While I support Ron Paul’s efforts to be included in the upcoming Fox debate, this does not mean that I agree with his views, consider his views to actually be libertarian, or even think he makes very much sense. I supported Paul’s inclusion in recent posts because of believing this to be the case of any candidate, regardless of what I think of their views. Unfortunately, despite his reputation for supporting freedom and defending the Constitution, Paul’s public statements and writings demonstrate that his view of the Constitution could result in a reduction in individual liberty.
Ron Paul’s statement in the House of Representatives opposing an amendment to ban flag burning on June 3, 2003 provides one example of how Paul’s views are inconsistent with regards to supporting individual liberty. (Hat tip to Irregular Times). Paul makes many excellent points against such an amendment:
First off, I think what we are trying to achieve through an amendment to the Constitution is to impose values on people- that is, teach people patriotism with our definition of what patriotism is. But we cannot force values on people; we cannot say there will be a law that a person will do such and such because it is disrespectful if they do not, and therefore, we are going to make sure that people have these values that we want to teach. Values in a free society are accepted voluntarily, not through coercion, and certainly not by law, because the law implies that there are guns, and that means the federal government and others will have to enforce these laws.
Here we are, amending the Constitution for a noncrisis. How many cases of flag burning have we seen? I have seen it on television a few times in the last year, but it was done on foreign soil, by foreigners, who had become angry at us over our policies, but I do not see that many Americans in the streets burning up flags. There were probably a lot more in previous decades, but in recent years it averages out to about eight, about eight cases a year, and they are not all that horrendous. It involves more vandalism, teenagers taking flags and desecrating the flag and maybe burning it, and there are local laws against that.
Then we get to Paul’s extreme version of federalism, which ignores the extension of Constitutional liberties to the states under the 14th Amendment:
Under the Constitutional principle of federalism, questions such as whether or not Texas should prohibit flag burning are strictly up to the people of Texas, not the United States Supreme Court. Thus, if this amendment simply restored the state’s authority to ban flag burning, I would enthusiastically support it.
If there was an amendment restoring the state’s authority to ban free speech would he also support this? It isn’t even clear that he currently believes states do not have the authority to ban free speech as he also argues:
Let me emphasize how the First Amendment is written, “Congress shall make no law.” That was the spirit of our Nation at that time: “Congress shall make no laws.”
This is hardly the only time Ron Paul has expressed his disbelief in First Amendment rights. As I’ve previously noted, Paul 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. Ron Paul’s version of the Constitution is contradicted in the writings of the founding fathers, many court decisions, and in the view of most historians.
I also find it curious that Paul comes to such a restrictive interpretation of the Constitution with regards to First Amendment rights but has no problem with the ambiguities of the Second Amendment when he defends the rights of individuals to own guns. Unfortunately Paul interprets the Constitution based upon his own personal views as opposed to how it was actually written.
Traditionally libertarians have opposed restrictions on individual liberty at any level of government, not only when coming from the federal government. Rights are believe to be based upon the individual, not state or local governments. Ron Paul’s willingness to tolerate violations of individual liberties as long as this comes from a state as opposed to the federal government explains why so many white supremacists neo-Nazis are backing his campaign. What is more puzzling is why any libertarian would support a candidate whose views are so inconsistent with individual liberty.