Love or hate him, Texas Congressman Ron Paul just might be the least understood presidential candidate in recent history. To his opponents, Paul is stuck in the 19th century, a cranky closet-segregationist who wants to isolate us from the rest of the world and is prone to conspiracy theories. To his supporters (myself included), he is a Jeffersonian prophet and a true statesman, warning us all about the dangers of government power and defending liberty, peace, and a free economy.
Part of this confusion and conflation comes from the fact that despite being a 12-term congressman and serving on multiple committees in the House, Paul’s actual policy positions and philosophy are not fully understood. Is he “conservative” because he’s a Christian who supports the free market and economic freedom? Is he a “liberal” because of his firm opposition to empire and violations of civil liberties?
In order to do my part to help understand not just Paul, but libertarian philosophy in general, I put together a brief summary of where Paul stands on specific political issues taken from his speeches and writings.
Abortion: Paul’s views come from both his Christianity and his career as an obstetrician. He has sponsored legislation that would define life at conception at the federal level, arguing that it is a scientific, not political, statement and prefers no federal involvement. Opposes government subsidies for abortions, as well as a deregulated adoption market.
Bailouts: Paul opposed TARP, the financial bailouts of 2008, and socializing the losses of industries in general. In response to the $700 billion Wall Street bailout, Paul said “where many mortgage-backed securities and other similar assets are horribly overvalued. The market response would be to allow these assets to be sold on the market at whatever price they would bring. This would result in a shakeout of bad debt and a shorter, sharper correction than would otherwise occur.”
Capital Punishment: While supporting it earlier in his political career, Paul is now against the death penalty for fear that an innocent person may be executed.
Drug War: Firmly opposes federal involvement in the regulation of the sale and use of drugs. Supports medicinal marijuana, the pardoning of non-violent drug offenders, abolishing the DEA, and views drug addiction as a health issue, not a criminal one.
Economics: Supports free-market, “Austrian” economics, and opposes Keynesian economics and government intervention in general. According to Paul, the free market is the most humanitarian system in the world because it allows human beings to be free, produces wealth, and creates cooperation, order, and peace.
Education: Paul sees no authority for the federal government to be involved in education, and if elected president, wants to abolish the Department of Education. Paul supports homeschooling and decentralization of responsibility. He argues that schools should be accountable to parents, not to federal bureaucrats, and that subsidies increase cost.
Energy: Opposes subsidies to energy industries and wants the free market to allow producers and consumers to find the best sources of energy. He also believes that private property rights are a far better way of protecting the environment and resources as opposed to government programs like the EPA.
Executive Power: He argues that a president has important, but narrow functions specifically delegated in Article II, Section 8 of the Constitution. Paul Opposes executive orders that create legislation and the idea that presidents can wage non-defensive war without a declaration of war from Congress.
The Fed: Paul has been a thorn in the Fed’s side for decades, stemming from his Austrian economics background. He sees the Fed’s interest rates as price-fixing because only the market can determine the price of money. Paul supports competing currencies and a repeal of legal tender laws. He claims central banking allows governments to spend without limit and is the only way to pay for a welfare-warfare state as well as destroys the dollar’s purchasing power. His book on the subject spawned chants of “End the Fed!” at his rallies. Paul was inspired to run for public office after President Nixon removed the last gold-backing of the U.S. dollar in 1971.
Foreign aid: Government-subsidized foreign aid is an unconstitutional wealth-transfer. If people want to help those around the world, they should do so voluntarily through private charities, non-profits, etc.
Health care: Paul opposed Obamacare, Medicare Part D, and opposes any federal involvement in the distribution of medicine and insurance. He would like to see a much freer health care market (like the technological sector) where prices go down and quality goes up. Paul argues that government intervention cartelizes service and drives up costs.
Immigration: Paul supports bringing the National Guard (and other military forces) home from border disputes around the globe in order to better enforce U.S. immigration law. He believes immigrants tend to be scapegoated during tough economic times even though they provide more benefits than costs. He supports the expansion of private property rights and boundaries along the border rather than a fence.
Marriage: Marriages should be privatized. People should be free to contract with whomever they choose.
NDAA: Paul strongly opposes the provisions that give the federal government the authority to arrest U.S. citizens and hold them indefinitely without trial.
PATRIOT Act: Paul was one of only 66 congressmen to vote against the bill in 2001, and has opposed it ever since. He has said that the bill basically nullifies the Fourth Amendment and gives the federal government too much broad power to wire tap without a warrant, monitor communications and financial transactions, and undermine basic civil liberties.
Taxes: Taxation is essentially the initiation of force, and Paul wants taxes to be as low as possible. Paul routinely calls for the elimination of the federal income tax and argues that private citizens should spend their money as they see fit, not as directed by politicians and bureaucrats.
Torture: Torture is not only immoral and uncivilized, but it produces little reliable evidence. It is unconstitutional and illegal as well. “It is un-American to accept, on principle, that we will torture its captives...” Paul said in a 2011 GOP debate.
War and National Defense: Since the beginning of his congressional career, Paul has advocated a consistent foreign policy based on armed neutrality, diplomacy, and trade and a Christian “just-war” philosophy that argues that war is only justified in self-defense. He wants an immediate withdrawal from the multiple “hot” wars being engaged in, an end to the stationing of troops and weapons across the globe, and the U.S. out of NATO and the United Nations (see his collection of House speeches against empire, preventive war, entangling alliances, and interventionism).
Whisteblowers: Paul supports Wikileaks and Julian Assange, arguing that a free society depends on openness and transparency. He opposed the treatment of Private Bradley Manning and has said that under a Paul administration, Manning would be protected, not tortured and imprisoned without a trial.
I know I have probably left something out, but I think that’s a fairly objective summary of Paul’s opinion on a variety of important and relative policies and issues.
And while always making sure to remind us of the value of the Constitution and the authority and power it grants the federal government (and most importantly, the powers it doesn’t grant), Paul’s philosophy derives from the non-aggression principle. Neither liberal nor conservative, Paul’s starting point on any issue is the liberty of the individual, which leads to a rejection of force (whether government or private), property rights, peace, free markets, and civil liberties.
Although Paul will likely not be the next president (though I hope and pray he runs third-party), here’s hoping Paul’s message — and libertarianism in general — became a bit clearer for anyone unfamiliar with it. I firmly believe these concepts and ideas behind Paul’s message represent the future of American politics if only they are heard, understood, and spread.