Ron Paul is a man of principle. That is what we are constantly being told by his army of loyal fans. I believe them. A question remains, however, as to what his principles are, and what their consequences would be.
Let’s leave aside the issue of any letters published in the 1990s and focus only on the statements made by Ron Paul during his current campaign. He said he opposes the 1964 Civil Rights Act and supports the “right” of businesses to segregate. He said it is okay to let people die if they don’t have health insurance. He said there should be no public education. He wants to abolish Social Security and Medicare. He said that sexual harassment should not be against the law, and that AIDS victims don’t deserve public assistance. He said that disaster victims don’t deserve public assistance, either. And, most recently, he said that abortion is only acceptable for women who have suffered “honest rape.”
Where is all this coming from? What is the common ideological thread connecting all these views? Again, Ron Paul provides the answer: absolute private property. Like most libertarians, Ron Paul believes that “freedom” means the right to do anything you want with your property. All of his political views come from this one principle.
What would this principle look like in practice? For most people, it means the freedom to do anything you want inside your own home, since most people’s property consists of their home and the things inside it. I am sure that Paul would indeed protect your right to smoke marijuana in your own home, for example. It’s when you step outside your home, onto someone else’s property, that libertarianism stops looking like freedom and starts looking like tyranny.
Most people spend eight hours a day – a third of our adult lives – at work. When you’re at work, you are on your boss’ property. And according to libertarians like Paul, your boss should have the right to do anything he wants on his property. For example, he should have the right to fire anyone for any reason, or no reason at all. Did you just talk to a coworker about unions? You’re fired. Did you disagree with your boss’ political or religious views? You’re fired. Do you have darker skin than your boss likes? You’re fired. Are you gay? You’re fired. Are you an attractive woman? The boss asks you to sleep with him. You refuse? You’re fired. And you know that marijuana that you can smoke at home? Well, if your boss finds out about it and doesn’t like it, you’re fired.
Of course, maybe you won’t get outright fired for those things. Maybe you’ll just get a pay cut, or lose your health insurance. Maybe you won’t get hired in the first place if you’re black, or gay, or whatever else bosses don’t like. Maybe if you want to get a job, you’ll need to sign a contract promising not to talk about unions, or promising to vote a certain way, or that you won’t get an abortion, or that you’ll give your boss lap dances if he asks. All of this could be legal under a Paul presidency.
This is what it means to believe that anyone should do anything they want with their property. You are free at home, but at work (and anywhere else you might go), you are a slave to the boss or local property owner. And if you don’t like it, you can go home. Even your right to free speech only applies at home. Anywhere else, you can get kicked out for saying something the local property owner doesn’t like.
But wait, you might say, surely this will only happen to unskilled workers, who have no choice but to take whatever job is available or starve (since there won’t be any welfare or unemployment benefits). Surely you can escape this if you get a better education and take a higher-paying job, right? Yeah, about that. Paul wants to privatize all education. All of it. This means that your parents will have to pay just to put you through primary school, let alone college. By the time you get to that high-paying job, you’ll probably be in so much debt that getting fired would mean losing your home and everything you have, so you would still be at your boss’ mercy.
And did I mention healthcare? If you are poor or fall on hard times, you don’t get health insurance under Paul, since Medicare and Medicaid would be history. And don’t think about retiring, either, since there won’t be any Social Security. So if you want to be safe in your old age, you have to know exactly how long you’re going to live and how much you’re going to spend until then, and save up that money in advance. If you run out of savings at 90, tough luck. Get back to work.
Paul is a far greater danger to working people, women and minorities than any of the other Republican candidates. Any other candidate could be persuaded to change his mind, pressured into backing down from a particularly horrible policy, or threatened with the loss of countless votes at the next election if he does not change course. Precisely because the other candidates are more interested in personal power than anything else, precisely because they are willing to abandon unpopular principles, they can be kept in check.
But not Paul.
Paul will stick to his principles even if it means that millions of people will be impoverished or will be kicked out of their homes. Thousands will die of easily curable diseases, and most children will not get the same education as their parents had. We will return to the segregation and gender roles of the 1950s, and all of this will become a reality even if it means the end of Paul’s career and the title of most hated president in American history. He will not back down and he will not stop, even if he destroys himself and the American people in the process. Ron Paul, more than any other candidate, is a single-minded right-wing fanatic.
So yes, Paul is a man of principle. But his principles are evil, and he is willing to sacrifice all the social progress made in America in the last hundred years on the altar of his libertarian delusions.
Mike Tudoreanu is a Collegian columnist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.