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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.

By Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor / January 2, 2008

Focus on freedom: Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul has long been studying economics and world markets.

karin cooper/face the nation

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Berlin, N.H.

Ron Paul still looks surprised when his calls to follow the Constitution and restore a sound currency set off whoops of approval at a campaign stop.

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The 10-term GOP congressman from Texas has been making these points for 30 years, with little to show for it beyond hundreds of House votes on the short end of 434 to 1. Critics called him a crank.

But lately, his views and values – the product of a lifetime of intense, self-directed study – are finding an audience. His message is basic: freedom and limited government. Repeal the welfare-warfare state. Get out of Iraq, now. Abolish the income tax. End the war on drugs. Put the dollar back on a more solid footing.

"Unlike some others, I wasn't really anxious to run for president," he tells supporters at Tea Bird's Café and Bistro in Berlin, N.H. "I didn't believe the country was ready for a strict constitutionalist."

When he says "strict," he means it. As a member of Congress, he refuses to vote for any bill not explicitly set out in the Constitution, earning him the nickname "Dr. No." He routinely votes against new taxes, deficit budgets, government surveillance, gun control, war funding, and the war on drugs. He would abolish the Internal Revenue Service, the Federal Reserve, the US Departments of Education, Energy, and Commerce as well as other "unconstitutional domestic bureaucracies." He has called for America to withdraw from the World Trade Organization and the United Nations.

At the heart of Paul's worldview is a conviction that people are born free and should govern themselves – and that free markets make better decisions than governments do.

"Some people think I don't love governing, but it's different," he says in a Monitor interview. "I believe in self-governing and family governing. The responsibility is put more on the individual than on some huge monstrosity in Washington."

Family Roots

Paul traces his values of personal responsibility and self-reliance to his early family life. His father, Howard, the son of a German immigrant, ran a family dairy business in Green Tree, Pa., near Pittsburgh, where he pasteurized and bottled milk. The third of five sons, Paul learned responsibility and the work ethic at age 5 in the family basement. There, milk bottles were washed by hand, and he and his brothers earned a penny for every dirty bottle they spotted coming down a conveyer belt.

"We learned the incentive system," he says. The boys soon figured out that one of their uncles was a worse bottle washer than the other. "We liked to work for that one uncle, because we got more pennies," he says.

The five boys shared a small bedroom in a four-room house. From spring through fall, they slept outside in a small, screened porch. His grandmother and two uncles lived in the same family compound. His father hoped that all five sons would become Lutheran ministers; two of them did. "Confirmation was a big event in my family; birthdays weren't a big event," Paul says. His mother, Margaret, urged her sons to read and get an education.