Friends of mine who know that I consider myself politically libertarian keep asking me what I think of Ron Paul.
Paul, the long-shot anti-war Republican presidential candidate, was the Libertarian Party’s nominee for president in 1988. He still gets a lot of support from those who, like libertarians, distrust the federal government’s continuing pursuit of power and control over our lives.
On the surface, there’s a lot to like about Ron Paul: He opposed the Iraq War from the beginning, opposes the use of torture, the “PATRIOT Act” and detentions at Guantanamo Bay. He also, like many libertarians, isn’t a fan of the income tax, government-run heath care, the war on drugs, No Child Left Behind or federal subsidies for big business.
Ron Paul has become, for better or for worse, what many people think of when they hear “libertarian.” But a libertarian is someone who believes in the merits of liberty – in the freedom of individuals to decide for themselves what course is best, without being dictated to or obstructed by government.
On a wide range of issues, Ron Paul fails the test of actually being libertarian. I’ll just run down the most egregious examples.
Ron Paul opposes the freedom of women to control their bodies.
Calling himself “an unshakable foe of abortion,” Ron Paul’s “Sanctity of Life Act” would define life to begin at conception – a definition that would also criminalize emergency contraception, in-vitro fertilization, embryonic stem cell research and many forms of birth control.
In Ron Paul’s America, abortions take place unsupervised in back alleys, and couples lack longstanding family planning or fertility tools.
Ron Paul opposes the freedom to worship without government dictating or endorsing religion. His “We The People Act” would forbid federal courts from ruling on a range of local actions, including government endorsements of religion or infringements on religious liberty.
In Ron Paul’s America, a local public school could refuse to hire a teacher because they were a Muslim or atheist, and there could be no legal recourse.
Ron Paul opposes the freedom of same-sex couples to seek the same legal status as everyone else. If his opposition merely took the form of saying that government shouldn’t be involved in marriage at all, that would be one thing, but Ron Paul’s support of the “Defense of Marriage Act” shows that he’s OK with the federal government sanctioning heterosexual marriages only.
He’s also stood up in support of the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy, under which thousands of soldiers have been discharged from the military solely for being gay.
In Ron Paul’s America, your sexual orientation can become grounds for the federal government to discriminate against you, and, just as for the atheist schoolteacher, there is no legal recourse.
Ron Paul opposes the freedom of peaceful people to cross international borders. He supports building a fence along the United States’ southern border with Mexico – a billion-dollar boondoggle and a message to the world that’s precisely the opposite of the “honest friendship” with other nations he claims to espouse.
Ron Paul has also campaigned on a pledge to eliminate student visas from so-called “terrorist nations” – including Iran and Saudi Arabia, nations represented in the CSU student body.
In Ron Paul’s America, many of your fellow students would be shipped back to their home countries just because their governments aren’t popular in the U.S. this year.
Now, even though I find these positions of his repugnant, I will give Ron Paul a sliver of credit for making some progress. When Ron Paul first ran for president, in 1988, he supported the federal death penalty; now he opposes it.
In 30 years of political life, though, that’s as far as Ron Paul’s positions have advanced. On key social issues of our day, Ron Paul is still stuck in a very non-libertarian past.
Seth Anthony is a chemistry Ph.D. student. His column appears Thursdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.