Ron Paul Unplugged

In this segment from my interview with Congressman Ron Paul, the unconventional Republican presidential contender offers his refreshing take on what the federal government should — and more importantly shouldn't — be doing.

With politicians from both sides of the political fence touting their new plans to fix America's problems, the Texas Republican believes that the most effective way that a president can lead is by protecting basic freedoms, and relying on the collective power of citizens to sort out the rest.

Government's Role

When Paul is asked to count off the major responsibilities of the federal government should have, he arrives at a surprisingly short list.

"Protect our freedoms. Have a strong national defense. Look and take care of our borders. Have a sound currency. … Protect our environment through private property rights. … That's it," Paul said.

Paul notes that when our country was founded, the role of the government was to protect the general welfare, enforce the rule of law in court, maintain property rights and allow for free markets and free trade — "not to run our lives, and run everything in the economy."

It's a habit of politicians to identify problems and try to "fix" them with new laws and bureaucracies.

While some of these reforms may be well-intended, says Paul, "good intentions won't solve our problems," and more often they encroach on the personal liberties that have made our country great.

For example, it is a political consensus that the federal government should be involved in K-12 education and guarantee that no child is left behind, but Paul doesn't believe that government should be in control of our kids' education.

He would abolish the federal Department of Education.

He notes, "Since the 1950s, since the federal government's gotten involved, the quality of education has gone down, the cost has gone up."

By contrast, Paul counters, if we introduce market forces into education, competition will create innovative schools that offer our kids a better education for less money.

Paul Targets Government Bureaucracy

The Department of Education isn't the only government bureaucracy that Paul would like to see go. He'd also get rid of the Department of Energy.

He says it's useless, and the free market would allocate energy resources far more effectively.

When the government introduces an energy policy, Paul argues, it's all too often a means to offer up "government largesse" to businesses that lobby for support.

Paul would also eliminate the Department of Homeland Security and Federal Emergency Management Agency. He cites the disastrous handling of Hurricane Katrina and the avoidable tragedy of Sept. 11 as signposts of government ineptitude.

I asked him about other Cabinet departments.

The Departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Health and Human Services, Housing and Urban Development? Get rid of them all, says Paul.

"We should think about what kind of a country we would have without these departments," he said. "I think we would have a better country, and all those problems that they're supposed to solve, I think, would be lessened."

Getting rid of all this bureaucracy wouldn't be Paul's first act as president.

First, he says, he would "immediately take a pay cut … because I wouldn't have so much to do."

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