"It [government] covers the surface of society with a network of small complicated rules, minute and uniform, through which the most original minds and the most energetic characters cannot penetrate, to rise above the crowd. The will of man is not shattered, but softened, bent, guided; men are seldom forced by it to act, but they are constantly restrained from acting: such a power does not destroy, but it prevents existence; it does not tyrannize, but it compresses, extinguishes, and stupefies a people, till each nation is reduced to be nothing better than a flock of timid and industrious animals, of which the government is the shepherd." ~ Alexis de Tocqueville
Ron Paul's Revolution
Exclusive to STR
April 28, 2008
Various writers have argued for the private production of security, showing how the state, with its territorial monopoly of protection, seriously harms the lives and property of those it claims to protect. The result of the state's imposition of collectivized security has drastically increased the cost of protection while heightening our exposure to danger. In the name of protecting us, the state has milked the economy and all but destroyed the dollar, while waging an unremitting war on personal freedom.
In his essay, 'The Private Production of Defense,' Hans-Hermann Hoppe provides an alternative to the state approach, elaborating on how the free market could provide defense services without infringing private property or personal liberty. To implement his insights he recommends we
withdraw [our] consent and willing cooperation from the state and [promote] its delegitimization in public opinion so as to persuade others to do the same.
Hoppe's essay is consistent with the Non-Aggression Principle. As I understand him, he regards the state per se as criminal, as an institutionalized aggressor posturing as our protector.
Given that one accepts this stateless idea of freedom, how should one assess the political philosophy of Ron Paul?
There are two broad views:
1. Paul's support of the Constitution means he supports the state; therefore, he is not a freedom fighter and his core values are no different in principle from Clinton's, Obama's, or McCain's. Or,
2. Paul is perhaps the first candidate in American history to run on a major party platform who opposes the distinguishing feature of the state ' i.e., coercion ' and is, from that standpoint, a courageous freedom fighter.
In other words, is Ron Paul's approach fundamentally flawed or is he trying to move us closer to the libertarian ideal of non-aggression?
In this article, I review in some detail Paul's philosophy as he presents it in his recently released book, The Revolution: a Manifesto, with the hope that readers will be motivated to study the book itself to decide whether he is freedom's friend or foe.
False Choices of American Politics
"If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about the answers," Thomas Pynchon wrote in Gravity's Rainbow. In 2008 America , almost all the political questions are wrong; they present false choices, Paul contends.
Should we launch preemptive wars against this country or that one? Should every American neighborhood live under this social policy or that one? Should a third of our income be taken away by an income tax or a national sales tax? The shared assumptions behind these questions . . . are never cast in doubt, or even raised.
- Neither is Paul impressed with the liberal Left. 'Although they posture as critical thinkers,' he writes, 'their confidence in government is inexcusably naive, based as it is on civics-textbook platitudes that bear absolutely zero resemblance to realty.' [p. 3]
And the news networks? It's little wonder they'd 'rather focus on $400 haircuts than matters of substance. There are no matters of substance.' [p. 4]
Paul didn't think he had a sizable constituency for his campaign when he reluctantly decided to run for president. Then on November 5, 2007 his campaign raised over $4 million online in one day, and on December 16, the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party, it broke that record by raising over $6 million. His message of freedom was waiting to be heard -- and supported. And who are his supporters? They're a broad mix -- Republicans, Democrats, freethinkers, whites, blacks, Hispanics, homeschoolers. The list goes on and on.
They are attracted to his campaign because of his message 'of freedom and individual rights.' [p. 5]
The Foreign Policy of the Founding Fathers
Founders such as Washington and Jefferson, and a little later John Quincy Adams, counseled trade and diplomacy in foreign affairs but no political entanglements. Needless to say, their advice is ignored today because, it is said, 'we no longer live in their times.' Does that mean we should give up the First Amendment, too? Paul asks. 'How about the rest of the Bill of Rights? . . . If anything, today's more complex world cries out for the moral clarity of a noninterventionist foreign policy.' [p. 10]
But taking sides with the Founders draws the charge of 'isolationist.' Isn't that reason enough to dismiss their advice? No, says Paul. 'The real isolationists are those who isolate their country in the court of world opinion by pursuing needless belligerence and war that have nothing to do with legitimate national security concerns.' [p. 11]
But what about 9/11? Didn't that 'change everything'?
Once again, the right questions were not being raised. What motivated the attacks? 'Looking for motives is not making excuses,' Paul says. 'Detectives always look for the motive behind crime, but no one thinks they are looking to excuse murder.'
Paul refers to the study of Michael Scheuer, a conservative and former chief of the CIA 's Osama bin Laden Unit at the Counterterrorist Center, who said the attacks had 'everything to do with what [the government does in the Islamic world].' [p. 15] When our government bombs other people and supports police states in their countries, why is it unreasonable to expect revenge? The CIA calls it blowback -- 'the unintended consequences of military intervention.'
Iran 's Ayatollah Khomeini tried and failed to instigate an anti-Western campaign based on the moral degeneracy of American culture. Bin Laden, Scheuer said, dismissed Khomeini's approach and focused instead on specific issues for which there was widespread agreement among Muslims. And as Paul said in a press conference last year, 'they all agree they hate U.S. foreign policy.' [p. 18]
Paul also discusses the issue of suicide bombers and references the study of Robert Pape, who collected a database of all 462 suicide terrorist attacks between 1980 and 2004. Between 1995 and 2004, two-thirds of the attacks came from countries with U.S. troop presence. Al Qaeda terrorists were twice as likely to come from a radical Islamic country, and 10 times as likely to come from a country where U.S. troops are stationed. [p. 20]
Until the U.S. invasion in 2003, Iraq had never had a suicide terrorist attack in its entire history. 'Predictably enough, al Qaeda recruitment has exploded since the invasion of Iraq ,' Paul writes. [p. 21]
And what about the U.S. media? Were they asking the right questions about Iraq ? 'The American media were so derelict in their duty during the Iraq war that one watchdog group actually offered a $1,000 reward for any reporter who would ask the administration a challenging question about prewar intelligence.' [p. 26]
Paul opposes all foreign aid, and this includes aid to Israel . 'I also favor discontinuing foreign aid to governments that are actual or potential enemies of Israel , which taken together receive much more American aid than Israel does.' [p. 34] Foreign aid especially in Africa has been a disaster, where it delays sound economic reforms and encourages wastefulness and statism. 'Moreover, since the aid has to be spent on products made by American corporations, it is really just a form of corporate welfare, which I can never support.' [p. 34]
He stresses how costly our foreign policy is, and not just in the terrible human cost of lost and damaged lives. The bill for our foreign presence is bringing us close to bankruptcy, by which he means the dollar will be destroyed.
- It would be a step forward, Paul says, if we could even debate the foreign policy we have now. The debates we do see or read about are