49 years later, Reagan's warnings for America still fall on deaf ears

The choice Reagan laid out in his classic 1964 speech, Photo: AP

HOUSTON, April 5, 2013 ― The choice Ronald Reagan put before Americans in his famous speech, “A Time For Choosing,” is even more applicable and even more immediate today than it was 49 years ago.

Reagan delivered his speech in support of presidential candidate Barry Goldwater on October 17, 1964. In his immortal words, he declared, “You and I are told increasingly we have to choose between a left or right. Well I’d like to suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There’s only an up or down—[up] man’s old—old-aged dream, the ultimate in individual freedom consistent with law and order, or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.” Reagan’s warning to America may sound extreme to some, but it is based on history, and America is not immune from the problems that brought other pinnacle nations to their knees.

There is a reason why, when America was still a constitutional republic, immigrants flocked here in droves from all over the world and embraced our culture and way of life. This is because America is the only country in the world where both economic and social freedom were guaranteed to all citizens and where true economic mobility existed based on merit and work ethic. The reason America was the envy of the world was because of our equality of opportunity, individual liberty, constitutionally limited government, and free market economy. The concept of government by, of and for the people is still the newest and by far the most successful government structure in the history of the world.

Centralized Planning – the ONLY other choice

The lust for power and control amongst some in the government class today is so great that the litany of current and historical examples of centrally-planned failure, without one example of successful central planning, is effectively ignored. Some in very powerful positions truly do believe that this experiment in liberty and freedom that produced the most prosperous nation and the highest standard of living for the greatest number of individuals the world has ever seen is doomed to fail because man is incapable of self-government and therefore, our system requires a “fundamental transformation.”

We are told that the articulated reason of a chosen few elites is more trustworthy than systemic social processes, such as the free market, that have been formed by the experience of millions of individuals over hundreds of years. We are told further that men are not wise or virtuous enough on their own to make decisions for themselves. Therefore, the only other possible way of governing, outside of pure anarchy, is a very large, centralized government with a chosen few who make the decisions for us poor fools who cannot think for ourselves. The question remains though, that if man is not capable of self-government, what man among us is capable of governing 350 million people?


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America is not yet a communist or even a socialist nation. It is not clear what kind of government America has today, but we have drifted so far away from our founding principles that our government looks much more like a European “Social Democracy” than it does a Jeffersonian Republic. Very high taxes, very high borrowing and debt-financed spending, perpetually high unemployment, extreme government regulation and involvement in the economy, very difficult economic mobility and a cradle-to-grave welfare state have traditionally defined European Social Democracies, but that description is very fitting for where America is today. One only needs to watch the violence and devastation created in the European Union by these policies to foresee a glimpse of where the road America is on leads.

It is ironic and extremely unfortunate that America continually needs to be reminded of the benefits of constitutionally limited government and the detriments of centralized government planning. Americans must understand, as Reagan did, that freedom is not inherited by blood; every generation must fight to keep it. Our ancestors gave all they had to guarantee us our freedoms, and we have been entrusted to pass them on to the next generation. If we lose freedom here, as Reagan said, “there is no place to escape to. This is the last stand on earth.”

The deception and lies propagated by the government class who care not about our country but rather about their own jobs, must come to an end. It is clear now that the media will never hold the government class accountable and will continue to play their fiddles until Rome has completely and totally burned. Therefore, we must, as individuals, help to make our friends and acquaintances aware of the troubled road we have chosen to travel and get involved in any way that we can.

President Reagan believed, as he stated in this speech, that “we have the ability, the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and determine our own destiny,” and that if we do not protect our God-given and constitutionally guaranteed freedoms at all costs, “history will record with the greatest astonishment that those who had the most to lose, did the least to prevent its happening.”


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James Richard Edwards

James R. Edwards is a medical malpractice defense attorney in Houston, Tx. He obtained a Bachelor’s degree from LSU (Geaux Tigers!) in Psychology and subsequently went on to attend the University of Houston Law Center. James became interested in politics in law school because of the consistent and oppressive disgust and revulsion shown by the staff and Professors for the Constitution and for America in general. He is a tireless advocate for federalism and minimizing the impact the federal government has on all of our lives. 

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