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Ron Paul’s Strange Freedom

By Matthew Yglesias on August 24, 2011 at 9:14 am

"Ron Paul’s Strange Freedom"

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For the past couple of weeks I’ve seen some complaints from liberty-minded friends and acquaintances that Ron Paul isn’t getting the level of media attention he deserves. My view is that the media is probably ignoring him because he’s a crank who obviously won’t be the GOP nominee. But if it’s attention he craves, it’s attention he shall receive so for the past twenty-four hours I’ve been poking around his website to try to better understand his views.

After looking at his positions and statements, the most remarkable thing is that if it weren’t for his loud fanbase of self-proclaimed libertarians you wouldn’t really think this is the platform of a libertarian. He’s loudly trumpeting his plan to impose criminal penalties on women who terminate their pregnancies and he makes it clear that his interest in freedom doesn’t extend to the freedom of anyone unfortunate enough to have been born in a foreign country. His campaign slogan of “RESTORE AMERICA NOW” is strongly suggestive of conservative impulses and nostalgia for the much-less-free America John Boehner grew up in. The mainstay of his economic thinking is the ridiculous proposition that “[t]here is no greater threat to the security and prosperity of the United States today than the out-of-control, secretive Federal Reserve.” Not only is Paul’s goldbuggery nutty on the merits, like his affection for forced pregnancy and severe restrictions on human freedom of movement it’s difficult to see what it has to do with freedom. The freedom of the government to set a fixed dollar price of gold? America’s current monetary policy—a fiat currency that’s freely exchangeable for other currencies and commodities—is the free market position.

Paul’s views, in short, seem much closer to the isolationist nationalism of Pat Buchanan (complete with some good points about foreign policy) than to the libertarianism of Milton Friedman.

You can see, however, that his views on domestic economic policy are almost laughable. He suggests that we abolish all regulation of air pollution because “[p]olluters should answer directly to property owners in court for the damages they create – not to Washington” with zero indication of how he wants this to work in practice (my guess, a massive settlement resulting in the creation of a regulatory bureaucracy) while also arguing that we should “[l]ift government roadblocks to the use of coal and nuclear power.”

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