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May 19, 2007

Reassessing Ron Paul
Posted by Patrick at 08:57 PM * 53 comments

Okay, maybe I was a bit quick to apostrophize Ron Paul. As Mona observes at Unqualified Offerings (home of the Henley Doctrine that “Hayek does not stop at the water’s edge”), Paul is certainly scaring the crap out of the people who deserve it the most. All right, so he’s got a record of the kind of thoughtless trash-talk you often hear from people who’ve been boiled in the culture of right-wing resentment, but what do you expect from a Republican congressman from Texas? Yes, this is the “soft bigotry of low expectations” you’ve heard so much about; step up and see the show, see the show. Paul’s past tomfoolery makes it all the more striking that, on Iraq, he’s making luminously good sense.

Like Henley, I think the best Paul can hope for is to last a little while into the primary season, but that would be worth it just for the extent to which he would force other candidates to defend the absurdity of the dominant Middle Eastern foreign-policy narrative. It’s certainly impressive to see the impact he appears to be having in places you wouldn’t necessarily expect it. As Teresa pointed out in conversation, if you’re a one-percent Presidential candidate with no money, there are worse strategies than getting up in front of God and the world and telling the truth.

Comments on Reassessing Ron Paul:
#1 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 10:09 PM:

What I find depressing is the continued existence of W's 'they hate our freedom' meme. It's been painfully clear that western (not just US) foreign policy, including support for repressive regimes in the Islamic world and support for Israel were central to Al-Qaeda's attacks on US and other Western interests, including the big attacks of September 11, once de marzo, and 7/7 (though the latter two were also the result of the War in Iraq).

Certainly, there is dislike of many of the cultural features of the West (secularism, women occupying public roles, openness about sexuality(ies), what looks like cultural aggression by Hollywood and the big music labels &c.), but that is not enough to explain why people died to make the kind of point that was made in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi, Aden, on September 11, in Madrid, and in London.

#2 ::: Carl ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 10:40 PM:

Paul has some interesting and almost American ideas on many subjects. And his speaking them aloud to power (well, on TV at least, and in public) deserves credit.

That said, many more of his ideas are still the same 9th century nonsense we've come to expect from the GOP.

But he'd be harder to beat than most of the others, just because he has a couple more firing neurons than they do.

#3 ::: sburnap ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 11:08 PM:

Ron Paul is more libertarian than Republican. He ran for president on the Libertarian ticket for president in 1988 before joining the Republican party in order to get elected to Congress. He's never been much of a friend to the Republican leadership.

#4 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 11:13 PM:

Well, actually a lot of his ideas are 1970s nonsense that aren't all that common in the GOP, at least not in their undiluted forms. (I'm using the 1970s as a shorthand for the start of the Libertarian Party, which Paul was once the standard-bearer for. I see someone's already mentioned his 1988 presidential run under that party's banner.)

I don't think there's any contradiction in believing someone is too insensible and unsuitable to actually be running things, but at the same time admiring them for asking the questions and raising the challenges that other people should be bringing up but don't (often because it's considered too risky or weird to raise them).

Hey, as far as I can tell that's a lot of McCain's appeal. And McCain does indeed rate it sometimes-- I gather he was the only Republican to unequivocally reject torture in the last debate. That doesn't make me want to vote for him-- his bad points have been quite well documented here and elsewhere-- but I'm glad he's in the debates.

Libertarianism is just one of a number of ideologies from various niches in the political and philosophical ecosystems that I find useful to be represented in debates, raising the unusual and overlooked questions and issues. It doesn't mean I'd want their doctrinaire adherents in positions of power. Nor does it mean that they don't get boring when they are content to just repeat their cant abstractly. But when their point of view leads them to take up interesting specific, substantial points, they are valuable contributors to discussions.

#5 ::: JD Paul ::: (view all by) ::: May 19, 2007, 11:31 PM:

I have Libertarian friends who were appalled to discover that they'd voted for a criminalize-abortion, god-hates-fags guy in 1988.

That being said, he's got that 1/3 of things on which he makes sense (i.e. agrees with me :-)) which sometimes balances that 2/3 of stuff on which he's a total wackjob.

Like many Libertarians, he's quite astute on analysis, but has a serious lack of ability to synthesize. And in this political climate, actual analysis stands out, so it's entertaining to watch him cause the heads of Standard GOP Apologists to spin around and sometimes explode.

If you're looking for a mother lode for quote mining, find his investement newsletters from the early 1980s, where he suggests investing in South Africa (e.g. krugerrands) "before the blood runs in the streets". (That's a direct quote but the leadup to it is vague in my mush of a brain.)

(Full disclosure: he's my paternal uncle. He's quite sane and reasonable on a human level, more so than his more liberal brothers.)

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:04 AM:

Oh dear, Krugerrands and investment newsletters. Yes, that really is soaking in the crazy, isn't it.

#7 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:16 AM:

Sometimes soaking in the crazy is the only way to get the sanes out.

OK, going to bed now.

#8 ::: Avram ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:31 AM:

Patrick, I think JD Paul was referring to the "blood running in the streets" thing. The implication I get is that Ron Paul is (or was) one of those guys convinced that fiat currency's gonna kill us all.

#9 ::: ethan ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 01:34 AM:

Best part of the CNN clip at Tiny Revolution: when Paul is clarifying that he wasn't saying per se that the hallowed American People were responsible for Sept 11, and at that moment the huge headline at the bottom changes to "BLAMING THE US FOR 9/11."

As others have pointed out many times before, it is absolutely batshit crazy that saying this kind of thing in public is still newsworthy at this point. It's just as batshit crazy as if Paul had been like, for instance, "Giuliani used to be the mayor of New York City" and everyone reacted with astounded horror.

#10 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 01:49 AM:

Is there an actual libertarian wing of the GOP these days, or is Ron Paul it?

#11 ::: Alan Hamilton ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 03:49 AM:

I have to admit that Paul is the only one with a realistic plan to cut the budget. The others pretend they can give big cuts by getting rid of Amtrak and the Dept. of Education. Paul would get rid of those, plus Medicare, Social Security, and most of the military. This would indeed allow big cuts in taxes without a deficit, as those areas are where the big money is. This platform also explains why the LP got fewer votes than Ralph Nader.

There's certainly a place for a policy discussion of whether income should be taxed, how much, and what it should be spent on.

However, I'd prefer someone who actually understands our system of government. Although it appears he's removed the "16th Amendment was never passed" conspiracy theory from his website, he still asserts that repealing it would abolish the income tax. I guess it's not surprising the the self-appointed Constitutional scholars understand it so little.

Income taxes have always been legal. In response to a Supreme Court ruling that classified taxes on income from property (such as rents and royalties) as property taxes, the 16th Amendment was passed. The key words are "from whatever source derived".

If the 16th were repealed or invalidated, income taxes could still be collected on wages.

Like I said, you can still have a policy debate on taxation. But you can't have rational discussion starting with fundamental misunderstanding of the system of taxation.

#12 ::: Connie H. ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 06:38 AM:

While the kid who points out that the emperor has no clothes is performing a vital public service, that's no qualification for electing him emperor!

I'm glad Ron Paul is on the campaign trail, and if he were my paternal uncle, I think I'd be proud of him....

#13 ::: Ross Smith ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 06:51 AM:

I don't know anything about Ron Paul (never having heard of him before today), but to me the obvious interpretation of the South Africa blood-in-the-streets quote was "invest in SA while it's still run by Smart White People, before the Evil Brown People destroy it".

BTW, what's with the links to Jim Henley? I was under the impression he'd stopped blogging several months ago. All the linke to his site on ML today give me the same 404 error his site has been giving me all along.

#14 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 06:56 AM:

Ross, I don't know what to tell you, because Unqualified Offerings has been there all along. On my system, those links lead back to long interesting posts.

#15 ::: John Mark Ockerbloom ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 07:03 AM:

According to Dan Evans, whose Tax Protester FAQ (http://evans-legal.com/dan/tpfaq.html) is a very useful guide to (and repudiation of) tax deniers, repealing the 16th amendment would have exactly zero effect at this point from a constitutional standpoinnt.

That's because the Supreme Court in 1937 (New York v. Graves) effectively reversed its earlier decision about the nature of taxes on incoem from property. So repealing the 16th Amendment at this point won't change either the legality of the income tax, or the subjects that the income tax coule cover.

#16 ::: jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 09:36 AM:

"I don't know anything about Ron Paul (never having heard of him before today), but to me the obvious interpretation of the South Africa blood-in-the-streets quote was "invest in SA while it's still run by Smart White People, before the Evil Brown People destroy it"."

He would have been correct (modulo some blood) if he'd said Zimbabwe. I'm guessing Mugabe flew under his radar at the time, seeing as how that country didn't tweak his issues of race AND gold buggery.

#17 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 10:38 AM:

#13 Ross:

I know people from South Africa who were absolutely convinced it was going to go up in flames when the ANC took control. The saying I heard repeated was "One man, one vote, once." I have no idea if Ron Paul was talking about this, but it wasn't nuts to suspect that the result of blacks getting the vote in South Africa would be a bloodbath--indeed, I think that would have been the way to bet. This isn't about smart whites vs. dumb blacks running the country, it's about payback and what civil war and genocide do to your country.

A lot of Americans in the 70s were convinced that bad monetary policy made possible by being off the gold standard was a recipe for horribly damaging your society. The fear was basically that once you were expanding the money supply to keep unemployment/recession at bay, it was too politically painful to tighten up and put people out of work. I know Harry Browne made his name largely on writing this idea up in a coherent form, and working out the implications for investors. It was a pretty good model of how things were going to go from the late 60s to the beginning of the 80s, but broke down after that.

It's easy to forget now how ugly things got for the US around the early 70s. We had a couple instances of stagflation from oil price shocks, a lost, unpopular war, and a president resigning in disgrace. (Glad we've come so far from that now....) I think a nonnegligible number of smart people thought things could go as far as coup or massive civil unrest. Again, I don't think it was nuts to worry about this and do some planning for how to live through it if it happened, though you were probably wasting money if you spent a huge chunk of your disposable income on preparing. But then, I wasn't an adult making that kind of decisions then; maybe I'd have been just as freaked out.

#18 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 10:39 AM:

Before I'd heard about his racist side, I had the opposite initial reaction to Patrick's initial one: namely, knowing the guy is a libertarian, I'm sure he's disasterous on all sorts of domestic issues... but given the sheer number of people that our national tendency to go overseas and kill people for flimsy reasons causes, not to mention the ongoing hell of Iraq, it's hard to know what I'd do if faced with an election choice betwen him and, say, dedicated hawk Hilary Clinton, who wants to keep a lot of forces in Iraq, and thinks she was only wrong because the "intelligence" was wrong on Iraq (so that next time... say, Iran... she might try again).

I doubt I could bring myself to vote for Paul, given what I'm learning about him. But I sure wish a non reprehensible candidate would stand up and say that the US shouldn't be an empire, that we should just bloody well leave Iraq, that blowback is real, etc.

(More mublings on this subject here.)

#19 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 10:43 AM:

Avram, I wasn't being sarcastic or ironic.

#20 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 10:47 AM:

Good post, Stephen Frug. Like you, in the unlikely event that I actually had to choose between Ron Paul and HRC, I'd have to think pretty hard.

#21 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 11:04 AM:

Ross, it would appear you aren't the only antipodean who can't get to Jim Henley's site. I just spoke to Jim on IM, and he says he's looking into it. Mysteries of the intertubes.

#22 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 11:04 AM:

Well, having seen news reports of the two GOP debates, it's interesting that the GOP candidate who is batshit insane is also the candidate who is still talking the most sense on a few of the issues. Ron Paul is unacceptable for any number of reasons, but, given how horrible the GOP field is, he might not be the worst they're showing.

Nine of the ten (including Paul) are against personal autonomy for women, and thus have disqualified themselves from consideration.

Three of the ten DQ'd themselves for the presidency when they admitted that they don't accept the scientific description of the universe. A different set of three are filthy torturers.

So of the ten - depending upon your ranking of the issues, and whether you can look past their views denying women autonomy - at most, no more than four of the the ten are acceptable to decent, non-superstitious voters. This, after just two debates.

#23 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 11:18 AM:

Sure, getting rid of Medicare and Social Security would save loads of money, get rid of our useless surplus population, and promote job growth in the mass grave digging sector of the economy, but, since I would be one of its victims, I find that, in all selfishness, I cannot support that plan.

#24 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 11:36 AM:

"Three of the ten DQ'd themselves for the presidency when they admitted that they don't accept the scientific description of the universe."

It's worse than that. A fair number of the ones who didn't identify themselves in the debate as unscientific twits have publicly made statements implying that the word "evolution" doesn't mean what scientists mean when they use it.

#25 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:01 PM:

Earl #10:

One of the common failure modes of the right in general is willingness to fall into lockstep behind a leader. This has happened to the Republican party at a creepy level, though the spell seems to be wearing off now. Lots of traditionally Republican/conservative people wound up being marginalized, pushed out, or convinced to shut up and go along. Bush and his people were really effective at this. (It's a pity they weren't a bit more effective at leading the country, but hey, you can't have *everything*.)

Among other things, I think they've damaged the broad conservative movement in ways that will play out over the next 20 years or more. It's hard finding libertarians, or just generic small-government conservatives, who want to get behind a global blow-them-up-for-their-own-good kind of empire, a huge unlimited system of domestic spying, massive government spending at all levels, etc. Libertarians are mostly okay with free trade and open immigration (though I think Ron Paul has issues with that), but a huge chunk of conservatives aren't, and the Bush administration has little use for them, either. Pournelle is still obviously steaming mad about the National Review article which more-or-less ripped into, demonized, and smeared antiwar conservatives, and I gather he isn't alone.

I expect that the Bush administration is going to have as big an impact on politics in the US as the Reagan administration did. But in a very, very different direction. Good luck getting the libertarians back to the party of disappearing Jose Padilla off US soil and turning Echelon against American citizens. Good luck getting the "traitors" and "defeatacrats" who dared oppose the disaster in Iraq feeling good about the Republican party again.

I expect we'll see the nastiest kinds of smears and scare tactics imagineable against Democrats in the coming years, because that's what the Republicans are going to have left, having abandoned any question of loyalty for a large part of their coalition.

#26 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:09 PM:

#24 j h:

I wonder how many nonspecialists actually understand evolution, though. For a lot of people, it's just the broad story of how things came to be the way they are in the living world--a sort of vague progression from slime to bugs to monkeys to people, and there were some dinosaurs too, right? But this is true in general--most people don't get much of what physicists understand about the world, or mathematicians, or whatever group. Nobody can specialize in everything, and politicians are seldom drawn from hard science backgrounds--even doctors are pretty rare in politics.

#27 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:25 PM:

#22 Bob:

I guess "personal autonomy for women" = abortion? (I'm assuming, since I'm pretty sure none of the GOP candidates want to repeal the 19th amendment or require the wearing of a chador in public.)

What's the scientific view of the universe? Is this about belief in a personal God? Disbelief in evolution? Investment in perpetual motion machines? What?

If I were a proper utilitarian, I'd worry more about broad policy issues and the global war on terror than torture, since we're apparently only torturing people retail so far, but I just can't get past it. Once you start torturing people, you demonstrate that you're willing to discard the rules of civilized society. I just can't vote for someone that supports that. I'm still horrified when I realize how few voters give a damn about it.

#28 ::: Chris ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 12:47 PM:
One of the common failure modes of the right in general is willingness to fall into lockstep behind a leader.
This is true... if your definition of "the right" includes Stalin, Mao, Castro and Robespierre.

What you are really talking about here is authoritarianism, and I urge everyone who hasn't already read The Authoritarians (free online book) to do so. It's based on decades of psychological research about authoritarians: who they are, what they believe, what they do, what happens when leaders and followers get together, what makes people become authoritarian, etc. And it's refreshingly well written and not stuffy at all, IMO.


While it would be nice to see a non-authoritarian wing take back the Republican Party, or even seriously challenge for control of it, I don't really see it happening in my lifetime. Too many anti-authoritarian Republicans have been pushed out of the party for refusing to toe the line, quit it in protest, or are eyeing the door waiting for the chance to make their break. The authoritarians own the party now and we can only hope they run it into the ground before they run the *country* into the ground.

This is why I'd like to see some of the old-school principled conservatives like John Dean form a third party. It would be good for the Democrats to have some competition that isn't totally batshit insane, and it would give voters who aren't comfortable with some of the social movements of this generation somewhere to go that doesn't feed more power to the Kill Them All, God Will Know His Own Party.

Heck, I might even vote for them if they came out strongly opposed to corporate cronyism as well as torture, unconstitutional spying and warmongering, and overall made fewer mistakes than the Democrats. "The wisdom of the past, not the worst of it" is really not that bad an idea if you can demonstrate some ability to tell one from the other. And the fact that X is a desirable goal does not necessarily imply that a Federal Department of X is a good idea - sometimes government is just the wrong tool for the job and repeatedly revising the regulations just makes it wronger.

#29 ::: j h woodyatt ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 01:01 PM:

albatross@26,

My whine is essentially a bit more specific than I let on in my earlier post. See what PZ Myers writes here for more. With the ongoing failure of the Intelligent Design movement to get the traction its proponents had hoped, the pinheads are now deliberately trying to redefine the word "evolution" so that it means "supernatural design" instead.

They may swear on a stack of bibles that they "believe" in evolution, but they still don't accept that natural selection and genetic drift are necessary or sufficient to explain the origin of species. That's the main problem I'm complaining about.

#30 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 02:03 PM:

Albatross, I personally know too many libertarians who still refuse to seriously consider supporting a Democrat, particularly in a close race, because of taxes and regulation. I honestly do not know what it would take to ever make them think the Republican alternative was less appealing, since seven years of Bush/Cheney didn't. If it weren't for the decent and intelligent exceptions like Jim Henley, I'd dismiss the whole movement, instead of (as I now do) just most of it.

#31 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 02:04 PM:

albatross @ 17,

I was working on Kwajalein during the mid-1970s, and nearly half of the guys (almost all guys -- these were unaccompanied tours for DoD contract employees) I knew subscribed to Harry Browne's newsletter and bought a Krugerrand every month. Some of them went so far as to establish Swiss bank accounts.

It was an odd time for American financial theory.

#32 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 03:33 PM:

In my more cynical moments, I sometimes wonder if anyone can prove that the gold they bought is unique. Your gold coin is identical to mine--that's the whole point--and they're both locked away in some bank vault.

#33 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 04:03 PM:

Dave:

My God! I think you've invented fractional reserve banking.

#34 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 04:14 PM:

"Your gold coin is identical to mine--that's the whole point--and they're both locked away in some bank vault"

Mine's in my wallet.

#35 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 04:17 PM:

Bruce #30:

I guess this seems weird to me, because the size of government and the government budget have both gone way up during the Bush administration. I mean, I can see saying "I'll hold my nose and vote for the advocate of smaller government," but there were none of those running as Republicans (or Democrats) in the last few elections.

Further, Bush's movement has been in favor of further federalizing education, and getting government into the business of funding churches to do social work. He personally has claimed extraordinary powers to jail anyone he thinks is a threat, on his word alone, for as long as he feels is necessary. He's turned Echelon and other scary police-state/spy-agency tools on Americans, again without the formality of having any courts involved.

The other libertarians I know (I'm at least a fellow traveler) don't support Bush, though many despair of getting a libertarian movement working anymore--the one party that used to want us clearly doesn't anymore, and many people who used to describe themselves as having libertarian leanings were very quick, post 9/11, to decide that unlimited government power was a good way to accomplish your goals, if you were *really scared of the bad guys*.

Me, I've been voting for Democrats since right after 9/11, when it became clear to me that as bad as they are on many issues, they just don't compare to Bush and company. This is probably bad news for the Libertarian Party, which has had many of its voters either decide that they want a powerful state because they're scared (so vote Republican) or that they're scared of a powerful state (so vote Democrat, because divided government is less scary than one-party rule).

#36 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 04:30 PM:

Stephen 18:

What's Ron Paul's racist side? I saw some out-of-context quotes that maybe could be interpreted as racist, apparently dug up by the other candidates' opposition research folks. But I'd like to see something a bit more solid.

#37 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 05:01 PM:

Dave's very clever that way. You've got to watch him all the time.

#38 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 05:12 PM:

Umm... Pardon my ignorance here, but can anyone tell me what, precisely, is a Hayek? Google has failed me (or perhaps it is I who have failed Google. The end result is the same).

#39 ::: Bruce Baugh ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 05:36 PM:

Albatross, it is weird, you're on solid ground. What it boils down to is that some people are more anti- something than pro-anything. Among libertarians and movement conservatives, that's anti-liberal. It's similar in spirit to right-wing (and left-wing) anti-semitism, where making sure the target group does badly trumps all other considerations. It's stupid, but there are some rela haters out there. Among anti-liberal libertarians I've known, there's almost always the sense that "I could have been someone if only these rules didn't stop me", and since the movement conservatives aren't proposing things that so directly seem to affect the haters...there they go.

#40 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 05:47 PM:

KristianB #38: 'Hayek' refers to this chappie.

#41 ::: Bob Oldendorf ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 08:27 PM:

albatross at #27: Yes, nine of the ten GOP candidates said that women should not have the right to determine for themselves whether or not to bear children.

I'd call that a question of "personal autonomy"; others prefer to describe it as being "anti-abortion". (My apologies in advance if mention of the "A" word derails the thread.)

And yes, by saying that three of them "don't accept the scientific description of the universe", I was noting the show of hands among the GOP candidates to the question "Do you believe in evolution?"

Three of them deny the basis for modern biology and for modern science-based medicine; and they are still taken seriously as candidates for the presidency, the person who will be responsible for determining science policy in this country for at least four years.

#42 ::: Stephen Frug ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 10:55 PM:

Albatross 36: I was thinking of reports such as The one that Patrick included in his sidelights. I've seen similar elsewhere. I admit that I haven't investigated the matter that closely, and would certainly listen to an argument that the quotes (say) weren't accurate. (Hard to imagine a reasonable context for some of them -- unless it was something on the order of "My opponent is such a racist that he once said:...".

But since Paul is almost certain to go nowhere, it's not something I'm likely to spend much time on. If, against expectations, he catches on, I'll have to dig around some more.

But if you know more, I'm certainly interested.

#43 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: May 20, 2007, 11:46 PM:

Stephen Frug #42

Those quotes were obviously taken out of context. Consider a statement like "only 5% of blacks have sensible political opinions." Based on the showing of the Libertarian party in various elections, would the next statement have been "but that's better than whites, of whom only 3% have sensible political opinions"?

#44 ::: KristianB ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 01:59 AM:

#40: Thanks.

#45 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 02:06 AM:

There is something tragic in the fact that both the right and left wings of the American political mainstream have produced their own jesters, who can safely speak otherwise unspeakable truths because they have no real power. Clinton, McCain, Giuliani and even Kucinich and Obama have collectively decided that we as a nation can't accept the truth. They're smart people. They have to know that things are going very badly in Iraq. But in order to remain viable as candidates, they have to pretend that we are experiencing a temporary setback that will be fixed by, say, a surge, or benchmarks, or phased withdrawal. To admit failure is literally unthinkable, because there is literally no way for any single entity to accept the responsibility for getting us mired in a unwinnable war of choice. Too many people have died and too much has been lost for that to be possible, and both of the mainstream parties are complicit.

The American political class has decided, on our behalf, that we are unwilling or unable to accept the responsibility for the moral quandary into which they have thrust us, as a nation. To be forced to choose between staying in Iraq and leaving it is no real choice at all, because both have terrible consequences; at the same time, a lot of effort is being expended by various parties to obscure the fact that there is no magical "third way" that will allow us to escape this responsibility without making such a choice. On the one hand, we stay, and through the application of military force create a field within which all manner of neo-colonialists and religious idealists can project their own private fantasies -- a dream park sustained only through the constant application of force, which derives only from the wishful thinking that someday force will produce stability (nobody much seems to think democracy is the goal anymore). On the other, we can leave and allow Iraq to collapse into a kind of nearly unparalleled failed statehood (1930s China? post-Napoleonic and pre-Commune France? Somalia?). The tragedy is that our representatives have left us to make this hard choice, neither alternative is palatable, and to preserve their own projected and presumed authority, they can't or won't help us make that choice by speaking to us as they would to responsible adults. They don't trust us and they fear our reaction to being told the truth, which explains at least part of the vituperative response Paul received.

There's something weird about taking jesters like Paul and Gravel seriously; their whole (unwitting / unwilling) role is to speak the unspeakable political truths so that they can be squelched by the Giulianis and Clintons of the world to show their own authority and mastery of the "facts". Instead of giving no-hope candidates the time of day, we should be doing what we can to get the actual candidates who are likely to be elected to recognize that those unspeakable truths are truths nonetheless, and act accordingly. The (likely) alternative is a campaign in which Giuliani and Clinton are the candidates, and they spend most of their time arguing over which one is going to do the most to "win the war", which I find totally unappealing and unacceptable.

#46 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 02:19 AM:

In less stark terms, all this talk of Krugerrands and libertarians reminds me of Michael Gross and Reba McEntire's survivalist libertarians in Tremors: totally prepared for exactly the wrong apocalypse. A lot of things may end up screwing us all, but fiat currency is no longer the leading candidate.

The thing that annoys me the most about the Libertarian Party is that they've totally monopolized the meaning of libertarianism in the American political landscape, so I can either describe myself as a "socialist libertarian" (hat tip to Ken Macleod) and spend a lot of time talking about how that's neither an oxymoron nor a disguised form of Communism, or I can describe myself as an "anarcho-syndicalist", which has a certain anachronistic flavor to it, but isn't all that accurate. Of course, none of this stops my grandfather and father from talking about "your man Reid" or "your girl Pelosi". I guess that beats being identified with cranks like Paul.

#47 ::: Earl Cooley III ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 09:09 AM:

Do people make Monty Python jokes at you when you mention the phrase "anarcho-syndicalist"?

#48 ::: Forrest L Norvell ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 12:22 PM:

Hmmm... no. The most common response is "anarcho-what?", followed by a patronizing, "of course you are." It's probably salient to mention that I live in San Francisco.

#49 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: May 21, 2007, 09:57 PM:

There might be hope for the Libertarian Party yet. Unfortunately, they've got a similar problem to the current Republican party -- the inmates are running the asylum, and the only really feasible way to get them out of control is to build a new asylum, and no one wants to do that.

#50 ::: Nancy Lebovitz ::: (view all by) ::: May 22, 2007, 08:25 AM:

It's a lot easier to work on taxes and regulation if you have a government that doesn't support torture.

#51 ::: Charles Kuffner ::: (view all by) ::: May 24, 2007, 01:01 PM:

Don't know if anyone's still reading this thread (a thousand apologies for my tardiness), but just in case, I recommend reading about Ron Paul's bizarre views on race. I've seen a lot of liberals fall in love with Ron Paul over his views on Iraq. There's a lot more to him than that, and unfortunately much of it is nutty.

#52 ::: albatross ::: (view all by) ::: May 25, 2007, 04:30 PM:

I saw this before (followed some other link to it), but if I'm understanding correctly, it's excerpted quotes as provided by a political opponent in an election. Right? So, what do you suppose, say, Rush Limbaugh would be able to make Hillary Clinton look like using the same technique?

It's not enormously important, since he has no chance of winning the nomination. And for all I know, he really does have some kind of oddball views on race. But I don't see how this linked article has much more evidence value than a 30 second attack ad on TV.

#53 ::: Charles Kuffner ::: (view all by) ::: June 04, 2007, 06:59 AM:

It's excerpted from his own newsletter, Albatross, and Paul stood by them in a subsequent interview with Texas Monthly. This is not a matter of context.

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