National Review Asks: Who is Ron Paul?

| by Reason Foundation

The framing introduction to this National Review chat with Ron Paul does a fairly good job summing up the set of beliefs that Ron Paul combines that give all sorts of folk who are apt to be with him on one thing to be against him on another. He's an anti-abortion and anti-open borders libertarian, an anti-interventionst far-right Republican, a fiscal conservative for earmarks, a hyperindividualist dogged with a racism scandal, a man the progressive left frequently loves for his views on war and privacy and the drug war who promotes free-market capitalism.

Strangely, though, this has not led him to be universally despised; for the most part, as near as I can tell, from libertarian to left to right to middle, it is more common for people to love Paul by focusing on the parts they love about him and ignoring (in some cases, being genuinely ignorant) about the rest. (For an example, see mainstream middlebrow men's mag Esquire on Paul here and here.)

Of course, the ability to just love Paul for what's lovable about him is more prevalent among the "people" such as they are then political professionals or pundits; certainly National Review itself has given him far less love than his positions on fiscal policy, abortion, immigration, and the general size of government should theoretically have deserved from the flagship conservative mag.

Some quotes from the interview itself of interest:

[Re: his new position heading the subcommittee on monetary policy]: I won’t have many new powers. It’s not about power for me. I’ll have a better position from which to publicize and get attention for my ideas....I don’t expect [his committee colleagues] to agree with every single thing, but I think they’ll be cooperative in letting me run my hearings, propose alternatives, and so on. And I expect them to support the effort to get more information from the Fed. The new people coming in certainly should be very supportive, because a lot of them ran on these issues — more transparency in the Fed....

NRO: Are you going to try to use your influence there to, as per your book title, “End the Fed”?

PAUL: Not directly. Indirectly, though, yes. The Fed will end because the system we have is not viable. All printing-money systems always end. So my goal in the book as well as in the committee is to expose the Fed for what they do, how important it is economically, why they don’t achieve what they pretend to achieve, and why they need to have more transparency. I would just like to legalize competition, legalize the Constitution, and allow people to use gold and silver as legal tender....

The remainder of the interview has Paul speaking on why he thinks the Federal Reserve and government housing policy and not deregulation is more to blame for the economic crisis; the fecklessness of QE2; what's wrong with inflation:

It’s wrong to deliberately devalue the currency, because prices go up and if your purchasing power goes down, then somebody is stealing from you. So to me, it’s theft....Bernanke brags that he can turn off inflation in 15 minutes. He can’t. There’s so much money out there, which is going back into use — commodities are going up. This idea that there is no inflation is absurd. One thing they do is they want everyone to talk about inflation as the CPI. Austrians say that inflation is when you increase the money supply — sometimes some prices go up, sometimes it starts out in land, but eventually it can be everything.

Why claiming he's trying to shift monetary power to Congress is a red herring:

I don’t want Congress to do it. People who we call Greenbackers are the ones who say Congress should print the money and pass it out and help the people they want to help. But that’s not what I want, that’s not what is in the Constitution. Nobody is supposed to regulate the money and set interest rates. I want the marketplace to set interest rates, and that means the market decides how much gold and silver circulates.

....and that he isn't committed to running, or not running, for president in 2012; and explains the nuances his position on immigration:

The welfare state encourages our people not to work, and so then we need workers. And when immigrant workers come in, there are welfare benefits, education, and Medicare for those who come who are not legal. If there wasn’t that, I’d be pretty generous with illegal immigration.

I’m writing a book for next year, and I’m going to say I support neither amnesty for everyone nor guns and shooting people when they come over. I want immigration to be legal, but I would argue that there should be no federal mandates to provide services for illegal immigrants. Maybe immigrants would go back, then, to their families, on their own. I think it’s virtually impossible to send back 12 million people, but I don’t think we should give them citizenship. So the Left will be unhappy because they want immediate citizenship, and the Right will be unhappy because they want to send them all home. But the other day, we had that DREAM Act vote — a lot of things there I was sympathetic to. But they wanted to give them tremendous welfare benefits. I don’t like that kind of stuff.

He ends reiterating his firm defense of Julian Assange and his insistance that the GOP cannot be a party of fiscal responsibility without cutting defense spending.

My Reason cover story from 2008 on the burgeoning Ron Paul movement; I wondered in June 2007 if a libertarian Republican could appeal to Democrats.