Ron Paul’s Last Laugh

Republicans always claim to believe in limited government and the free market, never more loudly than when they’re running for president. In 2012, two Republican frontrunners, Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, maintained this tradition, both claiming to have the keys that would unlock the door to freedom and both receiving broad support from the Republican base.

The records of both of Romney and Santorum cast doubt on the veracity of their claim to be devoted defenders of liberty. Romney favored bailouts and government-run health care, Santorum spent his entire senate career embracing big government programs and pork-filled boondoggles. Neither of them offered any real alternative to Barack Obama’s platform, differing perhaps in degree from the Democrat, but certainly not in kind.

As I told anyone who would listen at the time, which was basically no one, there was only one candidate in that election, Ron Paul, that actually stood for the principles to which conservative Republicans swear devotion. Paul had spent an on-and-off congressional career that spanned 30 years standing, often alone, for limited government, fiscal responsibility and constitutional fidelity.

Paul also had the audacity to take his belief in liberty to its logical conclusions and argued against all government infringements on personal liberty and for the restrained foreign policy of America’s founders. These positions made him, to respectable Republicans, an unacceptable candidate in the Republican primaries. No, for the vast majority of Republicans, establishment and Tea Party alide, it was Romney or Santorum.

Predictably, Romney secured the nomination and then lost the election, which gave Republicans the opportunity to pine for what might have been. If only Santorum had been the nominee. If only Romney had prevailed. Then we would have had real freedom. Then we would have had real freedom, real prosperity.

Or not.

With President Obama’s recent plea to raise the minimum wage, a proposal that Republican voters are traditionally opposed to, Romney and Santorum were once more given the opportunity to embrace the economic liberty their supporters said they believed in. Both had the opportunity to condemn the minimum wage as economically unsound and unfriendly to freedom. Both failed.

No, actually worse than failed – both ran in haste to support Obama’s proposal.

Santorum criticized Republicans for voting against raising the minimum wage, stating “If we’re in an economic crisis, you may not want to raise it. If things are going better, you probably do want to raise it. But let’s not make this argument that we’re for the blue-collar guy, but we are against any minimum wage increase ever. It just makes no sense.”

Romney likewise went along with Obama, opining, “I think we ought to raise it because frankly, our party is all about more jobs and better pay.”

And what does the unacceptable Ron Paul say? In late 2013 Paul stated that “raising the minimum wage actually harms those at the bottom of the income ladder…(and) apeals to those who do not understand economics.” He is right, the minimum wage is a purely political issue. Economically-speaking, it makes no sense to believe that mandating higher production costs for businesses will not ultimately result in higher prices, less employment or both.

Popular conservative economists Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams have written many times against the minimum wage and both have effectively illustrated the negative effects of it. Williams has written of the minimum wage’s impact on the seafood industry in American Samoa, which is subject to U.S. policies on minimum wage. Williams reported,

“(The minimum wage) resulted in roughly 2,000 jobs lost in Samoa and a gain of 200 jobs in Georgia. StarKist, the island’s remaining cannery, announced that between 600 and 800 people will be laid off over the next six months, reducing the company’s Samoan workforce from a high of more than 3,000 in 2008 to less than 1,200 workers.”

Sowell has challenged the minimum wage on basic economic grounds, remarking,

“One of the simplest and most fundamental economic principles is that people tend to buy more when the price is lower and less when the price is higher. Yet advocates of minimum wage laws seem to think that the government can raise the price of labor without reducing the amount of labor that will be hired.”

But Romney and Santorum reject sound economics, as they did prior to and during the 2012 election. But more than that, they also continue to reject liberty and constitutional limitations on the federal government. No government should have the authority to arbitrarily mandate higher prices for businesses and there is certainly no constitutional grant of power for the federal government to do so.

These two guys were sold to Republicans as a significant upgrade over Obama’s failed economic policies and lawlessness. Conservatives gobbled this nonsense up and cheerfully voted for the status quo. Meanwhile they ignored or actively opposed the only guy in that election who, even to this day, stands in the face of popular ignorance and illegal exercises of power.

The worst part is that I get the feeling that if conservatives, even those of the Tea Party variety, had the opportunity to do it all over again, they wouldn’t change a thing. The party line – whether about the inherent preferability of Republicans, the value of government in regulating personal behavior or the absolute necessity of an unconstitutional foreign policy – maintains too strong a hold in their minds.

Meanwhile, the principles that they claim to cherish whither away under the watchful eye of their own party.