I had the opportunity to have dinner and a conversation with Dr. Rand Paul, the son of presidential candidate Ron Paul, this evening. It was quite enjoyable, and Dr. Paul was an excellent speaker and highly intelligent man. There was a crowd of about 20-30 people in the Executive Inn dining room, which is a much better turnout than I expected for the sleepy city of Paducah, Ky. The crowd consisted of people from all walks of life--IT professionals, retirees, students, veterans, stock brokers--and widely varying ages; some of the grizzled old warriors for Liberty were outspokenly enthused about the younger generation taking an active interest in politics.
Dr. Paul and I talked briefly about why so many veterans are supporting Ron Paul, and I pointed out that, having taken an oath--and pledged our lives--to uphold and defend the Constitution ourselves, we have a tremendous amount of respect for elected officials who take that oath seriously. We also discussed the multi-billion dollar arms deal Secretary Rice plans to offer several countries in the Middle East, including Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, the UAE and Bahrain. Aside from the fact that we're arming oppressive and unstable regimes in the most highly unstable region of the world, we also get the added benefit of instigating an arms race in the Middle East. Does anyone seriously think that Iran will have any choice but to seek The Bomb if surrounded by extremely well-armed, unfriendly neighbors? Does anyone seriously believe Khomeini and Ahmadinejad incapable of procuring any of the thousands of nuclear weapons in former Soviet-bloc nations--Iran's back yard?
Another topic of discussion was immigration. Dr. Paul pointed out that we don't need new laws, we need to enforce the laws we already have, and maybe stop sending our border guards to Iraq or prison. He also said that the best way to deal with immigration is to take away the incentive of entitlement programs for illegals, including birthright citizenship for illegal immigrants--a deliberate distortion of the 14th Amendment. He also pointed out that Ron Paul voted for building the border fence. I was a bit distracted by my Kentucky Hot Browns (a delicious open-faced turkey sandwich with cheese and bacon, highly recommended!) and didn't hear who said the word, but someone referred to the border fence as "Berlin-esque." I had to laugh a bit at that, not because it's an absurd comparison, but because I said to a friend of mine a few days ago that if we'd built a fence back in the 1980s, we could have had the grotesque spectacle of Gorbachev saying, "Mr. Reagan, tear down this wall!" I'm fully aware that something must be done about the border situation, and as much to protect us from Islamic terrorists as to stem the tide of illegal immigration. I just wish it didn't take a wall to do the job, and I'm completely unconvinced that a fence will be effective without ending entitlements for illegals, vigorously enforcing immigration laws and stepping up the Border Patrol.
I asked about abolishing the Federal Reserve and, if not returning us to the Gold Standard or 19th-Century bimetallism, at least moving us toward a commodity-backed currency. Dr. Paul said this could possibly be accomplished by changing Legal Tender laws so that private currencies could compete with Fed notes. This is an interesting idea, and I'm not going to pretend I have the economics acumen to know exactly how this would work, but I certainly think it's something worth pursuing. I expect President Paul would probably have a team of economists (of the Austrian school variety, naturally) working on this on January 20th, 2009.
I also asked about what a Ron Paul cabinet might look like, given that he has mentioned (in a television interview in New Hampshire, sorry no link) George Mason University economics professor Walter Williams as a potential VP. Unfortunately, this isn't something Ron Paul has really focused on, and I can certainly understand why. After all, we're still many months away from the primaries, and the primary focus (no pun intended) now needs to be on building a campaign, not building an administration. Still though, I'd love to hear some name-dropping. Judge Andrew Napolitano for SCOTUS, maybe?
Another gentleman asked about what a severe downsizing of the federal government--our nation's largest employer--would mean for the economy. He made the unfortunate mistake of offering up IRS agents as an example, since Ron Paul would close down the IRS almost immediately, if he could. Dr. Paul answered that government is fraught with inefficiency, and is not the best delivery agent for any goods and services. This is a good point; many of the services offered by our government--and the jobs that go with them--should be moved to the private sector. I also pointed out that something like 1/4 of our federal employees are due to retire in the next four years. You don't have to put them out on the street, just don't hire replacements. And I couldn't resist having a bit of fun with the example of IRS agents. I mean seriously, who cares if tax collectors are unemployed? I get a little misty-eyed just picturing a tax man wearing one of those barrels like you used to see in cartoons and panhandling for change. But we don't have to throw them all out in the street; probably at least half of the bastards at the IRS ought to be thrown in jail.