Ron Paul’s Transition from Politician to Pundit

Paul may be better suited to life outside of Congress, where he’s even less bound by political practicalities.

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Jessica Burt/GWU

The George Washington University College Republicans host former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul on March 4, 2013.

Little things are different for former Texas Rep. Ron Paul, now that his name no longer hangs outside a Capitol Hill office door. He wears ties less often. He writes his own posts on “the Facebook.” He had time to plant tomatoes at his Texas home last weekend. But his role as a libertarian political hero hasn’t really changed since he retired from Congress in January: the outsider status he spent decades cultivating from within Washington is simply official.

He is still anxious to weigh in on the issues of the day. The sequester “is a farce.” Secretary of State John Kerry is “stirring up more war.” And he maintains his distinctive obsessions. In just the first five minutes of a speech to George Washington University students on Monday, Paul struck his favorite themes: individual liberty, the gold standard, the Federal Reserve, the wealth gap, inflation and the future of the Republican Party. He even declared that “We’re all Austrians now!” (a reference to his economic messiah, Ludwig von Mises). The speech could have been pulled directly from his 2008 or 2012 presidential campaign bids. Except now Paul is working purely to change minds, not win votes.

And that’s a kind of liberation. Speaking to TIME, Paul says that he doesn’t miss the Washington job he had, on and off, for nearly a quarter century. He just carries on with his longtime message of personal and economic freedom. “My focus has always been about the same,” he says. “I just look for different vehicles.” His vehicles used to be hearings and speeches aired on C-SPAN. These days, his vehicles include his non-profit group and lobbying arm Campaign for Liberty; a weekly online column called “Texas Straight Talk;” an upcoming one-minute radio program dubbed “Ron Paul’s America;” a book he’s writing on home-schooling; and, of course, speaking engagements. After GWU, he’s heading to Canada and New York where he will continue to spin what he calls the “broken record.”

Paul’s style may be better suited to life outside of Congress, where he’s even less bound by political practicalities. During a Q&A session after his GWU speech, a young man asked about who would take over America’s roles overseas if all our troops returned. “I think we should just come home,” Paul said. Another student asked whether the federal government should recognize gay marriage. In the past, Paul has supported the federal Defense of Marriage Act but suggested the issue should be left to states to decide. On Monday, he responded by saying, “People should do what they want.” Asked about whether people should abandon electoral politics given the hegemony of the two big parties, Paul quipped, “To each his own.”

On most issues, Paul’s stances—like closing all our foreign military bases and bringing home all the troops—remain well outside of the Republican mainstream. Which is why his new outside game doesn’t feel so different from the inside one. “I was never frustrated in Congress because I never really believed that what I would do or say would reverse” federal policies, he explains. Paul never measured success through chairmanships or named legislation. He measured it in individual converts and any “stamp of approval” on his views, which the obstetrician plans to pursue over the Internet just as he did on the House floor.

Paul does believe that the world, including some conservatives, has finally come around to seeing one thing his way: the war on drugs. “I think we’ve won, and I’ve predicted this for a long time,” he tells TIME, “that some day the country is going to wake up and say ‘this is stupid’ and they’re going to change the drug laws.” The audience at GWU was definitely awake. The thousands packed into Lisner Auditorium burst into applause when Paul decried government efforts to control what people can put into their mouths, be it raw milk or doobies.

Still, Paul is pessimistic about the GOP. Their future is “dismal,” he says, until they start adhering to a more peaceful, more uniform ideology. “What do they believe in?” he says to TIME. “I hear their rhetoric but nobody believes them.” When asked whether his son, Republican Sen. Rand Paul, is setting a decent example within the party, Paul jokes that “Well, he’s the best Senator there is!” Asked whether his son will bear the libertarian torch in Congress now that he’s gone, Paul is noncommittal. “He and a bunch of others all have their role to play,” he says, mentioning Michigan Rep. Justin Amash and Kentucky Rep. Thomas Massie. Asked whether he thinks his son might run for President one day, he hedges: “He’s been asked that, and he hasn’t denied it, so I guess that’s his answer.”

At 77, Paul seems to be transitioning from politician to pundit. His radio spot will be produced by the same entertainment group as Bill O’Reilly, and FOX News went to Paul for his reaction after President Obama’s State of the Union address. But he knows that his relevance may be hard to maintain. “Usually you can’t stay the same. Either you have to get a little better or you have to be forgotten,” Paul says of life after Congress. “That doesn’t bother me, because I know that I only have one job. And that is to present my case.”

166 comments
cloneradio
cloneradio

"Except now Paul is working purely to change minds, not win votes."

I would argue that he was always working to change minds, not to win votes. Wish there were more like him.

drudown
drudown

If people want change to the way things in Washington DC operate, they need to (1) vote out the obstructionist GOP party and (2) push for the elimination of Soft Money altogether. 

Tero
Tero

The only good thing about Ron Paul is he is consistent. When he says he wants smaller government he means it. Unlike the teabaggers who want smaller government except when it comes to the military, gay people's bedrooms or women's vaginas.

ChaseSinghofen
ChaseSinghofen

@TIME @timepolitics too bad the GOP voted him out. #RonPaul

altfeed.com
altfeed.com

@Tero "Teabaggers" as you, who are the sovereign judge, insult and deride, is a movement that Ron Paul's supporters began.  LOL but you know only what the presstitutes tell you , right.  Guess what - the liberty movement doesn't care what you do in your bedroom.  They think the issue of abortion is solvable with respect to the property rights of the woman (over her own body) as well as the right to life.  Yes, this is a real threat to your existence.  People who actually want individual liberty also must acknowledge economic liberty!  However will you loot them, without force and violence!?  :)

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ucjb Did you watch all the videos where his predictions fell flat on their face? Oh yeah those never seem to appear on the Ron Paul fan sites.

Tero
Tero

@altfeed.com @Tero 

Yes, I do "insult and deride" ignorant people and hypocrites. Just stay out of my bedroom and out of women's reproductive rights and we can all be free.

telniff
telniff

@mantisdragon91 @ucjb   No, I haven't watched all the videos where his predictions fell flat on their face.  So, can I ask you to specify those predictions--the ones that fell flat?  

ricekrispytweet
ricekrispytweet

@Tero @altfeed.com You've got a deal, unless of course you won't stay out of our wallets and businesses. There's plenty of hypocrisy all around.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @ricekrispytweet @spongessuck Not beyond protecting property rights. If BP spills oil on your property, you should be able to go to court and get compensation. If Massey is negligent and gets its miners killed, their families can go to court and be compensated. If you live near a factory that pollutes the air in your yard, you can sue for compensation. Companies have a financial interest in avoiding accidents, but no number of laws can completely eliminate risk. Unfortunately, the courts often do not enforce property rights and companies can continue damaging private property.

Laws that do anything other than protect property rights are arbitrary and probably unnecessary if property rights are consistently enforced. Additionally, arbitrary regulations force businesses in that industry to spend resources complying with those regulations, resources that may take them over their profit margin into loss. You'll find, if you take a look at the history of government regulation of business, that more often than not the biggest players in the industries are the ones clamoring loudest for additional regulation because it eliminates their competition. They don't care if they have to comply with the new regulations- they now have less competitors, and they can just pass the cost to the consumer.

ricekrispytweet
ricekrispytweet

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck You discredit your argument when you misstate basic terms. Libertarians are not the same as anarchists. They believe in a government constrained to certain duties, namely protecting liberty. It becomes a danger to such when not properly constrained, as ample evidence attests.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 Tell that to the people involved in the BP Oil spill or the miners who die each year because companies like Massey ignore safety precautions to improve profits.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck Humans aren't motivated by greed, they are motivated by making their lives better. If some people think their lives would be better if they had lots of money, that doesn't mean that earning that money by creating a successful product or service makes them a bad person- quite the contrary. When your greed motivates you to steal or lie or cheat, then you have caused harm. Greed in and of itself is not bad, and most people realize that money in and of itself does not make you happy. Surely greed can motivate people to do bad things, but feelings of greed are totally separate from the harm people do because of it.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 Repeat after me humans are motivated by greed. If we can get greed out of the equation maybe pure Libertarianism would work. But as long as greed is a primary driver of human behavior checks and balances need to be in place to keep the greedy from harming the rest of us in their quest to amass more and more wealth.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck What was immoral about the 2008 crash is that people were fooled by bad monetary policy. As money is pumped into the banking system, it tends to go toward the hot investment of the day- in this case, housing. When all that money goes after the same commodity, the price goes up. Then, when investors realize the commodity isn't worth as much as what people are paying, the price drops and all the people who invested in it lose their money.

Capitalism had nothing to do with the 2008 crash. Inflationary monetary policy did, just as it did when it inflated the stock market in the '20s and led to its crash in '29.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 And pure Capitalism is immoral as well. Just look at what happened in 2008 as a result of the Fed following a hands off approach on derivatives. Bottom line is pure ideology of any kind is more likely to do harm than good. Instead you should look for the best possible blend of multiple ideologies.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck No, I think it's because most people have been taught that democracy is the best form of government, even though it can be used by the majority to stomp on the rights of the minority. But because people think democratic rule is moral, they don't see the wrongness in using the democratic process to force their own ideals and morals on others, and even the minority is convinced that its rights are trumped by majority rule.

Until people either respect limits on democratic power to protect the rights of the smallest minority, the individual, or reject the idea that majority rule trumps peaceful individual choices, society won't move toward libertarianism.

I think the 100 million people killed because of the communist Chinese and Soviet governments show that there can hardly be a more impractical society than communism.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck If the ideal of communism is to foster a decent standard of living for everyone, I'd argue that relatively free-market societies have a much better record of increasing standards of living. All of the other ideals of communism - self-sacrifice for an imaginary construct called 'society,' which quickly turns into self-sacrifice for the government, or ending private property, or making everyone's standard of living equal - represent a total disregard of the rights and wishes of the individual, and no self-professed 'liberal' should support such measures. It also represents the destruction of the market system, which is why all communist societies have either adopted 'capitalistic' economic measures or have collapsed because the general population fell into abject poverty.

Since a modern libertarian society doesn't exist, there are no examples supporting the idea that it is impractical.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 While I agree with you that on paper it would seem ideal, the problem is that on paper Communism looks great as well. The challenges tend to arise in the execution. This is kind of why I liken Communism and Libertarianism two sides of the same coin. Great on paper but impractical in reality.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck None come to mind- classical liberalism is a fairly modern idea, and the only society founded on such ideals, the US, is and always was far from libertarian.

If I were to define a libertarian society, it would be one where peaceful individual choices are immutable and held to be legally and morally supreme. I know of no society or government that holds these standards, but that doesn't mean it can't exist, and it certainly doesn't mean that it wouldn't be a far more voluntary and civilized society than what exists today.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 A Libertarian society would have no slaves? What are you basing that statement on? Can you show me even one example of a functioning Libertarian society?

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck As long as the courts recognized that slavery was legal, maybe, but that is not an argument against libertarianism, since a libertarian society wouldn't have had slavery.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 The industrial revolution was making machine labor more profitable but in the 1860's there were still many things that were more profitably done with slaves. Based on your theory, slavery should have remained in place until it was no longer cost effective.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck Britain and France got their blood precisely because they had the upper hand due to the US involvement. You keep contradicting your arguments.

And socialism and libertarianism are opposites. Two sides of the same coin means that both things are essentially the same even if they look different on the surface.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck Actually it was precisely the free market that would bring about a peaceful end to slavery because the industrial revolution was making machine labor more profitable.

In any case, the 'free market' doesn't have to do with the laws that allowed slavery. If the courts respected private property, and inductively self-ownership, slavery would have never been legal.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 Actually Socialism and Libertarianism are two sides of the same coin. One wants full government oversight the other wants none.

And as for the Versailles Treaty it would have been worse if Wilson had not interjected himself remember Britain and France were out for blood. Also remember that technically Germany still occupied French soil and the main reason they offered Armistice was the fact that their economy was in tatters from the Allied blockade, a blockade that would have happened with or without American involvement.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck Socialism and facism are two sides of the same coin. It doesn't matter which one it was, the point is that their government was authoritarian, and the point is the people wouldn't have supported an authoritarian government if there wasn't the nationalist fervor that was fostered by the unreasonable terms in the Versailles treaty.

And I'm not saying Germany should have gotten a break, but the treaty demanded unrealistic and predatory reparations from the German people.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 Not exactly. The "free market" that you worship would recognize the cost benefits of slave labor and do everything possible to preserve it for as long as possible.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck It actually boosts my argument because it shows that even those that are ahead of their time in terms of respecting individual liberty didn't actually respect it all that much, and because of their actions the equality of minorities and women wasn't realized for over 100 years after the birth of the nation.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 My speculation is based on a minor in European History. Germany came very close to becoming socialist in the 1930's the only thing that stopped it was that Hitler was more vicious and focused than the  Socialists. Take Hitler out of the equation and the chances of Germany going Socialist after World War 1 is better than 50/50.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 Your speculation is based on imagining a worse outcome than what happened. At least my speculation is based on the opinions of people who had a deep understanding of the situation.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Without the US entry into World War One the war would have dragged on another 6 months to a year, but once Germany was unable to break the stalemate their fate was sealed.  The Kaiser was on borrowed time at that point and the only question that remained is who would replace him. Fascists, Socialists or something else possible even worse. And if the Socialists had taken power(and they had strong support in the German Navy and Labor Unions) how much stronger would that have made Stalinist Russia?



mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

Last but not least yes of course the Government uses our money to fund infrastructure projects. What's the alternative- Roads and bridges only were commercially viable at the current time with no thought to future expansion or population trends. Show me one country in the world where that has been successful.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91@spongessuck Of course nobody can predict what could have happened under different circumstances during WW1. But it is a very good possibility that Facist Germany would not have existed had the US stayed out of WW1, and also a good possibility that without the USSR's victory in WW2 that Stalinist Russia wouldn't have existed either.

If the libertarian philosophy was in place in the 1800s slaves would have been released much sooner. You cannot believe in liberty and simultaneously support slavery. It is precisely the fact that slavery was upheld by the government courts that it existed for so long.

It's true that government can create big projects, and that's because they have a whole nation's worth of taxes they can risk. Private companies are more conservative because it's THEIR money they're risking, and once it's gone they can't go taking it from other people. If the government risks its money and loses it, they don't go bankrupt- they go out and take more from the private sector. Just because great things were produced by government doesn't make it right that they put the risk of failure on the people. It just means you can do a lot with a lot of money, which isn't saying much at all. Everything the government has done has been with money taken from the private sector.

Here's an article about Xerox and the internet: http://www.cracked.com/article_18807_how-xerox-invented-information-age-and-gave-it-away.html

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 

Germany could have went Communist after World War1 if the war had lasted longer as there were already uprisings in the German Fleet, which would have created a whole different set of issues. Perhaps Germany and the USSR versus France and Britain in World War 2. See that the problem with attempting to rewrite history to support you beliefs, there are way too many variables which can't be forecasted with any degree of accuracy. 

Exactly what are you basing the statement on that things got better? If the Libertarian philosphy was in place in the 1800's we would still be slave holders.

There are certain things that private industry can't or won't due which is why we will always need the government to finance big infrastructure projects which private industry won't. 

I don't know enough about the Xerox/Government timeline to dispute your statement, but would love to see supporting documentation to that effect.

spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 @spongessuck If Germany would have lost that's not a stalemate. Germany could not have gotten a worse deal if the allies hadn't won so roundly.

Democratic government takes the people's prejudices and turns it into law. Until the people demanded a change in government, it didn't protect minorities from civil rights abuses, and it didn't allow women to vote. Things got better because the power of government was reduced, not increased.

Perhaps the railway system wouldn't have been built as soon as it was without Federal bond guarantees, but those guarantees were on the back of the taxpayer. If the railways win, they keep their profits. If they lose, the taxpayer would get shafted. That's not a fair system, even if it happened to be successful.

And no, Xerox fully developed internet protocol, and it was because the government took it and used it for their own purposes that it didn't become publicly available until the 90s.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@spongessuck @mantisdragon91 The war would have ended in a stalemate which means Germany would have lost since with their fleets and oversees empire, France and Britain would have been able to starve Germany into submission. Once that happened the terms of armistice would have been just as bad if not worse than at Versailles.

We need Government to keep people from allowing their core prejudices to impact others. As a species we are distrustful and hostile of outsiders. That is basic human nature. You can deny it all you want and yet it won't change.

Yes I think private companies would not build modern highways. For proof look at the national railway system which despite huge pent up demand would never have happened with Federal bond guarantees.

Xerox may have had a hand in the Internet but it was financed and initiated by the Federal Government as a means of maintaining communications for Government and defense agencies in the event of a disruption to the telephone network


spongessuck
spongessuck

@mantisdragon91 First of all, Churchill himself said that if the US hadn't gotten involved in WW1 it would have ended in a stalemate, and many historians attribute the rise of the Third Reich with the insurmountable burdens placed on Germany by the Versailles Treaty. So, no, WW2 probably wouldn't have happened with a more libertarian government.

Second, so we needed government to stop the government from institutionalizing racism through laws and preventing women from voting? Discrimination was codified by government and reduced in spite of it, not because of it.

As for the highway system, do you really think private companies wouldn't build modern highways and people would be stuck driving around on dirt roads for 100 years? Cars were mass produced before the highways were built. The demand was already growing for highways- the government just funneled money into it before it was profitable.

And the internet was invented by Xerox, not the government or the DoD.

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

World War 2 would still have happened for the simple reason that even without US involvement the first world war would have ended eventually and the victors would not have been generous to the losers. In fact a strong case can be made for the fact that if Wilson was not involved the terms of the Versailles Treat would have been much more onerous since after losing millions of their young men in battle neither Great Britain or France were prepared to be generous to Germany.

More importantly how would this country now look without Civil Rights, Women's Suffrage and Inter State High way system and the Internet?



JarrodDowell
JarrodDowell

@mantisdragon91 @ucjb If libertarians were in charge the last 100 years, we would not have a federal reserve bank, a government that rakes in 2 trillion a year and spends 4, WWII would most likely never have happened, I support this with the fact that Roosevelt and Wilson would not have been in power guiding America into these wars, we would not be the world police force which would lift our world image, we would trade with all nations and ally ourselves with none, their internal affairs are not our own. Pearl Harbor would not have happened because WWII would not have happened because the Treaty of Versailles would not have been so punishing to Germany they most likely would not have elected a radical like Hitler. WWI was a stalemate up until we got involved. WWI was a war of princes a war we did not belong in. What other atrocities has this country committed in its quest for her empire? Oh yes, the NDAA, the Partiot Act, hyperinflation of our currency, 16 trillion in debt, of which 40% is held by foreign contries, a world that completely disapproves of America. Shall I keep going?

mantisdragon91
mantisdragon91

@ucjb @mantisdragon91 Let me give you a quick run down on somethings that would not exist if Libertarians were in power for the last 100 years. Civil rights, Women's suffrage, The Inter State Highway System, the Internet, NASA, and probably much of Europe since they would have said Hitler is not our problem and that we must avoid foreign entanglements. Oh and if by some chance Great Britain and Russia had managed to defeat Germany without our help, rest assured we would not have stood up to Stalin either and Germany would be communist as we speak.

dave.bit15
dave.bit15

@mantisdragon91@telniff@ucjbThis a classic biased hit piece like the ones Salon produces every other day. And the author fails utterly at understanding the repercussions of the Civil Rights Act, and say things like "...Ron Paul does not understand American values" as if he has the exclusive on what "American values" really are. If anything, liberty is definitely the greatest American value, and Ron Paul is its champion.

PaisleyMilligan
PaisleyMilligan

@mantisdragon91 @telniff @ucjb   Ok so 1) How is what he's saying a prediction?  2) How does his assertion that people living next to the water should figure out their own way of dealing with it without forcibly taking money from people living in the Montana mountains make him an idiot?  3) Do you know how to frame a cogent argument?