Ron Paul’s Success

The Washington Post reports that Ron Paul “is enjoying a surge in support and the most high-profile campaign of his life. “

Paul’s unwavering ideals of small government and free markets, which rendered him a quirky sideshow for decades, have gained traction amid concerns about rising government debt. His longtime opposition to the existence of the Federal Reserve, income tax and foreign aid is now shared by many in his party….

[Ron] Christie noted that Perry and former House speaker Newt Gingrich have been pushing anti-Federal Reserve stances in recent television debates. Other strategists observe that all the candidates have started peppering their speeches with references to the Constitution. Paul’s years of insistence on small government are widely considered to have paved the way for the emergence of the tea party movement.

Over the past few months various reporters have asked me about Ron Paul’s greater prominence this year as compared to 2007, and I’ve generally told them something like this:

In 2007 (which is when he got the most attention in the last cycle) Ron Paul warned that an economy based on debt and cheap money from the Federal Reserve was not sustainable, but the economy was booming and nobody wanted to listen. After the crash, they started listening. In 2007 he said we should replace the Federal Reserve and fiat money with the gold standard, and even some libertarians said things like, “What’s the beef with the Fed?  They’ve dramatically reduced the volatility of the business cycle while achieving low, reasonably constant inflation.” Nobody’s scoffing at criticism of the Fed now. In 2007 Ron Paul criticized excessive federal spending, but with a Republican in the White House Republicans weren’t so interested. With even more excessive spending by a Democratic president, that’s become a central issue of the era. In 2007 Ron Paul criticized endless military intervention, but most Republicans were content to repeat, “The surge is working.” Now even Republicans are getting weary of war. In 2007 Ron Paul said that Congress and the president should not act outside their powers under the Constitution, but Republicans didn’t want to hear about unconstitutional acts by a Republican president. Now, after the bailouts and the health care takeover and the unauthorized war in Libya, all the Republican candidates are talking about restoring the Constitution.

It’s not that Ron Paul has moved closer to the center but rather that the center of American political discussion has moved closer to him.

Like many libertarians, I’ve had my differences with Ron Paul on trade policy, immigration, gay rights and federalism, and the unsavory company he keeps. But as long as he keeps recruiting people, especially young people, to the cause of limited constitutional government, sound money, and non-intervention, I’m glad to see him making an impact.