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Interesting Views Do Not Guarantee Relevance

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Rep. Ron Paul’s new book, “Liberty Defined,” touches on many of the important topics in political life today, though the realism of some of his ideas is up for debate.

Whatever else can be said about Ron Paul, he is an interesting guy.

You have to appreciate an elected official who writes, “So-called moderate politicians who compromise and seek bipartisanship are the most dangerous among the entire crew in Washington,” and who calls President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s “Four Freedoms” speech “odious.”

But being interesting does not guarantee relevance. And for every instance in which the nominally Republican Texan seems to stand at the nexus of contemporary debate in his latest book, “Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom,” there is another in which he takes a flight of fancy that separates him from the debate that much of the rest of the country is trying to have.

“Liberty Defined” is, in effect, Paul’s policy papers bound and delivered in book form — more along the lines of Paul’s “A Foreign Policy of Freedom” than his “End the Fed.” The brief chapters make for quick, interesting — there’s that word again — reading, touching on virtually every topic of importance in political life today.

It covers a broader swath of policy than the book that grew out of Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign, “The Revolution: A Manifesto,” but it offers up the same sort of readable informality.

The main purpose historically served by third-party candidates — and even within the Republican Party, the one-time libertarian presidential candidate Paul thinks and behaves like a third party — has been to advance unconventional ideas until they become conventional. After the movements’ best ideas are co-opted by the major parties, the movements tend to wither away.

Some of the ideas that Paul presents in “Liberty Defined” are already mainstream ideas, in one political party or the other, and they got that way without his help.

He writes like a traditional Republican on abortion, global warming, gun control and hate-crime legislation, and like a traditional Democrat on civil liberties and some (though hardly all) U.S. foreign policy. Any effort to bridge the gap between the parties on those issues seems highly unlikely, in the near or long term — what would be the point of having two parties if they agreed on all of that?

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