The Tao of Ron Paul

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Long before
Mises and Rothbard, Lao-Tzu introduced libertarian ideas to China
with the Tao Te Ching.
Selections from that ancient book of philosophy illustrate the wisdom
that would shape American policy under the administration of President
Ron Paul.

From Chapter
17 of the Tao Te Ching: “In the highest antiquity, the people
did not know that there were rulers. In the next age they loved
them and praised them. In the next they feared them; in the next
they despised them.”

Since 9/11,
George W. Bush has run the gamut. Just after 9/11, he was loved
and praised (by a country desperate for leadership); later he was
feared (by Americans concerned about tyranny, not to mention the
people of Iraq); and today he is despised by most of the world and
the majority of his country. Lao-Tzu describes this process of degeneration
over vast ages of history — for Dubya, it took about three or four
years.

Chapter 17
continues: “How irresolute did those (earliest rulers) appear, showing
(by their reticence) the importance which they set upon their words!
Their work was done and their undertakings were successful, while
the people all said, ‘We are as we are, of ourselves!'”

Ron Paul believes
in liberty, letting people be as they are. One consequence of liberty
is the free market, in which every individual is permitted to make
his or her own choices. Free people will find better solutions than
even a “beloved” ruler can impose, and Congressman Paul knows it.
Every vote he casts in Congress proves the depth of his belief in
this principle.

Chapter 30:
“He who would assist a lord of men in harmony with the Tao will
not assert his mastery in the kingdom by force of arms. Such a course
is sure to meet with its proper return.”

This immediately
evokes the famous Ron Paul–Rudy Giuliani confrontation over
the motives for the 9/11 attack. If Giuliani has no time (or stomach)
to read Blowback,
or the 9/11 Commission Report, perhaps he could at least be persuaded
to look over these short verses. America’s decades of attempting
to “assert its mastery” over the Middle East “by force of arms,”
at least as
far back as 1953
, brought the inevitable “return” on 9/11.

Or, to put
it in Sir Isaac Newton’s terms, every action has an equal and opposite
reaction. This is as true in politics as in physics.

Chapter 30
continues: “Wherever a host is stationed, briars and thorns spring
up. In the sequence of great armies there are sure to be bad years.”
Congressman Paul wants to see an end to the policy of maintaining
bases in more than a hundred countries around the world, which has
yielded “briars and thorns” in the form of resentment and hostility
against America. Ironically, a remarkable number of American citizens
seem unaware that their own country possesses this empire of foreign
bases, which sometimes prop up oppressive local regimes.

However, if
we were attacked by a foreign nation or entity during a President
Paul administration, what might the consequences be? Verse 30 continues:
“A skilful commander strikes a decisive blow, and stops. He does
not dare (by continuing his operations) to assert and complete his
mastery. He will strike the blow, but will be on his guard against
being vain or boastful or arrogant in consequence of it. He strikes
it as a matter of necessity; he strikes it, but not from a wish
for mastery.”

This reflects
the military policy of a Paul administration: Use all force necessary
to protect the country, but not more. Do not attempt to intimidate
or dominate the world. Congressman Paul takes the value of human
life, and therefore the wastefulness of war, very seriously. Besides,
haven’t we suffered enough vanity, boastfulness and arrogance from
the White House in recent years?

Chapter 57:
“A state may be ruled by (measures of) correction; weapons of war
may be used with crafty dexterity; (but) the kingdom is made one’s
own (only) by freedom from action and purpose.

How do I know that it is so? By these facts: In the kingdom the
multiplication of prohibitive enactments increases the poverty of
the people; the more implements to add to their profit that the
people have, the greater disorder is there in the state and clan;
the more acts of crafty dexterity that men possess, the more do
strange contrivances appear; the more display there is of legislation,
the more thieves and robbers there are.”

Probably unique
among American politicians, “Dr. No” has a long history of resisting
the temptation to intervene and regulate. Students of Austrian
economics
already well understand that government intervention
rarely achieves its ostensible ends, while inflicting a host of
damaging side effects and unintended consequences. Government schools
are consciously
designed
to suppress learning and thinking ability. FEMA not
only didn’t help Katrina survivors, it worked hard to prohibit
local workers and private charity
from mounting an effective
relief effort. Drug prohibition increases
violent crime
(without reducing drug use) and enriches criminals.
And so on, and on, and on.

This is further
addressed in Chapter 58: “The government that seems the most unwise,
Oft goodness to the people best supplies; That which is meddling,
touching everything, Will work but ill, and disappointment bring.”
(I am personally annoyed at this translator’s occasional attempts
at rhyme). It continues: “The (method of) correction shall by a
turn become distortion, and the good in it shall by a turn become
evil. The delusion of the people (on this point) has indeed subsisted
for a long time.”

Congressman
Paul, a scholar in the area of economics, understands that attempts
at public good rapidly become public evil. It is simply impossible
for a president or a legislature to decide what is best for every
single member of the population — far better to let individuals
decide for themselves. Even if successful centralized decisions
were possible, how many politicians would actually choose public
interest over lobbyist money? I can name one.

However, many
people continue to call for state regulation as the first and only
method to address any problem that arises. The “delusion” that the
government is here to help “has indeed subsisted for a long time”
— and continues to subsist millennia after those words were written.

Then there
is the famous Chapter 60: “Governing a great state is like cooking
a small fish.” One must take care with a small fish; a little too
much heat will burn it, a little too much poking will destroy it.
Again, Lao-Tzu and Congressman Paul agree on matters of government
policy (although I’m not sure how Dr. Paul cooks his fish).

Chapter 61:
“What makes a great state is its being (like) a low-lying, down-flowing
(stream); it becomes the centre to which tend (all the small states)
under heaven.”

(Apparently
I’m using a British translation.)

Dr. Paul prescribes
a humble foreign policy, in which we do not attempt to coerce other
nations to obey our will. He endorses the approach of Thomas Jefferson:
“Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations, entangling
alliances with none.” This policy would both increase America’s
number of friends and enhance its standing in the world, while removing
the motives for anti-American hostility. Furthermore, a noninterventionist
foreign policy would save taxpayers many trillions of dollars, money
that is sorely needed here at home.

Finally, Chapter
75: “The people suffer from famine because of the multitude of taxes
consumed by their superiors. It is through this that they suffer
famine.”

Ron Paul is
the only candidate who consistently points out that Americans suffer
not only direct taxation, but indirect taxation through debt and
inflation. As a longtime public opponent of the Federal Reserve,
he stands for sound monetary and fiscal policy.

And that’s
the Tao of Ron Paul. For those who doubt a principled man who tells
the truth can reach the White House, just remember Chapter 78: “There
is nothing in the world more soft and weak than water, and yet for
attacking things that are firm and strong, there is nothing that
can take precedence of it.”

June
27, 2007

J.
L. Bryan
[send him mail] is a freelance
writer.

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