defending ron paul (sort of)

It’s fashionable in Republican circles to bash Ron Paul for his non-interventionist views of foreign policy, and unfortunately for Dr. Paul, that argument doesn’t seem realistic based on the actions of Iran, North Korea, and others wanting to join the nuclear club. It also sounded too much like what the Democrats would have said if they were given the same question. That’s why Giuliani was able to score significant political points by condemning Paul’s remarks on 9/11.

Less worthy of discussion were Paul’s remarks on cutting the size of government. Every Republican running for President talks about reducing spending and the size of government, but when asked what they would cut, only Ron Paul had actually thought much about the subject. Wendell Goler asked him this question, and here’s what he said.

REP. PAUL: I’d start with the departments — the Department of Education, the Department of Energy, Department of Homeland Security. We’ve started with — we’ve just — the Republicans put in the Department of Homeland — it’s a monstrous type of bureaucracy. It was supposed to be streamlining our security and it’s unmanageable. I mean, just think of the efficiency of FEMA in its efforts to take care of the floods and the hurricanes.

So yes, there’s a lot of things that we can cut, but we can’t cut anything until we change our philosophy about what government should do. If you think that we can continue to police the world and spend hundreds of billions of dollars overseas, and spend hundreds of billions of dollars running a welfare state, an entitlement system that has accumulated $60 trillion worth of obligations, and think that we can run the economy this way; we spend so much money now that we have to borrow nearly $3 billion a day from foreigners to take care of our consumption, and we can’t afford that.

We can’t afford it in the government, we can’t afford it as a nation.

So tax reform should come, but spending cuts have to come by changing our attitude what government ought to be doing for us.

You can disagree with him about foreign policy, but on spending and bureaucracy he’s exactly right. I’m not convinced that congressional Republicans still subscribe to Paul’s skepticism of the effectiveness of bureaucracy and the necessity of reducing spending (if in fact they EVER did). As we have seen, they excel at paying lip service to what they think we want to hear, and then proceed to feed the beast, feigning surprise that this government behemoth continues to grow. And somehow it’s all someone else’s fault.

Ron Paul says that we need to change our philosophy about what government should do. Hard to argue with that statement. We have given the responsibility to government to fix everything that ails our great nation, and that has been a huge mistake. Both Republicans and Democrats now believe in an activist government, and even some conservatives are buying into the myth.

Republicans have evolved in a bad direction. We are far more comfortable with an activist government than we used to be. Suddenly there’s not as much difference between Republicans and Democrats as there used to be when it comes to advocating government programs to solve minor problems. If conservatives are truly an anti-statist lot at our core (and that’s what we keep telling ourselves), then we can’t possibly be in favor of using government power and influence to solve spiritual and moral problems in our country.

Our thinking about this needs to be turned on its head. Government should have a very limited role in legislating the morality of people. Things like the Marriage Amendment and the flag-burning amendment get SoCons stirred up emotionally, but those proposals don’t address the root problem, only the visible symptoms of it. To the degree that social conservatives’ belief system stems from a belief in God, they need to get back to that focus. Government doesn’t make people more moral, it only keeps their tendency to break laws in check.

Are Christians and other assorted social conservatives for limited government, or aren’t they? Once you start advocating the involvement of government for any reason other than the upkeep of infrastructure, national defense, and our new Congressional priority (HAHA) – border security– then you lose some of the ability to claim that you are completely down with shrinking government. Giving government additional powers and responsibilities than the basic maintenance of the country requires is a dangerous proposition.

Once upon a time, we were a more freedom-loving, libertarian lot than we are now. We wanted the government to pretty much stay out of our lives, allowing us to worship God as we saw fit, own as many guns as we wanted to own, and allowing us complete control over our homes and businesses. We never saw the role of government to be an advocate for religion. What happened to us? Where did this anti-statist bent go? I don’t know, but we need to get back to that healthy skepticism of big government we used to have, and we need to start holding Congress accountable for wasting our money.