Monday 9 January 2012

Ron Paul

I’ve had to discuss Ron Paul frequently over the holiday break. Not because I brought him up. For some reason, friends wanted to talk about him. Here below are links saying a little of what I tried to say about him in response, summarised by those more knowledgeable about the subject than I.

Short summary? Ron Paul is not a libertarian. He

  • rejects the Jeffersonian principle of a "wall of separation" between religion and government;
  • is anti-immigration (“to the right of most Republicans” says Vodka Pundit Steve Green);
  • is anti-abortion (Paul describes "the rights of unborn people” [sic] as “the greatest moral issue of our time," and "abortion on demand" as "the ultimate State tyranny");
  • “plays footsie” with racists and kooks;
  • is a hypocritical supporter of pork-barrel earmarks for his own congressional district;
  • is opposed to free-trade agreements (like NAFTA); and
  • is appallingly “blame-America-first” on  foreign policy.

In addition, he is a Creationist—a point of view disqualifying the holder from intelligent discussion of, well, virtually everything.

In short, then, and to repeat, he is not a libertarian: he is a “states-rights” religious conservative, with all the intellectual confusion that implies—yet his growing public prominence as a self-proclaimed spokesman for the ideas of liberty gives grave concern for the fate of those ideas.

UPDATE:  Clearly, Ron Paul is far from the secular freedom lover many would like him to be. Argues Gus Van Horn,

   he functions as a Trojan horse for the religious right even as he pretends that personal freedom is as obviously good and uncontroversial as breathing on a regular basis. (Personal freedom is good, but this is neither obvious nor uncontroversial.)
So what then about his claims to being a lover of freedom? What exactly is Paul's vision of "a free society"?  On that subject, this Open Letter to Ron Paul is an eye-opener, written by one Duncan Bayne in response to this article by Paul criticising the 1993 BATF & FBI assault on the Branch Davidians in Waco. Says Bayne:
   While I agreed with many of your criticisms of BATF and FBI tactics & strategy, it became apparent to me that your article was not primarily concerned with those criticisms: the main thrust of the article was to whitewash the monstrous evil committed by David Koresh and his followers. You wrote:
‘The community of faith that once lived at Mount Carmel in Waco, Texas, believed the promise of a free society.’
“This is the "community of faith" that sacrificed twelve-year old girls to Koresh so they could serve as his 'wives' - some of whom bore his children. If that level of barbarism - a religious community complicit in the slavery and rape of young girls - represents anything approaching your idea of what is a ‘free society,’ then I don't want you having any say in how society operates.

    Too true. There is no need to defend the barbarism and paedophilia of Koresh’s supporters in order to attack the BATF and FBI goons who killed them. Yet Paul is happy to embrace the barbarity, and in doing so demonstrates the Objectivist argument against irrational libertarianism.  Without a rational philosophical foundation, argue Objectivists, without a decent "philosophical infrastructure," politics becomes a dangerous pursuit of empty words, floating abstractions, and range-of-the-moment compromises. How can you call libertarians allies in freedom, ask hardcore Objectivists, when libertarians such as Ron Paul can't even agree on what the word "freedom" stands for?  And how can you call someone an advocate of freedom at all when their vision of a "free society" apparently includes the the freedom to rape twelve-year-old girls?

It's clear, just as Van Horn charges, that freedom is neither obvious nor uncontroversial. In fact, personal freedom can and does (and must) be predicated on the base of reason, not of subjective whim.  As Michael Berliner points out in this article on Ayn Rand,

    She understood that to defend the individual she must penetrate to the root: his need to use reason to survive. ‘I am not primarily an advocate of capitalism,’ she wrote in 1971, ‘but of egoism; and I am not primarily an advocate of egoism, but of reason. If one recognizes the supremacy of reason and applies it consistently, all the rest follows.’ This radical view put her at odds with conservatives, whom she vilified for their attempts to base capitalism on faith and altruism. Advocating a government to protect the individual's right to his property, she was not a liberal (or an anarchist). Advocating the indispensability of philosophy, she was not a libertarian.
The point could hardly be clearer. Van Horn concludes:
   The fight for freedom is, as I have pointed out, a war on two fronts: the political and the intellectual. Of the two, the intellectual is the more fundamental, and cannot be lost. The longer enemies to freedom like Ron Paul can masquerade as friends, the longer it will take for people to become aware of the actual requirements for a society that respects individual rights.

That he can masquerade as a friend to freedom at all demonstrates how far the intellectual battle for freedom still needs to travel.

Because the harsh fact about Ron Paul is that on the few occasions he takes off the tinfoil hat and talks Austrian he’s damn good. But when he’s wearing the tinfoil headwear, as he does the rest of the time, he’s rotten.


Anonymous said...

V said...

I was going to write a longer reply, but I think I'll just state that your list of bullet points contain some half-truths.

Just one ... NAFTA is hardly free trade.

Richard said...

"The theory of evolution," said Ayn Rand, "is only a hypothesis."

Do we conclude, then, that Rand is disqualified from intelligent discussion of virtually everything?

Jackie said...

The best Republican candidate was Gary Johnson:

Sadly he is now seeking the Libertarian nomination, which makes him far less likely to be president than if he had won the Republican nomination. He is the most exciting presidential candidate I have ever seen.

Mike said...

Goodness me. Whilst Ron Paul may not be libertarian per se, he is a darn sight better than any other candidate I have seen in the election to date.

What is the point of writing a piece about Paul, decrying his non-libertarian features, when every other candidate makes him look like one by comparison?

I mean, would you rather that Santorum won or something?

This kind of piece is representative of the greatest failing of the purified objectivist. The inability to accept any shade of gray as being halfway acceptable, instead holding onto the "objectivist good, everything else bad" fantasy dichotomy.

The world however, is not painted in black and white.

Instead of holding up Paul as an example of a man who shares some of our values, we act like he is the enemy because he does not meet all of our criteria. No, he may not be perfect. But compared to what else is on offer from the GOP...well, you work it out.

Getting Obama out of office is the prime consideration. Paul represents a massive step in the right direction and deserves our qualified support.

V said...


Perhaps the blog should be retitled, Not Pure Enough

Libertyscott said...

For all that is good about Ron Paul, it is all utterly worthless when he is willing to blame the USA for the ills of the world, willing to have a foreign policy that makes the Noam Chomsky sycophants of the "Occupy" movement in the far left smile and plays religious fundamentalism clearer and stronger than Mitt Romney.

If Obama had Ron Paul's foreign policy he'd be excoriated by all, except the far left Hollywood and Michael Moore/Chomsky sycophants who hoped he would.

V said...

Are you happy with all the interventions, sanctions and proping up of dictators that has occurred in the middle east?

Richard said...

And how can you call someone an advocate of freedom at all when their vision of a "free society" apparently includes the the freedom to rape twelve-year-old girls?

You're in the gutter, PC. How are the stars looking?

Libertyscott said...

V- Of course I'm not happy with all of it, but then had the Islamists and the Soviet Union not done so, there would have been little need to do so.

It's telling how quick so many are to blame the US for the Middle East, virtually none point out Syria's blood thirsty dictatorship was propped up by Moscow for over 40 years.

Yes the US made mistakes, but this doesn't excuse Ron Paul's US bashing, willingness to abandon Israel to Iran, Hamas and the Muslim Brotherhood, and willingness to hand Kim Jong Un a gift by letting South Korea meet North Korea's WMDs without any of their own.

Anonymous said...

I agree Ron Paul is not a libertarian, he is however a transition candidate that at least moves the country in the direction of freedom and eventual freedom from religion.

Most people in the United States believe themselves to be christian and would not elect an atheist like myself.

V said...


Abandon Israel? They are more than happy to look after themselves, Benjamin Netanyahu basically said so in a speech to Congress.
RP was the only one to defend Israels right to take out Iraqs weapons program in the 1980s.

Would Moscow have propped up Syria if USA+Britian hadn't already overthrown Irans democratically elected govt and been playing the empire game in the middle east? I'm no fan of the russian communists (obviously), but the mistakes made in the region by US in that area have directly led to the problems of today vis-a-vis Iran and Osamas band of followers.

Act Youth said...

ACT party wasn't libertarian enough in their campaign in the last election (smoking dope), so the finger is now at Ron Paul for not libertarian enough (or pure libertarian).

Obviously objectivists like any pedophiles & flip-flopping politicians like Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, etc, but not a part-libertarian like Ron Paul.

Ron Paul has brought Austrian economics to the forefront because no one knew shit of what it is. Give the man a fucking credit PC.

Richard McGrath said...

Great video from Diana Hsieh. Ron is flawed, and Diana articulates why very well.

Act Youth said...

"Is Ron Paul a libertarian?"

Richard said...

@ Act Youth :-)

"Is Ron Paul a libertarian?"

Bob R said...

***» is anti-immigration (“to the right of most Republicans” says Vodka Pundit Steve Green);***

No he isn't. He actually favours amnesty for illegals!

In any case, low skill immigration from Mexico is a disaster for the US. The subsequent generations do not perform as well as the average european american and the US will lose economic competitiveness as a result. This is already a major problem in California.

Sally O'Brien said...

My first instinct is to say it's the economy stupid - the most urgently important issue of current times. When Don Brash took the lead of ACT some  libertarians advocated  support because he is much more sound on economic issues than any other candidate that had a realistic chance of getting into cabinet. Don Brash is certainly not fully libertarian but in the current political context it was perhaps not silly initially at least to consider coming out in support of him. The same attitude may be appropriate with Ron Paul. He is pro free trade -  Nafta and Cafta are bureaucratic trade management treaties rather than free trade agreements.
Paul’s fiscal reform plan:

However on each of the other issues Paul is clearly a mixed bag. His official campaign site  shows cause for concern as well as much that  confirms my opinion that he is more of a step in the direction of more personal  freedom than other candidates for president on offer - much as Ronald Regan was by the way. I do not find him to be anti America just because he criticizes some foreign policy. He is for better directed defence against terrorism. He is for better boarder security but not anti immigration, he is against benefits for illegal immigrants.
I believe him when he says he is not a racist and that he failed to be cautious about monitoring his newsletter
more on this issue here
As for conspiracy theory Paul’s position is  that interventions in the middle east have caused blowback. He  does not discount the fact that radical Islamists were responsible for the attacks, or that such ideologys are dangerous.

Tim Ng said...

While I can support Ron Paul for the Presidential Election, I would not want him as the Governor of a State. Sure, I don't agree with all of his positions. But by his own count, most of the things I disagree with him on (abortion would be the main one), are not the responsibilty of the Federal government and would be returned to the States!

As for things that are the responsibility of the Federal Government, I agree with his position on NAFTA on the condition that it is replaced by a true free trade agreement (as opposed to the bureaucratic managed trade that currently exists.

As for foreign policy, I think that Israel is more than capable of defending herself (~200 nukes). I'd have to study the situation in Korea further in order to comment.

In short, although Ron Paul is far from perfect, doesn't Federalism negate much of what we disagree on?

Michael Fasher said...

Weather Ron Paul is a true libertarian may be debatable but he is definitely percieved to being one. I was just thinking that the fact that he came second in the New Hampshire primaries made me remember the Free State Project from a few years back the premise was that if enough libertarians moved to New Hampshire they could have a disproportionate influence relative to their numbers nationally. Is Ron Paul coming second in New Hampshire primary a sign that this strategy is beginning to work?