Modern History Sourcebook:
A Time for Choosing Speech, 1964
I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology
It's time we asked ourselves if we still know the freedoms intended
for us by the Founding Fathers. James Madison said, "We base
all our experiments on the capacity of mankind for self government."
This idea? that government was beholden to the people, that it
had no other source of power is still the newest, 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
You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but
I suggest 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 maximum of individual
freedom consistent with order or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism.
Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those
who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this
downward path. Plutarch warned, "The real destroyer of the
liberties of the people is he who spreads among them bounties,
donations and benefits."
The Founding Fathers knew 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. So we have come to a time for choosing.
Public servants say, always with the best of intentions, "What
greater service we could render if only we had a little more money
and a little more power." But the truth is that outside of
its legitimate function, government does nothing as well or as
economically as the private sector.
Yet any time you and I question the schemes of the do-gooders,
we're denounced as being opposed to their humanitarian goals.
It seems impossible to legitimately debate their solutions with
the assumption that all of us share the desire to help the less
fortunate. They tell us we're always "against," never
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. However, 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....
We are for aiding our allies by sharing our material blessings
with nations which share our fundamental beliefs, but we are against
doling out money government to government, creating bureaucracy,
if not socialism, all over the world.
We need true tax reform that will at least make a start toward
I restoring for our children the American Dream that wealth is
denied to no one, that each individual has the right to fly as
high as his strength and ability will take him.... But we can
not have such reform while our tax policy is engineered by people
who view the tax as a means of achieving changes in our social
Have we the courage and the will to face up to the immorality
and discrimination of the progressive tax, and demand a return
to traditional proportionate taxation? . . . Today in our country
the tax collector's share is 37 cents of -very dollar earned.
Freedom has never been so fragile, so close to slipping from our
Are you willing to spend time studying the issues, making yourself
aware, and then conveying that information to family and friends?
Will you resist the temptation to get a government handout for
your community? Realize that the doctor's fight against socialized
medicine is your fight. We can't socialize the doctors without
socializing the patients. Recognize that government invasion of
public power is eventually an assault upon your own business.
If some among you fear taking a stand because you are afraid of
reprisals from customers, clients, or even government, recognize
that you are just feeding the crocodile hoping he'll eat you last.
If all of this seems like a great deal of trouble, think what's
at stake. We are faced with the most evil enemy mankind has known
in his long climb from the swamp to the stars. There can be no
security anywhere in the free world if there is no fiscal and
economic stability within the United States. Those who ask us
to trade our freedom for the soup kitchen of the welfare state
are architects of a policy of accommodation.
They say the world has become too complex for simple answers.
They are wrong. There are no easy answers, but there are simple
answers. We must have the courage to do what we know is morally
right. Winston Churchill said that "the destiny of man is
not measured by material computation. When great forces are on
the move in the world, we learn we are spirits-not animals."
And he said, "There is something going on in time and space,
and beyond time and space, which, whether we like it or not, spells
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 first step into a thousand years of
darkness. If we fail, at least let our children and our children's
children say of us we justified our brief moment here. We did
all that could be done.
This text is part of the Internet Modern History Sourcebook.
The Sourcebook is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted
texts for introductory level classes in modern European and World
Unless otherwise indicated the specific electronic form of the
document is copyright. Permission is granted for electronic copying,
distribution in print form for educational purposes and personal
use. If you do reduplicate the document, indicate the source.
No permission is granted for commercial use of the Sourcebook.
(c)Paul Halsall May1998