Monday, May 12, 2008

Reading the Ron Paul Revolution

I've yet to purchase the book but I thought this column by Instapundit's Glenn Reynolds had a good analysis. In his run for the GOP nomination for President Ron Paul has made an impression. He raised money and he had a nice following, sometimes his following turned me off because I felt some were single minded about supporting him because he wanted to end the war in Iraq. Still I think what he talks about are important reforms in this country.

Here's a quote then I'll have a little more:

Ron Paul’s [1] The Revolution: A Manifesto is an important book. That’s not so much because of the ideas he presents, which are for the most part familiar fare, already addressed at greater length in recent popular treatments of libertarianism by [2] Charles Murray, [3] David Boaz, and [4] James Bovard, among many others. It’s important because Ron Paul’s candidacy has interested a lot of people in libertarian ideas who probably haven’t read those other books, and because their exposure has come not in the context of academic dissatisfaction with the status quo, but in the context of political action. The book benefits from many of the Paul campaign’s virtues, in the form of accessibility, clarity, and straightforwardness. On the other hand, it also suffers from some of the Paul campaign’s vices, about which more later.

My biggest disagreement, and that of many libertarians with Paul, involves national security. Paul and I are both libertarians, but of different varieties. Paul is an old-fashioned Rothbardian. I’m more of a Heinleinian libertarian and we, like the Randian libertarians, tend to view national defense as more important than the Rothbardians do. Paul’s view, essentially, is that if we quit sending troops abroad, other people and countries would quit wanting to kill us. I’m not particularly persuaded by this. First, even during the minimal-government era of Thomas Jefferson we wound up at war with the Barbary Pirates (in many ways, the spiritual antecedents of today’s Islamic terrorists). And second, Paul is not an isolationist - he favors much more commercial and cultural engagement with foreign countries, something which, if experience is any guide, is as likely to anger Islamic fundamentalists and other varieties of terrorists and tyrants as is the establishment of foreign bases.

Beyond this disagreement - which is a major cleavage among libertarians generally - I find much to agree with. Paul is surely right that the federal government has expanded its powers far beyond anything the Framers contemplated, involving itself in things, like public education, that are best left to the states and to private entities. He is also right that the federal government’s massive expansion is both the cause and the symptom of government corruption, with politicians favoring big government as a source of additional patronage and graft, and with efforts by interest groups to pursue their agendas leading to the creation of new, self-perpetuating bureaucracies (like the Department of Education).

And that corruption is one reason why I disagree with Paul’s pooh-poohing of the Congressional earmarks issue, which he calls a distraction. He’s right, of course, that earmarks themselves account for only a small part of federal spending, with the lion’s share going to entitlements. But earmarks - as Paul, a member of Congress himself, surely knows - are the coin with which the Congressional leadership purchases votes for large spending bills that might otherwise be unlikely to pass. Earmarks also figure prominently in most cases of individual corruption on the part of members of Congess. Ending or controlling earmarks won’t stop wasteful spending, but it will make it easier to counter. Opposing earmarks is an incremental approach to reining in big government, but Paul seems to lack patience with incremental approaches.

I was impressed with Ron Paul's fundraising and his following who like I've said they seemed single minded about one issue Paul certainly supports ending this war in Iraq. Still I like some of his other ideas that include say for instance ending the drug war or abolishing the IRS or returning to the US Constitution as a guide for administering this great nation.

Imagine that we can use the constitution instead of relying on an act of Congress to go to war. Instead of an authorization to go to war in Iraq we could have a declaration of war. A formal declaration and that certainly gives us license to go into Iraq and take over that country. I'm just thinking I'm actually against the war in Iraq not necessarily on those grounds, but only because we already had operations going on in Afghanistan we still do in fact.

My only problem with the current campaign is that most of what I'm hearing has been said before. We always hear about what a Democrat could propose or a Republican. It might always be the liberal or conservative version unfortunately there isn't much action on either side. Even if it does move forward the people might eventually express their dissatisfaction with it especially if it involves higher taxes. On top of that we can consider the rhetoric used to get elected only for that candidate to not govern that way when they do get elected.

Oh, BTW, I know Ron Paul has been pegged as a libertarian, but he's often been pegged as a constitutionist. He believes in the US Constitution as a guide for governing perhaps he might have libertarian beliefs compared to more mainstream conservative Republicans but surely he believes the Constitution is an important document that can't be cast aside for every little fringe issue that exists today.

I should quote one more thing from this column:
Rome didn’t fall in a day, and today’s monster government didn’t spring up overnight. It was the result of incremental expansion. Given that we’re not likely to see an opportunity to downsize the federal government overnight, or even in a single Presidential term, those of libertarian inclinations might well look to incremental approaches to reining in Big Government. They will be well advised, however, to look elsewhere than Revolution: A Manifesto. Still, if Fabian Libertarianism is to have a future, it will owe much to the consciousness-raising of the Paul campaign. Socialist candidate Eugene Debs, after all, never got elected President either, but within a few decades much of his platform was adopted by the Democratic Party. May Paul enjoy similar influence on the future of national politics.
Exactly right! I can compare this to Barack Obama while he may owe his moment today to Shirley Chisolm and Rev. Jesse Jackson I truly believe that Sen. Obama has made it easier for another black man to run for President in the future. Even if Obama fails to garner the Democratic nomination or even doesn't win the President if he is the Democratic nominee.

Surely Ron Paul will do the same for libertarian minded individuals. I just hope that it doesn't become a brand or a lip service as conservatism seems to have become in recent years.

1 comment:

Cal Skinner said...

Shirley Chisolm has a better slogan that Obama:

Unbossed and unbought.

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