Spotlight: Prescribing Freedom
Moving towards a free society requires not only ideals, but new personalities and institutions to help promote the ideas. Deep in the heart of Texas is a young country doctor whose dedication to advancing the libertarian cause has been extraordinary.
Dr. Ron Paul first came to national prominence by winning a special Congressional election in April, 1976. He was the first Republican Congressman ever elected from his Houston district. While in Washington, Congressman Paul quickly gained the nickname "Dr. No." Other compliments received were the National Associated Businessmen's "Watchdog of the Treasury" Award for a 100 percent pro-business voting record, and the National Federation of Independent Business's award as a "Guardian of Small Business."
Congressman Paul consistently opposed statism during his tenure in Washington, which was cut short by his extremely narrow defeat in the regular election last November. Voting against new welfare measures for business such as the B-1 bomber, and adamantly opposing union privileges, he consistently fought for the rights of the individual against the special interests of organized lobbies.
One of Dr. Paul's most clear-cut victories came with his opposition to H.R. 13955, a piece of legislation that no one but he opposed in committee. In June, 1976, Paul almost singlehandedly defeated the bill, which gave Congressional endorsement of the International Monetary Fund's giveaway of one third of its gold reserves (mostly American gold) as foreign aid to other countries.
Dr. Paul was the only member of the House Banking and Currency Committee to oppose the Administration-backed measure. The Texas Republican submitted lengthy dissenting views on the bill, cataloguing the dismal record of the IMF. In a speech on the House floor, Congressman Paul observed: "The IMF was set up to stabilize international currency fluctuations by buying and selling currencies against each other. For this purpose, the United States and other members of the IMF contributed large amounts of gold which could be used as reserves. Now we are told that gold is no longer important to the international monetary system and has no monetary value. The IMF, rather than simply returning its gold to the contributor nations, has decided to sell it off and give away the profits. At the very least this is clearly outside the function of the IMF, and most probably illegal." Swayed by his arguments, Paul's colleagues voted down the bill.
While in office, Congressman Paul introduced numerous bills that had no chance of passing, but which afforded many observers an opportunity to comment on their worth. Some of his bills would have abolished the Private Express Statutes that create a postal monopoly, rescinded the automatic cost of living pay increase for Congressmen, abolished the Occupational Health and Safety Administration, repealed the 1968 Federal Gun Control Act, ended the bounty program by which the IRS rewards citizens for reporting their neighbors, reduced the U.S. contribution to the United Nations from 25 percent to less than one percent of its budget (an amount equal to our representation there), privatized all of the House of Representatives cafeterias, and supported a Constitutional amendment requiring government to operate on a balanced budget.
A 42-year-old father of five children, Dr. Paul became acquainted with libertarian thinkers through his reading of F.A. Hayek, Ludwig von Mises, and Henry Hazlitt. Their analyses of the importance of freedom persuaded him to run for Congress for the first time in 1974, after six years of practicing medicine in Houston. He rolled up 30 percent of the vote in a campaign that established him as an articulate spokesman for taxpayers and an inflation-weary public. "If inflation continues unabated, what future is there for any of us in our private professional ambitions?" he asks. "Inflation must be curbed or we will have nothing to live for, let alone with." With the experience gained from his first campaign, Dr. Paul won on his next attempt in a special election in 1976.
Losing re-election in November by a mere 268 out of 194,000 votes—in a campaign marked by signs of apparent vote fraud—Dr. Paul plans to run for Congress again in 1978. He intends to campaign again as a Republican; although he supports the goals of the Libertarian Party, he believes that its image at present scares away voters. "I would get two or three percent of the vote if I ran as a Libertarian Party candidate," he says. "I think the ideal is for libertarians to work both in the new party and the old."
In the meantime, Dr. Paul maintains several offices in his district to further his ideological efforts. He publishes a monthly newsletter for over 4000 subscribers, supplemented by a telephone editorial network for hundreds of callers who want to hear his weekly comments on the latest developments in Washington. Conservative groups sharing his economic views have made him in heavy demand as a speaker—and as a consistent libertarian on both economic and social issues, Dr. Paul has brought a welcome influence to the Citizens Cabinet as its Secretary of Labor.
Explicitly libertarian organizations have also been helped by his efforts. Besides speaking for and contributing to the Libertarian Party, Dr. Paul has boosted such groups as the Libertarian Health Association and the Association for Rational Environmental Alternatives. Throughout his work, the engaging, personable doctor from Houston is determined to treat the causes, rather than the symptoms, of prevailing social problems. If his success in promoting freedom to date is a guide, the prognosis for libertarian ideals will continue to improve in the future.
This article originally appeared in print under the headline "Spotlight: Prescribing Freedom".