Preston Manning: I’d like to get on to a couple of the issues that are probably of mutual concern to everyone one here, but maybe we’ll start a little bit with your background. Tell us how did you personally come to hold these views? I assume this occurred when you were younger, and there are a lot of young people here who are endeavoring to formulate their own views. How did you come to this libertarian position?
Ron Paul: I think people have a natural tendency to be curious. I feel lucky that I was very curious and I wanted to know what makes the world work. Some people suppress that curiosity, and some people accept it and say, “Well, my school and my government told me this”. So not only have I been curious, but I’ve also been skeptical, and I want to do my best to seek out what is true. But I did come across Hayek’s book, “The Road to Serfdom”.
Preston Manning: How old were you when you read that?
Ron Paul: I probably got to reading a little bit, I remember one of the first novels I read was a book my mother gave me when I was still in medical school, and that was “Doctor Zhivago”, and it was huge and it was sort of dramatic about the Soviet System in its story. But then I came across Hayek and Mises (?), so there was money through economic policy. And when the predictions made in 1971 came true, I became much more fascinated. That motivated me to at least say a few words in 1974 during my first campaign. When I told my wife I was going to run, she said, “Why are you going to do that?”, and I said, “I want to just talk about this and get it off my chest, because I just feel like somebody needs to tell them about this”. And she said, “It could be very dangerous”, and I asked, “How could this be dangerous?”, and she said, “You might end up getting elected”. But I assured her she didn’t know anything about politics, she didn’t know what she was talking about.
Preston Manning: Was there any particular political figure at that time that attracted you?
Ron Paul: No, not one, mine were more attuned to, say, Mises and Hayek’s economic theory, and I felt like there were a lot of instincts. I think a lot of us have instincts without having read economic theory, to say, Freedom is pretty commonsensical”. So I look to the economist, but I would say politically, I was interested in the Goldwater campaign, that was one of the earlier campaigns. But, generally speaking, even in my congressional office, I essentially had a lot more pictures of economists than presidents. I had pictures of two Presidents, one was Jefferson and the other was Grover Cleveland.
Preston Manning: The Republican Party particularly in the last elections, and throughout the years, I guess, has had difficulty in attracting the support of younger people. And that’s, to some extent, been a worry for conservatives in Canada. And yet, you seem to be able to attract a lot of young people, to what do you attribute that?
Ron Paul: You know, when I’m in a flipping mood I say, “Ask them, ask them”, and I have.
Preston Manning: We asked a lot of them at the reception last night, “Why are you here?” and they kept mentioning you.
Ron Paul: I talk to them, because if you’re campaigning … I enjoy talking to them and I ask them that question a lot, and I had a lot of students and young people come to my office. When I was first in Congress in the 1970s and 1980s, (then I went home and practiced medicine again through the 1980s and early 1990s), parents would come in with their teenagers and give them civics lessons and say, “This is your congressman”, and that sort of thing, and they were sort of dragged in. But in the second go-around in 2008, when the revolution was going on, they came in and the parents would admit, “We’re only here because he wants to meet you”. And they weren’t like 18 years old, they were younger, they were 15 and 16 years old in 2008. There would be like a 14 year old coming in, and before I knew it, in the next campaign he was voting and campaigning and everything else. The answers they give are different, but I think if I had to say one thing that was repeated more often, it was, “I like what you said because you’re telling the truth”. And I said, “Well, others will say something very close to what I’m saying on this, they’ll say, ‘We have to follow the constitution”, and I say, “Why don’t you believe them?”, and they say, “They’re not telling the truth”, and they seem to sense that. On monetary policy, I was amazed by how many people have been introduced to monetary theory, and I don’t believe that politicians are worth all that much, sorry about that. But politicians reflect prevailing attitudes, so what the President is doing with the [center] is, to me, so significant, because it changes people’s minds, and this is the difference. But when the people’s minds change, it makes it easier for the politician to do it. So the politicians reflect the people’s attitudes, and that’s why young people now are starting to reflect an intellectual revolution, too, which has been rather peaceful, like the Cato Institute and the Mises Institute and these other groups, they have been teaching a lot.
In the 1950s, when I first got interested, I think we had one group, and it was called the Foundation for Economic Education run by Leonard Read in New York, and he sort of held things together for us. But now there are a lot of institutions, there are a lot more professors and the Mises Institute is designed to get young people interested enough to become professors and teach, and that is what changes it. It wasn’t so much that I, all of a sudden, went out there and gave a great speech and the young people responded. They responded because they were getting introduced to these ideas as some sort of a confirmation. And I think that’s what’s happening. But I think probably the reason why people respond is because the need is evident, I think there is a consensus, even those who are still able to manipulate the system are realizing that something’s not quite right with the system.
Preston Manning: In your address you mentioned the income disparities in New York between what Wall Street is making and 50,000 people being homeless in one night in government shelters. But what is the libertarian answer to income inequality that the Occupy Movement was trying to draw attention to, I assume?
Ron Paul: It’s liberty.
Preston Manning: I kind of thought you might say that, you want to elaborate on that a little bit?
Ron Paul: If you ask, “Does that eliminate all income inequality?” no, there will always be income inequality. Matter of fact, income inequality is okay. But, like I mentioned in my talk, if you want to look for the system that gives the maximum amount of prosperity and the most distribution and creates the largest middle class, … we always enjoyed the largest middle class ever, but we don’t have that now, we have a shrinking middle class. And if we go broke, or when the bankruptcy is declared, everybody who’s living off the government is going to be very poor. The systems of total socialism were designed to get rid of the income inequality, and in many ways, they achieved this, and they have an equality of poverty. So I like the other method, I like to see people who get rich, and it spins off and there’s a bigger middle class. And one place where I think we as conservatives and libertarians get into a little trouble with the Left and Right business, is that the Left right now says, “Well, there’s an income disparity, the solution is to soak the rich and raise the taxes on the rich”. And I complain about some of the rich. If the rich are getting rich because they have a super-good contract and protectionism or subsidies and they’re part of that system, then you want to get rid of that system that’s doing it. But if you are a Bill Gates or somebody and they can produce a product that we like on their own and they drive the price down and the consumer rewards that company and they become really wealthy … if they do that, and they serve the consumer and they do it honestly, we don’t even have to worry about what they do with their money. We don’t have to worry about, “Well, did you donate 10% or 5% last years?” I believe in charity and helping people, but it won’t matter, because they provide such a great service in getting rid of this income inequality. But this notion that it can be done with force and intimidation and central economic planning and low-interest loans, is a fiction. But the problem is, it helps in the short run. If you take it and say, “Well, we give free housing, free medical care and free education, and we just did this for 5 years”, and you say, “Well, it’s not a very good system”, then they say, “What do you mean, what are you going to do with all these good things that we’ve done?” Well, what is it going to do in the long term, in the long term not many people want to look at that, but the long-term is here, that’s the point I’m making. It’s here now, and we have to reassess it.
Preston Manning: We have some media people that want to talk to you, so this will be the last question, maybe the last question is more political. I think we Canadians observe the American political culture, and we notice that you tend to polarize on issues, you go to your corner and you fight it out, which often clarifies the issues more. We in Canada tend to compromise even before we get to the compromise, so it’s sometimes not quite as clear as it is in the United States.
Ron Paul: You mean you don’t have to fight?
Preston Manning: That’s right, we’re kind of gentle. But then, usually, in the longer term in the United States, there’s some kind of coming together on a course of action to do something. I think a lot of us looking at the current Congress in relation to the Congress and President, don’t see this coming together. So I guess my last question to you would be, how do you see this impasse between the Democrats and the Republicans, between the presidency and the Congress, over issues of taxation and spending cuts coming to some resolution? Do you see that happening?
Ron Paul: No, and for one reason, and for one reason, they’re not admitting the truth, they’re still in total denial. They still think they can have the welfare system, we can fight endless wars and we can keep printing money and there’s nothing wrong with borrowing?
Preston Manning: But does that come to an end at some time?
Ron Paul: Yes, it does. They’ve lost the confidence in the economy, it will end when the world loses confidence in our great export, the paper dollars. And then the dollar goes down in value, not so much all of a sudden by other currencies, but they’ll start buying stuff. And they’re starting to do that already, like farmlands and other commodities. Prices will go up and that will be the litmus test of what will happen. But, no, they’re not going to come to an understanding, they got along quite well when it seemed like wealth was endless and our credit was endless and there were no limitations. But they’re in total denial about how serious the financial crisis is. Now, if you and I were in a business together, and our cash flow all of a sudden dried up, and we knew that in two months the bankers will call, we would straighten up. But that doesn’t happen with the government. They’re in that denial, and they think they can do it. It’s not just the Democrats, both sides believe in that, because Republicans don’t think you can stop any weapons, and that’s one point I’ve made that I just think that the coming together has to be the coalitions that I try to build with conservatives and liberals by saying, “Maybe we shouldn’t spend so much money on going around the world telling other people how to live”. That doesn’t mean we should be a closed society and it doesn’t mean we should have protectionism. Matter of fact, some people call me a protectionist, but I’m not. I want free trade, I want low tariffs, but I don’t want to tell other people what to do. The people who call me an isolationist, are the ones the very first ones who want to put on sanctions on all these countries. Free markets help, I love it since we’ve been trading with China, because I remember the Korean War. Believe me, the difficulties with trade are minor compared to us killing each other. So I think free trade is wonderful, and those are the answers. The answers can be found in the cause of liberty.