Former Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) championed the cause of liberty in front of a packed and enthusiastic crowd in Salomon 101 at Brown April 16. Hosted by the Brown Lecture Board, Paul touched upon foreign policy, the drug war, the military-industrial complex, and the gold standard, among other topics.
The first part of Paul’s lecture focused on foreign policy. He criticized the U.S. for spending money to keep North and South Korea divided. In his view, the U.S. government used crises like the North Koreans’ attainment of nuclear weapons as an excuse to drum up “constant agitation” among the populace and thus be able to spend more money on the military-industrial complex. He supported national defense, but argued that the U.S. should be less involved in other countries’ affairs.
“I vote for trying to achieve with peace” the changes the country wants to see around the world instead of “preemptive war” to mitigate potential threats, Paul said. In the meantime, the U.S. is “wasting our time and money” in Afghanistan, he added.
Paul was also critical of the Obama administration’s drone war and decried Democrats’ support of it. He noted the immorality of the drone war: For each suspect killed, 50 civilians are killed as well. He found it unbelievable that Americans wonder why other countries are against us when our government’s policies kill innocent people abroad.
The former contender for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination highlighted the problems awaiting the U.S. as a result of its high government spending. Now, other countries buy our debt, Paul said, but we will someday have to pay back those debts. Instead, the U.S. should live within its means. His solution for scaling back is to “stop all the wars and bring the troops home,” a policy prescription that was met with applause from the crowd.
Corporate welfare, the “biggest welfare,” was not safe from Paul’s barbed tongue. He disliked the practice of taking money from efficient companies and funneling it toward “lousy” ones. But he was also critical of citizen-to-citizen welfare. The solution is not to extract money from the rich and redistribute it, he said. The real solution is to ensure that nobody gets rich from government or military corruption.
“The people should be the government,” not politicians or special interests, he said.
Also in an economic vein, Paul decried deflation, which devalues our currency and thus destroys the middle class. The rich receive money first, and then it circulates and loses value, he said.
The audience was especially pleased with Paul’s condemnation of the War on Drugs. It is not constitutional to “arrest somebody on suspicion,” he said. However, during the question-and-answer session, when Spectator contributor Benjamin Koatz ’16 asked Paul whether he would legalize drugs at the federal level, Paul said the federal government should stay out of drug legalization and leave it for the states.
Paul also noted that an individual should be able to take economic and personal risks in a free society. New York City Mayor Bloomberg’s large soda ban runs counter to this freedom, he said.
He closed the speech with an appeal to liberty. He said freedom brings people together and that people with totally different opinions should come together to get the government out of their lives.
While Paul said he voted against the Patriot Act, he did not further cover issues of Internet privacy, an especially salient topic in the midst of the controversy surrounding the Stop Online Piracy Act, Protect IP Act, and Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act. Knowing his largely liberal audience, he also shied away from social issues, though he noted in the question-and-answer session that he does not support abortion due to his experience as an obstetrician-gynecologist.