Editor’s note: This is an unabridged transcript of Paul Koring’s interview with Ron Paul. An edited and condensed version appeared in The Globe on Monday.
Ron Paul, the plain-speaking libertarian from Texas whose three presidential bids all ended in failure despite a devoted, often young, and growing band of limited-government activists will share his controversial visions at the Manning Centre for Building Democracy in Ottawa later this week.
Open the border, says Dr. Paul, now 77, who recalls hassle-free trips to Windsor when he was a young medical student in Detroit. Build Keystone, but scrap Obamacare and NAFTA. He has no time for gun control or universal health care, but does think America could learn some budgeting prudence from north of the border. Above all, let the people – and the market – decide.
Q. What can Canadian conservatives learn from you and the libertarian movement?
A. A lot of people want to segregate us … what do liberals think, what do conservatives think, what do black people think, what do white people think, and on and on but to me the message is universal -- that is the message of liberty and why it is beneficial, not only to our personal lives as well as our economic lives. A whole generation of young people is learning of the problems they are inheriting … and they are very receptive to ‘limited-government’ ideas. They are energized and that energy from young people has given me a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of encouragement. I will be anxious to see on my visits – I have several visits to Canada this year – if there is a response there?
The message of limited government is universal. It’s been around for a long time. We have ups and downs. Right now, I am looking forward to a few more ‘up’ years for limited government worldwide.
Q. Is there anything Americans can learn from Canada, where the state has very broad control in contentious areas like gun control and health care?
A. I think Canadians have done a better job managing their budget in the last few years, not that it takes a whole lot to do a better job than the United States. But anything that’s done in Canada that means more regulation and less in personal freedom and anything that encourages more intervention overseas, I would say that I work to go in the opposite direction.
[On health care] I believe in the private practice of medicine. Although everyone can point out the short-run benefits of government programs, in the long run they have to be paid for and in the long run they always fail. Right now, we [in America] are in transition away from private health care; doctors are quitting, prices are going up, quality of care in going down, the doctor-patient relationship is getting undermined. You can find one-tenth of one per cent of the people who say ‘I got free medical care’, but ultimately nothing is free and somebody has to pay for it. If something is important, then it is more important than ever that that service of good be delivered by the private sector because governments don’t do a very good job. Obamacare is in chaos, prices are going up, there are shortages, doctors are quitting, so I don’t see that government delivering a service or a good is of any benefit to the people.
Q. Should President Barack Obama block or approve the Keystone XL pipeline to deliver Alberta oil sands crude to Gulf coast refineries in Texas?
A. I don’t know why it is assumed that politicians know what the answers are and what society should or shouldn’t do; should we have wind power or solar power? Shale oil or nuclear power? I think the market should solve all these problems. What annoys me as a conservative Constitutionalist is why is it that our president is The Great Decider? The only way a president should be involved, is to be a facilitator and to break down any barriers to building pipelines or highways or anything else between states, not to inhibit or regulate them. I personally think it [Keystone] is a great idea. It seems logical to me. I’d like the market to decide whether [Keystone] will pay for itself and is worthwhile. And you have to work in the liabilities, the potential harm, and the damage to the environment.
Q. What is the best way forward to develop relations between Canada and the United States?
A. I want to facilitate trade and travel the best way I can. I did some of my medical training in Detroit and we had no problems getting into Canada and out of Canada. Today, our own government won’t even let us back in if we don’t have a passport. Because our countries are so similar I think it is one of the best places to work on one of the admonitions of our founders, who said: We should be friends with countries, we should trade with countries, and we should go back and forth as easily as possible but not get involved in the internal affairs of other nations. I think we are drifting from that. I think that going back and forth is not as easy. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t get rid of all the trade barriers between the two countries and let the market decide who can produce the best goods at the best price. I don’t believe in the international organizations like NAFTA, that’s like another government level. I want to go down and make these decisions at the more local level. Our government should facilitate trade and travel among states as well as with other countries, rather than turning it over to an organization like NAFTA.
Q. Who might inherit your mantle and emerge as the next leader of the libertarian movement?
A. I don’t know and I probably wouldn’t say if I thought I knew. Probably the best way for it to work is to have many people doing it in their own way. A lot of people give me credit but they also recognize that it is up to everyone to do their part. It is in the libertarian nature of me that I don’t think there is just one person who is going to set the rules. That was the neat thing about our [presidential] campaigns. It wasn’t top down at all. It was people joining together and helping and raising money. Maybe I got more credit than I deserved, but it was the message that deserves the credit because it unified the people and motivated people to join. I think that is a better way to look at it that trying to find one or two people who are going to lead the charge.