From my comments on this blog thus far, it should have been gathered that I have more than a little sympathy for Ron Paul. I far prefer him to the standard-issue Republican candidate, who would not recognize the Constitution if a copy were to be set on fire on his front lawn.
And so I don’t really see the “problem with Paul.” I hope he is still in the race when the primary campaign gets to Idaho. The longer he stays in, the more gravitational effect he will have on the other candidates, which would be all to the good. But there is something that could be called Paul’s problem. In fact, think of this little meditation as constituting a new perspective on Paul.
First a few background comments before stating what Ron Paul’s problem actually is. I have been a consistent critic of American empire. I have not offered this criticism in any vain hope of stopping that empire. Empires of the kind we have become are inevitable. It is going to happen, and there is no sense having hysterics over it. What can be done, and what I have sought to do, is equip Christians to think intelligently about the times we live in. To the extent that America simply becomes an empire, Christians ought not to care. These things happen. To the extent that America starts capitulating to the temptations of empire, Christians must care a great deal. Let me mention two of the problems. The first is intellectual dishonesty in the reading of our history and founding documents. The American Civil War resulted in a hermeneutical devolution, and has caused our founding documents like the Declaration and the Constitution to be read upside down and backwards. You doubt what I say? Well then, do the people in any give region of our country (Montana, say) have the right, when they believe the form our Federal government has taken “becomes destructive of” life, liberty and the pursuit of their happiness, “to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government”? Right. I didn’t think so either. But that doesn’t mean we can’t shoot off fireworks to celebrate the memory of this most important document. Well, okay, so we can’t shoot off a bunch of them anymore, but the sparklers are still okay.
This is where a healthy dose of Ron Paul is really invigorating. He gets out his Constitution, reads it, and assumes himself to be able to understand that when it says only Congress can declare war. This means that Bush can’t declare war. Bush can’t topple sovereign states on his own authority as imperator. Ron Paul points this out, he talks this way, and does so out loud. This makes him a major embarrassment to our solons, and a major encouragement to me. So the message here is — quit pretending you are bound by the Constitution when you have no intention of abiding by it. Declare the republic to be dead, and the age of the empire well under way, and you have at least removed the vice of hypocrisy.
The second great temptation of empire is hubris, arrogance. “And immediately the angel of the Lord smote him, because he gave not God the glory: and he was eaten of worms, and gave up the ghost” (Acts 12:23). Much of the talk about American exceptionalism, Americanism, the American way, and the American religion is enough to gag a maggot. And casting it as an “aw, shucks arrogance” does not help any.
So, keep all that in the back of your mind as we discuss the Ron Paul problem. A very common move is to cast the United States as the new Rome, and, truth be told, there are a bunch of parallels. But in one respect, there is a striking difference. Rome conquered a bunch of other lands, and then imported stuff from them. Under Rome, Italy did not become a manufacturing center — just the reverse. But the United States is a monster of production. The desire of the neo-cons is not so much free trade as it is managed trade, but they do want trade. And the only choice we have right now is the choice between managed American dominance (managed by the elites, of course), and unmanaged, anarchistic American dominance. Given the current economic circumstances, those are the choices.
And so this frames Paul’s Problem, if I may put it this way. If Ron Paul were to become president and he managed to institute just a few of his domestic reforms — the abolition of the IRS, for example — what would that do to the production Colossus that is the U.S. economy? Right — you think that the economy is super-heated now? Just wait . . . and here is the irony. Under a Paul presidency, American hegemony would accelerate. It would certainly do so by different means than is currently happening, and would not involve troops nearly as frequently, but it would still accelerate dramatically. You can check out any time you like, but you can never leave.