Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Questions for Ron Paul

Last year, the Atlanta Conservative Examiner published an article that asked several questions of supporters of Barack Obama. While well-intentioned and honestly seeking the liberal perspective on a number of issues, the response was underwhelming. Perhaps this was because there are no good answers to the questions asked.

In a similar vein, here are several questions for Republican presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul and his supporters. Judging from the large response that typically comes from any article mentioning Ron Paul (especially when it mentions him critically), the Paul supporters are likely to have more to say in his defense than the Obama supporters did.

First, Ron Paul makes a point of saying that the Federal Reserve is unconstitutional on the grounds that the Constitution gives only Congress the power to “coin Money, [and] regulate the Value thereof….” (Article I Section 8). If this interpretation is correct, then why is it that Congress established the first private central bank, the Bank of the United States, within a few years of the ratification of the Constitution? At that point, many of the framers of the Constitution were still in Congress.

The Bank of the United States was a private company. The bill establishing it was signed into law in 1791 by none other than George Washington. After the bank’s charter expired in 1811, Congress created the Second Bank of the United States in 1816. This bank existed until 1841. At 99 years old, the Federal Reserve is the longest lasting central bank in U.S. history, but it was far from the first.

Also along economic lines, Ron Paul advocates a gold standard, which leads to another question. Paul blames fiat money and the Federal Reserve for the current economic unpleasantness, but even when the U.S. was on a gold standard the business cycle led to periods of economic depression. In fact the Federal Reserve and the gold standard coexisted for decades. The gold standard did not prevent the Great Depression, the worst economic crisis in U.S. history.

The Federal Reserve was created in 1913 and the United States stayed on the gold standard until 1973. In 1933, President Roosevelt made it illegal for Americans to own gold and required them to sell their gold to the Federal Reserve at a price set by the government, but technically the dollar was still linked to gold. Roosevelt’s executive order remained in effect until the 1960s and 1970s when it was repealed piecemeal.

In the past, linking the value of the dollar to the value of gold did not prevent the boom and bust cycle. A federal gold standard did not prevent the government from manipulating the value of the dollar. Why does Paul believe that a new gold standard would be any different? Further, U.S. production of gold is declining. Would a gold standard remove the influence of unelected bureaucrats at the Federal Reserve only to replace it with a dependency on gold miners, bankers, and bureaucrats in countries like China and Russia for economic growth?

A third question involves Paul’s assertions that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were illegal. The Constitution gives Congress the power to declare war (Article I Section 8), but stops short of requiring a declaration of war. The same section gives Congress the power to “define and punish… offences against the law of nations,” arguably the power to intervene on behalf of victims of crimes against humanity, and to “provide for the common defense,” a general term that could be construed to include pre-emptive war against a hostile nation believed to be developing WMDs.

As Max Boot notes in his book, “The Savage Wars of Peace,” declared wars have been the exception rather than the rule in American history. One of the first undeclared wars occurred during the administration of none other than Thomas Jefferson against the Barbary pirates. This conflict is memorialized in the line of the Marine hymn that references the “shores of Tripoli.”

In the 20th century, U.S. forces, almost always the Marines, essentially invaded and governed several Central American and Caribbean nations. For almost 20 years prior to WWII, the Marines ruled Haiti. Long undeclared interventions also occurred in Mexico, the Dominican Republic, and Nicaragua, not to mention Panama. After the U.S.S Greer, an American destroyer, was fired upon by a German U-boat, President Roosevelt essentially launched an undeclared war against the Germans in the Atlantic more than a year before the attack on Pearl Harbor.

While the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did not begin with a formal declaration of war, President Bush did seek and receive the approval of Congress (President Obama’s intervention in Libya is another matter). How can Paul really consider the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan illegal when both interventions were approved by Congress with Paul himself having voted to approve military action in Afghanistan?

Finally, why does Ron Paul oppose the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)? Did Paul not read Section 1021 paragraph (e) which reads “Nothing in this section shall be construed to affect existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States?” Similarly, Section 1022 paragraph (b) (1) says, “The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States.”

Since the law plainly does not allow the indefinite detention of Americans but Paul opposes it anyway, does this mean that Paul opposes indefinite detention of foreign terrorists captured abroad? These are the people who the law allows the military to detain indefinitely. There are Americans who believe that these foreign-born, foreign-captured, non-U.S. citizens should be entitled to a day in American courts. Is Paul among this group?

If Paul thinks that foreign terrorists should have habeas corpus rights and access to U.S. courts, it would be the first time that prisoners of war (actually unlawful combatants under the Geneva Conventions) captured in combat outside the country have been granted access to the judicial system. Even German POWs housed in prison camps within the United States itself during WWII were not accorded constitutional rights due to American citizens. No one would have dreamed of allowing captured Nazis to challenge their detention in American courts.

Hopefully, Rep. Paul or his supporters will answer these questions and help to clear up some of the apparent inconsistencies in Ron Paul’s political platform.

This article was originally published on

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