Dec. 14, 2007 -- Over the last few months, I've heard from hundreds of viewers who said that I should interview unconventional Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. So I did.
In this segment, we discuss the 72-year-old Texas congressman's view of the Constitution — the philosophy that centers all of his core positions and beliefs. You can watch the full interview here.
A Candidate Against Farm Subsidies?
Paul, R-Texas, has been called "Dr. No" because he repeatedly votes against legislation that he believes gives government too much power. If it's not in the Constitution, he says, the federal government has no business doing it.
That means he often votes against laws that would give money to the very constituents that elect him.
Paul represents a district that lies on the Texas Gulf Coast. It's prone to hurricanes and flooding.
But that doesn't stop Paul from voting against big government programs like Federal Emergency Management Agency — the federal government agency that responds to natural disasters.
"I think FEMA helps create the flood problems," he says.
He explains that the federal government, by subsidizing insurance policies the cover houses built near the water, encourages people to move to flood-prone areas.
"If the government subsidizes the insurance," he says, "[then government is saying] if you build there, don't sweat it, we're going to bail you out. So all of a sudden, more people move into the flood-prone areas. And then who are the people that have to bail you out? Somebody that lives out in the desert some place. So, it's unfair, it's not good economics, you create more problems, more houses get flooded, and it becomes a general problem, rather than an individual problem."
I agree with him about that.
I once built a beach house because federal flood insurance made it (financially at least) risk-free.
The premiums were below-market cheap. Eight years later, the house washed away, and federal flood insurance paid for every penny of my loss. What a foolish program! Today taxpayers are on the hook for billions of dollars of beachfront property.
Paul also objects to farm subsidies.
"If there's a subsidy, it means the taxpayer was taxed to pay the subsidy … [and] it usually goes to a huge corporate farmer. So the taxpayer pays one time … and then when you go to the store, you pay higher prices for your food. It hasn't helped the people."
'Dr. No' & the Constitution
Paul says our government has strayed far from the Founding Fathers' vision of a limited government.
"I can't quite find [where] in the Constitution [it says] the farm subsidies program is authorized by Article One, Section Eight — it's not there."
Paul talks a lot about the Constitution, more so than any other candidate.
"We've had a grand experiment in this country where we emphasize freedom. If you read the Constitution, the Constitution was designed to protect individual liberty, to restrain the government. But we have forgotten that."
Restraining the government the way our founders intended, he says, would eliminate many of the regulations and federal programs we have today.
"You can read the Constitution and understand it, but you cannot read and understand hardly any of the legislation [that is now] being passed."
He says that some people tell him that invoking a strict interpretation of the Constitution is "harkening back to the dark ages."
"Freedom is new, tyranny is old, it's ancient," Paul retorts.
He thinks one reason the Internet generation has been especially interested in his campaign is because young people "know something about intrusion of personal liberties and personal choices … and [trust] that individuals can make better choices than government can make for us."
He credits his campaign's vibrancy to those very old ideas — straight from the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States.
"Truth is simple, it is not complex. Freedom is popular."
Keep in Touch
We always say at the end of "20/20" that "we're in touch, so you be in touch." Your being in touch by sending e-mails is what created this interview. So, thank you. Be sure to check back at ABCNEWS.com all this week for more of my interview with Ron Paul.
Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss health care by clicking here.
Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss illegal immigration by clicking here.
Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss the Iraq War and the policy of U.S. intervention by clicking here.
Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss what the government should — and shouldn't — do, by clicking here.
Watch John Stossel and Ron Paul discuss drugs, prostitution and gay marriage by clicking here.