By Ronald Reagan, 1964
[Ronald Reagan's "A time for choosing," is considered one of the most successful political fundraising speeches in history. It was made on Oct. 27, 1964. In this speech Ronald Reagan urges voters to support Barry
Goldwater, who was the candidate for President.]
I have spent most of my life as a Democrat. I recently have
seen fit to follow another course. I believe that the issues
confronting us cross party lines. But I have an
uncomfortable feeling that this prosperity isn't something
upon which we can base our hopes for the future.
No nation in history has ever survived a tax burden that
reached a third of its national income. Today, thirty-seven
cents out of every dollar earned in this country is the tax
collector's share, and yet our government continues to
spend 17 million dollars a day more than the government
takes in. We haven't balanced our budget twenty-eight out
of the last thirty-four years. We have raised our debt limit
three times in the last twelve months, and now our national
debt is one and a half times bigger than all the combined
debts of all the nations of the world.
Well, I think it's time we ask ourselves if we still know the
freedoms that were intended for us by the Founding Fathers.
This idea that government is beholden to the people, that it
has no other source of power except the sovereign people, is
still the newest and most unique idea in all the long history
of man's relation to man. This is the issue of this election.
Whether we believe in our capacity for self-government or
whether we abandon the American Revolution and confess
that a little intellectual elite in a far-distant capital can plan
our lives for us better than we can plan them ourselves.
You and I are told increasingly that we have to choose
between a left or right, but I would like to suggest that there
is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or
down--up to man's age-old dream--the ultimate in individual
freedom consistent with law and order--or down to the ant
heap of totalitarianism, and regardless of their sincerity, their
humanitarian motives, those who would trade our freedom for
security have embarked on this downward course.
In this vote-harvesting time, they use terms like the "Great
Society," or, as we were told a few days ago by the
President, we must accept a "greater government activity in
the affairs of the people." But...the full power of centralized
government--this was the very thing the Founding Fathers
sought to minimize. They knew that governments don't
control things. A government can't control the economy
without controlling people. And they knew when a
government sets out to do that, it must use force and
coercion to achieve its purpose. They also knew, those
Founding Fathers, that outside of its legitimate functions,
government does nothing as well or as economically as the
private sector of the economy.
We brought a thousand TV
sets for a place where
they have no electricity!
For three decades, we have sought to solve the problems of
unemployment through government planning, and the more
the plans fail, the more the planners plan.
We have so many people who can't see a fat man standing
beside a thin one without coming to the conclusion that the
fat man got that way by taking advantage of the thin one! So
they are going to solve all the problems of human misery
through government and government planning. Well, now if
government planning and welfare had the answer, and
they've had almost thirty years of it, shouldn't we expect
government to read the score to us once in a while?
Shouldn't they be telling us about the decline each year in
the number of people needing help [or] the reduction in the
need for public housing?
But the reverse is true. Each year the need grows greater,
the program grows greater. We were told four years ago
that seventeen million people went to bed hungry each
night. Well, that was probably true. They were all on a
diet! But now we are told that 9.3 million families in this
country are poverty-stricken on the basis of earning less
than $3,000 a year. Welfare spending is ten times greater
than the dark depths of the Depression. We are spending
45 billion dollars on welfare. Now, do a little arithmetic, and
you will find that if we divided the 45 billion dollars up equally
among those 9 million poor families, we would be able to
give each family $4,600 a year, and this added to their
present income should eliminate poverty! Direct aid to the
poor, however, is running only about $600 per family. It
seems that someplace there must be some overhead.
So now we declare "war on poverty"....We are now going to
solve the dropout problem, juvenile delinquency, by
re-instituting something like the old CCC camps, and we are
going to put our young people in camps, but again we do
some arithmetic, and we find that we are going to spend
each year just on room and board, for each young person
that we help, $4,700 a year! We can send them to Harvard
for $2,700! Don't get me wrong. I'm not suggesting that
Harvard is the answer to juvenile delinquency!
Yet anytime you and I question the schemes of the
do-gooders, we are denounced as being against their
humanitarian goals. They say we are always "against"
things, never "for" anything. Well, the trouble with our liberal
friends is not that they are ignorant, but that they know so
much that isn't so!
We are for a provision that destitution should not follow
unemployment by reason of old age, and to that end, we
have accepted social security as a step toward meeting the
problem. But we are against those entrusted with this
program when they practice deception regarding its fiscal
shortcomings, when they charge that any criticism of the
program means that we want to end payments to those
people who depend on them for a livelihood.
We are for aiding our allies by sharing of our material
blessings with those nations which share our fundamental
beliefs, but we are against doling our money government to
government, creating bureaucracy, if not socialism, all over
the world. We set out to help 19 countries. We are helping
107. We spend $146 billion. With that money, we brought
a 2-million-dollar yacht for Haile Selassie. We brought dress
suits for Greek undertakers, extra wives for Kenya
government officials. We brought a thousand TV sets for a
place where they have no electricity! In the last six years,
fifty-two nations have brought $7 billion of our gold, and all
fifty-two are receiving foreign aid from this country.
No government ever voluntarily reduces itself in size. So
government programs, once launched, never disappear.
Actually, a government bureau is the nearest thing to eternal
life we'll ever see on this earth!
Those who would trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of
the welfare state have told us that they have a utopian
solution of peace without victory. They call this policy
"accommodation." And they say if we only avoid any direct
confrontation with the enemy, he will forget his evil ways and
learn to love us.
All who oppose them are indicted as warmongers. They say
we offer simple answers to complex problems.
Alexander Hamilton said, "A nation which can prefer
disgrace to danger is prepared for a master, and deserves
one!" Let's set the record straight. There is no argument
over the choice between peace and war, but there is only
one guaranteed way you can have peace...and you can have
it in the next second...surrender!
You and I know and do not believe that life is so dear and
peace so sweet as to be purchased at the price of chains
and slavery. If nothing in life is worth dying for, when did this
begin--just in the face of this enemy?--or should Moses have
told the children of Israel to live in slavery under the
pharaohs? Should Christ have refused the cross? Should
the patriots at Concord Bridge have thrown down their guns
and refused to fire the shot heard around the world? The
martyrs of history were not fools, and our honored dead who
gave their lives to stop the advance of the Nazis didn't die in
vain! Where, then, is the road to peace? Well, it's a simple
answer after all.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, "There is
a price we will not pay." There is a point beyond which they
must not advance! This is the meaning in the phrase of
Barry Goldwater's "peace through strength!"
You and I have a rendezvous with destiny. We will preserve
for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or
we will sentence them to take the last step into a thousand
years of darkness.
We will keep in mind and remember that Barry Goldwater
has faith in us. He has faith that you and I have the ability
and the dignity and the right to make our own decisions and
determine our own destiny. Thank you.