Ron Paul Answers Questions From Freakonomics Readers (Encore)

Ron Paul

Back in 2008, shortly after the Presidential election, we solicited reader questions for Congressman Ron Paul, who had run for President that year. He happens to be running again this year and, in light of his strong third-place showing in the Iowa caucuses last night, I thought it might be interesting to republish his replies. They are well-considered and interesting throughout, and it is especially interesting to read them four years later in light of how political circumstances have shifted (or haven’t).

Q.What was your first thought when you found out McCain chose Palin as his running mate?

A. At first, I thought it was a pretty savvy choice from a political perspective. I also knew that she had said some nice things about me in the past. At the same time, I knew that to be on the ticket, she would have to toe the line on foreign policy and the war, so that tempered a lot of my enthusiasm.

Q. Who in Congress would you consider to be your closest peer(s)?

A. There are a lot of members who I work with on a variety of different issues. Walter Jones is a good friend and works with me on foreign policy. Often on spending, if there is a 432-3 vote, the other two congressmen voting with me are Jeff Flake and Paul Broun. A lot of times, I work with Democrats on civil liberties issues. I guess my point is that people from all over the political spectrum can side with liberty and the Constitution. The goal is to get a majority to vote that way most of the time.

Q. It was mentioned you were in favor of getting rid of the Department of Education. Is this true, and if so, how do you feel this would benefit the country?

A. I do believe in eliminating the Department of Education. First, the Constitution does not authorize the Department of Education, and the founders never envisioned the federal government dictating those education policies. Second, it is a huge bureaucracy that squanders our money. We send billions of dollars to Washington and get back less than we sent. The money would be much better off left in states and local communities rather than being squandered in Washington. Finally, I think that the smallest level of government possible best performs education. Teachers, parents, and local community leaders should be making decisions about exactly how our children should be taught, not Washington bureaucrats. The Department of Education has given us No Child Left Behind, massive unfunded mandates, indoctrination, and in come cases, forced medication of our children with psychotropic drugs. We should get rid of all of that and get those choices back in the hands of the people.

Q. What active steps would you take toward reducing the size of the government?

A. The first thing I would do, which could be done rather quickly, is change our foreign policy. If you add up all of our overseas expenditures, we spend nearly $1 trillion every year. We have bases in 130 countries, 50,000 troops in Germany, and our brave military men and women bogged down in two wars in the Middle East. By announcing that America will pursue a foreign policy of non-intervention, where we have trade, diplomacy, and travel — but where we don’t police the world and stay out of the internal affairs of other nations — we could cut that $1 trillion in half and still have a strong national defense to keep us safe. All that money we save could be used to address the entitlement system, making sure there will be funding there for people who have become dependent, while allowing young people to get out. Secondly, I would begin to reassert respect for the Tenth Amendment. The Constitution does not authorize so many things that the federal government currently does. I would look to phase out entire departments and return these functions to the states as the Constitution intended. The Departments of Education and Energy would be on the top of my list. Finally, I would look to our monetary system. Government can only tax its people so much before they say no. So the government expands the money supply when it has taxed and borrowed all it can. This inflation is a hidden tax that falls squarely on the middle class. Sound, honest money would go a great way towards reining in the big-spending politicians.

Q. Even before the primaries, you said you would not run in the general election. Why specifically did you not run?

A. I was running for the Republican nomination, and I would have run in the general if I had won. I had little interest in running third party due to the inherent biases against such efforts. I also signed legally binding agreements not run third party in 2008 if I failed to win the G.O.P. primary. That was the cost for ballot access in several states, 11 total I believe. So even I had wanted to, it would not have been possible to run in the general after I lost the primary.

Q. What would your plans for economic stimulation look like during this slumping economy?

A. Let’s start with what I wouldn’t do, which is make the problem worse. We can not solve our problems with what we’ve been doing — borrowing money from overseas and creating money and credit out of thin air. Distorting interest rates and inflating the monetary supply sometimes provides short-term relief, but it will only make the pain worse in the long run. During the presidential campaign, I released the following four-point plan, and would stick by it while at the same time listening to experts for advice on how to improve it: The Four-Point Plan 1) Tax Reform: Reduce the tax burden and eliminate taxes that punish investment and savings, including job-killing corporate taxes. 2) Spending Reform: Eliminate wasteful spending. Reduce overseas commitments. Freeze all non-defense, non-entitlement spending at current levels. 3) Monetary Policy Reform: Expand openness at the Federal Reserve and require the Fed to televise its meetings. Return value to our money. 4) Regulatory Reform: Repeal Sarbanes-Oxley regulations that push companies to seek capital outside of U.S. markets. Stop restricting community banks from fostering local economic growth.

Mike B

If I could ask him a question it would be this.

You are proud of pointing out that during your time practicing medicine you didn't take $1 of government money, however you treated people without regard towards their ability to pay. While very admirable on an individual level, are you implying by this that spontaneous altruism on the part of the medical profession/industry is the answer to provide care for those that are otherwise unable to afford it?


Mike my understanding of Ron Paul's beliefs is that the government and all governments are inefficient and things like helping the poor should be left to local communities. Essentially instead of the government redistributing the income and determine what treatment a person should get the local state/county/neighbors/church/community should take the extra money the government is taking and determine the best way they feel the money should be used. If Bob feels it's worthwhile to give money to Jane, because she needs medical treatment then she gets it and if not then she does not.

Essentially government creates inefficiency and abuse, but you can't abuse your own money and you should be in complete control of how it's used not the government.

That's at least my understanding of Ron Paul.

Mike B

First states, counties and localities are forms of government. Granted I don't know what Mr Paul feels about them, but most libertarians I know don't tend to differentiate.

Regarding my question what I am really digging at is if he believes:

A) The medical profession and charities in general will step up in the absence of government and meet the same or more of the need that is being met by government etc today.
B) The need will not be met, but it doesn't matter because healthcare is a matter of personal responsibility (or something like that).
C) The need will be met because those in need will find ways to adapt to the new environment (beg, borrow, steal) since they aren't guaranteed a handout.

I wouldn't even begin to try to change his mind on anything, I'm just interested in his line of thinking.

What I find ironic is that a guaranteed right to basic human needs allows for the sorts of rabid individuality that Libertarians value so much. If you are reliant on your community's personal decisions for any sort of charity (and that can happen to anyone) then it would be rather risky to act in non-conformist ways.


Mike B

BTW, where are you getting that we spend $1 Trillion a year on overseas deployments when the entire DoD budget is only about $700 billion. It's not like just bringing the troops home would save all that money even if it were being spent unless you were to discharge every people previously stationed overseas and mothball all of their equipment. I guess your definition of "not weakening" our national defense is different than mine.

Also while being non-interventionist is just great how would you respond to China's increasingly interventionist policies? Just pretend China doesn't exist until they have locked up all the natural resources we need to have an economy? There's a reason isolationism was discredited, its called World War II. You probably remember it.


There is no possibility for isolationism when when have created organizations as the UN and NATO for exactly that purpose. As a matter fact invading Iraq was a blatant violation of that principle. If anything interventionism is a relic on old era. China influence on the world of natural resource is not being done with military interventions but with money and influence. This creates a playing field that stays far from your imperialistic ideas while at the same time stop us us from involving ourselves in the houses of our neighbors and keeps boys from dying just so the banks can finance more wars and the industrial complex can make some money.

Jonas Holl

I would like to know how he thinks states would provide anything like a standardized education if they were each allowed to do their own thing. While it is not necessary for each student to learn exactly the same thing, it is important to ensure that students are taught a comprehensive set of basic skills. For one, our university admissions systems are based on this. Granted, this system is also arguably imperfect, but without well thought out alternative I would be wary of scrapping the status quo.

I would also like to know what evidence Paul has to support his claims that the DoE is guilty of "indoctrination, and in come cases, forced medication of our children with psychotropic drugs". Not sure, but I think he is referring to the teaching of a science-based curriculum (indoctrination) and the voluntary medication of children for psychiatric disorder (forced drugging).

These comments are at best very misleading and at worst totally farcical. Hyperbole like this is typical of politicians with hidden agendas and fringe beliefs. I would think this would disqualify Ron Paul as a mainstream candidate.


Joe J

People would rather have better education possibilities rather than standardized education possibilities.
The DOE has only existed for 32 years, during which time, education in America has fallen greatly behind most other countries. If something has been failing steadily, getting rid of it is a wise choice.


While the educational plight of the US is well documented, I'm not sure dismantling the DOEd would improve the situation, or even maintain the status quo. I think there's a risk in making these kinds of decisions in the name of cutting needless beauracracy.

With that said I'm not even sure what the DOEd actually does, other than standardized testing which is basically pointless. So maybe it wouldn't hurt to cut them off.

Eric M. Jones.

I love those tall Texans like RuPaul.

Joe J

Kind of an aside comment. I wish we did look more at what people said in the past, like this.
Unfortunately the general public seems to have 0/0 hindsight with respect to politics.

It being New Years season, many shows, were doing their yearly predictions by the "political experts" of what would happen in the next 12 months, what I would rather is see how well these experts' old predictions held up.

I had that in mind when I saw a Ron Paul speech from 2000, where he stated if we pass this idiotic bill in 5 to 10 years it would cause a devistating collapse of the housing markets.
7 years later it collapsed, the experts who passed that bill were scratching their heads, trying to find someting else to blame it on.


Ron Paul lost a lot of respect from scientists and environmentalists when he declared global warming 'a hoax'. To many it seems that a big problem with Libertarian philosophy is that it does not have a good mechanism for dealing with a problem like anthropogenic climate change, and so to save face Libertarians fall back on silly conspiracy theorizing and quack science.
I would ask Ron Paul, if, hypothetically speaking, he did not believe there was a grand Communists conspiracy amongst scientists in regards to global warming, how his political ideas would solve the problem.


Whenever I read Ron Paul I think of the saying "Novelty is often forgotten antiquity." (probably inaccurate). Or, as Shakespeare put it "What's past is prolouge."

I don't hate ALL of Ron Paul's ideas, but unfortunately so many of them just seem like straight up bad ideas to me. I often feel like libretarians don't account for externalities enough and run with some assumptions that I just can't get on board with. Such as tax breaks for corporations.

I think Dr. Paul is the only republican candidate I would consider voting for. At least the man is honest.


Here's Milton Friedman on education:

It should shed some light on Paul's views on the topic

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