ARKANSAS, July 31, 2012 — Ron Paul will not be president. Even Ron Paul, well before most of his followers, admitted it. There were several conspiracy theories about how it was all part of a plot that Paul was using to cleverly snatch the GOP race away from Romney.
Of course, this has not, and will not, materialize.
Considering Ron Paul is not up for reelection for his position in the House, this means, almost certainly, that this is the end of Ron Paul’s political career. This leaves us with an important question: What will the lasting impact of Ron Paul’s career be?
Activism requires two types of activists
There are two types of activists: the inspiration and the foot soldier. The inspiration is the person who gets others to act. They might not win great elections, become president, or even be particularly loved or popular, but they inspire others to do so in their stead. Sometimes, it takes decades to see the long-term impact of these inspirational forces for change.
Take Murray Rothbard, for example. He passed away in 1995 after a heart attack, but he’s one of the great inspirations of a huge portion of the liberty movement today. His impact is indirect, as many today are not particularly familiar with his writings. He started the Mises Institute, which is one of the main institutional defenders of Austrian economics.
He was also a close friend and inspiration to Ron Paul himself.
Still important is the other type of activist - the foot soldier. These are the people who actually change policies. They might be relatively unknown representatives or other elected officials. They might just be regular people who are voters.
They’re the ones who take the inspiration and turn it into a political change.
Ron Paul’s legacy is the “liberty movement”
Over the next decade, we should be able to see what Ron Paul’s impact will be. The liberty movement is still very young, with a huge portion being a question of younger people who are new to politics in general.
Many young “libertarians” will likely not stay libertarians. After all, Hillary Clinton called herself a “Barry Goldwater” girl before she changed to a liberal just a few years later. No doubt, some libertarians will make the switch.
A younger friend of mine just recently switched from a die-hard libertarian to a more traditional liberal because he couldn’t find a job, and decided it was the fault of the “corporatists” and that liberty wouldn’t work because of them. I have no doubt many libertarians will make similar switches to more traditional conservatism because of the “welfare” seekers who they will blame for society’s problems.
Either way, Ron Paul’s main impact so far has been awakening tens of millions of American voters and inspiring millions more around the world. People are, for the first time in decades, truly questioning the very existence of the Federal Reserve. People are looking into Austrian economics to see if there is a reason our economic masters have failed so utterly to “fix” the recession.
It is inevitable that as our society continues to evolve, the GOP will evolve as well. Libertarian influence has already had an impact on the platform in many states, and we’ll soon see the national impact to the platform.
Over time, the GOP will likely need to pick people who are “conservative libertarians,” like Rand Paul and Jim DeMint, just to be politically viable. If so, this won’t just be because of Rand or Jim themselves, it will be an impact from Ron Paul’s movement to wake Americans up and teach them the philosophy of liberty.
The legacy of Ron Paul
In the end, Ron Paul did not win a presidential election. But he won a war for the hearts and minds of millions, and that’s what’s necessary to win future elections.
As more people learn about liberty, the ability of the government to destroy us through ignorance dwindles. No longer is the Fed unchallenged. More people are calling for a gold standard than ever before.
More people are rejecting the traditional labels of “liberal” and “conservative” than ever before.
Whether this leads to long-term change depends entirely on the actions of those who are now in the liberty movement. If libertarians stay true to the path, refuse to give up, and continue to whine when they should, protest when they ought, and vote with the goal of “liberty” and not just “victory,” then we’ll know the extent of Ron Paul’s impact.
So what is the legacy of Ron Paul? That depends on us.
Shaun Connell is the editor of Capitalism Institute, and enjoys arguing and talking with the fans of the Capitalism Institute fanpage. He loves to study Austrian economics, write about gold at his gold blog, and smoke the occasional cigar.
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