For a long time past, opinion among supporters of free-market capitalism has been divided over the suitability for office of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. I have been a long-time supporter of Dr Paul, if only because of the uncommon sense he speaks on matters related to economics and central banking.
The septuagenarian obstetrician-gynaecologist-cum-congressman has long been an advocate of the gold standard, and of disestablishing the Federal Reserve. He opposes government intrusion into the lives of private citizens by his opposition to the knee-jerk laws that make passing through an airport in the U.S. a harrowing and degrading experience for most travellers.
All good so far.
But I am now convinced his foreign policy would be detrimental to the interests of the U.S. in the long term. For a long time, I used to believe a policy of strict “isolationism”—pulling U.S. troops out of the hundred-and-thirty-something countries where they are stationed in their tens of thousands at present—would be a good idea, especially seeing as how the U.S. is basically bankrupt (and will probably be owned by China a few years from now).
I thought pulling troops back to the continental U.S. would save billions if not trillions of dollars, and might pacify those who resent the presence of United States troops on their soil. But, as many in the libertarian and Objectivist movements have long been suggesting, such a policy would not lead to peace and prosperity for U.S. citizens. Instead, it would be a gutless capitulation to the enemies of freedom and in invitation to them to treat the sleeping giant as a a docile dinosaur willing to accept any indignity. It would not douse the flames of resentment in many of those countries, it would fan them. Such a policy would show their enemies (and on numerous occasions since at least the Suez capitulation has shown them) that the U.S. is a soft touch who will tolerate substantial strikes against its own citizens without any adequate retaliation.
Notwithstanding the fact that the current U.S. government and its chief executive have been to a greater or lesser degree traitors to the U.S. Constitution, like virtually all their predecessors for the last hundred years, the United States still best represents the idea of a secular nation built on the principles of individual rights and liberty.
Despite the betrayal by U.S. politicians of the principles for which many of the Founding Fathers risked their lives, Ron Paul, sadly, does not represent a coherent force for good. He is a deeply flawed politician, with a blind spot in foreign policy the size of Texas.
I read the transcript of a recent interview with ARI executive director Yaron Brook and listened to a short audio clip from 2011, and then knew without a doubt that I had been wrong in my unquestioning support for a man whose foreign policy position amounts to this:
The underlying problem with Ron Paul is his basic motivation: rather than pro-freedom he is primarily anti-government.
Instead of advocating government that protects individual rights, he has given libertarianism a bad name by advocating anarchism, the view that all government is bad; instead of advocating small government and the rule of law, he and his supporters argue for no state and no rule of law. In reality, there can be no freedom when there is no government: look, for example, at the chaos in Somalia, where the rule of law has broken down completely. That is no libertarian society; it is anarchic dog-eat-dog civil war without any protection of individual rights at all.
Yaron Brook says in the audio clip above that he could consider voting for a presidential candidate that wasn't an Objectivist, just as long as they were advocates for individual rights. Whether or not you consider Objectivism to be the best grounding philosophy for theories of individual rights and capitalism—and I happen to think it is—here we have an Objectivist saying that he could support a non-Objectivist as a candidate. I'm not sure Ayn Rand would have been that generous. [Yes, she was; see below. – Ed.]
Free-market capitalism needs a new political torch-bearer. Whether Ron Paul's high-ish profile has set back the cause of free-market capitalism decades, as Brook asserts, is debatable. He is occasionally inarticulate and does, unfortunately, come across as a crazy uncle type. It is surely telling that much of his current support appears to come from pacifists on the left wing of American politics who can relate to Ron Paul's short-sighted and frankly dangerous foreign policy.
While I agree with most if not all of what Ron Paul has to say on Austrian economics, I think American capitalism needs a new political voice and a fresh presidential candidate for 2016. Peter Schiff springs to mind. Andrew Breitbart would have been great. Penn Jillette would be a scream.
Dr Paul's star reached its zenith some time back and is now falling. He should step down once the primary/caucus season finishes, enjoy what years he has left with his family, and allow a more consistently individualistic figurehead to take up the cudgels against both the overt socialists in the Democratic Party, and the utterly revolting conservatives such as Romney and Santorum who give the party of Lincoln a bad name.
A wiser head than mine labelled as "Saddamites" those reluctant to endorse military action against Iran, Saudi Arabia and other nations whose governments nurture anti-American terrorists. How right he was. Ron Paul is a "Saddamite", and I guess I was too. But not any more.
The U.S. government should unleash the dogs of war onto the murderous regimes of Iran, Syria, the treacherous Saudis, and any other failing states giving succour to promoters of Islamic jihad. Turn the political rulers of those hostile states into pariahs, or even radioactive glass, if need be. But let's not wait for another Islam-inspired atrocity to occur before striking at the sponsors of that hideous death cult.
Now that plans to shut Iranian banks out of the world financial markets appear to be proceeding, it could be an opportune time to begin.
Ron Paul was right on one thing: the U.S. Government is not the world's policeman. But what Dr Paul failed to tell us is that it nevertheless has a duty to defend American citizens everywhere from people wanting to murder and maim them. To defend them with deadly and overwhelming force, with energy sufficient to transform wanna-be Islamist martyrs into gas molecules.
Just as it is time for Ron Paul to move on, it is time for the United States government to move on from a policy of appeasement toward vicious crazed murderers, to a policy of dishing out swift and palpable justice to those who threaten American interests with violence. While I have serious reservations over the funding of such a war, I don't think Obama really has a choice now.
Only this time, count me as a supporter of such a just war not as a Ronulan appeaser of Islam. I'm only sorry it took so long for the scales to drop from my eyes.
See you until next week,
* * * *
NB: In her 1964 article “How to Judge a Political Candidate” Rand said:
One cannot expect, nor is it necessary, to agree with a candidate's total philosophy -- only with his political philosophy (and only in terms of essentials). It is not a Philosopher-King that we are electing, but an executive for a specific, delimited job.... we have to judge him as we judge any work, theory or product of mixed premises: by his dominant trend....
If a candidate evades, equivocates and hides his stand under a junk-heap of random concretes, we must add up those concretes and judge him accordingly. If his stand is mixed, we must evaluate it by asking: Will he protect freedom or destroy the last of it? Will he accelerate, delay or stop the march toward statism?