Congressman Ron Paul visited Dartmouth yesterday, speaking and meeting for about an hour with a large group of students at the Rockefeller Center. Back in June, I wrote, "My libertarian leanings make me predisposed to like Congressman Paul." After attending the event, I still like him, but I don't think that having libertarian leanings should necessarily translate into support for his Presidential campaign. I'll give two reasons:
First, he's running for Commander in Chief, not Contrarian in Chief. If these are his views, and he has spent the last decade in Congress (after his earlier service in the 1970s and 1980s), then it is reasonable to expect that he would have not just voted libertarian on key issues, but that he would have built a consensus among his colleagues so that the work product of Congress was itself more libertarian. I don't see any evidence of that sort of leadership.
Second, his answers to questions of public policy tend to be too procedural for my liking. Under questioning by a number of the students in attendance about public policies, his responses in support of limited government tended to be of the form, "It is not in the Constitution, so we should not be doing it." This was the case, for example, when a student asked about the extreme inequalities in the quality of primary and secondary education across the country and what the Department of Education's role should be in addressing that. Do you allow children in poor neighborhoods to continue to get abysmally substandard education? The question merited an answer based on Milton Friedman's spirited argument for education vouchers and market solutions, not a faint protest that he'd like to scrap the Department of Education.