Ron Paul is an enemy of the people. That is, in a literary sense. In 1882, Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen penned a tragicomedy that, in many ways, mirrors Dr. Ron Paul's political career.
"'An Enemy of the People' addresses the irrational tendencies of the masses, and the hypocritical and corrupt nature of the political system that they support. It is the story of one brave man's struggle to do the right thing and speak the truth in the face of extreme social intolerance," according to Wikipedia.
The protagonist of the play, Dr. Stockmann, "is taunted and denounced as a lunatic, an 'Enemy of the People.'" In the end, the well-intentioned doctor loses his friends and reputation, but emboldens himself with these words: the strongest man in the world is the man who stands most alone.
Years ago, I'm ashamed to admit, I dismissed Ron Paul as a crazy old man. Of course, I did so without listening to anything that Dr. Paul had said or reading anything that he wrote. I was parroting what I heard from others (they were probably doing the same).
Then came the financial crisis of 2008, and I was led down a rabbit hole. The political response to the crisis (bailouts, opacity, rewarding failure) did not sit well with me -- I became obsessed with economics, the Federal Reserve and the track record of U.S. politicians. Within months, I had disavowed political parties (may the best man, or woman, win) and taken an interest in Mr. End the Fed, Ron Paul. (See Ron Paul's Possible Path To Victory)
Nobody's Right All the Time (or, Interest Rates are Tough to Predict)
When Ron Paul opposed the war in Iraq in 2002, he was a vocal minority. Unfortunately, his concerns proved valid.
In the same year, Congressman Paul warned of a housing bubble and went so far as to introduce legislation intended to limit taxpayer exposure to Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac (the bill never made it past a committee led by Rep. Mike Oxley and minority ranking member, Rep. Barney Frank).
While Paul's foes -- both Republican and Democrat -- would like to portray him as a stopped clock (unwavering, and only accurate a small percentage of the time), this is simply not the case.
In a speech before Congress, Paul confessed his fears of how America might change in the next five to 10 years. A decade later his warnings seem a lot less crazy, rather, heartfelt and prescient.
A Champion of Conservatism -- and Liberalism?
In 2004, Dr. Keith Poole -- a political science professor at the University of Georgia -- ranked 3,320 politicians (who have held office anytime between 1937-2002) from most liberal to most conservative. Ronald Reagan ranked as 77th most conservative, Barry Goldwater, 50th.
Ron Paul ranked first.
So how can it be that GOP voters (as polled by Rasmussen) view Ron Paul as the least conservative of the GOP candidates? Or that pundits like Dick Morris have referred to Dr. Paul as a left-wing radical. I offer this assessment:
Republicans have forgotten what conservatism once meant:
conserving the resources and finances of the Republic,
conserving the lives of American troops, and
conserving the powers of the federal government.
This is the platform that Republican Congressman Howard Buffett (#40) -- Warren Buffett's father -- once stood on, and this is the platform that Ron Paul stands on now.
However, it is important to note that by conserving the powers of the federal government, this allows for liberal ideas to flourish (should the people of individual states want them to).
But states' rights aren't perfect -- far from.
Under Ron Paul's strict interpretation of the Constitution, states could impose ridiculous, backwards laws that restrict personal freedom. These states, however, would probably suffer an exodus of talented individuals (or the government would soon be overturned).
In essence, states' rights are a form of antitrust act -- it's much easier to escape to one of 49 other states than it is to abandon your citizenship in the face of oppressive federal laws. It's also what our Founding Fathers had in mind.
Not Anybody but Obama
My closest acquaintances (mostly Republicans) think I'm a nut for my willingness to support Ron Paul because they fear that he (as a third party) will erode the vote of an "electable" GOP candidate, thereby securing a second term for President Obama.
I, too, would find that outcome undesirable -- but I'm no happier with the other side of the coin.
On New Year's Eve, without scrutiny, President Obama codified his ability to detain and imprison American citizens indefinitely, without trial. My acquaintances decry the president for this, yet ignore the fact that the bill received near-unanimous support from Republican legislators. Every GOP presidential candidate -- with the exception of Ron Paul -- has expressed support for overreaching executive power.
Never mind the fact that the U.S. has already abused similar powers (holding an innocent Turkish man prisoner, for years, without charge or trial). We've also assassinated American citizens abroad (one of them a teenager), again, without charge or trial.
This does not make America safer -- it provides our enemies with powerful propaganda and makes America a more attractive target.
The Illusion of Choice (and Change)
Democrats have long voted for war and reduced civil liberties. Republicans have voted for increased government and unbridled spending. Both parties have offered the power of government to the highest bidder.
I once wrote that in choosing a political candidate, Americans should first ask themselves two questions:
Would this candidate allow any form of harm (economic, social, physical) to be inflicted on America if it meant scoring a personal or political gain?
If not, does this candidate have the wherewithal and strength of character to ask the same question of his or her peers?
In my opinion, Ron Paul passes this test. For that matter, so does a guy like Rep. Dennis Kucinich (167th most liberal), whom I hold in higher esteem than the president or his GOP opponents. Integrity can be found if we look for it.
Where I Stand
I hate guns. Same goes for drugs and war. I believe that rights are, by definition, applicable to all persons of any creed, religion or sexual orientation. I don't think a gold standard is necessary.
I wish that education, housing and health care were available to all Americans, yet I'm realistic enough to admit that our government's involvement in these industries (though well-intentioned), has led to ever-escalating costs. Decades ago, a single income could pay for a home, an education and medical services. Inflation and wage stagnation have made this a distant memory for nearly all Americans.
I don't believe that Ron Paul has all the answers, and if he were elected president, I don't believe that he could achieve most of his policy goals (by his own admission, this is a good thing -- the president is not a dictator).
Nevertheless, Ron Paul has my vote.
My intention in writing all of this is not to persuade you, the reader, to vote for Ron Paul. Persuasion is the tool of political parties, or "pressure groups," as Ludwig von Mises liked to call them.
Instead, I hope that you -- if you have not before -- will stop voting on party lines and instead, trust in your own judgment. Elections are an investment in the future of our country. To that end, I'll leave you with the immortal words of the "father of value investing," Benjamin Graham:
You are neither right nor wrong because the crowd disagrees with you. You are right because your data and reasoning are right.