Lessons in libertarianism
Ron Paul excites his fans
Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul spoke to thousands on Chico State’s Trinity Commons Tuesday, April 3. Notified just three days earlier, his supporters swarmed the lawn area and stood on benches and trash receptacles to get a view of the candidate. They chanted, “Ron Paul! Ron Paul! Ron Paul!” as the kindly looking, silver-haired, 76-year-old congressman stepped up to the lectern.
“I guess you know there’s an election going on,” Paul joked. “People say I should quit, but I hear we’ll do pretty good in California.”
Paul is in fourth place behind fellow Republicans Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and frontrunner Mitt Romney. Of the four, Paul easily holds the most divergent views, some of which seem anti-Republican: abolishing the Federal Reserve, opening trade with Cuba and a strong anti-war stance.
“The war on Iraq was all based on lies,” Paul announced to the enthusiastic crowd. “We were told that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction; that al-Qaida was in league with him and that an attack by Iraq was imminent upon us.”
He drew loud applause when he voiced disagreement with America’s penchant for war.
“I want all wars to stop, and 70 percent of Americans want us out of Afghanistan,” he said.
His opposition to war is what attracts so many students, said attendee and longtime Democratic activist Bob Mulholland.
“Student enthusiasm for Paul’s anti-war stance will end up helping Obama after Romney crushes Paul,” Mulholland predicted. “Romney is pushing for war against Iran, so they’ll vote for Obama because he’s not so trigger happy.”
(After Paul’s speech, Mulholland could be seen drumming up support for the Democratic opposition using an amplified megaphone to chant, “Obama! Obama! Obama!”)
Paul complained that since World War II the United States has consistently violated its own Constitution by engaging in wars without a formal declaration. He cited the examples of Vietnam, which was termed a “police action,” and more recently Libya, where authority was delegated to NATO.
Throughout his 45-minute speech Paul expounded views that were generally libertarian, which he said favor extremely low government involvement globally, domestically and personally. He objected to the existence of the Federal Reserve and emphasized that the Constitution authorizes only gold and silver as a backing for our currency. He voiced particular opposition to the 2001 Patriot Act, passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, which he said curtailed civil liberties while intensifying government powers of investigation.
“I’d like to repeal it in a law called, ‘The bill to restore the Fourth Amendment,’ ” he said, referring to the right to be safe from unreasonable searches and seizures.
A recurring theme was the need to stop government borrowing and spending in order to relieve the massive U.S. debt. “We’ve become the biggest debtor nation in world history,” he said.
He lamented how Americans had long ago lost sight of the meaning of liberty and convinced themselves that prosperity came from government. “But now the treasury is empty, so we must produce wealth again,” he said.
Paul received an enthusiastic response when he voiced opposition to drug laws. He said he believes that both Democrats and Republicans can agree that states, not the federal government, should decide on the legality of marijuana and other drugs.
“I think people who commit victimless drug crimes should be treated like addicted patients and not criminals,” he said to roaring reception. “We have 25 percent of the world’s prisoners, but we’re not that bad a people.”
Paul seemed uncomfortable when asked how students feel about him advocating fewer funds for schools. He responded that he had to work his way through college and that students would be better off without huge debts.
Paul sounded a positive note in his desire to find common ground between Republicans and Democrats. “Winston Churchill said, ‘If you’re not a liberal at 20 you have no heart, and if you’re not a conservative at 40 you have no brain.’ I say, why can’t we have a heart and a brain all our lives?”