The Thomas Jefferson Building of the Library of Congress is the least governmentlike building among all the tax-funded monstrosities in the nation’s capital. It was completed in 1897, at the tail end of the greatest period of economic growth in the history of humanity in what was then the world’s most prosperous country, just before civilization was taken down by World War I....
This building is the archetype of Gilded Age culture and confidence. A future of universal peace, prosperity, and learning seemed guaranteed. The captains of industry would replace the kings and dukes of old. The new world would feature a new kind of elite, not government, but business. They would serve society through enterprise. Their leadership in culture and the arts resulted from proven merit. War would be no more. Trade and business would rule the future. All of these themes are apparent in the decor and architecture.
In so many ways, this building is a relic of a type of government that we almost can’t imagine today. No expense was spared in construction. Classical themes are everywhere. The slogans on the walls try to capture ancient wisdom and are written with affected Latin lettering and feature characters from Greco-Roman mythology.
There is a beautiful innocence about the whole place. You can discern from this building alone why so many people once believed that government could be part of society, a guardian of the peace and prosperity of the nation. Government in those days seemed to wish us all well, favoring our well-being and prosperity and otherwise leaving us alone. There was no income tax, no central bank, no regulatory agencies, no national police, no passports, and no bureaus. The president was a caretaker, not a demigod.
In a few minutes, we were to meet the last living representative of this point of view, Ron Paul of Texas. In his long career in Congress, he voted against everything, as well he should have. His ideal is pre-WWI. Government should be a night watchman, nothing more. Taxes need to go. The central bank needs to be unplugged. We should get rid of “foreign policy” as that phrase is used today and replace it with global trade managed by private enterprise. He never wavered in his conviction that this is the ideal.Ron Paul gave his farewell speech today. No longer does anyone in our government believe in what our founders did when our nation was created.
Of course, the Washington, D.C., of today has nothing to do with that ideal.
We'll not again see a Guilded Age.