Paul Jacob

Exceptions test the rule. Ron Paul is an exception. We might have to revise some rules.

One rule in politics is: Don’t obsess about arcana unfamiliar to voters; stick to issues they care about.

Ron Paul has long flouted that rule.

That’s one reason why mainstream journalists often dismiss him as a “nut.” He keeps talking about issues outside the scope of what journalists say we should care about. This makes his causes appear — to insiders and reporters and the like — ridiculous.

Specifically, he keeps talking about monetary theory in general and the Federal Reserve in particular.

Now, there are several good reasons why journalists don’t talk about monetary theory. Milton Friedman memorably declared (it’s memorable because I remember it) that monetary theory was the most difficult area of economics. And if Friedman saw it as difficult, you can be sure your standard journalism major is going to find it harder than getting a quotation out of J.D. Salinger’s dog Phoney.

So when Ron Paul moves from sexier issues like war, drugs, and taxes and on to the Federal Reserve and the gold standard, it’s hard not to shake one’s head.

I speak for myself, here. When I helped Ron Paul in his first campaign for the presidency, way back in the late 1980s, as the Libertarian Party nominee, I often shook my head. Could Dr. Paul skip the Fed talk, just once?

Hey, I knew something about how to get ahead in politics. And advancing unpopular, obscure ideas at variance with the folks at Harvard and Yale and a long retinue of economic advisors wasn’t the way to win national elections.

Now, it was not that I disagreed with Dr. Paul. I was familiar with the basic notions. I saw why gold and silver so often served as money from ancient times to the near present. I knew that the Federal Reserve was something close to a conspiracy of insiders working to advance . . . well, I wasn’t at all certain it was “the general welfare.” The founding of the Fed was a typical Progressive Era reform: allegedly a triumph of expertise, it was obviously a concoction by bankers, run for bankers. At first I merely suspected Ron Paul’s even darker view had at least something going for it. Later I came to agree more and more with him.

But still, why bring it up all the time? It was political death. It seemed like an effort in self-marginalization.

I was wrong.

Ron Paul was right.

Journalists and pundits and political experts were also wrong — big-time wrong.

Paul Jacob

Paul Jacob is President of Citizens in Charge Foundation and Citizens in Charge. His daily Common Sense commentary appears on the Web and via e-mail.