With the Republican primary season under way, it's time for an intervention for my fellow young people who have decided to support the cult of personality that is Ron Paul.
Once considered a curiosity, Paul's most radical views have increasingly edged into the mainstream in a pathetic Republican field. Even if, like me, you sympathize with his opinions that we should legalize most drugs and not immediately start a war with Iran, these "youth-popular" stances have allowed him too much cover for his disturbing economic and domestic policy positions.
Here's a hint about picking your political icons: Don't trust anyone who promises something along the lines of "If we do X, then we'll have Utopia."
Yet the frequent refrain I'll now give to my 20-something Paul-supporting straw man goes like this: "I'm with Ron Paul. Get the government out of everything."
All righty, Straw Man, fair enough—let's unpack that. We don't have the space here to go into all the crazy regressive policies that entails, so let's try easy-to-understand examples.
Paul promises to cut $1 trillion his first year in office. What this means—as any economist outside of maybe the Heritage Foundation will tell you—is the immediate triggering of a depression. Not this pantywaist Great Recession we've all been muddling through since 2007—a full-blown depression.
If to achieve this $1 trillion cut, you want to eliminate five departments of government, as Paul does, it's important to understand that they do stuff people truly depend on—including you, Straw Man!
For instance, Paul wants to eliminate the Commerce Department, under whose auspices operates the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which oversees the assignment of domain names and Web addresses. Currently, Commerce may have to stop ICANN from rapidly expanding top-level domain names beyond .com, .net and a handful of others and creating chaos online. Or maybe it's OK if there's no oversight of ICANN and we can have 34,000 http://www.ronpaul websites leading to crush porn.
Or take the Energy Department—also on Paul's list for elimination—in which resides much of the government's knowledge on nuclear terrorism. Presumably, Straw Man, it's in your interest that a terrorist group does not detonate a nuclear weapon in Chicago, yet I found no Paul-endorsed free market explanation for why Pepsi would want to take care of that for us.
The greatest failure of Paul's philosophy, however, comes from his laughable environmental views. Because the costs of pollution are always externalized in ways not apparent to the market, keeping arsenic out of our water and mercury out of our brains can really only come from democratically organized people (otherwise known as "the government").
My regret is that at age 76, Paul probably will not live to see the free market's Great Failure, climate change, transform his home state of Texas into a permanent dustbowl, as many scientists now virtually guarantee it will.
Basically, Straw Man, the idea that unregulated markets don't create bad actors, fueled by greed or their own pursuit of power, that can engage in perfidy commensurate or greater than any government's reflects a lack of critical thinking bordering on delusion.
If Paul becomes president, you can find more on this at my website, ronpaul.qom.
REDEYE SPECIAL CONTRIBUTOR STEPHEN MARKLEY IS THE AUTHOR OF "PUBLISH THIS BOOK." REDEYECHICAGO.COM/MARKLEY