Politics: The Ron Paul Delusion

Pardon the obvious rip of the title of Richard Dawkins’ most recent book The God Delusion, but “delusion” is the best (and easiest) way to describe the outburst of public support for Ron Paul.

Let me start off by saying that I’m not at all a fan of the American democratic process. I think voting has entirely lost its meaning (even before Bush stole the 2000 and ’04 elections) and have yet to find a reason to waste my time and energy by voting (I have written articles on voting, which you can read here and here). So, I don’t have a dog in this 2008 Presidential fight (neither does Michael Vick. Too easy?).

However, this Ron Paul mania has really piqued my interest. I especially enjoy reading how fervently his supporters defend him. I agree that, for the most part, he’s pretty much the best candidate out there, along with Mike Gravel, but that’s like being the smartest kid with Down Syndrome (that’s a reference from the movie Waiting, by the way).

The reality is that Ron Paul is antithetical to progress. While it’s true that he wants to leave almost every decision up to the state governments, rather than the federal government, that does not mean he’s neutral on the issues. He’s devoutly religious, so it’s no surprise that he’s anti-secularism (see his article, Christmas in Secular America) and anti-abortion, and doesn’t have a problem with religious content in public schools (read: funded by the government) if the states decide to allow it, even though it is explicitly not allowed by the Constitution.

He’s on the right track when it comes to a lot of issues, such as foreign policy (he’s for non-interventionism — and thus for getting U.S. troops out of the Middle East — if only we could move him over to multi-lateralism), freedom of speech, the neutrality of the Internet, and so on.

His economic ideals are, well, insane. If ever there was a mascot for the free market, Ron Paul is it. He wants to completely disarm the federal government and arm the state governments, as mentioned (why not just break the country into 50 smaller countries at that point?), he wants to privatize NASA, minimize the CIA and get rid of most of the government agencies (e.g. Departments of Education, Energy, Homeland Security; FEMA, ICC, and the IRS).

Even as someone who is pro-government and pro-socialism, I might support a gradual decline of the aforementioned, but not a clean sweep overnight. Why does NASA need to be privatized anyway? Can you count the conflicts of interest that would arise there?

Paul is also for lowering taxes, which I wouldn’t complain about personally, but when you look at the big picture, taxes are almost completely necessary at this point in our nation’s history. Our economy is declining at an ever-increasing rate, we slip further and further into debt, and the cost of our two wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are running up the tab infinitely. How would Paul right our economy, eliminate our debt, and pay for Bush’s wars without using taxes? I’m interested to hear his plan for that.

I agree that too much government is a bad thing. I also think that too little government is also a bad thing. So, it’s no surprise that, when you look at the U.N.’s Human Development Index, the top nations are ones that have mixed or socialist-leaning economies. Paul would be smart to come back towards the economic center.

Another reason Paul’s supporters defend him is because “he actually follows the Constitution.” Isn’t it sad that that is a noticeable quality in a candidate? Shouldn’t all of the candidates follow the Constitution? I know our current President certainly hasn’t, but have we lowered our standards this low as a result? And, while I certainly don’t have a grain of support for Hilary Clinton, Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, etc., I’m pretty sure they — with the exception of Rudy Giuliani — would uphold the Constitution just like Paul.

Speaking of Paul supporters, there’s a heavily publicized blog out there called “Please Ignore Ron Paul,” written, of course, with biting sarcasm. It is essentially a passing of the buck — a “blame everyone else but me” screed. Take the following, from that blog:

For years you have force fed what you deem to be important down the throats of Americans citizens. Minimized most of what the public should be concerned about while sensationalizing the mundane and trivial.

Notice the passing of the buck from the citizens, who should be able to think for themselves, to the media. The blog says that the media has “force fed” the public. Did anyone force the public to swallow? I’m a consumer of American media and I certainly never felt I was being force fed anything. If CBS, ABC, NBC, or any other television station says something I don’t agree with, I’ll either continue watching while outlining in my head the reasons why they are wrong, or I’ll just turn the channel. No one held a gun to my head and told me to believe in what they’re telling me. Why couldn’t this blog writer have done the same? The author, Kris, essentially admits to being just a vessel, lapping up whatever is played on TV.

Further, this Paul supporter — remember, Paul supports free-market capitalism, the pursuit of more and more wealth — impugns the American media for paper-chasing:

Did you do it for the all powerful dollar? The same dollar that is now worth half of what it was worth a few years ago?

Hypocritical. If you support capitalism, you have no right to be mad at others for trying to accumulate more wealth. This accusation is made frequently in sports against agents who try to get the best deals for their clients, and against those clients for asking for so much (see: Rodriguez, Alex; Boras, Scott). Supporters of Ron Paul have absolutely no right to make such an accusation.

This blogger continues to pass the buck further:

I must admit that you almost had me. At one time I felt that the United States reigned supreme, the greatest, the infallible, the just. Those were happy times … so I happily ignored reality while I sort-of-listened to your newscasters tell me how it really was.

Basically, this blogger again admits to having been incapable of thinking for him or herself.

Oh yes, I remember … The ‘Sold’ war. The logic, your logic, to me it made sense. it was simple really, simple enough for the average channel surfer or newspaper reader to get: To defend, we must go on the offensive. To protect ourself, we must attack them. And years later, after the reasons we went there had changed and changed again … And when there was no army left for us to fight … new reasons were given to us as to why we are still there and why we had to stay and can not leave. But, like so many others, I could flip through the channels, not feeling anything as the casualty toll rose and rose.

This is essentially a straw man argument, accusing the media as a whole of supporting the War in Iraq and the reasoning behind it. While there was certainly support from a majority of the media, to accuse the entirety of the American media of being a mouthpiece for the Bush administration is flat-out wrong. I completely agree with the sentiment that the media did a piss-poor job of asking questions and holding the Bush administration accountable, but had I also been a supporter of the War in Iraq when it first started, I would have been responsible for my own mistaken beliefs. There are other forms of media out there besides the American one.

Was every American buying into the War in Iraq and the logic behind it? Certainly not. How did they achieve that position, even though the entire American media, according to this blogger, was trumpeting Bush’s talking points? That’s because there are ways to be informed on issues without relying on TV newscasters and other American journalists.

Every once in a while I would be trying to ignore you while waiting for the next rerun of my favorite show and you would continue to tell us who our president would be. Then you went out of your way to tell us that there was someone who has ‘No chance’ and you did not know why they were even trying.

Basically a straw man argument. I agree with the general sentiment that the media seems to be favoring a close race among the big names like Clinton and Obama; Giuliani and Romney. However, the media’s favoritism also correlates with the polls (see: Dem. — Rep.). The media’s job, first and foremost, is to attract new viewers/readers/listeners, and that leads to more purchases of their product (newspapers, magazines) or consumption (viewer- or listenership). With Paul at just 4.5%, why would they pander to Paul when they can speak favorably of Romney, Huckabee, and Giuliani, who are all in the double-digits in the Iowa Caucus? Since supporters of Ron Paul are most likely supporters of his views on economics, they should also support the media’s piggy-backing of the big names, as well.

At first I dismissed it, after all, you were telling us who was ‘winning’, and you could be trusted, but the more I heard about the guy who absolutely had ‘NO CHANCE!’, this man, ‘Ron Paul would never … could never …’, the closer I began to listen.

Another straw man argument. If I had corresponded with this blogger, I would ask him or her to cite just one instance of the American media saying that Paul had “no chance” and “would never” win (I invite my readers to make the case for this blogger).

I will never forget that it was your bias against this man that made me remember him.

Guess who? Straw man. Guess what? Hypocrisy.

With the exception of the ones who look in to the only person who can not win, the rest will not give a damn at all … ever.

This blogger essentially said that anyone who doesn’t support Ron Paul does not and will not ever give a damn. How close-minded can you get?

Meanwhile this minority, this revolution, it does what it does, these amazing things that have never been done before, these are the people who are out there making a change, and then there is you, continuing to do the best thing for us by ignoring Ron Paul.

Ah, yes, that revolution. Like the Bostonians who threw their tea into the water to rebel against taxes, these Ron Paul fans are… writing blogs and whining about how the media brainwashed them, and meeting up. Quite a revolution.

To clarify, I despise the American media myself. I think it’s too vastly controlled by corporations and there are obvious conflicts of interest that lead to bias (the easy example is FOX News). However, I refuse to blame any ignorance I may have had or currently have on the media. I am responsible for myself and anything that I consume and believe in. For example, I’m an atheist, and have read Dawkins book mentioned at the top of this entry. If it turns out that God is proven to exist, I’m not going to blame Dawkins for leading me astray. I chose to read his book, I chose to follow the logic behind it.

Before I close, I’d just like to highlight some of the comments made on that blog by Paul supporters when a non-Paul-supporter came by to leave his thoughts:

Don’t speak of things on which you don’t understand.

If [Paul becomes just an historical footnote], you can pat yourself on the back for supporting the continued rape of American citizens.

Screw you dude.[…]

Keep in mind that these people may or may not represent the majority of Paul supporters, but it’s just a fun thing to see. If you do read through the comments, check out the number of fallacious “doomsday scenarios” brought up. It’s like they just listened to Rage Against the Machine.

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11 comments

  1. DrEast

    December 03, 2007 04:26 PM

    A few points…

    First, Ron Paul is not anti-flag burning. What he is against is legislation to make it illegal that ignores the first amendment. So he introduced an amendment to the constitution during that debate, in order to make his point: If Congress wanted to make it illegal, there was only one way that they could. He would have voted against that amendment if it ever hit the floor. I’m not sure that anyone listened to him, but he does that sort of thing all the time (introducing legislation and amendments he’d vote against in order to make a point to the rest of our childlike Congress).

    Secondly, there is a clip all over YouTube of George Stephanopolis (however the heck you spell it) saying to Ron Paul’s face on national television that he would not win… interrupting the Congressman in mid-sentence to do so, in fact. There are a few clips of Fox News people doing the same thing over there. Go take a look.

    Lastly, the Constitution does not prohibit States from making laws regarding religion or funding religious activities. The Constitution only prohibits Congress from doing so (and reserves for the States and the People all things that it denies the federal government, which automatically GRANTS the States the right to make such laws at the request of their citizens).

  2. Bill Baer

    December 03, 2007 04:32 PM

    1. Good point, I misunderstood an article on his flag-burning stances. I will edit that.

    2. Stephanopoulos was being sarcastic, I think, just as the author of the blog I cited was.

    3. Either way, he’s going against what the founding fathers intended, which was to keep church and government separate. If you recognize that the founding fathers didn’t want church and government to be mixed, and support Paul’s position to leave that up to the states, you essentially support a loophole (which the religious right would obviously have no problem exploiting).

    Thanks for the comment.

  3. DrEast

    December 03, 2007 04:50 PM

    Stephanopoulos didn’t sound so much sarcastic as smug and smarmy. It was a serious breach of journalistic integrity, and was remarked upon as such by various others at that time. Still, I’ll cede the point, inasmuch as I refuse to think of ol’ George as in any way a serious media pundit.

    On that third point, however, you get very much to the heart of a serious debate. What the founding fathers intended is certainly not a mystery, as they wrote many long and impassioned essays, letters, and even books on the subject. However, that is not the same thing as what they made the supreme law of the land, and that is no accident.

    First, the founding fathers didn’t agree on everything, or even most things. Two of the biggest names from their number, Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, were as diametrically opposed philosophically on the role of the state as it is possible to be. Hamilton wanted what we basically have today, a king-for-president who could tax at will. He was a Statist. Jefferson, on the other hand, was as die-hard a libertarian as you’ll ever find this side of a Montana bunker. Both of them became presidents of the nation, in time. Neither of them got precisely what they wanted out of the Constitution.

    The Constitution was at its heart a compromise. It was imperfect… it permitted slavery, among other things. But it wasn’t just a compromise between the federalists and the anti-federalists, it was also a compromise among the states, who at that time were independent governments. And its composers realized it was a compromise, so they included the ability to amend it should the need to do so arise.

    That’s the heart of my problem with our current government. They point out that the Constitution, since it can be amended, is a living document, which is absolutely true. It has problems, loopholes like you pointed out. Then they use that as an excuse to ignore its provisions and legislate around it! Why not just amend it? Our current money system is unconstitutional… why does it exist via law instead of constitutional amendment? Our president has violated the constitution numerous times with laws such as the USA PATRIOT Act… why not just amend it? The Iraq war is unconstitutional… why not pass an act of war, or amend away the need for one?

    The answer? It’s too much responsibility, too limiting to power derived at least at the basic level from popular support. They all want the power, and they all hate the responsibility.

    It needs to stop.

  4. Bill Baer

    December 03, 2007 06:03 PM

    Excellent points. I can’t really argue with anything you said on a factual level. I was unaware our money system was unconstitutional. I assume you’re just talking about semantics, rather than impugning fiat currency in favor of the gold standard. I don’t know enough about the pros and cons of either to definitively state which is better.

    The Bush administration has desecrated the Constitution with the approval of Congress. Most of our Congresspeople barely even read (if they did at all) the stuff they were rubber-stamping for him, the USA PATRIOT Act a shining example (the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is another). While I have confidence that Paul would act quickly to repeal them (and Giuliani would not), I also think that most of the other candidates would, as well.

    As I mentioned, Paul has quite a few things aligned correctly when it comes to social issues, but at a time like this with the U.S. economy in a state of disrepair, his economic ideals are, at the very least, dangerous. If we were in a state of economic prosperity, I would object a bit less and would be more willing to go with the flow with Paul.

  5. jmklein

    December 03, 2007 06:30 PM

    If you measure things by the UN report, then yes socialism delivers higher standards of living.

    But when you measure by quantity of “stuff”, “stuff” being physical possessions such as cars, tv’s, homes, computers, clothes, cell phones and so on the capitalist countries reign supreme.

    Sure you can make an index that makes socialist countries richer, but that does not detract from the reality of “stuff”, and that “stuff” is the goal of economic energy.

  6. DrEast

    December 03, 2007 06:31 PM

    Article I, Section 8 gives Congress the power to coin money, and see to its value and the weights and measures used throughout, or to borrow money, but that is the extent of Congressional monetary powers. The States themselves can also make money, but only backed by gold and silver. (Article 1, Section 10)

    In no place does the constitution give Congress the right to forfeit the power of money creation to a private institution. It has done so (the Federal Reserve), in 1913. I can state without fear of contradiction that this is an unconstitutional use of Congressional power, in need of an amendment to be anything less than criminal.

    Nor, I would argue, is it allowed to authorize and enforce the use of fiat currency. Coining money is very specific. If it is reinterpreted as allowing the use of fiat currency, that should be an amendment.

    There is nothing inherently wrong, or even necessarily unconstitutional, with fiat currency, but distributing it from a private organization (that charges interest!) and using fractional reserve banking to manage it is criminal mismanagement. It’s also much easier to inflate fiat currency, but that gets into realms of How Much We Trust Our Government To Not Do That. Right now, the answer is: not at all, since they are doing that. But it would be conceivably possible for a government not in love with itself to stop inflating.

    In any event, when people talk about the failures of the gold standard, they often talk of runs on banks. But runs on banks are only possible under fractional reserve banking (the true culprit of much of our current and past economic woes), in which the bank pretends it has more money to lend than it actually does, so that it can collect interest on non-existent money.

    Let me make this very clear: This is fraud.

    Were it not for this fraudulent business practice, codified into law in 1913 with the creation of the Federal Reserve (the “reserve” in Federal Reserve and fractional reserve are the same thing), bank runs could not happen. All that would happen when panicked investors demanded their money would be that the bank would redeem their bank notes. Tough for the bank, sure, but not actually disastrous. Usually the investors, feeling silly, would simply hand their money right back when the bank failed to fail.

    But banks don’t make much money when they can’t create it from the act of “lending.” (Banks do not lend money today. They create it and exchange it for signed notes of indebtedness, which are themselves a form of money. Under this system, money in fact represents debt.)

    The problems of fractional reserve banking were made very clear in the Great Depression. If the banks fail to continually lend more money and inflate the money supply with this creation of imaginary money and its magical transformation into fiat currency, the rate of foreclosures skyrockets as people are unable to service their debts from the general money supply. Everyone ends up with no money, in massive debt… and the banks themselves fail, amazingly enough, because there’s no way to generate debts when nobody owns collateral, and that means the banks can’t magically create more money! Then, when the depositors want their money back, the bank has nothing to give. Oops!

    The problem is that the servicing of debt becomes an exponentially growing byproduct of the economy. The economy must grow exponentially forever to keep up, and it can’t. That is why we’re in an economic crisis today, in fact… the interest is starting to surpass the growth, which will always happen, since the growth of the money supply automatically means a growth in the interest owed. Money, in the system we’ve set up, is debt. The only way to pay the debt is with more money. The only way to get that money is to go further into debt. Lurking around all of this is the constantly owed interest.

    One of two things happens, inevitably, as a result of this exponential growth of interest as a byproduct of this vicious cycle. First, the banks may stop lending. Foreclosures, contraction of the money supply, Depression (as in Great Depression). This happened in 1929. Everyone’s in debt, nobody has any money anymore, and strangely enough the banks are dead too. Stranger still, there are still a few very, very rich people around…

    The second possible result is hyperinflation, which happened in Germany during the Great Depression (which was a worldwide event… fractional reserve banking is worldwide, and interlocked, as well). Germany had additional debts to service from the outcome of World War 1. You can look to those accounts to see what happened there. The most obvious consequence was the rise of Hitler and the start of pre-emptive war. Sort of like what’s happening today: Oil? Going off the dollar? Why would that be a reason to invade? Oh, right, we want to still have an economy… better tell everyone it’s about the Islamofascists, though. That oughtta keep them in line.

    So arguing against Paul thanks to the state of the economy today is a bit misleading. Yes, it will probably crash. But that’s going to happen anyway. Paul’s for a gentle letdown with an alternative money supply available as it happens… trying to minimize the damage. Everyone else in politics is for closing their eyes and pretending it’s not coming, hoping the music doesn’t stop while they’re holding the hot potato.

  7. Kris

    December 03, 2007 06:34 PM

    A proper job of dissecting the post. I hope you don’t mind a response. Other than being called a ‘Straw man’, which I feel like I was, it did not become a personal attack and I thank you for that.

    There’s a few things I’d like to point out in regards to your comments. First, the overall idea and point of the letter is that there are now other viable sources for news out there. For example when I mentioned the force feeding of ‘news’, I was remembering how Britney Spears shaving her head got more airtime than, well, any other topic that has any importance. But with the rise of social news sites, Digg, Reddit, and others, people are able to look deeper, ignore the BS, or get other points of view than what you could using traditional news.

    I’ll have to quote you quoting me here:

    ” “With the exception of the ones who look in to the only person who can not win, the rest will not give a damn at all … ever.”

    This blogger essentially said that anyone who doesn’t support Ron Paul does not and will not ever give a damn. How close-minded can you get?”

    This is about people who were largely felt how I did, and don’t kid yourself, there are a lot of them. If you hear how the decision is already made, If you feel like your say does not matter, then you won’t get out there and try to make a change. Call it a challenge if you want. I’d feel a lot better If more people woke up.

    In regards to the Paul campaign and why it stikes a cord with me:

    One thing I didn’t want to do is go off on a rant on why I felt like I did before in that article but it might help explain the reasons for it after the fact. In September 2001 I was one of thousands that took that oath to defend the constitution. Then over the next 6 years, I’ve watch it be dismantled piece by piece so when I did pick up on the Paul campaign I felt much like i did back in 2001… If that makes any sense to you.

    Now I’m not saying some of the other so called fringe candidates wouldn’t support it, but they wouldn’t support it fully, maybe just a little more than what the front runners might, the main reason being the Illegal war, (plus their avoidance of taking a strong Zero tolerance on torture) now, please don’t get me wrong, I’m not Anti-war, I’m against illegal war, if congress passed a resolution tomorrow then I would support their decision. But that’s why I support him, he would follow the rule of the constitution. He may not be perfect but what everyone else running has forgotten is that the constitution is supposed to come before their individual politics.

    Getting back to the letter, the final point of the letter is not about them ignoring his campaign, they ignore all the other campaigns equally as you point as, based on national polls but what they have done is go above and beyond just ignoring Paul by telling us he could never win. I have yet to see anyone tell one of the other candidates that. I had to ask myself why that was and now I’m one of his supporters.

    with that out of the way…

    I love the title of your blog and I browsed your site, while I’m not much of a baseball fan, I read your poker posts (ever play on fulltilt?) and a few others. I wish you the best and thanks again for deeming my blog post worthy to talk about.

    -Kris.

  8. spiro

    December 03, 2007 06:48 PM

    The comment left by jmklein is really depressing, mostly because it shows that most Americans see accumulating as much crap as possible to fill their homes is a true barometer of economic success.

  9. Bill Baer

    December 03, 2007 07:40 PM

    DrEast, will have to read your post with further attention. As I skimmed, it looks like you brought up a lot of good points.

    Kris, thank you for not being offended by an opposing opinion, and for being open-minded. As you can tell by some of my prior entries (specifically my spat with Bill Conlin), I’m not much a fan of close-mindedness.

    Spiro, yes, jmklein’s comment misses the point about economic prosperity. The U.N. Human Development Index measures, to quote Wikipedia, “[…]life expectancy, literacy, education, and standard of living for countries worldwide. It is a standard means of measuring well-being, especially child welfare. It is used to determine and indicate whether a country is a developed, developing, or underdeveloped country and also to measure the impact of economic policies on quality of life.”

    If you’re simply using a count of “stuff,” well, yeah, the U.S. wins, simply because aside from China and India, the U.S. has the most people, and therefore the most stuff. But what a simple “stuff” count misses is that 1% of the U.S. population owns at least 40% of the total wealth.

  10. Nick

    December 04, 2007 11:17 PM

    so what do you think of the Tigers/Marlins trade? No, I’m just kidding. It’s good to be aware of what’s going in the world outside of sports. I don’t venture out into this world often enough, and like you, I am not ashamed to admit that I have never voted. There’s perks, like not having to do Jury duty, but it’s a commentary on the state of things. I’ll admit, the first time, was just because I was an immature kid, but then the whole ‘Florida’ thing happened, and when it came time to go again, I said nope. I think that might change though, I’m kind of a big Barack fan, and I hate Hilary, so count me in for the primaries.

  11. further info

    December 05, 2007 01:20 AM

    if you would like further info on the history of fiat currency and banking, go to google video and look up the money masters. Its a 3 hr documentary and goes into the federal reserve, the rothchild banking family, and history of money back to the 1500s

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