July 8, 2017
“This review of How to Win America by Allan Stevo was originally run at The Journal of Prices & Markets.”
Review of books about Ron Paul
Ron Paul, in addition to being a doctor, a politician, a leader of the libertarian movement, is also a heavily published author. He has written the following books: Paul (1981, 1983A, 1983B, 1984, 1987, 1990, 1991, 2000, 2002, 2007, 2008A, 2008B, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013; Paul and Lehrman, 1982, 2012; Rangel and Paul, 2006). And when I say “written” I mean “written.” That is, he wrote them himself, in sharp contrast to the volumes authored by many famous people, which were really penned, so to speak, by professional writers and editors.
However the present review will leave all of those volumes untouched. Instead, it is dedicated to a very different oeuvre: books about Ron Paul, written by other authors. To wit, I will discuss the following books that have been written not by, but about, Ron Paul: 1. Alford, 2013; 2. Block, 2012A; 3. Doherty, 2012; 4. Haddad and Marsh, 2008; 5. Hammond, 2012; 6. Richardson, 2008; 7. Rink, 2011; 8. Stevo, 2012.
1. Alford, 2013
I highly recommend this book, as I do all others on this list. However, to some extent, this really is not a book at all. If I had to characterize it, it would be almost as a picture post card; the photographs are that good. Not one telling friends and relatives about a wonderful vacation, but relating to all and sundry what a wonderful person Ron Paul is, and how important and wonderful was his candidacy of 2012. Alternatively, this book could take its place amongst coffee table books which specialize in photography.
The title of the book is Swindled: How the GOP Cheated Ron Paul and Lost Themselves the Election. I don’t say this is a mis-labeling. But the actual book is a bit less angry than the title might indicate. Don’t get me wrong. Alford is clearly upset with the injustice perpetrated on Dr. Paul and makes this case in masterfully compelling manner. There is no question about that. But, there are so many pages in this book with a picture of a baby wearing a “T” shirt in support of Ron, or a photograph of our hero giving a speech to a large audience and other events that will warm the cockles of a libertarian’s heart. For example, on p. 39 we are treated to a view of the rear of Dr. Paul lecturing to people in what appears to be an ice rink, and the caption reads: “The next day, he rallied the troops, numbering over 3,000 in Houston.” On page 51 we see a photo of an enthusiastic rally of mostly young people for the Congressman in Louisiana. I know it is a cliché, but I cannot resist: these pictures alone are worth the entire price of admission, and there is practically one on every page. They are numerous, they are uplifting, they are inspirational, at least to me, and, I suspect, to all fellow admirers of Ron Paul as well.
Despite the niceness of this offering, there is quite a bit of justified anger in it as well. Let me give but one example. On p. 75 we see depicted one of the most outrageous reportorial events of the entire campaign: the Minnesota non-binding caucus of February 7, where the first and third place finishers were mentioned, but not the one in between. States Alford of this disgraceful scandal, “Anyone want to hazard a guess as to who won second place with 27% of the vote?” To ask this is to answer it.
2. Block, 2012A
True confession: I have a man crush on Ron Paul. I dearly love him. This book illustrates those feelings of mine. This volume is my love letter to Dr. Paul. How’s that for a fast review?
3. Doherty, 2012
I have already written a review of the Doherty book (Block, 2012B), so I shall be mercifully brief here also. All I want to say is that of all eight books about Ron Paul, this one has sold the most copies. Amazon Best Sellers Rank places this volume at #316,103 in books sold. It is my fervent hope that Doherty’s effort, and my review of all these books, will help focus attention on some others of those on this list, since they are also very important. They all merit a wider audience, including my own, if you will forgive this bit of shameless self-promotion.
4. Haddad and Marsh, 2008
This deserves, almost, to be considered a book by Ron Paul, not about him. It was edited, not authored by people other than himself (I was sorely tempted to capitalize this word, but have successfully resisted, as you can see, gentle reader). Thus, I count it, barely, as a book about and not by him. Why? It consists almost entirely of quotes, 166 in all, crammed into 318 magnificent pages, from Ron Paul. They are organized in alphabetical order, and range from abortion to bureaucrat to civil liberties to debt to economics to the fed at the outset, and on toward the end of the alphabet concluding with Viet Nam, War on drugs, and young people.
However, the 11- page introduction to the book constitutes a very, very good contribution to the bibliography of Ron Paul.
On the negative side, these editors are guilty of one small typographical error. They inform us (p. xii) that Congressman Paul was born in 1923. His actual year of birth was in 1936. Apart from this minor glitch this is a handy reference of a book. All Ron Paul admirers will want to have this volume on their bookshelves (that applies to all the books reviewed in this essay). If you want a short pithy statement from Ron Paul on any one of numerous topics, this is the place to find it. This publication contains no fewer than 656 footnotes. Haddad and Marsh have certainly done their homework, and I for one am grateful to them for it. So will you be.
5. Hammond, 2012
The title of this excellent book (Ron Paul vs. Paul Krugman: Austrian vs. Keynesian economics in the financial crisis) is somewhat misleading. It implies that an actual debate is to take place between Ron Paul and Paul Krugman. If we can infer from this that an interaction of this sort is fair-minded or offers a roughly equally strong discussion of both sides, this demonstrates that the title does not accurately indicate the contents of this book. For instead of an even-handed explication of both sides, it is a veritable bashing of the latter based on the views of the former. And this is very welcome. For Krugman’s views and contributions to public policy are incorrect, evil and malicious, while Paul’s are the very opposite. Thus this volume is a very welcome addition to the literature. In it we see Krugman being hammered as he so richly deserves, and Paul takes on the role of the smiter, one he plays very well in the hands of Hammond. But I misspeak. What is written above makes it sound as if Hammond’s contribution is limited to a mere marshaling of Paul’s arguments. Not so, not so. It cannot be denied that there is a fair bit of precisely that in the small (104 page) volume. But our author contributes quite a bit more than that to the well-deserved intellectual evisceration of Krugman.
Paul’s triumph over Krugman is a bit astounding, at least for those overly concerned with credentialism. For the Texas Congressman is “merely” a physician and a politician. He has no formal education in economics at all. In the other corner of this particular boxing ring stands a man replete with a B.A. in economics from the prestigious Yale University, a Ph.D. in economics from the equally prestigious MIT, who is a professor of economics at the equally prestigious Princeton University. In 2008 Krugman won the even more prestigious Nobel Prize in economics, and writes columns as an eminence grise for perhaps the leading newspaper in the world, the New York Times. Yet, when they meet in the middle of the ring, the former, with a little help from Hammond, scores a knockout blow against the latter, in perhaps the most unequal intellectual “debate” that ever took place. An evisceration is more like it.
Paul KO’s Krugman on the Dot-Com bubble (chapter 1), the housing bubble (chapter 2), the Fed and interest rates (chapter 3), inflation (chapter 4). This book is a tour de force of the Austrian economics of Paul over the Keynesianism of Krugman. Hammond’s volume demonstrates that Robert P. Murphy (2010) is no better than a(n intellectual) child molester. Krugman would not stand a chance in the ring with Murphy, and the latter is a bully for even challenging him (http://krugmandebate.com/).
Other highlights of this book include the story of how Hammond himself came to adopt Austrian or praxeological economics. The usual suspects are indicted: Mises, Hazlitt, Rothbard, Woods. As well, his 137 notes at the back of the book offer invaluable links to this very one-sided “debate.”
I have two quarrels with this magnificent book. One, Hammond (pp. 55-56) castigates “revisionist analysis.” This is nothing more than a poor word choice. I think a better way to describe Krugman’s “disingenuousness” might have been “pusillanimous” or, better yet, “downright lie.” Revisionism has made such an important contribution to libertarian historical analysis as to make this statement of Hammond’s almost an error. More seriously, this author relies too heavily on prediction, the bête noir of logical positivism. However, Hammond and I both very much appreciate that Austrians have been far better predictors than orthodox or Keynesian economists (Block, 2010A). However, this author should have made it clear that this was not due to Austrian praxeology per se, but rather thymology, or history (Mises, 1969, 1978).
I am grasping at straws here to find any shortcomings at all in this very important contribution to Austrian economics. (Hammond’s appendix is reminiscent of Haddad and Marsh’s entire book in that it contains a wealth of information in quotation format of Mr. Paul’s warnings for the future, if the Fed maintains its pernicious policies.)
6. Rink, 2011
The full title of this book is “Ron Paul: Father of the Tea Party.” Yes, this is true enough. But this is hardly what historians 500 years from now will remember Dr. Paul for. Instead, they will see him as one of the leading Austrian economists of his time, and perhaps the most successful libertarian proponent up until the early 21st century.
That slight apart, this is an excellent biography of Ron Paul. I am tempted to repeat it word for word, right here and now, so compelling did I find it, but that would never do of course. I might run afoul of copyright, and the editor of this journal has given me a strict word limit. Instead, just let me focus on but one element of this magnificent book: the election of Dr. Paul in 1996 for the 105th session of congress, which was covered in Rink’s chapter 14. This really had me at the edge of my seat. Rink recounts the fascinating David and Goliath story of how Ron first beat out Democrat turned Republican Greg Laughlin for the GOP nomination and then sprinted past Democrat “Lefty” Morales in the general election. If you are not up on your feet cheering for Mr. Paul when you read this, you have a heart of stone, at least where liberty and sound economics are concerned. And this is only one of the many scintillatingly-told episodes in Ron’s life.
I have some minor reservations about this book. While it features numerous quotes and a very good index, there are no citations. Historians and other biographers who want to dig deeper into this material and use the present book as a launching pad, will be disappointed. Sometimes, it is difficult to determine who is saying precisely what. On other occasions the statements attributed to Dr. Paul do not sound to my ear as if he would ever had said any such thing. For example, on p. 125 Ron supposedly says of the drug war “I had never advocated legalization.” Does that sound like Dr. No to you, gentle reader? Not to me. But without a cite, it is difficult to get to the bottom of this issue. A very different statement of Rink’s (p. 211) has far more of the ring of truth for me: “Pandering to the Party-base was not on Paul’s agenda. As he had previously demonstrated in the Republican debates, he was willing to state his true beliefs no matter who was listening.” This certainly undermines the oft-made claim of his bitter critics that the Congressman was “pandering” to anyone. “Pandering,” and “Ron Paul,” do not belong in the same sentence as far as I am concerned.
Here are some other attributions to Ron that do not ring true (p. 107): “After the speech, he (Ron Paul) was looking at me and shaking his head. He wasn’t blaming me. He spoke to a huge crowd! But that didn’t matter to him. The only thing that mattered to him was the television coverage…” this statement was made by Eric Dondero, as of 1998 Dr. Paul’s “travel secretary and ‘advance man,’” (p. 102) but later estranged from him. I would have liked to see Rink at least query the claim that Ron cared only about television coverage.
Here is Rink (p. 121):
Paul reached out to DeLay to help him get in touch with Armey and the rest of the Republican delegation from Texas. Before announcing his candidacy, he hopped a jet to Washington, DC, with high hopes for a productive meeting. He assumed the Republicans would be interested in the possibility of using his candidacy to increase their number, perhaps offering him financial support and endorsements in his bid to defeat the Democrat.
“A court-ordered redistricting was coming up in Texas, and I told them, ‘If you guys help protect my interests in this, I can gain this seat for you,’” he recalled.
This is Ron Paul? Talking about protecting his interests? Who, precisely, is making this latter statement? Dondero? Paul? I think the former, but I cannot be certain, based on the text. If Dr. Paul were really interested in protecting his own interests, methinks he would have more likely stayed in Lake Jackson practicing medicine, and writing books about the free market and investing in gold. I would have liked some reaction from Rink at this point at this seeming false note.
Another whine on my part; there is a typo on p. 117, “Reigns” should be reins.”
But let me end this review on a positive note. I had to dig deep to find any flaws at all in this marvelous book. The picture on p. 102 (there are many, many other very good ones) is to die for. It features four of my all-time heroes. But I am not going to tell you who they are. Go get this book and see for yourself. That’s an order! Ok, ok, I can’t resist. They are Bert Blumert, Lew Rockwell, David Gordon and Murray Rothbard. What a fearsome foursome, at least to the bad guys.
Want to get your dander up? Then read this book. Although her voice is cool, calm and collected, Richardson’s outrage at the unfair treatment accorded Ron Paul can be read practically between each and every line in the book. Let me give you just a small taste of this (pp. 62-63):
“The Nashville Tennessean omitted Ron Paul from its Feb 3 voter’s guide, but covered all the other candidates and their positions.
“The Birmingham News, one of Alabama’s largest newspapers, omitted Ron Paul from its extensive voter’s guide on Sunday, Feb. 3.
“The evening before Super Tuesday, the Associated Press ran an in-depth article detailing the candidates’ final efforts before the big day. All the candidates except Ron Paul, that is.”
Now, of course, I knew that the media had all along been mistreating Congressman Paul and his candidacy for president. But I was not as fully aware of each jot and tittle of this injustice until reading Richardson. Her chapters 9-10 alone are worth the full price of admission in this regard. There, she details even more the ill treatment accorded Dr. Paul by such worthies as the entrenched GOP, Fox News and the neoconservatives.
Richardson sets several tasks for herself in this book and accomplishes them all, superlatively. First she asks (p. 1): “Who are these people?” She describes them as follows: “They came from the far reaches of the political spectrum, crossing age and cultural boundaries to surprise their fellow Americans and confound the media elite. They rocketed the ‘Asterisk Candidate’ to the top of straw polls across the country and campaign polls across the Internet. They all but took his promotion out of the hands of his presidential campaign staff, raising record-breaking millions of dollars in single days, renting the largest blimp in North American to tout his candidacy, and purchasing full-page ads in newspapers before the first primary was held… all independent of the official campaign.”
She continues: “Who are these people? That’s easy. They’re collect students. Grandparents. Veterans. Professionals. Retirees. Democrats. Republicans. Constitutionalists. Libertarians. Right-wing conservatives. Flaming liberals. Business owners. Doctors. Lawyers. Christians. Agnostics. Atheists. Whites, Blacks, Hispanics and Asians.” All this is just from Richardson’s first page. I’d quote the rest of the book, too, were the editor of this Journal not breathing down my neck not to do so, rotten kid that he is. In addition she later notes, these people put up yard signs of their own manufacture; they hung banners on highway overpasses; they stood in the rain to cheer on their man; they wrote letters to the editor protesting the unfair treatment accorded Ron. They did all this with little or no support from the official Paul campaign. A high point of this book is Richardson’s numerous interviews with several of these very people.
Second, she demonstrates in minute detail just how scurrilously the Congressman was treated. There is a continual litany of the media saying a given indication was important, e.g., straw polls, and then when Dr. Paul does well in them, such criteria are deemed irrelevant. These stories, and the outraged way Richardson tells them, make the blood boil of all red-blooded Ron Paul supporters.
But this book is by no means limited to litany of injustices perpetuated on our man. Her take on substantive issues is as sure-footed as any devoted libertarian would wish. Her renditions of Dr. Paul on war, taxes, economics, immigration, abortion, guns, education, health care, and many more, serve as a good an introduction to the Ron Paul philosophy, as good as any ever written.
I have but one criticism of this excellent book. Richardson’s contribution to it ends on p. 132. The volume ends on p. 191. Why the difference? From page 133 until the close of the book there are two appendices which reprint two of Congressman Paul’s speeches. These of course were superlative. They are well worth intensive study. However, they are available electronically. I would have appreciated hearing more from this new important contributor to the freedom movement, Richardson. Or, if she had no more to say, the book should have ended on p. 132.
Let me end on a note that will prove to be controversial, but really should not be. First, I note that Richardson is a woman. That alone is somewhat surprising, given the disproportionate number of females in the libertarian movement. Notice of this fact will no doubt be seen as an indication of a denigration of females. Well, let those who object to this make the most of it. Here comes an even more politically incorrect insight. Based on the picture of her that appears on the back cover of her book, this lady is one of the most beautiful women not merely in our movement, nor only in the U.S., but on the entire planet. Does it deprecate women in general or their intellects to merely mention such a fact? Not at all. Facts are facts. Merely because a bunch of harridan feminists might object to this one being noted does not render it untrue or improper. Nor is it a put-down. Looks and talent; the one has nothing to do with the other. But, as a book reviewer, I feel obligated to report on anything of potential interest to the reader, and this certainly qualifies.
8. Stevo, 2012
The Stevo book is somewhat a departure from all the others in this review. It, virtually alone, is devoted not to biography, nor to libertarian principles, nor to the Ron Paul debates but rather solely to strategy. And here, I confess, lies a bit of a weakness of mine. I feel on solid ground when it comes to Austrian economics or libertarian theory, but the best strategy for the Austro-libertarian movement has always been a bit of a mystery to me. If I have any views on this it is “different strokes for different folks.” What will work for some people, will not work for others. Let us take two illustrative examples. Who are the two most successful leaders of the freedom movement in terms of converting massive numbers of people to our banner? Obviously, they are Ayn Rand and Ron Paul. They and only they were able to fill stadiums full of people for the cause of liberty. And yet these two people had virtually the opposite personalities and characters, and thus their strategies were entirely different. Ayn Rand personified an attitude of “in your face,” while Ron Paul pursued a much more low key strategy. So, in my view, there is no one right viewpoint to take on this issue.
What is Stevo’s contribution to this matter? The first two words of the title of this book are “How to.” Well said. This is indeed a “how to” book. How to do what? To elect Ron Paul president of the U.S., of course. The volume is now a bit dated in that it offers a plan to win the 2012 election, and it is now 2013. It would have been equally “irrelevant” had it been aimed at 2008, or even 2016 or thereafter. That is, it is not irrelevant at all, nor is it merely of antiquarian interest. It is rather chock-full of crucial information for any election of any libertarian at any time or place. If I had to sum this book up in a short phrase it would be “applying common sense with the benefit of vast experience to the challenge of electing libertarians.”
Yes, Stevo make the case in behalf of Ron Paul. He does so with verve and insight. But he spends very few pages on this labor of love. If that is your main interest, do not read this book. However, if you want to become a far more effective supporter of candidates like Ron Paul, if you want to use your time to this end more efficiently, then, again, don’t read it. Instead, devour it. Peruse it over and over again until you fully grasp its message.
What, then, is its message?
He states (pp. 10-11): “1. Ask pro-peace Democrats that you personally know to vote Republican in the primaries for Ron Paul and make sure that those who agree to vote for Ron Paul actually show up on election day. 2. Work the rest of your ‘social precinct.’ 3. Activate your own network of Ron Paul supporters.”
In this brief review I cannot fully convey the myriad of hints, suggestions, and advice Stevo gives. They all have the ring of truth. In sports, the key to success is to “keep your eye on the ball.” This author is asking all of us to keep our eyes on the political ball, so as to better promote the Ron Paul type candidacy. He does not allow himself, or us, to be deflected for even a moment from this one goal. In short, he is unswerving, intent, monomaniacal, bless him.
I content myself with but a few examples of this marvelous work. He warns of the “neutralizer” (p. 180) someone who may well be a Paul supporter, but with enthusiasts like this we might well prefer actual enemies. Stevo mentions a man in a V for Vendetta mask who completely hijacked a libertarian event, and cost our movement valuable television coverage. Costumes like this are perfectly all right; at a Star Trek convention, the purpose of which is not to elect a president. But if that is the goal, we would be better of “being clean” for Ron, dressing and acting much like Mormon missionaries.
Here is yet another gem (p. 122): “Just like anyone with ideas revolutionarily different from the status quo, Ron Paul generates his fair share of contempt. You don’t need to worry about convincing his haters to love him That’s futile and doesn’t matter in an election. In an election you want to focus on the people who are already sympathetic to his ideas. The one with the most votes wins, not the one with the fewest enemies.”
No book can be all bad that severely rebukes traitors to the libertarian cause such as David Boaz. Says Stevo of this imposter: “Ultimately, anyone who says ‘Ron Paul is the wrong messenger’ betrays his own lack of belief in personal choice.” However, I think Stevo lets Boaz off too lightly when he implies the latter is merely a “defeatist” or “downer.” I know Boaz, personally, and he is none of these things. Instead, Boaz is upbeat and optimistic — about the issues he supports. No, “traitor” is far more accurate (Block, 2010B). It is one thing for a Paul Krugman, or a Giuliani, or a Sean Hannity to attack Ron Paul. Such people are well known to be enemies of liberty. But Boaz has been long associated with the libertarian movement. He is the vice president of the Cato Institute, an organization linked in the public mind with free enterprise. Boaz (1997) has even had the effrontery to write a book with the “L” word in its title. For him to denigrate Ron Paul as the “wrong messenger” for liberty is an unforgiveable stab in the back. Ok, ok, not unforgiveable. Were Boaz to publicly apologize for this act of his and beg forgiveness, it would be granted by many libertarians, me certainly included. But, of course, he has done no such thing.
When I first read Stevo’s advice on Krugman, ignore him, it is a waste of time to attack him, his mind is already made up, set in stone, there is no chance of ever changing his mind, I disagreed with the author of this book. My thought was that it is good to take on the most famous, prestigious and articulate of the many enemies of human freedom. Even if Krugman himself remains obdurate, he can still be taken down a peg or two in the eyes of his followers, and potential ones too. Stevo’s point was rather problematic for me, as I am a professor accustomed to criticizing precisely scholars such as Krugman.
But then I remembered Stevo’s advice about narrowing our focus, keeping our eyes on the ball: Ron Paul for president, or, more generally, electing principled libertarians. Will refuting Krugman help do this? Not bloody likely. It would be the rare voter who would even understand such an intellectual battle. What of Hammond (2012) who offers us a “debate” between Krugman and Paul, and my very positive review of that book? Am I committing a logical contradiction? Not a bit of it. Not every book praising Ron Paul and his candidacy has to be narrowly focused on that one goal as does Stevo (2012). Hammond (2012), and my strong support for it, is thus not incompatible with Stevo’s far more limited goal, and my championing of that, too.
It is unusual for a book review such as this to even mention an acknowledgements section, let alone praise it. I shall risk all in breaking this tradition. Stevo mentions some four dozen people and organizations. I had never before even heard of most of them. Why do I mention this? This is because it is notable that a person such as me who has been deeply involved in libertarianism since about 1964 is ignorant of an entirely different strand of our movement. This could not be the case were we not growing by leaps and bounds, and these few pages at the very end of his book make this case in spades.
I end this review on a rather charming note. Stevo (p. 3) makes a reference to Murray N. Rothbard as a “historian.” I have never before seen such a description of my friend Murray. I am far more accustomed to seeing him referred to as an economist, ethicist, logician, strategist, even as “Mr. Libertarian.” I do not at all quarrel with this description. Lord knows, if Rothbard’s contribution was solely limited to history, he would well deserve such an appellation. It is only testimony to his gigantic contribution that this description would even be slightly remarkable.
These books, all of them put together, have been written, almost, as if by one very erudite person. Or, perhaps, a better way to put this is that they have seemingly been created as if by several co authors, planning out a major collaborative project. What I am getting at here is that there is very little substantive overlap amongst them. For the most part, they cover different aspects of the Ron Paul phenomenon. Of course, there is but one exception to this rule: the love for Dr. Paul and what he stands for exudes from almost every page of each of these publications. One would have to be very hard-hearted not to appreciate the admiration and respect that each of these authors has for the Congressman’s rEVOLution.
There is of course some incompatibility. One author inveighs against even mentioning Krugman. But virtually the entirely of another’s book concerns that particular fraudulent economist. However, this is the only bit of contrariness I was able to discern in my perusal of this entire oeuvre; perhaps the exception proves the rule.
It is my fervent opinion that this is an important set of books. If what Ron Paul stands for is to be promoted, it cannot be done, only, via his own publications. It is important that those of us who are his students, his admirers, also make a contribution to his efforts. Writing books about Mr. Paul and his philosophy is certainly one way to do just that.
Allan Stevo writes on Slovak culture at www.52inSk.com. He is from Chicago and spends most of his time traveling Europe and writing. You can find more of his writing at www.AllanStevo.com. If you enjoyed this post, please use the buttons below to like it on Facebook or to share it with your friends by email. You can sign up for emails on Slovak culture from 52 Weeks in Slovakia by clicking here.