Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul opposes things like prostitution and drug use, but he says the federal government has no business trying to stop adults from engaging in them. Freedom of choice, he says, shouldn’t just be restricted to choices he approves of. It’s the job of the federal government, says the congressman, to protect us from external threats, but it should not try to protect us from ourselves.
Here’s the final edited installment of my interview with him.
John Stossel: Would you legalize marijuana, cocaine and heroin?
Ron Paul: I would get the government out of regulating all those substances and would allow the states to deal with the problems, such as whether children can buy cigarettes and alcohol or hard drugs or marijuana. Different states would probably do different things. The first federal law against marijuana was in 1938 — the government (controlled marijuana) through high taxation because it knew it didn’t have authority to say that you’re not allowed to smoke marijuana. Today it’s gone berserk. The federal government overrules a state (California) that has legalized marijuana for very sick people with AIDS and cancer. That’s how absurd the war on drugs has become.
Could a state legalize heroin?
Under our federal system of government, that would be the case. If you ask the people who are against (legalization of heroin) if they would use it, they say, “Oh, no, I wouldn’t use it! It’s always those other people that might use it, so I have to take care of them and prevent them from doing harm to themselves.”
Is that a proper role for government?
No, I don’t believe so. The government should not be involved in personal habits. I have no problem with state laws that protect children from the use of these drugs. But under the Constitution, the president and the federal government wouldn’t have a say in it.
Should gays be allowed to marry?
Sure. They can do whatever they want, and they can call it whatever they want, just so they don’t expect to impose their relationship on somebody else. They can’t make me, personally, accept what they do, but gay couples can do what they want. I’d like to see all governments out of the marriage question. I don’t think it’s a state function; it’s a religious function. There was a time when only churches dealt with marriage. But a hundred years or so ago, for health reasons, the state claimed that to protect us, you had to get a license to get married. I don’t agree with that.
I think when you defend freedom, you defend freedom of choice. You can’t be picking and choosing how people use those freedoms. I don’t believe government can legislate virtue. I can reject (vice) personally and preach against it, whether it’s drugs or prostitution, but my solution comes from my personal behavior and how I raise my children. Whether it’s personal behavior or economic behavior, I want people to have freedom of choice.
You seem to be saying that adults own their own bodies. If a woman wants to rent hers out or someone wants to smoke crack, that’s their business.
Yeah. People make bad choices in religion and philosophy, but we don’t regulate their thinking or their religious beliefs if they’re not harming other people. That’s why I defend this position that government can’t protect individuals from themselves. It’s just impossible. (And when it tries) it becomes a tyrannical state.
Which brings us to abortion. What do you think of Roe vs. Wade?
It was a federal encroachment over state laws, so I wouldn’t have that.
So some states might outlaw abortion, and other states would allow it. That’d be OK with you?
That is right. Under our system, unless you change the Constitution, that’s the way it should be taken care of.
You consider it murder, but it should be allowed if a state so chooses?
I don’t use that term. I (say it is) a tragic set of circumstances, and life should be protected.
John Stossel’s complete interview with Rep. Ron Paul can be found online.