Pharyngula

Why is Ron Paul so popular?

OK, ‘fess up — some of you know that I thoroughly detest libertarianism, that reactionary political movement that seeks to elevate greed and selfishness as a ruling principle, and I suspect one of you got me a subscription to Reason magazine a few months ago, just to taunt me. If your goal was to persuade me to come over to the side of unbridled anti-social self-centeredness, you failed. The issue comes, I glance through it, find a few little bits and pieces I can agree with, but because they’re all imbedded in this thick tarry fecal sludge of libertarianism, I end up throwing the whole thing away in disgust.

The issue I got today was no exception. The cover story: Ron Paul. Bleh.

I disliked Ron Paul before I learned he was a quack, before I heard him deny evolution, before I learned he was an enabler for neo-nazis. I rejected him when I first read about his proposed policies, the ones he isn’t embarrassed to make public, and saw that he was promoting the same garbage my relatives in the John Birch Society were peddling when I was a young man: isolationism, anti-government, anti-immigrant, generalized hatred of the other and a blind refusal to recognize that culture matters.

The mostly laudatory article in Reason confirms my opinion.

…it’s all classic Ron Paul: Get rid of the income tax and replace it with nothing; find the money to support those dependent on Social Security and Medicare by shutting down the worldwide empire, while giving the young a path out of those programs; don’t pass a draft; have a foreign policy of friendship and trade, not wars and subsidies. He attacks the drug war … one of his biggest applause lines, to my astonishment, involves getting rid of the Federal Reserve.

I actually approve of some of that, like ending the drive to empire and the drug war. The John Birchers of my youth pushed the same agenda, but then you dig a little deeper, and you find the rotting core of their reasoning.

He wants tougher border enforcement, including a border wall; he wants to eliminate birthright citizenship; and he wants to end the public subsidies that might attract illegal immigrants.

Ron Paul isn’t just a small-government obsessive: he’s a no-government radical. And at the same time he wants every positive function of government to vanish, he wants what amounts to a police state in place to keep the rest of the world out, all out of fear of those strangers with different customs and ideas.

So, please, whoever you are: don’t renew my subscription to that awful magazine, and please, please don’t make me live in a Ron Paul America.

Comments

  1. #1 Dídac
    December 30, 2007

    Liberarianism is only justified if social classes and political states are superseded.

  2. #2 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 31, 2007

    You may see the government and imagine its holding us back from anarchy.

    I see Somalia: no government, and anarchy.

    I see a government that protects the ones who are dumping toxins in our rivers and even rewards them with contracts and tax cuts.

    Then you need better government, not weaker government.

    Maybe you see the income tax and think its progressive, because that’s what they call it in school. I look at the actual effective rates and I realize its the poor and middle class who are paying the most while the investors walk away with a stack of cash from their tax lawyer’s office.

    So make the income tax more progressive, then, instead of taking it all away.

    “It doesn’t work as well as it could work if we actually cared about its implementation! So it must be destroyed!!!111eleventyone11!!”

    I thought only Austria’s extreme right was stupid enough to make such arguments.

  3. #3 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Well, the Dept. of Education – does it help? Have our students become better informed over the last 20 some years of its existence? We both want better education, but we disagree on how to achieve it. I think it has to be local, and you can’t expect a great result from any top-down system homogenized for 300,000,000 people.

    Has it ever occurred to you that there’s a world outside the USA?

    Why does it work there? Why are the local schoolboards of the USA so unique? It is, after all, normal that the curriculum is fixed on a countrywide level by the ministry of education, and in all rich countries it seems to work.

    Exactly. And IMO, the major lesson to be learned from this is the power & innovation of relatively independent states acting in cooperative competition.

    Is France’s health system better than Germany’s? Is there a *best* system in Europe that all the other states should be forced to adopt? No, its the competition and flexibility of independent states that creates the boom of progress. This is what put America to the top, and its the increasingly totalitarian top-down system that will take us down like the Soviet Union fell.

    Your way of thinking is bizarre. The health care systems of the European countries don’t compete with each other. And yes, if any of them turns out to be best (which, as you note, hasn’t happened so far), the EU should be lobbied to make all its members adopt it.

    And what top exactly?

    Hooray for Putin correctly (and obviously) pointing out that the US putting missile silos in Germany is just like the Cuban missile crisis.

    I’m not saying those silos are necessarily good for anything… but you know as well as Putin that Putin is making an incredible ass of himself by saying that. (Except in the eyes of the voters of his party, in whom he instills fear, just the way Fearless Flightsuit does.)

    I have no sense of obligation to support people on welfare or the old guy next door that needs a hip replacement.

    It’s an investment for you.

    Although I also differ with Ron Paul on most key issues, I felt compelled to support him because of his obviously apparent integrity.

    Most telling to me is that he let himself be drafted into military service, when he could have easily applied for, and received a student deferment.

    Killing and dying for the domino theory speculation is not integrity. It is ignorance, stupidity, or both.

    He also has a record of voting against congressional pay-raises, and even declined his own congressional pension.

    That’s more like it.

    The primary function of the Department of Education is subsidizing private banks to charge students above-market rates on student loans.

    Student loans shouldn’t need to exist at all, if you know what I mean.

    When it comes to fiat currency, we have had two previous examples of paper money that were abolished in favor of a return sound money.

    And you really don’t think there’s a reason why the whole world has “fiat currency”?

    I don’t think it’s just the capitalistic logic behind the “fiat” part (money is worth whatever you’re willing to pay for it). I think comment 221 is right.

    Socialism tries to handicap the gifted rather than level out the playing field.

    You’re talking about communism, not about socialism. China abolished the bourgeoisie; Sweden has abolished the proletariat.

    Inflation is an insidious and deceptive means of taxation, and we shouldn’t allow it.

    Given the choice between a little deflation and two or three times that much inflation, I’ll take the latter every day of the week and twice on sundays. After all, Chile under Pinochet was not a nice place to live, even if you kept your mouth shut.

    I never argued for “fixing” nations, mainly because it rarely works

    The Marshall Plan worked.

    In hindsight, it is something that libertarians should have welcomed, because it has resulted in the USA having more and richer trading partners, which has made the USA richer, too. It was an investment. But it required foresight, and, like evolution, the free market lacks foresight…

    I think it’s pretty funny that people are lambasting Libertarianism with made-up stories that the “corporations will take over!” And we’ll have stuff like Enron happen. Oops, Enron (and all the other corporate scandals) already happened without Libertarianism. And so did Valdez. And so did Microsoft crushing competitors and keeping antitrust cases in court without settlement for years and years. Et al.

    Hey, let’s all blame the Libertarians for Wal-Mart’s and Martha Stewart’s Asian sweatshops! Because we know sweatshops are only byproducts of Libertarianism!

    All of this sans Libertarianism.

    In fact, most of the things you dread happening under Libertarianism are actually happening today. Not all, but lots of them.

    Oh man.

    All these things happen where there’s already too much libertarianism and too little government protection of capitalism. Yes, you’ve read that right: capitalism must be protected from itself. Competition must be protected, because it is selected against. Leave the market to itself, and monopolies will form (whether by competition or by megamergers). A very important function of governments, including supranational organizations like the EU, is to keep competition and thus capitalism alive.

    Another function is to make sure no entrepreneur is dumber than Henry Ford, who justified the higher wages he paid by pointing out who was going to buy his products. In other words, to protect capitalism from human stupidity — again.

    OF COURSE you will have greedy people with sweatshops. OF COURSE you will have corruption. Etc., etc. People are people and you’ll have that under any system.

    Then why don’t we have any over here?

    Libertarians believe the market will correct for that

    And this religious belief is justified because?

    just like it does today

    It doesn’t.

    I’d like to add that giving to the needy is not compassion if it’s mandatory. Who is more compassionate: the person who gives to charity causes because it’s right, or the person who gives because the government forces them to?

    Why should I care? Why shouldn’t I rather care about the results?

    Also, I think people should have the right not to be dependent on others’ compassion.

  4. #4 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 31, 2007

    Monopolies are creations of the state, not of markets.

    You know plenty of counterexamples. Either that, or you have Alzheimer’s.

  5. #5 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 31, 2007

    It is also entirely possible that one individual or group could own all or the majority of land in an area and thus have de facto control of food and transport of food.

    There have been, and AFAIK still are, plenty of small 3rd-world countries of which, say, 80 % is owned by the richest, say, four families. Add a hundred years and a few dynastic marriages…

  6. #6 David Marjanovi?, OM
    December 31, 2007

    I said “rarely.” And I am not a libertarian.

    As far as I remember at this time of the night, I wasn’t directly talking to you. I often take a quote and use it to illustrate a point to the whole community…

  7. #7 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 1, 2008

    What, only from 380 to 427 in about 24 hours? Someone’s slacking here. Good, that means I can keep up with reading :-)

    ————-

    The solution is not libertarianism, but the control of money-driven corruption in government. Unfortunately, that’s difficult in the U.S. because of the absurd Supreme Court declaration that spending is speech.

    Yet another case where the USA are almost unique: in places with code law instead of case law — and no place, not even Louisiana, has ever introduced case law when given the choice –, such decisions are made in parliament (or by referendum if a large change to the constitution is required), not by a court. Such places have a constitution court which does nothing but decide if laws are constitutional.

    —————-

    “Your way of thinking is bizarre. The health care systems of the European countries don’t compete with each other. And yes, if any of them turns out to be best (which, as you note, hasn’t happened so far), the EU should be lobbied to make all its members adopt it.”

    Your way of thinking is equally bizarre, and exactly why we need markets and federalism. There never is one, static “best” way–the best way is always evolving, but your way is one sure path to stagnation. Let’s make everyone adopt the current “best” model (which will be judged by . . . whom? A referendum in all countries as to which one has the best health care system?)

    As I wrote and you quoted: so far, none of the ways has been shown to be the best. IMHO it is entirely possible that no way is best, or that, as you suggest, which way is the best depends on ever-changing circumstances.

    However, if “best” is defined as “best price-performance ratio at an acceptable price”, then it is entirely imaginable (not proven — just imaginable) that one of the ways is objectively the best.

    As for those slinging around the term “moron”, way to go ad hominem.

    “Ad hominem argument” is not synonymous with “insult”. “X is a genius, so s/he must be right” is an ad hominem argument. “X is wrong and therefore shown to be a moron” is not one. “X is a moron and therefore wrong” is one.

    Libertarians believe

    I love it when libertarians start their “explanations” with “Libertarians believe”. Is it a testable and tested hypothesis, or is it a dogma that needs no justification? If the former, why introduce it as if it were the latter? I know what you believe. I want to know how you reached your conclusions.

    They don’t directly compete, but if the people in England hear about some advantage in the French system they will be encouraged to raise the issue with their representatives. If it gets bad enough, people can vote with their feet and move to another state.

    And how many are ever going to do that?

    With your other point, you are of course right that if any of the healthcare systems ever turns out to be the best in all respects, the voters will do the lobbying I mentioned, either at the national level or at the EU level (I should have mentioned the former possibility, which of course makes the latter unnecessary).

    ————-

    Myers comments are ignorant because he is totally unaware of the history of libertarian works. It’s like he never heard of the great libertarian Lysander Spooner or of the efforts of Milton Freedman to help third world countries.

    What the fuck. Milton “deflation in Pinochet’s Chile” Friedman!?! Some “help”!

    Heck it’s like he discovered that some Jews were for capitalism and then wrote:

    You choose to be a Libertarian. You don’t choose to be a Jew.

    —————-

    Crappy excuses for failing in life.

    And people who fail in life must be punished additionally, or what?

  8. #8 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 1, 2008

    I’m a fan of democracy because of its ability to fix its own mistakes (a market economy is capable of the same)

    I agree, with one little detail added: Democracies must have a constitution to prevent the majority from installing a dictator who destroys democracy — from, as you put it, “putting limits on others”. Free markets must have a government to prevent a superior competitor from gaining a monopoly who destroys competition and thus the free market.

    —————–

    Economic growth follows market reforms. Not a single country has turned rich simply by providing state-funded education or health care. A welfare state without free markets doesn’t exist. There isn’t a single state that is prosperous and not economically free. There isn’t a single state that is economically free and not prosperous.

    I haven’t bothered looking at any data, but so far, I agree.

    There isn’t a single state that is economically free and not prosperous.

    Somalia.

    ————-

    btw, do show me an extant democracy. anywhere.

    I guess you mean a direct democracy, where all voters vote directly on every law. After all, representative democracies abound; according to the “goddamn piece of paper”, even the USA is one…

    Switzerland is mostly, though not purely, a direct democracy: most laws have to pass a referendum.

    Something even more basic, however, exists: the whole village — all “voters” — sits down at one table and discusses and discusses and discusses till everyone is convinced of what to do. This is found, for example, among the pygmies in the Congo rainforest and among the farmers in the highlands of New Guinea. Of course, in communities larger than a few hundred people this is simply not feasible (at least not without the Internet); this is why representative democracies exist.

  9. #9 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 1, 2008

    Even the current subprime crisis was in part caused by the FED that kept pumping money into the American economy when it should have done the reverse.

    Unlike other national banks, the US Federal Reserve is a private corporation…

    Practically all cases of resources being wasted like there’s no tomorrow are fine examples of a situation known as Tragedy of the Commons, a result of resources not being owned by anyone, or being owned by everyone. Any organization that is concerned with our resource use should take the enforcement of private property as its number one policy.

    Interesting point, but whose private property shall all the fish in the sea become?

    (This is one example of a renewable resource that we are exploiting faster, much faster, than it can renew itself.)

  10. #10 David Marjanovi?, OM
    January 3, 2008

    If you cannot see the difference between Mrs. Duncan cashing a welfare check and a man who’s inflating the money supply, seizing property, being friends with militant communists, causing shortages of food etc. then I really can’t help you.

    And waiting for the next election was not an option?

    I’d also like some evidence for the deliberate food shortages. Further, I’d like to see that the inflation was worse than the deflation Milton Friedman later wrought.

    My original point was that Washington D.C. isn’t suited to serve local interests like schools and medicine and shouldn’t be trusted with such public wealth and power as we have given up in the last 20-30 years.

    Was that a point? Or just an assertion (as another libertarian here put it, “Libertarians believe”)?

    Comment 442:

    through several paragraphs, you manage to elucidate what I thought was the obvious implied point I was making.

    *shrug*

    I guess I should be more specific next time, so as not to have the obvious explained to myself.

    Indeed, what i was hoping for was NOT an answer to the obvious from yourself, but rather seeing whether mikko had any comprehension of what I meant by that.

    I wanted to explain it to him, because I thought he had clearly not understood it.

    “Authoritarianism need not be capitalist, it just generally is. ”

    Empirically false. In modern times the Nazis, Communists, Mugabes of the world prove this all to clearly. In the past there was no capitalism and it was mostly authoritarianism.

    If you have a sufficiently purist view of what is and is not capitalism, sure… by analogy, that would mean there has never been a communist country either…

    Socialism is the perfect excuse for an authoritarian takeover as history proves over and over. It’s happening with Chavez as we speak.

    Communism is the perfect excuse for an authoritarian takeover. Socialism by definition wants any takeover to happen by election, not by revolution; that makes it harder. Chávez tried anyway, and, lo & behold, he (narrowly) lost. He’s foaming at the mouth, but he can’t do anything against that, and he won’t do anything against that. That would be majorly bad PR, and he knows that if his PR gets too bad, he’s in serious trouble.

    A few decades ago, the Soviet Union said it wasn’t communist, it was socialist. This was at once a reference to strict Marxist theory (where socialism and communism are stages in the “inevitable” development of a society, and the USSR had only reached the stage of socialism) and a propaganda coup (see above for the difference between the ideologies of communism and socialism). Various US conservatives took this propaganda coup and ran with it, because it allowed them to equate socialists with communists (and everyone to their left with socialists). This seems to be the definition you are using.