By Dan Milyavsky
It’s no secret that Ron Paul’s presidential candidacies in 2008 and 2012 were integral to the development of today’s libertarian movement, called somewhat pretentiously, but not altogether inaccurately, the “liberty movement” by some. I fancy myself a sort of intellectual, so I prefer to cite Milton Friedman, who’s argument were logical to the core and filled with nuance, as my main inspiration. Still, however, Ron Paul was my gateway drug into the world of libertarian ideas. I still remember watching a YouTube video entitled, “Ron Paul’s Message to OBAMA!,” where he said, “Change means nothing. It’s just a word. And it’s a cliche. To repeat it, it has no meaning. You have to say, what are you going to change? And I would argue; you offer no change! You have the same foreign policy. You want more troops in Afghanistan. We’re not talking about only going to war with a declaration. You don’t want to deal with the monetary financial crisis in this country. You want to keep, you know the system together, for the benefit of the banks, and the corporations, and the politicians…And what kind of change do you have on social policy? Do you care about sick people using marijuana? Have you come out for that? And I would just hit him hard, he doesn’t want change, he wants the status quo!”
Now, this is pretty thrilling stuff to hear from a presidential candidate, especially for a 16 year old just starting to learn about politics. I didn’t vote for Ron Paul in 2012 (or for anyone else in the primary, for that matter) though, since his main two issues were the Federal Reserve and foreign policy, two issues that I don’t fully sympathize with him on, especially when it comes to his rhetoric about how literally every single problem abroad is the result of US foreign policy. But still, he injected a healthy boost of actual small government beliefs into a Republican Party that used small government rhetoric and then legislated big government policies.
Now, I have three pictures with Ron Paul. I got to meet him in his congressional office in 2012, where he just sat down with about twelve of us young people and had a conversation with us for 45 minutes. He’s a super nice guy. I bet he was a really caring doctor.
But he does have problem with owning up to his mistakes. For those of you who may not know, in the 90’s, Ron Paul published a series of newsletters, the most prominent being the Ron Paul Freedom Report. These newsletters frequently used deplorable racist language, such as, “If you have ever been robbed by a black teenaged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be.” Ron Paul has denied writing these newsletters, and the rumor in libertarian circles is that they were written by Lew Rockwell, with help perhaps from Jeffrey Tucker. Unlike Ron Paul, these two people are just straight up mediocrities, and the latter’s status as a celebrtarian is certainly irksome, but that’s a different topic altogether. Regardless of whether Ron Paul wrote these articles, he at the very least should have been aware of their existence. He should show a lot more contrition for publishing them than he has thus far.
Ron Paul gets so annoyed by questions about these newsletters that one time conspicuously walked off of a CNN interview after the topic of the newsletters came up. He has unfortunately seemed to have passed on this thin skin to his son Rand, who becomes similarly annoyed every time he is asked about his plagiarism scandal.
Ron Paul’s statements since leaving office have been particularly troublesome. At the 2015 International Students for Liberty Conference, which I attended, Ron Paul was asked about his support for Russia’s imperialistic actions in Ukraine, and his misleading statements about the revolution in Ukraine being a Western coup. Ron Paul dismissed the question, saying, “I’m not pro-Putin, I’m pro-facts.” Ugh. Everyone is pro-facts; that’s supposed to be a line only annoying liberals use. The truth is, Ron Paul’s statements on Russian military aggression into Ukraine all read like they were written by a Kremlin propagandist; indeed, Ron Paul is a favorite of Russia Today, also known as RT, the Moscow-funded propaganda channel.
Libertarians should be more willing to call out Ron Paul for this shoddy behavior. I’m still certainly glad he exists; without him, the libertarian movement would not be where it is today. Perhaps I would discover the wonder of Milton Friedman’s YouTube videos anyway, but who knows? But at this point the libertarian movement should be mature enough to draw distinctions. I’m a big fan of Rand Paul, and I hope he does a better job of maintaining intellectual honesty than he’s been doing recently. He’s still the only candidate openly opposed to the drug war, the only candidate who I know deep down in his heart wants to get rid of farm subsidies and reform Medicare and Social Security, the only candidate who’s appropriately skeptical of sending our troops in harm’s way.
But the libertarian movement is not represented by a single person. Our ideas have a long and distinguished history. Frederic Bastiat, who’s excerpts we printed in our last issue, wrote presciently about the threat of statism way back in the 19th century. The classical liberal ideals of John Locke and Adam Smith are even older. In a sense, libertarianism is a uniquely American movement, and no other country really has anything like it. Hell, even in this century, with Calvin Coolidge, we’ve had presidents who were pretty much libertarian. Libertarianism as a movement is significantly more powerful and influential than it was a mere decade ago. Let’s keep it that way, and keep ourselves honest and modest.