Is Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) an Isolationist or a Non-Interventionist?

Rep. Ron Paul’s (R-TX) has twice sought the GOP Presidential nomination and ran for president as a Libertarian in 1988. He claims to be a non-interventionist rather than an isolationist. The difference is explained by the Texan and his Campaign for Liberty:

Critics of non-interventionism smear Dr. Paul by claiming he is an isolationist. True isolationism combines a non-interventionist foreign policy with protectionism (or economic nationalism). The majority of U.S. non-interventionists reject protectionism in favor of free trade. Ron Paul supports free trade and he is a non-interventionist. Please for God Sake learn the difference, or you will be intentionally misleading or smearing Ron Paul.

Even if we accept this definition, Ron Paul would still be an isolationist. He only supports free trade in theory. He is opposed to NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, and the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement.
Congressman Paul explained his unique definition of free trade during the CAFTA debate:

We badger China, and that is not free trade. I believe in free trade, but this is not free trade. This is regulated, managed trade for the benefit of special interests. That is why I oppose it.

Ron Paul claims America had free trade until the Civil War, and that it has been managed trade since that time. History does not support his arguments. The first tariff was enacted when George Washington was president, and Thomas Jefferson believed in retroactive tariffs. Jefferson said: “Where a nation imposes high duties on our productions, or prohibits them altogether, it may be proper for us to do the same by theirs. . . Where a nation refuses to receive in our vessels any productions but our own, we may refuse to receive, in theirs, any but their own productions.”
There was no income tax for our first century or sales tax. The very first act of Congress was the Tariff Act of 1789, which Washington signed into law on July 4th 1789.
Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton were all protectionists.

Ron Paul believes free trade does not require treaties or organizations. His protectionist voting record is completely inconsistent with his free trade rhetoric, so he came up with the term “managed trade” to justify these contradictions. What he is really advocating is unilateral disarmament in trade deals as well as for our military. Similar to other areas, his are idealistic and naive.
We are told Every Libertarian repudiates protectionism? Since when? Vast majority are rank NAFTA haters and trade blamers. Ron Paul too.
The Congressman explains his position by saying: “I will also pursue true free trade with low tariffs and less burdensome regulation. However, I reject the ‘managed trade’ approach of the World Trade Organization, North American Free Trade Agreement and Central American Free Trade Agreement. . . I don’t call them free-trade agreements; I call them managed trade agreements.” Instead, Paul would like to see a simple policy of “low and uniform” tariffs for all products from all nations.” On another occasion he said “True free trade does not require treaties or agreements between governments. On the contrary, true free trade occurs in the absence of government intervention in the free flow of goods across borders.”
Paul wants us to withdraw from all free trade agreements and multilateral organizations, even though they have lifted hundreds of millions of people out of poverty. he In every vote on trade Ron Paul was asked to vote for or against reducing government-imposed barriers to the international exchange of goods and services. Every single time he has voted with the protectionists. In 2007 he referred to himself as “sort of” a protectionist. There is nothing “sort of,” he is a protectionist.
Perhaps the trade agreements he has opposed are not perfect, but they are far better than what existed before.
many of his arguments make no sense. NAFTA was enacted in 1993 and Paul believes it will erode the sovereignty of the United States be leading to a merger of Mexico, Canada and America into a North American Union. There is no evidence to support his theory.
America is the works biggest exporter. We have 4% of the global population but every year we generate 25% of the world’s wealth. Our companies need to sell outside of the United States, and reciprocal agreements which allow foreign products into America are essential. Getting rid of trade agreements will limit markets and jobs. These agreements have lowered trade barriers and ensured quality and safety. We do insist on trade rules to reduce and eliminate export subsidies, protect the environment, and to ban the use of child and forced labor. The United States is engaging in free trade and agreements are designed to make sure that other nations have similar policies.

What we have is better than no NAFTA.

United States-Peru Trade Promotion Agreement (H R 3688), November 8, 2007, Passed 285 to 132. 16 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
United States-Oman Free Trade Agreement (H R 5684), July 20, 2006, Passed 221 to 205. 28 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
United States-Bahrain Free Trade Agreement (H R 4340), December 7, 2005, Passed 327 to 95. 13 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
United States-Central America Free Trade Agreement (H R 3045), July 28, 2005, Passed 217 to 215. 27 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
Withdrawing the U.S. from the World Trade Organization (H J RES 27), June 9, 2005, Defeated 86 to 338. 39 Republicans voted yes including Ron Paul
United States-Morocco Free Trade Agreement (H R 4842), July 22, 2004, Passed 323 to 99. 18 Republicans voted no, but Ron Paul was absent.
United States-Australia Free Trade Agreement (H R 4759), July 14, 2004, Passed 314 to 109. 24 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
United States-Singapore Free Trade Agreement (H R 2739), July 24, 2003, Passed 272 to 155. 27 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
United States-Chile Free Trade Agreement (H R 2738), July 24, 2003, Passed 270 to 156. 27 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
United States-Andean Trade Act (H R 3009), July 27, 2002, Passed 215 to 212. 27 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
Fast Track Trade Promotion Authority (H R 3005), December 6, 2001, Passed 215 to 214. 23. Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
United States-Jordan Free Trade Agreement passed by voice vote in 2001 and Ron Paul said he was opposed. There was no roll call vote.
Withdrawing from the World Trade Organization (H J RES 90), June 21, 2000, Defeated 56 to 363. 33 Republicans voted yes including Ron Paul
Normal Trade Relations With China (H R 4444), May 24, 2000, Passed 237 to 197. 57 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
Trade and Development Act (H R 434), May 4, 2000, Passed 309 to 110. 30 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
African Growth and Opportunity Act (H R 434), July 16, 1999, Passed 234 to 163. 63 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul.
Fast Track Reciprocal Trade Agreement (H R 2621), September 25, 1998, Defeated 180 to 243. 71 Republicans voted no including Ron Paul
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade, WTO (H R 5110), November 29, 1996

The libertarian arguments on NAFTA are similar to their false claims about every trade agreement. CEI and Ron Paul both believe free trade does not require treaties or organizations. The Congressman has never voted for a free trade agreement, but continues to claim he supports free trade. In 2007 he called himself “sort of” a protectionist. He should have said he is a 100% protectionist which is the accurate description.

How does a lawmaker with his voting record claim to be a free trade advocate? Simple, he creates his own idealistic and naive definitions. In Ron Paul’s world a protectionist is really a free trade advocate if he believes in “managed trade.” This is a term he created.

This is typical of Ron Paul. He claims to support a strong national defense, but he wants to cut $1 trillion out of the Pentagon. He claims to be a right to life champion, but abortion is fine with him if it happens on the state level. He claims to be a champion of individual liberty but is the only lawmaker to oppose the Civil Right Act and the ability of blacks to eat at the lunch counter.

What Ron Paul is advocating is unilateral disbarment for the United States in national security and trade policy.

Once again, Ron Paul only supports free trade in theory. He is opposed to NAFTA, CAFTA, WTO, the U.S.-South Korea Free Trade Agreement, and every other treaty.

Ron Paul claims America had free trade until the Civil War, and we have had “managed trade” since that time. History does not support his arguments. The Congressman claims to be a great advocate of the founding fathers, but he always ignores them when he does not like their actions.

The first tariff was enacted when George Washington was president, and Thomas Jefferson believed in retroactive tariffs. In fact, the very first act of Congress was the Tariff Act of 1789, which Washington signed into law on July 4th 1789. Washington, Jefferson, and Hamilton were all protectionists.

America is the works biggest exporter. We have 4% of the global population but every year we generate 25% of the world’s wealth. Our companies need to sell outside of the United States, and reciprocal agreements which allow foreign products into America are essential. Getting rid of trade agreements will limit markets and jobs. These agreements have lowered trade barriers and ensured quality and safety. We do insist on trade rules to reduce and eliminate export subsidies, protect the environment, and to ban the use of child and forced labor. The United States is engaging in free trade and agreements are designed to make sure that other nations have similar policies.

Free trade with all and entangling alliances with none has always been the best policy in dealing with other countries on the world stage. This is the policy of friendship, freedom and non-interventionism and yet people wrongly attack this philosophy as isolationist. Nothing could be further from the truth. Isolationism is putting up protectionist trade barriers, starting trade wars imposing provocative sanctions and one day finding out we have no one left to buy our products. Isolationism is arming both sides of a conflict, only to discover that you’ve made two enemies instead of keeping two friends

We need to adopt free trade agreements with other countries. We inhibit the export of, say, farm products to countries like Cuba. It’s time we changed our attitude about Cuba. Our markets get closed for monetary reasons because our chief export is our dollar. Because we have the reserve currency of the world, people take these dollars and our jobs go overseas. You can’t solve any of these problems if you don’t look at the monetary system and how it contributes to these job losses at home.

Today, Christians are being beaten, jailed, and expelled throughout the Muslim world. In Saudi Arabia, no church buildings are permitted, yet Saudi extremist Wahhabis have built hundreds of mosques in the US with funding from Saudi Arabia. If elected, will you take action to protest these gross injustices and persecution by denying visas or imposing trade sanctions? Sarah Lu was forced to work in labor camps for six years, for the crime of being a Christian house church leader. Thousands of prisoners of conscience are forced to manufacture items that stock our American shelves. Would you make future trade with China contingent on them measurably improving their record on religious freedom & human rights?

It is interesting that Ron wants us to go on a gold standard and not have tariffs to protect our domestic industries and consumers. He pretty much wants exactly the same things the Communist Chinese want. After all, they don’t want the Fed debasing our money by turning the printing presses on 24 hours a day. If we did that, then we’d be able to pay off our debts to them with worthless money. Funny how Ron Paul’s agenda lines up with theirs so well, isn’t it comrade Paul? How does it feel to be a traitor, comrade Paul? Did they give you a lot of gold to sell out your country or was it 30 pieces of silver?

Free Trade Unilateralism from Ron Paul

Ron Paul sets out his views on free trade in an interview with CFR:

How would you approach globalization and trade differently from a McCain administration or the current Bush administration would?

[Ron Paul:] I consider myself the strongest advocate of free trade. I don’t want any tariffs and I don’t want any barriers. I want to really trade. But I just don’t like the international government organizations, because that becomes managed trade for the benefit of some companies. So I’m not much into nor do I support WTO [the World Trade Organization] and NAFTA [the North American Free Trade Agreement] and all these agreements, because those are only tools for when you’re being undermined, you go there to get your tariffs put on, to try to get fair trade, so to speak. But that’s managed trade.

The suggestion that the WTO and NAFTA are places to go “to get your tariffs put on” seems way off the mark. I would really like to have the opportunity some day to talk to people with this view to understand how they came to their conclusions.

On the other hand, putting that point aside, the idea of “unilateral” free trade raises some interesting questions for me. For example: Where exactly would be today in terms of free trade, without international agreements or organizations? My best guess is that trade barriers would be much higher, but is there some small chance that if we had spent the last 50 years talking about tariff cuts as something other than “concessions,” we would actually have made more progress?

The race’s lone libertarian, Rep. Ron Paul, takes a typically iconoclastic position on free trade. “I believe that free-trade agreements are really managed trade,” the congressman tells NRO. He believes that the president lacks the constitutional power to negotiate trade agreements, saying that it is the power of the Congress instead. If he were president, Paul says, “My advice to the Congress would be to simply keep tariffs low on all countries.”
The Tariff Act of 1789 (1 Stat. 24), signed into law by President George Washington on July 4, 1789, was the first substantive legislation passed by the first Congress. This act, together with the Collection Act of 1789, operated as a device both to protect trade and to raise revenues for the federal government. The constitutional authority for the act is found in the powers given to Congress “to lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imports and Excises” and “to regulate Commerce with foreign Nations.” Among other things, the act established the first schedule of import duties and created an additional duty of 10 percent on imports carried on vessels “not of the United States.”

U.S. TRADE POLICY

The specific provisions of the act are of little interest (by 1799 it had been superseded by subsequent, more detailed legislation). However, the act remains significant for setting the basics of U.S. trade policy. In supporting its enactment, Alexander Hamilton argued that tariffs would encourage domestic industry. Other nations offered their industries significant subsidies, or money given by a government to support a private business. Hamilton contended that a tariff would protect U.S. industry from the effects of these subsidies. (Concerns over “dumping”—imported goods sold at less than their fair value to gain unfair advantage over domestic goods—would also be addressed in the Tariff Act of 1816.) Another argument in favor of tariffs is now easy to forget. Before the income tax was authorized by the Sixteenth Amendment in 1913, the tariff was a key source of federal revenue. Thus, for over a century import duties (along with domestic excise taxes) were the major source of government revenue, with sugar duties alone accounting for approximately 20 percent of all import duties.

CONSTITUTIONAL CRISIS

The politics of tariffs soon became intertwined with disputes between legislators from the North and South. For example, a Northern manufacturer of cloth would benefit from a tariff on cloth imported from England, which would make English cloth less competitive. However, a Southern planter who sold cotton to an English cloth manufacturer would benefit if there were no tariff on imports of English cloth, which would keep English cloth (made from U.S. cotton) cheaper and more competitive on the U.S. market. Thus Northern manufacturers favored high tariffs, whereas Southern planters, dependent on exports, favored free trade. However, the North wanted tariffs without public expenditures for a costly upgraded transportation system that would be paid for by tariff revenues, and the South was opposed to any tariff supporting the price of manufactured goods because the tariffs would make it harder for the South to export its agricultural products to nations affected by the tariffs. A high tariff did pass Congress as the Tariff Act of 1828. Legislators from Southern states called this the “Tariff of Abominations,” and it nearly brought about a constitutional crisis.

In December 1828 South Carolina endorsed the South Carolina Exposition, a document asserting that the tariff was unconstitutional and thus could be nullified by individual states. It was an open secret that the document had been drafted by Vice President John C. Calhoun, acting more as a Southern partisan than a national leader. By February 1829 five Southern state legislatures had protested the tariff as unfair. In 1832 a South Carolina state convention passed an ordinance (a law or order issued by a local government) to nullify the act, but President Andrew Jackson responded with a proclamation that acts of nullification were themselves unconstitutional and treasonous. One great effort at political compromise based on tariffs was Senator Henry Clay’s “American Plan.” Under Clay’s proposal, the manufacturers of the North would be protected by relatively high tariffs and would become a large market for agricultural products of the West and the South. Revenue from the tariffs would support the construction of the transportation system needed to make internal trade feasible. In a compromise, Congress enacted the Force Act, authorizing the president to use armed force to enforce the tariff, but also amended the act to substantially reduce the tariff rates. The crisis was defused when South Carolina finally accepted the lowered rates.

A series of judicial decisions later upheld the constitutional authority of the Congress and the president to regulate international trade. These decisions imply that the Southern states’ attack on the Tariff of Abominations was unconstitutional. For example, in United States v. Curtiss-Wright Export Corp. (1936) the Supreme Court ruled that Congress could delegate authority to the president to impose an arms embargo because the president holds authority over foreign affairs. In United States v. Yoshida International, Inc. (1975) the Court of Customs and Patent Appeals upheld the president’s power under the Trading with the Enemy Act (1917) to impose an import duty surcharge (an extra fee) of 10 percent to counteract a balance of payments crisis.

TARIFF ADJUSTMENTS

After the Civil War, domestic policies continued to favor high tariffs, strengthened perhaps by the fact that industry was spreading through more of the nation. By the 1890s Congress had added an important innovation to the legislation: a delegation of power to the executive branch to adjust tariffs in specific circumstances. An early example was what are now called “countervailing duties.” These were tariffs the executive branch would order to counteract foreign subsidies on products exported to the United States. The executive branch, without further action by Congress, could measure the foreign subsidy and determine the duty to countervail, or compensate for, that duty. This became one of a large number of such adjustment devices.

Another such device was the antidumping duty, designed to prevent foreign exporters from outselling competing U.S. products by underpricing their goods. Also, the “peril point” or “escape clause” measure was designed to protect an industry suffering serious injury from competition by imports. The United States Tariff Commission, an administrative agency created in 1916 and renamed the United States International Trade Commission (ITC) in 1974, played an important role in these tariff adjustments.

EFFECTS OF THE SMOOT-HAWLEY TARIFF

President Woodrow Wilson, an ardent supporter of free trade, sought to reform tariffs. He argued against a “tariff which cuts us off from our proper part in the commerce of the world, violates the just principles of taxation, and makes the government a facile instrument in the hands of private interests.” His efforts were eventually repudiated by the Tariff Act of 1930, known as the Smoot-Hawley Act. This act increased duties on more than a thousand items. By the end of 1931, twenty-six foreign nations had retaliated by raising their tariffs against the United States. The resulting harm to international trade undoubtedly contributed to the severity of the Great Depression. The economic misery of the 1930s eventually led to a change in tariff law that reflected free-trade principles.

This new approach was called the “reciprocal trade agreement” concept and was based on the idea that nations trading with each other might agree to reduce their tariffs in a mutually corresponding way. Each nation’s increase in exports would lead to a larger number of jobs (because more workers would be needed to make more goods for sale to other nations). If that increase in jobs was greater than the number of jobs lost to increased imports, such an agreement might be politically beneficial and would almost certainly be economically desirable. Franklin D. Roosevelt’s secretary of state, Cordell Hull, obtained from Congress the delegation of authority needed to facilitate this process. The Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, passed in 1934, contributed to major reductions in tariffs through negotiations with other nations. By 1940 twentyeight agreements had been concluded under the Trade Agreements Program.

Dr. Paul is an isolationist. He wants the United States to ignore all of the state sponsors of terror. The Congressman’s repeated insistence that “There is no risk of somebody invading us” is just what the isolationists of the 1930s believed — right up until Pearl Harbor.
He is wrong and they did attack us: 1993 (WTC I), 1996 (Khobar Towers), 1998 (African Embassies), 2000 (USS Cole), and 2001 (WTC/Pentagon). His logic would have caused the US to lift not a finger to help Europe against Hitler (remember: “non-intervention”), nor help the West Berliners (1948), nor help the South Koreans (1950), nor help the Grenadians (1984), nor help the Kuwaitis (1990).
Congressman Paul also wants America to pull out of the World Trade Organization. The isolationism he recommends would have no markets and no future. That happened during the Great Depression when people had to live without products. Businesses today rely on world markets for their products or to buy necessary components to keep their facilities running. America needs to sty engaged. Our population is one quarter of China’s but we still produce twice as much. Our economy is four times bigger than China’s.
The Congressman falsely claims our founding fathers were isolationists. Paul says his policies are based on the Constitution, but he ignores national security threats. Many European nations had impressive Constitutions but it did little to help them when tanks came roaring through at the start of WW II. Paul’s idea that we can maintain peace by abandoning our strategic interests and halting the projection of our military strength has been proven wrong by history.
What he does not realize is that free people do not want to be terrorists, and they reject stone age concepts such as sharia law. The Iraq war was a counter to Iranian hegemony, and it stopped Saddam Hussein’s regime from using petrol dollars to building weapons of mass destruction. The people who are now rising up in the Middle East are not saying death to America, and the Iraqi people are not complaining that Saddam is no longer in power.
Ron Paul claims his foreign policy is based on the Constitution, and he almost never approves of any military action. If the founding fathers had listened to Ron Paul, the United States would never have expanded beyond the 13 original colonies. Every time the nation expanded, Paul would have denounced it as military adventurism.We gained Florida from Spain when General Andrew Jackson forces entered the area without the approval of Congress or a declaration of war. Thomas Jefferson admitted that nothing in the Constitution authorized the Louisiana Purchase. Jefferson was a strict constructionist, but he did not turn down that bargain.
Ron Paul certainly would not have approved of the Mexican American War, and he also opposed the Civil War.
The Ron Paul doctrine is also in opposition to the Spanish-American war, and it is doubtful he would have approved on the aggressive negotiation with Britain to retain the Pacific Northwest. If we listened to him there would have been no Hawaii or Alaska.

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One thought on “Is Rep. Ron Paul (R-TX) an Isolationist or a Non-Interventionist?

  1. I came across this article as a similar tag after my post this morning. I enjoyed seeing that my concerns regarding Rep. Paul’s stance on non-intervention were shared by others, but I was curious as to what your thoughts were on his insistence on removing the United States from the ranks of the United Nations and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization.

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