The Libertarian Party Believes Ron Paul Is Not A Libertarian


It is often said that political parties are ruining the dignity of American discourse. Instead of discussing policy points, many identify with one of two partisan identities and allow their loyalties to fall in line. Here, policy support shapes around their team and they turn against whatever the other side opposes. It’s shallow. And it is growing worse.

The problem with the political arena is that as the investment grows more significantly, so does the need for self-preservation. Political careers mean that principles can take a backseat to the race discussion because nobody is going to make either a name for himself or money by losing with dignity.

This is a phenomenon also not restricted to the Democrats and Republicans. The Libertarian party has the same problem.

The Libertarian Party has developed a tendency to attack non-enrolled libertarians, including prominent figures like Senator Rand Paul and his father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has attacked Senator Paul in the past as not being libertarian. While there is a legitimate debate whether Senator Paul is more conservative than libertarian, the former New Mexico Governor is hardly in a position to talk.

Now it’s Libertarian Party chairman Nicholas Sarwark who is stepping up criticism of Paul, echoing a common claim of party members. Ron Paul, according to Chairman Sarwark, is not a libertarian. He claims that the liberty leader has often been wrong and even anti-libertarian, then pointing to his support of states’ rights.

To libertarians, the states’ rights debate is more like a game of semantics. Technically, a state does not have rights — only individuals do. The state is still government and thus, the power for its existence is derived from the people themselves. Given this, only the people themselves have rights.

This is a position that Paul supports.

In 2002, he wrote that “states’ rights simply means the individual states should retain authority over all matters not expressly delegated to the federal government in Article I of the Constitution.” Essentially, the term “states’ rights” simply alludes to the Tenth Amendment, which itself states that the people retain all power not specifically delegated to the federal government or prohibited to the states.

In his book “Liberty Defined,” Paul states: “Technically, states don’t have ‘rights’ — only individuals do. But states are legal entities that are very important in the governmental structure of the United States, of course. They serve as a kind of bulwark against an overweening federal government. The Constitution was written with an intent to protect the independence of each state by establishing for the states a very limited relationship to the federal government.”

Paul clearly states that states don’t have rights and again notes the term itself alludes to the Tenth Amendment. Under our system of government, the state is supposed to retain its independence from federal overreach while still acting on behalf of the people.

If this is not libertarian, what is?

The Libertarian Party has a confused history on what libertarianism is. They have previously had individuals run for president like Bob Barr, a former Congressman who voted for the USA PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq. Given this fact, it’s not entirely surprising that the party had a Hillary Clinton apologist run for vice president, described as “the original libertarian.”

Ron Paul may not be perfect, but he did not support the USA PATRIOT Act. The Libertarian party has supported people who did, including their latest vice presidential candidate. Paul did not support the Iraq invasion, while the Libertarian party has advocated for people who did. Former governor Bill Weld himself has supported affirmative action and stronger environmental regulations at the federal level.

Before criticizing others for not being libertarian, the Libertarian Party should probably learn what it means to be a libertarian first.

Chris Dixon is a liberty activist and writer from Maine. In addition to being Managing Editor for the Liberty Conservative, he also writes the Bangor Daily News blog "Undercover Porcupine" and for sports website Cleatgeeks.


  1. the education and upbringing dr. paul had is near nonexistent today! i hope the true governors, we the people, take heed of his teachings! the principles he has exemplified are instructive to self-rule.

  2. Where does Sarwark say RP is not a libertarian? I’m not going to slog through the entire 40 minutes, and didn’t see a timestamp or quote in the article

  3. >one LP official makes some statements against Paul
    >”The Libertarian Party believes Ron Paul is not a libertarian”

    Look, I love Ron Paul, and I disagree with the statements made by Sawark (spelling?), but this is just unfair. All this article does is add to the useless infighting that literally does nothing to help the liberty movement progress.

  4. Compare:
    Weld: “We want to get the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom.”
    Paul: “The State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards.”

    It’s easy to play the ‘more libertarian than you’ game, if you look for the right quotes. You’re right that libertarians shouldn’t be doing it; but it wasn’t the LP who began this round.

    • Notice the article says Ron Paul, but is about Rand Paul. Great headline to get people riled up, but the article doesn’t support it. Is this guy from the DNC?

  5. Gary Johnson is no libertarian. Neither was Bob Barr when he was nominated by the Libertarian Party for President in 2008.

    The Libertarian Party has lost its way in seeking presidential candidates, not based on libertarian philosophy, but based on name recognition. This is the political party that would distance itself from Ron Paul, the party’s own candidate in 1988.

    The Libertarian Party has lost its way. It seems the Libertarian Party is no longer libertarian, as it places more importance on rising in the polls than adhering to libertarian philosophy.

    • And you wonder why we have been considered fringe lunatics since the 70’s. Also why no one has paid the slightest attention to anything slightly libertarian. Ideologist belong in classrooms and backrooms.
      The Party on the other hand is growing past that, just one reason our membership is growing by leaps and bounds. We have shown, especially in the last election, that we are a party that is more than either of the other two by being a the best of both.
      Meanwhile the two parties point at the ideologist as representative of the rest of us. The fanatical side. The progressive/alt-right members. The part many of us who hold to a more William F. Buckley ideal in our hearts hoped would have died off by now.

      • Too bad the LP has been co-opted by antifa SJWs obsessed with counter-signalling the “alt-right”.

        The liberty movement should be totally agnostic to culture war issues. Focusing on wedge politics inherently leads to fracturing and infighting.

        • Not really, we have had all kinds in the movement since it first began gathering in the late 60’s. Just like the right gathered it’s tea party, and the left has it’s progressives, the Libertarians have out little extremists as well. We just need to control their asinine mentality better than the other parties.

  6. This whole things has been blown totally out of proportion and smells a lot to me like an attempt by social conservatives to draw more socially liberal conservatives away from the Libertarian Party.

    The controversy appears to stem from the single idea that Ron Paul apparently believes that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states and that theoretically states can therefore pass laws which violate at least some of its amendments. Sarwark never said anything more in the interview than that Paul disagreed with Libertarians with regard to states rights. Certainly most Libertarians agree that states have rights guaranteed by the 10th amendment, that is, any NOT explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.. But they also do not believe they can selectively ignore rights it guarantees in any amendments.

    In short, Sarwark has been deliberately misinterpreted.

  7. Why do we have to have a label “in or out”? Ron has some good libertarian ideas; on some issues not so much. That would be true of virtually every L candidate.

    On thing that’s true is that Ron isn’t a (big L) Libertarian. He’s a Republican. But, on many issues he thinks like libertarians.

  8. Chris, your claim is greatly exaggerated. Sarwark said that DOMA was un-libertarian because it violates the NAP (which it does). He then mentioned that Paul supported DOMA (which he did). He never once came close to saying Ron Paul is “not libertarian.” He was using Ron Paul as an example to point out that there is no such thing as a “perfect libertarian” because the LP tent is large and there’s room for debate underneath that tent – just try to bring up abortion around your libertarian friends. This article is an exaggerated account of a small, out-of-context portion of a large interview with Sarwark, and I’m not sure why you decided to publish it. It’s doing more harm than good in the quest for liberty.

  9. He offered several very valid criticisms of Paul. Namely beyond whatever policy disagreements you may have with Ron Paul, I think he has actively used his influence in the movement to keep up the Ron Paul cult of personality at the expense of the movement as a whole.

  10. Wait, Gary Johnson is claiming Ron Paul is not a real Libertarian? While true, he’s hardly the spokesman for what is or isn’t a real Libertarian. Gay-Cakes all’round Gary!

  11. Oh my this is hilarious. Not so much the article but the responses as well. Rand Paul is very much a Libertarian when he writes. But where rubber meets the road he is more republican than libertarian. Well Until recently with his refusal to vote party lines. Just like Obama talked peace while bombing anyone he could get away with.
    As to what it means to be a “Libertarian” is not as strict as the two parties, and for a reason. We aren’t hidebound. We have a core belief, Liberty over blind abidance. While we have our fringes that want to go back to the founding fathers ideal, most understand that it would be all but impossible to do.
    Welfare, like herpes, is something once contracted cannot be cured. We contracted it from Europe and are stuck with it. The D’s created a social class known as a welfare class. It is measured in the hundreds of millions. The best we can do is try to ease people off it and into actually working and owning their lives rather than being owned.
    Too often we have members who think that if we gained any real power in this country we will have absolute rule, that is a delusion that the other two have fallen victim to. The best we could do is try to influence the nation in the right direction while competing with the other two.

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