November 26, 2007

"When conservatives feel comfortable mocking the victims gunned down by Clinton-era attorney general Janet Reno's FBI in Waco, Tex...."

"... it suggests that a complacent and increasingly authoritarian establishment feels threatened."

Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch have a rousing paean to Ron Paul in today's WaPo.
...Paul's success has mostly left the mainstream media and pundits flustered, if not openly hostile. The Associated Press recently treated the Paul phenomenon like an alien life form: "The Texas libertarian's rise in the polls and in fundraising proves that a small but passionate number of Americans can be drawn to an advocate of unorthodox proposals." Republican pollster Frank Luntz has denounced Paul's supporters as "the equivalent of crabgrass . . . not the grass you want, and it spreads faster than the real stuff." And conservative syndicated columnist Mona Charen said out loud what many campaign reporters have no doubt been thinking all along: "He might make a dandy new leader for the Branch Davidians."

31 comments:

rhhardin said...

a small but passionate number of Americans

What the hell does that mean?

Writing succumbs to death-like cliche force when it runs out of material.

George said...

Paul is the candidate of the goldbugs, vide this from Wiki:

Paul says he "wouldn't exactly go back on the gold standard"[23], but would push to legalize gold and silver as legal tender and remove the sales tax on them, so that gold-backed notes (or other types of hard money) and digital gold currencies[24] can compete on a level playing field with fiat Federal Reserve notes, allowing individuals a choice whether to use "sound money" to protect their purchasing power or to continue using fiat money.

If you think gold is going to $3,000 (and higher) amd that the guvmunt might confiscate your stash, Ron is your man.

You can (or could) even buy coins with the guy's face on them.

Jonathan said...

If you examine Ron Paul's positions you find a mix of libertarianism and idiosyncratic wackiness. Paul is against free trade and for US military withdrawal from everywhere. How are these libertarian positions? They certainly aren't close to what Barry Goldwater believed. Goldwater understood that isolationist foreign policy is inadequate in a world where we have enemies. Paul doesn't understand that, and that is why he will probably remain a fringe figure. Not a little of his current appeal derives from the possibility that he will be the tie-breaker in a close 2008 election.

rhhardin said...

The real purchasing power of gold has varied over a factor of 10 since 1970, which is about as useful as pork belly futures as real money.

Zach said...

The gold standard stuff fits the pattern for libertarian politicians, in my experience. The ideology is attractive in the broad outlines, but it always seems like there are one or two really wacky ideas that make it into the platform more for ideological consistency than because they're good ideas. Libertarianism is better seasoning than substance.

Bruce Hayden said...

My view of Paul's constituancy is that they are often a protest vote. A pox on both your houses sort of thing.

I am frankly turned off by his frequent radio ads. For example, he proposes eliminating the tax on tip income. It has some sort of populist appeal to those who make tip income, but absolutely fails the "fairness" test. Indeed, if this were to become law, I, as an attorney, would consider having much of my income characterized as "tips" in my professional services agreements. I would be likely to lose less from non-payment than in taxes.

This position, like so many others of Paul's just fail the reality test. And that is why it is hard to take his candidacy as anything other than a protest vote.

The danger to the Republicans is that he could be their Ralf Nader this time around. Sure, many of Nader's voters agreed with him. But the usual caculus is to vote for your party's candidate because you are usually better off with him than with the other party's candidate. But this fell apart with Nader. Instead of holding their noses and voting for Gore, they voted for their protest candidate and gave the presidency to George W. Bush.

Liam said...

Serious discussions all, but the real draw of Paul in the "undergrad" crowd is the perennial cry of "legalize drugs!".

The legal pot question will continually tag the Libertarians and Paul as unserious contenders in any national race...

Zeb Quinn said...

Fancying the gold standard, wacky taxation schemes, and drug legalization all do their own little parts to contribute, but nothing solidified his status as a candidate marginalized any more than courting and consorting with troofers, and otherwise trafficking in truly psychotic ideation about 9-11.

rhhardin said...

The legalize drugs crowd includes Wm F Buckley and Milton Friedman ; there's a bunch that sees it as the perfect example of unintended consequences, producing, as it does, chiefly drug organized crime.

Rather than an authoritarian threat as to intentions.

Call it an unstable authoritarian threat, as they see it, with constant redoubling of effort the trademark owing to its perverse results.

Kirk Parker said...

When I read your title, I thought, "Whaaaaa?"

Then I read the article. Oh.

Look, I will bow to no man in my contempt for the bad things done by the BATF, FBI, and Marshals Service under Bush I and Clinton. I find it an ongoing outrage that Reno, Horiuchi, Larry Potts, and others were never brought to justice.

But that doesn't mean that Koresh wasn't a wacko, and don't see why comparisons to him aren't fair game--though not of course in the best taste, but then neither are references to Jim Jones or Kool-Aide and you see those all the time.

As long as the comparisons are just of the general conspiracy-theory wackiness and not saying so-and-so deserves to be executed w/o trial by immolation like Koresh and his followers were, I should perhaps hasten to add.

halojones-fan said...

Ron Paul's "success" is just like Howard Dean's "success". Remember when Howard Dean was going to take over the entire world? Now you hardly even hear about him.

Pastafarian said...

As a Libertarian I like Ron Paul. I am bothered by some of the nut jobs that seem attracted to him though. Does that make me a nut too?

But I guess the RepubliCrats have some real nut jobs too. My grandfather absolutely hated Bill/Hillary, and he thought that strip with the hundreds running down the side of the $100 bill was a tracking device, and he was a Republican. And the Dems? Well... Just look around Huffington Post.

rdkraus said...

Paul is the only candidate now running that I would vote for. He IS (as opposed to making believe) a small government, libertarian oriented candidate. He also has lots of respect for the Constitution and its limits on government. He actually believes in a humble foreign policy, not one of empire.

Most of his supporters are not truthers, drug users, anti-semites or white supremicists, they're just like minded small government, freedom and peace loving types.

Palladian said...

"He actually believes in a humble foreign policy"

read: Isolationist

former law student said...

Instead of holding their noses and voting for Gore, they voted for their protest candidate and gave the presidency to George W. Bush.

And yet the Democratic party machine has continued to disappoint their progressive base by running bland "electable" candidates who are ultimately not electable. Why not adopt the winning Republican strategy of rallying the base, then reaching out to the middle? Instead the Dems have continued to follow a "take us or leave us" or "where else are you going to go?" policy.

This sense of entitlement to the votes of their natural constituency explains the Dems sense of betrayal when blacks, immigrants, women, and in general, blue collar workers vote Republican.

rdkraus said...

Palladian

Paul is in favor or free trade with other nations. He's not isolationist in that regard.

Militarily, yes, you could call him that. Which would be fine by his supporters. They, generally, would prefer not to have troops in over 100 other countries, and it wouldn't hurt if we stopped telling everyone else what to do (like we're so smart).

Simon said...

So far as I can see, he isn't a libertarian, he's a small-government populist. You can't be a libertarian and against free trade. Period. It's like calling yourself a pro-nationalization free marketeer. And more to the point, even though he's right on a lot of issues, he's totally loony-tunes.

Simon said...

RD Kraus, that's not what his own web site says. His own site calls "NAFTA, GATT, WTO, and CAFTA ... a threat to our independence as a nation."

Revenant said...

The legal pot question will continually tag the Libertarians and Paul as unserious contenders in any national race...

Support for legalizing marijuana has been rising since the late-80s peak of the drug epidemic:

1987: 18% for vs 78% against
1996: 24% for vs 73% against
1999: 29% for vs 69% against
2002: 34% for vs 59% against

I'm not sure what the most recent numbers are; 2002 is the most recent poll I can find. But the trend is pretty clear -- legalization went from a sixty-point negative in the 80s to only a 25-point negative. Support for medical marijuana has become a strong net positive, too -- around 70% to 20% in most polls.

It is also worth pointing out that legalization's numbers from 2002 are identical to gay marriage's support numbers from that year. Would you have said that any politician favoring gay marriage in 2002 was "unserious"?

Revenant said...

Simon's right. Paul is much more of a populist than he is a libertarian.

Fen said...

Militarily, yes, you could call him that. Which would be fine by his supporters.

Are libertarians isolationists?

They, generally, would prefer not to have troops in over 100 other countries, and it wouldn't hurt if we stopped telling everyone else what to do (like we're so smart).

Thats unwise, and the reason I stoppped paying attention to Pat Buchanan. If Britain still ruled the waves that would be fine, but they don't, and we're their legacy. Who's going to fill the power vacuum once we retreat behind static defense? China? Islam? Brussels? Wondeful.

I'd LOVE to "stop telling everyone else what to do", even roll the clock back 50 years so the Pentagon wouldn't enable Europe's nanny state. But its simply not realistic, the world is not that big anymore.

former law student said...

I'd LOVE to "stop telling everyone else what to do", even roll the clock back 50 years so the Pentagon wouldn't enable Europe's nanny state.

Putting U.S. forces in Europe after World War II was prudent, because twice we had had to save Europe from the consequences of their own stupidity. Europe was like kids playing with matches who liked to set the house on fire. We were there to put out any fires when they were still small, instead of waiting to be called in after the entire block was engulfed in flames.

Simon said...

FLS - still, it's a matter of supreme historical irony that the United States had to play the part of the grown up to Europe's unruly children, hein? (I do like to think that Britain was also an adult in the room to an extent, just one that lacked the resources and initially the wherewithal to wield a sufficiently large stick.)

Fen said...

former student: Putting U.S. forces in Europe...instead of waiting to be called in after the entire block was engulfed in flames.

Preaching to the choir. I'd love for the US to stop being Globo-Cop but thats simply not realistic.

Revenant said...

Are libertarians isolationists?

The Libertarian Party is, and that's a big reason why I have nothing to do with them anymore. Isolationism is intellectually unserious.

As a political philosophy, however, libertarianism really doesn't have much to say about foreign or military policy. It concerns (a) interactions between individuals, and (b) interactions between individuals and their government. It does not deal well with interactions between large, armed groups of people -- which of course is what nations are.

Revenant said...

Putting U.S. forces in Europe after World War II was prudent, because twice we had had to save Europe from the consequences of their own stupidity.

The ugly truth, though, is that that was just another example of what Paul calls "telling other people what to do". Under his philosophy -- and that of the Libertarian Party -- getting involved in World War Two was wrong. And yeah, I know Japan attacked us and Germany declared war on us. But neither would have happened had we not been (a) "interfering" with Japan's conquest of Asia and (b) openly supporting Britain against the Axis. From Paul's perspective, those were mistakes too.

Simon said...

Revenant said...
"The ugly truth, though, is that [World War 2] was just another example of what Paul calls 'telling other people what to do.' Under his philosophy -- and that of the Libertarian Party -- getting involved in World War Two was wrong."

To say nothing of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, etc., as was extensively hashed out here and elsewhere last December.

Revenant said...

To say nothing of the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, etc., as was extensively hashed out here and elsewhere last December.

Well, I happen to think that most of those laws no longer serve any purpose and should be eliminated. Restrictions on freedom of association may have been necessary to break the cultural inertia of racial discrimination, but it is long since broken now. You've got to be in your fifties to even remember a time when having a whites-only restaurant was socially acceptable. Temporary restrictions on rights (e.g., during wartime) are supposed to be *temporary*. They aren't supposed to outlive the need for them, even though they sometimes do.

But yeah, the big-L types generally can't accept that it even COULD have been necessary or justifiable. For that matter, you know who the most hated President in American history was, among registered Libertarians, back when I was a Party member in the 90s? Abe freaking Lincoln, of all people. How nutty do you have to be to think the worst President in American history was Abe Lincoln?

Michael said...

Ron Paul is the far left's anti-war stalking horse.

No conservative that I know is considering voting for Ron Paul, and the only people I hear promoting and defending him are lefties.

It's the McCainiacs all over again - a bunch of lefties trying to promote a candidate for the Republican primary whom they have no intention of voting for in the general election.

Simon said...

Rev (6:17 comment),
That reply bears unpacking a little. I think people can legitimately -- but in my own opinion wrongly -- argue that the CRA and VRA were unnecessary, inefficient, suboptimal, or even unconstitutional (see Goldwater et al) tools to achieve a valid goal. And I think one could also argue that to the extent that the goals of those statutes are still extant problems, the statutes are no longer apt tools to address them (indeed, I've argued precisely this about the VRA).

Nevertheless, as I see it, what Paul advances isn't that those acts are now vestigial and should be abandoned. Nor is it the (wrong but defensible) argument that the the federal government lacks Constitutional authority to enact those statutes. As it seems to me, Paul advances an argument that government lacks (or at best has very, very limited) moral authority to circumscribe freedom or coerce behavior, a position that fits squarely within Ann's observations that that "[b]y professing unconcern for practical reality and a pure, unalloyed love for an idea, one loses control over outcomes and argues unwittingly for bad results ... [and] there is something unprincipled about embracing an abstraction and taking it to its logical limit, without the stabilizing effect of considering policy implications," Althouse, The Humble and the Treasonous: Judge-Made Jurisdiction Law, 40 Case W. Res. L. Rev. 1035, 1039-40 (1990), and more pointedly, that "[i]t seems obvious to me that if your political theory doesn't provide for desegregation, you need a new theory." This is one of those occaisional subjects on which I think she and I wholly agree (albeit converging on the same point from different directions). At very least, "if you have a normative theory that was used at the time to oppose the Civil Rights Act, then if you don't believe that your theory would have stood in opposition to desegregation and the Civil Rights Act, you need to explain why the people who used it in that way at that time were wrong, why the theory is misapplied." It seems to me that "[t]he obvious corollary to Burke's aphorism that '[w]hatever each man can separately do, without trespassing upon others, he has a right to do for himself' is that no man has a right to undertake actions which 'trespass[] upon others,' and [those] actions that do so [or would] are legitimate subjects of regulation by the polity."

As I said in the post I linked about VRA, that statute "is a massive and intrusive act that can only be justified by a singly compelling need." But such needs sometimes do exist, and where they do, state action (within the confines of the Constitution) is permissable. Without question, "[b]reaking the back of racial discrimination was absolutely such a need," and "I don't object to government using its authority to break the back of insidious and indefensible conduct, of which entrenched and institutionalized racism was certainly one example." You could compare a ban on abortion - "I think it demands an extraordinarily compelling reason to place that kind of burden on women," but in my view, there is one (if only one thing) thing that "measure[s] up: if the life of a child hangs in the balance [it's legitimate, but if not] ... then to regulate abortion is to indefensibly limit women's freedom." In my view, where it can do one but not the other, ceteris paribus, "government can and should act in the name of justice,not only liberty." Ron Paul's view appears to be rather different.

Revenant said...

Simon,

I agree with, at least, the spirit of your observation -- Paul is one of the "big-L" libertarian types (he was their Presidential candidate once, after all) that I think can't conceive that there was a legitimate moral case for the civil rights legislation -- that, yes, it violated people's rights, but it did so in order to bring about a much larger expansion of rights.

However, I don't agree with the claim that a political philosophy which can't deal with the problems of segregation is especially flawed. Name a political philosophy and I'll name a situation it can't handle without generating offensive results.

The key flaw in libertarianism is that it is based on the principle that the people being governed are ALREADY political equals. Today, I would argue, that situation exists. In the 1960s it did not. Libertarianism doesn't describe a path for getting from "unfree society" to "free society"; it describes how to act IN a free society.

The libertarian approach doesn't work when society is riddled with institutional racism. Paul's wrong to think otherwise, and Ann's right to think so. However, the liberal approach doesn't work when society is no longer so riddled -- it perpetuates what little racism still exists, creates a body of law aimed at rationalizing how racial discrimination isn't really racial discrimination if your heart's in the right place, and violates freedoms of association to no end that couldn't be handled better by the market. So Ann's mistake, which you might share (I'm not clear on that) is that thinking that the fact that libertarians were wrong in the 1960s means they're still wrong today. The truth, in my opinion, is that libertarianism, like any other political philosophy, is situational rather than being a universally good idea in all times and places.