Ron Paul: Hope or hype?

The hopeful passion of Ron Paul supporters is amazing. However, I would urge them some caution, especially the poorer liberal college students.

Many of these students support Paul because he opposes the Iraq war, drug war and war on our Constitution. I admit these positions are seductive, but serious issues are being overlooked by hyped over-enthusiasm.

A couple of Paul’s positions undermine his title as champion of freedom and the Constitution. He opposes reproductive freedom for women and would abolish Roe v. Wade. Supporters say, “States can decide, and if you don’t like it, you can move.” This is true for rich people, but poor women could not.

As for Constitutional hypocrisy, he opposes the separation of church and state and said the Founding Fathers wanted a Christian America where churches serve as institutions that would “eclipse the state in importance.” Paul is ignoring that many founding fathers were Deists and the Treaty of Peace and Friendship states “the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion.”

Paul’s biggest flaw is economic libertarianism. Libertarianism is a political philosophy emphasizing individual freedom. Obviously, basic individual freedoms are essential for democracy like freedoms of religion, speech, protest and press, as well as privacy rights. The problem with libertarianism is that freedom is not everything.

There is another value equally vital to democracy, which libertarians undervalue or detest: equality. Equality is important because it is essential for sustainable democracy. Without equality in political power in voting, influence and opportunity to participate, there is no real democracy. The primary determinant of political inequality in America is economic inequality.

Take a look at the statistics at inequality.org. The richest 20 percent of the nation own 83 percent of all wealth, while the poorest 20 percent of Americans have zero wealth. Moreover, the richest 10 percent of U.S. citizens own 80 percent of all stock. CEO salaries are now more than 400 times the average workers’, which was fueled by Bush tax cuts.

This inequality undermines democracy by creating unequal opportunity and voice. Ultra-rich Americans have better education access and superior influence in politics through lobby groups and large campaign donations. Wealth also helps candidates actually obtain high political office. In 2000, 94 percent of the candidates who raised the most money won, and most donations came from the wealthiest 1 percent.

Paul calls for abolishing income and estate taxes. While this would be great for the aforementioned richest Americans, it would be very harmful to the poor, ultimately exacerbating inequality and further undermining our money-corrupted quasi-democracy. Paul supports unregulated capitalism, which translates to fewer environmental and labor laws for corporations and wealthy profiteers. Paul actually opposes the minimum wage, so we could potentially have $1 per day slave labor.

Paul is also not in agreement with liberal environmental concerns. Representing Houston, the oil capital of the U.S., he often votes in favor of oil companies’ corporate interests and harming the environment. He would do nothing about global warming and would allow environmental issues to be addressed by property owners. Consequently, many wealthy property owners and corporations would further overexploit resources and pollute. Poor property owners would never win in court against expensive corporate attorneys. We cannot dreamily expect corporations to be good stewards of the land unless forced.

It is unfathomable that relatively poor college students would support Paul because he would eliminate federal student loans, Pell Grants and work-study. He is a proponent of privatizing education, which would disproportionately harm the poor. Poor, uneducated rural families could not home-school their children sufficiently, and would not be able to compete with the wealthy for good private schools.

Paul also opposes social programs for health such as SCHIP and Medicaid, the removal of which would again harm the poor majority. Additionally, he also opposes funding for our best public information systems, such as NPR and PBS.

Paul’s isolationist views are troubling as well. He would withdraw America from many international organizations and treaties, such as the UN and International Criminal Court. The ultimate effect would be far less international and humanitarian law. His isolationist position also led him to oppose Sudanese divestment for Darfur genocide.

Paul is principled, but his libertarian ideology inhibits him from excellence. Some say libertarianism is Marxism of the right. Marxism is the delusion that society can function on altruism and collectivism alone, and libertarianism is the reciprocal delusion that it can function on selfishness and individualism alone.

Paul’s worst flaw is economic libertarianism, which is incompatible with sustainable democracy. His policies would seriously harm the poor, and could ultimately lead to civil war when inequality and suffering become unbearable. There is another candidate as principled as Paul without tragic flaws, and his name is Dennis Kucinich. Unfortunately, our inequality-corrupted quasi-democracy will never elect either one.

Link to The Arkansas Traveler, University of Arkansas Newspaper

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