I stumbled across this old article by Will Willkinson (a former research fellow at the Cato Institute) about how Ron Paul was bad for the “creed” of Libertarianism.
In our age of Tea Party nut-jobs, it’s even more relevant:
“Yet it irks me that, as far as most Americans are concerned, Ron Paul is the alpha and omega of the libertarian creed. If you were an evil genius determined to promote the idea that libertarianism is a morally dubious ideology of privilege poorly disguised as a doctrine of liberation, you’d be hard pressed to improve on Ron Paul.”
I’ve long since stopped seriously using the term “libertarian” to describe myself, opting for the more historic term “liberal” (with a small ‘l’).
Paul, like most conservative-libertarians, defines the “creed” as the fight against taxes and other money-related issues, rather than upon the deeper humanitarian (anti-violence, anti-oppression, anti-coercion) philosophy that originally appealed to me about a (liberal) libertarian philosophy of politics.
“So when it comes to protecting the wealth of propertied Americans, Paul is an absolutist who will brook no compromise. Taxation is slavery! But when it comes to defending an equally basic, principled commitment to free immigration and unrestricted labor markets, Paul develops a keen sensitivity to complicated questions of feasibility, hemming and hawing his way to a convoluted compromise that would continue to affirm the systematic violation of the individual rights of foreigners who would like to live and work in America, and those of Americans who would like to live and work with them.”
The current Tea Party has been the final nail in the coffin. Any hope of retaining serious liberal-thinking intellectuals within the tent has been lost. The term “libertarian” is now a negative, pejorative one, that few morally honest people can’t stick with.
This point needs to be made more forcefully:
As a rule, libertarians have an unhealthy tendency to apply their principles without due regard to America’s history of state-enforced slavery, apartheid, and sexism, or to the many ways in which the legacy of these insidious practices persists to this day. Paul represents this tendency at his worst. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, Paul has argued, led to “a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society.”
Paul’s third principle of a free society says that “Justly acquired property is privately owned by individuals and voluntary groups, and this ownership cannot be arbitrarily voided by governments.” I follow Ron Paul enthusiasts in endorsing this principle wholeheartedly. Nevertheless, it’s hard to say exactly what “justly acquired property” amounts to in a country built in no small part by slave labor and on land stolen from indigenous people. How much of Thomas Jefferson’s property was justly acquired?
It’s sad, really, because there was a good decade where leftists — certainly many from my home of the North West (Portland, Seattle) — were realizing that the original enlightenment liberal movement was a much better (and more practically realizable) fit for their goals, than was the 20th-century liberal obsession with Marxism — And that the Libertarians (at that time) were the only people seriously pushing for these ideas to be put into practice.
Many Liberals (big ‘L’) were seriously realizing that the Progressive movement was against their own interest. In other words, Libertarianism was catching on among leftists as a political movement worth becoming a part of.
I was a part of that. That’s all gone now. While my own pro-liberal, pro-enlightenment, philosophies have actually deepened greatly — my interest in joining forces with the American Libertarian party has completely been destroyed — precisely because I find the (current) Libertarian movement to be anti-Enlightenment.
I’ll leave with what I think is a nice summary of where most Libertarians could do better at the (tough) art of intellectual-consistency:
Here’s my best attempt: A system of secure property rights is conducive to a society of peaceful cooperation that benefits even the least among us. The important thing for libertarians to remember—and the thing that Ron Paul forgets, or, rather, never knew—is that a system of secure property rights is a means to a peaceful society of mutual benefit, not an end in itself. And there are other legitimate public goods beyond the police protection of property rights. The need to finance the provision of these goods can justifiably limit our property rights, just as a system of property can justifiably limit our right to free movement. The use of official coercion to collect necessary taxes is no more or less problematic than the use of official coercion to enforce claims to legitimate property.
Now go lift something heavy,