Liberty & Power: Group Blog
David T. Beito
I wrote a comment on Luker's post arguing a contrary view. I noted that while it is true that a vocal minority of our members have written posts enthusiastically backing Paul, others here, such as Wendy McElroy, have opposed him, expressed skepticism, or been silent.
Having said this, Luker might have a point. It is undeniable that Paul's boosters have posted often lately while his critics have not weighed in nearly as much. For this reason, I encourage the Ron Paul critics and skeptics to feel free to express themselves more often. At the very least, I'd like to make it clear that Liberty and Power does not take a party line on the next election.
David calls out the Paul skeptics here at L&P. As one of them, I'll answer the bell.
First, let me say I consider myself a very staunch libertarian, and I have been for more than 25 years. I worked on the Ed Clark campaign in 1980 as a cherub-faced 16 year old. As I've argued here before, I consider myself a libertarian of the left in the senses that 1) I believe that libertarian policies will better achieve most of the aims of the left than will their own preferred policies and 2) libertarians should be joining forces with the left on cultural issues, e.g. feminism and gender issues. Even if we don't agree with them that more state intervention is the way to address the problems, we should be more willing to recognize the problems and talk about both policy and cultural solutions to them. It will then come as no surprise that I'm a Paul skeptic.
Paul may be the most libertarian of the bunch from either party, but I do indeed have concerns about several of his positions. Before I launch into them, let me just say that I'm in strong support of a number of his more controversial positions: getting out of Iraq ASAP, getting the state out of the monetary system (see my post on the relationship between these two positions here), ending the Drug War, and generally de-regulating the US economy. Nonetheless, here are my concerns:
1) Abortion. I'm strongly pro-choice and I do believe that one can and should find constitutional protection for the right to choose. I agree that Roe was bad constitutional law, but I'd say it got to the right result for the wrong reasons. Granted, Paul's argument to give it back to the states is better than a constitutional amendment banning it, but I think that forcing pregnant women to carry to term is akin to slavery, and in the same way I would not tolerate a state that permitted slavery, I am unwilling to tolerate the banning of abortion at the state level. I have always found talk of "states' rights" by libertarians to be strange - states have no rights, only individuals do. (The language of federalism is perfectly fine of course.) Not to mention that "states' rights" remains, like it or not, a certain kind of signal to neo-confederates and other folks I'd rather not be associated with.
2) Immigration. I'm very much an open-borders kinda guy. Paul's "build a wall" and denial of automatic citizenship to children born in the US both strike me as not just bad policy (immigrants contribute much more than they "take" - legal or illegal) but also highly anti-libertarian. Why should employers be prevented from engaging in labor contracts with adults from anywhere in the world? Why are some to be excluded? Don't people from other countries have the "natural right" to emigrate? Do we believe that people should be free to move or not? And why are libertarians, of all people, so concerned about the fictional lines drawn by politicians? Like free trade, isn't this about individuals interacting with other individuals?
3) Free trade. I understand his concerns about the regional free trade agreements and the ways in which they empower trans-national organizations to settle disputes. I also share his concerns about the special interest components of those agreements. That said, I believe those agreements have been net gains for free trade and for the well-being of much of the world. My problem with Paul's position is that it's too focused on the impact of these agreements on the US, ignoring the fact that they do much good for the rest of the world, whatever the effects at home. I think the effects are positive for us too, and I don't fear any "loss of sovereignty" from them. The inward looking aspect of his stance on free trade (and immigration) is a real problem for me.
All of this leads to my general discomfort with Paul, which I think I would characterize as a lack of cosmopolitanism. For example, I don't think he's a racist but there are reasons why he's getting donations from KKK leaders. Even though many of his positions are solidly libertarian, the way they are framed, along with the three above, lend themselves to appealing to the nativist/Buchanan types in a way that I think goes against the historical progressive spirit of classical liberalism. I share David Bernstein's concerns about the way in which Paul addresses the racism issue, even if there's nothing in it that is "un-libertarian" in policy terms. This is an example of the sort of left-libertarianism view I advocated for above (and that I believe L&P co-blogger Roderick Long shares, though I don't know what he thinks of Paul). If the true spirit of libertarianism is a cosmopolitan one, we can and should do a lot better than a policy statement on racism that refers largely, if not only, to the way in which state-enforced racial categories (mostly of the left) have "divided" America. That may well be a problem, but its silence on the racism of the right and the real ways in which people of color continue to face discrimination (though much less than in the past) cuts against the grain of what should be libertarianism's progressivism. What is so difficult and so wrong about saying racism exists in other forms and that as people committed to equal and individual rights we should work to end it?
Libertarianism's progressive spirit is one of cosmopolitanism and openness to cultural change (perhaps best captured in our own time by Virginia Postrel's work). Paul's cultural conservatism and several of his positions push in the opposite direction and, in my view, might do long-term damage to libertarianism even if it reaps some short-term benefits in this campaign. I do not believe the future of libertarianism is in making alliances with the forces of nativism and the wrong sort of isolationism, nor with those who cannot see the ways in which the US is still not a society that treats women, gays/lesbians, and persons of color as equal individuals, both under the law and culturally. (To be clear, I'm not advocating for any state intervention to address these problems - in fact, the state is the source of some/many but not all of them). The future of libertarianism is to align with Postrel's forces of "dynamism" both left and right. Paul's campaign is attracting young people, but I suspect mostly because he does indeed tell it like it is and that straight talking appeals to cynical youth. And I do admire Paul greatly for his honesty and his intellect. But in the long run, the young will never sign on to a movement rooted in cultural conservatism. Paul's campaign is, in that sense, running a huge risk of long-term damage to libertarianism.
We were born as a progressive and cosmopolitan movement and we forget our history at our own peril. In the end, that is why I cannot get all that enthusiatic about Paul, even as I agree that ending the Wars in Iraq and on Drugs might be the two most important steps toward a free, prosperous, and peaceful society that we could take.
David T. Beito
I've criticized Ron Paul for not renouncing support from assorted loonies. However, at least Paul has not directly solicited their support. By contrast,"Obama paid his respects to one of Harlem's top powerbrokers - Reverend Al Sharpton, who says he hasn't decided who he is supporting, but the meeting sent a warning to Hillary Clinton that Harlem could be up for grabs." So long as it's considered acceptable for"mainstream" candidates to actually solicit support from the likes of Sharpton, and for that matter Giuliani supporter Pat Robertson, it gives Paul supporters good reason to question why their candidate is receiving such scrutiny for merely refusing to screen supporters. Apparently, if dangerous fringe demagogues have a sufficiently large political constituency, anything goes. (In my own case, I merely pointed out that the Paul campaign's refusal to disassociate itself from fringe supporters discourages me from supporting him as a protest candidate.)
More thoughts on the issues over at The Austrian Economists.
David T. Beito
Paul's doing better than anyone expected. It's abundantly clear that he's not doing it on charisma and rhetorical skill. Which means that libertarian ideas are actually appealing, since Ron Paul isn't. Paul's flaws as a vessel for those ideas prove the ideas' appeal. If they sell with him as the pitchman, they must be really resonating. I suspect Paul himself would agree with this analysis.
Reynolds is off base if he assumes that Paul's campaign illustrates a new flowering of libertarianism in a generic sense. In my experience, the libertarians who agree with Reynolds on the war are few and far between in Paul's ranks.
Instead, the Paul campaign is better described as the flowering of antiwar libertarianism. I see no reason to believe that the same enthusiasm would have been possible if the"vessel" for libertarian ideas was a pro-war candidate.
David T. Beito
Here is an audio of Karen Kwiatkowski's interview yesterday of Robert Higgs. Listening to Higgs is almost as delightful as reading his work. Higgs speaks on diverse topics including a comparison of the two party system to political cartels.
Note: The interview of Higgs is the second of the two interviews on the audio.
David T. Beito
If I had a gun to my head and had only two choices, I suppose I'd even be willing to suffer four more years of Bush-Cheney rather than endure that possibility.
Aeon J. Skoble
The articles include Angelo Codevilla’s response to the symposium papers about him which were featured in #28, as well as the proceedings of the recent Society for Value Inquiry meeting which featured an exchange between James Sterba and Tibor Machan. The other articles are:
Morality and the Foundations of Practical Reason by Brian Zamulinski
A Unified Theory of Intrinsic Value by Stephen Kershnar
Relativism and Progress by Howard Darmstadter
Are You in a Dilemma? What Disturbing Choices Say about Our Character by Jason Swedene
Respect for Persons and the Authority of Morality by Matt Zwolinski
Lomasky on Practical Reason: Personal Value and Metavalues by Shane Courtland
Political Obligations and the Duties of Friends by Nkiruka Ahiauzu
An Economic, Political, and Philosophical Analysis of Externalities by Brian P. Simpson
Plumb-Line Libertarianism: A Critique of Hoppe by Walter Block
Also, a review essay by James Stacey Taylor on Amy E. White’s Virtually Obscene: The Case for an Uncensored Internet and a review by Jordon Barkalow of Isaiah Berlin’s Political Ideas in the Romantic Age: Their Rise and Influence on Modern Thought
This issue begins what I hope is a new regime of production quality and efficiency. Not only did I switch printers, but I have been fortunate enough to secure the assistance of two talented individuals to serve as Managing Editors: Carrie-Ann Biondi and Irfan Khawaja. I am delighted with the results. Oh, and did I mention that the archive section on the website features full-text PDFs of all of No. 1-27? How cool is that?
David T. Beito
At Colossus of Rhodey, Hube reports the disturbing, but all too unsurprising, news that the California Superintendent of Education has hired professional “diversity trainer” Glenn Singleton. Mandatory programs of this type are often abusive and manipulative but Singleton’s is one of the worst.
As pointed out here earlier, many of his techniques recall those favored during the Chinese Cultural Revolution.
David T. Beito
Unfortunately, methods of this type, now rejected as barbaric in China, have become standard practice in the
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools of North Carolina: "When I am told about our national heritage or 'civilization,' I am
shown that people of my race made it what it is."
Or"I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having
co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race."
Teachers who feel situations are"often true" put down fives. Threes are
for"sometimes true" and zeroes are for"seldom true."
After tallying their scores, teachers write the number down, wear them
around their necks and line up from highest to
In an exercise called"The Color Line," they [teachers] answer 26 questions on a 0
to 5 scale, such as:
"When I am told about our national heritage or 'civilization,' I am shown that people of my race made it what it is."
Or"I can take a job with an affirmative action employer without having co-workers on the job suspect that I got it because of race."
Teachers who feel situations are"often true" put down fives. Threes are for"sometimes true" and zeroes are for"seldom true."
After tallying their scores, teachers write the number down, wear them around their necks and line up from highest to lowest.
The man responsible for this exercise is Glenn Singleton of the Pacific Educational Group. As King Banaian, Jesse Walker, Harry Brighouse, John Rosenberg, and Vincent Carroll have noted, Singleton's" courageous conversations" program is spreading rapidly.
He appears to have picked up the mantle from Jane Elliott, the most notorious of the"diversity experts" during the 1990s. Her film"Blue Eyed" shows a startling array of similar techniques of public intimidation.
In addition to Chapel Hill, the profit centers of Singleton's expanding financial diversity empire include the Cherry Creek school district in Colorado (which is paying his firm six figures), Bellevue Community College in Washington (secured courtesy of the Michelle Malkin and Wayne Perryman tag team), and many others.
This is all extremely depressing for those who value education and academic freedom. The worst part of it, however, is the groveling readiness of so many faculty to subject themselves to public degradation under the abusive eyes of Singleton's associates. Meanwhile, the same government schools and colleges that are wasting funds and time on this nonsense continue to dumb down standards and preside over the tyranny of low expectations for all students, black and white.
David T. Beito
The brisk growth of the federal level of government did not change its nature with regard to race. The racist color of many of the Progressive Era arguments is well documented and in her book Farewell to the Party of Lincoln historian Nancy Weiss brilliantly described how the rapid expansion of federal power called the New Deal featured a distribution of benefits characterized by high levels racial discrimination. In addition, as David Beito and Ron Paul have already pointed out, the war on people who use certain kinds of drugs is the most racist institution in modern America and the federal government is the most enthusiastic participant in that endeavor. During my lifetime, a period featuring a very large national presence in everyday life, there has been a constant stream of complaints and lawsuits by black people correctly asserting racial discrimination by a wide variety of federal government departments and agencies.
It is a popular misconception that the federal government freed the slaves. If you believe in the concept of inherent individual rights then there never were any slaves, there were only people whose natural rights were being systematically violated because of the color of their skin. Chattel slavery, by far the most egregious example of racism in American history, could not have existed without the active participation of government. In some areas of the South black people out numbered whites by as much as one hundred to one, so the system would not have been maintained without the kind of organized effort available only from the state. Slaves were sold on public auction blocks and the slave patrol was paid by the county. When Lincoln debated Douglas, on the extension of slavery to the territories and the concept of self determination on the issue, he argued that the point was mute because without the countenance of local government slavery could not survive. Therefore, the Emancipation Proclamation does not represent an expansion of government power to do good but rather a limitation on government power to do bad.
David T. Beito
Paul has condemned racism in general, but the only specific categories of racialist thinking he has criticized are racial set-asides, and advocates of"so-called 'diversity.'"
This is not correct. No other Republican candidate has spoken out so forcefully about those issues of direct concern today for blacks that relate to racism.
For example, Paul has condemned the differential treatment of blacks in the criminal justice system, police brutality. the racist aspects of the war on drugs and in capital punishment. The other candidates have been silent on these issues or, as in the case of Giuliani, are a key part of the problem.
Paul is certainly not the perfect candidate but he is light years ahead of his competitors. For this reason, I hope that Bernstein will explore at similar length the stands of the top tier candidates (many of whom have been openly endorsed by his colleagues at the Volokh Conspiracy) and how they compare with those of Paul on these issues.
Aeon J. Skoble
Aeon J. Skoble
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David T. Beito