Ron Paul: Less Government
- The 10-term congressman from Texas has been a strict constitutionalist
since he came into public life some 30 years ago.
Ron Paul: an absolute faith in free markets and less government
By Gail Russell Chaddock
The Christian Science Monitor
January 2, 2008 edition
Berlin, N.H. - Ron Paul still looks surprised when his calls to follow
the Constitution and restore a sound currency set off whoops of
approval at a campaign stop.
The 10-term GOP congressman from Texas has been making these points
for 30 years, with little to show for it beyond hundreds of House
votes on the short end of 434 to 1. Critics called him a crank.
But lately, his views and values the product of a lifetime of
intense, self-directed study are finding an audience. His message is
basic: freedom and limited government. Repeal the welfare-warfare
state. Get out of Iraq, now. Abolish the income tax. End the war on
drugs. Put the dollar back on a more solid footing.
"Unlike some others, I wasn't really anxious to run for president," he
tells supporters at Tea Bird's Café and Bistro in Berlin, N.H. "I
didn't believe the country was ready for a strict constitutionalist."
When he says "strict," he means it. As a member of Congress, he
refuses to vote for any bill not explicitly set out in the
Constitution, earning him the nickname "Dr. No." He routinely votes
against new taxes, deficit budgets, government surveillance, gun
control, war funding, and the war on drugs. He would abolish the
Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Reserve, the US Departments of
Education, Energy, and Commerce as well as other "unconstitutional
domestic bureaucracies." He has called for America to withdraw from
the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.
At the heart of Paul's worldview is a conviction that people are born
free and should govern themselves and that free markets make better
decisions than governments do.
"Some people think I don't love governing, but it's different," he
says in a Monitor interview. "I believe in self-governing and family
governing. The responsibility is put more on the individual than on
some huge monstrosity in Washington."
Paul traces his values of personal responsibility and self-reliance to
his early family life. His father, Howard, the son of a German
immigrant, ran a family dairy business in Green Tree, Pa., near
Pittsburgh, where he pasteurized and bottled milk. The third of five
sons, Paul learned responsibility and the work ethic at age 5 in the
family basement. There, milk bottles were washed by hand, and he and
his brothers earned a penny for every dirty bottle they spotted coming
down a conveyer belt.
"We learned the incentive system," he says. The boys soon figured out
that one of their uncles was a worse bottle washer than the other. "We
liked to work for that one uncle, because we got more pennies," he says.
The five boys shared a small bedroom in a four-room house. From spring
through fall, they slept outside in a small, screened porch. His
grandmother and two uncles lived in the same family compound. His
father hoped that all five sons would become Lutheran ministers; two
of them did. "Confirmation was a big event in my family; birthdays
weren't a big event," Paul says. His mother, Margaret, urged her sons
to read and get an education.
"I would say that probably from the cradle, their ethic was work and
church. That was it," says Carol Paul, the candidate's wife of 50
years. "They weren't a family that played a lot. Everything was serious."
The family lived two miles from the local high school. Although there
was a bus to school, Paul preferred to run. He won the state
championship in the 220-yard dash and ranked No. 2 in the 440-yard run
in Pennsylvania. "He knew he was obligated to do with his God-given
body the best he could," says Mrs. Paul. They met in high school at a
track meet and married in his last year at Gettysburg College in
Gettysburg, Pa., where he studied biology.
Paul says he briefly considered becoming a Lutheran minister, but
opted instead for medicine. He graduated from Duke University Medical
School in Durham, N.C., in 1961, and was just starting a residency in
internal medicine when he was drafted into the US Air Force. From 1963
to 1965, he served as a flight surgeon, then moved to Texas to
practice obstetrics. As an OB/GYN, he has delivered more than 4,000
Paul doesn't often talk about religion, at least not in the context of
a political campaign. There's a reason the Gospels teach praying in
secret, he says. Over the years, he has attended an Episcopal church,
which "became more liberal than we were comfortable with," as well as
an evangelical church. He currently attends Baptist services.
The most decisive intellectual influence in Paul's life was his
discovery, while in medical school, of a passion for economics. It
started with two vast novels: Ayn Rand's "Atlas Shrugged" and Boris
Pasternak's "Dr. Zhivago," a gift from his mother. Both books make a
case for the threat that big government bureaucracies pose to
creativity and liberty.
Later, he read his way into Austrian economics the counterweight to
Keynesian economic ideas that informed the New Deal. He read Friedrich
Hayek's "The Road to Serfdom" a book that influenced a generation of
American conservatives and especially Ludwig von Mises, a
libertarian who extended the influence of the Austrian school of
economics in the United States.
For the Austrian school, government intervention in free markets isn't
a formula for long-term economic growth. Mises warned that over time
it would cripple free markets and lead to state control. Free markets
are always superior to a centrally planned economy, he wrote. Mises
also advocated a non-inflationary gold standard an idea that Paul
has made his own in his 2007 book "The Case for Gold" and a
forthcoming book "Pillars of Prosperity: Free Markets, Honest Money,
In 1971, Paul and another local doctor closed their practices for a
day and drove 60 miles to the University of Houston to hear Mises give
one of his last lectures in the United States.
"I just thought it was fascinating. It made common sense the sort of
thing I would have concluded on my own, but the Austrian economists
were a lot smarter," Paul says. He made friends with American
economists such as Murray Rothbard, a student of Mises, and often
visited Milton Friedman while continuing his own study of economics
and world markets.
"He's been a very serious student of economics since medical school,
and has read a huge amount of history constitutional history and
monetary history. His philosophical and economic views drive him and
everything he does," says Llewellyn Rockwell, a former congressional
chief of staff for Paul. Mr. Rockwell is president of the Ludwig von
Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala., and maintains the popular website,
He recalls witnessing an illegal abortion in his first year out of
medical school that made an impression, too. "Once I became more
firmly entrenched with libertarian beliefs, I realized that another
life was involved, I saw this as a principle of nonaggression, which
libertarians adhere to. The baby has a choice, too."
For some Washington-based libertarians, Paul's success on the campaign
trail is puzzling. "Because Ron Paul is personally a very traditional
man, a small town guy, his libertarianism is embedded in a lot more
traditionalism that you find in many libertarians," who bristle at his
stance on abortion, for example, says Brian Doherty, senior editor at
Reason Magazine, the leading libertarian political and cultural
journal. "But many financial analysts, who are disproportionate fans
of the Paul campaign, say that in their world, the stuff that might
strike a normal American as kooky, such as restoring the gold
standard, does not strike them as kooky, especially given how the
dollar's value is plummeting. There isn't a single other candidate out
there talking about their world in an interesting way or at all," he
A surge of grass-roots support
When Paul first ran for president as the Libertarian Party candidate
in 1988, he won 0.54 percent of the vote. In his second presidential
bid, he's on track to do better.
While Paul still polls only in single digits nationally and in early
primary states, his supporters have raised more than $19 million since
October, including a record $6.2 million on one day, Dec. 16. This
unofficial, grass-roots campaign is out-organizing all other campaigns
over the Internet and recently launched a Ron Paul blimp.
"I'm not surprised that the views are popular, but I'm surprised to
the extent that people have rallied and gotten spontaneously involved
and done so much in fundraising and campaign events," Paul said in a
Paul says his campaign is still working out what to do with the last
quarter's surge of campaign contributions. "It's a real job figuring
out what to do with it," he says. "We're going to budget it out. It
just means it's a lot easier planning for super-Tuesday [on Feb. 5],
when we have money in the bank."
In Iowa, the campaign has used new funds to quickly ramp up a ground
operation. In New Hampshire, it launched new television and radio ads.
Some experts say polls may be undercounting Paul's support, because so
many of his backers haven't voted in the past and use cellphones
rather than the landlines, which pollsters use. That's why Paul "is
likely to do better on election day than polls say he might," said
Fergus Cullen, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican Party in an
interview for C-SPAN's "Newsmakers" on Sunday.
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