Social Justice, Left-libertarianism

What about Ron Paul?

If you say you’re against the state these days, someone’s sure to ask you how your views parallel Ron Paul’s. The frequency of these sorts of conversations seem likely to increase if poll wizard Nate Silver is right that the Texas Representative will win in the Iowa Republican caucus.

I’m sitting out this year’s electoral battles: I’m not a principled non-voter (though I’m skeptical about electoral politics), but my friend Brad Spangler has agreed to promote my book, The Conscience of an Anarchist, in connection with his Vote for Nobody campaign. But that doesn’t mean I don’t have opinions about the election season.

To begin with, anyone who’s derailing proponents of the corporate/warfare/administrative/national-security state like Willard “Mitt” Romney, Newt Gingrich, and Rick Perry deserves three cheers for performing a public service. Until now, the Republican field has been dominated by warmongers and corporatists outdoing themselves in their support for state thuggery.

And, in case you haven’t noticed, the same thing is true on the Democratic side, except that there are no alternatives there. Barack Obama clearly wants to serve George W. Bush’s third term. His record of support for war, for the various abuses of the national security state—including surveillance, assassination, secrecy, and indefinite detention, and for bailouts and other forms of corporatism make him largely indistinguishable from his predecessor. And his willingness to legitimate evils that could previously have been framed as GOP aberrations as the products of a bipartisan consensus is especially troubling.

A Gingrich, Romney, or Perry term in the White House would be a disaster. So would another Obama term.

On many of the issues that I care about most, Ron Paul stands tall. New Left icon Tom Hayden writes: “Paul opposes the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. He opposes the empire of military bases. He opposes Wall Street thievery, tax subsidies for oil companies, the suppression of WikiLeaks, the drug war and the criminalization of marijuana. Those positions might just save America.” And Hayden is surely on to something.

Politicians are most unlikely to save America. But by far the worst thing governments do is to make war, and Paul’s campaign is committed to dramatically reducing the chances that the US government’s awesome power will be used in war-making.

And of course he’s right about his other signature issue, too: as long as there’s a central bank, the state will use it to fund otherwise unsupportable wars. Ending the Fed is a crucial step toward peace.

He’s opposed to bailouts and other forms of corporate privilege. And he’s acknowledged the legitimacy of many of the Occupy movement’s concerns.

But while positions like these are worth affirming, that doesn’t mean that Paul’s candidacy is an unmixed blessing for those of us on the anti-state left. For Paul is, after all, a self-proclaimed conservative.

His stances regarding immigration, abortion, and same-sex marriage are wrong, and he needs to be much more clearly radical where other issues, like racism, poverty, and health care, as well as IP and worker freedom, are concerned.

It is unclear to me precisely what Paul actually thinks about immigration, but it seems apparent that he is open to at least some immigration restrictions. Anyone who believes in the freedom to work, who regards borders as arbitrary lines drawn by politicians, and who sees immigration freedom as a key weapon in the real war on poverty should have no time for nativist or nationalist stances on this (or any other) issue.

Paul’s conservative positions on abortion and same-sex marriage aren’t conservative enough for many on the religious right. But they’re still mistaken.

He’d like to see the legality of abortion decided at the state level—an option I fear would lead to lots of victimless crime prosecutions. And he has supported the federal Defense of Marriage Act, which has had devastating consequences for same-sex couples. (Of course all levels of government should get out of the marriage business, but turning marriage into a private contractual relationships will pose serious problems for people in same-sex relationships until relationship status stops mattering entirely to government agencies.)

As a leftist, I believe in abortion rights and marriage equality. And I believe it’s important to challenge not only bad laws and policies regarding these matters but also the moral convictions and cultural values that underly them.

I am confident that Ron Paul is not himself a racist. But the controversy about the racially inflammatory language in some of the newsletters his office mailed out in decades past, and the racist and anti-immigrant flavor of some immigration materials Paul campaigners have distributed more recently, is sure to raise its head again now that his campaign is attracting more attention. Paul has sometimes reached out to unsavory, even racist allies in the past, employing a strategy I find deeply troubling and utterly unwarranted. I believe he needs to repudiate this strategy while reemphasizing his own principled opposition to racism.

As an anarchist, I believe the state is unjust, unnecessary, and dangerous. So I’d certainly like to see it reduced in size rather than expanded. And Ron Paul is actually interested in making the bloated behemoth that is the United States government smaller (though he still seems mistakenly to treat it as legitimate in principle). But I think it’s vital to proceed dialectically, in full awareness of the interconnections among various forms of oppression. The state is excellent at breaking people’s legs and then offering them crutches (thanks to Harry Browne for the analogy). In a sane world, it would do neither; but taking away the crutches while leaving the state’s leg-breaking activities in place or unremedied isn’t sane, or fair, either.

And if Paul were a candidate on the left, he would be very clear about this point when discussing issues like racial discrimination, poverty relief, and health care.

The full elimination of state-secured privilege, the provision of remedies for past injustice, and a continued program of non-violent protest could have undermined entrenched white dominance in the South in the absence of the state action a gentle Paul critic like Hayden would like to promote; you don’t need state action to promote racial justice and inclusion. Eliminating state-secured privilege and rectifying the effects of violent dispossession, subsidy, and land engrossment could deal with the problem of structural poverty, while mutual aid networks could provide ongoing economic security in the state’s absence. The same sort of approach could ensure the widespread availability of health care services and make them dramatically more affordable than those on offer today.

There are clearly alternatives to state action in response to these problems. A leftist anti-statism would emphasize them in a way that Paul has not.

And as far as I know, Paul hasn’t noted the ways in which monopolistic intellectual property privileges boost corporate power at the public’s expense, or the ways in which the state empowers employers at the expense of workers or makes centralized, hierarchical corporations more economically viable than they would be without politically secured support. A leftist campaign would address these kinds of concerns head-on. And it would take a firm stand for markets, but against capitalism.

Ron Paul is, as far as I can tell, a kind and decent person who has said important things—things leftists should endorse. Anti-state leftists would do well to affirm Paul’s positions on war, civil liberties, the drug war, corporatism, and the national security state, while challenging his stances on abortion, immigration, and same-sex marriage and his cultural conservatism and urging him to radicalize his views of remedies for racial injustice, of poverty, of IP, of worker freedom, and of capitalism.

  • I think it’s important to point out that Paul has been fairly explicit on the issue of institutionalized racism in the administration of justice in this country and the prosecution of the war on drugs.  As far as I know, he is the only national politician to say such things, and his rhetoric is identical to that of Michelle Alexander in her book _The New Jim Crow_ and the recent NAACP ad campaign about America’s prison population. 

    Yes, I share similar concerns about some of these issues with Paul, but on the issue of racism I think he has exonerated himself sufficiently.

  • Anonymous

    The executive has institutional reasons that incentivize centralizing power in the executive branch (see, for example, Posner and Vermeule’s new book The Executive Unbound). This has played out over and over again, by president after president (whether republican or democrat). I am curious to see if a Paul administration would be able to resist these “self” interested incentives and proceed to diminish the power of the president. This would mean not just pursuing a policy of, e.g., non-interference, but positively seeking laws that strip the commander-in-chief of significant military powers.  I doubt it, but it would be interesting to see.

  • I’d like to point out that Ron Paul has stated explicitly that he believes the government should get out of marriage entirely. I remember him explaining why he supported the Defense of Marriage Act when it came around, but I don’t remember what it was. I’m pretty sure it wasn’t for him about banning gay marriage.

    Also, I’m pro-life on abortion, but I understand that’s a pretty controversial issue for everyone, not just libertarians/anarchists.

    • Anonymous

      Paul is somewhat confounding on the gay marriage issue. Yes, he did say get government out of the marriage business. In the same breath he said let the states deal with it. Paul continued that marriage is defined in the dictionary (read: man and woman).  Paul is informed by his religious orientation– which is very likely homophobic. Most religions are structurally homophobic.

    • Anonymous

      Well, as I say, it makes sense to get the government out of the marriage business—but only if you also end government’s differential treatment of the married and unmarried (so that it’s easy for unmarried partners to join each other in the US despite citizenship differences, for instance).

    • Gabriel Farkas

      I will tell you what I’ve told other libertarians who identify as pro-life. Don’t like abortions and/or believe unequivocally they are murder? Then don’t have one, but don’t infringe on the rights of others who feel differently.

      • Anonymous

        Sorry, but its not really that simple. “Don’t like murder, the don’t murder any one else, but don’t infringe on the rights of others who feel differently.” Get it?

  • Thomas Hepplewhite

    Is Ron Paul really a libertarian? Isn’t he a constitutionalist? Doesn’t he just want to transfer  federal power to local states? How is this better? 

  • as long as there’s a central bank, the state will use it to fund otherwise unsupportable wars. Ending the Fed is a crucial step toward peace.” 
    Gary, not trying to be rude because I generally enjoy your columns but there are some pretty straightforward statistical techniques that could be used to investigate whether or not central banks are associated with war (or state sponsored violence), especially belligerent expansionary wars like Iraq and Afghanistan. It wouldn’t be that hard to see if countries with central banks were more likely than those without central banks to wage wars (net of other substantively important predictors, of course). I really doubt that you would find that wars and central banking were connected in any systematic manner. 
    There are certainly many reasons to criticize the Federal Reserve but Ron Paul, even if president, is not going to be able to destroy it and force the country to adopt a gold standard. Nor is he probably going to be able to set us free by eradicating Pell Grants and Medicaid. 
    Its not worth going into, but his economic ideas are silly. I honestly think he read a handful of essays by Hayek and Mises fifty years ago and thinks he has a very complex world figured out. Who needs to look at charts and data when you have an abridged copy of The Road to Serfdom handy?  A not-so-smart ideologue is much more dangerous than a not-so-smart person who is open to multiple ideas and empirical data. His essay “Austrian Economics: A Personal Statement” is downright awful and I don’t think he even understands Austrian Economics. His discussion of “the subjective theory of value” makes no sense whatsoever. 
    Beyond that, his “state’s rights” stuff should be profoundly troubling for anyone interested in maximizing human freedom as we all know the horrific origins of this unpleasant phrase.  Even if we reject the notion that “state’s rights” is a racialized code word it still doesn’t make any sense from a (left) libertarian perspective. Why are central governments bad and state governments okay?  

    • Anonymous

      Without the Austrian understanding of economics– your charts and data would have no meaning pertaining to real events. Your charts and data aren’t economics but history anyway (unless you are making foolhardy concrete projections).  Economic understanding can help analyze the past though. Ron Paul, as a Misesian scholar, knows this.

      It is you, Adam, that doesn’t seem to grasp economics. You back up nothing you say at all. If Mises is flawed- then prove it. I know where some of the bodies are buried. Do you?  
      Real economists don’t look to Road to Serfdom for anything except maybe nostalgia. It is a horribly flawed book; and more of a jump into poli-sci than econ.

      • First, this:

        “Your charts and data aren’t economics but history…”

        Then this:

        “It is you, Adam, that doesn’t seem to grasp economics. You back up nothing you say at all. If Mises is flawed- then prove it.”
        Taken together, they summarize, quite nicely, the core issue. To demand that someone prove that von Mises’ reasoning is flawed while, at the same time, discounting the very evidence that might actually prove von Mises’ reasoning is flawed is to completely eschew any and all use of the scientific method as a tool for distinguishing between truth and falsehood.

        • Anonymous

          My comments for Adam apply to you too.

          • Except that your comments don’t really answer the question. Am I allowed to use empirical evidence or not?

          • Anonymous

            Empirical evidence: 1) are things past. 2) economics is the logic that must pre-exist as a tool for identifying processes to begin with. You have no “evidence” without economics.

          • You still haven’t answered my question. Yes, one must first formulate an hypothesis in order to be able to test it. But, when you ask someone to prove the hypothesis false, how might one go about doing so without the use of observed data?

          • Anonymous

            Economics is not lab science. Humans do not have the same determinism as physical objects.  There is no way to create ceteris paribus for human experimentation.

            You are making the assumption that “all science is positivist”.  I am claiming at the same axiomatic level that human action and its developed category of economics is inherently deductive. In natural science there is the bottom assumption of physical determinism– so discovery can in part use the hypothesis-empirical-analysis method. But what of the human mind?  It is always a variable, never a fixed point.

            This is the uniqueness of economic reasoning. It is necessary prior to examining data. How else would you know e.g. what is exchange?

          • That’s one of the more long-winded “no” answers I’ve read in a while. However, the only thing you got right is the fact that Economists can’t perform lab experiments. Fortunately, lab experiments aren’t the only way of collecting data, and, as far as hypothesis testing is concerned, it really doesn’t matter if we collected the data five minutes ago or five decades ago.

            All science involves both inductive and deductive reasoning. Even in the hard sciences, every hypothesis, from the Law of Gravity to the apparent wave-particle duality of light, is formed by reasoning from a collection of specific observations to a general rule that explains what we’ve observed. We then use deductive reasoning to reach implied conclusions, and, then, seek to observe behavior in additional ways that either confirm our falsify our hypothesis.

            There is, then, no inherent “uniqueness” of economic reasoning. There is only the limitations on measurement and experimentation, and, while these limitations might inhibit our ability to test hypothesis they do not render the process of hypothesis testing completely irrelevant.

          • Anonymous

            My reply is further down the page– to avoid running out of margin.

          • Anonymous

            Here is Prof. Hoppe to explain it more fully- in one article:

          • Anonymous

            I admit that interventionist policies can carry on suboptimal results without leading to all-around planning. Mises could have done better there.

          • Anonymous

            You say that ‘Mises self-coerced’.  That makes no sense.

          • Okay I think both you guys are missing the point of my OP. I think that Paul has only a VERY superficial understanding of Austrian Economics and specifically the works of Mises and Hayek. I think he literally read a handful of essays when he was young. 

               At times I think that Mises and Hayek are incorrectly categorized as economists and should be thought of more as social metatheorists in the vein of Foucault, Bourdieu with a more political economy twist like a Galbraith. There is also something vaguely postmodern about some Austrianism.Ala Schumpeter I am a firm believer in methological individualism and multiple approaches to understand the social world, of which I consider the economic sphere a subsystem. I don’t understand ppl who doctrinally stick to one paradigm or methodology as if it were a religion or something.  Its not very libertarian to think that there is only one right answer, and some guy (however smart) found it sixty years ago. Following Hayek, I believe that no one person (or couple of people) is that insightful. No person’s mind, including Mises’s, is so profound that they can explain it all through deduction. I also think that many self-proclaimed Austrians (especially those on the internet) would do well to actually study some statistical methods and try to understand what quantitative economists, sociologists or poli scientists are actually saying with their data. Its all about effects sizes, explained variance, probability etc.- the number open us up to more nuanced ways of thinking. 

          • Anonymous

            You get the prize for the most way-out comparison of the year, Fouceault, Galbraith, etc, to Mises. Wow. C’mon, at least read some Mises before commenting.

          • Economic theory is not a priori — the conclusions have to be based on observations about how human beings make decisions which are not mere deductions from first principles. If a theory depends on human beings making decisions in a particular way, and they do not, in fact, do so — the theory is flawed. Empirical evidence can give us a clue about flaws in the core assumptions of a theory.

            Mises noted that empiricism is difficult in economics and then took that way too far. We’re talking about a guy whose criticisms were written prior to the development of nearly all modern statistical techniques. He had no idea of the complicated ways in which we would be able to analyze the world today. Many modern Austrian enthusiasts still don’t — and think their ignorance is a virtue.

          • Anonymous

            No Mises did not say that empiricism is difficult. He said it was not economics. A tree is not a fish.

          • A body of knowledge that eschews empirical verification is a religion, not a science. I’m not interested in faith-based economics.

          • Anonymous

            Your empiricism is the “faith based” ignorance here. Mises, among other Austrians, wrote voluminously about the need to stick to reality as close as humanly possible– hence the deductive apriorism.  Hence the starting with irrefutable axioms– like “Humans act purposively.”  Notice it contains zero amount of faith or empiricist gobbledeegook. At the same time is says something about reality.

          • I will admit I couldn’t make it all the way through the unabridged Human Action.  I’m not saying that the ideas of those ppl were similar. Rather, I am trying to say that they were all, to varying degrees, social metatheorists. Its just very different from what typically gets published in top social science journals, in which you are testing very specific hypothesis using empirical data and statistical techniques. I have no qualm with meta narratives per se but its silly to think one guy got it so right, that one person’s deductive powers were so immense. 

            Remember that both Hayek and Mises both said that humans have imperfect crude knowledge. The same applies to them and any deductions they might make from axioms they create. Empirically-driven social scientists are generally not as positivist as many who adopt the Austrian orientation seem to think. If I build a model and find that the relationship between two barriers is statistically significant I don’t think that I have discovered some inexorable, infallible truth. We are constantly refining our research questions and developing new data and methods to test hypotheses. We test and retest. We refine our ideas. Knowledge is always in the process of becoming and never fully arrives. At the risk of sounding rude, I don’t think the average self-proclaimed Austrian on the internet has bothered to study any of the statistical techniques used in the social sciences. Seriously, take a few classes in social science research methods. If you can’t do that there are lots of great entry-level books on the topic that I can recommend.  There are even a lot of free resources (including whole classes) online. You can get student versions of statistical software programs for free and there are literally tens of thousands of data sets online you can use to help you learn.Seriously, its not all some type of scam or made up BS. Maybe, just maybe, political scientists, economists, sociologists, epidemiologists, public health folks and criminologists have developed a modicum of useful information over the past several decades. Perhaps the efforts of tens of thousands of researchers over dozens of dozens of years publishing tens of thousands of articles in thousands of journals has not been entirely in vain. 

          • Irrefutable axioms? “Humans act purposely” is entirely falsifiable. It could be true, or it could not. But the correct discipline to answer that sort of question is neuroscience not economics. And if a neuroscientist in 2011 says humans do not always act purposely, then I will believe their research over whatever Mises said “must” be true in 1911.  And any theory of economics based on Mises “irrefutable” assumptions would be just plain wrong. 

            Also, I concur with Adam that most Austrian enthusiasts don’t have the slightest grasp of statistics, and thus can’t competently discuss empirical methods. Deduction is either 100% correct or 0% correct — and you have no way of determining which is likely to be true without coupling deduction with induction. Without induction you’re flying blind.

          • Anonymous

            Your act of replying proves the initial economic axiom.  So let neuroscience be neuroscience and let econ be econ. Now there may come a time that neuroscience overcomes  the law of non-contradiction. But seems unfathomable now.

          • Kurt, 
               I think that the methodology of the social sciences is more accurately described as abductive reasoning than inductive. 
                There are certainly deductive elements to the research process, especially in the early hypothesis-forming stage. But you are right, deductive conclusions rarely contain confidence intervals, significance levels, probabilities, effect sizes, etc. It tends to lend itself to binary thinking. 

          • Strange that so many companies bother with forecasting or market research. Since it “never comes close” — why do they waste their time? 

            Perhaps complex aspects of reality can be modeled (at least a little bit) . . .

    • Anonymous

      At first blush, I think the argument about the Fed is fairly simple: wars cost money; funding them up-front via taxation is politically difficult, while borrowing is much less so; state control over the money supply—made much easier by means of central banking—ensures that government debt can be paid back in inflated money, which is obviously less costly to the borrower. (It seems to me that state involvement in money creation offers opportunities for mischief of other sorts, but that isn’t my focus here so I haven’t dwelt on it.)

      • The entire argument, here, is predicated on a fundamental misunderstanding of money and banking. Here’s a rhetorical question. When you go to a bank and take out a loan, where did the bank get the money to loan to you? If your answer is, from depositors, then please explain how the existence of the bank loan precludes depositors from taking their money out of the bank.

        • Anonymous

          That loan, if based on fractional reserves, appeared out of thin air: hence the term inflation. Banks can cover other depositor withdrawals no problem- as long as they all don’t come at once. If the bank has depositor demand issues- they can usually go to the Fed’s discount window  for a quick cheap loan and/or get more paper from the Treasury.

          The inflation = dilution of the money supply. Given the demand for money staying the same, as well as the amount of /and demand on goods and services, ceteris paribus i.e., then the purchasing power of money has gone down artificially. Some people have been robbed.  But this would be too aprioristically logical for your tastes. You can’t refute it, however.

          • First, the point is that expansion of the money supply can happen even without a central bank. It happens largely as a function of credit.

            Second “inflation = dilution of the money supply” is not necessarily true. An expansion of the money supply can exert upward pressure on prices, but it’s also possible to cite examples when there has been a huge increase in the money supply without an attendant increase in prices. This would, in a world where empirical evidence is allowed to pierce the cathedral walls erected around hypothetical thought, indicate that there are other factors that must be present before inflation occurs. An increase in the money supply might be necessary, but it’s not sufficient.

            Third, yes, there is an alternative to fractional reserve banking. It would be a world, if allowed to completely manifest itself, in which credit would largely cease to exist, though it is only slightly more irrefutable than the notion that “inflation = dilution of the money supply,” if for no other reason than the fact that we’ve never seen an economic society that actually fully implements full reserve banking.

            Lastly, while all of that hypothetical world might well be possible, the reality of fractional reserve banking does offer an alternative narrative to the argument that Gary made about the need for a central bank in order to finance wars. If you have a fractional reserve banking system, a lender of last resort is necessary.

      • Gary,
           I think my poorly articulated point is that there is something unique about the US that makes it the global military hegemon and the world’s only remaining empire (though China may be fast on its way…). Part of it is economic and may relate fed policies such as the obsession with a strong dollar. But the presence of  a central bank, by itself, probably does not predict aggressive war-making. It is, perhaps, a  distal precondition for expansionary wars of the Irag and Afghan variety but a distal precondition that most countries share. 
          But I think that there are unique attributes of the US that makes it such an aggressive nation in the global world system. Some of it is economic (strong dollar policies, high reliance of fossil fuels, etc.) and having a large, well-funded military, by itself probably increases the likelihood of conflict. 
          However, in my more cynical moments I think that there are some disturbing cultural ideas that are more proximate causes for our two current wars. Purely anecdotally, many people in my immediate social environment in early 2003/ late 2002 were EXCITED about the prospects of an Iraq invasion and the death of (hopefully) millions of non-Americans. Granted, I lived in a small, very politically and religiously conservative midwestern town at the time and considered myself a moderate conservative. 
           Pointing to the Fed, or even to Bush and company, is certainly legitimate (especially the latter) but it denies the cultural conditions that foment wars like Iraq and I personally believe that aspects of US culture help explain why the US is such an aggressor nation as compared to other wealthy nations. 

        • Anonymous

          Adam, I think you’re surely right that there are multiple factors in play here–surely including the cultural ones you highlight. I didn’t mean to suggest otherwise. I just think that, if it had been necessary to pay up-front for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan with tax money, mounting them would have been noticeably more difficult.

        • Anonymous

          Do you really believe that life for the typical Iraqi was better under Saddam than it is now? Under this muderous dictator the secret police could (and often did) round you and your entire family up at any moment, torture you all to death, and there would be no recourse,  none. Is this any way for human beings to live? Would you be willing to live like this?

          We have given the Iraqi people a chance to create a minimally decent society. The Iraq War may have been unwise, ill-advised, poorly planned, etc. But we did not invade Iraq to seize their territory or steal their oil or impose a puppet government. In fact, we have now left, and non-U.S. multinational oil companies are getting all the contracts. The Iraqis have and will continue to choose their own politicans to lead them or descend into chaos–but we will not be pulling the strings. Perhaps, Iran will be, since we have now created a power vacuum.

          The point is that we are not, despite your claim, an aggressor nation–at least if Iraq is to be considered a test case.

          • Anonymous

            How many thousands of Iraqis are dead? How many of those dead Iraqis were given a choice? “Forced to be free” indeed.

          • Anonymous

            How many were given a choice of whether they wished to continue living in Saddam’s hell on earth? Or, to end up in one of his mass graves or dead by chemical attack?

          • Anonymous

            So you are willing to cause others to sacrifice, to kill innocents (i.e. murder), in the name of others?  Hmmm, I wonder how this fits with your supposed Nozickean principles.

          • Anonymous

            Sorry, I don’t get your point. If A is, w/o justification, attacking, raping or enslaving B, it seems clear to me that C has a moral permission, although not an obligation, to intervene. I fail to see anything in ASU inconsistent with this idea. Now, I don’t expect you to agree that the situation in Iraq under Saddam fits this description, but that just means we disagree about the facts, not that I am saying something inconsistent with Nozick’s principles.

  • “Paul has sometimes reached out to unsavory, even racist allies in the past, employing a strategy I find deeply troubling and utterly unwarranted.”

    You’re mixing terms in a way that obscures the core issue. Ron Paul might, or might not, be a bigot (that’s debatable), but using a strategy of exploiting other people’s bigotry to achieve a political end falls squarely within the core of what most people call “racism”.  And, in that sense, it’s entirely incorrect to say, “I am confident that Ron Paul is not himself a racist.”

    Ron Paul is a racist. Period. All stop. This is not a conclusion one can simply avoid by mixing up some very clear distinctions in meaning between the words “prejudice,” “bigotry” and “racism”.

  • tom hewitt

    It’s a sad commentary on libertarian thinking (if, indeed, that’s what it is) that there is far more visible concern over the contemporary racism in the US, conceived as legal and societal discrimination against blacks, when a mixed race individual, although not the descendant of slaves, is the chief executive officer of the state and many of the leading figures in entertainment, sports and business are African-Americans, while at the same time little attention is paid to the native Americans, who, rather than being kept in servitude, were either objects of a government policy of extermination or swindled out of their homes.  Advocates of civil rights that ignore the history and contemporary status of native Americans in favor of  blacks are intellectual frauds.

  • Anonymous

    Rick Schaut,

    The axiomatic proposition that economics is hypothetical would also be a hypothetical statement? Isn’t that contradictory? Or must you admit that there is untestable knowledge that may develop out of a means other than observation?  If the latter, then how would Austrian deductive method be nullified?

    What sense does it make to build epistemology on hypothetical propositions underpinning yet more hypothetical propositions?

    • All axioms are hypothetical. Consider Euclid’s geometry. Among the postulates of Euclid’s geometry is the notion that given a line and a point not in that line, there exists one and only one line that contains the given point yet does not intersect the given line. This is known as Euclid’s fifth postulate. And one can construct an entire mathematical edifice based on this and Euclid’s other four postulates. None of the conclusions is refutable within that edifice.

      However, one can alter Euclid’s fifth postulate to say, for example, that given a line and a point not in that line, there are zero lines that both contain the given point yet do not intersect the given line. Based on this set of postulates, one can construct yet another edifice of mathematics in which the conclusions are equally irrefutable from within that edifice.

      The question is, which version of Geometry more closely resembles reality? How do we know?

      The difference between the axioms of von Mises and the axioms of economists who choose to employ the scientific method is that the latter are willing to subject their axioms to empirical analysis. It is not the hypotheses of science that are sacrosanct. Rather, it’s the method. And the method, itself, has proven its utility time and time again.

      Interestingly enough, when we apply the methodology to answering our question about Euclidean vs non-Euclidean geometry, the answer we come to is, it depends. If your “reality” closely resembles a flat plane, then Euclid’s geometry is the correct model. If, however, your “reality” more closely resembles the surface of a sphere, then the non-Euclidian geometry is the correct model.

      And, when I’m a passenger on a flight from Seattle to London, I really do want that flight’s navigator to see reality as the surface of a sphere, not a flat plane.

      • Anonymous

        The towering logic of math is analogous to the deductive apriorism of Mises– except on one  specific issue:  the simultaneity of human subjectiveness and being human.  You are human, I am human, Mises is human. The pilot on the way to Seattle is referencing the physical world outside. He measures windspeed, altitude, thrust, gravitational pull, etc. But what of human reference? There are no objective units common to all humans that can accurately rate the intensity of such human experiences as love, desire, emotion, pain. But we know these things exist.

        Hence, here are no measurements in economic reasoning.  How does one empirically put a number on desire? Intensity cannot be observed.  But what can be observed is action. An individual makes a choice, revealing preference.  This understanding had to exist prior to observed action in order for there to be any meaning derived concerning the said action. This is the logic that evolves out of introspection and indeed- experience. But once discovered it is revealed to be logical all along.

        • “Hence, here are no measurements in economic reasoning.”

          Sorry, but that statement is, well, just plain wrong. We don’t even measure gravity in any direct fashion. Rather, we measure the effects of gravity.

          We have no way of directly knowing if there is such a thing as a gravitational constant that defines a relationship between mass and distance in such a way as to predict the effects that gravity has on objects that have mass. Moreover, we have observed that gravity also has effects on things, such as light, which have no mass. The latter observation leads us to think of gravity as a displacement in space itself.

          Either the assumptions one derives through introspection lead to some conclusions about quantifiable effects on things like prices, quantity sold and income, or they don’t lead to any such conclusions. In the latter case, the logical edifice thus constructed has no relevance to our understanding of an economy. In the former case, we have effects that can be measured, and through which we can test the validity of the assumptions that lead to those conclusions.

  • Anonymous

    P.J. O’Rourke wrote a book “Don’t Vote it Just Encourages the Bastards.”  Chartier looks to be advocating  a similar approach.  I can appreciate that, given that politics operates in the present world of imperfection, ideologues prefer to avoid it all together.  It allows you remain pure.  However the fact is, that’s where the power is.  If you avoid the sphere, you become irrelvant and marginalized to actually changing it.  Don Boudreaux takes the position that voting is irrational and, like P.J., provides illegitimate cover bad behavior, however he writes an op ed instead of voting.  Since I lack an audience and similar skill, I pursue a compromise.  I vote, but for a 3rd party.  Not just any third party, but the one which appears to get the  most vote.  Green, libertarian, Ron Paul, doesn’t matter.  It’s the best way I have to speak which a politician might listen.  It feels like the mouse in the cartoon version of “A Christmas Carol” trying to get Ebeneezer Scrooge’s attention.  But I feel that to just turn my back on society and it’s voting machinations, is failing to appreciate all the wonderful things which this less then ideal society has given me. 

    I had a lot of trouble logging into the comments section.  Not sure why.  It worked when I switched from Google chrome to Explorer. 

  • Anonymous

    And as far as I know, Paul hasn’t noted the ways in which monopolistic intellectual property privileges boost corporate power at the public’s expense

    You just lost all credibility with me.  I’m a software developer with a photo enhance program for sale.  You’d apparently let anybody sell copies of my program for their own profit.  Can you say BULLSHIT?  There’s a name for people like you: freetards.

    • Anonymous

      You have read Stephen Kinsella?

    • Damien S.

       Because there’s no middle ground between no government-enforced IP monopolies at all, and the current situation of ever-increasing copyright terms and patent trolling, of course.

  • Jessica DelBalzo

    I think this is the best analysis of Ron Paul I’ve ever read.  I watch the debates, and I want to like him.  I find myself agreeing with many of his ideas (specifically when it comes to eliminating war and ensuring personal freedoms), but I cannot throw my support behind a candidate who is anti-choice and anti-marriage equality.  These issues are way too important to me.  I’ve had an abortion, and I have no qualms about my decision.  It was a good experience, and I’d do it again in a similar situation.  By the same token, I have friends for whom the right to marry is critically important.  I cannot see Paul as anything less than a hypocrite for opposing abortion and gay marriage.  

    If you believe the role of the federal government is almost exclusively to ensure public safety while allowing a maximum amount of personal freedoms, you just can’t rationally oppose reproductive rights or marriage equality.  There’s no logic in it.