Republican presidential hopeful Ron Paul sounds radical when he advocates the elimination of the individual income tax, a return to a gold standard, the wholesale downsizing of the federal government, and the abolition of the Internal Revenue Service and the Federal Reserve. The media and the other presidential candidates treat him as a nut. Indeed, Paul often enough opens himself up to that treatment in the flamboyant way he expresses himself. Sometimes he even seems to relish his image as a gadfly on the political fringe.
But it’s time to start taking the ten-term Texas congressman seriously. He tied for second-place (with John McCain) in Nevada on Saturday. He beat both Rudolph Giuliani and Fred Thompson in Michigan (he also beat Giuliani in Iowa and South Carolina and Thompson in New Hampshire). And Paul now holds the record for the most money raised — $6 million — on a single day in a primary season by any candidate in history. It would be a real mistake to think of Paul as the Dennis Kucinich of the right.
If I’m right and Ron Paul doesn’t just fade away as the primary season progresses, he’ll make a real difference. His anti-war message would make life difficult for Hillary Clinton, by drawing away the most pacifist elements of the Democratic base. But it’s on the economics side where I think he could make the biggest impact. In an election year in which bigger government, higher taxes, and protectionism seem to have so much momentum, Paulonomics may be just what is needed to rebalance the debate in favor of growth.