Monday, January 21, 2008

I think I hit a nerve

My Atlasphere column is getting thoroughly thrashed in the comments section. There have been some positive comments, but most of the comments are fairly useless ad hominem and the like; though some of those are quite humorous in their stupidity. For example, several folks dismiss the article on the basis of my being a professor. Others accused me of being a hired political hit man. The most ridiculous though are the several people accuse me of being a socialist or communist. Apparently, criticizing Ron Paul for not arguing against social security and socialization of health care, and for having a view of federalism that would allow massive violations of individual rights by the states, makes me a socialist. More likely the reasoning here is: against Ron Paul, must be against libertarianism. Therefore, must be a socialist. The fact that I argue against Paul on the basis of being inconsistent with the principles of liberty and freedom is, I guess, irrelevant.

One of the themes coming out of the comments is that I didn't do enough research because I based my critique on Ron Paul's official campaign website. Several respondents pointed to other writings/speeches by Paul to indicate his views on various positions in contradistinction to my interpretation of his views.

I'm glad to revise my evaluation of Paul when presented with new evidence. When I first wrote the blog, I was more critical of Paul on free trade. Several of my blog readers directed me to columns he wrote where he clarified his views, and I changed my evaluation and softened my critique. Additionally, I've hardened my criticism on issues like "states' rights" and social security after reading more about Paul.

Still, this raises more questions than answers for me. I knew very little of Paul when I decided to do write this blog/column. As I said in an earlier post, it was an exercise for me to find out more about him that grew out of a discussion at our local Objectivist salon. The logical place to look is his campaign website; that's where I would expect to find the most definitive statement of Paul's views and his platform. That's what I would do for any candidate. It never occurred to me that the campaign website would be so different than the candidate's actual views. Moreover, I don't see how this helps Paul's case. It shows either he's a poor supervisor or he's intentionally misleading people to get support. The first should disqualify him from executive office and the second undermines the claim to be a principled.


Anonymous said...

I noticed you bent over backwards to find and nippick and blowup Ron Paul's faults. You may want to recognize that we live in an imperfect world, and in my opinion Ron Paul is MUCH closer to the perfect president than any other candidate.
If you disagree please post which current candidate(s) are better for lovers of Liberty.

Shawn Klein said...

I hardly think that pointing out that a candidate holds a position such as "states' rights" that would allow endless violations of individual rights and liberties is nitpicking.

As to who I think is better, I've answered that in other posts. None of the candidates are lovers of liberty or good for liberty.

Moreover, placing Ron Paul's views under scrutiny does not require identifying a better alternative. I am not offering election advice; I am looking at what a candidate says on his campaign website and evaluating what is said.

Anonymous said...

Have you ever noticed that any sort of criticism requires bending over backwards, nitpicking, the inability to recognize reality or a neoconservative conspiracy to subvert the cause of individual liberty?

Paul supporters really need to get new material.

Ilana Mercer's rant on WorldNetDaily was more of the same. I'm not sure if you've seen it.

Shawn Klein said...

I am shocked and amused at the ridiculous attacks that I'm a really communist, that I was hired to write a 'hit' piece, that I have some ulterior agenda, that I am not really a professor, or that I am and so that disqualifies anything I say.

It is, however, getting tiresome.

I peaked over at Worldnet and skimmed through Mercer's piece. Rant seems to be the appropriate word. Curiously, I saw that she has an old column up there lavishing praise on Dilorenzo and the neo-confederate civil war revisionism. I was surprised that she'd be supporting Paul (given her view of the Islamists) but this starts to explain it somewhat.

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that the facts force me to agree with your thoughts regarding Paul. His stance on immigration (force foreign laborers out of the labor market) strikes me as oddly contradictory with his general philosophy.

Great blog, by the way. It's good to see a professor interested in Objectivism. Do you receive much criticism in your field for your beliefs?

Shawn Klein said...

Hi Shaun, thanks for your comment.

I don't, personally and to my face, get a lot criticism because of my interest in Rand and Objectivism. These views are still in the minority and often ridiculed in the field in general, but I've been lucky enough to be around intellectually honest people who, though they disagree with me on various issues, respect me and my work.

I am even more lucky now to be at Rockford College and working with Stephen Hicks. That makes things a whole lot easier!