Why harp on Ron Paul? ask my interlocutors. Do I hate liberty? Do I not realize that he's the closest thing there is to a libertarian candidate?

Well, for one thing, there's not much point in my arguing with a John Edwards supporter.

"But he's a demagoguing populist who wants to gut trade, jam taxes sky high, and spend the money on a ludicrous state-run health care program!" I cry.

"I know! Isn't it marvelous?" they reply, and that's the end of the discussion.

In fact, I will, in the run-up to Iowa, be digging into the economic policies of all of the major candidates, and presenting my thoughts for your delectation. Ron Paul is up first for two reasons: first, because so many people seem convinced that he ought to make my heart go pitter-pat; and second, because the nuttiness extremity of his policies makes for interesting discussion.

There's really very little variation between most of the candidates this election; we're mostly arguing about dry bureaucratic tweaks to the same fundamentally wrong-headed policies advocated by everyone. Ron Paul, on the other hand, has an entirely different set of fundamentally wrong-headed policies, which makes him slightly more amusing to talk about. Ron Paul is the master of high-concept politics: he's full of simple prescriptions that can be stated in a sentence or less. Thus we waste little time getting tangled up in subtleties.

Anyway, why not just bite the bullet and support him, imperfect as he is? I did as much for the execrable George Bush in 2004, after all. Well, actually, you just answered your own question; I've overlooked disturbing tendencies in a candidate before, with less than salutory results. George Bush supported low taxes, a semi-decent entitlement reform, etc., etc. It's just that little of that stuff happened, and a lot of bad stuff did.

The fact that Ron Paul doesn't want to do those bad things, but instead advocates an entirely different group of bad ideas, like abolishing the Federal Reserve and pulling every American solider back behind our borders, doesn't comfort me. Nor does the fact that Congress will stop him, since Congress will stop him from doing nearly all the things I like, such as reforming Social Security--just as they stopped George Bush from doing the things I liked. They won't stop him from refusing to negotiate new trade deals, and doing his best to scupper the ones we've got, for example. Nor will they likely block him on immigration. And I'm pretty sure they can't keep us from whisking all of our troops home from everywhere tomorrow, which sounds fun in a bold, sweeping sort of way--but I am inherently suspicious of bold, sweeping changes to our foreign policy.

All of which is irrelevant because if Ron Paul somehow did garner the Republican nomination, the only tangible result would be a Goldwater-style landslide.

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