A video of Ron Paul giving a speech on the floor of Congress in April of 2002 has been going around, because it’s five minutes of him making roughly a baker’s dozen predictions about major events of the following decade.
Let’s see how he did:
Mr. Speaker, our government intervention in the economy, the private affairs of citizens and the internal affairs of foreign countries leads to uncertainty and many unintended consequences. Here are some of the consequences about which we should be concerned:
I predict US taxpayers will pay to rebuild Palestine — both the West Bank and the Gaza, as well as Afghanistan. US taxpayers paid to bomb these areas, so we will be expected to rebuild them.
Accurate, but also just common sense. We give a lot of aid and weaponry to Israel, which uses them to bomb Palestine, and we also give a lot of aid to Palestine. The Afghanis are so poor, they definitely can’t be expected to pay for reconstruction themselves, and a functioning country is in our interest so that it doesn’t become a breeding ground for terrorism again.
Peace of sorts will come to the Middle East, but will be short-lived. There will be big promises of more US money and weapons flowing to Israel and to Arab countries allied with the United States. US troops and others will be used to monitor the peace. In time, an oil boycott will be imposed with oil prices soaring to historic highs.
Somewhat accurate. Again, a lot of this is common sense: peace comes and goes in the Middle East, and America provides a lot of money and weapons in the area, as well as most of the global peacekeeping forces via the UN and NATO. While there was no oil boycott, the price of oil did skyrocket in the middle of the decade, for a variety of reasons. But Iran has been threatening to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, through which a lot of the world’s oil flows, so he could be proven completely right.
The price of oil peaked in 2008
Current Israeli-United States policies will solidify Arab Muslim nations in their effort to avenge the humiliation of the Palestinians. This will include those Muslim nations that in the past have fought against each other. Some of our moderate Arab allies will be overthrown by Islamic fundamentalists.
Mostly inaccurate. The only part that came true was the overthrow of Arab leaders in the Arab Spring, but it had nothing to do with American policies or Israel and everything to do with the global recession. While he predicted the effect, he didn’t predict the cause, and therefore the roots of the prediction tree are poisonous. Also, Arab leaders are pretty routinely overthrown, so again, it’s common sense to say that it’ll happen again soon.
The UN will continue to condemn, through resolutions, Israeli-US policies in the Middle East and they will be ignored. Some European countries will clandestinelly support the Muslim countries and their anti-Israel pursuits. China, ironically assisted by American aid, much more openly will sell the militant Muslims the weapons they want and will align herself with the Arab nations.
Somewhat accurate. This is more common sense: the same story has been repeating for years. European companies love doing business with Arab countries because they have a lot of money. China, as a growing economy thirsty for energy, has to align itself with Arab countries in order to guarantee its energy supply. It should be noted that when he says that China is assisted by American aid, he probably doesn’t mean direct aid, but rather that a lot of American money ends up in Chinese factories.
United States, with Tony Blair as head cheerleader, will attack Iraq without proper authority in a major war, the largest since World War II will result.
Accurate. This may not have been that hard to see coming a year before it actually happened, but is still kind of impressive.
Major moves will be made by China, India, Russia and Pakistan in central Asia, to take advantage of the chaos for the purpose of grabbing land, resources and strategic advantages sought after for years.
Somewhat accurate. No “major moves” have taken place, but Russia has been dealing with Iran a lot, especially with respect to their nuclear ambitions, and to a lesser extent, with India. China and Pakistan have become close allies. Pakistani terrorists attacked India in 2006 and 2008.
The Karzai government will fail and US military presence will end in Afghanistan.
Inaccurate. Assuming that by “fail” he meant that it will be overthrown, or that at least he would be voted out of office, those things did not come to pass. The US military presence is also still there, but it does stand to reason that it will end at some point.
An international dollar crisis will dramatically boost interest rates in the United States. Price inflation with a major economic downturn will decimate US federal government finances amid exploding deficits and uncontrolled spending. Federal reserve policy will continue at an expanding rate with massive credit expansion, which will make the dollar crisis worse. Gold will be seen as an alternative to paper money as it returns to its historic role as money.
Accurate. This prediction is one of the most impressive, in that he foresaw the Great Recession. The cause wasn’t an international “dollar crisis” as much as an international money laundering crisis vis-à-vis the securities repackaging, but it’s close enough. The price inflation that came with the housing bubble contributed to the recession, which caused national debt to more than triple due to deficits and uncontrolled spending. The price of gold more than quadrupled since 2000.
Erosion of civil liberties here at home will continue, as our government responds to political fear in dealing with the terrorist threat by making generous use of the powers obtained with the Patriot Act.
Accurate. This may have been just libertarian common sense, but since the Patriot Act came into being, America has become heavily surveilled and the law itself has been abused all along to encroach on our civil liberties.
Many American military personnel and civilians will be killed in the coming conflict. The leaders of whichever side loses the war will be hauled into and tried before the International Criminal Court, for war crimes. The United States will not lose the war, but neither will we win. Our military and political leaders will not be tried by the International Criminal Court.
Somewhat accurate. Many civilians were killed in the Iraq war — in the hundreds of thousands — but not that many American soldiers. No one was hauled before the International Criminal Court (ICC), though Saddam was tried. America did neither lose nor win the war, though it did succeed in reshaping the country. And of course, no American leaders were tried by the ICC.
The reason he mentioned the ICC so much was probably because it was a hot-button issue back in 2002, which is when it came into being. The court only has jurisdiction in countries that have signed the corresponding treaty, which the US has never ratified; at the time of Ron Paul’s speech, there was a lot of debate on the subject.
Map of the ICC member states; those in green ratified the treaty, those in orange signed it but did not ratify
The Congress and the President will shift radically toward expanding the size and scope of the federal government. This will satisfy both the liberals and the conservatives. Military and police powers will grow, satisfying the conservatives. The welfare state, both domestic and international, will expand, satisfying the liberals. Both sides will endorse military adventurism overseas. This is the most important of my predictions.
Accurate. The government has expanded dramatically in the decade after 9/11. The military, due to fighting two wars. The federal police apparatus was consolidated under the new Department of Homeland Security (formed several months after this speech), and its powers have grown, alongside with local police. The country is well on the way to becoming a panopticon, in which police can see everything through the use of red-light cameras, scanners on police cars, and even flying drones.
The welfare state has also expanded, partly due to the ever-aging population that requires more government aid, partly due to the passage of the healthcare overhaul, and partly due to the high unemployment rate, which has required extensions of unemployment benefits.
And both sides endorsed military adventurism in Libya.
Policy changes could prevent all of the previous predictions from occurring. Unfortunately, that will not occur.
In due course, the Constitution will continue to be steadily undermined, and the American republic further weakened. During the next decade, the American people will become poorer and less free, while they become more dependent on the government for economic security.
Accurate. In the ten years following his speech, we have undoubtedly become poorer and less free, thanks to the Great Recession and the Patriot Act. And due to the volatility of the economy and high unemployment, government is the single biggest source of economic security.
The war will prove to be divisive with emotions and hatred growing between the various factions and special interests that drive our policies in the Middle East. Aggitation from more class warfare will succeed in dividing us domestically. And believe it or not, I expect lobbyists will thrive more than ever during the dangerous period of chaos.
Accurate. The Iraq War was almost as divisive as the Vietnam War. And class warfare culminated in the Tea Party and Occupy Movements.
I have no timetable for these predictions, but just in case, keep them around and look at them in 5 to 10 years. Lets hope and pray that I’m wrong on all accounts. If so, I will be very pleased.
In the end, is he a prophet? Obviously not: his more specific predictions (on the middle East, Afghanistan) betray his fallibility. And some of them were simply common sense. But many, including the most important ones, were almost clairvoyant: the Iraq War, the Great Recession, the rise of the police state, the government’s financial problems, the Occupy Movement. All of these could not have been predicted by mere chance.
Clearly Ron Paul has no superpowers, but it’s also clear that he does have something: excellent powers of observation and logic that allowed him to make a remarkably accurate guess at the general direction in which the country was heading.