I’ve argued that Ron Paul’s “federalism” is really a cover for a hostility (or at least indifference) to individual rights. More evidence of this appears in his discussion of the federal flag burning amendment—a proposal that is obviously contrary to the freedom of expression guaranteed in the First Amendment. Paul’s opposition to the amendment, however, was at best only partly based on free speech principles. Instead, Paul argued that flag burning should be dealt with by eliminating federal court jurisdiction and allowing states to prohibit the burning of the flag: “There are a lot of State laws, such as laws against arson, disturbing the peace, theft, inciting riots, trespassing. We could deal with all of the flag desecration with these laws,” he said. While he acknowledged that the amendment would “interfere with fundamental liberties,” he would nevertheless hold that it is proper for states to violate such liberties:
I have great respect for the symbol of our freedom. I salute the flag, and I pledge to the flag. I also support overriding the Supreme Court case that overturned state laws prohibiting flag burning. Under the constitutional principle of federalism, questions such as whether or not Texas should prohibit flag burning are strictly up to the people of Texas, not the United States Supreme Court. Thus, if this amendment simply restored the states’ authority to ban flag burning, I would enthusiastically support it.
That is, he would revoke First Amendment protection for freedom of expression and allow states to “interfere with fundamental liberties.” That is a curious sort of “libertarianism.”