Introduction: US Senator Rand Paul is the son of libertarian Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul. Rand Paul grew up in Lake Jackson, Texas and eventually became an ophthalmologist. Upon completion of his training in 1993, Rand and Kelley moved to Bowling Green to start their family and begin his practice. In 1995, Rand founded the Southern Kentucky Lions Eye Clinic, an organization that provides eye exams and surgery to needy families and individuals. Rand Paul makes the point that he is first and foremost a dedicated physician, not a career politician … and that his entrance into politics is indicative of his life's work: a desire to diagnose problems and provide practical solutions. He has pledged to work hard every day in the US Senate to reform government and to ending business as usual in Washington DC.
Daily Bell: Thanks for sitting down with us; your time is most appreciated. Give us some background on yourself, where you grew up, etc.
Senator Rand Paul: I grew up mostly in Lake Jackson, Texas. I was actually born in Pittsburg, but shortly after my family moved to Texas, because my dad was in the military. We spent a couple of years in San Antonio, back to Pittsburg for a couple of years, but grew up most of my life in Lake Jackson, which is a suburb of Houston, about an hour south. I went to college at Baylor University, and then went to Duke University and completed my eye surgery residency at Duke University. Along the way I got married to a girl from Kentucky, and moved to Kentucky.
Daily Bell: Did your father have a big influence on you?
Senator Rand Paul: I grew up going to hear my father speak. I was at his very first political speech, back in 1974, so I have gotten to hear his thoughts and see his ideas develop over several decades. I spent summers in Washington, working in his office as a volunteer intern. So I would say yes; I have been part of what he has been doing for most of my life.
Daily Bell: Did you ever dream you would be a senator?
Senator Rand Paul: No. You just never know what's going to happen in life. I have been active in taxpayer groups, kind of like what the Tea Party is now. We actually had taxpayer groups back in the '90s. Actually, even 10 years before the Tea Party started we would rate the state legislature; we worked with Grover Norquist's group to have a taxpayer pledge at the state level. I did this in North Carolina as a resident, and then again in Kentucky, but never knew whether I would run for office. I think a lot of running and actually winning is taking advantage of current events as they unfold, and I was fortunate enough to be in the mix of things when Jim Bunning decided to retire.
Daily Bell: Can you give us a brief summary about what it's like being in Washington and in Congress?
Senator Rand Paul: It's exciting to be in the middle of a debate and feel as if you have a chance to argue for the position of constitutional limited government. Unfortunately, we are often in the minority and don't often win the debate. I tell people I think we are winning the public debate; I think the public is behind us. I think the public wants us to balance our budget, obey the Constitution and have a constitutional foreign policy. But we don't yet have the numbers in Washington to win many of those battles. Right now, I think Washington is about a decade behind where the people are and the people are ready for that change. I am just hoping we wake up in time before there is a debt crisis in our country or before we destroy our currency in the process of paying for this massive debt.
Daily Bell: Is the system hopeless? Is it malevolent?
Senator Rand Paul: I think that people are well intentioned on either side, but I think people up there – those who are very liberal and think government is the answer to everything – do want to help people but they don't understand that the bigger government gets the more wealth it consumes so the less you actually help people. We try to convince them that capitalism is the most humanitarian system because it provides such great wealth. And really, all you have to do is imagine what we were like before the industrial era and the amazing amount of poverty, the hunger that went on in most of the world. We really need to be proud of how far we have come with capitalism now. Infant mortality and childhood mortality were 50% in the year 1900. People lived on average to be about 45 years of age in 1900. So we've done amazing things as we've progressed, and I think we need to be proud of the progress we've made, and also not forget how we got there – I think it was by respecting private property and by respecting the rights of the individual.
Daily Bell: How would characterize yourself – as a libertarian, a conservative?
Senator Rand Paul: I like to use the label constitutional conservative because it emphasizes that we have a government that should be restricted and restrained by rules.
Daily Bell: How do your views differ from your father's? Are you in favor of the current wars?
Senator Rand Paul: I think we are very similar. If you were to examine our voting records, you would find that we agree the vast majority of issues. There are some things we present in different ways but I think in the final analysis you'd find that we agree on quite a few things. As far as ending the current wars, I'm actually proposing an amendment next week which will be a formal ending to the war in Iraq and with this amendment it will be what I describe as a reclaiming of the authority of Congress to declare war – and it's not an open-ended commitment to go back into Iraq any time an administration or president pleases without a vote or debate in Congress. I think this will be seen by some as symbolic but I think it's an important symbol, and we are going to have that vote when we get back from Thanksgiving.
Daily Bell: Shouldn't Congress have to DECLARE war?
Senator Rand Paul: Yes. I think that's something that unites libertarians and even old fashioned constitutional conservatives, is that the Constitution provided that power and it's an important tradition because the founding fathers wanted to have checks and balances between congress and an executive. One of the things our founding fathers feared the most was a monarchy or a king.
They also feared giving too much power to a president so that he might be able to act like a king or she might be able to act like a king. So I think this is an important distinction, that the power to declare war is in the Congress and the power to execute the war is in the hands of the presidency but that the power is divided, and it was done on purpose because they wanted to show a significant reluctance and a significant debate before going into war.
Daily Bell: What is your opinion on the war on terror? Is America winning the war on terror?
Senator Rand Paul: I think that is a difficult question to answer. I think that the people who had organized significant terrorist camps in Afghanistan, and Osama bin Laden – I think largely there has been success in the Taliban. As my father refers to it, terror is a tactic. A tactic will probably never go away and there will always be people who either hate America or dislike policy or for whatever reason would want to attack us. I think we need to defend ourselves and have the ability to defend ourselves.
Daily Bell: Who do you think the real enemy is?
Senator Rand Paul: Well I am not sure exactly what you mean by that but I would say there are people who are avowed enemies of the United States and wish us harm. There are people who encourage attacks on the United States, and so I would say that by their actions and by their words, they are enemies of the United States.
Daily Bell: Will your father become president?
Senator Rand Paul: Well, I would say by most estimations that it would still be a long shot but I would say the recent news has all been good. He's in a statistical dead heat for first place in Iowa, a pretty strong second or third in New Hampshire, but I think by no means does anybody think it's going to be a cake walk or that it's a sure thing. I would say that if he were to win the presidency, it would still be described as probably one of the biggest upsets ever in presidential history. So it's still a long shot, but it doesn't mean that we don't have a chance; I think he does have a legitimate chance.
Daily Bell: Would you like to be president?
Senator Rand Paul: Well I have enough, I think, going on on my plate, representing the state of Kentucky so we'll see what time brings and what happens over time.
Daily Bell: Are you hopeful about America and what do you foresee for the future?
Senator Rand Paul: I think so. I think America is an amazingly resilient country primarily because we embraced capitalism, voluntary exchange, individual rights, property rights and this is really founded upon a six to seven hundred year history of the people gradually taking power away from the king in England and then us finally separating. So it wasn't something that happened in 1776, and that's probably why we were successful – because we had all those years of gradually trying to restrict and restrain the monarch.
As far as optimism, yes. I am optimistic in the sense that capitalism, despite all the government impediments and despite all of the things government does that really are not helpful to the economy, continues to thrive. Our standard of living has risen dramatically over the last several hundred years; it's a rare person that's hungry in our country. So I would say there is room for optimism but there is also worry in the sense that there's a significant debt crisis emerging out of Europe and many have said it's headed this way, and I do worry about that. I do think we need to change things but at the same time I think there is definitely room for optimism.
Daily Bell: What do you think is the biggest problem facing America right now?
Senator Rand Paul: I think the biggest problem facing America right now is the debt crisis and the amount of debt that's accumulating, and whether or not we'll be able to pay for this debt without destroying our currency in the process.
Daily Bell: What about the Federal Reserve? Do you think it should be abolished?
Senator Rand Paul: I think a good first step would be the audit of the Fed, which my father has proposed. He had over 300 co-sponsors in the House and about 30-some odd in the Senate. We are pressing for that as a first step, the transparency, because we think we can get some bi-partisan support for that. Also, some information came out at the last audit that showed that a lot of the money was going to support foreign banks so we are going to keep pushing that. As far as ultimately abolishing it, it really goes hand in hand with debt.
If you continue to run enormous amounts of debt as a country, the way you finance your debt is by the Federal Reserve money. So really, you have to decide as a country that you want your government to do a lot less and you are willing to have balanced budgets.
It can be done but it's all part of one big philosophical change that the country would need, which is to embrace limited constitutional government and then you wouldn't need the Fed. As it is right now, if you run trillion dollar deficits we'd have a significant collapse without the ability to print money. But you still may have a significant collapse if they do print the money because they are in the process of destroying the currency.
Daily Bell: What is your proudest accomplishment in the Congress to date?
Senator Rand Paul: I think really the most dramatic thing is that we tried to stop the Patriot Act. We didn't quite stop it, but we momentarily stopped the Patriot Act and were able to introduce amendments. The amendments didn't win but in the end we got about 20-some odd votes against the Patriot Act in the Senate, and that was more than we have ever gotten before.
We've gotten some Republicans now engaged with the understanding and the belief in civil liberties so I think that was a pretty significant step. It's still not the end solution but I think it was a significant step forward in getting the debate started.
Daily Bell: Thank you, Senator, it's was an honor to conduct this interview with you. Thanks for giving us your time.
Senator Rand Paul: Thanks a lot.
This interview was conducted before the Senate's passage of its version of the National Defense Authorization Act, which provides Pentagon generals with even more legal standing to detain and even torture anyone who disagrees with them.
Rand Paul opposed that passage and forced a roll-call vote on another, even more terrible amendment, No. 1274. This one would have given the US government authority to keep American citizens in jail indefinitely even if they were tried and found not guilty.
Apparently, 1274 would have passed by voice vote, but once Senator Paul demanded a roll call vote, the amendment narrowly lost, 41-59. You can see an article on the larger act here: NDAA, The Smell of Fear.
Rand Paul was quoted in various reports as saying the following: "Suspicion of committing a crime should lead to your attempted prosecution. If the evidence does not support conviction, it would be against everything we believe in and fight for in America to still allow the government to imprison you at their whim."
The Senator also introduced an amendment to formally end the war in Iraq. Strangely, even though US troops will leave Iraq shortly (leaving behind mercenaries, no doubt), the amendment failed 30-67.
Rand Paul's activities as stated above bring three points to mind. First, he seems to have been more forceful in Congress about opposing America's burgeoning foreign wars than he was as a candidate for office.
In fact, we believed he'd lost chances to make educational statements about how America's overseas activities were not only unconstitutional but also inevitably contributing to the country's bankruptcy. Even more importantly, such wars are harming millions of civilians along with tens of thousands US soldiers, wounded or dead.
But once in the US Senate, from what he can tell, he has not shied away from making certain anti-war positions clear. While he may not be as impassioned as his father in this regard, at least he's spoken out, which is more than most Senators do, or even Congress members in general.
Second, Rand Paul's courageous behavior stands in sharp contrast to the way most Congressmen and Senators behave. His father, Ron Paul, has intimated in the past that there is a fairly sizeable fear factor in Congress currently. We figure that's the case as well.
With unlimited wiretapping and aggressively-resourced prosecutions available, anyone in Congress who raises a fuss on any issue important to the military-industrial complex or the ever-growing intelligence-industrial complex may well find himself or herself a target, or at least a contemplated target.
Since there are innumerable laws and almost no one finds a berth in Congress without breaking at least some of them, the threat of targeted prosecutions must surely loom large. It may not be realistic in the sense that most congressmen are not currently investigated no matter what they do, but the possibility is always there and thus the fear-factor remains.
This brings us to another issue, which is whether even the most aggressive reformist mentality can return America to its constitutional basics and free-market principles. One might have been more tempted to answer in the affirmative even a few years ago.
But currently, all three branches of the American government are giving out continuous signals that they are moving away from the nation's classical liberal roots and toward something that is more European and based on obvious elite rule.
This is perhaps the most disturbing aspect of what's going on currently. The corruption and contempt for civil society that America's public (and private) sector leaders are now exhibiting are an increasing danger to whatever is left of US exceptionalism.
In fact, it could be said that the law has entirely ceased to support the notion of legislative support for civil freedoms. What remains in the US is a cultural notion of how a free country is supposed to work. This is, in fact, a recipe for further conflict in the US. Civilians have one notion and their elected elites have another.
Finally, a third (unfortunately gloomy) conclusion that may be drawn from the valiant fight of the Pauls (both Rand and Ron) is that freedom is nonetheless failing in the US and generally in the West. The true scenario may be one that includes a continued, downward authoritarian spiral.
Austrian economist Ludwig von Mises argued that societies could not be "a little bit" socialist. Once "leveling" was formally adopted by a society, the damage was done and the future was certain. Sooner or later, the country and its citizens were bound to end up broke and miserable, with a dissipated and bankrupt civil and political establishment.
In bluntest terms (in our view), Western Money Power is determined to create world government and every tool of civil and state debasement is being used to further those goals, from currency failure, to generalized economic collapse and its corollary, war, and even genocide.
The people who stand up to this sort of manipulation, including Rand Paul, are most deserving of our respect. Those who understand the reality of what seems to be occurring must wish them well.