Yes, I am aware that Dr. Paul, as with many "purists," sometimes ventures into the realm of the completely fanciful and unrealistic. For example, in one of the Republican "debates," he argued against any form of socialized medicine and suggested that "private charity" might fill in the (gaping) hole left in access to medical care if we repealed Medicare/Medicaid, as if a person with a treatable form of cancer, e.g., might rely on the kindness of strangers to get him through his rough patch, and that such a paradigm is an acceptable substitute for an actual health care system. Maybe Dr. Paul (who is 76 and from Texas) can remember the days of trading a pig for an appendectomy, or something like that, but I don't think his idea is practical in modern times.
Does that mean that Medicare is practical? This is where Ron Paul is pretty indispensable to the national debate. Nobody else really says the stuff that he says. If the federal government has devolved into a huge "insurance company with an army," Ron Paul is the one guy who is willing to point out the absurdity of centralizing so much power into a remote, inefficient bureaucracy, financed by the money-hallucinating machine of the Federal Reserve. It is in this larger context that his philosophy has to be assessed.
Big Government Liberals (Paul Krugman, for example) see Ron Paul as a huge threat, and mercilessly belittle what they describe as Paul's lack of realism, or ignorance about modern economic theory. For the power of the Big Government Liberal depends upon the continuing reliance on the federal government to solve all problems, both national and local, even if there is no serious doubt anymore that the federal government cannot afford nearly half the things it is attempting to do (it can afford about 58%, in point of fact).
In a conversation recently with the Distinguished Professor of a Great Southwestern University, I adumbrated my view that the recent piece of atrocious legislation passed by the Senate, the Let's Throw Americans in A Dungeon Act, was actually a kind of desperate job-justification attempt; to wit, The Insurance Company With An Army (TICWAA) needs to justify that huge Pentagon expenditure (around $700 billion) that was passed along with the Dungeon Act, and formally known as the National Defense Authorization Act (all these grand names are another clue - this used to be called simply budget appropriations). Thus, even if terrorist attacks in the United States are a very, very minor cause of death compared to...well, just about anything else, but certainly compared to disease and auto accidents, Congress is not going to be able to lavish $700 billion on itself, and thus place itself in a position to dole out huge favors to military-connected contractors and lobbyists, by talking about auto safety or the obesity epidemic.
So the trick is to make the world seem as dangerous as humanly possible, to portray America as under siege, and the one resonant means for doing so is Terrorism, because while North Korea might be a bigger problem, we're not going to do anything about North Korea except hope the situation gets better, somehow. Terrorism works because of 9-11; without 9-11, all of this constant emphasis on Authorizations for Use of Military Force, and invasions of Muslim countries year-by-year, would seem like the obvious insanity it obviously is.
Thus, Congress has made a theme out of 9/11. 9/11 is the core of the Congressional Mission Statement. Congress just can't get enough of 9/11. As a realistic matter, it's the best thing that ever happened to the modern Congress. TICWAA really has nothing else. Congress does not want the American people to keep looking over there at the mustachioed clown behind the curtain.
If we consider how the Founding Fathers really saw things happening, the federal government was supposed to do things that the "several states" delegated to the central authority. These were logical functions: defending the national borders (an army and control of immigration); relations among the states (border disputes and interstate commerce); bankruptcy (to make uniform the discharge of debt across state lines); and maritime law, which follows naturally from defense, immigration and border issues. As I've written previously (sometimes to a chorus of boos), Big Government Liberalism came into favor because it reined in the injustices of the Southern States. It did this twice, the Civil War (to the extent the War was about slavery, which is not very extensive according to Leon Litwack, Professor Emeritus of the University of California and perhaps the leading Civil War scholar in the country), and the Civil Rights Movement. This is where Ron Paul's son, Rand Paul, goes off the rails when he follows his father into excessive "purism" and argues that a motel in Kentucky ought to be able to send the nice Negro family on down the road to an establishment that caters to their kind. (There is nothing wrong with enforcing Equal Protection by the federal government; that's one of its good functions.)
But in order to assure ourselves of this beneficent function of the feds, we have given away too much sovereignty which should have remained local, as the Tenth Amendment states and as the True Liberal, Thomas Jefferson, intended. Under the guise of national security, we have allowed ourselves to slide into a police state, among other problems. And for what? So the TICWAA can recycle money generated by the citizens of the several states into two big liberal programs, Social Security and Medicare, while Congress pockets the Fun Money, the trillion or so for the military, the homeland security apparatus, and spy agencies (increasingly used to spy on Americans). The "liberals" in Congress are just as much in favor of this state of affairs as the so-called Conservatives, because their power depends on it. Liberals and Conservatives alike love to inculcate in Americans a sense of dependency, and that dependency is based entirely on fear, because Americans, in point of fact, positively loathe Congress.
Now we are beginning to see the failure of these centralized programs because of the inexorable rules of Complexity Theory - the marginal dis-utility of piling on ever greater levels of rules, regulations, and bureaucratic control. No one, and certainly not the average American voter, can figure out how the whole Rube Goldberg contraption even works anymore. Thus, democracy becomes meaningless, other than as a once-every-two-years convulsion of revulsion where the bums are thrown out in favor of new bums.
Underlying the whole mess is the simple question: if that's all the TICWAA does, recycles money from the states in inefficient programs and spends money far in excess of what's necessary on defense and security, why do we even have this system? That's what Ron Paul is actually saying. That is his context. He argues for closing ALL foreign military bases. For ending ALL foreign wars. For returning power to the states and localities to handle state and local issues. For abolishing the federal income tax so that local revenue is retained to deal with local government problems.
You can see why he is hated and reviled by Big Government Liberals and Conservative alike. Whoever heard of anyone in national politics actually saying all of these things out loud? He must be a kook. We'd better dig up some of those old videos about abortion and civil rights. This asshole is getting a little too close to home.