Ron Paul: an absolute faith in free markets and less government
The 10-term congressman from Texas has been a strict constitutionalist since he came into public life some 30 years ago.
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"I just thought it was fascinating. It made common sense – the sort of thing I would have concluded on my own, but the Austrian economists were a lot smarter," Paul says. He made friends with American economists such as Murray Rothbard, a student of Mises, and often visited Milton Friedman while continuing his own study of economics and world markets.Skip to next paragraph
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"He's been a very serious student of economics since medical school, and has read a huge amount of history – constitutional history and monetary history. His philosophical and economic views drive him and everything he does," says Llewellyn Rockwell, a former congressional chief of staff for Paul. Mr. Rockwell is president of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Ala., and maintains the popular website, lewrockwell.com.
As a physician, Paul says he came to resent government intervention in his practice. In his years as an OB/GYN, he didn't accept Medicare and Medicaid payments because he felt they represented unconstitutional government overreach. Sometimes, he'd treat patients for free.
"I found that government was interfering with my judgment as a doctor, disrupting the doctor/patient relationship, and making prices go up," he says.
But what drove him into public life was President Richard Nixon's decision in 1971 to break the last link between gold and US currency and impose wage and price controls. "I decided to speak out," he says.
A nation that spends, borrows, and prints too much money inevitably pays a price, he says. Unrestrained by a link to gold, the Federal Reserve can create too much credit, fueling housing and stock bubbles. The result: The dollar continues to goes down in value, the nation becomes ever more dependent on borrowing money abroad, and young people pay the price. A return to the gold standard restrains the government and restores the value of the dollar.
"My influence, such as it is, comes only by educating others about the rightness of the free market," he wrote in a 1984 essay, "Mises and Austrian Economics: A Personal View."
In Congress, Paul often speaks of his own record of consistency in voting against big government and refusing the perks it offers. He says he will not accept a government pension and did not seek government loans to help finance college for his five children. Paul, a longtime Ronald Reagan supporter, even voted against awarding the former president a Congressional Gold Medal in 2000, saying that taxpayers shouldn't be charged the $30,000 to mint the coin.
But critics note inconsistencies in Paul's long public record. For example, while Paul crusades against big government and voted against government funds for victims of hurricane Katrina, he has requested and won billions in special projects for his congressional district, which includes Galveston, Texas.
"I put it in because I represent people who are asking for some of their money back…. And if Congress has the responsibility to spend the money, why leave the money in the executive branch and let them spend the money?" he said on NBC's "Meet the Press" Dec. 23.