Ron Paul takes the stage at Brown

by Ben Resnik

Tuesday night, former congressman and libertarian proponent Dr. Ron Paul spoke to a crowd of Brown students in Salomon Hall. Paul used the event, hosted by the Brown Lecture Board, as an opportunity to introduce students to various case studies and examples of government overreach and encroachments on individual liberty.

Beginning with foreign policy, Paul emphasized the circular nature of the “military-industrial complex,” saying that many of the wars of the last half-century, from Vietnam to Iraq to the looming threat of conflict with North Korea, were tactics employed by both political parties to drum up fear and the perceived need for a larger and more intrusive state. He then denounced the drone war, saying that its 4,700 admitted casualties were sure to be met with resentment if not armed payback.

Moving to domestic policy, Paul denounced the Federal Reserve for printing money with abandon and lamented the Nixon administration’s decision to leave the gold standard as a guarantor of the dollar. He also decried the government’s encroachment on individuals’ rights to use marijuana, a statement that gained resounding applause from the audience.

After concluding his speech, Paul stood for a question and answer session. Students lined up at twin microphones in Salomon’s aisles, expressing everything from adulation to healthy skepticism and inquiring on a broad range of topics.

Two questions stood out. The first was a question about how Paul could square his beliefs about personal liberty with his views on abortion, which he opposes. The former congressman responded that while he supported individual rights for women as much as anyone, he had to draw the line at human life, which he viewed as beginning at conception.

The second question was less a question than indictment of a racist pamphlet put out under Paul’s campaign several decades ago, a discovery that briefly raised controversy during Paul’s run in his 2012 run for the presidential nomination. The congressman’s response was that he was not personally responsible for the statement, but that he regretted its existence. In a smooth pivot back to point, Paul used the pamphlet as evidence that those in government are imperfect and to trust them as little as possible. With that, he thanked the crowed and left the stage to boisterous applause.

photo by Gage Skidmore: http://www.flickr.com/photos/gageskidmore/7879384796/