Thursday, January 28, 2010

Dinner with Ron Paul

About a month ago, I was given the opportunity of my life. I was invited to New York City to be a guest at a dinner with Ron Paul, a republican congressman from Texas and a former presidential candidate. Mr. Paul is a longtime student of the Austrian School of Economics, and he was the most anti-war candidate on either side of the fence in the ’08 election. I independently worked on his presidential campaign—calling voters around caucus time, going door to door, collecting signatures, and even spray painting my old pickup truck with his website.

It was that now-broken-down pickup truck that caught the attention of Seth Lipsky of the New York Sun as he walked past my home in Maine. We became friends and on several occasions have met for breakfast in his home to discuss a wide array of markets-based topics - from the gold standard to the Federal Reserve.

In the middle of November of '09, Seth gave me a call to ask me what I was doing for dinner on December 14th; he had invited Ron Paul to New York to talk about HR 1207 and wanted me to be there. I accepted, and a month later, I found myself in a room surrounded by a stellar cast of journalists gathered to hear Dr. Paul (he is an O.B.G.Y.N) speak. Among them were James Grant of Grant’s Interest Rate Observer; Paul Gigot and Mary O’Grady of the Wall Street Journal, along with their former editor there, George Melloan; Adam Brodsky of the New York Post; Ira Stoll of; and John Stossel and Judge Andrew Napalitano of Fox News. John Stossel was one of the first to get me interested in libertarianism from his days on ABC's 20/20 and I read and watch Judge Napalitano nearly every day. The Senior Vice President of the Campaign for Liberty, Jesse Benton was accompanying Dr. Paul.

I really couldn't believe that I was standing in the same small room with Ron Paul, Napalitano, Stossel, and Benton. I mean, to a nerd like me, obsessed with Austrian Economics, these are four of the biggest celebrities in the world!

The conversation at dinner began with questions for Dr. Paul regarding HR 1207: Federal Reserve Transparency Act, the bill that he authored and which is gaining national attention. This bill has 317 co-sponsors in the House and 30 in the Senate, including Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. When Dr. Paul was asked what he thought the bill would accomplish, he said that he wanted to know about the secret deals between the Fed and foreign central banks as well as domestic banks. The congressman explained how the Federal Reserve’s easy money policies and its maintenance of artificially low interest rates contributed to the recession we are in right now.

Mary O’Grady asked the congressman what he thought about the ‘war on drugs,’ to which he replied “I think it’s been an abysmal failure and done far, far more harm than good.” Mrs. O’Grady went on to say that she is a “conscientious objector to the ‘war on drugs’,” which I found surprising and refreshing.

When the topic turned to foreign policy and the war, Dr. Paul’s stance diverged from some—although not all—of his fellow diners. On one side were the hawks, who tend to favor Americas military involvement in foreign affairs, and on the other, the more libertarian proponents of a non-interventionist, anti-war foreign policy. Ron Paul, Judge Napalitano, Jesse Benton, and I seemed to be the only guests ideologically aligned with the latter camp. Dr. Paul stated his belief that the President’s troop escalation in Afghanistan will only cause far more harm to the people of America as well as Afghanistan. Furthermore, he fears the administration plans on going into Pakistan and that the troop surge is just the lead up to an imminent invasion.

“Is the only reason you are against war because of the monetary cost?” someone asked Dr. Paul. He shook his head and replied, “No, but when I’m talking to conservatives, it’s the only way I can get their attention on the subject.” He went on to explain the far reaching costs of war—from the immediate and obvious loss of lives of both soldiers and foreign civilians, to post traumatic stress syndrome among returning soldiers, and to the more subtle phenomenon of blowback. (‘Blowback’ is the CIA term for the unintended consequences manifested upon civilians—usually in the form of random violence—as a result of their government’s involvement in foreign disputes.) “Imagine if the Chinese government were to come to America and start ousting elected officials with their military and forcing what they perceive to be a better form of government on the people. You would be pretty upset, wouldn’t you?”
This caused a ripple a grumblings around the table with a few people even chuckling at these crazy ideas.

Dr. Paul explained briefly why America has been a target for Al-Qaeda, citing the U.S.s' overthrowing of the democratically elected Shah of Iran in 1953 and our perpetual involvement in their affairs ever since. Someone mumbled something about how they attacked us for our freedom. This is a puerile and baseless argument: Why are Sweden, Switzerland, and Hong Kong, who are all economically freer than the U.S., not under near-constant threat of terror attack? Not coincidentally, all of these countries practice a non-interventionist foreign policy.

At some point during the discussion of war, one of the diners turned to Ron Paul and said something about the importance of winning in Afghanistan. After an evening of silence uncharacteristic of myself, I spoke up and posed the following question: “What does it mean to win in Afghanistan?”
The person I happened to be looking at when I asked this replied, “Don’t look at me! I’m not the spokesperson for this plan.” No one on “their side of the table” was able to answer the question. I think this is because there is no answer and America is engaged in an un-winnable war.

After dinner, when the guests were all milling around talking to one another, I got the opportunity to speak with Dr. Paul one on one. He shook my hand and thanked me for speaking up for him and showing interest in such an important subject. This was an unbelievable thrill for me.

For the past five years, I have tirelessly defended Ron Paul’s political and economic philosophy of personal liberty, private property rights and non-interventionist foreign policy to family, friends and strangers alike. Now, in the company of intellectual giants, I had the opportunity to stick up for these ideals—in the presence of Ron Paul himself. I wish that the evening could have lasted for ten days instead of just a few hours.

Having been given the opportunity to meet those journalists and engage in conversation with them was really the impetus for me to start writing this blog. I will likely cite this evening throughout my future posts, as this was a life changing experience for me for a couple of reasons. Not only did I meet a few of my ideological heroes, but I also realized that these powerful and influential journalists are just people, who, like me, have some unformed opinions and sometimes faulty logic. Whether this is reassuring or troubling, I haven’t yet decided.


  1. Gardner, loving the blog my friend. As a proud and long time common sense liberal, I still haven't been able to wrap my head around the "survival of the fittest" libertarian model of society, but as an avid reader of all opinions, your blog will be high on my list. Really well written and great insight about the fallacy of believing that our leaders and the media hold all of the answers.

  2. Austrian Economics? Do tell more.