Ron Paul for POTUS? NO!

Ron Paul a member of the USA Congress from Texas is as I write riding fairly high in the polls in his attempt to obtain the Republican Presidential nomination. I have long had an interest in Libertarian political theory and thus have spent a modest amount of time examining the political background of Ron Paul since some people have referred to Ron Paul as a Libertarian. So what about Ron Paul and his run for the Presidency?

First let us consider if Ron Paul is qualified to be POTUS (President of the USA). In a purely technical sense Ron Paul is qualified to be POTUS since he meets the requirements specified in the Constitution. But what of the practical requirements for the position? POTUS is an executive position as well as a policy position. Certainly policy will typically change from administration to administration as each new POTUS establishes new policy directions and brings in new people. And many people focus primarily in the policy pronouncements that they think a candidate represents however we must not forget that the office of POTUS is an executive position.

There has been controversy about items published in the Ron Paul newsletters in the 1980s and 1990s about issues relating to race, homosexuality and HIV/AIDS.  Many of these passages are vile and offensive.  They have been published on a variety of website and I will not take the space to publish them again.  As best I can determine from looking at various sources the position that Ron Paul has taken concerning the contents of the newsletter appears to be a waffle between sometimes claiming the newsletters were written by others without his direct oversight or at other times claiming that he wrote the text but that it is all being taken out of context. Then in either case claiming that this has all been covered before so no further discussion is needed. Well I am not buying this; I think more disclosure is needed. Clear and unambiguous disclosure. This is one aspect of getting  an evaluation of executive capability. If a person writes something and publishes it then they need to take responsibility for it. If a person made a poor choice and delegated a writing assignment to someone else then make sure that what goes out is reviewed. Yes something things go wrong and yes we all make mistakes. However at the point the mistake is discovered the thing to do is be completely honest and ask for forgiveness. However we have not exactly got that; what seems to be the situation is that Ron Paul is now distancing himself from the statements but there is still no clear explanation of what happened on various occasions. So Ron Paul did not demonstrate competence at being chief executive over something as simple as a newsletter. Based on the evidence I have seen thus far I do not think that Ron Paul is qualified for a high executive office such as POTUS.

At this point someone I expect will ask but what about policy? Isn't Ron Paul good on policy? Well let us consider Ron Paul's policy positions. On the issue of foreign wars Ron Paul has one of the better records among national politicians. And for that he should be given credit. The issue which usually gets raised next is the Federal Reserve. Financial reform of the Federal Government is a good and lofty goal however my estimation is that it would take close to 30 years to unwind the complex web we have now. I am concerned that Ron Paul and his supporters have under-estimated the complexity and difficulty of the task. But for at least raising the issue and keeping a focus on the Federal Reserve and other financial components of the Federal government he again deserves credit.

The next policy issue that is raised is about the War on Drugs. Isn't Ron Paul against the War on Drugs? Well it appears that Ron Paul is against the War on Drugs at a Federal level. At a state level it is a bit murkier. Ron Paul has said that in his opinion drug prohibition is not effective but given his inclination to push many issues down to the states my understanding is that as POTUS he would not be in favor of Federal laws overturning drug prohibition if done at the state level but this is not clear. And this brings us to a crucial point; what else does Ron Paul want to be the exclusive to the states and what his view of the Constitution particularly the 14th amendment?

The clearest example of the views of Ron Paul on these issues can be seen in the bill he sponsored in 2011 HR958 which it did not pass although he has sponsored similar bills in the past

I will quote HR958 in part just so no-one thinks this is somehow being taken out of context:
The Supreme Court of the United States and each Federal court--
(1) shall not adjudicate--
(A) any claim involving the laws, regulations, or policies of any State or unit of local government relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion;
(B) any claim based upon the right of privacy, including any such claim related to any issue of sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction; or
(C) any claim based upon equal protection of the laws to the extent such claim is based upon the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation; and
(2) shall not rely on any judicial decision involving any issue referred to in paragraph (1).

So let us look at the the first item listed in HR958 which relates to "the free exercise or establishment of religion". I suspect that most people will recognize those words as representing the part of the first amendment covering what is commonly known as "the separation of church and state". What Ron Paul is proposing is that states could if they wanted have Bible reading in their schools and other similar actions and the SCOTUS (Supreme Court of the USA) or Federal Courts could not hear the case. What Ron Paul proposes has so many flaws it is difficult to know where to begin. The problem that is glaringly obvious is that this proposed law would not stand up when challenged in the SCOTUS. Another problem is that mixing religion with government has historically been a bad idea; it often leads to the majority religion gaining advantages over minority religions or the non-religious. Historically although not perfectly the USA has been a country of religious liberty and I can not understand why Ron Paul appears to want to throw that away.

Now consider the next part of HR958 about "sexual practices, orientation, or reproduction". What is that about? Well probably many things but let us start with the Lawrence v Texas case where the SCOTUS overturned a Texas statute making consensual homosexual activity between consenting adults a crime. HR958 would be allow states to pass laws making homosexual activity between consenting adults a crime. Another thing that HR958 might be about is the Griswold v Connecticut case. That is the case where in 1965 the SCOTUS overturned a Connecticut law which outlawed birth control. Think about this for a moment. In Connecticut in the early 1960s Estelle Griswold and C. Lee Buxton were arrested and convicted of opening a birth control clinic in New Haven, Connecticut. Ron Paul seems to have this continual refrain about putting policy issues back to the state level but what he fails to realize how the would diminish individual liberty. Or maybe he just does not care? Or maybe he actually wants to return the era before Griswold decision? It is difficult to say.

And in the third part of the text from HR958 that I quote above we find reference to "the right to marry without regard to sex or sexual orientation". Of course this looks like an attempt to let states outlaw same-sex marriage. Since the SCOTUS has not ruled that state laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman are unconstitutional then why is it included? My guess is that some conservatives are looking ahead. There are obvious equal protection and other problems with restricting marriage to just one man and one woman. Those who are attempting to claim any sort of rational basis for outlawing same-sex marriage are finding that their arguments are not standing up to scrutiny. I do not have space to discuss same-sex marriage further however at: http://alf.org/marriagemoulton.php I have a short essay on the topic.

There is more that I could write on HR958 and on other topics related to the policy positions of Ron Paul but I think what I have written thus far is sufficient to make my point that Ron Paul has some policy positions that I think are simply wrong and ultimately would be corrosive to the structure of civil society.

Based on what I have covered above and other items which space does not permit it is my judgment that Ron Paul does not have the necessary executive ability to be POTUS and further Ron Paul has advocated policies which show poor judgment and thus from a policy perspective is not a good candidate for POTUS.

At this point I suspect someone is jumping up and saying "But Ron Paul is a Libertarian".

Let us consider the claim "Ron Paul is a Libertarian". Of course this does depend on what definition of Libertarian one uses. However I will state firmly that I do not consider Ron Paul a Libertarian, he is in my opinion a Conservative who sometimes takes positions which are sort of Libertarian. But just having some Libertarian positions is not enough. There are certain positions which Ron Paul appears to hold such as those I have discussed in relation to HR958 that as far as I am concerned exclude Ron Paul from the category of Libertarian.

Of course much of what I have written here depends on a particular definition of Libertarian and I realize that others will have definitions which differ from mine and which they might claim are better or at least just as good. And there are those who claim that the term Libertarian should be a "big tent" term where many views are welcome. I have come to disagree with the "big tent" view. Having a "big tent" is fine for a social gathering however having a "big tent" for the definition of term has a serious downside. Before long the term can become so broad that it can accommodate many contradictory positions. And even worse it can become so watered down that little if any serious thought is required of those who claim its banner. I think we are long past the time for having a serious discussion on what is means to be a Libertarian. Perhaps this short essay will get it started.


hellroy said...

I think it is time people really reflect on what Libertarian party is supposed to be. It can't simply be the catch all for the fringe conservatives. The core philosophy appears to be shared with most members, but it's so easily blurred when applied to individual stances on socio-political tangibles. It's not a party that I have ever fully understood or been interested in joining due to this seemingly fractured audience. Thanks for the thoughtful post!

Anton Sherwood said...

I support devolution as a meta-policy even if it means tolerating bad specific policies. Why assume that the Federal courts will generally be more enlightened than the several States? Sure, the SCOTUS has struck down some bad laws; it has also shored up some worse ones.

Fred Curtis Moulton, Jr. said...

As for the question of the Libertarian Party at the moment I think the momentum long term is to separate the Libertarian movement from any particular political party.

As for comparing Federal level to state level it seems to me the consistent Libertarian position is that neither is necessarily better. And if you follow a lot of the First amendment abuses it seems to me that these cases occur disproportionately based on population in southern states and in smaller town and cities.