Search the Site

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.