Categorized | Opinion

Ron Paul offers much to like and dislike

Ron Paul, who had a strong third and second place showing recently in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively, is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to presidential candidates.

He’s running as a Republican but counts among his supporters people from all sides of the ideological spectrum, from anti-regulation libertarians to Occupy Wall Street protestors, from leftist 9/11 Truthers to right-wing white supremacists.

While it may be a moot point considering Mitt Romney will almost certainly be the eventual Republican nominee, I would like to examine who exactly is Ron Paul and where he stands on the issues.

The former obstetrician-gynecologist has served as a Republican congressman for Texas’ 14th district since 1997, and over the years has solidified a reputation as a bit of a renegade who marches to the beat of his own drum.

Part of the reason Paul garners such a wide cross-section of support is because his positions on the issues offer a little for everyone to like — and perhaps dislike.

For example, he appeals to some liberals and progressives (especially the younger ones) because when it comes to the drug war, civil liberties, executive power and some aspects of foreign policy, you could perhaps say that Ron Paul is more progressive than President Obama.

He advocates ending the so-called War on Drugs and supports drug legalization, saying that prohibition doesn’t work and drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem. 

He has taken a strong stance advocating an end to War on Terror and preemptive wars and has condemned the practices of drone attacks and targeted assassinations on American citizens involved with terrorism, all of which Obama supports.

He is the only Republican candidate to come out against the far-overreaching Stop Online Piracy Act and the highly controversial National Defense Authorization Act, which some critics think has provisions that could potentially allow for the indefinite detainment of American citizens.

While these positions have gotten Paul in trouble with the Republican base, he also has positions that appeal to social conservatives: He doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, thinks there is war on Christmas, rejects the theory of evolutionis against gay marriage (though thinks it should be left to for the states to decide) and denies that global warming exists.

When it comes to abortion, Paul considers himself to be strongly pro-life, as he supports a repeal of Roe v. Wade and has introduced the Sanctity of Life Act several times into the House that would have defined human life and legal personhood as starting at conception.

But Paul has also said that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments would not allow the federal government to ban states from performing abortions and feels that abortion is not a constitutional issue. However, in a rare moment of inconsistency, he has voted twice for a federal ban on partial birth abortions.

Paul appeals to those who think government is too big. He thinks that both Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, but stops short of saying he would abolish the programs.

He’s not keen on many federal departments and agencies and wants to eliminate the departments of Energy, Commerce, Interior, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as FEMA.

He’s no fan of many international organizations and global alliances and wants the U.S. to not only pull out of the United Nations but also NATO and the World Health Organization.

Paul even once said the United Nations was a threat to the U.S. that would confiscate firearms, end the Second Amendment, take away private property rights and curtail the right of free religious practice.

He is also against all foreign aid to other countries including Israel.

Paul largely appeals to libertarians, which is the philosophy that seems to inform much of his worldview.

He is a disciple of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, pioneers of the so-called Austrian school of economics (far too complicated to discuss here, but imagine a fanatical reactionary response to Marxism and you’ll start to get the idea) as well as Ayn Rand, who ranks up there with L. Ron Hubbard as one of the worst novelists of the 20th century and believed in pure objective reality.

He comes from the dogmatic school of thought that believes unfettered free market capitalism will solve everything and almost all government regulation will only encroach on people’s freedoms.

It is this libertarian spark that starts to put Paul’s positions into perspective.

Paul essentially believes in the privatization of everything and thinks individual liberty can only be achieved when government has a hands-off approach to nearly every aspect of society, especially business.

In his 1987 book “Freedom Under Siege,” Paul wrote that in a “free society an individual can own and control property and run his or her business as he or she chooses” and that “free people have the right to discriminate.”

Paul has said numerous times that he would have voted against the seminal 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he feels was an affront to liberty and private property.

He rejects the notion that we need regulation to protect people from unfair corporate practices, such as monopolies, racial or sexual discrimination, overworking hours, child labor, etc. He even once said that it was actually capitalism that ended child labor.

And this is where Paul totally goes off the rails for me.

He claims to be against corporatism, but I would submit his economic policies would lead to disastrous results and inch us that much closer to corporate tyranny.

There is no question that sometimes government regulations can be overreaching, ineffective and corrupt just like any other human system, but I think the idea that industries can be entirely self-regulating if we just left them to their own devices is utterly absurd.

First of all, this ignores the fact that much of the bills passed by Congress regulating industries are actually already written by the very industries and their lobbyists that are to be regulated, either weakening the regulation or preventing regulation altogether.

But if the financial crisis of 2008 taught us anything, it’s that private industries cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

Remember the credit ratings agencies, such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s? These were private regulatory agencies that were to set standards for rating investments as either safe or dangerous.

But instead, the credit ratings agencies knowingly rated toxic investments as safe because they were in cahoots with the financial service industry and turned a massive profit from the ratings — one of the key factors in the financial collapse.

And, no, capitalism did not end child labor. Child labor was ended in the U.S. with unions and federal regulations after many hard-fought years of workers’ struggle through political activism.

In fact, many American corporations still engage in child labor in other countries, such as Apple. I know we can’t live without our iPhones and iPads, but we all need to understand they were built in part by child labor and sweat shops in China.

And why China? Because China doesn’t have regulations that outlaw such practices like we do in America.

I feel the failure to understand this simple truth of the relationship between capitalism and regulation is to be totally out of touch with reality. We should be calling for better more effective regulations, not wanting all regulations to be abolished.

Of course, if you don’t agree with this notion, then perhaps Paul is your candidate. Ultimately, whether you want to support Ron Paul depends on which issues are of most importance to you.

But I’m certainly glad he is a candidate, because he offers something new and substantive to the debate and a challenge to the status quo whether you agree or disagree — and if that makes him an anomaly in American politics then I welcome it.

W. Paul Smith
Opinions Editor 

Cartoon courtesy of Andy Marlette/amarlette@pnj.com

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