Why some libertarians don’t want to join the Ron Paul revolution.
“But some Ron Paul Revolutionaries insist that the mainstream media are putrid corpses in brackish water, and conventional polls are for losers who still answer their landlines. Paul’s support—by more postmodern measures—continues to grow. He’s still the king of meetup.com, which does generate real-world crowds, and even real-world food drives. He’s also the political king of YouTube (22,157 subscribers). We won’t find out for months if these netroots measures mean anything in electoral terms. And that’s just fine for a thrifty message-oriented candidate, who psychically benefits from running (and builds up more fundraising resources for any future effort) even if he fails utterly with vote totals.
This past Sunday he hit a political respectability jackpot, with a long, thorough, serious, and critical-but-respectful profile in the New York Times Magazine. Most of the Ron Paul press tells, however questioningly, of a politician dedicated to severely limited government that doesn’t want to interfere in our personal lives, doesn’t want to investigate us and control us, wants to abolish the income tax, and wants to bring troops home and dedicate our military only to actual national defense—a politician against the federal drug war, against the Patriot Act, against regulating the Internet, and for habeas corpus.
One prominent version of Libertarian Ron Paul Anxiety comes via noted and respected anarcho-legal theorist Randy Barnett in The Wall Street Journal. Barnett has decades of hardcore libertarian movement credentials behind him and is one of Lysander Spooner‘s biggest fans. (Spooner, the 19th century individualist anarchist, famously declared the state to be of inherently lower moral merit than a highway bandit.) But the mild obstetrician, family man, and experienced legislator Ron Paul is too radical for Barnett in one respect—the respect that is key to most of Paul’s traction to begin with: hisconsistent, no-compromise, get-out-now stance against the war in Iraq.
Barnett is eager to dissociate libertarianism writ large from Paul’s anti-Iraq War stance, claiming that many libertarians are concerned that Americans may get the misleading impression that all libertarians oppose the Iraq war—as Ron Paul does—and even that libertarianism itself dictates opposition to this war. It would be a shame, he suggests, if this misinterpretation inhibited a wider acceptance of the libertarian principles that would promote the general welfare of the American people.
This is doubly curious. First, because opposition to non-defensive war traditionally is a core libertarian principle (to begin with, since it inherently involves mass murder and property destruction aimed at people who have not harmed the people imposing the harm) and is, in fact, the position of the vast majority of self-identified libertarians. Second, why would one worry that libertarianism can be damaged by an association with an idea that is in fact immensely popular? And, to boot, a popular position in which Paul has unique credibility for being right, and right from the beginning, unlike pretty much every other candidate…….
…..Libertarians leery of Paul should ask themselves (while bearing in mind that of course no one, certainly no libertarian, is under any obligation to support or advocate or vote for any politician ever): Have we ever seen a national political figure better in libertarian terms—better on taxes, on drugs, on spending, on federalism, on foreign policy, on civil liberties? And for the pragmatic, cosmopolitan, mainstream libertarian: Why is Ron Paul the place where making the non-existent best the enemy of the good becomes the right thing to do?
Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man and Radicals for Capitalism: A Freewheeling History of the Modern American Libertarian Movement.
And a bit more here on the truly a-pauling reason:
“On Iraq policy, in Washington, the differences between Republicans and Democrats — and between the media’s war boosters and opponents — are often significant. Yet they’re apt to mask the emergence of a general formula that could gain wide support from the political and media establishment.
The formula’s details and timelines are up for grabs. But there’s not a single “major” candidate for president willing to call for withdrawal of all U.S. forces — not just “combat” troops — from Iraq, or willing to call for a complete halt to U.S. bombing of that country.
Those candidates know that powerful elites in this country just don’t want to give up the leverage of an ongoing U.S. military presence in Iraq, with its enormous reserves of oil and geopolitical value. It’s a good bet that American media and political powerhouses would fix the wagon of any presidential campaign that truly advocated an end to the U.S. war in — and on — Iraq.
The disconnect between public opinion and elite opinion has led to reverse perceptions of a crisis of democracy. As war continues, some are appalled at the absence of democracy while others are frightened by the potential of it. From the grassroots, the scarcity of democracy is transparent and outrageous. For elites, unleashed democracy could jeopardize the priorities of the military-industrial-media complex.”
Now what would those priorities be and what crisis could the M-I-M complex be staving off?
“But there is a much more important event for believers in perpetual inflation to explain: the trend of yields from bonds and utility stocks. In the 1970s, prices of bonds and utility stocks were falling, and yields on bonds and utility stocks were rising, because of the onslaught of inflation. But in the past 25 years bond and utility stock prices have gone up, and yields on bonds and utility stocks (see Figures 2 [not shown] and 3) have gone down. Once again, this situation is contrary to claims that we are experiencing a replay of the inflationary 19‑teens or 1970s. Those investing on an inflation theme cannot explain these graphs. But there is a precedent for this time. It is 1928‑1929, when bond and utility yields bottomed and prices topped (see Figure 4) in an environment of expanding credit and a stock market boom. The Dow Jones Utility Average was the last of the Dow averages to peak in 1929, and today it is deeply into wave (5) and therefore near the end of its entire bull market. All these juxtaposed market behaviors make sense only in our context of a terminating credit bubble. This one is just a whole lot bigger than any other in history.
Some economic historians blame rising interest rates into 1929 for the crash that ensued. Those who do must acknowledge that the Fed’s interest rate today is at almost exactly the same level it was then, having risen steadily‑and in fact way more in percentage terms‑since 2003. So even on this score the setup is the same as it was 1929. Remember also that in 1926 the Florida land boom collapsed. In the current cycle, house prices nationwide topped out in 2005, two years ago. So maybe it’s 1928 now instead of 1929. But that’s a small quibble compared to the erroneous idea that we are enjoying a perpetually inflationary goldilocks economy with perpetually rising investment prices….”