Wednesday, January 30, 2008

What the hell is Ron Paul all about?

He's raised a fortune over the internet by appealing to the libertarian vote - notoriously underrepresented in US politics. He's also got onside with the anti-war vote through his staunch isolationism. I think, when I did one of those 'which candidate should you vote for' questionnaire things, Ron Paul was the candidate suggested to me. He's straight-talking, no-nonsense and on the face of it the ideal candidate for the libertarians amongst us. Two questions - why the hell has he got nowhere in the Republican primaries, and why shouldn't I be supporting him anyway?
The first one is the easier one. Paul isn't really a Republican in the modern sense of the word. He harks back to the Goldwater era of ideological purity that was completely incapable even then of attracting sufficient support to achieve power. The modern Republican party is a coalition of, largely, southern and mid-western social conservatives and northern economic free-marketeers. Paul is neither. The old-fashioned isolationist, economically atavistic (Paul, for instance, supports a partial return to the Gold Standard for the dollar), ultra-minarchist (he calls for the abolition of the Departments of Energy, Education and Homeland Security - for a start) wing is a fringe of a fringe - the Cato Institute is about as left-field as Republicans get, and they think Paul is a nutcase.
Why don't I support Paul? He's a nutcase, basically. He named his second son Rand Paul - after Ayn. The slight whiff of paranoid states-rights bigotry that emanates from the Ron Paul newsletters of the past 30 years is bad enough, but essentially, while I can understand that Paul might appeal to people who either view their libertarianism as the last word in their beliefs - who are not prepared to compromise with the electorate on what they believe to be right, I'm not quite so passionate in my attachment to it. For a start, his actual policies are quite often weird in the extreme (so are Barack Obama's, but there we are) that return to the Gold Standard - really? I'm not convinced by his call to withdraw from the UN, NATO, the WTO and NAFTA either.
I trend towards the libertarian, I believe that money will do more good in the pockets of the people that earned it, than in those of the Government that tax it. I believe that private enterprise is almost always more efficient than the public sector. But there are limits. Ron Paul is just a touch outside mine...

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Blogger Devil's Kitchen said...

I'm with you on the Gold Standard thing, although there are many people who feel that inflation is a worse evil (I am not one of them).

"I'm not convinced by his call to withdraw from the UN, NATO, the WTO and NAFTA either."

UN -- corrupt, useless organisation that gives a disproportionately large voice to unpleasant regimes. I would have no problem leaving especially if, like the USA does, I essentialy paid for the lot.

NATO -- well, if you are non-interventionist, what is the point of it? And given the EU's attitude to the US, why should any President support it still. Especially when, once again, they bear the brunt of the cost.

From the USA's position, the only reason to keep it going (possibly) is that it might provide an arm's-length barrier against some unspecified enemy.

WTO -- a protectionist trade entity. I'd happily leave that too.

NAFTA -- as above.

Once you embrace total free trade, and you realise that it is the imports that make you rich, what is the point of either of the last two? None at all.

The only other area in which I fundamentally disagree with Paul is on abortion but then his anti-abortion stance is perfectly libertarian (Worstall argues from the same perspective).

In the end though, the minarchism is the clincher because, as Paul points out, his own views are utterly irrelevent since he would prevent the federal state from actually imposing such views on anyone. To do so would be profoundly unlibertarian.

I support him for a couple of reasons: first, he obviously believes in what he says.

Second, what he wants to do makes his own personal social views irrelevent, as should be the case.

Third, anyone who wins (or does very well) under a Libertarian banner is a good thing. It is an encouragement for those of us in this country who would like to rip down the cosy Lib/Lab/Con concensus here.

No, I am not prepared to compromise with the electorate: I am prepared, however, to allow them to make their own decisions.

Democracy is not the aim: liberty is the aim. Only libertarianism can deliver that.


1:37 pm  

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