Thursday, September 4, 2008

The Revolution?

I've been reading Ron Paul's book The Revolution recently, and it's inspired me to write on similar topics.  I'd love to go point-by-point through the book, but that'd take a long time and I'm just borrowing the book from a colleague, so I'll just rattle off a blog-sized impression that I'm left with, and follow up on specific topics at some unknown point in the future.

The most immediate point to hit me while reading this book was that Paul offers many words to say tell the reader what the government should be doing, but does not follow it up with what the government should be doing.  The easy answer to this is that the government should only do what is written in the Constitution for it to be doing, but that sidesteps the issue for me; I was reading a book that wanted to tell me that the government's behavior needs to change, but it offered no particular insight on what should remain.

As any Ron Paul supporter likely knows, Paul's core statement is that the government should do less.  Fair enough; folks all over the political spectrum feel that the government is overstepping its authority on any number of topics, from gun control to abortion to corporate subsidies and tax breaks for select sets of individuals.  In some ways, Paul wraps all of this up and states that the government should do none of it.  Ultimately, the government should not meddle in anything.

Breaking into the book, I was hit by the feeling that Paul believes that the pursuit of profit is the purest and most noble of pursuits, the One True Path, within which we will all feel the light if it were only allowed to take place without government interference.  "Let the market decide," he says several dozen times throughout the book.

The problem, ultimately, is that by the time the market gets to decide, it is often too late.  Are there no things that we hold dear?  If we were to decide that the pursuit of profit is great and glorious, so let's sell off the national forests to the highest bidder and let them operate them however they wish, what will we do when they are clearcut and there are no more national forests?  Does it matter, if profit is made?  If it does matter, what can the market do to change the fact?  Indeed, in the case of pollution often the market has no choice; silicon is very toxic to produce but the population is eating up computer equipment at an incredible rate.  If IBM starts dumping their waste into the river, how long will it be until people find out?  How many individuals will be born with problems?  How many will develop chronic symptoms as a result?  What does the market decide then?

There's a lot going on in this book.  I thought it was a good read, even though I believe that Paul is way off base in some aspects of most of his points.  He comes from a much different background from the one I come from, and that fact alone colors his view of society in a much different hue from that of my own glasses.  I fundamentally agree with his motivation and I fundamentally agree with the sorts of things that he wants to do, but I just don't think that his end goal would be the United States that many of us want to be a part of.