Ron Paul Lacks the Principles Needed to Defend Freedom



Republican Congressman Ron Paul has a history of poor showings in past elections due largely to his public image as a libertarian radical. But Paul has enjoyed an upsurge in popularity during the recent Republican primary elections with his ostensible message of freedom. His message has not changed lately, so how do we explain the so-called Ron Paul Revolution? And will the ideas of this revolution actually return freedom and prosperity to America? “

One possible explanation for Paul’s popularity is that Americans have changed: we will no longer tolerate political candidates who flip-flop on issues of principle.

Consider today’s political leaders. President Obama has alienated many of his supporters because he has balked on campaign promises. He has not closed Guantanamo Bay, as promised, and his “centrist” economic policies have disillusioned many of his liberal followers. On the other side of the political spectrum, Republican front-runner Mitt Romney, who introduced mandatory health care in Massachusetts, opposes Obamacare. This kind of inconsistency leaves many Americans seeking a more principled politician.

By comparison, Ron Paul has remained generally consistent during his tenure as a Congressman. He does not seem to have compromised his ideas for the sake of popularity, and some Americans appreciate his backbone.

More than other candidates, the idea Paul appears to advocate consistently is a distinctively American one: freedom. President Obama is certainly no freedom lover. He championed the individual mandate for health care, which will require all Americans to purchase health insurance by 2014. In addition, President Obama also signed the Dodd-Frank Act, which imposed greater regulations on Wall Street financiers, forcing them to cut through costly red tape and follow prohibitive compliance rules, which restricted their economic freedom. Similarly, Rick Santorum, another Republican front-runner, is a self-described enemy of individual freedom who has declared that the government has every right to interfere with markets, culture, and how Americans live their lives. He is especially well-known for rejecting the separation of church and state.

By contrast, Ron Paul champions the free market. He has advocated an end to the Federal Reserve, fewer regulations on businesses and lower taxes. Specifically, Paul has long opposed government sponsored health care like Obamacare or Romneycare. He also advocates relaxed drug laws. Paul wants to free Americans from Washington’s red tape, and supporters have enthusiastically embraced him in large part because of his professed message of liberty.

So at first glance, the Ron Paul movement appears to be a step in the right direction for freedom. But does Paul really want, or understand, what a true move to freedom would entail?

Consider his views on foreign policy. Like most libertarians, Paul believes that Washington should negotiate with rogue states. This is because he believes that invading a nation amounts to initiating force against that nation, an act which Paul opposes on principle. Paul instead argues that the United States should only defend itself from immediately imminent invasion. Correspondingly, he believes that the United States should do nothing to combat Iran’s increasingly warlike stance in the Middle East. The U.S. should only respond to Iran’s aggression if enemy battleships appear off our shore. Paul would pull back all American troops from foreign bases. Presumably, these troops should be used exclusively to protect our borders from Iranian battleships.

Paul’s foreign policy leaves American interests abroad unprotected and leaves America open to the aggression of foreign dictatorships. His lackluster defense of freedom reveals that he does not truly understand what it takes to guarantee true liberty for Americans. With Iran posturing as aggressively as it is now, how will it act in the Middle East if it knows that the United States is just a paper tiger?

To protect against threats to freedom from governments at home and abroad, Americans need leaders better than Ron Paul. We need a politician whose vision of individual freedom has a proper philosophical basis, namely: an understanding that individuals need freedom in order to pursue their own happiness to the best of their ability in the long range.

Consider a scientist who needs to read scholarly journals, select topics of research, and write extensively to pursue his own research. The scientist needs to be free from the interference of government and other people to accomplish his goals. With this political freedom, the scientist can rationally pursue his career, the truth, and his long-term well-being. Likewise, in pursuing his career and happiness, the scientist needs to fund his research, purchase supplies and hire assistants. So he also needs to be free from state interference in his economic affairs. Both political and economic freedom are necessary for the pursuit of happiness, for scientists and non-scientists alike.

The purpose of government is to protect the freedom of citizens from threatened or actual coercion, whether that coercion originates domestically or abroad. Consider, for example, America’s 19th century war against the Barbary pirates, who attacked U.S. merchant vessels trading in the Mediterranean Sea. These attacks robbed the sailors of their liberty and interfered with freedom of commerce. Rather than feeling that they needed to act only if the pirates attacked the White House, Presidents Jefferson and Madison ordered the U.S. Marines to invade and punish the Barbary States who supported the attacks on U.S. citizens, to safeguard the freedom of the seas in the long term. The Barbary War was successful and piracy ended in the Mediterranean. With this action, the United States government (justifiably) protected its citizens from the aggression of a foreign power.

Politicians today would do well to emulate this example. A politician who grounds his beliefs in this understanding of individual rights would understand that not all nations are equally deserving of the non-interference that Paul advocates. The United States, with its political system based on individual rights, is morally justified in doing whatever is necessary to defend itself. Dictatorships have no right to exist free from interference, because they violate the rights of their citizens and often threaten the lives of others abroad. Specifically, if Iranian tyrants wish to continue their nuclear weapons program, American presidential hopefuls should at the very least proclaim our right to act against this threat without regard for the “sanctity” of Iranian borders. Until Ron Paul recognizes this, he is not a candidate for freedom.

Ron Paul certainly has his shortcomings, but his popularity is a good sign. If Americans want a true protector of freedom, however, they should seek a politician who grounds his or her political philosophy in individual rights. Otherwise, any resurgence of liberty caused by the Ron Paul revolution will be short lived. Only politicians who are fully consistent in their defense of freedom can secure true liberty, safety and prosperity for Americans.


Image courtesy of Flikr user Jayel Aheram

Posted by on March 10, 2012. Filed under Culture, Spring 2012. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry
  • Ceara K

    The author clearly does not understand Ron Paul’s stand on foreign policy.

    “In Congress, Ron Paul voted to authorize military force to hunt down
    Osama bin Laden and authored legislation to specifically target
    terrorist leaders and bring them to justice.
    Today, however, hundreds of thousands of our fighting men and women
    have been stretched thin all across the globe in over 135 countries –
    often without a clear mission, any sense of what defines victory, or the
    knowledge of when they’ll be permanently reunited with their families.

    Acting as the world’s policeman and nation-building weakens our
    country, puts our troops in harm’s way, and sends precious resources to
    other nations in the midst of an historic economic crisis.

    Taxpayers are forced to spend billions of dollars each year to
    protect the borders of other countries, while Washington refuses to deal
    with our own border security needs.”

    Ron Paul is not against wars, per se. What he is against is how wars are currently conducted: no formal declaration from Congress, no goals outlined, no clear plan, many lives lost and lots of money given freely to the military industrial complex. American citizens should be outraged by the way that war has been handled under Bush and Obama! I doubt the author, like most people, is even aware that a bill is currently moving through Congress to impeach Obama for defying the constitution by using military force against Syria without congressional approval. This bill will most likely die, as a similar one did attempting to impeach George W Bush, but the fact still remains that it is a blatant violation of the constitution to arbitrarily go to war, and this (not war itself) is what Ron Paul is against.

    • Guillermo Pineda

      I agree with you Ceara.  It is clear that the author failed to answer effectively why he considered that Mr. Paul’s stand on no initiation of force is contradictory to a defense of freedom. 

      3/4 of the article were used to build on Mr. Paul’s long standing consistent philosophy and the last 1/4 was to say “he is not in with me to start a war against Iran so he is no pro-freedom” without any real argument to explain his position.

    • nicholascloud

      Objectivists should know better.  Ayn Rand is the constant object of straw man attacks.  This is not a legitimate way to criticize people.

  • Filip Farouk Faris

    I second that. America will eventually have to step down from the position as the world’s caretaker. But there is a fine difference between that and not protecting one’s business.

  • Jake Meixler

    Before you write something, you should ask yourself if I make sense and contradict myself? Okay you talk about protecting freedom by having a foreign presence, well the only way to do that, you must have the money to achieve the heavy cost of protecting the foreign interest(which is oil, lets be real), which requires a income tax. How can you be free if the government has a right to your income? How can you be free when our military complex is the must highly funded organization to ever exist in the world? And you think there protecting our freedom? You think Iran in battleships could pose a threat over here, IT WOULD BE A SUICIDE MISSION, it took us SIX YEARS to occupy Iraq with the most funded military in the world. Ron Paul is a doctor, served in the war, knows more about the economy then you, and has stood by his principles for a long time, I would think more before your write such obvious contradictions to your argument. The American people have a responsibility to getting things right in America, the world is a nasty place, but its not government responsibility to fix broken countries, if you do believe they do, then cost is some of your freedom which you have been raving about because more money and power must be given to the government, which big nation building governments…always always take more more freedoms away, then they crash. It’s just how it works.

  • Matt

    Nicholas has a very poor understanding of Ron Paul’s stance on foreign policy. He wants a strong DEFENSE, as in military bases at home to protect us from foreign invasions, but not an invasive military offense that spans the entire globe and that has created us dozens of enemies. Our mindless and aggressive foreign policy today dictated by the military industrial complex is a threat to our liberty in many ways, but two stand out: 1) we’re creating a lot of enemies abroad that we wouldn’t have otherwise worried about if we adopted Ron Paul’s foreign policy, and 2) these wars have gave the government excuse to enact the Patriot Act, NDAA, execution of American citizens, etc. Oh and the economy. Try again Nicholas. 

    • Nick


      My problem with Ron Paul’s policy is that his stance with regards to Iran reveals that he is  unwilling to do what it takes to protect American freedom. Please correct me if I’m wrong, but he doesn’t appear concerned with stopping Iran’s efforts to get a nuclear bomb, which would be pose a huge threat to the United States. Paul’s defensive posturing suggests that he thinks a nation is only an enemy when it has attacked us directly. But there are grounds for deeming a nation a threat even if it hasn’t directly attacked the United States, and I think an openly anti-western dictatorship seeing to acquire a nuclear weapon fits that bill. Until Paul realizes this, I just don’t think that he is a true candidate for freedom. But what are your thoughts?


      • Mike

        Iran (or Syria) is NOT the threat.  China retaliating against the US for an attack on these two states by calling in our Treasury debt and/or Russia launching a gold backed Ruble are the threats.

        A single nuke (which Iran has no delivery system for) is not a threat to the US or even Israel if you actually did research on their significant military and defensive capabilities (e.g. the “Dolphin Submarine Force”).

        The truth is that the US created Ahmedinejad, not in the conspiracy agent way, but it wasn’t until the US occupied the countries on both sides of Iran that they threw out their “reformist” and replaced him with Ahmedinejad.

        For perspective, this is the same as the US putting in Dick Cheney as President as a response to China occupying Mexico and Canada along with seeking as many nukes as possible to defend against Beijing’s expansion on their soil.

        If you want to get rid of Mahmoud and his aggressive nuke saber rattling?  Get out of the Middle East and they’ll no longer have the US as their justification to keep him in power the same way the TSA will exist as long as “everyone’s a potential terrorist” both foreign and domestic.