View Full Version : Justin Amash's piece for Cato's Letter - Defending Liberty in Congress

10-10-2016, 09:59 AM

Defending Liberty in Congress

By Rep. Justin Amash
October 10, 2016

Let me start by welcoming you to the halls of Congress. This is the Cannon House Office Building. Cannon is the oldest of the congressional office buildings, and it’s been the setting of many events that have ended up in history books. This room in particular has an interesting past. This is the Cannon Caucus Room. For many years, it served as a hearing room for the House Un-American Activities Committee, or HUAC.

Back then, the walls and the ceiling looked the same as they do now. The curtains have changed, but the doorways, the chandeliers, the wall sconces all looked the same. HUAC used one long elevated table that snaked around this side of the room. During the hearings, the members could sit up there and look out over the rest of the room, which would’ve been absolutely packed—dozens of reporters and staff were seated around tables toward the front, and members of the public would sit in chairs in the back or stand along the sides of the room. And the witness would sit at a table in the front, facing the committee.

One witness in particular will be familiar to this audience. In October 1947, Ayn Rand sat here and testified as part of a series of hearings on “The Communist Infiltration of the Motion Picture Industry.” She testified to refute a rosy depiction of the Soviet Union in a film that had come out a few years before. There was an obvious irony to her willing participation in those hearings. She had a personal understanding of the dangers of unchecked power, but HUAC undermined the values and protections that keep power in check. The nation was gripped by the fear that it was being infiltrated by ideas hostile to the American way of life, and HUAC responded by tossing away respect for due process, free speech, and the presumption of innocence.