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The Man and the Movement He Inspired

by Brian Doherty

Pub Date: May 15th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-06-211479-2
Publisher: Broadside Books/HarperCollins

A breezy and generally admiring though not hagiographic look at the quixotic fixture at the far-right extreme of the last couple of presidential elections.

Reason editor Doherty (Gun Control on Trial: Inside the Supreme Court Battle Over the Second Amendment, 2009, etc.) would seem to share Ron Paul’s libertarian leanings, though he professes some amusement and bewilderment at Paul’s tactics, if not his message. Paul, for instance, has often spoken of terrorist activities as the blowback attendant in our messing around in other countries’ business, to which Doherty responds, presumably channeling Joe Six-Pack, “Whoa—a history lesson, recognizing consequences to our actions, an empathetic approach to what the rest of the world would think?” The rhetorical trick gets a little old, but it’s clear that Doherty cares greatly about capturing what Paul’s supporters think about him and his ideas and, moreover, that he cares about representing them fairly. Much of the narrative is thus given over to fan notes, as against the words of the supposedly elite media. Not that the fan base is huge to begin with: “Paul’s rigorous hewing to a vision of government that almost every part of America’s learned political, academic, and media elites considers silly was only the start of his problems with the American electorate.” Doherty offers considerable insight into some aspects of Paul’s ongoing presidential campaigns. The chances of his ever being elected, after all, are vanishingly small, but one desired effect might be the opportunity to influence the choice of vice president, as he might have in 2008. Yet Paul, a maverick if nothing else, keeps his own counsel, insisting, for instance, on giving lessons in Austrian economic theory and demanding the abolition of the Federal Reserve rather than sharpening crowd-pleasing attacks on America’s foreign wars and the ill-advised war on drugs at home.

Illuminating, if sometimes a chore to read, and a welcome aid to understanding the evolution of Paul’s offbeat ideas.