When Ron Paul spoke, the audience sat with bated breath. When Ron Paul paused, the audience roared on cue.
Though the crowd of 660 in the Marshall Student Center Ballroom on Wednesday were fewer in number than the Sun Dome two years ago, the former congressman proved his message still echoed on college campuses.
“There seems to be some young people here, I’m delighted,” he said. “You’re inheriting a mess, but there’s a way out.”
Though retired from Congress, Paul said he has championed a message of individual liberty and small government since the 1970s, with or without a seat on Capitol Hill.
“When I first told my wife I wanted to run for Congress, she asked why would you want to go to Congress,” he said. “I said I just want to get some things off my chest, but she said that could be dangerous – I could get elected.”
His point, he said, is it is up to individuals to initiate a change by becoming leaders in the community.
“You don’t need to be a congressman – it might help – but you want to do something you believe in,” he said. “If you’re looking for peace and prosperity, liberty is your answer.”
Liberty is a people’s freedom to pursue their own life choices and take responsibility for them, Paul said, without government interference.
“How many people in a crowd like this believes what the government tells you?” he said over the booing audience. “How many believe in half of what the government tells you?”
Paul said he knew congressmen who openly considered their constituents “too stupid” and incapable of running their own lives.
“I do not think that you’re too stupid,” he said. “You can take care of your life, you can take care of your money better than any bureaucrat in Washington.”
Paul then focused attention on the failings of the government. He said the country had gone broke from military intervention and entitlement spending, such as social security, Medicare, Medicaid and Obamacare.
This all contributed, he said, to a weakened economic system. Paul also blamed the Federal Reserve System for manipulating interest rates and advocated the gold standard as a simpler alternative.
“Because of the financial crisis, people know there’s something fishy going on with the people running the money machine,” he said. “The rich got bailed out and the middle class shrunk. Jobs were lost and they lost their homes.”
Paul said there’s collusion between big corporations and big governments. He cited lobbyists owning politicians, government creating monopolies in utility companies and profiting from pharmaceuticals.
He also said the government feeds both the military industrial complex with the war on terror and the prison industrial complex with the war on drugs.
“Obama isn’t a socialist, he’s a corporatist, and corporatism can lead to fascism,” he said. “Both parties do this, they both wheel and deal.”
In fact, Paul said there’s “way too much bipartisanship” in Washington.
“They all agree on the war, they both agree on the NSA, they support the Fed and dealing with corporations,” he said. “What they’re arguing about is power, it’s who wields the power and whose friends get the money.”
Paul said his goal is to help advance a government that doesn’t rely on so much money. Instead its only duty is to uphold the law suggested by the Constitution.
Since the U.S. government strayed away from the Constitution over the last 100 years, he said it has taken actions that don’t observe the sensibility of law.
He said an example of this is the military entering Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11 without authorization from Congress.
Paul, who does not approve of any foreign aid or intervention, condemned the recent military advising and airstrikes against ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
He also pointed to the failure of nuclear powers to defeat a “ragtag” group like ISIS as proof of the incompetence of big government.
“How many more dollars and troops do we have to spend to teach people how to defend their land?” he said. “With so many groups of people over there, it’s hard to tell who’s the good guy and who’s the bad guy.”
Russia, he said, is another country the U.S. has no business interfering with. He said the removal of Ukraine’s former president was a Western coup.
“We’re trying to start a war with Russia,” Paul said. “How many fear Russia is going to start sending tanks soon?”
For world peace, he said, the individuals must stick to their own business and move away from creating empires. Paul looked to the independence movements in Scotland and Catalonia as examples of small groups taking on empires.
Paul said he believes in democracy, but reform starts with just 5 or 10 percent of the population who are dedicated believers.
“It’s the leadership of the intellectuals who are small in number who believe in something,” he said. “Just as it was in the American Revolution with the Declaration of Independence.”
Paul did not seem as if he wanted to fix the current system, but start a new one from its ashes. He said the inevitable collapse of the economy would force a change sooner or later.
“If we preserve freedom, we do not have to worry about recovery,” he said. “The society could lose everything material, but if you preserve the right to life, the right to liberty and the right to keep the fruits of your labor, … I think the country would be back on their feet in no time.”
A better government would solely uphold individual rights, he said, instead of determining a person’s life, policing the world and running the economy.
Furthermore, Paul said the government shouldn’t restrict anyone’s life choices. If people ruin their brains with drugs or lose their house from gambling, he said that responsibility falls on them.
This, under the assumption, he said, that people could take care of themselves and all lifestyles that don’t hurt others are valid.
“If a conservative says I want liberty because I want this lifestyle, and a liberal says I want liberty because I want this lifestyle,” he said. “ Guess what? Everyone is welcome. Go and have liberty.”
After a brief Q&A discussing topics that ranged from Bitcoin to NATO to the Highway Trust Fund, Paul walked off stage to a standing ovation.
The University Lecture Series announced its spring lineup, with Emmy Award-winning broadcast journalist Soledad O’Brien speaking Jan. 20 and the “Lost Boy of Sudan” John Bul Dau speaking Feb. 19.