THE LIBERTARIAN ENTERPRISE
Number 449, December 30, 2007
"Lives of Drudgery and Servitude"
Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise
I respect the decisions of those who hope to advance liberty by supporting Ron Paul, though they are making the wrong choice. What I've had enough of are Paul supporters berating those who disagree with them.
An example can be found in the letters of last week's The Libertarian Enterprise, where a writer says of libertarians who do not support Paul:
I'm not wallowing in anything, certainly not in the self-righteousness of believing only people acting like me are doing anything good.
Libertarianism is about individual liberty. Means are the ends in practice and liberty requires toleration, not an attitude of "this is how it's going to work and you can either put up or shut up." Many things can be done at once to promote liberty. I am not interested in supporting Ron Paul because I don't think it would do much good. Rather than debate this point endlessly, I'm moving on, doing what I do, and telling anyone interested why I don't like Paul or his campaign very much.
Leaders ultimately lead to leaders. At some you point need to take responsibility, live as free as you can, encourage others to do so, and make it easier for them to.
Ron Paul is not really a libertarian, though he often plays one on TV. I understand the arguments about how he will help us move in a libertarian direction, but I don't really believe them. Sure success in politics is often about appearances, but anyone who looks hard at Paul may get the perception that true liberty is not what libertarians stand for.
Last summer I received a fundraising letter from the Ron Paul campaign which told me to send money to put "a real conservative" in office, something I am not interested in doing. Though I discarded the letter long ago you can probably find it on the internet, and Thomas Knapp blogged about it a while ago.
The three major points as I remember were:
1) Keeping out the illegals (I don't remember exactly how it was worded, but it sounded ridiculous and made me a little embarrassed for kind-of liking Paul). Needless to say, this is something I'm not interested in supporting. Any libertarians who say "government is organized theft," then say that borders established by past theft are made legitimate by imaginary contracts or political expediency need to check their premises.
2) Overturning Roe v. Wade. Why would this be one of the major planks of any libertarian campaign? States' rights? Come on. Face itthe Constitution does not restrain the government and we should get whatever freedom we can with whatever legal shenanigans will work. The states have no rights and they are just as corrupt as the federal government. Any greater accessibility they present to the citizenry is taken by those with connections and those who can buy them.
3) A foreign policy that "puts America first." The letter did not say "Iraq" or "Iran" at all. Instead we are offered a typical politician promise that could be interpreted in many ways. Though we all know that Dr. Paul is against global empire (which by itself almost makes him worth supporting), what else might he think is in America's best interest? Armored columns on the Rio Grande? A fresh military ready for whatever the next Clinton has in mind for it?
In other words, the good things Paul has said in public and would likely try to do if elected are not enough to motivate my support.
Of course the fact that so many people are pretending to be libertarian shows that the idea is taking hold. Paul's success testifies not only to his character and the genuine effort he and his supporters have put into his campaign, but also shows people are losing faith in statism and seeing hope in liberty. Generations of libertarian activists should be thanked for this. Many politicians will see which way the wind blows and say that they were libertarian all along. Campaigns like Paul's represent a cultural shift in the right direction, but the campaign itself is not heading forward.
I don't believe it would be a disaster if Paul were elected as some do, but he could spend four years discrediting libertarianism. Though Paul's record in office is better than any other congressperson I'm aware of, being in charge still promotes the tendency to moderate and compromise when it comes to freedom, and support whatever bad elements of policy the system allows through.
Paul's campaign does spread the message of liberty but associates it with bad ideas. Many who support him acknowledge this and point out where Paul's views diverge from libertarianism. What they are saying is critical to preventing the idea from being co-opted by the latest trendy wannabees giving lip service to liberty. Unfortunately many of Paul's supporters don't seem to understand how anyone could not believe that his campaign is the libertarian movement.
I could be wrong about Ron Paul. Whatever the outcome of his campaign, too much browbeating now is likely to leave bad blood in the libertarian camp for years. The passion is understandable. The persistent assumption that The One Path To Liberty requires following Ron Paul is harmful not just for the authoritarian tendencies it encourages, but also because it spreads the perception of libertarians as crazed cultists rallying to xenophobia and other conservative causes.