It is relatively easy to see why far-right presidential candidate Ron Paul of Texas is driving some of the other Republicans crazy. He clearly won the straw poll after their first debate. On Nov. 5, he set a one-day fund-raising record through the Internet. Polls show that, although he is still far behind the big-money candidates, he is beating TV star Fred Thompson and in a dead heat with war hero John McCain.

So-called “conservative” candidates customarily lure voters with nostalgia for earlier times. They play into a natural disdain for today’s values and events when compared to those of our own youth. “Why, when I was coming up …” begins many a complaint in ordinary political conversation. Successful Republicans, especially the current occupant of the White House, imply that, if elected, they can and will physically turn our clocks and calendars backward.

Ron Paul bedevils the other Republican hopefuls because he goes much further with that fantastic promise than they do. Instead of asking, “ Who is Ron Paul,” it is much more appropriate to ask, “ When is Ron Paul?” There is absolutely no argument that Dr. Paul would make the best president of the United States that the 16th century could offer.

A quick glance at Paul’s campaign positions as listed on, his campaign web site, shows they have a certain simple-minded appeal. Alone among the Republicans, he opposes Bush’s wars and occupations abroad. He absolutely despises “so called free trade deals and world governmental organizations like the International Criminal Court (ICC), NAFTA, GATT, WTO and CAFTA.” He wants to stop the NAFTA highway. He condemns government spying on the citizenry, and would like to overturn the Patriot Act. He seems to support Social Security, even though he oversimplifies the issue of taxing benefits and is completely mistaken about undocumented workers’ receiving Social Security payments.

Many of Ron Paul’s other stated positions may raise antennae. As one might expect, he is strongly pro-gun and anti-abortion. He condemns the United Nations. He opposes eminent domain, not because it is misused for corporate interests but because he believes “property is sacred.” He wants to return to the gold standard. His proposed legislation for a federal voucher system would completely undermine public education. He says, “I support giving educational control back to parents.” Ron Paul is thoroughly anti-immigrant. He sees no reason why government should play any role whatsoever in stopping racism.

What Rep. Ron Paul advocates, in short, is the idea that raw capitalism, its “invisible hand” unchecked by centuries of democratic workers’ struggle, would solve all ills in 2008. It would be true, if our ills were those of serfdom or outright slavery. Capitalism did, indeed, put an end to barbarism and bring in an economic system with incredibly higher standards of production and fewer horrors from the caprices of royal aristocrats. But that was 400 years ago, and this is now.

Jim Lane is a labor activist in Dallas.