powers stole, squandered, and seized trillions of dollars of private wealth; ten decades that witnessed the strangling of freedom, the weakening of the rule of law, and the denigration of individualism, reason, and free enterprise.
Yet here we stand contemplating a new millennium. Mixed with our apprehension and our doubts are cautious optimism and hope that this interminable winter of tyranny is finally ending. Overt support for collectivism has become a rarity. Those seeking power over others must now cloak their darker goals under the friendlier camouflage of communitarianism, environmentalism, or social democracy. The very viciousness of their attacks on the values we seek to uphold reveals their increasing fear and sinking desperation.
Think tanks and organizations devoted to advancing the promise of liberty sprout like early spring flowers through melting drifts of snow. Welfare recipients diminish in numbers as we slowly inch towards erasing the entitlement mentality. Teen pregnancies are down, reflecting an increase in a concern for personal responsibility. Violent crime shrinks while honest citizens can now legally carry the means to defend themselves in a majority of states. Cyber-communities are rich with libertarian spirit and innovation offering us ways around the barriers others use to hem us in.
In Washington, politicians discuss privatization of Social Security without being laughed from the halls of Congress. The idea -- if not the reality -- of balanced budgets holds sway over veiled yearnings for deficit spending. Even one of the biggest supporters of burgeoning government control over our lives finds it necessary to declare that the "era of big government is over."
Some politicians even timidly whisper that the government should abolish the IRS, cut spending, and retreat from micro-managing the lives of adults in every aspect of their daily existence.
That, of course, is why I am here. I have no intention of "whispering" anything in the crowded corridors of our nation's capital. I am here to shout, to declare, to demand that the extortion must end; that the robbery and subtle slavery must cease; that the sanctity of the individual must be recognized, respected, and promoted in each and every area of life.
I am here to insist that we as a nation must return to a social and political foundation that makes it possible for me -- for you, for anyone -- to be moral.
I am here to assert that my body, my mind, my life belong to me...just as yours belongs to you. What I choose peacefully to do with those aspects of who I am is no one's business but my own and those who elect to associate with me.
I am here to announce that I, Larry Hines, as the Libertarian candidate for president in the year 2000 will not attempt to buy off or pander to the public to win their votes; that I refuse to distort or dilute who I am and what I believe simply because others might be offended by the truth; that I will uphold an unsullied vision of freedom, individualism, and capitalism. Only by doing this -- by adhering unflinchingly to our values -- will our struggle to restore a society truly compatible with mutual respect, justice, and personal fulfillment succeed.
Still, being unyielding in my principles and refusing to compromise away my identity does not necessarily mean attacking or insulting those who disagree with us. Assaulting others is easy. The majority of those "thugs in suits" who sit in judgment over us at all levels of government have proven that time and again. It requires no great talent to tear down, to deny, to destroy. Ultimately, of course, such a strategy is self-defeating. Once you have leveled the nation into crumbling ruins, what is there left to control?
Plus, personally, I find it distasteful to dwell on the negative. I prefer to build on our commonalities, to appeal to the best within those who are dissatisfied with the world they observe. Many are implicitly sympathetic to our goals but have yet to discover the reality of what liberty offers them. There are, of course, those who are deaf to rational argument, blind to facts, immune to a reality which does not conform to their cherished image of society.
I learned long ago not to waste my breath conversing with a brick wall.
Those lost cases, though, are the exception -- vocal sometimes, it is true -- but still a minority of those with whom we come into contact.
For too many Americans, there is a gaping chasm between the principles by which they deal with friends, family, and co-workers...and those they appeal to in the political realm.
It is my task -- our task -- to heal that breach, to demonstrate to those who look to government for guidance and material support that the political is merely an extension of the personal. If robbery, rape, and slavery are wrong for an individual or group of individuals to practice, those black, vicious acts are not somehow transmuted into the gold of moral behavior by electing someone to do the dirty work for you.
This is the fact we must make clear to the voters. This is the perspective we must convey to those who have never fully considered the implications of their political positions.
We must reclaim the moral initiative from the closet collectivists seeking to dominate America. We must not permit them to set the terms of this debate for the future of our country...and ourselves.
The political policies we advocate are the most practical of paths to follow. We realize that the free market, voluntary social interactions, and individual autonomy provide the best framework for producing the values necessary for a fully human life.
Unfortunately, those opponents we seek to supplant likewise claim that their programs are the proper means to achieve such a life. It's unsurprising that voters are often taken in or confused by such assertions.
Discussions across this gulf tend to dwell on the practical results of this law or that regulation. Disputing factual errors and illuminating the destructive implications of what others hope to impose upon us is, of course, a significant aspect of our struggle. Too often, however, we who defend liberty become embroiled and bogged down in details, in the process becoming sidetracked, diffusing our focus on what is most important and essential:
The moral dimension of freedom.
We have a moral right to live our lives for ourselves, to select and pursue our own goals and purposes.
We have a moral right to succeed or fail, to benefit or suffer from the consequences of our actions.
We have a moral right to exist as individuals, independent in the highest sense of that term, to be free of those who would protect us from ourselves or force us to adhere to their judgments of how we should behave, what we should believe, how we should exist.
We should end the Drug War, not merely because of its monetary costs to users and prohibitionists alike, but because we have a moral right as adults to decide what we will or will not introduce into our bodies. The shredding of the Constitution, the federalization of our legal system, and the militarization of our police forces are expected results of an immoral course of action imposed upon us by our political leaders.
We should abolish government run schools, not merely because they don't accomplish the goal of educating our youth, but because parents have a moral right to decide what ideas and by what methods their children will be taught. Government control of knowledge is abhorrent to those of us who cherish truth and the free marketplace of ideas.
Our borders should be open to honest and productive immigrants, not solely because they add to the wealth, productivity, and progress of our society, but because people have a moral right peacefully to travel and work wherever someone will employ them.
We should abolish government funded social security, medical benefits, welfare for both individuals and businesses, and every other "entitlement" program, not simply because they distort prices, misallocate resources, and encourage fraud, but because each individual has a moral right to his own property. Those in need can ask for assistance, but need is not and can never be a claim on wealth. Adults are responsible for their own lives, whether they choose to accept that fact or not.
We formally abolished slavery nearly a century and a half ago. It's high time we follow through on that commitment. We must free ourselves from a situation in which half our wealth is taxed away, where the realm of our moral autonomy is constantly constricted by an ever-increasing burden of rules, regulations, and laws.
We should honor the Second Amendment to the Constitution and repeal any and all limits on the ability of law-abiding citizens to carry and use personal firearms. Not only would we have a safer society if more citizens went armed against the predators seeking to harm them, but each of us has a moral right to defend himself, to protect and defend that life which is the basis for any and all other values we might ever hope to achieve.
Government is not a "necessary evil." There are no evils that are necessary. There is only that evil we produce ourselves or which we allow to continue because we do not speak out against it, because we do not act forcefully enough to defeat it. We must not and will not condone any transgression of that moral barrier which allows us to conduct our lives, to carry on our relationships, to work as we each judge to be correct and proper for our own, individual contexts.
A properly constrained government is one of the highest -- and rarest values -- any group of people can create and maintain. Yet precisely because a limited government ready and able to defend our rights to life, liberty, and property is such a central and important value, it -- like all our highest values -- is difficult to obtain and, perhaps, even more difficult to sustain.
Government is only a tool, a means to an end. Like fire, it can help us to achieve our goals. If we become complacent, however, if we take its functioning for granted or permit it to escape its proper domain, it can destroy all we hold dear. It can destroy us. This is one servant that truly makes for a terrifying master.
It's time we make it plainly obvious to the voters that they have a choice: they can evade the reality of what they have helped to create and continue to surrender their moral autonomy to the status quo. Or they can reclaim their heritage of liberty and moral integrity, repudiate those who arrogantly reserve to themselves the right to decide how others shall live, and restore our tattered Constitution to its original lustre and dignity.
Today's politicians proclaim they have "compassion" for their constituents. It's a strange compassion, however, which restricts, binds, and destroys, not only materially but spiritually and intellectually, as well.
We don't have to grant the collectivists their assumptions. We don't have to let them define the boundaries of this struggle.
We have a chance -- the opportunity -- on this cusp between one century and another, between the second millennium and the third, to establish the conditions necessary for our future historians to write that we did, indeed, step back from the brink before it was too late; that we, as a society, came to our senses and did not toss aside the values men such as Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, George Washington, and James Madison fought so diligently to bequeath to us.
With your help and your support, I will work as your presidential candidate to ensure that the Twenty-first Century does not repeat the mistakes of the Twentieth.
We owe that much to our children, yes. But even more so, we owe it to ourselves.