The surprising persistence of Ron Paul during the Republican presidential primary process has brought the libertarian theory that he champions into the spotlight. At one level, what Paul says about the tradition is surely correct. It does not take a bold imagination to think that the level of government intrusion in the lives and businesses of its citizens has moved to an unacceptable and unsustainable level. He is right to stress the corruption that large government brings to social life. In today’s environment, individuals divert their energy producing wealth for themselves, which would otherwise create greater opportunities for others, to securing the transfer of wealth from others, which in the end diminishes all the possibilities for growth created by human ingenuity and invention.
In this essay, I do not want to defend the Paul candidacy. Candidates all take many positions, and I have little sympathy for what I regard as the dangerous isolationism of Paul’s foreign policy, for his relative silence on the vital issue of free trade, and for his quixotic effort to abolish the Federal Reserve (which stands in need of extensive reform) in favor of a return to a gold standard.