The New York Times has a long feature today on how Ron Paul came to be what he is: an ultra-consistent, gold-loving, anti-abortion libertarian. Despite some digs at the relative prominence of Austrian economics and an implication that Paul is clueless or lying about the prominence of back-alley abortions, the Times’ picture of Paul is mostly flattering.
Here are the key points from it:
Paul’s parents were married just days before the crash of 1929. And they raised him as an avowedly conservative Mid-Western style Republican, who hated government programs, and Democratic wars.
They made their children work hard, but determined to be generous themselves.
From a young age, Ron, the third of five, and his four brothers earned pennies picking raspberries that their grandfather, a farmer, sold in Pittsburgh, and plucking dirty milk bottles from the crates of empties in their basement. Yet they saw their parents let customers short on cash slide on paying their bills for months at a time.
He Was Always This Way:
Even though he was studying to be a doctor, Paul liked to share his political ideas with colleagues. The Time casts this in a macabre way:
As a young doctor in training, dissecting cadavers or practicing surgery on dogs, he would tell all who would listen about how the country was headed down the wrong path, about the urgency of a strict gold standard and about the dangers of allowing government too much power over people’s lives.
Paul Becomes An Intellectual:
Paul’s parents had raised him with conservative instincts, but he really firmed up his beliefs by reading the Austrian economists – whom the New York Times are quick to cast as outside the mainstream.
It was “The Road to Serfdom” by Friedrich Hayek that became the ur-text of Mr. Paul’s emerging ideology, introducing him to Austrian economics and its Manichaean choice between laissez-faire capitalism and a government-run economy destined for disaster. (Mainstream economists have long dismissed the Austrian school, but it retains a devoted following among libertarians and some conservatives.)
Although it doesn’t exactly explain his politics, the most interesting anecdote is about Paul as a frustrated young athlete:
A high school athlete — he wrestled opponents 20 pounds heavier and won the Pennsylvania championship in the 220-yard dash — he was offered a full athletic scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, even after an injury and crude surgery severely damaged his knee. But he turned down the offer, saying it would be wrong to accept given his doubts that he could compete. In private, he despaired of ever racing again — and railed against a God who, as he told Jerrold, “would give me something and then take it away.”
How Paul became anti- abortion:
The Times re-tells Paul’s searing story about how he came to be anti-abortion, when he was a young OB GYN in the 1960s.
Abortion was still illegal, but, increasingly, legal exceptions were being made for psychiatric reasons. Mr. Paul traces his opposition to the procedure to the time when he wandered into an operating room there and saw a pregnancy terminated by Caesarean section, with a 2-pound foetus, delivered alive, left in a corner to try to breathe, try to cry, and die.
Dr. Paul Won’t Accept Medicare or Medicaid:
It is well known that Paul wanted to enter Politics after President Nixon cut all remaining ties between the dollar and gold. What’s less well known is the conditions by which he ran his medical practice with partner Jack Pruett.
Dr. Paul laid down two conditions: They would perform no elective abortions, and they would not participate in Medicare or Medicaid. They treated poor women at a discount or free, Dr. Pruett said, sometimes receiving vegetables or eggs instead of cash.
Investing Against Disaster:
Paul has always put his money where his mind is, and he has reaped wealth from it.
His partner Jack Pruett recalled that a year early in their medical practice:
And when they closed the books one year and found that they had $60,000 left over to split, Mr. Paul proposed that they invest in gold coins.
“I still have my Krugerrands,” Dr. Pruett said. “We paid $132 apiece. They’re worth about $2,000 today.”
And Paul has done very well with precious metals since then as well:
From 2001 to 2011, his holdings in gold, silver, mining companies and other bets on an economic collapse more than doubled in value, an analysis of his Congressional disclosures suggests, to between $1.6 million and $3.5 million. His entire portfolio is now worth between $2.4 million and $5.4 million.
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