It’s obvious that Representative Paul has a staunch following that supports him come what may. Ignoring the legion of so-called ‘Paul-bots’ who seem able to descend on every internet poll and straw poll like flies to a carcass, I wonder more about the nature of their support. I’ve known a number of Ron Paul’s supporters, and they seem to have some very good ideas, but the ideas they offer aren’t in any way impeded or tempered by reality. While I also like some of Ron Paul’s positions, he suffers from an all-too-convenient naiveté with respect to certain issues that make of him a questionable candidate at best. Despite his virtues on some very important issues, his moral agnosticism on others brands him unsuitable to restore the American nation, now wounded and bleeding profusely in the escalating Obama disaster.
Mr. Paul is strong on general economic principles, but weak on firm ideas for implementation of them. He says he would do many of the things in the sphere of economics that would likely serve to improve the general economy, and his notions about private property rights(including earnings and wealth) are fantastic. In this respect, he is far superior to the RINO contingent that is composed of Romney, Pawlenty, Huntsman and Gingrich, and it certainly exceeds the macro-economic worldview of former Federal Reserve Board member Herman Cain. The problem is that Mr. Paul doesn’t tell us anything of substance about what he would do to reform things. Yes, he supports the US Constitution’s view of a laissez faire economy, but he doesn’t ever get around to explaining in detail where he thinks government involvement should begin, if ever.
Mr. Paul is also strong on his general commitment to deal with our ballooning entitlements problem. His view on how to implement a solution is nevertheless far too radical for the general public. He would, if he could, end all entitlements today. For a person like me, who studies economics, it’s a numerically satisfying answer, but the truth is that such an approach would never likely see the light of day, and would wrench people from their current situations, already stressed by inflation, and deposit them directly into poverty. I hardly see such an abrupt, ham-handed approach to entitlement reform as plausible, never mind practical. It’s simply not something you could end overnight, though it’s certain that you could begin on that path with a more pragmatic plan. This one issue guarantees that Mr. Paul cannot be elected. With over 60% of the public receiving some form of non-wage payment from the Federal government, it’s clear that such a constituency dooms Mr. Paul’s candidacy once they understand his views fully.
Mr. Paul is likewise a critic of the Federal Reserve. He realizes that the Fed constitutes an un-elected, un-accountable body that has far too much power in the general economy. Having never been audited by Congress, Mr. Paul rightly explains that we need to examine the Federal Reserve with a mind to sun-setting the institution. Once again, while it’s easy to make such profoundly sweeping statements because they appeal to large numbers of people, the truth is that there can be no easy removal or replacement of the Federal Reserve’s functions without substantial planning. He offers none of that. There is at least one other Republican prospect who has challenged Federal Reserve policy, but Mr. Paul’s ‘ejection seat’ mentality is not a serious way to begin.
The seat of Mr. Paul’s popularity seems to be with the drug legalization crowd. When viewing lop-sided poll results on some website, it is tempting(and probably not far off the mark) to imagine a legion of basement-dwelling ne’er-do-wells who like to smoke a bit of the wacky-weed as they wax philosophic on their pro-Paul blogs. Still, it’s fair to say that there is an undeniable logic to Rep. Paul’s view that as sovereigns over their own lives and bodies, people ought to be able to choose freely what to inject or snort or smoke. I fully understand this libertarian lynch-pin, but I also recognize that until you put in place a system of absolute civil and criminal liability for the conduct of people under such influence, there can be no practical manner in which to protect the rights and the lives of the rest of us. At a cocktail party, I’m sure it’s a fine-sounding policy position, but in practice, that becomes just so much happy-talk once a person’s life has been snuffed by an officially sanctioned cocaine-snorter who takes them out in a head-on.
Mr. Paul also seems to be the beneficiary of true isolationism. I view isolationism as the naive view of the world that believes it is possible to withdraw to your own borders, and expect the rest of the world to simply leave you be. I am supportive of withdrawing our troops where they are not really needed in the furtherance of our vital interests, and I am much in favor of the idea of telling the United Nations to pack up and re-establish their socialist playground in Brussels, but I also realize that this is a dangerous world growing still more dangerous as nuclear weapons are now in the hands of the Pakistanis and North Koreans, and will soon enough be in the hands of the Iranians. Any person who thinks that the United States will be safer as a result of a global withdrawal simply isn’t playing with a full deck, and constitutes a danger to the country through a genuinely adolescent view of the world.
In much the same way, Ron Paul seems to believe that the withdrawal of all foreign aid of any sort will bear budgetary fruits while reducing our moral hazards. Again, Mr. Paul is simply wrong, and while foreign aid has long been the object of sloganeering, the truth is that total US foreign aid is a tiny proportion of our budget. I believe we need to examine all of it, but I also know that some of it does bear fruit. For instance, we’ve supported Israel at some expense, but by doing so, we’ve also generally maintained a higher level of stability than would otherwise result. Why do we care? Simply put, until we have a President committed to developing our own energy resources, our economy depends upon the energy source that is the Middle East. Pretending this isn’t the current situation won’t protect us from the consequences. There are other prospects who more thoroughly understand the importance of developing our own resources first. While we develop our own energy resources, the stability of the Middle East is critical to our nation’s health. Just the last eight months of events in the region, and their effect on the global economy, demonstrates the point in economic terms in a way no mere policy position ever will.
Mr. Paul claims to support the constitutional concept of federalism, but it’s a tainted view of federalism that contemplates a level of latitude to states they ought not possess with respect to the rights of individual citizens. Under our constitutional system, if a right exists, it exists in all places under our constitution at once, and is not subject to the vagaries of state or local governance. This dangerous misunderstanding of federalism would allow states to restrict rights otherwise made explicit by the Constitution. Freedom of speech ought not be a concept restricted to observance by federal departments alone.
Doing justice to Mr. Paul requires an honest examination of his positions. He’s formidable on a number of issues in the essential sphere of economic liberty, but sadly, that’s where Mr. Paul’s value as a candidate ends, in large measure because he proposes no practical method by which to implement these ideas in law. Stating these undeniable truths about Ron Paul’s glaring shortcomings is to do justice to the electorate. There are others who understand the realities of our dangerous world. Many Paul supporters believe it is impossible to vote for any other candidate without falling prey to the ‘lesser of two evils’ choice. I beg to differ, but were I to consider who belongs on the very short list of ‘not evil,’ it wouldn’t include Dr. Paul, if only because it is impossible to suggest, with a straight face, that Mr. Paul, having served in Washington as long as he has, doesn’t understand the clear danger of his undeveloped and ambiguous policy generalizations, and if he does, it is impossible to place Paul on any such list.