The Irregular Times questions why Ron Paul would have voted against a measure to improve levees in New Orleans following Katrina. Paul has also voted against other aide to New Orleans. The answer, which even his supporters verify in the comments, is that Paul does not believe this is the role of the federal government. Paul has a strange view of the Constitution which would prevent virtually any action by the federal government, and he is being consistent with his beliefs in opposing these measures.
Paul’s view of the Constitution, as well as his equally strange definition for freedom, must be considered when Ron Paul is billed as being a pro-freedom candidate. Paul certainly deserves credit for challenging the Republican orthodoxy on the war, the Patriot Act, and on drug laws. This does not mean that his position is one of supporting freedom as most of us would define freedom.
To Paul and his supporters less government means freedom regardless of the government action. Opposing spending on post-Katrina aide is seen as supporting freedom. Unfortunately Paul’s view of freedom is selective. Not only does Paul find a lack of freedom in areas where most would not, he also fails to recognize important liberties we now possess. With his opposition to abortion rights Paul opposes individual liberty in an area where it has far more impact on the individual than whether the federal government spends money on projects such as post-Katrina Aide. His vote for a federal ban on so-called partial birth abortions undermines his claims to support both individual liberty as well as his support for state’s rights.
The consequences of Paul placing his often socially conservative beliefs ahead of libertarian principles is also seen in his views of separation of church and state and the extension of liberties from the federal government to state governments. Paul ignores both the secular nature of the original body of the Constitution as well as the First Amendment, which was intended to guarantee separation of church and state. He has incorrectly claimed that, “The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers.” He has also supported keeping “under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, has co-sponsored the school prayer amendment, and supported keeping the Ten Commandments on a courthouse lawn. Paul has both criticized secularism and claimed that the Founding Fathers envisioned a Christian America.
The beliefs in religious freedom and separation of church and state were radical at the time of the writing of the Constitution and it took until the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified for Constitutional liberties to be extended to the states. Paul’s vision of state’s rights does not take this into account. Not only would the states be able to restrict the rights of a woman to control her own body, but state governments would be free to enact the rest of the platform of the religious right. This is why Paul has received those endorsements from far right extremist groups which see Paul’s platform as the best way in which to impose their views on local governments.
If he had the power, Ron Paul would greatly transform the nature of the federal government. Not only would the government be unable to spend money on projects such as post-Katrina assistance, it would also lose the ability to “impose” its views of Constitutional liberties upon the states. Contrary to the view of Paul and his supporters, such rights must be a matter of national policy and not be left for the local level. It is far easier for conservative groups to obtain a majority vote at a state or local level than on a national level to impose their agenda.
The Founding Fathers understood the need to protect the rights of the individual over the rights of the majority. The fight for liberty remains an ongoing battle, and extending Constitutional liberties to state governments was an important part of this battle. Whenever his supporters promote Ron Paul as the defender of freedom, keep in mind that their definition of freedom may be quite different from yours and what was envisioned by the Founding Fathers.