We inaugurated The Rockford Individualist Collective (TRIC) on Saturday, October 27, 2007. Our discussion was on Congressman Ron Paul and whether Objectivist or “Objectivish” folks should support his president candidacy. The informal consensus appeared to be a ‘no.’
I thought I’d share some of my reasons for not supporting Congressman Paul. My read is that Ron Paul is more Pat Robertson than Barry Goldwater.
His campaign website presents 11 issues. I’ll comment on each of the issues below.
Debt and Taxes
I don’t have any serious objections to Paul’s view here. Essentially, he seems to want to limit and control federal spending by sticking to the Constitution and powers expressed granted by that document. He does some overly worried about foreign banks owning Federal debt. This fact, in it of itself, doesn’t bother me. On the contrary, it seems to show a fundamental long-term soundness to the American economy because foreign banks are willing to buy US treasury bonds and the like.
My worry here with Paul is that he appears to be striking an anti-foreigner note. “It’s those pesky foreigners!”
American Independence and Sovereignty
This section raises some red flags. Paul believes that various free trade agreements with Canada and Mexico are threats to our freedoms, in part, because there is “a plan to erase the borders between the U.S. and Mexico” and “create a single nation out of Canada, the U.S., and Mexico, with a new unelected bureaucracy and money system.”
Besides the worrisome and loony conspiracy-theorist elements, this highlights one of Paul’s great weaknesses. He’s against opening up of trade. He worries that foreign companies will take U.S. jobs and that free trade undermines sovereignty. This protectionism alone undermines the claim that Paul is a libertarian.
War and Foreign Policy
Though this is where much of Paul’s growing popularity is coming from, this is where I have the biggest problem with Paul. His isolationism is dangerous and unrealistic. He appears to accept the view, unfortunately peddled by the otherwise great Cato Institute, that if only we would leave the Islamists alone they would not attack us.
No. This is not a case of ignore the bully and hope he leaves us alone. Nor is this a case where the Islamists have legitimate or reasonable gripes against American foreign policy--certainly nothing that remotely justifies taking up arms against Americans. These Islamists are in this fight to destroy us because we are free and secular; because we are not strict Muslims. (See David Kelley's "The Assault on Civilization" They will not quit this fight because we leave Iraq or even stop our important support of Israel.
Whatever one thinks of the wisdom of invading Iraq when we did, it would be foolish and dangerous to leave now. It would quickly become a dangerous Islamist state. Also, we need to be there to attack Iran before it goes nuclear, but that’s another story.
I’ve always differed from the mainstream isolationist view of many libertarians. I believe we need a principled foreign policy that encourages and supports free societies through out the world. This sometimes requires providing military or other support to such societies: like Israel, South Korea, Taiwan, etc. This is justified on the basis of our self-interest in having more strong free societies through out the world. This also means that sometimes we have to destroy regimes that pose significant threats to ourselves and our allies.
Paul’s foreign policy is essentially: buy our goods but then go away and please don’t bomb us.
Life and Liberty
Another major strike against Paul is his anti-abortion stance. He has sponsored bills that would block Federal courts from protecting the reproductive rights of individuals where state laws prevent abortions.
Besides the problem of being anti-abortion, this points to a more general concern with Paul. He apparently thinks that State’s should be left free to violate individual rights. The Federal government on his view should not interfere with state laws that prohibit abortion, homosexuality, or religious freedom.
Related to this issue, Paul apparently doesn’t support the separation of church and state. He also advocates using federal power to prevent homosexual unions and marriage (and where’s the expressed authority for that in the Constitution, Mr. Paul?)
No problems here.
My biggest gripe here is that for a man that claims that he “never votes for legislation unless the proposed measure is expressly authorized by the Constitution,” he does not speak out against Social Security. He merely wants to reform it and make it solvent and he’s introduced legislation to that effect.
Border Security and Immigration Reform
His anti-immigration stance is as unacceptable, and as un-libertarian, as his protectionist stance on trade.
Privacy and Personal Liberty
“The biggest threat to your privacy is the government” Hear! Hear! It is comments like this that attract the attention of libertarians and other pro-freedom advocates. Paul is also a strong critic of the Patriot Act. As a whole the Patriot Act is a dangerous threat to our freedoms, and Paul’s voice is important here.
Property Rights and Eminent Domain
Paul is pretty good here. Though he doesn’t mention any legislation he has sponsored on this front.
My criticism here is similar to my concerns under Social Security. He appears to accept the current system and doesn’t speak out against the FDA. Most disconcerting, he doesn’t mention at all the plans by most of the other presidential candidates that would nationalize health care. He’s at the forefront of making sure we don’t lose our right to take what ever vitamins or supplements we want to take, but he has nothing to say about HillaryCare or Medicare? That seems out of whack to me.
I don’t have a problem with his view’s on home schooling. The worry here is that while he wants to prevent the Department of Education from regulating home schooling, what about other types of schooling?
While Paul talks the talk at times for libertarianism and pro-liberty, I don’t think he walks the walk. He is on the side of anti-liberty forces on immigration, trade, reproductive rights, and religion. He advocates dangerous and irresponsible foreign policy views. He is, at worse, a hypocrite and, at best, inconsistent and superficial when he claims he only supports legislation expressly authorized by the Constitution. Legislation that he sponsored and cites on his own website belies this view. He doesn’t speak out against clearly un-constitutional proposals, such as nationalizing health care. Nor does he speak out against already established, yet not constitutionally authorized, programs and agencies, such as the FDA, Medicare, Social Security, and the Department of Education.
I do not see a principled defense or advocacy of liberty here. I see a man using the ideas of liberty to protect his view of America as a white, Christian country. That is not good for liberty, libertarianism, or America.
Update: I also recommend reading Timothy Sandefur's post Ron Paul: a threat to serious libertarians
Update 2(12/28/O7): Since I originally wrote this post, Paul has updated his website and added more issues. I hope to have an expanded analysis soon.