National Review published an interview with Ron Paul yesterday. The interview itself might have seemed impartial if the introduction didn’t make it so obvious that the magazine is anti-Paul. National Review, the alleged “flagship publication” of the “conservative movement,” does not praise Paul for being anti-abortion – instead it notes that he opposes “abortion rights” (I am actually surprised they did not use the “right to choose” or “reproductive rights” euphemisms) as a way of questioning his libertarian bona fides. The introduction uses sarcasm-quotes around the word “neoconservatives”, in the same way one might describe a phony carnival psychic communicating with “spirits”. It strongly implies Paul has delusions of grandeur (“Paul maintains… that he is the voice crying out in the wilderness”). He notes that some consider Paul an “isolationist”, but that Paul “says non-interventionism is different” (emphasis mine), as though “isolationism” was ever anything more than a slur, as though anyone wishes to “isolate” the United States , or as though free and peaceful interaction and commerce with the world is any kind of “isolation”. The writer goes to great lengths to push his weird idea that no one has any idea what Ron Paul stands for, and that people project their ideals onto him (as people actually did with Obama), as though he hasn’t been absolutely straightforward and plain-spoken as far as his ideas are concerned.
Not surprisingly, NRO has disabled comments. Feel free to write a letter to the editor here.
Our friend Peter Gemma has graciously given us permission to post here an interview he recently conducted with Dr. Paul (for the excellent Quarterly Review), which touches on many of the same subjects as the NRO interview. The editors at National Review might be surprised to find Paul as lucid and consistent in expressing his positions as it is possible to be. The original can be found here. Any who wish to subscribe to Quarterly Review can do so here.
Commonsense and conscience in Congress
Peter B. Gemma interviews US Republican Congressman RON PAUL
Ron Paul, MD, is an American physician (obstetrics and gynæcology)
and a Republican Congressman representing the Galveston area of
Texas. He currently serves on the House Foreign Affairs Committee,
the Joint Economic Committee, and the Committee on Financial
Services. Dr. Paul is well-known as an opponent of US interventionism and an
outspoken critic of American monetary policy – putting him often at odds with
both Republican and Democratic Party leaders. Congressman Paul is the author
of several books including the New York Times bestsellers End The Fed (2009),
and The Revolution: A Manifesto (2008).
Peter B. Gemma is an award-winning writer, whose articles have appeared in
many journals, including Military History, The Washington Examiner, The Journal
of Social, Political, and Economic Studies and USA Today. He is a columnist with
Middle American News and a contributing editor to The Social Contract.
Congressman Paul, thanks for spending some time with us. Let’s start off
with some background. You have been a member of Congress for a total
of 22 years – I’m taking the safe bet here that you’ll be re-elected come
November. When you initially ran for office you were a successful physician
with a young family. Why the jump into politics?
I jumped into politics in the early 1970s. It was clear to me from my reading of
Austrian economics that the Nixon administration’s economic policies would
be a major disaster for the country – not only because of the wage and price
controls, but also because of Nixon’s decision to break the dollar’s last ties to
gold. We now had a totally fiat currency and a fiscal policy guaranteed to produce
high unemployment and shortages of goods. Since I knew what was happening,
I thought I ought to try to do something. So I ran for Congress the first time in
1974 and didn’t win, but ran again in 1976 and won. By then Nixon was gone, and
so were his wage and price controls, but we still had fiat money and a lot of other
serious problems, and unfortunately we still do.
You have long been a proponent of a gold-backed currency. Why is that a
better system than what we have now, and how would it impact the current
international monetary crises?
The crisis was mostly caused by central banks and fiat money. When the Federal
Reserve gets banks to expand the money supply, businesses respond by taking on
more debt and taking a lot more risks. They do things they wouldn’t do if there
was not as much money and credit going around. Despite what a lot of people
thought about Alan Greenspan in the 1990s, no central banker really knows how
much money there should be in an economy, any more than any central planner
knows how much steel a country needs. Central bankers, of course, want to please
the politicians who appoint them, and the politicians always want bigger booms
and no busts to help them get re-elected. The result is the Fed puts off the bust
for a while, but when it comes, it’s much bigger because of all the malinvestment
the central bank has encouraged.
Gold is what people throughout history have traditionally based their money
on, and a gold-backed currency takes control of the monetary system away from
the government and banks, so nobody can create artificial prosperity and the
crashes that come with it. The economy would still have ups and downs, but
nothing like the boom-and-bust-cycle we have now. The crisis we’re in may only
be beginning, and it would not have been possible without fiat money.
You are known as the most libertarian legislator in Washington. You do
break the libertarian mould on some issues however, including abortion.
Many libertarians believe the government has no right to tell a woman
what she can do with her body. Why do you stake out a different position?
Libertarianism requires not initiating force against another human being, and
in no case is a human more vulnerable than in the womb. I delivered over 4,000
babies in my time as an OB/GYN, and that reinforced my firm belief that life
begins at conception. It would be inconsistent for me to champion personal
liberty and a free society if I didn’t also advocate respecting the right to life – for
those born and unborn.
America has a long tradition of a two-party political system, but there is
no mandate for that in the Constitution. You left the Republican Party
in 1988 to be the Libertarian Party candidate for President – a quixotic
campaign, but you did it anyway. Why?
The American people deserved a legitimate alternative to the increasingly
indistinguishable major parties. The Republicans had campaigned on a limited
government platform and getting Washington out of our lives throughout the
‘80s, but by 1988 it was clear government was actually growing. Instead of
reversing the trend, I believed George H W Bush would take the party further
down a statist path, and time unfortunately proved me right.
Although I’ve been elected to Congress 11 times as a Republican and choose to
work inside the party on Capitol Hill to effect change, I believe alternative parties
serve a crucial role in politics because they give voice to the issues the major parties
ignore. The problem is that both Democrats and Republicans have made the
American system very biased in order to entrench their power. I find it especially
interesting that the establishment justifies unconstitutional wars as ‘promoting
democracy’ overseas while doing its best to silence opposition at home.
Before alternative parties can really gain strength, the laws must be changed
to put everyone on an even playing field. Until then, unless they are led by
someone of independent wealth, like Ross Perot, or a celebrity like Jesse Ventura,
third parties are not likely to obtain electoral success because they have to spend
almost all of their funds just getting on the ballot.
Third parties can serve a useful educational function. I believe the Libertarian
Party has done a great service in promoting the libertarian philosophy, and I
continue to have many friends and supporters in the Libertarian Party as well as
the Constitution Party. I even have some friends in the Green Party.
There’s no doubt, though, that the media pay more attention to the major
parties. Even running in the crowded 2008 Republican primary field, I received
more media coverage and notice than I did in the 1988 Libertarian Party
campaign. That was thanks to the internet, but it was also largely because I was
able to participate in the nationally televised Republican primary debates.
Let’s talk about the 2008 campaign. Despite opposition from the party
power brokers and at first being largely ignored by the media outside of the
TV debates, your efforts raised millions of dollars and kept you in the race
long after better known names had dropped out. How do you explain your
At the very beginning, I was certain the campaign would be over in just a few
months but hoped we could open some eyes with our message and grow the
liberty movement. I never imagined what would happen!
I like to say that “freedom is popular”, and this is especially true with America’s
youth. They know we have to change course and that government at all levels is
mortgaging their futures. The message of sound money, personal liberty and
minding our own business on the world stage struck a chord with them.
But our campaign extended beyond just young people to all ages from
all walks of life. Just how widespread our support was became obvious when
grassroots supporters organized two hugely successful “moneybombs.” The first
took place on 5 November 2007 – Guy Fawkes Day – and the second happened
on 16 December 2007, the 234th anniversary of the Boston Tea Party. The
November event raised over $4 million online in 24 hours, and the December
follow-up raised over $6 million!
The American Republic was built on personal responsibility, limited
government, and a respect for liberty. The campaign reenergized a lot of people
who thought our nation would never return to those principles.
Unlike most of your Republican and conservative colleagues, you do not
support a hawkish foreign policy. You are leading the right flank charge
against the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and oppose the war in
Afghanistan. Not many people have heard of an anti-war conservative.
Neo-conservatives have done a lot to confuse the American people about this.
Real conservatives should stand for the Constitution, and the Constitution is
clear that only Congress has the power to declare war. But the US has not declared
any war since World War II. Today, presidents only ask for “authorization” from
Congress once they have already taken hostile actions, like bombing other
countries, and committed us to war. Constitutional conservatives can’t go along
Of course, there are plenty of people in Congress who think of themselves as
conservatives who would be happy to declare war against Iran or a lot of other
countries. I think they should consider what these wars really mean. The foreign
policy we’ve had since the Cold War is not only immoral because it inflicts
enormous casualties on civilian populations, but it’s counterproductive too,
because it creates a lot of resentment toward the United States. Even when we’re
not at war, having hundreds of bases around the world and meddling in other
countries’ affairs creates enemies for us.
Washington responds to real or imagined enemies by becoming even more
interventionist, which only makes things worse. And of course, all the intelligence
agencies and weapons systems and everything else that’s part of the militaryindustrial
complex costs hundreds of billions of dollars every year. War is the
biggest big-government programme there is. If conservatives want to shrink the
government, they have to start there.
Is that why you advocate closing many, if not most, of America’s military
bases around the world, especially in Europe?
You can learn a lot about how US foreign policy works by looking at why we have
bases in Europe. During the Cold War, we were supposed to be providing security
against the Soviets. But after the Soviet Union collapsed, we actually expanded
NATO. We have bases in former Soviet republics, and we still have bases in western
Europe even though there is no longer much danger of war there.
We have about 100,000 troops in Europe and nearly 50,000 in Japan. Countries
like Germany and Japan can pay for their own defence, and they aren’t going to
behave the way they behaved in World War II again any time soon. These bases
are more about politics than defence. They give Washington an opportunity to
meddle and play influence games with our allies. The US taxpayer, of course,
foots the bill, which is in the billions. We can’t afford it.
What about America’s role in the Middle East? You have said the US
has an unnecessarily confrontational approach with Iran, and that
Washington should be reticent in supporting any military action Israel
may take against Tehran. Can you expand on that?
Right now we’re hearing a lot of the same things we heard in the rush to war
with Iraq, about how dangerous Iran is and the nuclear weapons program they
supposedly have. Iraq’s nuclear program, of course, was mostly a myth used to
get the American public to support a war. The lesson many world leaders took
from what we did to Iraq is that if you don’t want the US to attack you, you had
better have nuclear weapons, like North Korea. Threatening war and invading
Iraq did the opposite of what it was meant to do.
Iran seems to be pretty far away from having a nuclear weapon, and even if
they had one, Israel has many more. Iran and its leaders are not suicidal. Israel
probably won’t attack Iran without our permission, so it all comes down to how
effective the war propagandists in this country are and how effective supporters
of peace and liberty are at countering them.
Let’s move on to a few domestic policy issues. Several state legislatures
have legalized the use of marijuana for medical reasons and
decriminalized the possession of small amounts of the drug. Doesn’t that
undermine the federal government’s “War on Drugs” policies?
The “War on Drugs” is another good example of Washington disregarding the
Constitution – anything called a “war” usually is. Our Founding Fathers never
thought the federal government could tell the people what to eat or drink or smoke.
Almost a hundred years ago, when alcohol Prohibition was government’s favorite
social-engineering project, at least there had to be a constitutional amendment
before it could happen. And we saw how Prohibition worked out: people still
got drunk, but there was a huge new black market that gave us gangsters and
organized crime. The same thing is happening today. The government spends
over $40 billion a year for the “War on Drugs”, but there’s still plenty of drug use
and more and more drug gangs.
Regulating alcohol, tobacco, or drugs should be left to the states. But the
“War on Drugs” not only harms states’ rights, it’s even worse for individuals’
constitutional rights. The drug war has militarized police, permitted law
enforcement to seize property – which a lot of agencies do now just to raise
revenue – and destroyed civil liberties. We ought to end the drug war completely
and treat drug abuse as a medical problem, not a criminal one.
Illegal immigration is an international problem. Every nation in Europe
faces the same problems as America – its negative effect on the economy,
pollution, crime, the risk to national security, and cultural clashes. What
can be done to stem the tide of illegal immigrants?
Just like the economic crisis, government is at the heart of this problem.
Protecting the border is one of the few things that government is legitimately
supposed to do, but politicians like to take advantage of illegal immigration
instead. They use it as an excuse for class warfare or playing ethnic politics. The
welfare state distorts the labor market and gives people who cross the border
illegally a powerful incentive to stay. This creates political conflict, which is what
happens whenever government privileges and benefits are up for grabs.
In addition to protecting the border, the best thing the government can do
about illegal immigration is to stop interfering with the states and forcing them
to expand their social services to include people who are here unlawfully. That
doesn’t mean that they don’t get emergency medical care, only that they don’t
get every benefit. Then illegal immigrants have more of a reason to return home,
and politicians have less of an opportunity to use them. It’s pretty strange that
Washington thinks it can control Iraq’s border with Iran, but acts like nothing
can be done about the US border.
Finally, do you have any thoughts on the political phenomenon dubbed
the Tea Party movement? Many attribute its genesis to your presidential
It’s certainly encouraging to see the establishment under attack from so many
people tired of its out-of-control ways. The Tea Partiers are rightly concerned
not only for their futures, but those of their children and grandchildren. They
know the debt is soaring and that government is not going to be able to keep its
It’s important that those of us who have been warning about big government
for quite some time continue our efforts to educate, so these activists not only
understand the current problems but fully grasp what led us to this point. The
economic crisis is more than just Congress spending recklessly. It’s the result
of an entire system that’s built on fiat currency and market manipulation. The
Federal Reserve enables Congress’s actions.
Education is also critical to countering the influence of the neoconservatives,
who will continue trying to dilute the message and co-opt the Tea Party activists.
It’s necessary to consistently make the case that we can’t have limited government
at home if we’re going to keep policing the world. I’ve long argued that freedom is
an indivisible whole. You can’t pursue one piece while ignoring the rest.
There’s something special happening in America. People are not only waking
up to what’s happening, but they’re taking action and getting involved. The
statists have had their chance and failed miserably. It is up to those of us who
believe in freedom to reclaim our liberties and restore the Founders’ vision.
The Quarterly Review was founded in 1809 by George Canning (later a Prime Minister), the poet Robert Southey and the poet and novelist Sir Walter Scott, and it was published by the celebrated London publisher John Murray. It became one of the 19th century’s most influential journals. QR contributors included the Duke of Wellington, Lord Salisbury, William Gladstone – and many more.
The Quarterly Review was revived in 2007, under the aegis of the former Conservative MP, Sir Richard Body, who is Chairman of the Editorial Board. The Editor is Derek Turner, the Deputy Editor is Dr. Leslie Jones. Taki and Roy Kerridge contribute columns to every issue.