A Time for Choosing-In Honor of His Birthday, Here is a 1964 Speech by Ronald Reagan

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”’To celebrate, here is his 1964 nominating speech for Barry Goldwater.”’

I am going to talk of controversial things. I make no apology for this.


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 ourselves.

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

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 “for” anything.

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 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 structure….

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 every dollar earned. Freedom has never
been so fragile, so close to slipping from our grasp.

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

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 duty.”

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.