Ron Paul may well be the coolest 72-year-old running for President, I wouldn’t argue with that. And he’s got solid libertarian credentials, which sounds pretty good, at least on its face. I’m quite sure the GOP could use a good dose of libertarianism as an antidote to the George W. Bush style of “Big Government Conservatism.”
But I’m not a full libertarian, I’m a moderate Republican. I lean on libertarian philosophy for guidance when the answer to a political question is not clear. I’m glad that libertarian thinkers are standing up and shouting about the way things ought to be and I hope that their efforts draw the Republican party more towards that way of thinking than its current leadership would have things be.
But I’m not going to be part of the Ron Paul Revolution. Here’s why.
- Congressman Paul is opposed to the existence of the Civil Rights Act and only four years ago denounced it on the floor of Congress. He now tries to whitewash this (no pun intended) by calling racism an “ugly form of collectivism,” but is opposed to the government actually doing anything about it. By promoting “rugged individualism,” Paul would allow the country to return to an era in which people chose to discriminate against others based on their membership in certain groups — because he ignores the fact that it is human nature to self-segregate into groups. In theory, we shouldn’t need the government to tell us to treat one another equally. In practice, though, things are very different.
- Sure, he wants to abolish the Department of Education, which is wasteful with money, seems to do very little to promote education, and often corrupt, but he’d also abolish public schools altogether. That will take some time to accomplish, so in the interim while we still have public schools, he would use public funds to teach religion to children in the guise of creationism, and has sponsored numerous proposals for Constitutional amendments that would authorize prayer in public schools, which is (at least to me) obviously incompatible with a ban on state religion.
- While he’d also abolish the Department of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms, which seems like a redundancy to me when we already have the FBI and the Secret Service, he’d also abolish the FBI (along with the CIA).
- He also wants to abolish the Federal Reserve, in which I can find no evidence of corruption and much evidence of great success in regulating the monetary policy of the country (and the world) in a praiseworthy manner. While there’s no doubt that the Fed is powerful and not directly subject to democratic control, it is not beyond the power of Congress to create and Dr. Paul’s criticism of it is ill-founded.
- Despite being a so-called “libertarian,” he wants to allow the state to dictate what kind of medical procedures a woman should or should not have. This doesn’t seem like a very libertarian stance to me; it seems instead that he’s talking out of both sides of his mouth when he finds the logical implications of his philosophy lead to a morally repugnant result. So much for ideological purity — this demonstrates that when his “libertarian constitutionalism” gets in the way of the kind of government he likes or doesn’t like, he’s willing to throw his philosophy out the window and govern by his personal preferences, just like everyone else running for President.
- His Social Security reform ideas don’t make the remotest bit of sense. According to his own website, he would make SSI income non-taxable, and eliminate SSI payroll taxes for workers who participate in voluntary retirement investment programs. I understand the idea that lower taxes generally means increased economic activity, which can have the counter-intuitive effect, in some circumstances, of increasing overall tax revenue. But SSI is a social welfare program, which exists for the explicit purpose of redistributing money. Therefore, it needs money in order to work; this is a formula for shooting the deficit not just into the stratosphere but maybe even into an escape orbit.
- The gold standard — an idea whose time has long gone. ‘Nuff said.
- Immediate withdrawal from Iraq sounds good to me and pretty much everyone else who doesn’t like the continuing loss of blood and treasure which seems to amount to naught. But it’s simply not a realistic option. Mike Huckabee put it nicely when he said, “We broke it, we bought it.” That means we’ve got to fix it. It ain’t even close to being fixed and it’s only recently that we’ve abandoned the weird messianic neocon thinking that got us into that mess in the first place. It’s unfortunate that we have to stay and build up a nation while we quell a lengthy insurrection (which we could have prevented or at least minimized with some forethought and planning), but that’s the least bad option open to us at this point.
- He’s likely not a 9/11 truther or a racial seperatist himself, but I’ve got to think there’s a reason that such people are congregating around his campaign, giving his political movement an ugly undertone — and one that the candidate himself could be taking steps to eliminate, but it not.
- Again despite allegedly being a libertarian, he has repeatedly voted agaisnt free international trade. NAFTA, GATT, and other international free-trade treaties are vital to our continued economic prosperity. Certainly they render us vulnerable to the travails of the international economic cycle and it’s easy to find examples of factories closing here because foreign competition has edged them out. But that’s taking the micro view; looking at the big picture, we are well able to compete with the rest of the world. As a nation, we are richer and smarter because we engage in free trade. Moatdigging is not the answer to heightened economic competition from abroad — a strong higher education system, creating intelligent tax incentive structures for our industries, and intelligent fiscal and monetary controls are. We currently have two out of those four elements for success (strong higher education and good monetary policy). Paul would tear both of the ones we already have down, rather than build up the other two that we need.
So yes, it’s fun to see him shaking things up, but when you look at his platform, this guy is weird. And misguided. I don’t want him anywhere near the Oval Office, much less sitting at the desk.