Ron Paul Story
Itís hard to
put into words what Ron Paul means to me. In fact, it seems a little
strange that someone who I do not know on a personal level has had
such a big impact on my life. I guess the best place to start is
from the beginning.
Back in college
I was your typical neoconservative. I was a pro-war Republican who
also gave passing, lackadaisical support to limited government and
reducing spending. But limited government didnít have much true
meaning to me back then. It meant simply this: support reducing
spending only to the extent that it can be used to criticize the
Democrats and promote the Republican Party and its agenda. Thatís
a pretty shallow understanding, but itís an understanding that had
a firm grip on my mind back in those days. I was even the chairman
of the College Republicans at my university! Iíd bought into the
whole canard hook, line, and sinker.
I canít pinpoint
the timing exactly, but somewhere around the end of 2005, I discovered
Ron Paul. I think I stumbled upon a video of him on C-SPAN. I canít
remember exactly what he was saying in the video, but I remember
being annoyed and disliking it a lot, which means it was probably
against the Iraq War in some way. From there forward and for whatever
reason, I couldnít forget Ron Paul. For the first time, I was confronted
with the idea that my worldview was internally inconsistent. On
the one hand, I mouthed support for free markets and limited government;
on the other hand, I supported pre-emptive war, like in Iraq. War,
I was told by Ron Paul, was just another way to expand the size
and scope of government.
From that point
on, over the course of the next year or so, I followed a bread crumb
trail Ron Paul had already left across the internet at that time.
That trail led me to an obscure economist, one Iíd never heard of
before even as an economics major in college: Ludwig von Mises.
I then found the Ludwig von Mises Instituteís website; once that
happened, there was a snowball effect. I read a lot of articles
through the website and it caused me to purchase my first book by
Mises through LvMIís online store: Economic
Policy: Thoughts for Today and Tomorrow. To this day, that
little book contains one of my favorite essays of all time. Itís
entitled simply "Capitalism." Itís simple and to the point,
and it caused me to begin to see the free market differently. The
essay begins as follows:
terms which people use are often quite misleading. In talking
about modern captains of industry and leaders of big business,
for instance, they call a man a "chocolate king" or a "cotton
king" or an "automobile king." Their use of such terminology implies
that they see practically no difference between the modern heads
of industry and those feudal kings, dukes or lords of earlier
days. But the difference is in fact very great, for a chocolate
king does not rule at all; he serves. He does not
reign over conquered territory, independent of the market, independent
of his customers. The chocolate king Ė or the steel king or the
automobile king or any other king of modern industry Ė depends
on the industry he operates and on the customers he serves. This
"king" must stay in the good graces of his subjects, the consumers;
he loses his "kingdom" as soon as he is no longer in a position
to give his customers better service and provide it at lower cost
than others with whom he must compete.
Up until this
time, I saw libertarianism as an interesting political theory, but
I dismissed it as too extreme and unworkable in reality. It was
by reading the above and similar works by Mises that I began to
think that libertarianism might be a tenable position.
Mises, I was inevitably led to his student, economist Murray Rothbard,
and I eventually purchased Rothbardís book For
a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifesto and devoured it.
I remember loving that book and being fascinated while reading it.
I donít think I had ever enjoyed reading what some would consider
"dry" material so much in my life. In those pages, Rothbard
describes how a completely free market would function. That is,
he describes how courts, police, and the military could be provided
through the free market, i.e. without government. Reading Rothbardís
defense of such a radical version of libertarianism (anarcho-capitalism)
led me to the following conclusion: if the extreme views Rothbard
espouses can be reasonably defended as logical and workable, then
a more moderate version of libertarianism is surely defensible.
I found Rothbardís arguments very persuasive. In short, it was For
a New Liberty that caused me to start calling myself a libertarian
While all of
my self-study was going on, I was still following Ron Paul. As a
matter of fact, I had attended CPAC (a conservative conference held
in Washington, D.C. every year) in the previous year. It was rumored
that Ron Paul would make an appearance at CPAC 2007 to give a speech.
I had already become disillusioned with the Republican Party and
had no plans to attend CPAC that year. But when it was confirmed
that Ron Paul would be speaking there, I jumped at the chance to
attend. No question about it. I was going to see Ron Paul, come
Hell or high water!
As I mentioned
already, I was chairman of the College Republicans at my school.
However, by the time 2007 rolled around, I was now the past chairman
of that organization. I had also been trying to convince some of
my friends in the College Republicans that Ron Paul was the way
to go. To hell with the Republican Party, I said. Ron Paulís message
is consistent and principled, and he actually supports limited government.
Imagine that! I wonít say that I converted any of my friends in
College Republicans to libertarianism and Ron Paul, but I did have
a hand in making a few of them critically analyze their views. To
make a long story short, the end result of all that discussion and
argument was a few dedicated libertarians, libertarians even to
The trip to
CPAC that year was rather uneventful and I will even say boring.
I remember having to listen to Ann Coulter speak and cringing the
entire time. She even mentioned libertarians, as I recall, but not
in a very flattering light. She muttered something about libertarians
and drugs. You know, weíre all drug addicts, us libertarians, since
we want drugs legalized. I sat through many other speakers who were
not even important enough to remember. And remember them I do not.
day of the convention came when Ron Paul would speak. I was still
delusional enough at that time to think Ron Paul would be in a big
room in the hotel where the convention was held. That idea was quickly
dashed when, upon finding the room on the bottom floor of the hotel,
I discovered that it was tiny and there were no seats. You had to
stand if you wanted to hear "Dr. No" speak, which I was
fine with. I would have stood on my head to hear Ron Paul in person.
Someone was kind enough to drag a lectern in there so Ron Paul would
have something to stand behind to give his speech.
Once I saw
the small size of the room and the lack of care by CPAC by not providing
accommodations for those of us who wanted to hear Ron Paul, I doubted
many people would show up at all. But, much to my surprise, that
room, though small, slowly started to get crowded, almost a little
too crowded. It was packed.
Ron Paul gave
a great talk, much of it anti-war themed, and concluded to loud
applause for that little room. He then went out into the hallway
to talk with anyone who wanted to share a word with him. I was definitely
one of those people who wanted to share a word Ė many words! I waited
around for quite a while and slowly the crowd began to disperse.
It finally got to the point where very few people were left and
I was afraid Dr. Paul was about to leave, so I approached him, shook
his hand, and introduced myself. I donít recall all the details
of the conversation, as it was nearly six years ago from the time
of this writing, but I know it lasted longer than I expected, probably
five to ten minutes. My guess is waiting to approach him after nearly
everyone had left was a good strategy because no one else was vying
for his attention. During our talk, he encouraged me to attend Mises
University that summer (which I did). We also talked about a couple
of the books that both of us had read. I remember saying I wanted
to read Misesí Human
Action, and Dr. Paul said it was a great book but one that
was difficult to understand without some background knowledge. So
he recommended a few smaller books by Rothbard before I took on
Misesí economic treatise. I got a quick picture, shook his hand,
and that was it. That was my Ron Paul experience, at least when
it comes to meeting him in person. That is now six long years ago.
Like I said,
I did attend Mises University in the summer of 2007. When I claim
Ron Paul started to change my thinking on a number of subjects,
Mises University fundamentally changed many of my views for good.
From that summer forward, I was convinced that the unbridled free
market was not only the most moral social system conceivable but
also the most efficient and workable. I still hold those views to
A lot has happened
in my life since I met Ron Paul and attended Mises University. For
one thing, I attended and graduated from law school and am now a
practicing attorney. But even though I have experienced a lot over
the last several years, the foundation of my worldview remains intact
that was laid thanks in large part to Ron Paul. In fact, I think
itís safe to say that foundation never would have been laid without
Ron Paul. For that, I will never forget Ron Paul.
When I watched
and listened to his farewell speech to Congress Iíd be lying if
I said I didnít shed a few tears. Yes, yes, I know most people who
read that I shed a tear over Ron Paul would think Iím bonkers. But
they can think what they wish. I shed tears because I felt I was
witnessing the closing of a chapter in history, a chapter in which
I am grateful to have witnessed and been a part. I say without hesitation
that Ron Paul has been the most principled and consistent Congressman
in the history of the United States, perhaps the most principled
politician in the United States of all time. Ron Paul has been far
more consistent than even the likes of Thomas Jefferson and James
Madison, founders viewed as strong defenders of limited, constitutional
is quite remarkable really. And if you question his consistency,
merely look at his voting history and see for yourself all the lone
"no" votes he cast, and the "no" votes he cast
in general. If legislation used the force of government against
those who did not initiate force against others, it got a resounding
"nay" from Ron Paul. In practice that meant quite a lot got a "nay"
from "Dr. No."
one more short story. I recall a body language expert who was asked
to analyze the Republican Primary Debates. This expert was on Fox
News, so take it for what you will, but I thought her comments about
Ron Paul spoke to the man he is. She said that his body language,
of all the candidates, most obviously revealed that he was being
honest and saying what he thought was the truth. Most telling of
all, she said, was when he was about to make a comment he knew would
not be received well by the audience. He would hunch his shoulders
and lean forward, bracing himself to be booed. What's more, you
could tell it made him uncomfortable, yet he did it anyway. Now,
that's a standard of honesty I hope I can live up to.
Ron Paul, of
course, is a man. He has his faults like we all do. But heís a special
man to me because he is responsible for changing how I see the world.
And for that I will always be grateful. Iím reminded of these words
used to describe Ludwig von Mises from "Hamlet." I think
they work equally well for Ron Paul:
a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
Thank you Ron
Paul, from the bottom of my heart.
Shore [send him mail]
is an attorney in North Carolina.
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