The Cato lnstitute has an unusual political
cause - which is no
political cause whatsoever. We are here tonight to dedicate
ourselves to that cause. To dedicate ourselves, in other words,
We have no ideology, no agenda. no catechism,
no plan for humanity. We have no "vision thing," as our ex-president would say, or, as our current president would say, we have no Hillary.
All we have is the belief that people should do what people want to do, unless it causes harm to other people. And that had better be clear and provable harm. No nonsense about second-hand smoke or hurtful, insensitive language, please.
I don't know what's good for you. You don't
know what's good for me. We don't
know what's good for mankind. And it sometimes seems as though we're
the only people who don't. It may well be that, gathered right here in this room tonight, are all the people in the world who don't want to tell all the people in the world what to do.
This is because we believe in freedom. Freedom
- what this country was established
upon, what the Constitution was written to defend, what the
Civil War was fought to perfect.
Freedom is not empowerment. Empowerment is
what the Serbs have in Bosnia.
Anybody can grab a gun and be empowered. It's not entitlement. An
entitlement is what people on welfare get, and how free are they? It's not
an endlessly expanding list of rights - the "right" to education, the "right"
to health care, the "right" to food and housing. That's not freedom, that's
dependency. Those aren't rights, those are the rations of slavery - hay and
a barn for human cattle.
There is only one basic human right, the right
to do as you damn well
please. And with it comes the only basic human duty, the duty to take the
So we are here tonight in a kind of anti-matter
protest - an unpolitical
undemonstration by deeply uncommitted inactivists. We are part of a huge
invisible picket line that circles the White House twenty-four hours a day.
We are participants in an enormous non-march on Washington - millions and
millions of Americans not descending upon the nation's capital in order to
demand nothing from the United States government. To demand nothing, that
is, except the one thing which no government in history has been able to
do - leave us alone.
There are just two rules of governance in a
free society: Mind your own
business. Keep your hands to yourself.
Bill, keep your hands to yourself. Hillary,
mind your own business. We have
a group of incredibly silly people in the White House nght now, people who
think government works. Or that government would work, if you got some real
bright young kids from Yale to run it. We're being governed by dorm room
bull session. The Clinton administration is over there right now pulling an
allnighter in the West Wing. They think that, if they can just stay up late
enough, they can create a healthy economy and bring peace to former
Yugoslavia. The Clinton administration is going to decrease government
spending by increasing the amount of money we give to the government to
spend. Health care is too expensive, so the Clinton administration is
putting a highpowered corporate lawyer in charge of making it cheaper.
(This is what I always do when I want to spend less money - hire a lawyer
from Yale.) If you think health care is expensive now, wait until you see
what it costs when it's free.
The Clinton administration is putting together
a program so that college
graduates can work to pay off their school tuition. As if this were some
genius idea. It's called getting a job. Most folks do that when they get
out of college, unless, of course, they happen to become governor of Arkansas.
And the Clinton administration launched an
attack on people in Texas
because those people were religious nuts with guns. Hell, this country was
founded by religious nuts with guns. Who does Bill Clinton think stepped
ashore on Plymouth Rock? Peace Corps volunteers? Or maybe the people in
Texas were attacked because of child abuse. But, if child abuse was the
issue, why didn't Janet Reno tear-gas Woody Allen?
You know. if government were a product, selling
it would be illegal.
Government is a health hazard. Governments have killed many more people
than cigarettes or unbuckled seat belts ever have. Government contains
impure ingredients - as anybody who's looked at Congress can tell you. On the
basis of Bill Clinton's 1992 campaign promises. I think we can say government
practices deceptive advertising. And the merest glance at the federal budget
is enough to convict the government of perjury, extortion, and fraud. There,
ladies and gentlemen, you have the Cato Institute's program in a nutshell:
government should be against the law. Term limits aren't enough. We need jail.
P. J. O'Rourke is the Cato Institute's Menken research
fellow. He delivered
these remarks at a May 6 gala dinner celebrating the opening of the Cato
Institute's new headquarters in Washington.
From The American Spectator, July 1993