NPO: I want this paper not just to offer commentary, but to have an intellectual tone to it, so I’d like to get your thoughts on a couple of American Founding Fathers to whom you suggest the conservative or libertarian really concerned with Constitutional issues might turn.
RP: Well, I like Samuel Adams. He was an intellectual behind it and he agitated and wrote about it, so I admire him, but I like all of them to some degree, some of them a lot more than others.
Just the other day, on one of our news interviews, Steve Forbes was bragging that if only Hamilton were here, he’d love what we’re doing.
NPO: Yeah, I think he probably would.
RP: He was saying Hamilton would endorse what he was saying, so I had the chance to answer back. I said, “Well, if Jefferson were here, he would probably endorse what I’m saying.”
NPO: I think you’re right.
RP: Jefferson, of course, there’s a lot to admire about what he said, and I think the whole atmosphere then, of overthrowing the king and tyranny and giving us not a perfect, or the best, document, that unfortunately has not been followed, but —–
NPO: No, it hasn’t.
RP: We can look to that period of time as being pretty significant in human history.
NPO: Okay, I want to play up on something that you just said. Now I don’t think anyone in our government more faithfully defends the Constitution than you. Is that because you believe that it is right; because it is the document given to us, and even if imperfect, it’s what we have; or somewhere in the middle?
RP: I think it’s the respect for the rule of law. I’m interested in having rigid restraints on the government and the Constitution was written not to restrain us but to restrain government. I see the imperfections; early on there were more than now, especially when it came to slavery. It’s still an imperfect document, but it’s reasonably well written.
There’s a need to adapt to current times and the possibility is there. People get frustrated and they say it’s too slow. The other side always argues, “Well these times are different, they’re modern, and it has to be a living document.” We say, “Sure, you’re right. There’s a way to do this: You amend it.” What they’re frustrated about is the slowness of it, but what they do is throw everything out. I’m more concerned about that than defending every line in the document.
Some of the things in the Constitution could probably be written better today. The Second Amendment could be a lot more explicit; it’s hard for me to understand why some of these debates come up, but maybe, if it were written a little bit differently, we’d argue a lot less about it.
I think the most important thing is the rule of law and that people follow the law and not do what they want today, whether it’s the executive branch, legislative branch, or judicial branch. I think they have essentially no respect for the Constitution.
NPO: Okay, two more quick Constitutional questions. First, other than the Sixteenth Amendment, do any Amendments strike you a being particularly disconnected from the vision of the Founding Fathers?
RP: The Seventeenth is one. That introduced the notion that the states could be undermined. Senators had been elected by the legislatures to represent the states’ interests. It was recognized that the states were independent and needed protection; they were to stand up to the federal government and represent their individual states. I favor repealing it.
NPO: And the last one: Obviously, the Civil War essentially ended this debate, but what do you think of secession as a Constitutional issue? The Second Vermont Republic generally polls about thirteen percent; there’s a lot of talk about it in Cascadia; even Minnesota has the North Star Republic group.
RP: In a free society, when certain groups came together, like the Colonies, it was assumed that if you came together voluntarily, then you could leave voluntarily. In the early part of our history, I think it was understood. That‘s one area where we could make the Constitution explicit. Think of how restrained the federal government would be if they knew that a state could just leave. I believe in the principle of secession. It has been part of our system that has been knocked out of us, especially since the Civil War, but we’re completely inconsistent internationally. Now we go and bomb and kill people from a country like —–
RP: Like Kosovo. We allow them, and defend their secession, and at the same time we have no sympathy at all for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I think that principle, self-determination, we should defend.
NPO: Then the one gotcha question, as Sarah Palin has come to call it, of the interview. What happens if, tomorrow, the people of Texas vote overwhelmingly, fed up with the American government, to secede and to re-establish the Lone Star Republic? How do you, as a Texan and a congressman, react to that?
NPO: Good answer.
RP: If that were the majority opinion and we were able to, I think it would be great, but I’m cautious, because I know that our state officers aren’t necessarily going to protect my personal liberties a whole lot better right now. It’s a system we’re up against. We might have even more state regulations. We have this whole idea that even our cities tell us everything we can do with our own property. We have too many regulations and very little respect for private property. But I think the smaller the unit of government, the better.
NPO: Now I’d like to talk a little bit about the movement — the liberty movement, the Campaign for Liberty, the Ron Paul Revolution. We saw, the other night in the Comcast Center, five candidates whom you endorse, Republicans in Maryland who support liberty. Has the GOP a future, with or without this type of politician?
RP: Well, if they do, it will be in spite of themselves; that was a good example. We have five Republican candidates who went through the process, ran in the primaries, and became their nominees. We plan a rally, and the Republican Party on the campus claim they’re going to help us and invite all the Republican students, and then they back out of it. It’s destructive. My guess is that they got word from higher up, whether it was the state party or the McCain people, and they said, “Hold up.”
If we were all socialists, you might understand if they said, “Wow, you guys have strayed too far”, but what did we do? We’ve defended what Republicans claim they believe in: limited government, free markets, private property, balanced budgets, and low taxes, and they don’t want anything to do with this. It’s strict Constitutionalism. If they continue to do that, they’re going to self-destruct, because they can’t do it without young people coming into it. Our campaign rallied as many young people as any Republican has in a long time.
RP: It scares them to death, but I think it’s the old guard. They don’t want to give up control. What are they going to have to guard? There won’t be much of a party left if they don’t welcome new people into it.
NPO: You’ve attracted a lot of support from the Left, as well as the Right. Before you officially endorsed Pastor Baldwin, you brought him, Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney on stage and offered the don’t-vote-for-the-major parties endorsement. Do you think that, if not in the GOP, the future is in these left-right coalitions, even if they’re only short term, when we look at where we have common ground, rather than where we differ?
RP: It might be. And, you know, there are lot of Democrats — sometimes we assume that all Democrats tend to be overly socialistic.
NPO: Bob Conley’s a great example of —–
NPO: Of that sort you’re talking about.
RP: Some Democrats do believe in the marketplace and — who knows? — it may be easier to build it with the Democrats, because there’s a tendency for them to be better on civil liberties and being anti-war.
NPO: Except for Barack Obama.
RP: Haha, yeah, that won’t work.
I think that we need more Conleys joining the Democrats; it’s a philosophic struggle, not a partisan struggle. I’ll work with anyone; I want to bring those people together and worry about the other issues later. On the big issues, we should come together.
NPO: Can we possibly, in our current state, recover from the Wall Street welfare that we’re witnessing right now?
RP: Yeah, but it’s going to be difficult if we continue to do what we’re doing. We’re going to go downhill until they throw in the towel and say, “You can’t just print money to solve they problem.” They’re destined to destroy the dollar if they keep creating new money and credit. What comes out of this depends on whether we come to our senses.
Right now, it doesn’t look too good in Washington, but outside of Washington, I’ve been encouraged to see these tens of thousands of young people listening to the message of freedom. People are paying attention to us because they know that things aren’t working. We’re not on the horizon of a victory, but I think that we’re going to hold our own, and there’s every reason to believe it’s worth the effort.
You believe that we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq; I do, too. Something that has bothered me is how we exit that country morally justified after leaving it in shambles. Hussein was a terrible leader, but at least stability existed. We have turned Iraq into a quagmire; we have made it possible for al-Qaeda to work there. How do we find an answer that gets us out of there, where we don’t belong, and doesn’t leave the people of Iraq worse off?
RP: I believe that Iraq will be better off. Maybe not immediately, but they used that argument in then 1960s: If we ever left Vietnam, the Soviets or Chinese would take over, and they’d be Communists forever. Well, we left and there was a bit of chaos, because we and the French had been ruining their country for twenty years. Stopping the killing never can be a bad idea. Just stop the killing and leave and let the people of the country take care of it. Let the Iraqis have their country back again; it may well be a lot better than anything we ever dreamed of.
Continuing to do the wrong thing, to do things that are immoral and against the Constitution, that we cannot afford, doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. The good has to come by changing that policy, although there may be a short period where there may be some realignments. They would be better off, and we’ll be better off. We have to leave anyway, because we’re going broke and can’t afford it. We might as well do it under a calmer set of circumstances, rather than waiting until we’re running, panicking, and trying to get out.
That’s about all I have. Anything that you’d like to finish this off with, anything to speak to the readership that we’re going to have at this paper?
RP: If young people read and study why freedom works and why the market works and why we don’t need the income tax or the Fed — if they read it and understand it and promote those ideas — things will change. The next generation, they’re the ones that really can make the difference.
NPO: Okay. Whom should they read?
RP: The Law by Bastiat. Any book by Murray Rothbard, especially The Great Depression and What Has the Government Done to Our Money? A little more in depth, Mises on Austrian economics. I would certainly recommend the Mises Institute to find the books that would be very valuable for everybody. Another book, Hayek’s book, influenced me a lot, The Road to Serfdom. That was one of the first books I read on economics.
NPO: Thank you so very much, Dr. Paul.
RP: Thank you.