Some of you might have missed Glenn Greenwald’s essay on Progressives and Ron Paul over the holiday weekend. If so, you should go read it now. It’s one the best pieces I’ve seen from Glenn, and he’s written a lot of great pieces.

Here’s the gist. Ron Paul makes progressives uncomfortable, because he stands unequivocally for a lot of the things progressives are supposed to stand for: an end to American militarism abroad, and end to the destructive war on drugs, and end to torture and the surveillance state, an end to the crony capitalism and the bailout of Wall Street, and so on down the list. Worse, he forces progressives to recognize the massive shortcomings of “their own” president, Barrack Obama, on these and many other core progressive issues.

He has slaughtered civilians — Muslim children by the dozens — not once or twice, but continuously in numerous nations withdronescluster bombs and other forms of attack. He has sought to overturn a global ban on cluster bombs. He has institutionalized the power of Presidents — in secret and with no checks — to target American citizens for assassination-by-CIA, far from any battlefield. He has wagedan unprecedented war against whistleblowers, the protection of which was once a liberal shibboleth. He rendered permanently irrelevant the War Powers Resolution, a crown jewel in the list of post-Vietnam liberal accomplishments, and thus enshrined the power of Presidents to wage war even in the face of a Congressional vote against it. His obsession with secrecy is so extreme that it has become darkly laughable in its manifestations, and he even worked to amend the Freedom of Information Act (another crown jewel of liberal legislative successes) when compliance became inconvenient.

He has entrenched for a generation the once-reviled, once-radical Bush/Cheney Terrorism powers of indefinite detention, military commissions, and the state secret privilege as a weapon to immunize political leaders from the rule of law. He has shielded Bush era criminals from every last form of accountability. He has vigorously prosecuted the cruel and supremely racist War on Drugs, including those parts he vowed during the campaign to relinquish — a war which devastates minority communities and encages and converts into felons huge numbers of minority youth for no good reason. He has empowered thieving bankers through the Wall Street bailout, Fed secrecy, efforts to shield mortgage defrauders from prosecution, and the appointment of an endless roster of former Goldman, Sachs executives and lobbyists. He’s brought the nation to a full-on Cold War and a covert hot war with Iran, on the brink of far greater hostilities. He has made the U.S. as subservient as ever to the destructive agenda of the right-wing Israeli government. His support for some of the Arab world’s most repressive regimes is as strong as ever.

Chronicles of wrongdoing like this put the Ron Paul Newsletters in perspective. I agree with just about everything that Jacob Levy and Steve Horwitz had to say about those letters. They were vile, and Ron Paul is morally responsible both for allowing them to be published under his name, and for his continuing evasiveness regarding them.

That said, I think that there is an important lesson to bear in mind here about the way we react to different kinds of immorality. The bigotry expressed in Paul’s newsletters strikes us as immoral in a particularly salient way. Public expression of such bigotry is, thankfully, a relatively rare occurrence in society today. And most of us have been socialized from an early age – appropriately so! –  to be aware of such bigotry and to respond strongly against it. So when we do see it, it stands out, and we take notice.

Now contrast that with the way we react to the abuse of police authority involved in the drug war, the inevitable killing and mutilation of civilians involved in dropping bombs on faraway lands, and all the other evils described by Greenwald above. That such actions are, in fact, evil is I take it something that the libertarian readers of this blog will find uncontroversial. But here’s the thing. Even though we believe that they are evil, they still don’t jump out at us in the way that Paul’s bigotry does. They’re just not as salient. And there are two main reasons for this.

The first is that these activities are, for better or for worse, seen as pretty much normal now. We know they happen, and we’ve known they happen for a long time. But precisely because they’re normal we tend not to think about them very much. When we see new instances of these activities, we’re not surprised, and so we don’t pay much attention. And as a result, we don’t spend much time thinking about it.

There’s a second reason these immoralities don’t register with us. Most of the time, for most of us, their effects are unseen and far away. Most of the readers of this blog don’t live in neighborhoods where people’s doors are being knocked down in drug raids. We don’t know anyone whose life has been destroyed by a drone attack. And we don’t even really have to see the effects of those drug raids or drone attacks because they’re not widely reported in the media – partly, I suppose, because they’re so normal as to be not newsworthy.

So even if we as libertarians believe that these activities are immoral, indeed even if we think that they are more immoral than the bigotry of Paul’s newsletters, it is psychologically difficult for us to take proper account of this fact. When something isn’t naturally salient to us we have to work to remind ourselves of it. We have to read Glenn Greenwald or Radley Balko to remind ourselves that the actions our government takes in prosecuting the War on Terror or the War on Drugs are not normal, and that they have real, horrible effects on people with names and stories like our own.

We’ve been critical of Paul on this blog. And it’s easy for Paul supporters to focus on that criticism and assume that we don’t support his candidacy. And maybe some of us here don’t. But for me, anyway, that’s not the point. I think it’s important to call Paul out on the newsletters because I believe the most important thing about Paul’s candidacy is the ideas that he stands for, and I want to make sure that the idea of liberty that I believe in is clearly distinguished in the public eye from the racist and paranoid filth Paul allowed to be published under his name.

But it pays to remember that in many, many other ways, Paul’s conscience is far cleaner than those of the other candidates. The jingoism and cold-bloodedness that most of them have expressed not just in their words but in their actions as elected officials might not shock us as much the racist rhetoric of Paul’s newsletters. But the fact that it doesn’t shock us tells us more about the sorry state of the world we live in and the way we’ve psychologically adapted to that world, than it does about the grave nature and severity of the immorality those actions constitute.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/toddseavey Todd Seavey

    Nonetheless, as noted on my blog today, I wish that despite your desire for a different sort of thickness, Jacob’s “liberal-tarian” tendencies, and Will’s being a stinky liberal, everyone would support Ron Paul and realize that the practical results of him winning make the factionalism and other issues pretty trivial: http://www.toddseavey.com/2012/01/people-of-iowa-from-ron-paul-voters-to.html

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      I support him in the sense that I hope he wins the nomination and the presidency, will vote for him, and will encourage others to do so. But I’ll criticize where criticism is due. We’re always hardest on those who deviate from our position in relatively minor ways!

      • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

        Quick question: do you consider his position on contraception and abortion a minor deviation from your position?  It’s an important question.

        The simpering hypocrite says that, as a “libertarian” he believes the federal government should have no say.  But he’s said out of his bare face that he’s chirpy-keeno on state governments to use criminal law to coerce women to carry pregnancies to term.

        Ron Paul believes it’s hunky-dory that “the state” should subject up to ~51% of adult citizens to a year and a day of involuntary physical servitude (9 months pregnancy, plus ~12-24 hours of literal hard labor, plus the “4th trimester” of recovery) on behalf of another individual.  Yet he somehow balks at the idea that, at no other point should the use of car seats or, say, the use of lead paint on children’s toys be regulated lest someone,  somehow, might find themselves inconvenienced by “the state.”

        Does that sound like deviation from “our position in relatively minor ways?”  If so then “Libertarianism” is an entirely empty and valueless political philosophy.

        And since Libertarianism, in fact, is not empty and valueless, then of every contender for the Presidency in 2012 Ron Paul is exactly sh*ttiest choice imaginable for a Libertarian vote.  Yes, there are candidates who are even more reflexively misogynist than Paul, but then none of the other contenders pretend to be Libertarians.

        Paul isn’t a libertarian in any coherent sense of the word, he’s an old-fashioned southern states-rights activist.  Does he believe women as individuals should be allowed to make reproductive decisions?  No, he believes States should dictate reproductive choices.  Does he believe individuals should be able to marry whoever they please?  No, he believes States should determine who should and shouldn’t marry.  Does he believe public schools should be kept separate from religious instruction?  No, he believes States should decide if they want to force religious instruction on public schools.

        Aside: How, exactly, is trumping basic basic human liberty and bumping
        coercion by the state down to the, well, States an authentically
        Libertarian position?  How exactly is a Texas state trooper less of a
        coercive force than a Federal marshal?  Paul thinks they’re as different as night and day — true Libertarians think they’re Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum — one no more or less legitimate, and no more or less representative of coercive authority than the other.

        Again, these are not “relatively minor deviations!”  These are major, which-side-are-you-on, tectonic plates differences.  Given that, as a Biblical Literalist Paul evidently doesn’t believe in tectonic plates it’s forgivable that he might not see it that way.   Most actual Libertarians, however, are plenty smart enough to understand plate tectonics, and consequently it’s not forgivable that libertarians see only “relatively minor” differences between themselves and Ron Paul.

        One last thing: in a private individual those differences could possibly be brushed off as “personal opinions.”  For Presidents, however, another word for “personal opinion” is “policy of the executive branch of the Federal Government.”

        Seriously, Matt, the guy is not one of us.  Or if you’re not comfortable with my use of the word “us,” he’s even further to the Statist right of you than I am to the statist left of you.

        I can’t believe you’d consider voting for him.  He’s a bad human being, a bad Libertarian, and he’d be a really, really bad President.

        figleaf

        • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

          Look, I’m not about to get sucked in to a substantive debate about abortion. But is really so beyond your capacity to understand the reasoning of someone who holds views opposed to your own? If one accepts the premise, as Paul does, that the fetus is a human person with moral rights, then is it really so obviously unlibertarian, let alone wrong, to argue that abortion should be legally restricted?

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

            Ron (and Rand) Paul’s views on abortion encapsulate to me what I find most objectionable about most libertarians. Most people – something in the neighborhood of 60% — are OK with the Roe v. Wade decision. Most don’t see the zygote or early fetus as a person; most DO see the fetus at 8-months gestation — kicking, turning over, and capable of living if delivered early — as a person. And we’re all a bit ambivalent and ambiguous about the middle stretch.

            Similarly, most folks that oppose abortion allow for some limited exceptions; rape, incest, life/health of the mother. And most generally pro-choice folks aren’t going to argue too hard about late-stage restrictions; I mean, why did she wait so long anyway?

            Most libertarians I’ve run into are pro-choice, and ABSOLUTELY, right up to the date of delivery. Hell, some are willing to let mothers starve or strangle their 2-year olds! The ones that aren’t, like RP? Pro-life, and ABSOLUTELY. No exceptions for rape, incest, etc.

            It’s the absolutism.

          • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

            I dunno, Matt.  It’s not like abortion is a product you can just say “ooh, you shouldn’t have that lying around the house.” Though since Paul’s evidently chirpily willing to let kids buy heroin without restriction I suppose that might even be better.

            Instead we’re looking at someone who believes in forcing labor in the most literal sense possible.

            But it sounds like you’re saying that’s a minor quibble.  Which is probably easy for you since, unlike roughly half the population, you will personally never find yourself in the situation Paul would put you in.

            If it’s such a trivial point I assume you’d be equally supportive if Paul further proposed forcing people to donate kidneys and other organs since that too saves strangers with moral rights.  And if not that then how about if Paul also proposed regulating emissions, water quality, product safety, seat-belt laws, and so on, since those too are really paltry restrictions on personal liberty for the benefit of others.  And of course as long as we’re benefiting others I’m sure it’s still Libertarian to collect taxes in order to enforce those regulations, to specify punishments, and so on?

            Not to sound to cranky here but the only way you can avoid a substantive debate about abortion is to compromise Libertarian principles.  Unless you’re one of those “thin” libertarians who think the sum total of libertarian principle revolves around limiting federal (though not state or local) government use of violence.

            Again, ask the next four Libertarian women you meet (assuming you can find four) if they think it’s a minor tradeoff to give up contraception and abortion so that guys will have the freedom to sexually harass them in the workplace.  My guess is they’ll see that as more of a giant showstopper rather than “a minor deviation.”

            figleaf

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            I’m not defending Paul’s views on abortion. I was only saying that you failed (and are continuing to fail) to engage with the arguments on the other side in anything close to a charitable way. If you can’t see the difference between the pro-life argument and an argument mandating seat-belt usage, then you clearly haven’t thought about the pro-life argument very well.

          • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

            If one accepts the premise, as Paul does, that the fetus is a human person with moral rights, then is it really so obviously unlibertarian, let alone wrong, to argue that abortion should be legally restricted?

            Yes, actually. Since, even if a fetus has rights we would still have to weigh those rights versus the mother’s rights. The pro-life argument focuses on the fetus because the nasty implication of their theory is that becoming pregnant converts a woman into a baby factory owned by society at large. 

            Abortion is, in fact, a perfect example where an illiberal idea (in this case, misogyny) leads people to illiberal policy — even if they are a libertarian in the “thin” sense of the word.

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            “a baby factory owned by society at large”? You’re not being serious. Can’t we have a conversation about abortion without grotesquely misrepresenting the other side’s views? Claiming that a woman has a positive duty to carry her pregnancy to term does *not* imply that she is a “baby factory” (with an obligation to produce more children) or that she is “owned by society.” Throwing around claims like this, or slurs like “misogynist,” without any solid argument or evidence to back you up, is not going to get you very far on a blog populated mostly by philosophers, I’m afraid.

            But yes, you’re correct that what’s required on the libertarian view is a weighing of the baby’s rights against the mother’s. And I don’t think it is manifestly unreasonable, or manifestly unlibertarian, to think the mother’s rights come out ahead in that contest. But I think the same can be said of the opposite conclusion, and that’s the only (very limited) point I was trying to make against figleaf.

          • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

            I don’t feel a need to modify a correct statement simply because it is not how pro-lifers would like the discussion to be framed. The burden would be on them to demonstrate how the baby factory analogy misrepresents their opinion rather than shedding light on how awful it is.

            As you note, we are (potentially) weighing one person’s rights versus another’s. It seems that the circumstances are confused enough that for any pregnancy between implantation and viable birth, you can make at least some cases for abortion being ethical. After that, you’re just arguing over how many such cases there are. The maximal pro-life position is immediately destroyed. The maximal pro-choice position is, you’ll note, still intact.

            Something tips the scales toward the fetus and away from the mother in the minds of pro-life advocates (which, in turn, tends to drive them toward the maximal position). That something is a notion a motherhood as a positive good whether the mother likes it or not. That notion assumes that female moral autonomy is negotiable (i.e. that women are not as human as men are). Thus, the misogyny statement. Sure, I skipped some steps, but the logic is there.

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            1) To say that the mother should be required to carry her child to term is not to imply that *motherhood* is a positive good. It perhaps implies that the child’s life is a positive good, but this is a distinct claim. So there’s problem 1.
            2) The pro-life position only implies that female moral autonomy is negotiable in the sense that it implies that a women who becomes pregnant has a positive moral obligation to carry the child to term, whether she wants to or not. This does not imply that women are not as human as men. So there’s problem 2.
            3) I would rebut your “baby factory” analogy if you’d explained it, or given some supporting argument. You didn’t. I explained why what you said was a gross misrepresentation of the pro-life case – no one things that women have an obligation to make babies, only to carry to term the ones they make. So that’s problem 3.

            So, no. The logic ain’t there.

          • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

            1) I’m not clear as to how that distinction clarifies anything.
            2) It does make women less than men, since only women can be beset by this particular moral obligation and since this supposed moral obligation can be forced upon them. Now you may argue that this is “nature’s” fault, but that wouldn’t change the fact that the pro-life position is founded on the idea that women have less moral autonomy.
            3) At no point did I say that all pro-lifers think women have an obligation to make babies. Some do, but the claim they make is that women have an obligation to carry pregnancies to term. I think you may be hung up on the word “factory” — perhaps thinking I mean a thing which makes multiple babies. If I changed the wording to “baby workshop” would that clarify? It doesn’t matter how many pregnancies pro-lifers want to force a woman to complete, just one is enough. The important part of the analogy is the authoritarian view that a woman’s vagina is a social resource whose use should be regulated by others.

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            OK, I think I’ve said about everythingI have to say on this issue. But, I can’t resist:

            The important part of the analogy is the authoritarian view that a woman’s vagina is a social resource whose use should be regulated by others.

            If you think the pro-life position has anything to do with women’s vaginas, I would strongly suggest you do some remediary reading on female reproductive anatomy.

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            OK, I think I’ve said about everything have to say on this issue. But, I can’t resist:

            The important part of the analogy is the authoritarian view that a woman’s vagina is a social resource whose use should be regulated by others.

            If you think the pro-life position has anything to do with women’s vaginas, I would strongly suggest you do some remediary reading on female reproductive anatomy.

          • http://profiles.google.com/entelechy77 Kurt Horner

            It’s unfortunate that we’ve gotten to the point of snark. I’m getting the impression that you don’t have enough space in a mere comment to fully explain your objection to (some) pro-choice arguments. So, let me just say this:

            I presume that you’re also pro-choice and think that this stance is more compatible with libertarianism than the anti-abortion position. Might I suggest a future post on BHL explaining which arguments for the pro-choice stance you think are strong, and which are flawed? 

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            OK, sorry for the snark. I was getting frustrated with terms like “baby factory” and “misogyny” being used in a way I thought was careless. I’m sure some pro-life people are misogynist. Maybe a lot of them. My point is just that it is relatively easy to come up with a defense of the pro-life position that doesn’t carry any such baggage.

            Consider duty-to-rescue cases as an analogy. If you come across a stranded starving person in a deserted area, and you are the only person in a position to render aid, it seems to me not at all implausible to say that you have an obligation to save them – give them a ride back into town, give them some food and water if you have it, etc. Is that an infringement upon your autonomy? I guess. It’s a positive duty that you have toward another person, one that binds you regardless of whether you want it to or not.

            But does this mean you’re “owned by society”? No. You aren’t owned by society in any way. You have a positive obligation toward a distinct, particular other individual. Society doesn’t enter into it, except perhaps that we might think society has a right to enforce this duty (by, say, punishing you if you fail to perform the rescue.

            Does this turn you into a “rescue factory”? Depends on what you mean by the term, I guess, but it doesn’t strike me as at all a reasonable way to characterize the debate.

            Are we committed to saying that the person who has the obligation to rescue is “less than human”? Absolutely not. *Any* person who found themselves in such a situation would have a positive duty to aid.

            OK, so, that’s an analogy, right? And obviously, pregnancy and carrying babies to term differ in all kinds of ways – the sacrifice involved is greater, the infringement on one’s private bodily space is more severe, etc. I know this. And we could have a long argument about whether and how much these differences matter. I don’t particularly want to have that argument. I just want to make a very, very narrow point – that the pro-life position is not *as* unreasonable, and *as* obviously unlibertarian as you and figleaf were characterizing it to be.

      • Anonymous

        Hi Matt,
        Well, on another [Ron Paul related] subject…How confident are yo0u that Iran is not attempting to develop a nuclear weapon? Assuming you are not supremely confident about a negative answer to this question, how confident are you, that if they develop one, they will not use it, or at least threaten to use it? Finally, how confident are you that, if they are trying to develop one, that sanctions will prevent this? My perception of Paul’s position on this is that, basically, it is none of our business if they develop one, and if they do, it is no big deal. You may regard me, as most libertarians I am sure will, as some sort of dangerous war-monger,  but my own view is that Iran’s devlopment of nuclear weapons and the means to deliver them will have extemely dangerous repurcusions on a global scale, the full extent of which are impossible to completely understand at this moment.

        • http://twitter.com/OhioSFL OhioSFL

          As a Ron Paul supporter I’ve wrestled with this issue too. Paul says Iran does not pose a significant threat to U.S. sovereignty and therefore can’t justify military action. He also contends that even if they could, they wouldn’t want to start a war. He suggests that Iran has good reason to want a nuclear weapon if not just to protect themselves in a world full of them. My interpretation of Dr. Paul’s position is that he wouldn’t hesitate to ask congress for a declaration of war (as the constitution requires) if and only if Iran poses an immanent threat to the United States.

          As far as economic sanctions go… The free market will tell you they are illogical and history will tell you they don’t work. http://www.cato.org/pubs/pas/pa124es.html

          • Anonymous

            Thanks for this. I believe you have correctly summarized Paul’s views. In my opinion they are dangerously misguided and risk a mega-catastrophe. But I suspect that we are going to be unable to bridge this gap using the tools of philosophy, so I suggest we leave this debate for another time.

      • Anonymous

        “We’re always hardest on those who deviate from our position in relatively minor ways!”

        What was the line? The person who agrees with you 0% of the time is a garden-variety enemy; the person who agrees with you 80% of the time is a heretic, and must be destroyed.

        After due consideration, I’m voting for the wookie. My bowcaster is clean, my conscience is clear, everything is shiny, and I aim to misbehave. If I could work The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress in there, I’d have the libertarian hat trick. :)

  • Joshua Herring

    Great post.  Since Ron Paul, even if he is a racist personally (which he might be, for all I know), is extremely unlikely to be elected, is extremely unlikely to pursue racist policies if elected, and extremely unlikely to be successful at pursuing them even if he tries, can libertarians just come out and admit they think his candidacy is a good thing already?

    If he doesn’t win, he’ll at least force the press to admit that the Republicans aren’t for anything like free markets.  And if he does win, he’ll veto a bunch of crap, end all kinds of abuses of executive power and manage to shut down a lot of overseas bases.  What’s not to like?

  • bill woolsey

    Ron Paul has been on network and cable news frequently over the last week.

    You catch bits of his speeches– the issue today is individual liberty.

    The reporters and pundits talk about him all the time.

    The reporters sum up his _libertarian_ message of  liberty, cutting government spending and bringing home the troops.

    His opposition to the drug war is brought up frequently–supposedly why the college students like him, along with his anti-war position.

    I see this, hear this, and a smile just stays on my face.

    It is great!

  • Anonymous

    “it’s easy for Paul supporters to focus on that criticism and assume that
    we don’t support his candidacy. And maybe some of us here don’t (By Matt Zwolinski).”

    Its the rare politician that that is fit to serve this country, and neither RP nor his son are fit. His bigotry is why I worry that
    libertarianism would actually undermine the liberty of many individuals.

    “I wish that … everyone would support Ron Paul (Todd Seavey)”

    I wish that decent libertarians without personal agendas about who should benefit from their politics would run. I am excited to hear that about 32 libertarians so far are running in this next election.  Perhaps several of them would benefit the public. Maybe there will be some posts on them so we can become more familiar with them.

    I am an independent, but I think libertarian philosophy has much to improve what we currently have.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jorge-Emilio-Emrys-Landivar/37403083 Jorge Emilio Emrys Landivar

      And the perfect is the enemy of the good.

  • Anonymous

    On a 

  • JW Ogden

    On the killing of Iraqi and Afghanistan innocents, neocons would argue that more 
    Iraqi and Afghanistan innocents would dies had the USA not invaded.  At least there is an argument there.  

    On the other hand, I do not see how anyone who has looked into it can not vote Ron Paul as long as the war on drugs goes on.  

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-T-Kennedy/1044231338 John T. Kennedy

    “The first is that these activities are, for better or for worse, seen as pretty much normal now.
    We know they happen, and we’ve known they happen for a long time. But
    precisely because they’re normal we tend not to think about them very
    much. When we see new instances of these activities, we’re not
    surprised, and so we don’t pay much attention. And as a result, we don’t
    spend much time thinking about it.”

    This has been a big part of my point all along about how the standard reaction to racism is completely overblown compared to plain vanilla evil. It is absurd to think that RP’s newsletters should have a moral weight in any way comparable to the plain vanilla evil of all of the mainstream candidates.

    I think it’s silly for libertarians to get their panites in a bunch about racism when we all have friends and family members with plain vanilla statist views that accomplish far more evil.  Why is the former beyond the pale but not the latter?

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      I think there’s a big difference between saying that racism is not a big deal, and say that it’s not a big deal compared to mass murder. You sounded like you were saying something closer to the former, but that strikes me as much less plausible than the latter.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-T-Kennedy/1044231338 John T. Kennedy

        What is it you think racism is? Racism in and of itself is an irrational error, harmful to the racist. It tends to diminish in free markets precisely because it is harmful to the racist.  Collective politics encourages all sorts of irrational biases by allowing voters to impose them on others without paying the cost individually.

        Someone who lynches a black for racist reasons commits the crime of murder, not racism. Likewise someone who shoots a man for reasons of financial self interest also commits the crime of murder, not financial self interest.

        Yes, it’s fair to say I don’t think of racism as a big deal in a libertarian context. Murder is a big deal for libertarianism, error isn’t.

        • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

          Yes, I understand this view. I just think it’s a unreasonably narrow way of understanding what racism is and how it works.

  • Peter Jaworski

    I’d like to add one (maybe two) more explanation to your analysis, Matt.

    I think part of why we focus so much on personal character, rather than on policy, is because the former is perceived as more under the control of the person than the policy. The president may really, in his or her heart of hearts, want to do something or other, but there are so many other people involved that it’s not entirely clear who is, ultimately, to blame or to praise. Responsibility is diffused. (I’m not saying I agree with this way of praising or blaming someone — this is just my analysis of what ordinary folks do).

    Also, if the former is true, then maybe what people are looking for is a symbol, rather than someone who represents a set of policy prescriptions. Looking for a team mascot requires different credentials than looking for an offensive or defensive coordinator. And I think a lot of people are looking for a mascot here. 

    That bit added, I want to wholeheartedly agree with you. No question expressions of vile opinions should be frowned upon, but I’d rather a creationist, say, with a libertarian agenda, than someone who agrees with me on all issues when they say things publicly, but whose actions on policy perpetuate the war on drugs, wars abroad, and so on.

    On our side, we seem to be looking for a mascot to represent the libertarian movement. Ron Paul does not look so good as a mascot. But we really should focus on the policy plans and prescriptions. If we did that, I think more people would warm up to Ron Paul…

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      True, Peter. Thanks. Though it’s worth noting that the one area where the president *does* seem to have a great deal of practical influence – especially, unfortunately, in the last thirty years – is foreign policy. And that’s one of the areas where Paul is at his best.

  • http://twitter.com/waterisbest Maxim Wexler

    Stop the wars. Good idea. But what about the private investor who loves war? If the market is so damn free, what’s to stop him?

    • Degrees of Freedom

      Nothing stops the private investor, but people are orders of magnitude
      more willing to engage in war when they can force other to pay for it.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

        Especially when many of those people aren’t voters or not even alive yet. Putting the latest wars on the national credit card was a new wrinkle on immorality.

  • James Thomas Moon

    The only man that has always legally voted for honest minimal government and equal treatment under the law for ALL individuals.  And people say “well, he’s good … but that whole racist thing.  I’m not sure I can trust him as President.”

    Are you afraid he’s going to go back on his entire lifetime of writings, books, lectures, legal actions?  Because of the dumbass op-eds of a ghost-writer from 20 years ago?  

    Rude, racist comments in some overpriced newsletters compared with the gravity of war, murder, incarceration, theft, lying, and other mega-criminal behavior from the current and past Presidents.  And Ron IS THE ONLY PERSON with the courage AND the know-how to make it to a national platform and intelligently talk about this.

    But God!  I just know he’s some nutty racist old white guy!

    FFS!

  • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

    “Ron Paul makes progressives uncomfortable, because he stands unequivocally for a lot of the things progressives are supposed to stand for: […]”

    I would submit, Mr. Zwolinski, that your analysis of progressives is incorrect, given the self-described progressives that I have spoken to. While many of them do like the positions that Representative Paul has taken that you ennumerate, he makes them uncomfortable because, in effect, they believe that he is, to coin a term, a “Darwinist anarcho-capitalist,” and his agenda is to dismantle the welfare state specifically to create a society where the disadvantaged have nothing to protect them from being forced into disadvantageous agreements for the benefit “better” (a.k.a. wealthier) people. They’re fine with his stances on the wars and whatnot. It’s the rest of his platform that makes them uncomfortable, not the idea that he beats them at their own game.

    When I mention to them the idea that Representative Paul and other Libertarians claim that through free markets, that people at the bottom of the socio-economic ladder will benefit, the response is swift and sure – “Smokescreen.” In effect, many progressives think that Paul and his ilk are engaged in a deliberate bait-and-switch that promises greater equality, while actually delivering serfdom to not only the poor, but to the middle class.

    While many progressives that I have spoken to are disappointed (or even feel actively betrayed) by President Obama, many of them seem to feel this way because they’ve vastly over-estimated the ability of the President to impose his will on Congress. In other words, they effectively expect President Obama to be a dictator in all but name, and are upset at the compromises that he has made to deal with Congress. (For that matter, I suspect that if Representative Paul is elected to the presidency, his supporters will be just as disappointed with his inability to legislate from the Oval Office.)

    • Anonymous

      Well said!  

      The newsletters are not irrelevant to this view. The willingness to throw black Americans “under the bus” shown in the newsletters confirms my suspicion that Paul’s libertarianism is a smokescreen for a return to systemic racial discrimination–that and his fondness for the “league of the South.” 

      • Damien S.

         Also gays.  “Homosexuals were better off in the closet”, intimation that AIDS is a government-homosexual conspiracy, etc.

        But as for liberals/progressives… I’m disappointed or even appalled not because I thought he’d be a dictator, but because most of the good stuff out of his term has been what Congress does, while where he has executive discretion he’s been very conservative and authoritarian.  And yeah, there are fronts where Paul has a big morality advantage, and the newsletters are a distraction — then again, I think libertarians or proto-libertarians may care about them more than liberals do, precisely because we have bigger beefs.

        Because while the establishment status quo kills people, the liberal view of the libertarian platform is that it would also kill people.  I see Paul’s positions leading not to economic boom but to depression and unemployment, also pollution and corporate malfeasance, and destruction of what government health and safety nets we have.  It’s not “drug war and Libya vs. newsletters”, it’s “drug war and Libya vs. loss of health care and rising stress and suicide rates”.  So while there could be virtues in a Paul presidency, it’s hardly a clear case even on the lives front.

        Also, even if he pardoned every federal drug convict, the states would still mostly continue drug war persecution and civil forfeiture and such, so it’s not like he’s a magic cure even there.  And Congress can keep bases open.

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      So is the Progressive view that Paul really wouldn’t be better than, say, Obama on issues they care about like foreign policy and the drug war? Or is it that he might be better on these issues, but that his views on the social safety net, environmental regulation etc. are so bad as to outweigh these goods?

      Neither of these views strikes me as very tenable, though I suppose the latter is at least arguable.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Jorge-Emilio-Emrys-Landivar/37403083 Jorge Emilio Emrys Landivar

        Considering modern “progressives” are really just a takings coalition…  

        They claim that unjust war is murder but are more ok with what they consider murder than their takings coalition being dismantled.

      • Damien S.

        I think Paul would very likely be better on the drug war, and possibly be better on foreign policy.  (Likely be better on the bombs front, but worse on the global warming front.)  I also recognize that Obama was an anti-war candidate until he became president, and that the power of an ideal President to change these things is limited; as I said, Paul simply cannot End the War on Some Drugs.  A Paul presidency would be more significant if it were an outgrowth of anti-drug war sentiment; a miraculous election of just him only goes so far.

        One reaction to his mass-pardoning drug war prisoners might be amending the constitution to remove the power of pardon.

        As for the rest, well, his power to be a complete disaster is also somewhat limited, but yes, I think it’s very likely he could be a net loss.  Reagan and Bush have showed us how thoroughly a President can sabotage or subvert the regulatory process.  And if he got his way in all things I think it’d be an economic and environmental and health disaster.

      • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

        The latter. But not so much Representative Paul, but Libertarians in general. In other words, the strong (perceived and real) Libertarian association with the political Right fosters a level of distrust that Paul would actually follow through on the policies that progressives find appealing (in the same way, and likely for the same reasons {namely Congress} that President Obama didn’t). But they’re convinced that a Paul Presidency at the head of a Republican Congress would start am immediate pogrom against the social safety net, regulation of business in general, civil rights and so on.

        And they are likely right. Not because Representative Paul is working to attempt a bait-and-switch, but because there isn’t a large enough Libertarian caucus in Congress to get past mainline republican opposition to Representative Paul’s stances on foreign policy, the war on terror and drug policy. (And there is no sign that his becoming President would change that.) Yet a Republican-held Congress would gladly seek to rein in any ability of a Democratic minority to thwart them, in the name of “reducing the power of government” and then have a field day drafting bill after bill to trash the other policies that progressives hold dear. And they suspect that a President Paul, like President Obama, wouldn’t or couldn’t do much to force Congress to enact the other policies that he supports. And how would he do it? By threatening to veto the dismanting of the EPA unless the DEA is also included? Good luck with that. Representative Paul would be signing his own political death warrant if he tried.

        Progressives found out the hard way that a single savior, installed in the White House, doesn’t do you much good without a good party organization backing them up. I’m impressed that many Libertarian supporters of Ron Paul haven’t learned this lesson. But put him in the White House with the current crop of libertarian-when-it-suits-them-but-statist-when-it-doesn’t Republican Representatives and Senators, and they’ll find out soon enough.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

        I think in contemplating a Ron Paul presidency — at least this time around — you have to consider the totality of the political environment that would imply. Successful Presidential candidates have coat-tails. A lot of people vote straight-ticket and so they end up dragging a lot of down-ballot candidates along with them.

        Ron Paul isn’t running as a Libertarian; he’s running as a Republican. Those down-ballot candidates are going to be Republicans, not Libertarians. And Tea-Party (gag!) Republicans at that.

        A Ron Paul as President implies a (largely TP) Republican Congress and we already have a right-wing Supreme Court.

        Is RP going to shut down the drug war and curtail the carceral state? Not with that kind of Congress. Is RP going to drastically cut back the military? Not with that kind of Congress. Sure, he has a veto pen, but they have the over-ride vote too.

        On the other hand, can he drastically cut back the welfare state? Oh, boy, can he ever! Can he restrict women’s right to choose? With the stroke of a pen! He might even be able to drag our monetary system back to the 18th century and usher in the mother of all Great Depressions!

        In short, anything that RP advocates that I can get behind is precisely that which he will be unable to do. And anything he advocates that I don’t want is precisely that which he WILL be able to accomplish.

        It would be a fucking disaster from a Progressive view.

    • http://twitter.com/cheesechoker Angus MacAskill

      While many progressives that I have spoken to
      are disappointed (or even feel actively betrayed) by President Obama,
      many of them seem to feel this way because they’ve vastly over-estimated
      the ability of the President to impose his will on Congress. In other
      words, they effectively expect President Obama to be a dictator in all
      but name, and are upset at the compromises that he has made to deal with
      Congress. (For that matter, I suspect that if Representative Paul is
      elected to the presidency, his supporters will be just as disappointed
      with his inability to legislate from the Oval Office.)

      I would argue that many of the worst abuses in the last few years have
      been on issues that fall under executive jurisdiction: NSA wiretapping
      without warrants, CIA black sites, a drone assassination program that
      operates at the President’s behest, torture-by-any-other-name,
      undeclared de facto wars in many countries, Treasury-engineered
      bailouts, etc.

      At one time, Democrats understood the President’s role in all this. And
      that time was five years ago, when George W. Bush was doing it.

      The Executive’s mode of operation over the past decade has been to
      boldly stake out a radical extensions of its own power, which are later
      shored up and made official by an acquiescent congress and judiciary.
      Obama has continued this practice so fluidly that his record here is
      almost indistinguishable from his predecessor’s.

      So the honest progressive’s beef with Obama should not be about his
      powerlessness to impose his virtuous agenda on congress, but rather his
      active complicity in advancing a nefarious agenda.
      He’s not trying to drag a recalcitrant congress in the right direction,
      he’s pushing as hard as he can in the wrong direction.

      I understand the human desire to rationalize away bad behaviour on the
      part of one’s in-group and all that, but for heaven’s sake, when will
      people realize that Barack Obama is doing exactly what he means to?

      And no, a hypothetical Ron Paul presidency couldn’t legislate from the
      White House, but it could at least neuter some of the most
      out-of-control arms of the executive branch. Browbeating the DEA into
      dormancy and ceasing the presidential assassination program alone would
      be significant improvements, more than enough to prefer Paul to all the
      other candidates on offer.

      • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

        You beat me to it. Well said.

        • Anonymous

          Matt, How does all of this fit with the descriptive story told by Posner and Vermeuel’s *The Executive Unbound*?  The executive branch has continually sought, due to institutional incentives, to concentrate power.  To say that RP cant “legislate from the White House” is both true and misleading.  It is true because he cannot literally pass laws himself.  It is misleading because it covers over the amount of influence a president can have in agency head appointments, agency law-making, etc.  So I wonder if an RP administration would either (1) resist the trend towards the imperial presidency, (2) maintain the status quo (gradually concentrating powers in the executive branch under the rubric of executive authority), or (3) positively *increase* the concentration of powers due to his contrarianism and likely push back from a hostile Congress (imagine what GOP Reps will be saying when the president RP tries to pardon non-violent drug offenders).

      • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron


        Browbeating the DEA into dormancy and ceasing the presidential assassination program alone would be significant improvements, more than enough to prefer Paul to all the 

        other candidates on offer. 
        Yes. They would be significant improvements. But – do you think that you could make the point that a) Paul would actually follow through on them in the face of Congressional disapproval and law enforcement and defense hawks scare-mongering the public into thinking that their lives were being put at risk (personally, I think that a hypothetical Paul presidency could stand up to this better than the Obama Administration) and b) it would be worth the end of the social safety net, civil rights legislation, environmental regulations and the like?

        I understand that as Libertarians, there’s little love for the latter considerations. Which makes sense, given the overall lack of concern that Libertarians have for issues of inequality and negative externalities. But for Progressives, they’re very important, and the ones that I have spoken to are generally of the opinion that promises of ending the war on drugs and the war on terror will fall by the wayside when the chance to gut the EPA and force people to place their retirement savings on the stock market comes up.

        Also, as has been pointed out, Representative Paul is running for the Republican nomination for President. If progressives are upset because they feel that the Obama Administration is shaping up to be years 9 through 12 of a conservative and authoritarian Bush administration, many are just as convinced that Paul wouldn’t be any better. And before you point to his record of rhetorical consistency that demonstrates otherwise, everyone else that’s held the office has talked a good game, too.

        I myself am unconvinced that a hypothetical Paul presidency would be a disaster, from a social justice point of view, but I suspect that most progressives would find it highly distressing. If you think you have something to help me convince them otherwise, I’d love to hear it.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-T-Kennedy/1044231338 John T. Kennedy

      ‘While many progressives that I have spoken to are disappointed (or even feel actively betrayed) by President Obama, many of them seem to feel this way because they’ve vastly
      over-estimated the ability of the President to impose his will on
      Congress. In other words, they effectively expect President Obama to be a
      dictator in all but name, and are upset at the compromises that he has
      made to deal with Congress. (For that matter, I suspect that if
      Representative Paul is elected to the presidency, his supporters will be
      just as disappointed with his inability to legislate from the Oval
      Office.)”

      Perhaps, but Paul is promising to not legislate, and to curtail the power of the presidency. He can nevertheless have a dramatic effect on the country even without cooperation form Congress simply by rescinding executive orders, bringing troops home, and vetoing bills.

      • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

        But would that really meet expectations? Supporters of Ron Paul might be happy with him doing the things that he could do without needing congressional approval, but if part of Greenwald’s point is that Progressives should be looking to Paul rather to Obama (and should basically flip their priorities rather than make a Faustian bargain) would one expect them to be satisfied with a Paul administration that would theoretically work with Congress on severe cuts Social Security, Medicare and other entitlement programs, the scaling back, if not elimination, of the Education and Energy Departments, weakened environmental regulations, lessened health care coverage, abandonment of reproductive rights for women, weaker enforcement of civil rights for America’s minorities and a more conservative Supreme Court?

        Just to get what Paul could enact via executive order? That seems like a very one-sided trade. If you’re going to call on Progressives to support Paul, wouldn’t you have to credibly offer something more substantial?

  • http://twitter.com/ImplodeOMeter ImplodeOMeter

    What Paul is being criticized for is not, in fact “his” bigotry, or anything close to it.  It is, at best, managerial neglect, which he has apologized for (any who think he is being “evasive” about this need to read his 2008 statement, which should have put this all to bed, but obviously what is going on here are fearmongering and scare tactics).

    As has been popularized in a recent video testimonial, Ron Paul is the kind of guy who was the only doctor around in the early 1970s who would deliver the baby of a multiracial couple when no one else would, even with the woman in serious medical risk.  And not send them a bill, either.  How that could be a racist or “bigoted” person is beyond me.

    As far as “newslettergate” goes, try flipping it around.  Someone else clearly wrote the words that have gotten Ron Paul in hot water, but he hasn’t “outed” them.   He has, in fact, taken responsibility, not for writing the words (which would not be true), but lending his name to a publication that contained them, even unbeknownst to him.

    Let’s get over this.  Romney is a job-killing, Obamacare compatriot, bailout queen; Santorum has ranked in the annals of congressional corruption (and truly IS a bigot); Newt is… well, where to start?  

    If you don’t like Ron Paul on foreign policy, or you love the Fed or whatever, let’s hear it.  But enough of this newsletter nonsense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-T-Kennedy/1044231338 John T. Kennedy

      “As far as “newslettergate” goes, try flipping it around.  Someone else
      clearly wrote the words that have gotten Ron Paul in hot water, but he
      hasn’t “outed” them.   He has, in fact, taken responsibility, not for
      writing the words (which would not be true), but lending his name to a
      publication that contained them, even unbeknownst to him.”

      A few clarifications: The first time the issue of the newsletters came up in the ’90s he did in fact take full responsibility for writing those words. He was lying then or he’s lying now. I’m satisfied he was lying then.

      Second, he wasn’t lending his name to a publication. He published it for his own profit presumably personally hiring the editor, if not the writer.

      Paul is very likely being evasive about who was responsible for those letters being in his newsletter because he remains close with that person: Lew Rockwell. So while most thinking people agree Paul is not himself much of a racist, he remains closely affiliated with the guy who probably did intentionally publish the offending material. That would be politically damaging if demonstrated true.

  • bill woolsey

    Ron Paul came and spoke at a fundraiser for the South Carolina Libertarian Party about 10 years ago.   He was paid.    However, as part of the visit, he came and spoke to a campus libertarian club.  (This was something he wanted to do.)    I was the faculty advisor.   He was asked whether he would run for President again.   He said no.   He said that Gary Johnson (who was perhaps still governor then,) or Mark Sanford (we were in his Congressional District) would be good choices. 

    In 2007 (much later,) I was an early supporter of “Draft Ron Paul.”   While I wasn’t personally involved in selling Paul on the idea, my understanding at the time was that it was a very hard sale.   The campaign got a very late start.   It is my understanding that he became involved in the campaign because of the opportunity to spread the liberty message, especially to young people.    But it wasn’t his idea, he had people talking him into running for President.  

    It is my understanding that Paul has not spent the last 4 years planning on running for President again.   At least the Johnson people expected that he wouldn’t run.  (Or so they told me.   I thought Johnson was a better candidate, but for it to work out, he needed Paul’s strong endorsement, not Paul running against him.)

    Just yesterday (or Monday,?) he was asked by a reporter whether or not he could imagine himself in the Oval Office.   He said not really.   He did say something like “it might happen.”   He joked that this would be something he would have to suffer.  

    I mention all of this because too many people, and especially nonlibertarians, seem unable to grasp the reality   that Paul is not primarily driven to be President.   His primary goal is to educate people on a libertarian message.  

    Anyway, I don’t believe that Ron Paul sat at a table with guys like Rothbard and Rockwell, and planned out a strategy to build support for his personal ambition.   It is rather that he allowed them to use his name (as former Congressman and Libertarian Presidential candidate) to pursue their strategies for individual liberty.    I am sure that they described these strategies in a way that Paul found acceptable.   I find it completely credible that all of the details were left to them.  

    Now, if you think of this in the context of a plan to win any public office, much less the Presidency, such a hands-off attitude is unbelievible.    If, on the other hand, you think of these as strategies that might marginally increase the number of libertarians, or make some people somewhat more libertarian, and that this is really the best that can be hoped for..it  is credible.    

    I think the 2008 campaign when much better than Paul’s wildest dreams.   And the same is true today.

    Personally, I didn’t pay much attention to what Ron Paul was doing between 1989 and 1996, or really until 2008.     Like I said, I saw him speak about 10 years ago, sat with him at the head table, and also met with him with a small group of students.     The idea of having a small government, anti-Iraq war candidate in the Republican primary in 2008 seemed great to me.

    On the other hand, I did know something about what Rothbard was doing and even a little about Rockwell.   I certainly didn’t approve of  their “paleo” turn.    Obviously, Paul did.   Ron Paul endorsed Pat Buchanan for President!  Yikes. 

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  • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

    “…is clearly distinguished in the public eye from the racist
    and paranoid filth Paul allowed to be published under his name.”

    No, it wasn’t “published in his name.”  He didn’t “allow it to be published.”  Someone else might have written it. But he published
    it.
      He was the publisher.  It was his choice to do so.  Sort of by-definition that’s what publishers do!  And
    he chose to publish unabashedly racist filth.  No “allowed.”  No “under his name.”

    Libertarians of all people should understand the meaning of “the cossacks work for the Czar!”

    But even if you’re willing to pretend Paul had only monetary interest and zero intellectual interest in the filth he published you still can’t let him off the “in his name only” hook.

    More recently he’s shoveled the same kind of filth with his own mouth
    when he said that women subjected to sexual harassment should have
    exactly two choices a) to disrupt their lives and careers by quitting,
    or else b) keeping Vaseline in their purses for next time.  (Heaven
    forfend that the harassee or anyone else might instead inconvenience the
    harasser — that would be encroaching on the blameless
    harasser’s freedom.)

    Now once again here’s the deal about that.  It’s fine for you to say “well, that’s just Ron Paul’s personal quirks.”  Except for Presidents another word for “quirk” is “the policy of the Executive branch.”
    figleaf

    • bill woolsey

      Do you have a citation  for “b) keep Vaseline in their purses…?”

      I don’t think he said (or wrote) anything of the sort. 

      He did say that he didn’t think there should be Federal laws about this sort of thing, and that people who believe they are being sexually harassed, should quit.    He also said something about sexual assault already being illegal.

      Generally, with Paul, state laws could be used to regulate sexual harrassment and the Federal government should not have any power to prevent this or require it.   But, he almost certainly would oppose such regulation and instead believe that the matter should be one for private contract.   Firms could have or not have policies restricting sexual harrassment and if they were in the form of a contract, such rules would be enforceable as such.  

      Generally, are core view of left-liberalism is that jobs are scarce and that good jobs should be distributed fairly.   Most libertarians, and Paul would probably agree, believe that labor is scarce, and if workers prefer working environments that prohibit sexual harrassment, then firms will provide it because they can get better workers at lower cost.

      Unfortunately, you are unable to distinguish between Paul’s policy views, and the sort of gratuitous
      racist language that Paul doesn’t approve.

      There is a video of Paul talking about his newsletters.   He says they are about inflation and gold investing or something.   He has “clarified” that he did write some of the material–about the economics.   

      I sometimes wonder if the “progressive” critics count that as part of the “filth.”  Yikes, Paul supports the gold standard.  

      How about this crazy conspiracy theory?   The Federal Reserve creates money out of thin air and causes inflation!  Wow.  Can you believe that Ron Paul actually believes that the reason why gasoline prices, and grocery prices, and on and on go up and up is because a government agency–the Federal Reserve–is creating money out of thin air?

      • http://www.realadultsex.com figleaf

        “Generally, with Paul, state laws could be used…”

        I rest my case.

        figleaf

      • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

        “Most libertarians, and Paul would probably agree, believe that labor is scarce, and if workers prefer working environments that prohibit sexual harrassment, then firms will provide it because they can get better workers at lower cost.”

        How does that square the oft-repeated statistic that there are multiple job seekers for every current job opening – I think the ratio is just north of 4 : 1 at this point? A lot ot Libertarian labor philosophy seems to rest on the ideas that labor is scarce and human demand is infinite; so that “middle class” jobs are available for the asking, and would continue to be so, even if a nation imported poverty by allowing unlimited immigration.

        And I think that this speaks to one of the problems that Representative Paul (and Libertarians in general) has amoung non-Libertarians. Since no-one ever attempts to discredit the statistics, the belief that labor is scarce seems to fly in the face of reality, and this lends itself to a suspicion that he’s simply attempting to undermine labor.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

          “How does that square the oft-repeated statistic that there are multiple
          job seekers for every current job opening – I think the ratio is just
          north of 4 : 1 at this point? A lot ot Libertarian labor philosophy
          seems to rest on the ideas that labor is scarce and human demand is
          infinite; so that “middle class” jobs are available for the asking, and
          would continue to be so, even if a nation imported poverty by allowing
          unlimited immigration.”

          The praxeological conclusion of Austrian Economic theory leads to this inevitable conclusion. It matters not one bit what one might actually observe. Theory trumps reality.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=19002050 Jameson Graber

    Great post, Matt. Ultimately democracy is always about choosing the least of several evils, but I’m grateful to have an option much closer to my ideal than usual.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

    I’d like to amplify a bit on why I, a progressive liberal, cannot support Ron Paul, or for that matter, any current libertarian for President or major elective office. It’s also why I’m generally skeptical of libertarians in general. It comes with a bit of a story, so bear with me.

    About 30 years ago I was arrested and thrown in a cage for the possession of a plant that grows wild around here (and most places).  I found that to be a rather unpleasant and pointless experience. I would like for it to not happen again, neither to me nor anyone else.

    Fast-forward to the early ’90s. I discovered the Libertarian Party. I was initially impressed because they were the only national political party openly calling for the complete legalization of recreational substances. I dove in headfirst, reading and participating in the fledgling online fora of the day (AOL). It didn’t take long to notice a curious trend. Every time an election season would roll around they would engage in a debate, the substance of which went like this: “Is it better to support the LP candidate, who surely has no chance of winning, or hold your nose and vote for the Republican?” Inevitably, some would vote LP, some would not vote at all, and some would vote Repugnican. But never, never, never, was the option of voting for a Democrat even on the table.

    Keep in mind, my primary motivation for joining with the libertarians was the drug war. I also wasn’t crazy about the increasing militarization starting with the Reagan administration. In fact, Reagan represented all that was wrong in politics to me. He was pumping up the military, ramping up the drug war, supporting all these “tough on crime” initiatives. Some really awful stuff.

    A recurrent theme in off-election years was that Dems and Reps were just Tweedle-dum and Tweedle-dee; not a dimes worth of difference; two sides of the same coin, etc. So tell me… why is every self-professed libertarian politician registered as a Republican? Why was the election year debate ALWAYS between voting LP, GOP, or not at all?

    You do realize there is actually a caucus in Congress, a coterie of congress-critters that have consistently opposed the wars and killing (maybe not Afghanistan initially…), that have consistently opposed the expansion of the carceral state, that have consistently opposed attacks on our civil liberties. It’s a progressive caucus of DEMOCRATS. NOT Republicans… liberal DEMOCRATS!

    You see… here’s the thing.  My introduction to this site was a Facebook link that someone of my FB friends posted linking to a blog post that basically blamed liberals for the mess we’re in. I guess because we’re not libertarians or something. But I can’t help thinking… maybe if libertarians hadn’t been so single-mindedly focused on your taxes rising infinitesimally to pay for a school lunch program or a hip replacement for Grandma, if you hadn’t been so obsessed with the idea of paying taxes to at least do GOOD things for people… maybe we wouldn’t have some of the really serious problems we face right now.

    If at any time in the past 30 years you supported a Republican over a Democrat because you couldn’t stand paying taxes for social programs, you ended up voting for the Drug War. You voted for the exponential expansion of the military. You voted for Wall Street running and ruining our economy. You voted for wars and “enhanced interrogation” and the Patriot Act. These were ALL Republican initiatives and we could have really used your help. But you were too busy counting your pennies.

    Now you want us to support YOUR candidate? Really?

    Ever hear of something called “priorities”? Well, I know what Ron Paul’s priorities are and I have a good idea what yours are, too. Prove me wrong.

    • Anonymous

      Rod, some of us who value liberty were suckered into thinking the the republicans actually stood for free markets and less intrusive government. I know it sounds stupid now, but 15 years ago that’s what I thought. Silly me.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

        I appreciate that but it doesn’t really change anything. In fact, it just proves my point.

        From day one, not five years ago, not ten, or 20, or even 30; but for as long as I can remember there have been very real policy differences between Republicans and Democrats. Not EVERY Republican and not EVERY Democrat; but in general, on average, there have been real differences. And those differences have generally fallen along the lines of Democrats for more civil liberties and Republicans for more economic liberties, at least in the way libertarians define “economic liberty” (which isn’t necessarily congruent with the way we see it). It simply isn’t true that there isn’t a “dimes worth of difference” between the parties.

        And you guys very deliberately and consistently chose the one over the other. NOW, I’ll be listening to some call-in radio show on Sirius Left and hear some gushing RP supporter who just can’t understand why we don’t join the parade. “After all, Paul wants to end the drug war and scale back the military and… and… well, don’t you want that, too? ”

        Sorry. Too little, too late.

        • Anonymous

          I am 30 years old and have not voted.  I favored Obama in the last election over McCain but did not vote (I live in NYC, the lines are long, and expressive voting for the least worst candidate is not valuable to me).  I am a small L libertarian.  Your arguments are fallacious

        • Anonymous

          Yes, Coke tastes very different from Pepsi.

        • Anonymous

          I don’t care that you like soy milk! What is your favored acidic cola-and-HFCS carbonated beverage??!!?

    • James Thomas Moon

      @facebook-822499328:disqus 
      Wow.  That’s a really good point that’s so obvious after I read it.As a libertarian, why do I backslide for Republicans instead of Democrats?  Generally, when I’m looking at my WA State Voter’s Pamphlet, I do read every candidates’ proposal without regard for party.  But yet, I tend to be more supportive of Republicans than Democrats.
      You provoke a good self analysis.

      hmm… However, a counterpoint, if I may. 
      Democrats are also supportive of Wars, police state, and various forms of small-time authoritarianism (at least, Barrack Obama is… and many Federal Representatives).  Also, most Democrats do not favor drug legalization.  
      There are a few Federal Democrats I like (as much as I can like that person), Dennis Kucinich is at the top of that list. 

      To add the @shemsky:disqus  point
      some of us who value liberty were suckered into … republicans
      I’d say the same about Democrats if I had such a history.
      That is, had I been backsliding into Democrats in the face of no Libertarians, I’d say
      Some of us who value a peaceful foreign policy, liberal civil liberties and equality, unburdening the poor, etc… were suckered into the Democrats.

      The other obvious thing to me, Republicans speak better about limited government.  Democrats do not speak at all about limiting/reducing government.  It’s antithesis to their platform.  So I agree with @shemsky:disqus , it’s easier to default to Republicans.
      Also, Republicans do have a better history with limited government (check out “Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement”).

      I’m not trying to only disagree.  You propose a good question and point, “Why do most Libertarians have Republicans as the automatic runner-up?  But it’s Democrats that should be considered the lesser of evils amongst the general Republican vs. Democrat.”.    

      • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

        I think that everyone has their “top tier” priorities, versus their second tier issues. The “stereotypical” libertarian seems to be perfectly willing to allow governments to interfere in (other) people’s bedrooms, as long as they lack the power, scope and resources to interfere in boardrooms.

        And when Libertarians do promote goals they share with the left, they do so quietly. The Cato Institute has come out in favor of legalizing marijuana – but good luck finding that on their web site in under 10 minutes, whereas the idea that taxes can be lowered without anyone seeing any negative effects is often front and center.

        Which is what struck me when I read Greenwald’s peice. Progressives don’t have a lock on making Faustian bargains, where they sell out their lesser priorities in favor of their primary goals, and then being in denial about it. I wasn’t sure why they were the only ones being called out on it. Conservatives were more then willing to give President Bush every (borrowed) dollar that he asked for to invade and then attempt to remake Afghanistan and Iraq. Wasn’t that just as much throwing some precepts under the bus to boost others?

        • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

          when Libertarians do promote goals they share with the left, they do so quietly.

          Sorry, Aaron, but I think you’re sadly mistaken about this. First of all, let’s take a look at the front page of the Cato website as of right now. Without even scrolling down, here’s the issues I see them addressing:
          1) No Child Left Behind (against)
          2) Increased defense spending (against)
          3) VAT (against)
          4) Santorum (against)
          5) Campagain Finance Reform (against)

          Aren’t at least 1,2, and 4 issues where Cato is on the side of the left, broadly speaking?

          Do you read Reason Magazine? It is, I suspect, the largest circulation libertarian magazine on the planet. Right now on their hit and run blog, the top story is about individuals killed in a Utah drug raid. This is not atypical. The second story is about raw milk and marijuana, the third about corporatism, the fourth about a gas tax, and the fifth about the abuse of executive power (criticizing both Obama and John Yoo).

          So, the bad news is that your claim appears to be unfounded. The good news is, well, you should be happy about this, right?

          • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

            That’s not quite the point that I was making. When we talk about certain policies that Libertarians and the Left tend to agree on, like ending the war on drugs or government staying out of bedrooms, those topics aren’t often high on Cato’s agenda, even though they can be found there.

            It’s not that they aren’t there – it’s just that I think in aggregate, Cato and Reason tend to concentrate more on those items that their more right leaning readership tend to favor.

            Which makes sense – Most of the lefties I know don’t read either Cato or Reason, so the publications don’t cater to them, which is why they’re often surprised when I show them articles that jive with their views. Again, I’m not saying they aren’t there, just that it often takes some looking to find them.

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            Hmm. Well, I can’t say much about Cato as I don’t follow their work all that closely. But I read Reason’s blog every day, and subscribe to their magazine. And I’m really surprised that you’ve come away with this impression. Do you read Hit and Run regularly? If not, try it for a week or so. They really focus a *lot* on issues of militarism, corporatism, and the drug war – areas where the libertarian/progressive overlap is strongest. And it’s hard to walk away with the impression that they’re just pandering. If you follow the work of someone like, say, Radley Balko for any length of time, it’s pretty clear that he’s passionate about this stuff.
            Anyway, just my two cents.

          • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

            Well, I don’t normally read Reason’s blog, so I’m really speaking more to their home page. Now, I do know a lot of people who really like Radley Balko, but more to my original point, many of the people I know on the political left tend to think of Reason and Cato as right-leaning, and I see where they get the opinion from.

            Do you have left-leaning friends that you talk to? Do they consider that Cato and Reason (again, the base magazine, not necessarily the blogs) are in line with their priorities on a regular basis?

            Like I said, it’s not hard to find articles that appeal to the left – using the search function is easy, and the articles are there. But one does have to do a little searching sometimes.

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            Dude, I’m a philosophy professor. I’ve got almost *nothing but* friends on the left. :-)

            Anyways, read the Hit and Run blog for a while. See what you think. I think you might be surprised.

          • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

            FWIW, I think your impression might have been more valid about ten years ago. But my sense is that the libertarian movement has changed, for the better, since then.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

            That’s nice but your Republican allies do not and have never listened to you on those issues.

            And yet, Ron and Rand Paul caucus with Republicans.

        • Damien S.

          Hmm.  If the Democrats became dominated by their liberals rather than their conservatives or big business moderates, and credibly would end the drug war. our actual wars, support for dictatorships, and the death penalty, but would also raise top tax rates to 1960 levels or 70% and extend Medicare to all while pursuing full employment through New Deal government jobs programs, how many libertarians would vote for them?

          • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

            Likely not many. But I also don’t hear many people saying that Libertarians should be voting for Progressive candidates.

          • http://aaronmclin.blogspot.com/ Aaron

            Likely not many. But I also don’t hear many people saying that Libertarians should be voting for Progressive candidates.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

        There are a number of issues here and since I’m not sure what order to address them, just let me throw out a few thoughts…

        First, I’m not anything like a committed partisan. “Democrat” is not synonymous with liberal, and at one time a similar statement could be made vis-a-vis  the labels “Republican” and “conservative”. But anything like a liberal has been purged from the Republican ranks and moderates are rare. It wasn’t always so; the general political climate in the U.S. has drifted — been pushed, actually — so far to the right over the last three decades that the mainstream discussion is entirely contained along the spectrum of center-right to crazy nut-bar right. In fact, Republicans are practically useless in a political debate; the only actual conversation between conservatives and liberals in contained entirely within the Democratic party.

        So when you point out that “Democrats are also supportive of Wars, police state, and various forms
        of small-time authoritarianism (at least, Barrack Obama is… and many
        Federal Representatives).  Also, most Democrats do not favor drug
        legalization ” that’s largely a reflection of the general right-ward shift in the political climate. Simply put, being labeled anti-war (translation: non-supportive of the “troops”), “soft on crime”, and pro- drug legalization (“translation: doesn’t care about your children), makes it almost impossible to get elected in most districts. Think of it as a kind of Darwinian process of political selection. And the Pauls? They only make it past the doorman because they make noises that appeal to the Christian Right regarding abortion and taxes.

        Aaron’s post, below, nails it regarding priorities. I trust everyone here is familiar with the Nolan chart that maps political philosophies in a two-dimensional space along the orthogonal axes of economic liberty and civil liberty. The libertarians here are constantly excoriating liberals to accept the premise that economic liberty is as important as the civil liberties. But is that really true?

        We currently have something like 3,000,000 federal and state prisoners, largely as a result of drug warriors and “get tough on crime” conservatives (from both parties). How many person-years behind bars does this represent? How many have died? Not just “junkies”, but otherwise productive citizens who just like to relax at the end of a day with a joint instead of a beer? How many cops who could otherwise have been spending their time pursuing actual criminals? How many bystanders caught in the cross-fire?

        Was that really worth lower taxes for the wealthiest among us and lower tariffs for the transnationals to import junk and export jobs? Is paying a tax really the anti-liberty equivalent of being locked in a cage or shot dead on the street? I know which I would choose,  but I suppose your mileage may differ. Inexplicably, but I’ll grant the possibility.

        “The other obvious thing to me, Republicans *speak* better about limited
        government.  Democrats *do not speak at all* about limiting/reducing
        government.  It’s antithesis to their platform.  So I agree with   , it’s easier to default to Republicans.
        Also,
        Republicans do have a better history with limited government (check out
        “Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative
        Movement”).”

        Sure, Republicans *speak* better about limited government, but do they actually *govern* in a more limited fashion? Maybe at one time, a LONG time ago, but not in my lifetime. I mean… do you fall for all advertising that easily?

        But you’re right, liberals don’t often speak of smaller or more limited government. For one thing, “limited government” has become — as part of the political “red-shift” — code for lower taxes and social service cuts. I get it that libertarians like that sort of thing but surely you can grok why it doesn’t do much for us. And, more pointedly, it ISN’T code for empty prisons and reduced defense spending. However, the more fundamental reason, I believe, is that we don’t see “good” government as being synonymous with “small” government. Which is worse? A government that taxes at say, 20% of income, and then provides education, health care, and retirement pension? Or a government that taxes much less while doing little but imprisoning, killing, and generally terrorizing its citizens? Is size qua size actually a relevant metric?

        Returning to the Nolan chart; is a score of (for illustration) {E9, C1} really better than a score of {E5, C7}? More to the point, can you really usefully compare scores along the two axes? Are they comparable in a way that you can calculate an absolute value that has any meaning? That’s the only way to make sense of a statement like, “Republicans do have a better history with limited government.”

        Again, when libertarians have been forced to make a Hobbsian choice they have consistently valued the size of their bank accounts over the freedom and lives of their fellow citizens.

  • http://twitter.com/VelizCF CFV

    I have nothing against Ron Paul’ s views on foreign policy from a normative perspective. In fact, I must admit that this political add is quite impressive:

    My objection (or query) is the following: how accurate his views are according to what we know about reliable international theory?  Take, for instance, what John Mearsheimer has said about “offensive realism” – and nobody in his right mind would think that J. Mearsheimer is trying to make the US a “subservient” of the “right-wing Israeli government” (See his The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy (2007)) :

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Offensive_realism.

    I also remember Fernand0 Teson’s post “Libertarianism and Hegemony” (here: http://bleedingheartlibertarians.com/2011/04/libert/), but my objection (query) is different.

    PS: Happy new year!

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

    These are  your friends?

    “This whole idea of personal autonomy, well I don’t think most conservatives hold that point of view.” ~Rick Santorum

    • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

      Whose friends?

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

        The default political allies of libertarians for the last 30 years. Because, you know… progressives hate freedom.

        You  may not personally have been saying that, but I’ve heard it often enough.

        • http://www.sandiego.edu/~mzwolinski Matt Zwolinski

          Maybe, but it’s a bit of an odd thing for you to say on this blog, in particular, and in response to this post…

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

            You got me, Matt. Upon re-reading the original post, it clearly is a non-sequitor. I got it from a post on Facebook and it seemed apropos to the point I’ve been trying to make.

            Maybe Rick Santorum isn’t *your* friend, but to some degree Santorum — as well as Bachmann, Perry, Gingrich, et al — are *his* friends. You see, they’re all standing up there and they have one thing in common: the letter “R” after their names.

            And I think Santorum was speaking the truth. Conservatives clearly don’t value personal autonomy, certainly not the same way libertarians do (or at least claim that they do). Conservatives greatly value *corporate* autonomy, however. Is that, in the end, why Paul caucuses with them?

            Take that list of things Greenwald says progressives do or should believe in: “an end to American militarism abroad, and end to the destructive war on
            drugs, and end to torture and the surveillance state, an end to the
            crony capitalism and the bailout of Wall Street.” Yeah, Obama has been a terrible disappointment to us. But Paul’s friends on the Republican primary campaign trail all just LOVE that stuff.

            Ever hear the aphorism, “You’re known by the friends you keep”?

            Maybe everyone’s getting tired of this horse I’m flogging, but I would really like to hear some kind of coherent answer to the question of why libertarians cozy up to conservatives while reviling progressives who agree with them on at least as many issues.

  • Theodore Rodrigues

    Economic freedom is as essential as personal freedom. It is absurd to say that you are free with certain rights, but that these rights do not extend to your property, such as your money. Having a genuine interest in the welfare of others is commendable, and reading some libertarians, one can get the impression that they lack any human compassion. However, *forcing* people to be stolen from, so that someone else can be helped is immoral; two wrongs don’t make a right. Charity is properly understood as giving to the less fortunate of your time, talents, or property freely, as you feel moved to do so, not out of an exercise of force perpetuated by the government. You know what happens when you object to the theft of your property? You are arrested by officials with guns, and put into prison. This is REALITY, not a “smokescreen”–stop being disingenuous.  And guilt by association is non-existent. If you want to say that Ron Paul is a racist/homophobe/sexist because he belongs to the Repugnican party, or is friends with Lew Barfwell, then all progressives are murderers because they supported and voted for Obama. Of course, suddenly, my assertion isn’t *fair* anymore. A lot of you seem to be missing the point that states have their own civil protections including bills of rights. Removing the Feds from controlling your life at the level of DC, allows that control to be brought down a level, where it is easier for you to control the laws of your state. Think that your state isn’t doing enough to protect a woman’s right to chose? Legislate at the state level. Want same-sex marriage? Pass a law, or have a court case in the state court showing how gays are being adversely affected by not being including in that state’s version of the equal protection clause. You all seem to be laboring under the delusion that the Feds have to announce that you have rights and then spend more money and pass more legislation which then force the states to comply, when the easier and more fiscal solution is to de-ball the Feds and give the people back the power. If you are concerned about abuses of power, of tyrannical majorities, or of disfavored minorities losing rights, then pass more expansive bills of rights in your states. This all, of course, requires work, time, and money, and it’s so much easier to sit back and have the Feds order us around, even if it’s the most inefficient and Goldbergian way of doing things.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

      “Economic freedom is as essential as personal freedom.”

      Is that *really* true? Is there no way to rank and prioritize freedoms and violations thereof? Is having to pay a tax, get an occupational license, or comply with a regulation *really* the exact equivalent of being locked in a cage or shot dead by a cop in a raid?

      But, you say, “You know what happens when you object to the theft of your property? You
      are arrested by officials with guns, and put into prison. This is
      REALITY, not a “smokescreen”–stop being disingenuous. ”

      Of the ~3,000,000 current federal and state prisoners how many of those are there directly or indirectly as a result of our war on some drugs? And how many are there for tax evasion? How many have died in the drug war vs. the  number that have died for failing to pay taxes on time?

      From my vantage point it appears that libertarians in general — and libertarian politicians in particular — have consistently, and presumably very consciously, made a Faustian bargain and placed economic freedoms ABOVE personal freedoms and civil liberties. Not at the same level, but over and above.

      How’s that working out for you?

      The ironic part of it all is that it’s hard for me to see where you even got much of the economic freedoms you were chasing.

      And what were those freedoms, exactly? The freedom to pollute (opposition to the EPA and environmental regs), the freedom to pay sweatshop wages (opposition to minimum wage laws), the freedom to run a business with little regard to worker safety (opposition to OSHA and worker’s compensation laws). Basically, it all amounts to the freedom to privatize profits while socializing costs.

      • Damien S.

        Regarding the last two sentences: the freedom to try to pay your workers insufficiently for them to function as your customers.  Inspired by Krugman’s blog post today about why businessmen make terrible economists or policymakers. http://krugman.blogs.nytimes.com/2012/01/10/businessmen-and-economics/

        “For the fact is that running a business is nothing at all like making macro policy. The key point about macroeconomics is the pervasiveness of feedback loops due to the fact that workers are also consumers. No business sells a large fraction of its output to its own workers; even very small countries sell around two-thirds of their output to themselves, because that much is non-tradable services.

        This makes a huge difference. A businessman can slash his workforce in half, produce about the same as before, and be considered a big success; an economy that does the same plunges into depression, and ends up not being able to sell its goods. Nothing in business experience prepares one for the paradox of thrift,”

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Rod-Engelsman/822499328 Rod Engelsman

          In the language of statistical quality control theory this is called “sub-optimalization”. An example being where the engineering guys do things in the most convenient and expedient way from their perspective, the manufacturing floor does likewise, the accountants do their thing, and the executives cut out early to play golf. It makes for designs that are difficult to manufacture, very poor accounting of materials and labor costs, accounting reports that are quick and easy to produce but useless to management, and no coordination or strategic planning of anything.

          No one would run a business like that and expect good results, yet this problem supposedly just magically disappears when applied to an economy as a whole. While I’m happy to stipulate that central planning doesn’t scale well, I fail to see why chaos wouldn’t.

  • http://teapartiers.blogspot.com brucepmajors

    This is kind of damning against Paul’s critics, especially The New Republic

    http://bigdecision2012.blogspot.com/2012/01/reality-check-story-behind-ron-paul.html 

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