Note: A dude at work lent me book by Ron Paul, The Revolution: A Manifesto. He is a True Believer. I try really hard to avoid discussing politics at work (okay, anywhere), but I let my guard down and got pulled into a conversation and then I was given a book (that's how much I dislike discussing politics - I think of it as something I have to guard against). Anyway, this is my response that I sent to him in an email. After I finished writing it, I thought I might as well throw it up here. Which may be a mistake, as it seems to be starting a political discussion.
I have no problem with ending the war on terror and the war on drugs. By all means, reduce our military drastically and stop with the undeclared wars. Legalize pot. What we've been doing has not been working, so let's try something else. As for the stuff about the Federal Reserve, I know next to nothing about it, so I don't feel qualified to say one way or the other.
I do have a problem with ending the social safety net. The system is imperfect, not sustainable as it is, and it may even encourage dependency like he says. But I'm not willing to say that government does not have a place in taking care of the poor. He says that before we had these programs, then the poor were provided for by other people. It's quite a nice picture - remember when the government minded it's own dang business and we all just took care of each other? I have no doubt that Paul and many people he knew did work for free or reduced pay. But that is anecdotal evidence and gives no indication of how well this provided for the poor. I talked to Mike the other day, who said that with a reduced tax burden (as well as not having the idea that they are helping the poor through their taxes), people would care more for each other. I'm just not sure that's true. He called it cynicism, but I call it realism (but that's exactly what a cynic would say).
Part of the reason that I am so skeptical of the rosy picture Paul painted is because I recently read a rebuttal of his statement that that the Civil War was unnecessary, that Lincoln should've just bought the slaves. One of the books that he recommends in the back is The Real Lincoln, which is along these lines. This is just...wrong. Here is the debunking, in four parts:
I know I'm responding to stuff that was not in the book, but my point is that I don't trust Paul's version of history, even history that he personally remembers. Memory is faulty, and his perspective is one of white male privilege (gah, I sound like such a liberal). That's not his fault, of course, but to assume that his perspective tells the whole picture is ridiculous.
He does not say much about the Civil Rights era. He does sort of gloss over Jim Crow as an unfortunate side effect of people have the freedom to govern themselves, which sort of made my eyes cross. He does not say how he feels about the integration of schools. Rand Paul got in some trouble for saying he would've voted against the Civil Rights Act. Those things were local government acting on the will of the people. Sometimes the will of the people is racist and wrong, and we need something to step in and say no, guys, we can't do it like this. Whether government should play that role, I don't know. I'm not sure who else would, but it's hard to imagine because I have grown up in the world where that was part of government's place. I just have a hard time saying that the federal government stepping in and taking away the right for states to set voting laws that prevented whole segments of the population from having a voice is necessarily bad.
Government is just people. We get some things right, we screw other things up. Just like individuals, we're all just guessing what the right thing to do is. Anything that gets too big has the tendency to become corrupt and inefficient, because it's just a magnifier of all our worst traits. I guess that's a concentration of power thing, but government is just one example of that (see also: corporations, unions, religious institutions, probably others).
I think Ron Paul is a good man, and I'm glad that someone is saying these things. Our government probably is too big, but I don't necessarily want his version either. His base is young, and it may be years before his real influence is known. I was already planning on voting for him in the primary, though you have to admit the other choices are not very inspiring, when they're not outright repellant. But the more I see of the world, the more complicated it gets. I am suspicious of anyone who says there is one answer to everything.
Thank you for lending me the book. It's good that I have a firm grasp of what he is saying, rather than hearing everything secondhand.