“When everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society.” Albert Jay Nock
If you’re like me you’ve seen more of Ron Paul’s speeches than you can count. And no doubt during several of those speeches you too have heard mention of what Dr. Paul calls the “remnant,” a group that cannot be counted but is still alive and well. When I first heard him mention the remnant, I didn’t know exactly what he meant but my curiosity grew each time I heard him mention it. Through my research I ran across an old libertarian thinker by the name of Albert Jay Nock who wrote in the first half of the 20th century and defined the term in an essay entitled “Isaiah’s Job.” Both Dr. Paul and Nock discuss the uncountable nature of the remnant. I believe by comparing Nock’s definition of the remnant to Dr. Paul’s description of our movement that we can understand exactly what Dr. Paul means to tell us by mentioning it in his speeches.
One of the references I remembered quite clearly and inspired me to think about writing this article, was the speech Congressman Paul made at the Texas Freedom & Liberty Banquet here in Austin, Texas. Most memorable is how Dr. Paul defines our movement and its mission. “We have the right answers, the right ideas, we’ve understood it, we understand the history of what has happened.” But, Paul laments, “we probably won’t be able to have enough time to get enough people into Washington, and enough support in the Congress, for us to have deliberations and logical votes and move away from this and come back to our senses. What’s going to happen is we’re going to have a major crisis and then there will be a real contest over whether we’re going to end up with a dictator or not.” In other words, if you believe Ron Paul’s words, we will not be able to win this fight for freedom by averting crisis through some mass awakening. The sheeple are not yet ready for our message and we don’t have the time needed to convince them, to get them active, and to take back the country before the crisis arrives. But what does this have to do with the remnant?
I believe exploring Albert Jay Nock’s enlightening vision of the remnant in “Isaiah’s Job” can provide us with this answer. In the article, Nock recalls the story of the prophet Isaiah from the Old Testament. Isaiah is called by God to preach to the people of Israel about their decadent ways but God admits to Isaiah that “‘It won’t do any good. The official class and their intelligentsia will turn up their noses at you and the masses will not even listen. They will all keep on in their own ways until they carry everything down to destruction.’ … It raised the obvious question: Why, if all that were so – if the enterprise were to be a failure from the start – was there any sense in starting it? ‘Ah,’ the Lord said, ‘you do not get the point. There is a Remnant there that you know nothing about. They are obscure, unorganized, inarticulate, each one rubbing along as best he can. They need to be encouraged and braced up because when everything has gone completely to the dogs, they are the ones who will come back and build up a new society; and meanwhile, your preaching will reassure them and keep them hanging on. Your job is to take care of the Remnant.'” Thus, like our movement, Isaiah and his remnant would not be able to effect the change necessary in time to avert the crisis. It was only after the disaster occurred could they hope to rebuild on a solid foundation and it was Isaiah’s job to keep them encouraged and prepare them for their coming role as rebuilders. It seems that Ron Paul views our movement as the modern remnant and himself, and other liberty leaders, as modern Isaiahs.
If the fact that the circumstances the remnant of Isaiah found themselves in are so similar to those faced by the Ron Paul Revolution doesn’t convince you of this, we can more thoroughly explore the common character of the Remnant and our own movement. So what was the remnant like? Nock says that “The Remnant are those who by force of intellect are able to apprehend these principles, and by force of character are able, at least measurably, to cleave to them.” The principles he mentions are “the humane life” and the “laws of conduct” or, in other words, the nature of man and morality. Sounds a lot like Ron Paul’s description of we who have the “right answers, … [and] the right ideas.”
With this knowledge of Nock’s description of the remnant and it’s circumstance taken with Dr. Paul’s statements about our movement, we get clarity about our own position of responsibility. Ron Paul said in a campaign update from just before his congressional primary, “We can never count the remnant, but we can certainly energize those who have been identified already.” It seems clear that Dr. Paul means that we are the remnant of our time and that because we are we must be energized for our task. Indeed in his speech at that Freedom & Liberty Banquet he says just this, “Once you discover that you really understand where our problems came from and how important the philosophy of liberty is, the responsibility is a heavier burden than those who are totally naive and don’t care and don’t have any sense of responsibility, and that’s the way it is, it just happens that way, there will always be those people [who don’t understand].” What we would term sheep sounds awfully similar to Nock’s description of the masses on whose deaf ears Isaiah’s message would fall; “The mass-man is one who has neither the force of intellect to apprehend the principles issuing in what we know as the humane life, nor the force of character to adhere to those principles steadily and strictly as laws of conduct.”
But the message one must take from our understanding of the modern Remnant is not one of despair over our inability to reach the masses or effect any sort of mass awakening. Dr. Paul has assured us he “believe[s] that numbers aren’t the answer, it’s the dedication of a small number of people … All you have to do is be in a position of influence.” Such reassurance likely reminds the patriot listener of Samuel Adam’s famous words, “It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people’s minds.” Combine this with the opportunity of crisis and we have our purpose.
Dr. Paul says that there is a lot we can’t predict, but “the one thing that we can predict [is] that the currency will collapse.” Our responsibility, therefore, is to act accordingly by investing in gold, land, and other important commodities so that our wealth will survive the collapse and we can emerge from the crisis in positions of influence. As Morton Blackwell of the Leadership Institute says, “You can’t save the world if you can’t pay the rent.” But not only is economic security important to emerge in positions of influence, but we must also learn the skills of political activism. Ron Paul told us that “the Founders were more than just those who thought and read and understood what history was all about … they were also political activists.” We need to learn how to win. Take advantage of all the political training you can get. The Leadership Institute is a great resources in this regard. For those of you attending the YAL National Convention next week, take careful notes and reference them often. The crisis will come whether we’re ready or not and it is our responsibility, indeed it is our duty, to be prepared to rebuild on a foundation of freedom.