Paul says freedoms are key, wants to limit government authority
MANCHESTER - The usual example cited by the media to illustrate Republican Ron Paul's disdain for government is his belief that the 'feds' have no business outlawing illicit drugs, even heroin.
Paul, announcing his third bid for President in Exeter on Friday, said, 'I take a strict constitutional position that the government has very little authority to get involved in our economic or personal lives.' He said Americans 'have conceded way too much to the government to decide what we put into our bodies.'
But legalizing drugs, while a provocative and easy-to-grasp-and-exploit example of Paul's style of libertarianism, isn't really what excites the 12-term Texas congressman or his favorite and most attentive audience, college students.
Believe it or not, Paul said in an interview last week, college students, or at least the hundreds - and sometime thousands - of them who attend his speeches, are more interested in 'economic freedom' from government manipulation. Paul said they know and often cite the writings of Austrian-born libertarian economists Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek as well as the American free-market advocate Murray Rothbard.
Paul has often said that these scholars influenced his thinking about economics and stimulated him to get into politics. He has said that in the 1970s, the era of wage and price controls and the decision by Richard Nixon in 1971 to end the convertibility between the dollar and gold, he realized that the Austrians' predictions that the U.S. monetary system would break down were coming true.
As a result, he said, he first ran for public office in 1974 to focus on economics.
And Ron Paul is still talking mostly about economics in 2011.
But now, he said, he's no longer a lone voice. Far from it
'The groundwork has been laid,' he told the New Hampshire Sunday News. 'The political revolution, as a consequence of the intellectual revolution, is upon us.'
The Ron Paul of 2011, unchanged philosophically, is a spry 75-year-old grandfather of 18 and great-grandfather of three, a medical doctor, author, and chairman of the House Financial Services Subcommittee on Domestic Monetary Policy, which happens to oversee Paul's favorite target, the Federal Reserve. Three of his five children are doctors, including the junior U.S. senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.
Ron Paul told the Sunday News he could easily have shunned running again for President and could have happily carried on his crusade in Capitol Hill hearing rooms, in writings and on campuses.
But it just so happens, he said, that if there ever was a time for him to run for President, the time is now.
Paul - viewed as a key inspirer of, if not the 'father' of, the Tea Party movement - sees national sentiment, or at least the 'mainstream' of Republican thinking, finally moving his way.
When Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke held a first-ever news conference last month to defend the central bank's strategies as necessary to guiding the economy through the current growth slowdown, Paul said he returned from New York to find more than a dozen messages from the media seeking comment.
Paul admitted he didn't feel up to answering all of them.
But, he said, his top aide admonished him, ''You spend 30 years talking about the Fed, and now you don't want to talk about the Fed?' I said, 'I guess you're right,'' and so he answered each one.
'The issue drives me,' he said.
'The Issue'' comprises personal and economic liberty.
'It's so important,' he said. 'It's important to me for personal, spiritual reasons that we live in a free society. I think spirituality cannot be developed without living in a free society.''
Paul said his message that 'personal freedom cannot be separated from economic freedom - it's all one thing - will continue to drive me. It's driven me for a long, long time.
'I think the sentiment across the country is changing, and this state would be in the forefront of that because it has long had very libertarian-like leanings,' he said.
While public sector-driven Keynesian economics has been 'pervasive' since the 1930s, he said, 'now I see the excitement coming because we have an alternative. It fits our Constitution. It fits our traditions, and it's the best economic theory ever devised by man and has compassionate results because it takes care of people.
'We, as libertarians, conservatives and constitutionalists, have done a lousy job in conditioning people that we care about people,' Paul said. 'Our critics say we're going to throw people out on the street, but what's going on in Washington now is going to throw a lot of people out on the street.
'What happens if you pass that money that has no value, and then Social Security checks bounce?'
Paul said he fears the federal deficit and the philosophical battle over how to fix it could incite violence, not unlike uprisings in the Middle East.
'I think it's very possible,' he said. 'I think people are going to get very angry' as government-provided benefits are reduced or eliminated.
But does all of Ron Paul's passion and his perception that national sentiment is shifting in his direction mean that this time, he genuinely believes he can win the GOP nomination and become President of the United States?
Ron Paul paused for a second, then simply said: