What’s So Hard to Understand About Ron Paul?

Ron-PaulThis time things are going to be different for Ron Paul’s presidential run. After correctly predicting the collapse of the housing bubble and the resulting financial and economic crisis, Paul has become a mainstay on business talk shows, especially on the conservatively-oriented Fox News. One can almost sense the resignation in the voices of talk show hosts and reporters as they acknowledge that Paul will not be ignored by the media this time around – which is ironic because it is these same people who ignored him in 2008.

However, while supporters will rejoice at the increased quantity of coverage of Paul’s campaign, they should be realistic about the quality of the coverage. Namely, supporters should expect that conservatives will agree with him on most of his economic positions, including cutting down the welfare state and rolling back government regulations, but disagree with him on foreign policy.

Similarly, supporters should expect that liberals will agree with Paul on foreign policy (although somewhat reservedly while there is a Democrat running the empire) and civil liberties, but disagree with him on economic policy, especially when it comes to Paul’s positions on responsibly ending Social Security and Medicare.

Watching Paul’s appearance on The View, one could already see this dynamic in action. While the ladies on the show were very gracious to the congressman, Whoopi Goldberg took the lead in asking some policy questions and demonstrated the liberal take on Paul perfectly. She first stated that she agreed that she would like to see the wars end, but wanted to know how Paul could get us out of them (a concern that never would have arisen with a Republican running the empire). After Paul gave his customary answer, “we marched right in there, we can march right out,” Goldberg then challenged Paul on his position that healthcare is not a right. She truly looked baffled that any politician could be both anti-war and anti-entitlement.

On the conservative side, media figures have been doing the opposite routine with Ron Paul for years. Glenn Beck (pre-blackboard) routinely had Paul on during the economic crisis and always emphasized his agreement with Ron Paul’s economic positions and  his disagreement on foreign policy. Ann Coulter has also weighed in on Paul in this way, as have countless other media figures.

Neither conservatives nor liberals agree with Ron Paul that the Federal Reserve should be abolished.

Conservatives believe that along with what they would call “free market capitalism” (their version including privileges and subsidies for big business), one must support a large military establishment and an aggressive foreign policy. For conservatives, it is just inconceivable that anyone could support one and not the other. This is not a position that can be supported by reason. Rather, it is closer to an article of faith to which conservatives have developed a deep emotional attachment. The conservative philosophy still has its roots in the “ancien regime,” whereby the king/executive and a wealthy elite control commerce and support a large, active military establishment, both for the aggrandizement of the empire.

Liberals believe this, too. They share the mistaken perception of conservatives that free market capitalism is dependent upon an imperialistic foreign policy. However, instead of wholly supporting it, they wholly oppose it, confusing the state capitalism supported by conservatives with a truly free market.  Therefore, liberals oppose imperialism and free markets as if one cannot exist without the other and cannot conceive of anyone who could disagree. As with conservatives, their positions are not reasonable. They are likewise articles of faith, rooted in the ideals of ancient democracies in which the majority had unlimited power over the life and property of individuals, taken to new extremes by Marx and other socialists in the modern era.

Ron Paul’s positions do not fit into either one of these belief systems, nor does he seem to “compromise” between the two. Conservatives accuse him of being too liberal. Liberals accuse him of being too conservative. For both groups, many of his positions seem completely unexplainable.

To his supporters, Paul’s positions are so obviously consistent that they often attribute genuine confusion about them to some sort of media conspiracy. Paul bases all of his positions on what we today call “the non-aggression axiom,” which Thomas Jefferson and his supporters called “the law of nature.” This is a very simple principle which states that because we are all created equal, no one individual or group has the right to initiate force against another. Consistently applied, this principle prohibits the government from running welfare programs, regulating commerce beyond prohibiting aggression, or waging war unless the nation is actually attacked.

Paul insists that the military only be used after a declaration of war because in order for Congress to issue this declaration, the president has to cite the overt acts of war committed by the other nation against the United States. The Congress then deliberates and votes to determine whether or not a state of war already exists. That process binds the government’s use of the military to the law of nature. That is the way the declaration of war power has been exercised in every case in American history.

The main reason that conservatives and liberals do not understand Paul’s reasoning is that they have never heard of the non-aggression axiom. Despite the fact that it was the founding principle of the United States, it is not taught in schools. It is not discussed in the media. Instead, 100% of political debate revolves around results. “If the government does A, will B or C be the result?” Conservatives argue B, liberals C. Neither discusses the rights of the parties involved. Paul bases all of his positions upon these rights, which is how all political decisions should be made.

On May 5, Paul will participate in the first debate among candidates seeking the Republican nomination for president. One should not expect the objections to his positions to be substantively different than they were in 2008. While he may get more respect and stage time from the media, conservatives will still try to attack Paul’s foreign policy positions. The most that supporters should expect is the grudging admission that he may be right on economic policy, but that his foreign policy would be some sort of disaster. This follows logically from the fact that conservatives apply the tenets of their political faith and Paul follows the law of nature. He may be right, but don’t expect most conservatives or liberals to have caught up with him yet.

Tom Mullen is the author of A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

16 thoughts on “What’s So Hard to Understand About Ron Paul?

  1. David K. Meller

    the liberals and conservatives whom Ron Paul encountered–“left wing” democrats,or so-called “progressives” and “right wing republicans” , or so called “neocons”–are probably hopeless. They are far too brainwashed with poltics from their earlier years, probably high school and college, and have far too strong a personal stake in the current system, with all of its flaws and shortcomings, that the likelihood of either rightwing radio blabbermouths of the Glen Beck, Rush Limbough, Steve Hannity type, or the ladies’ gabblefest of “the View” can outgrow their prejudices is minimal, and it probably wouldn’t do much good for Ron Paul, and his supporters even if they did!

    Come now, would you be entirely happy to have Whoopi Goldburg or Rush Limbough gushing over Ron Paul? I would wonder where I was going wrong and what they were overlooking!

    Fortunately, there are a large and growing number of independent-minded voters and taxpayers, perhaps not libertarian as Ron Paul would understand it, but keenly aware of the flaws and shortcomings of both halves of the warfare/welfare state and its apologists such as those cited above!

    These people are (so far) unaware of the nonaggression axiom spoken about above, and are willing and eager to hear what Ron Paul, and those who agree with him, have to say about current politics, economics and foreign affairs. It is these millions, perhaps even tens of millions of intelligent,independent, and critical observers who will form the base of a new movement in America, and eventually, around the world based on individual liberty, private property, and self-responsibility! They, far more than the establishment squawkmeisters whether Foxnews or ladies’ gabblefest, are the future of Ron Paul and the libertarians!

    David K. Meller

  2. Blake

    ” They share the mistaken perception of conservatives that free market capitalism is dependent upon an imperialistic foreign policy. However, instead of wholly supporting it, they wholly oppose it, confusing the state capitalism supported by conservatives with a truly free market. Therefore, liberals oppose imperialism and free markets as if one cannot exist without the other and cannot conceive of anyone who could disagree. As with conservatives, their positions are not reasonable”

    Sums it up for me.


  3. Richard

    Christians will never support a peace candidate.
    Ironic, tragic, call it what you like. The Pope could come out against the war and it would make no difference. Come to think of it, the Pope DID come out against the war and it MADE no difference, not to Catholics, not to anyone else.

  4. Bastiat's Ghost

    I’ve never met a stupid libertarian. The trouble is, there’s only two places left for the stupid people to go: neutrality, or authority.

    I’m not sure that the “majority” will ever be convinced that liberty is a good idea under our present evolutionary circumstances. The good news is, technology will solve this problem with the advent of intelligence enhancement through cybernetic modification and genetic engineering. This is the real reason why the elite feel so rushed in their efforts to establish a New World Order: if they don’t get it done now (within the next 10-20 years), they may never get another chance again.

  5. Mark

    I am a conservative Christian and I see ONLY one candidate to vote for, the same candidate I voted for last time, Dr. Paul. As far as war is concerned, we shouldn’t be concerned with any countries problems but our own. If another country attacks us we should destroy them as quickly as possible and then come home. The Founders gave us the outline to follow but internal enemies are destroying the states by ignoring and perverting the Constitution with the help of good people who are ignorant to what made this country great, adherence to the constitution by Statesmen not politicians. Some people are easily duped, that is why we have a nation of laws, not rule by man. The Bible says many won’t have eyes to see or ears to hear and they will want their ears tickled with a lie. As with everything else I have read in the Bible this has come to pass.

  6. Steve LaBianca

    Nice article, but I think its pretty simple . . . all people other than strict libertarians are statists – simply put, they believe it is proper for the state to affect and control how the world operates, at the point of a gun- with violence or the threat of it . . for proper and good causes, of course.

    For wealth redistributionists – they know that successful business people won’t risk their business when the state steps in to redistribute their (alleged) “lower marginal utility” of the wealth stolen.

    For personal habits controllers – most people KNOW that “normal” development to adulthood means “married with 2 and 1/ 2 kids” and doing everything “responsible” to maintain that. Anything allegedly outside that behavior is abhorrent behavior and ought to be rooted out – especially for the children.

    For foreign interventionists – anything that poses any threat, as minute as it may be, and whatever COULD be spun to appear so, to the “American” way of freedom and prosperity way of life must be stopped in its tracks.

    For all the above, it is best left to “experts” to decide upon, legislate, and execute these controls, through the state.

    The answer, of course (for libertarians) is that interaction through markets is the only legitimate, moral non-coecive mechanism by which values are upheld and supported. Which also means, there is no “one size fits all” value “system” that everyone must succumb to. Getting non-libertarians to understand that THEIR values aren’t threatened when others (who have different values) live by theirs, is the key.

  7. Steve LaBianca

    Tom Mullen says, “The main reason that conservatives and liberals do not understand Paul’s reasoning is that they have never heard of the non-aggression axiom. Despite the fact that it was the founding principle of the United States,”

    I agree that most people have never heard of the non-aggression axiom, but the NAP isn’t he founding principle of America. Simply by advocating for coercive government, the founders violated the NAP immediately.

    No, the founding principle was to foster a certain type of society, allegedly conducive to enterprise, peace and traditional values. I don’t disagree that these are goals that many people believe are worthy of pursuit, but it is up to voluntary associations of people, or individuals themselves to pursue these goals, not a coercive government to promote them,.

    1. admin Post author


      According to Thomas Jefferson, NAP was the founding principle. In his words, “No man has a natural right to commit aggression against the equal rights of another, and this is all from which the law ought to restrain him.”

      They considered government a “necessary evil.” “Evil” for the reasons you state. “Necessary” because they believed that one could not enjoy the natural rights of life, liberty, and property without a minimal government. I agree that Murray Rothbard has successfully refuted that assertion, but nevertheless, the founders (on the Jefferson side, not Hamilton), believed that the non-aggresssion principle was the founding principle of the United States.

      1. Steve LaBianca

        The problem here is, the purpose BEHIND “No man has a natural right to commit aggression against the equal rights of another,”, for most of the founders, was to foster the generalized goals (rather than the “landed” interests as commonly expressed in feudal arrangements in Europe) of enterprise, peace, and established values. Otherwise, there would be no need for government. Thus, in the beliefs of the founders, government was established to enforce ends, rather than means. The ends are what individuals pursue in the libertarian credo, and I might be able to understand a government established to protect the right of individuals to pursue any ends, but a whole body of laws at all levels preclude that. Yes, there are laws prohibiting murder, theft, and other rights infringing actions, but there also are laws and the ability to make laws, totally commensurate with the constitution, establishing the necessity to sustain the structure, regardless of whether or not such laws violate the NAP.

        Finally, I do agree that Jefferson personally, believed in the unalienability of the rights of man, as he was a Lockean philosophically, but most of the founders (the Hamiltonians, especially) with few exceptions were interested in forming a government whose purpose was establishing an order that they wanted, not one that upheld everyone’s right to pursue their life as they saw fit.

  8. Pingback: Needless to Say, the State Sucks » ReasonAndJest.com

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  10. Mike Cohen

    EVERY AMERICAN should read Ron Paul’s newest book if they disagree with him:
    _Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom_

    I think this book succinctly defines where Ron Paul stands and I support his ideas 100%.

    Unfortunately, the closed-mindedness of the political faith you speak of is what is causing our country to lose it’s freedoms with every new regime we elect. Unfortunately, we deserve exactly the failures that we have been electing – it really is time to wake up and educate the populace about the true liberty our nation was founded on.

  11. Darrel Mulloy

    Remember what Stalin said. “It’s not the people who vote that count, but the people who count the vote.” Ron Paul’s biggest obstacle is getting an honest vote count, as in the past.

  12. Stop NationalDebt

    Most people are too busy living their own lives to care to learn more about politics when the ideas aren’t ones spoon fed to them by the mainstream media. We need them to understand the US government’s finances are so out of control that there is reason for them to care. Many are vaguely concerned about the debt but when they hear $trillions they have no perspective and think “big number, but its a big country” and it doesn’t sink in. So we wind up with:

    “POLL REVEALS: Americans Are Still In Deep Denial About The Deficit” http://read.bi/h6QDGR If they realized how bad it is politicians would need to act

    We need to rephrase the issue:
    The federal government will need >$1 million per household to pay its IOUs!
    > $116 trillion =”official” debt plus money  short for future social security, medicare, etc
    Even its “official debt” of $14.2 trillion  is $123,754 per household!
    Details at http://StopNationalDebt.com with links to contact congress & complain.

    Be among the first to join the new Facebook cause “Stop National Debt” : http://www.causes.com/causes/606425-stop-national-debt
    since if you don’t spread the word, who will?
    We need to spread the word virally to educate non news-junkies.

  13. George Washington

    Please, Give America the breather She deserves. Giver her back her Constitution.

    To feel the “change,” as professed by Mr. Obama in 2008, please join me and so many others in 2012 for Ron Paul. If you view his issues as radical, please, i beg of You to invest a little time to research exactly what is being talked about. America cannot afford more of the same.

    Constitutionally, legislatively, and morally, Ron Paul has no equal. His 22 year voting record speaks for itself. The World is watching. Ron Paul for President in 2012.

    Thank You

    ttp://www.issues2000.org/tx/Ron_Paul.htm The facts speak for themselves


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