Last night, Ron Paul was on The Daily Show, and under the gentlest of questioning from Jon Stewart, he said some truly insane things. After alleging that people who don't support him "don't understand what freedom is all about," Paul made his usual case that government is bad because it makes decisions for everyone, whereas "when you make a bad decision, it only hurts you."
Stewart tried to bring up cases in which private actors harm people, like industrial pollution, but each time Paul protested that no, no, that wasn't actually the market, that was corporations acting "in collusion with the government." His argument seemed to be that corporations are only capable of harming people when they're corrupted by government's influence. When Stewart asked whether the fact that government regulations can sometimes be ineffective means there should be no regulation at all, Paul made this truly amazing statement:
"The regulations are much tougher in a free market, because you cannot commit fraud, you cannot steal, you cannot hurt people, and the failure has come that government wouldn't enforce this. In the Industrial Revolution there was a collusion and you could pollute and they got away with it. But in a true free market in a libertarian society you can't do that. You have to be responsible. So the regulations would be tougher."
I trust I don't have to bother explaining just how nuts this is, but here's my question: Does Ron Paul really believe this? Does he really think that if there were no government, then no one would ever steal, cheat, or hurt anyone, just because they'd understand that the market would eventually make such behavior unprofitable? Is he really that stupid?
I guess he is. Paul is generally treated like the eccentric but cute uncle in the presidential race, and liberals favorably inclined toward Paul's views on defense and foreign policy are less likely to criticize him than they are some other Republican candidates. But we don't say often enough that his views about economics are every bit as bizarre and extreme as Michele Bachmann's views on the Rapture or Rick Perry's views on Social Security.