Arnold Kling  

Ron Paul: My Two Cents

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Tyler, Megan, and Bryan have been discussing Ron Paul. My opinion is closest to Megan's.

I view the Ron Paul phenomenon as a successor to the Ross Perot phenomenon or the Pat Buchanan phenomenon. His supporters are expressing alienation and frustration with the establishment. Libertarianism is not really central to his appeal. My guess is that a militant fascist could pick up a lot of the same voters.

I doubt that libertarianism will be advanced by any campaign for national office. I suspect that the best way to advance libertarianism is not to compete for government office but to compete against government. Earn a living to support your family. Contribute to institutions, such as private schools, that compete with important government institutions. Vote against incumbents, but otherwise stay aloof from political campaigns.

UPDATE: I know that there are sincere libertarian supporters of Ron Paul. Nonetheless, there are other supporters, such as the founder of a white nationalist group.


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COMMENTS (23 to date)
Randy writes:

Re; Competing against government.

Agreed. I think of my taxes as a rent payment and don't expect anything in return except the right to go about my business in peace. Just my way of immunizing against the propaganda.

Anonymous Coward writes:

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Bruce G Charlton writes:

Don't forget education and debate - I think the US think tanks and bloggers are doing a great job of presenting libertarian perspectives on a wide range of current issues.

Without this kind of discourse, each individual would need to work it all out from first principles, on their own.

Here in the UK there are (as far as I am aware) very few libertarians, no libertarian think tanks, and only one libertarian blogger (Tim Worstall - actually he lives in Portugal).

Such libertarianism as exists in the UK is restricted to the moderate or 'modernizing' wing of the Conservative Party - but most UK people don't understand the distinction between this type of libertarian (pro-markets, pro-science, pro-'democracy) 'conservatism'; and the older and opposite kind of conservatism which is based upon the preservation of culture, traditions and hierarchy.

Reed writes:

Your comments are accurate, or at least plausible, for the most part except for:

"My guess is that a militant fascist could pick up a lot of the same voters."

Your imagination is ridiculous. Go to a Ron Paul rally if you don't believe me. It is 30% peace protesters, 50% libertarians/Constitutionalists, 10% rugged individualists, 10% Reagan Republicans. All highly independant thinkers who are well read.

You are thinking of Rudy JulieAnnie or Billary supporters when you refer to militant fascist voters.

Steve Dasbach writes:

Ron Paul supporters are anti-fascists. There is no way that more than a handful of his supporters would ever support a militant fascist.

Rick writes:

Arnold,

I agree the best way to promote libertarianism is to compete with the government and to show them individuals can take care of themselves better than a central planning agency.

However, I see no wrong in trying to change the system from the ground up. Infiltrating the powers that decide how we live is exactly how I would go about trying to enact real, fundamental change.

Ron Paul is a glimmer of hope for all of us that feel cast aside by the 2 party (1 party) system.

I'd like to see you do a cost-benefit anaylsis of voting/not voting for Ron Paul in your state's primary. Considering a small number of people actually vote in primaries, I think the benefits of an energized group of individuals (Ron Paul supporters) would turn up favorable results.

Hurry up, though, Iowa is a little more than a week away.

Brad Hutchings writes:

I think it's too early to tell with Ron Paul, just like it's too early to tell with Mike Huckabee. The former is certainly a grass-roots creation, and the latter just as certainly a media creation. Will either of them get enough traction in early states to raise money in February and March and launch a serious challenge to Rudy McRomney? When either has to tune their message to mainstream Republican voters, will he be able to do it, or will he remain a protest candidate? Does either think he is running for VP?

Mr. Kling, I respect your not liking Ron Paul's stand on a number of issues, but to say that he's attracting the same supporters as a "militant fascist" is just ridiculously unfair. How many militant fascists consistently oppose foreign military adventures, as Paul has done?

dearieme writes:

"My guess is that a militant fascist could pick up a lot of the same voters": but she hasn't yet, has she?

Gregory writes:

I think Ron Paul is just re-teaching (in a lot of cases teaching) the electorate about the virtues of the U.S. Constitution, and the idea of a 'government of laws, not of men'. It seems that soon as people are exposed to the message, they see the wisdom in it, and they become really excited and refreshed. I think it has nothing to do with a 'Ross Perot' phenomenom or 'Pat Buchanan' phenomenom.

Matt writes:

Libertarianism is the root in most economic models, that have no explainable dynamic except by recognizing independent actors acting freely.

The key word is acting freely, for we know independent actors watch and measure the aggregate. We keep the system operating on the curve.

That means that we know about the state, and we can measure what it should be. This is the advance of the new libertarianism vs the old. The new libertarian says that if we have a state, by nature, then lets have the components of the state act with some libertarian independence so they are not so covariant on the right.

My guess is that a militant fascist could pick up a lot of the same voters.

Yeah, you know how much militant fascists must love a guy running on an (in)famously anti-war, anti-government platform.

I suspect that the best way to advance libertarianism is not to compete for government office but to compete against government. Earn a living to support your family. Contribute to institutions, such as private schools, that compete with important government institutions.

Putting your kid in private school, and supporting government alternatives are good things. But remember, if I send my kids to private school, I still have to pay property taxes. If I earn more money, an increasing amount of it will go to fund the feds. (Donating to 501c3's which fight against government is a good strategy though, as the money you donate can be deducted from your taxes.) So if you want liberty, you must still fight for it in the political arena.

Vote against incumbents, but otherwise stay aloof from political campaigns.

If the incumbent is Ron Paul or Jeff Flake, and the challenger is some pro-government socialist, then you should vote for the incumbent, not the challenger.

Also, why should pro-liberty supporters leave the field to anti-liberty crowd? Unless you think the government is going to collapse or whither away sometime soon, encouraging apathy among pro-liberty supporters seems to be a recipe for increasing fascism.

Here would be my top 5 methods of fighting for liberty:

1. Vote for the most pro-liberty candidate you can find (incumbent or otherwise). If you like them enough, donate or volunteer for their campaigns. If you have the inclination for it, run for office yourself.

2. Donate to 501c3 charities that support pro-liberty causes (e.g. Independent Institute)

3. Buy books, movies, and other products which spread pro-liberty memes.

4. Support pro-liberty innovations such as seasteading and idea futures markets.

5 Support reduced immigration regulations.

Tom writes:

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Deane writes:

Come on Arnold,

A militant fascist will get the same support? you got to be kidding me, RP supporters seems to be ones who generally has an idea of about what he's talking about. Sure he attracts some peaceniks and 9/11 conspiracy people, but so what? he hasn't played into them.

Look, I think Paul IS putting libertarians ideas in to the mainstream, that's a good thing. It helps when people gets excited by it, and realize for the rest of them that hey, there is a constituency out there so they can start talking about the same thing. If you have one libertarian string in your body, you cant not be excited about the RP campaign. We shouldn't just be restricted to CATO, arnold. if institutes, you, and others "competing against the government" never has a man running for them to Washington, what's the point? i mean seriously? we just like being against the system?

Tom writes:

Bruce Charlton:

Try the Adam Smith Institute. http://www.adamsmith.org/

DelibaretlyMisunderstood writes:

I am going to agree with the militant fascist part. Look, even his supporters proably don't think he has a chance in hell at winning. So why support him? Due to frustrations against the government. A militant fascist, who would also not have a chance in hell, my very well get the same voters for the same reason.

Oh and if you look at the foundations of liberalism, a liberal would have a much better time as a militant fascist.

Ross Levatter writes:

Helpful Hint for Paul Campaign:

Ix-nay on the Civil War being ad-bay...

Marianne Coleman writes:

He's like the Howard Dean phenomenon...

Ross Levatter writes:

All that Paul and Dean have in common is that they were both Congressmen who were also MDs.

The Dean phenomenon was flash: his support was a mile wide and an inch deep. He was winning in all the polls and completely collapsed in about 2 weeks.

Paul is the opposite; he's got relatively few supporters, based on poll data, but those supporters are fanatically supportive, based on the funds he's able to raise. (And I'm told most of the fund-raising is not even directed by his campaign; its spontaneous action on the part of his supporters. If that's accurate, it's really quite amazing.)

Mark writes:

Wow, considering that 2/3rds of the other candidates in the race *are* militant fascists, it is pretty silly to claim that they would get Paul's votes, since they evidently are not.

Brad Petersen writes:
I suspect that the best way to advance libertarianism is not to compete for government office but to compete against government. Earn a living to support your family. Contribute to institutions, such as private schools, that compete with important government institutions. Vote against incumbents, but otherwise stay aloof from political campaigns.

You have got to be kidding me. I've done this my whole life -- as did my father before me -- with absolutely ZERO results. Translated into English, all you're saying is "Raise the white flag and surrender."

Ron Paul may not succeed, but supporting him sure beats your suggestion to do nothing.

Scott writes:

I see what you're saying when you write:

"I doubt that libertarianism will be advanced by any campaign for national office. I suspect that the best way to advance libertarianism is not to compete for government office but to compete against government. Earn a living to support your family. Contribute to institutions, such as private schools, that compete with important government institutions. Vote against incumbents, but otherwise stay aloof from political campaigns."

From my own end, I've noticed that people who want to "make a difference" look first to politics whether it be in becoming politicians or working for them. That other ways of making a difference through the private sector are just as if not more effective is counterintuitive to such people. To me, this offers a good explanation as to why all government is to some degree hostile to the private sector; it is controlled by people who inherently believe themselves superior to the market.

Mark Bahner writes:
My guess is that a militant fascist could pick up a lot of the same voters.

As others have commented, I think this is completely wrong. How could a militant fascist pick up the same voters, if those voters support Ron Paul mostly because he advocates non-intervention and limited government?

I doubt that libertarianism will be advanced by any campaign for national office.

I think a well-spoken, serious and reasonable celebrity candidate for president would be a huge boost for libertarianism.

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