James Leroy Wilson's blog

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Ron Paul and the Libertarian "Movement"

It's a funny thing about libertarianism. Most people who have a good idea of what libertarianism is, and am familiar with me, would agree that I am a libertarian, and the majority would probably call me "hard core."

Among the members of the hard core, however, I probably wouldn't be considered hard core, and some wouldn't consider me libertarian at all if I don't adhere to their particular doctrines and conceptions of libertarianism.

Which is fine by me. I don't consider libertarianism a religion or a philosophy of life, and maybe it isn't even a "movement," and if it is a movement, maybe I'm not even in it. What prompts this thought is the various debates among the neo(con)-libertarians, anti-political anarchists, Rothbardian anarcho-capitalists, and, for lack of a better word, regular libertarians on whether Ron Paul's candidacy is good for the "movement."

Well, which movement is that? There are libertarians who want to abolish the state through non-political means, libertarians who want to abolish the state through political means, and libertarians who may like the idea of abolishing the State, but don't believe the State can be or will ever be abolished in this age; to them, anarchy may be an ideal, but it's not a goal. Their goal is, instead, to do as much as they can to restrain the State and undo the damage it has done.

The movement to abolish the state and the movement to restrain the state are two different and separate movements. Since libertarians are unaware of this, we get confused, and we get into fights amongst ourselves.

The anarchists disagree with each other on political involvement, and that is why they have the Ron Paul debate. Perhaps the non-anarchist libertarians should stop thinking the same way, and stop contemplating what society would be like with libertarian majorities. That's a fantasy not far removed from the fantasy of abolishing the state altogether. Like other fantasies we may have, it is best to just leave it as a fantasy, because trying to make it a reality is just a waste of time.

Instead, these libertarians, of which I include myself, should break the libertarian "program" down into specific items, and for each item, work with activists and office-holders who agree with us to advance that particular cause. Instead of a "libertarian movement," there should be:
- an antiwar movement;
- a civil libertarian movement, fighting against the Patriot Act, Real ID, warrantless spying, etc.
- an "honest money" movement;
- a "small government," (cut taxes, cut spending) movement,
- etc.

The four specific items I named are the ones most important to me, in the order I list them. Dennis Kucinich seems to support the first two, Paul supports all four. I don't believe any other candidate endorses any of these, aside from maybe a couple of Republicans who may same some nice things about taxes. If Paul had a fatal character flaw that made him a poor spokesman and counter-productive leader, I may have supported Kucinich as the candidate who could do the most good and/or the least harm on the issues I care most about. (As it is, Kucinich's support is miniscule, and it's a moot question.)

Even considering the newsletter scandal, I don't believe Paul has been discredited; indeed, the deeds of all the other candidates have been far more harmful than the words Paul may have written. In any case, Paul isn't leading a "libertarian" movement, so I don't see why libertarians should get all that worked up about it.

Does Paul's anti-immigration stand contradict market-anarchism principles? Part of it undoubtedly does.

Does Paul's strict Constitutionalism and concern for national sovereignty always cohere with pure libertarianism? No.

Is Paul's federalist view of the abortion question and personal pro-life stance (and his federalist stance on church-state questions) fatal to the libertarian cause? Personally, I don't think so, but maybe it is.

Is Paul a "heretic" on some issues important to libertarians? You could say so.

Will Paul's old newsletters that catered to populist and paleo-conservative prejudices discredit the "movement" to abolish the state? Will it discredit the "movement" to get libertarian majorities? Perhaps; at worst Paul may have marginally reduced the chances of accomplishing the impossible.

But for me, the key questions are: Is Paul correct on the war? Is Paul correct on civil liberties? Is Paul correct on money? Does Paul support tax and spending cuts? The answers are Yes, Yes, Yes, and Yes. Does any other candidate bat higher than .500 on these issues? NO, and most bat .000.

Let's not say that Ron Paul is the leader of the libertarian movement. Let's not even call him a libertarian at all; even he emphasized through most of his campaign that he is a conservative and a traditional Republican, so we should take him at his word. Let's just call him a conservative Presidential candidate whom many libertarians support because they agree with him on issues important to them.

We should just leave it at that, and not pretend that Ron Paul is either the savior of libertarianism, or the worst thing that ever happened to libertarianism. He's just a politician with his own agenda; if some libertarians agree with it enough to support him, fine, and if other libertarians don't agree with it, that's fine too.

1 comment:

  1. The wind up.

    The pitch.

    He swings.


    It's a long fly ball.




    Man...you nailed that one.