Ron Paul's next revolution: Internet freedom

Ron Paul, the man who brought 'End the Fed' into Republican mainstream now has tabbed Internet freedom as a new crusade to be carried on by his son Rand in the Senate.

Evan Vucci/AP/File
Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky speaks on behalf of his father, Rep. Ron Paul (R) of Texas, after a GOP presidential debate in Manchester, N.H., earlier this year.

It doesn't have quite the ring of "End the Fed," but Ron Paul's next revolution is a little more tuned in to the 21st century: the battle for Internet freedom.

The Texas congressman and GOP presidential candidate made eliminating the Federal Reserve the cornerstone of his libertarian political program for more than three decades. Alongside his son, Sen. Rand Paul (R) of Kentucky, however, the Paul movement is going to shift gears to online liberty after Paul père's bill to audit the Fed gets its moment in the sun in the House later this month. (The bill will die there, however, as it has no prospects in a Senate controlled by Democrats.)

The announcement, built into a  manifesto called "The Technology Revolution," released today, from the Paul-backing grassroots group Campaign for Liberty, raises three questions. What does the family Paul want out of Internet freedom? Will they be successful? And what does the change do for the libertarian movement more broadly?

The manifesto builds its case around two fundamental views: the Internet moves faster than government's ability to regulate it and the main obstacles to economy progress and individual freedom online come from government intervention. 

"Around the world, the real threat to Internet freedom comes not from bad people or inefficient markets – we can and will always route around them – but from governments' foolish attempts to manage and control innovation," according to the manifesto.

But it's not just government that draws libertarian ire.

"The road to tyranny is being paved by a collectivist-Industrial complex – a dangerous brew of wealthy, international NGO's, progressive do-gooders, corporate cronies and sympathetic political elites" that want to shackle the Internet, according to the manifesto.

Success in this struggle is, like so much else in the Paul canon, about keeping meddling hands out of the way so that markets and individuals can make their own decisions.

"Technology revolutionaries succeed because of the decentralized nature of the Internet which defies government control," according to the manifesto.

So with all that said, will the Paul/libertarian movement beat back all government involvement in the Internet? Don't count on it. But as the Republican primary process proved, the Paul family policy prescription of deeply cutting government – You want big cuts? Ron Paul's been screaming it for years – has resonated in the Republican Party and, indeed, across America this election cycle.

What Paul says openly, such as the need to slash entire federal departments, Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney apparently believes – but only says so in closed fundraisers.

“The success of this message is way beyond my expectations,” Ron Paul said at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast in September. "Who would’ve ever dreamed that, after 100 years, we’d be talking about the Federal Reserve at debates? I mean, this is fantastic.”

Past performance, as all know, is no definite prescription for the future. But on something as quixotic as ending the Fed, Paul has moved the needle. Why couldn't Ron and Rand have the same impact on Internet policy?

But Ron doesn't have too many more years in the spotlight. What does that all mean for the libertarian movement? Rand, who won as an insurgent in Kentucky's GOP primary in 2010 and who has carried the libertarian agenda into the Senate, will pick up the Paul family banner when Ron retires from Congress at year's end. He will be joined by libertarian supporters in the House, most notably Rep.Justin Amash (R) of Michigan. 

As Buzzfeed's Rosie Gray, who broke the news of the Internet manifesto, put it: "Internet freedom, Paul insiders say, is going to be Rand's end-the-Fed."

The Paul brand has been powered in no small part by young people. The Internet freedom push gives Team Paul a way to relate to a generation of acolytes in a closer-to-home way than the somewhat esoteric crusade against the Fed. It's not that the end of fiat money and a return to the gold standard is going to be leaving the Paul playbook – it's a central part of the philosophy and something Rand has hewed to consistently.

But leading with the Net, the Paul program could have an entry point to an even wider following.

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