I started Ron Paul’s Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom. In this post, I’ll comment on select sections of the book that I have read so far.
Introduction: On page xii, Paul says: “To believe in liberty is not to believe in any particular social and economic outcome. It is to trust the spontaneous order that emerges when the state does not intervene in human volition and human cooperation.” I, however, do believe in a particular social and economic outcome, in that I desire an economy where all people prosper, at least enough to meet their needs. And I think that libertarians do, too, since they argue that libertarianism is best for society, in terms of bringing costs down and giving people the opportunity to prosper. But I also get the impression that they think that people should suffer the consequences of their mistakes (i.e., a bad investment, signing a sub-prime mortgage, etc.). On some level, I agree, for that is what taking responsibility is all about. But I also believe in a society where people are able to recover from their mistakes.
Abortion: This chapter was a little muddled, in my opinion. On the one hand, Ron Paul criticizes Roe vs. Wade because he thinks that “the federal government has a responsibility to protect life” (page 2). On the other hand, he asserts that the states have the authority to make criminal law, and so he is for the states deciding their own abortion policy rather than a federal policy. And yet, he appears to be open to a constitutional amendment banning abortion.
Ron Paul made good points about the sanctity of life and how it’s absurd that doctors have been charged with murder if the baby dies after being born, and yet that same doctor is legally allowed to kill the baby before its birth. Moreover, Paul is a consistent pro-lifer in that he also criticizes war and capital punishment, not just abortion. I had an issue with Paul’s criticism on page 9 of “government-run programs where medical care is rationed for economic or social reasons that place relative value on life.” I’d heartily applaud Paul here if he also criticized private health care plans that ration care and place relative value on life. Rationing is problematic regardless of who does it: the government or an HMO.
Assassination: Paul in this chapter criticizes the government policy of assassinating people, even American citizens, in fighting the War on Terror. Does Ron Paul believe that terror is a threat? I had my doubts while I was reading this. He says on page 12 that “It appears that many people in government want us to believe that the greater danger is coming from people like the underwear bomber rather than from our own government.” But Paul does believe that something should be done about terrorists, for he notes on page 13 that “The perpetrators of the first Twin Towers bombing in 1993 were arrested, tried in New York City, and sentenced to life in prison.” For Paul, those who commit acts of terror should be prosecuted in civilian courts. Paul also says on page 14 that the Bill of Rights does not just apply to U.S. citizens, for “The Constitution protects ‘persons,’ not just ‘citizens.'” I think that Paul makes a good case that the War on Terror gives the government frightening powers, but I also believe that there should be a policy of preventing acts of terror, not just prosecuting the terrorists after the acts of terror are done. Paul has a chapter later in the book on terrorism, so perhaps he addresses this issue there.
Campaign Finance Reform: Paul criticizes campaign finance laws such as McCain-Feingold as an attack on free-speech. He does not buy the argument that the First Amendment does not apply to corporations, for corporations consist of individuals, plus even many media outlets (such as CNN) are corporations, and many would agree that setting limits on what CNN says would infringe on free speech. Paul also says that, if the government were doing less, special interests would not be trying as hard to buy candidates. I think that campaign finance reform is important because I want for the government to be on the side of the people rather than the special interests. But I thought that Paul made a good argument against the claim that the First Amendment does not apply to corporations.