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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Ron Paul Bad for Libertarianism?

Self-described "militant moderate" and political hack Jason Steck of The Van Der Galiën Gazette mimics the Ron Paul bashfest that was provoked by prominent "libertarian" Eugene Volokh of the Volokh Conspiracy. Both Steck and Volokh claim that Ron Paul is "bad for libertarianism," simply because he isn't as libertarian as he claims to be.

Both of them take issue with Ron's position on the war, but more importantly, their biggest beef with him is his views on free trade, immigration, and school choice. While I find their issue with him on the immigration matter is a valid one, their issue with him on the other two stands are simply moronic and do not dignify a response.

Here's what Volokh and Steck say about Ron in their prospective blogs:

As the Club for Growth describes here, Ron Paul has opposed virtually all free trade agreements. Few ideas are more fundamental to libertarianism than free trade. As the Club has documented, Paul also has opposed school voucher programs. In both of these cases, in fairness, Paul claims that his position is based on the idea that some other approach - unilateral free trade or home schooling - is even more libertarian than what he opposes. Even if he is correct on these points, I see no libertarian virtue in supporting the far less libertarian status quo against free trade agreements and school vouchers respectively. Even if trade agreements and vouchers are not the optimal libertarian policies, they are surely superior to the status quo of tariffs and government monopoly schooling.

Perhaps worst of all, Paul has bought into the conservative nativist line on immigration. He not only favors a massive crackdown on illegal immigration but even seems to endorse the view that immigration should be "reduced, not expanded" whether legal or not. To my mind, the freedom to choose where you live and the right to move to a freer and more prosperous society are among the most important of all libertarian principles. From a libertarian perspective, our relative openness to immigration is one of the most admirable aspects of America.

Unlike in the case of free trade and school choice, Paul doesn't even pretend to argue that his position is based on the idea that there is some other policy that will be even more libertarian than the one he opposes. Instead, he clearly endorses the big goverment option of a "allocat[ing] far more resources, both in terms of money and manpower" to cracking down on illegal immigration and perhaps reducing legal immigration as well.

While I do disagree with Ron on the immigration issue (I concede that, to a minor degree, he has embraced the nativist line on immigration), I find it intellectually dishonest of these men to paint Ron as being against all free trade (all because he oppose free trade agreements that are managed by government) and education freedom (all because he opposes government-subsidized vouchers). Their grievance with him on the war in Iraq is also moronic, because the war itself was unconstitutional, illegal, and unjustified, and the American people were lied to about the war and snowed into supporting it (even though it's an unwinnable one) in the first place.

Finally, even though Ron hasn't adopted the neolibertarian line that these liberventionists prefer him to do, what Steck and Volokh fail to understand is that libertarianism is a political philosophy that advocates the absence of government intervention in all of our lives, foreign and domestic. By selectively supporting certain interventionistic policies and opposing a few others, these two men are hypocritical for criticizing Ron for being anti-libertarian on the issues, when they are far more anti-libertarian than Ron ever will be. By adopting the conservative mindset and mixing it with their libertarian ideology, these men are not libertarians, but actual conservatives who talk the talk but never walk the walk.

While Ron isn't exactly the most perfect candidate in this race and most certainly not one in the libertarian movement, he is far more libertarian than most of the hucksters that we seen in both the Libertarian and Republican camps (Wayne Allyn Root comes to mind). He may be 97 percent libertarian on the issues, and 3 percent anti-libertarian on several issues, but I'd rather take a candidate who is 97 percent right as opposed to a candidate who is 20 percent right (or worse yet, 2 percent right).

One more thing: Volokh pulls the "guilt-by-association" scheme on Paul by criticizing him for not publicly distancing himself from certain dubious parties who have come to endorse him and his campaign, parties such as the Stormfront neo-Nazi racists, 9/11 Truthers, and other loopy groups. While he is correct that Ron has not publicly spoken against these groups, he has no control of what groups flock to him. As long as he doesn't adopt their dubious and racist rhetoric, Ron has no formal and official associations with them, other than the fact that he has received donations from them.

UPDATE (11/23/2007): My good friend Chris Kemp has wanted me to correct one part on here. It turns out that he's right: Ron has spoken out publicly against Stormfront and other groups just like it. He has denied any kind of relationship with the group whatsoever. Therefore, the statement made by Volokh is out of line. My apologies for any misleading statements or misunderstandings on my part.