To Ron Paul, there cannot be liberty if there are constant wars—an issue especially pertinent in the present century.
At a Thursday event on campus, Paul—School of Medicine ’61—argued that liberty is grounded in nonviolence and nonaggression, and that U.S. foreign policy should be based on the “golden rule” of not doing to other countries what the United States would not want done to itself. The talk was co-sponsored by Duke Young Americans for Liberty and POLIS.
“The purpose of government in a free society is to protect your freedom and your liberty,” said Paul, a three-time presidential candidate and former Texas congressman.
Paul noted that wars shaped his childhood. Staying curious about why these wars happened and what the Founding Fathers thought about war, he was able to continuously expand his thinking about what liberty and libertarianism truly meant.
The Founders had wanted the people, not the government, to make the decision about whether or not to go to war, Paul said. He criticized current and past governments for their over-involvement in wars and sectors of individual life and freedom.
Paul asserted that those who advocate for increased government involvement do not realize that that the freer the society, the more prosperous it is, and the freer the market, the bigger the middle class grows. He added that many people are afraid of the increased individual responsibility that comes with reduced government, but that they should not be and should instead accept it.
Paul was also critical about the federal government’s role in regulating money and currency, expressing disdain for the government’s virtual monopolization of fiat currency.
"What I think we should do is get rid of at least 80% of the federal government, and we all would be better off," he said at the end of the talk.
Specifically pointing to the elimination of legal tender laws, Paul said if the government did participate in a monetary system, currency values should be honestly set and all competing currency forms should be legalized.
Paul also underscored the importance of being well educated about issues, staying curious for new and expanded knowledge and constantly sharing new ideas. He said that he is confident that individuals can and should play a role in creating the change they wish to see as long as they are a participant in sharing and spreading ideas.
Patrick Petsche, a Republican candidate who lost the primary election for a North Carolina State House of Representatives seat, was invited by the Duke College Republicans to speak prior to Paul.
Petsche is also a strong proponent for individual liberty and spoke about his own platform and ideological values, echoing many of the libertarian values that Paul later emphasized in his speech. He noted that apathy is dangerous to a republic, and everyone must be educated and engaged or else change doesn’t matter.
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Paul explained that libertarians must be tolerant of other people, allowing them to do anything they want as long as they do not hurt others.
“I don’t want to think that you can’t change things because I think you can,” Paul said. “I think ideas have consequences and I think ideas come not from large groups of people or from the collective, they come from individuals like you that decide ‘This is good, I’m going to participate in this' and do your best to understand it. If you understand it and present it, somebody will make use of it. Ideas do have consequences and I think our ideas are always progressing.”