Sunday, December 30, 2007

Ron Paul: End Student Visas For Foreigners

According to this ad, Ron Paul would end birthright citizenship and stop granting visas to students from "terrorist nations." Justin Raimondo calls the ad "disgraceful" and "absolutely wrong."

I agree. But ending student visas to brown people those from terrorist nations (like Pakistan? India? Cuba? Iran?) is a message that should resonate with many Americans. It simultaneously pushes two buttons that are very hot right now: first, and most obviously, the terrorism button. Second, and more subtly, the "foreigners are invading America and stealing all the jobs" button.

Now, I know that those who come to the United States on student visas don't usually stay in the country. But do most Americans know that? Or do they instead suspect that the brown people foreigners coming to the U.S. to study are really planning on taking up permanent residence, yanking one more job away from the beleaguered American middle class?

I wonder. There's a case to be made that so-called "fast track" visa programs should be ended, or at least subject to more scrutiny. As I recall, some of the 9/11 hijackers got into the country through such programs. But halting visas to all students from any terrorist nation is extreme, and would not stop terrorists from striking U.S. interests.

It is, however, the kind of position that appeals to bigots and reactionaries. With the withdrawal of Tom Tancredo from the race, maybe Ron Paul was trying to pick up some of his now homeless supporters.

I'm not even going to go into how misguided the idea of ending birthright citizenship is; perhaps Ron Paul would like to repeal all of the 14th Amendment, instead of just the Equal Protection clause?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Ron Paul and the White Nationalists: It Hits The Fan

Check out this link to a thread on one of the net's premier "white nationalist" message boards. Here is the original post, entitled "Ron Paul Lies About Lack Of Involvement With White Nationalists":


I have kept quiet about the Ron Paul campaign for a while, because I didn't see any need to say anything that would cause any trouble. However, reading the latest release from his campaign spokesman, I am compelled to tell the truth about Ron Paul's extensive involvement in white nationalism.

Both Congressman Paul and his aides regularly meet with members of the Stormfront set, American Renaissance, the Institute for Historic Review, and others at the Tara Thai restaurant in Arlington, Virginia, usually on Wednesdays. This is part of a dinner that was originally organized by Pat Buchanan, Sam Francis and Joe Sobran, and has since been mostly taken over by the Council of Conservative Citizens.

I have attended these dinners, seen Paul and his aides there, and been invited to his offices in Washington to discuss policy.

For his spokesman to call white racialism a "small ideology" and claim white activists are "wasting their money" trying to influence Paul is ridiculous. Paul is a white nationalist of the Stormfront type who has always kept his racial views and his views about world Judaism quiet because of his political position.

I don't know that it is necessarily good for Paul to "expose" this. However, he really is someone with extensive ties to white nationalism and for him to deny that in the belief he will be more respectable by denying it is outrageous -- and I hate seeing people in the press who denounce racialism merely because they think it is not fashionable.

Bill White, Commander
American National Socialist Workers Party

Now, only time will tell if there is any truth to this post. Bill White is the head of the American Nazi party, but maybe that makes him less rather than more credible. As for independent confirmation, Little Green Footballs reports that Ron Paul's campaign has spent money at the Tara Thai restaurant. Also, the Southern Poverty Law center reports that
The Robert A. Taft Club, a group headed by a man with a network of racist connections, has announced that a U.S. congressman, Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), will address the group this Thursday at a restaurant in Arlington, Va.
Marcus Epstein, the head of the Robert A. Taft Club, really does have a lot of connections to racist organizations. Dr. Paul really shouldn't give this speech, especially after his recent refusal to return a campaign contribution from another so-called white nationalist. As the American Thinker suggests, if Bill White is lying about him, Ron Paul should sue, and agree to testify under oath.

Anyway, to me, it's the reaction of others on the neo-Nazi message board that's interesting. Here's part of the very first reply to Bill White's post:
if Ron Paul is on our side isn’t this thread harming him? There are a lot more anti-racists that would vote against him than racists that would vote for him. People that agree 100% with Ron Paul would vote against him if they thought he was a racist.
There are quite a few more posts along this line: "Hey, shut your face! Even if Ron Paul believes what we believe, we don't want other people to know that!" This confirms several things I've mentioned previously in my blog: rightly or wrongly, the American nazi crowd believes a Ron Paul presidency will be good for them. Here is another quotation:
While I find this information interesting and intriguing, I have to join the chorus here in asking how the fuck does this help Ron Paul or white nationalism?... Ron Paul is the only candidate that comes close to matching our views in the mainstream political debate...We have to be realistic when it comes to making big political changes. Ron Paul is our first step. Please don't ruin it!
However, one of the most interesting posts, one worthy of followup research, is this pithy affirmation of crypto-fascism:
Assuming this is true, why would you feel compelled to publicize it? Dr. Pierce spoke regularly about having key people at key places inside the gates, ready to flip the switch at the right moment. With this revelation, you might very well have wrecked what little chance Dr. Paul had.
Even the thread moderator chides the original poster only for his timing: "Timing as meant by when we decide to open our mouths. Your opening post is ill timed and because of that, it's hurtful on several different levels."

Here's another edifying quotation:
You want to play dress-up Nazi in your mom's basement or you want to see some actual results? Ron Paul doesn't have to be a WN or whatever. His policies are against the corrupted jews/traitors at the highest levels in government. You want the same go-nowhere, fantasy role-playing Nazi bullshit? Stick with Bill White and his teenage crew. You want results that might not be day of the rope, but something? Ron Paul it is.
I'm not sure, but I think "day of the rope" is part of the neo-Nazi fantasy in which hordes of white people round up hordes of black people and hang them, a sort of "final solution" via the eschatology of the Book of Revelation, if you like. So here's what he's saying: Ron Paul doesn't believe what we believe, but his policies will get us closer to the genocide we're always fantasizing about.

Which is exactly what I've been suggesting the neo-Nazis believe. From the start. And there may be some support for this belief, as my previous post contrasting James Madison with Ron Paul suggests.

There are some substantial pockets of these racist bastards in states as far removed as Michigan and Arkansas. Fortunately, two related forces stop them from exerting (much) influence in their home states. First, the federal Supreme Court. Second, the fact that said political body has stripped states of the authority they would require if the "day of the rope" has any chance of occuring.

Ron Paul wants to demolish both these forces. How can the Nazis not see this as enabling their dark vision?

The Nazi strategy requires secrecy, as they know better than anyone. Well, time to expose the plot.

Friday, December 14, 2007

The Significance of "Blowback"

From Instapundit comes this piece by Lee Harris, entitled "Reflections on 'Blowback.'" As Harris points out, "blowback" used to refer to negative, unintended consequences following a covert intelligence operation. Now, as used by people like Ron Paul, it seems to refer to the negative, unintended consequences of any aspect of foreign policy.

The point of Harris's piece is simple and broadly correct: when it comes to foreign policy, doing nothing is basically the same as doing something. Suppose the United States decided to never intervene in the goings-on of the rest of the world ever again. As a result of this policy, other nations would probably intervene even more than they do now. For example, China might exert its influence to fill in the void the removal of American power would produce. This, too, could have severe negative consequences for the United States. As Harris argues:

If a policy of disarmament and appeasement turns out to increase the power and prestige of nations ruled by warmongers, this is every bit as much a case of blowback as the defeat that an aggressive nation unexpectedly brings on itself when it precipitately goes to war.
I find Harris's analysis of (one of) the libertarian position(s) spot on as well. In the sphere of domestic affairs, libertarians tend to think that things will handle themselves, and that attempts to interfere with the market will likely produce unintended negative consequences that far outweigh any positive benefits. They're probably right about this.

But the international sphere is unlike the domestic sphere in one crucial, all-important sense: in the domestic sphere, the national government has a monopoly on deciding who will be allowed to make policy within that territory. This will be true even in perfectly libertarian countries. China cannot make policy for the citizens of, say, Arkansas. But this is mainly because the U.S. federal government will stop China from doing so.

In other words, the federal government will stop China from imposing policy F on American citizens, even if (in a perfectly libertarian nation) the federal government itself would not have the power to establish policy F. Having the power to prevent a policy from being established is not necessarily identical with having the power to impose such a policy oneself.

The problem is, in the international sphere, there is no international government to prevent one nation from imposing policies on another. The closest thing the world has is the United States, and people like Ron Paul are all too eager to see that nation abandon its role. Maybe he's right. But abdicating the post of world police will not necessarily prevent blowback. It would simply empower other nations to impose their policies on the citizens of the world, just as other nations would impose their will on the citizens of Arkansas if the federal government withdrew its protection from that state. As Harris observes,
It is simply a myth to believe that only interventionism yields unintended consequence, since doing nothing at all may produce the same unexpected results. If American foreign policy had followed a course of strict non-interventionism, the world would certainly be different from what it is today; but there is no obvious reason to think that it would have been better.
This is another reason to think that a foreign policy of strict non-interventionism is morally dubious. If its moral justification revolves around the cost of blowback to American citizens and interests, then such justification basically places infinite weight on any possible cost (blowback) to Americans, and, consequently, zero weight on any certain cost (blowback) to anyone else in the world.

A moral justification that relies on giving infinite weight to the interests of one group, to the exclusion of all others, is hardly a moral justification at all. Even more so if the justification is invariant to the probabilities involved, so that any risk becomes too much risk. Such justification is not just amoral: it's also highly irrational.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

A Question

Is it libertarian to think that governments ought to be able to prohibit the private, consensual activities of persons in their jurisdictions?

The obvious answer is: no.


Is it libertarian to think that state governments ought to be able to prohibit the private, consensual activities of persons in their jurisdictions?

Why should the answer change if we're talking about the government of, say, Alabama?

It shouldn't. But Ron Paul's libertarian supporters seem to believe the answer does change if one is considering government at that level.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

I hate agreeing with Chomsky

Check here for an interview circling the 'net with Noam Chomsky in which he discusses Ron Paul. The interview may not be authentic (I couldn't find an original link.) It sounds like Chomsky to me, though, so I'm going to assume it's genuine until someone proves otherwise.

Besides, it's more interesting to assume the words are Chomsky's, even if it disturbs me to find myself in some agreement with them.

First, I think Chomsky's wrong on the Constitution (he suggests the "individual" reading of the 2nd Amendment is a distortion, etc.) But I agree with him in at least two places.

Chomsky responds to Ron Paul's vehement support for property rights and contracts.

Suppose someone facing starvation accepts a contract with General Electric that requires him to work 12 hours a day locked into a factory with no health-safety regulations, no security, no benefits, etc. And the person accepts it because the alternative is that his children will starve. Fortunately, that form of savagery was overcome by democratic politics long ago.
You know what? Chomsky has a point here: the relationship between individual liberty and private property is strictly contingent. A regime where private property and contracts are always respected will not necessarily be freer (for individuals) than a regime where they are sometimes not respected so that other social goals can be achieved.

As a matter of fact, I think protection of private property has lots of good effects, most of which government could not duplicate even if civil servants were as virtuously motivated as some left wing people seem to think they are. But it is simply not necessarily true that "more private property = more freedom." Taking a few bucks from a billionaire to provide education for poor children enhances the autonomy of those children and limits the freedom of the billionaire only a little.

(Here, some may think I've moved into a utilitarianism of rights. Not so. Or, at least, not with respect to most rights. Property rights are not like most rights; "they can be infringed without being abridged.")

Chomsky also responds to Ron Paul's "non-interventionist" foreign policy.
He is proposing a form of ultranationalism, in which we are concerned solely with our preserving our own wealth and extraordinary advantages, getting out of the UN, rejecting any international prosecution of US criminals (for aggressive war, for example), etc. Apart from being next to meaningless, the idea is morally unacceptable, in my view.
I think I agree with Chomsky here, too. A principled policy of absolute non-interventionism is actually a morally dubious idea, as much as when it is applied to big groups of individuals (states) as it is to the individuals themselves. Consider the individualist version of a policy of non-intervention: I won't spend a jot of my money or my time to help you, no matter what happens to you. It's a complete denial of any idea of common moral community.

Libertarians I know tend to think that all our moral obligations to others are strictly reciprocal: I don't have to do anything for you unless I've made a promise, voluntarily accepted a benefit, etc. This is an impoverished -- and, I think, ultimately implausible -- view of what we owe to others.

What does all of the above mean for politics? I don't know that much about Chomsky's political views, but if he is like most on the left he probably hasn't acknowledged the limits public choice economics places on political policy. Thus, even if I think we do have some kind of ground-level obligation to help those in need, I tend to think that it would be a moral disaster for governments to try to enforce that obligation.

When governments involved, things tend to get screwed up in predictable ways. A government that took it on itself to try to enforce the kind of general obligation I have in mind would quickly wind up using its power for all kinds of immoral (or at least amoral) goals and policies.

Indeed: the more general our obligations to others are, the less involved government should be with forcing us to uphold those obligations. But this doesn't mean government should never do anything at all, especially when the government is not going to go away just because some of us want it to do so.

We should use the government, for whatever it is worth.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Pope Benedict XVI and Atheism

On Friday, the Pope released a 75 page encyclical, "an appeal to a pessimistic world to find strength in Christian hope." according to Reuters. The encyclical has perturbed some who see it as an attack on atheism. Those people are pretty much absolutely wrong.

The critical (and much criticized) passages start around section 42 of the Pope's missive. To quote:

The atheism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is—in its origins and aims—a type of moralism: a protest against the injustices of the world and of world history. A world marked by so much injustice, innocent suffering, and cynicism of power cannot be the work of a good God...It is for the sake of morality that this God has to be contested.
Pope Benedict goes on to say that, "A world which has to create its own justice is a world without hope." This is because, "No one and nothing can answer for centuries of suffering."

How can an atheist really dispute what the Pope is saying here? They can't just by pointing out that religion, too, has produced lots of suffering. For look at Benedict's words: he refers to centuries of suffering -- suffering that goes beyond Nazis and Communists and all the other 20th century boogymen.

He must be including religious-inspired violence, the same violence that some atheists suggest is at least one reason to turn one's back on organized religion, not to mention deny the existence of God.

As Benedict also observes,
If technical progress is not matched by corresponding progress in man's ethical formation, in man's inner growth, then it is not progress at all, but a threat for man and for the world...Science can contribute greatly to making the world and mankind more human. Yet it can also destroy mankind and the world unless it is steered by forces that lie outside it.
Can a philosophically-minded atheist really deny that science, in itself, cannot provide ethical guidance? Of course it can't: science deals with facts; ethics -- decision-making -- requires a consideration of value. Here the Pope is doing nothing more than affirming the is/ought distinction.

The question, then, is where do our "oughts" come from? Benedict is not claiming humans can't come up with ethical codes, and direct their behavior accordingly. He is claiming that human morality cannot make up for all the suffering humans have and will continue to cause. Those centuries of suffering are a weight hanging over all of us, not only a record of what we've done, but a dark prophecy of what we will do, as science increases our power.

He's certainly not claiming that all atheists are immoral or anything like that. But no human-created morality can ease the burden the past places on us (and here I am not suggesting -- nor is Benedict, I think -- that there is any other kind of morality except the human created.) Placed against that burden, no human-created morality can establish hope, because no matter how enlightened that morality is, our history shows that we will inevitably fail to live up to it.

For Benedict, this is why:
Man's great, true hope which holds firm in spite of all disappointments can only be God, God who has loved us and who continues to love us "to the end," until all "is accomplished"
I'm not sure about that part. And I'm not sure a reason for optimism is a good justification for believing in God. If the alternatives are hopelessness without God, on one hand, and hopefulness with God, on the other, we still don't have an argument for the existence of God. We still don't have any reason not to be an atheist.

But perhaps Benedict is only making the case that these really are our only alternatives. I can buy that. I don't really want to buy it, but I try not to let my wants dictate my beliefs.

[Update: Benedict's encyclical reminds me greatly of Walter Miller's book, A Canticle for Leibowitz, one of my favorite books. Indeed, I think Benedict and Miller are pretty much on the same page: Benedict's encyclical has the same theme as revealed in the cyclical nature of Miller's book.]

[Update 2: Check here for a typical reaction on an atheist forum. All of them seem to be reacting to a summary of the encylical rather than the text itself. I think I'll post more about this later.]

Monday, December 3, 2007

How Capitalism Dies

"The Capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them."
-- V.I. Lenin

Check here for an analysis of the federal government's plan to bail out greedy idiots good middle-class Americans who are losing their homes because they can no longer afford the payments on their adjustable rate mortgages (ARMs.)

There isn't much to say here. People took out loans on houses knowing the repayment rates could change. Every one of them probably could have bought a smaller house, on a fixed rate mortgage. Many of them lied about their incomes in order to get a higher level of financing. The economy slowed, and now they can no longer afford to make payments on their little castles.

And, of course, the government is going to bail them out. Paulson's plan will freeze the rates on ARMs (thereby shortchanging the investors who made the money available to be loaned in the first place.) It'll eat up taxes (yours and mine, fellow renter.) All to preserve the illusion of middle class virtue -- that it isn't their fault they can't afford to repay their loans, but the responsibility of the big bad banks. That it's your responsibility. Mine.

Lenin's dictum that capitalists will sell the rope that will be used to hang them is pretty much spot on, although maybe not in the sense Lenin thought it was. The people who took out ARMs to buy big houses they could not really afford were greedy. Maybe capitalism doesn't make people greedy, but it doesn't do anything to make them less greedy, either.

The same motivation that led "mom and pop" to buy a house they couldn't afford is going to lead them to demand government save them from their own incompetence. That same motivation is going to lead politicians to get involved, with predictably disastrous results, leading to additional political interventions. Hence, capitalism will wither and die, hoisted on its own petard.

The rope to hang themselves, indeed.

[Update: As should be expected, the Democrats' proposed solutions to the ARM problem run the gamut from inane to insane.]

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Publius Endures: More on Paul's Interview w/ Alex Jones

Publius Endures: More on Paul's Interview w/ Alex Jones

Here is an interesting post from a self-described "luke warm" Ron Paul supporter about the way Dr. Paul seems to cater to Alex Jones and his crowd of loony conspiracy theorists.

A Question for RP and his Supporters

Taken from a much longer post of mine:

Are there some things Ron Paul thinks neither the federal government nor state governments should be able to regulate? Does he think anything should be entirely left up to the individual to decide? If not, then he's no friend of liberty. And if he does, what's his principled basis for thinking so?

I know what my "principled basis" is: I actually care about individual liberty, specifically the liberty of each person to live his life as he sees fit. That's why I reject Ron Paul, who, on the floor of Congress, has said things like the following:

"The State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards."

Aside from RP's complete misrepresentation of the issue at stake in Lawrence (the right at issue was not the right to have gay sex, but the right to have intimate relations with whomever one desires) what constitutional basis is there for the claim that the states do have the right to tell people who they can have sex with? Why isn't that right one falling out of the 9th Amendment -- one retained by the people?

You need to invoke more than the text of the Constitution itself to "fill in" the black box of the 9th Amendment. Indeed, that's precisely its point: to tell us that our rights may extend beyond the confines of anything written in the Bill of Rights itself. Textualism, in itself, is not enough. Political philosophy is required, i.e. a view about the general purpose -- the very point of having a government in the first place.

Libertarians I've known were never shy about exploring that philosophical ground. Now many of them are supporting someone who seems to think it's unnecessary to ever step foot on it. After all, the Constitution can answer each and every one of our policy questions, just as long as you interpret it Ron Paul's way.

And no, the 9th Amendment does not imply that it only becomes legitimate to recognize a right once the Constitution is amended to include that right. That interpretation would make the 9th Amendment superfluous. Think about it.

What does it mean to leave abortion for the states to decide?

My last post cited a report indicating that as many as 30 states would likely ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were reversed. Ron Paul thinks Roe was wrongly decided. I happen to think it was decided wrongly, if one can admit the difference. Dr. Paul thinks the problem with Roe v. Wade is that it unconstitutionally abrogates the freedom of the states to choose their own abortion laws. Reversing Roe would allow individual states to regulate or ban abortion in whatever way the citizens of those states (or some plurality of them) desired.

As should be expected, I find Dr. Paul's assessment and rejection of Roe v. Wade simplistic. As a matter of legal fact, Roe v. Wade did leave the regulation of abortion up to the states, almost entirely. It did this in at least two ways.

First, and more well known, it proposed different rules for each of trimester of pregnancy. For example, no state can totally ban abortion in the first trimester. In the second trimester, abortion can be regulated, but only in ways that are respectful to the value of maternal health. In the third trimester, a state can ban abortion.

Second, and more interestingly, Roe gave the states wide latitude to regulate abortion in other ways. Planned Parenthood v. Casey saw the Court uphold several regulations on abortion, including a parental notification law and an informed consent law (this latter law requiring physicians to provide women with information about the risks of abortion.) Casey also formally overturned the trimester formula, while preserving its upshot: fetal viability is the point at which states can ban abortion entirely, since that is the point at which a state's interest in the life of that fetus trumps the rights of the pregnant woman.

Thus, Roe and subsequent cases gave the states all the power to ban abortion abortion after the point of viability, and gave it a great deal of power to regulate abortion before that point. Notice that the power the Court did not give to the states does not just vanish into thin air -- rather, it accrues to women, especially those seeking abortions. Overturning Roe would give state governments the rest of that power.

Now the difference between wrongly decided and decided wrongly is this: as a libertarian, I think individuals -- women -- should have most of the power, because I value individual liberty and have a problem with governments taking power away from people. The problem is that in Roe the Court relied on the 14th Amendment's due process clause. It was not the first time the due process clause was used in this way, of course, and stare decisis is probably enough to justify its use in Roe.

(I do tend to share Bork's view that, at least on the surface, Lochner, Griswold, and Roe all look pretty similar. But I bet I know which of the rulings in those cases Ron Paul would not reject. Hint: it's the one that has to do with regulating property, as opposed to regulating people's bodies.)

In any event, as a libertarian, I only have to value the Supreme Court, judicial review, and stare decisis instrumentally, to the extent they contribute to the freedom of individuals. Arguably, both do, in the same way rule of law more generally contributes to individual liberty. As far as I can tell, Ron Paul rejects each one of these things.

That's what it means to want to give the states all the power when it comes to regulating abortion. It means denying the importance of judicial review, of stare decisis, and of the importance of the Supreme Court as a means of protecting the rights of real, honest-to-goodness people.

Of course, it's literally true that the Constitution does not mention a specific "right to have an abortion." It doesn't mention a specific "right to walk and chew gum at the same time," either. But it does contain something called the 9th Amendment, which says that there may very well be lots of rights besides those specifically enumerated in the Bill of Rights. That's because the Founding Fathers, unlike Ron Paul and some of his supporters, understood that listing all of our "natural liberties" in one document would be impossible.

In Federalist 84, Hamilton could have been talking about Dr. Paul and his cabal when he suggested that a bill of rights could be dangerous. A bill of rights "would contain various exceptions to powers not granted; and, on this very account, would afford a colorable pretext to claim more than were granted."

In other words, since the right to privacy is not literally in the document we all call the "Bill of Rights," it can't possibly be a right. This problem is very likely why Madison proposed the 9th and 10th Amendments in the first place.

Ron Paul seems to think that if the federal government does not have the power to regulate abortion, then state governments do have that power. But that's an idea the Constitution itself does not support (the 9th Amendment says rights not enumerated are retained by the people, not the states. The 10th Amendment says powers not delegated are reserved to the states or to the people.)

Let me put it this way: are there some things Ron Paul thinks neither the federal government nor state governments should be able to regulate? Does he think anything should be entirely left up to the individual to decide? If not, then he's no friend of liberty. And if he does, what's his basis for thinking so? After all, he seems to think that if a particular freedom is not mentioned in the Bill of Rights, then states should be able to restrict it on their whim.

And that makes individual liberty too fragile for my tastes. The Constitution is not a libertarian document, but it is also not a document that gives each state almost unlimited power over its citizens.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Ron Paul vs. James Madison

It's been my experience that libertarian supporters of Ron Paul assume something like the following: weakening the power of the federal government and expanding the (potential) power of the state governments will (in fact) increase individual liberty.

I take it that this statement, or something very much like it, is at the heart of the libertarian's support for Ron Paul. Let us call it the devolution thesis, since its subject is the devolution of power from one level of government to another, lower level of government.

The devolution thesis can be understood in at least two ways. First, it can be understood as a thesis about democratic efficiency. For example, some people may think they have greater chance for representation at the state level than at the federal level. So a state legislature will produce their will more readily than a federal legislature. In other words, if I want X, a state legislature will likely give me X more reliably than a federal legislature, where X is some policy.

I think this is a mistaken, overly democratic picture of political power, one most libertarians would reject. Unlike democrats, libertarians do not think that the freedom to make public policy -- basically the freedom to tell other people what to do -- is an extremely valuable kind of liberty, and certainly not intrinsically valuable. As such, let's move on to the second way the devolution thesis can be understood.

The devolution thesis can also be understood as a thesis about government inefficiency. The argument goes like this: the federal government wields a bigger stick than any particular state government. Thus, the fed can do more to restrict personal freedom than any single state could ever hope to do. For example, since it controls the military, the federal government can seal the borders and not let anyone out of the country. In contrast, if a state like South Carolina restricts liberty in an objectionable way, its citizens can always move to some other state.

Now the interesting thing is that in Federalist 10, James Madison clearly sees that state governments have the potential to be very democratically efficient -- which is exactly why he thinks the federal government ought to have more power (i.e. than it did under the Articles of Confederation.) Madison, a genius, argued that because the federal government must encompass a wide variety of competing factions, it will be difficult for any one of those factions to gain control of the fed's admittedly big stick. To quote Madison:

The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.
Any single state will necessarily contain fewer factions, increasing the chances of one of those factions gaining control of that state's much smaller stick, and using it against the other factions in that state. Notice: the size of the stick doesn't matter that much. A big stick that can be used to restrict the liberty of a whole lot of people is not necessarily worse than a smaller stick that almost certainly will be used to restrict the liberty of a smaller group of people.

Especially not when we're not talking about one small stick, but fifty of them.

This article is a case in point. A pro-choice organization suggests that at least 30 states would ban abortion if Roe v. Wade were reversed. South Dakota is already on track to totally ban abortion. Even Ohio and Michigan, nominally blue states, would likely ban abortion, according to the organization's report. That's a hell of a lot of individual liberty lost. Without quoting wacky conspiracy theories about the fed's use of black helicopters, I would like someone to tell me how this almost certain loss of liberty can be justified.

Does Ron Paul want to overturn Roe v. Wade? He thinks it was "wrongly decided." Indeed, in the linked piece, he clearly espouses an interpretation of the devolution thesis akin to the first one I outlined, the one I think libertarians do and should reject. "Surely people on both sides of the abortion debate realize that it's far easier to influence government at the state and local level," he claims.

And he's probably right, too. From the perspective of individual liberty, that's exactly the problem.

This is not to say that the devolution thesis is always false, but it is not obviously true, either. I tend to think that, on the whole, the federal government has been a force for increasing the freedom of the individual. At least, this is so if you don't think income taxes are the sine quo non of restrictions on liberty.

[Edited to add a quotation from Madison, who was in fact a genius.]

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A Left-Liberal Critique of Ron Paul

Check here for an extended attack on Ron Paul. Apparently, this blogger just discovered that Ron Paul is a "social conservative."

There's obviously some overlap between this attack on Ron Paul and some of my own work, but not as much as some might expect. I can't fault Ron Paul for opposing the Kyoto Protocol, for example.

But hardly any of the criticisms the linked blogger makes apply to Ron Paul exclusively. Bush rejected Kyoto as well, and many Republicans support drilling in ANWR and reject federal funding for embryonic stem cell research (which is not the same as prohibiting such research, although the author of the aforementioned post seems to miss this.)

Are there really that many left-wing liberals who support Ron Paul who don't already know these things? You'd think they'd support Dennis Kucinich instead, a candidate who is just as anti-war, but in favor of Kyoto, against drilling in ANWR, and for using government funds to turn embryos into a cure for the common cold. But make no mistake: I'm against Kucinich even more than I'm against Ron Paul.

At least if Ron Paul wins, I'll still be able to buy a gun. Or would be able to do so, anyway, if I were an American citizen. Kucinich is a fucking communist.

By the way, could these supporters of Kucinich make their "visionary Congressman" look any ghastlier? And what's he looking at, anyway? A UFO?

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Purpose of This Blog

I've been accused of making an obviously fallacious argument with the following form:

1. Ron Paul supports X.
2. Racists support X.
3. Therefore, Ron Paul is a racist.

No one can quote a place where I make this argument, because very deliberately I've never made it. As a matter of fact, I don't think Ron Paul is any more of a bigot than the average Republican. On the other hand, as I've mentioned, a lot of very smart racists seem to be flocking to his banner -- moreso than for any other candidate, even those from official neo-Nazi political parties.

Why is that? That's what I've been wondering. Why does Ron Paul resonate so much with racists and fascists, especially if he isn't a racist/fascist himself? The entire purpose of this blog is to answer that question without simply assuming that Dr. Paul is a racist. For one thing, even if he is a racist, that wouldn't be enough to explain his support among the militiamen and neo-Nazi crowd. So the question still needs to be answered.

On this blog, I try to answer it in one of two ways. First, I explore theoretically the implications of what we can call the Ron Paul principle, or RP. I'm still not sure exactly what the content of RP is; I'm trying to infer it based on Paul's own policy positions, comments, proposals -- and yes, to a degree, by even checking up on his friends. If a person's chosen associates can't give you some insight into his/her principles, I don't know what can.

The second, admittedly inferior way I have of trying to answer the question of this blog is by revealing the level and kind of support Ron Paul has within the neo-Nazi, racist, fascist, etc. communities. What interests of these groups do/would Dr. Paul's policy proposals serve? Or are the neo-Nazis merely deluded about Paul's proposals? I suggested in a recent post that RP, his principle, overlaps in key, different ways with both libertarian and Nazi principles. In that post, I explained how this could be the case, even though libertarians and Nazis are pretty far apart on any reasonable political scale.

Every post I've made on the subject of Ron Paul fits into one of these two categories. In an earlier post, I argued that Ron Paul's attitude toward the 14th Amendment is both a) anti-libertarian; and b) directly consonant with the attitudes the sophisticated racists take toward that part of the Constitution.

Notice: this project can and must proceed without assuming that Ron Paul is a racist. But it also takes seriously the degree of resonance Ron Paul seems to have in some less savory ideological communities. There really are racists and fascists for Ron Paul. His keenest libertarian supporters don't seem interested in asking why. But they should. They should especially be concerned about the effects -- intended or otherwise -- Ron Paul's proposed weakening of the federal government would produce on the liberty of lots and lots of people.

That's where I come in, anyway: I'm asking questions no one else cares to ask, from a perspective that truly emphasizes individual liberty. There's no intellectual dishonesty here: only facts. Facts about Ron Paul's record in Congress. Facts about his supporters. Facts about the implications of his policy positions. I suppose a person could interpret those facts to suggest that Ron Paul is a racist, but I don't. But I will say the facts do not totally support the conclusion that Dr. Paul is an unabashed fan of freedom for the individual.

As of yet, no one has been able to show me why I'm wrong about that.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

By popular demand...

I removed the battleflag of the Confederacy from my blog and replaced it with something else. Not bad, huh?

For your amusement, here is a video from a Ron Paul rally. Stay around until the end to watch the skinheads taunting one of the few black people to show up.

I guess RP attracts some pretty unsophisticated racists as well...

[Update: Check out this link to a neo-Nazi discussion board in which this video is discussed. The title of the thread is "Daryl Lamont Jenkins Gets Owned At a Ron Paul Rally."

Here's a choice quotation from the discussion:

These niggers and jews are so goddamned frightened because Ron Paul represents a loss of their power. The call him dorky and a nerd, and god forbid he opposes same sex 'marriages'. What a fucking uncool guy that he wouldn't support a colossal fallacy like same sex 'marriage' or support the murder of white children through abortion?

So, in the view of this "proud white male" Ron Paul is great because he will weaken the position of minorities in the United States. I've already described in great detail how Ron Paul's ideas (especially his attitude toward the 14th Amendment) could do exactly what "Cowboy Zeke" desires.

Oh, also, if you have the stomach for it, check out their discussion of beating the pulp out of poor Daryl:

The laws of this Nation which protect Negro scum like Jenkins, and the Jews who crafted those laws, have made this entire despicable scene possible...Jenkins had a Jew-created shield of protection around him, and he just KNEW that he wasn't going to be touched.
They seem to believe -- erroneously, I think -- that Ron Paul will weaken that "Jew-created shield." I do not think Ron Paul would make it easier for Daryl Jenkins to get beat up, but he would probably make it easier for states to discriminate against him in terms of housing, education, and so on. Laws prohibiting that kind of thing are part of the Jew-created shield as well, no doubt.]

The Ron Paul Bait-n-Switch

Dave at Orcinus relays a long post from a commenter that is a long list of bills Ron Paul has co-sponsored in Congress. Note, as Dave does, that these are not bills he just voted on, but rather proposals he was happy to attach his name to.

He's sponsored at least three attempts to remove any legal distinction between adults and zygotes. He's proposed amending the Constitution to prohibit flag burning. But some say the latter proposal was just a stunt and that he wasn't serious about it. Ok, Dr. Paul, I'll take your word for it -- and, in any event, there are more serious policy proposals to address.

In this post, I want to focus on H.R. 7955, his omnibus legislation designed "to strengthen the American family and promote the virtues of family life." The first thing to say is that, unlike the left-wing crowd at Orcinus, I actually approve of many of the proposals that can be found in this bill, like the idea of giving a tax credit for tuition paid to private schools.

On the other hand, I wholeheartedly reject other measures in the bill. For example:

  • It would make it harder for private schools to lose their tax exempt status for having "racially discriminatory policies."
  • It would prohibit the Federal Government from imposing "any obligation or conditions upon any child care center [or] orphanage...which is operated by a church or religious institution."
  • It would prohibit the Federal Government from spending money on "any organization which presents male or female homosexuality as an acceptable alternative life style or which suggest that it can be an acceptable life style."
Now, don't get me wrong: I accept some version of the Libertarian Principle (LP), which would prohibit the government -- any government -- from doing much of what Ron Paul wants to forbid the Fed from doing. So shouldn't I like Ron Paul? The answer is no, but allow me to explain.

In practice, LP yields lots of concrete policy proposals. Let's note that fact in this way: LP{a..z}, where LP is the principle and a through z are policies that follow from the application of that principle.

LP is a broad principle and many of its policy proposals could find support on the basis of other principles. For example, what we can call the Neo-Nazi Principle, NP, might support policies q through w, i.e. NP{q..w}. But the NP also supports some policies that are directly the opposite of policies that find support in LP. So a realistic NP (with policies attached) might look something like this: NP{q..w, not a..not k}. Thus, the overlap between LP and NP is no reason for me to support neo-Nazis in any way.

Ron Paul's supporters tell me that the overlap between LP and what we can call the Ron Paul Principle, or RP, is much, much higher than between LP and NP. This may even be true. But not all issues are created equal. Of the policies that follow from LP, some are more important to me than others. Some are nearly essential. If RP cannot support those policies, then that is a good reason for me to reject that principle, and hence also reject Ron Paul.

Yet there is an even better reason for me to reject Ron Paul, which I call the tactic of bait-n-switch. Suppose a person wanted my political support in some way. One way to gain that support is for that person to convince me that he and I actually hold almost identical principles -- that we both subscribe to LP, in other words.

So the first thing he does is try to show me that our positions match on as many issues as possible in the set a through z. There are a few issues on which we don't match, but he doesn't emphasize those. At best, he tries to tell me that those specific differences simply stem from different ways we interpret the same set of more general principles.

But here's what I quickly notice. While the policy profile my friend proposes matches that which follows from LP in certain ways, it is an even better match for another principle, call it RP. Thus, the situation looks something like this:

My principle and policy profile: LP{a..z}
His principle and policy profile, as he tells it: LP(?){a..g, r...v}
What it begins to look like: RP{a..g, not k-not p, r..v, not w-not z}

Or, in words, as I begin to discover more about my friend's position, it begins to look like it has little in common with my view at all, in some very significant respects. Reading through Dr. Paul's omnibus bill is like coming to that same realization about Ron Paul, and not for the first time. His policy positions reveal principles much opposed to my own, even though there may be overlap between his proposals and my own in some limited set of cases.

This, then, is the bait-n-switch: by emphasizing the areas of overlap in specific cases, a person like Ron Paul can convince others that more overlap is present than actually exists. At the same time, others -- neo-Nazis, for example -- will pick up on overlap in different areas.

The question remains, how do I feel about the Ron Paul principle, as exhibited in his voting record? I have to reject it: both Ron Paul and I might want to reduce government regulation, but if his proposal involves giving priority to reducing regulations on religious institutions, that's a sign we don't actually have the same principles at all.

At the same time, if his principles support making it legal again for states to set up segregated public school, that's not just a sign that we have a difference of opinion; rather, it is a clarion call to oppose him in every way I can.

[At the request of Jaworski, a commenter, this post was edited to add a discussion of Ron Paul's whimsical reason for proposing a flag burning amendment. That wasn't really the substantive point of the post, though, was it?]

John Derbyshire and Ron Paul

In the comments, someone points me to this post on National Review's blog in which conservative John Derbyshire derisively questions the piece in the American Thinker for casting aspersions on some of Ron Paul's supporters (i.e. the racist ones.)

Derbyshire is a very smart man. And his defense of Ron Paul is very apropos, considering he once described himself as a racist (but a "mild and tolerant one.") Ezra Klein links to another of Derby's posts on the Corner in which Derbyshire admits he's in the habit of checking the ethnic breakdown of schools in which shootings occur. He also expresses mild disappointment at the media's failure to provide the information in the case of one shooting that occurred at a majority-black school.

According to Derbyshire, the problem is that the media doesn't talk enough about how its the black kids who are shooting people.

Here's how the post ends: "Boy, that school-integration thing worked out great, didn't it? Thank goodness for Brown v. Board of Ed.!"

Yeah, if only the Supreme Court hadn't relied on an "imaginary constitution" and allowed segregation to stand. At least then the shootings would be confined to the black-only schools! I can see why Derbyshire hearts Dr. Paul now.

And no, I'm not claiming Ron Paul is a racist, but it's interesting how the really smart racists seem to flock to him, isn't it?

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

More racists for Ron Paul

Andrew Walden at American Thinker has written a fantastic article on the depth of Ron Paul's support in the neo-Nazi community. I may have to put together another post shortly addressing some of the facts Walden brings to light. For now, here are a few things that caught my attention:

  • Stormfront had/has a prominent donation link to Paul's campaign on the front page of their website. It would not be too difficult for Paul's tech team to block the link (you just send computers coming from that IP address somewhere else, or no where at all.) As of yet, Paul's campaign has not enacted this simple solution.
  • One of Paul's top Internet organizers once "coordinat[ed]...the largest neo-Nazi party in the U.S."
  • Radio personality Michael Medved, who has been researching ties between Paul and neo-Nazis, was denounced in vile, anti-semitic terms on his own website and on other websites supporting Ron Paul. Lew Rockwell (of course) attacked Medved in typically brainless fashion.
There is a lot more in the article. I really like Walden's conclusion. He says:

If Paul wants to be taken seriously, he must stop cowering behind the internet and face these questions. Until then it is only reasonable to presume that Paul is happy to wallow in well-financed obscurity accepting the support of some of the worst enemies of freedom and liberty within American society.

I couldn't have said it better myself.

[Edit: corrected a misspelling.]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Ron Paul hates atheists

Think atheists are immune to Ron Paul's affirmation of the bigoted status quo? I quote one of Ron Paul's many articles published at Lew Rockwell's website:

The notion of a rigid separation between church and state has no basis in either the text of the Constitution or the writings of our Founding Fathers. On the contrary, our Founders’ political views were strongly informed by their religious beliefs. Certainly the drafters of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, both replete with references to God, would be aghast at the federal government’s hostility to religion.
(I guess mentioning God once (in the DATE) makes the Constitution literally replete with references to the Deity.)

Anyway, in his article, Ron Paul claims wicked secularists are trying to obliterate Christianity. His solution, again, is for the federal government to take a hands off approach, i.e. political neutrality. I don't know any secularists involved in the plot Ron Paul cites. Most atheists I know feel like they're the ones who are imposed on. Think that will get any better if Dr. Paul weakens the federal government?

Let's see: Either (a) powerful secularists, using the power of the federal government, are on the verge of quashing Christianity across the land; or (b) powerful religious interests, using the power of state and local governments, are busy getting legislatures to pass mandatory "moments of silence" in public schools. Which of these sounds like a more accurate picture of your reality?

And, if (b), how will weakening the federal government improve the situation? It's the Supreme Court that has ruled against mandatory school prayers and the like in the past. But, yeah, I know, activist judges, blah blah.

Do secularist libertarians know what they're supporting? Maybe they all live in blue states where the situation looks more like (a) than (b.) Unfortunately, not everyone can say that, and, as a libertarian, I'm not willing to write those people off. People like Dawn Sherman a freshman at a Chicago high school who is fighting against Illinois new legally mandated moment of silence.

Many libertarians will attack the law in this case. Do they not understand that they're supporting someone who will make it easier -- nay, uncontestable -- for states to pass laws like this one?

Update: A commenter explains how Ron Paul was co-sponsor of the "The Houses of Worship Political Speech Protection Act." The proposed bill would have made it easier for religious organizations to exert influence over the political process without losing their tax exempt status. The bill aimed to create this easement only for religious organizations, like churches.

Ron Paul and gay marriage

Kip Esquire posts back in October about Ron Paul flipping on gay marriage. His observation pretty much confirms my own: like many of his followers, in his prejudices, Ron Paul is not all that different from any other Republican, except he knows a weakened federal government will make it easier to impose those prejudices through state legislatures. I'll only add that the weakened federal government Paul envisions is actually unconstutitional according to current readings of the 14th Amendment, and according to Roe v. Wade, Lawrence v. Texas, and other landmark Supreme Court decisions.

In other words, Ron Paul doesn't support the Constitution. He doesn't support the law. He only supports these things as a means to achieving the domination of gays and other minorities.

Don't believe me? Let me quote Dr. Paul:

If I were in Congress in 1996, I would have voted for the Defense of Marriage Act, which used Congress’s constitutional authority to define what official state documents other states have to recognize under the Full Faith and Credit Clause, to ensure that no state would be forced to recognize a “same sex” marriage license issued in another state.

Recall that Paul also supported federal legislation that would have included zygotes in the legal definition of person. In both cases, I'm sure libertarians would tell me that Dr. Paul's goal is to ensure that states get to decide issues for themselves, and that the federal government ought to be neutral.

But neutrality is sometimes impossible. According to Ron Paul, states should not have to recognize same sex marriage licenses issued in other states. But states do have to accept heterosexual marriage licenses -- that is simply the status quo. Paul simply refuses to extend the legal protections heterosexual marriages already enjoy to same sex marriages. Any idea why? Take a guess.

To use the law to maintain this status quo is not neutral; it is, rather, to endorse that status quo, and to keep same sex couples in a position of legal inferiority. It is to affirm bigotry.

(Next, libertarians will be telling me that Dred Scott was a neutral exercise of federal power because all it did was reaffirm the widespread southern belief at the time that African-Americans could not be citizens. Maybe forcing the southern states to grant African-Americans a modicum of political equality violated the sovereignty of those states; it was still the right thing to do. Especially from a libertarian perspective. Individual rights trump states' rights.)

In the Republican debates, when asked about gay marriage, Ron Paul made this very revealing statement: "We do know what marriage is about. We don't need a new definition or argue over a definition and have an amendment to the Constitution."

Well, yeah, he was in a room full of Republicans. I'm sure they do know what marriage is about, and their agreement makes further argument unnecessary. I'm sure a lot of Republicans agree with Ron Paul's legal definition of person, too. Notice, also, how Dr. Paul encased "same sex" in scare quotes in the passage I quoted previously.

There's only one definition Ron Paul of marriage could have meant in the context of the debate, and it's the same one that affirms the status quo. It's the one that legally discriminates against gays and lesbians.

[Edited to make the post more "fair and balanced."]

A libertarian's dangerous liasons

You probably haven't heard of Gary North, but he's a prolific commentator at He's also a "Christian reconstructionist," whose ultimate goal is, in his own words, to

use the doctrine of religious liberty to gain independence for Christian schools until we train up a generation of people who know that there is no religious neutrality, no neutral law, no neutral education, and no neutral civil government. Then they will get busy in constructing a Bible-based social, political and religious order which finally denies the religious liberty of the enemies of God.

Gary North also claims to be a libertarian and is an ardent supporter of Ron Paul's presidency. In one article on Rockwell's website, he calls Dr. Paul "the Gandhi of our time." (Yes, seriously.)

Aside from his desire to punish homosexuality with stoning (again, yes, seriously), another interesting fact about North is his interest in the so-called Y2k bug. Circa '99, he went on and on about how Y2k "will call into question science, technology, the free market, and the welfare state. It will call into question all of modern humanism." Etc. For 225 dollars, you could (can?) subscribe to his magazine and learn how to protect yourself from the banking collapse that was supposed to occur.

And didn't occur, of course. But I wonder how many subscriptions North sold to libertarians. How much money did he take in? I'm not claiming North talked up Y2K in order to bilk people out of their money -- on the contrary, I believe he was sincere in his uninformed paranoia, like many of Rockwell's folks. To quote a Wired article, "[North] wants to make sure the banking system crashes. It's a self-fulfilling prophecy."

North's advice for surviving the collapse included stocking up on food, weapons, and gold, and moving to the middle of nowhere in order to avoid riots and looters. Probably, he would suggest gathering up a whole lot of rocks, too, in order to bash in the heads of rampaging homosexuals (in accordance with Biblical law, naturally.)

I ask this question: why does Gary North support Ron Paul? I can think of a few reasons. Ron Paul has described the Supreme Court's action in cases like Lawrence v. Texas as the imposition of an "imaginary constutition." Like Justice Scalia, he apparently believes there is no right to "sodomy" in the federal Constitution. He would leave the criminalization of homosexuality for each state to decide on its own.

Can you see why someone like Gary North would support this doctrine? Suppose a state like Texas outlaws gay sex and actually enforces the prohibition in a way it did NOT just prior to the time of the Lawrence decision. Ron Paul's supporters will say, "Well, ok, if you don't like it, then move out of Texas." Great. Now there are even fewer gays in Texas, and more opportunity for someone like Gary North to marginalize those who remain.

It's not a big leap from my scenario to North's favored scenario, in which, based on Biblical law, gay people have their heads smashed in with stones in the city square.

(Oh, and what's so great about stoning? Quoting an article in Reason magazine that quotes North extensively:

"Why stoning?" asks North. "There are many reasons. First, the implements of execution are available to everyone at virtually no cost." Thrift and ubiquity aside, "executions are community projects--not with spectators who watch a professional executioner do `his' duty, but rather with actual participants." You might even say that like square dances or quilting bees, they represent the kind of hands-on neighborliness so often missed in this impersonal era. "That modern Christians never consider the possibility of the reintroduction of stoning for capital crimes," North continues, "indicates how thoroughly humanistic concepts of punishment have influenced the thinking of Christians."

See? Stoning is cool. Just like knitting, except you don't need needles. Or yarn. Just lots of fairly big rocks.)

It'll never happen, you say? Maybe. But Gary North knows a Ron Paul presidency would make it just a little more likely. Real libertarians should recognize that as well.

We need to separate those who merely want to use liberty in order to eventually quash it (as North is wont to do) from those who truly value liberty for all.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Is Ron Paul a racist?

At Pam's House Blend there's a recent post about the support Ron Paul is receiving from organizations like Stormfront and other neo-Nazi groups. Here is a link to an unintentionally hilarious video Stormfront made to support Ron Paul's candidacy.

Ok, first: even in politics, you can't usually smear somebody based on who happens to support them. Even if Dr. Paul hasn't officially denounced Stormfront et al. that doesn't mean he wholeheartedly accepts their support, either. Like most, he probably doesn't take the Stormfront seriously enough to make the organization worth responding to. If the flat earth society happened to really like this blog, I doubt I'd care enough to officially respond.

(On the other hand, if the flat earth society liked my blog, I might be happy enough to have fans I'd overlook their kooky views. Nevermind, though. Suppose flat earthers really liked Instapundit; would Glenn Reynolds be obligated to respond?)

But, as savvy readers will note, if flat earthers identified with this blog for a reason, it might be worthwhile knowing that reason. So why are the neo-Nazis lining up behind Ron Paul?

Perhaps it is because he's published/possibly wrriten comments like these:

* "Opinion polls show that only about 5 percent of blacks have sensible political opinions, i.e. support the free market, individual liberty and the end of welfare and affirmative action."

* "We are constantly told it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational. Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers."

* "We don't think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That's true for most people, but black males who have been raised and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such."

Ron Paul has now publicly denounced the views expressed in these quotations, but that could be explained as mere political expediency. What attitude did he take to these comments before he was running for President of the United States?

The blog Alternate Reality dug up an article by Alan Bernstein of the Houston Chronicle in which Paul defends the remarks when he was running for Congress in 1996. Rather than distancing himself from the language, Paul's campaign spokesperson at the time suggested that Paul's rhetoric "mirror pronouncements by black leaders such as the Rev. Jesse Jackson."

When running for political office back in 1996, why didn't Ron Paul claim then that the objectionable newsletter articles were written by someone else? Why did everything he say at that time seem to support the racist claims, rather than denounce them?

Libertarians will claim, loudly, that Dr. Paul is not a racist, and that it's not his fault that neo-Nazis are lining up to support him. But what if the neo-Nazis are willing to view the truth, the whole truth, in a way well-meaning anti-war libertarians refuse to do?

Interestingly enough, I've heard it suggested that the original author of the comments about blacks being "fleet footed", etc. was none other than Ron Paul's chief-of-staff at the time, arch-libertarian/Paleo-conservative Lew Rockwell. According to none other than the Cato Institute's Tom Palmer, one of the most interesting people I've had the pleasure to meet, Rockwell is a racist, or at least good friends with him, and uses his ideology as cover for a very evil point of view.

(I knew there was another reason to love Tom Palmer...)

If there's doubt, check out this list of headlines from Rockwell's website. "Heil Abe"? Some things require very little comment...

So perhaps not all "libertarians" are so naive about Ron Paul after all. Rockwell is still one of Ron Paul's most strident supporters online. Do you think he is naive about Ron Paul's views? Stormfront's Nazis could be mistaken about Paul's support for their cause; anti-war libertarians could be blinded by idealism; but is Lew Rockwell confused? If he was the one who wrote the original racist comments, has he changed his mind?

Probably not. Rockwell's website is still churning out the neo-Confederate propaganda. And I'm not saying Ron Paul is a racist. I am saying some very sophisticated, very evil racists see Paul's candidacy as very compatible with their evil, racist views. That should be worrisome, especially to libertarians.

Monday, November 5, 2007

The Case Against Ron Paul

The Case Against Ron Paul: Should a Libertarian Support the Repeal of the 14th Amendment?

Amendment XIV, Section 1. All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.

1. Introduction
It is not an overstatement to say that the 14th Amendment, ratified in after the Civil War in 1868, marked a fundamental shift in the relationship of the federal government to the governments of the states. This shift has led to decisions in the Supreme Court the framers of the Amendment probably never envisaged, such as Brown v. Board of Education and Roe v. Wade.

The 14th Amendment was intended to restrict the power of the states. Its aim was to stop southern states from using the law to oppress their new black citizens. Each clause in Section 1 – Citizenship, Privileges or Immunities, Due Process, and Equal Protection – directly or indirectly blocks the states from treating those within their borders in certain ways.

Here I’m just going to focus on the Privileges or Immunities clause and the Equal Protection clause. I’m going to argue that libertarians should be staunchly in favor of these two clauses. They should favor the latter clause as the Court has traditionally used it. They should favor an invigorated reinterpretation of the former as an alternative to the states’ rights rhetoric some libertarians currently use. To the extent Ron Paul uses such rhetoric, he should not be considered a friend to libertarians.

2. Equal Protection
The Equal Protection clause requires states to guarantee “equal protection of the laws” to persons within their jurisdictions. Concisely, this means states may not apply one set of laws to some group and another set to a different group. For example, states may not set different penalties for white and black criminals. Without the 14th Amendment, a state like Georgia could establish whites-only schools – it would not even have to provide formally equal schools to its black citizens!

I’m not sure how a libertarian could be against this clause, or something like it. The libertarians I’ve known are not egoists: they genuinely want to increase the freedom of everyone. At a minimum, the Equal Protection clause ensures that if liberty is going to be restricted, it can’t be restricted selectively. The majority in a state cannot limit liberty without limiting its own liberty. This provides an additional check on majority power, and thus enhances personal liberty.

Of course, the 14th Amendment expands personal liberty at the expense of each state’s liberty to determine its own laws. But for a libertarian, this has to be a worthy trade off. Libertarians care about individual liberty, not the liberty of governments. Otherwise, any restriction on individual liberty could be justified as a way of increasing “the liberty of the government” to run people’s lives.

As something of a libertarian myself, I don’t even mind the Supreme Court’s use of the Equal Protection law to strike down separate but equal schooling. This requires accepting that the “equality” of “equal protection” has a substantive and not merely a formal dimension to it. That is, it does not require states to apply one rule to everyone, but to ensure – to some reasonable degree – that the law does not burden some groups much more than it burdens others. The emphasis here is not only on equality, but on the idea of protection. This perception of equality, fundamental to the existence of civil society, is what must be protected.

3. Privileges or Immunities
This clause of the 14th Amendment was quickly emasculated in the infamous Slaughterhouse Cases. It prohibits states from using the law to “abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States.” Constitutional scholar Randy Barnett has argued that this clause, combined with the 9th and 10th Amendments, adds up to what he calls “a presumption in favor of liberty.”

There’s no need to recount Barnett’s argument here. The idea of the presumption in favor of liberty is that, when liberty is to be restricted, government – any government -- has the burden of proving why such a restriction is reasonable and necessary. Moreover, the principle applies to a restriction of any liberty, including those not enumerated in the Bill of Rights itself.

Rather than empowering states at the expense of the federal government, Barnett’s argument empowers individual citizens. Taken seriously, the presumption in favor of liberty would stop governments from pursuing practically all of the projects libertarians currently object to, such as the so-called “war on drugs.” But it would not allow, say, Arkansas, to conduct its own intra-state war on drugs, either. The citizens of Arkansas would be as free as the citizens of any other state, an outcome one might think libertarians should favor.

The privileges/immunities of U.S. citizens may include only the most important and basic rights, like those contained in what classical liberals often call our “natural liberty.” Thus, it may not be the case that according to this clause each state would have to provide its citizens precisely the same set of liberties as every other state.

At the same time, as Barnett points out, a restored version of this clause might very well achieve the same outcomes for liberty the Court has more recently pursued through other means (like the Due Process clause) in cases like Griswold v. Connecticut and Roe v. Wade. For example, in Griswold, Connecticut’s law prohibiting the sale and use of contraception was overturned. A presumption in favor of liberty could justify overturning such a law, which, as the Court found, could not be justified on any basis Connecticut had offered in its favor. However, without the 14th Amendment, nothing would stand in the way of states taking importance choices away from American citizens.

4. Conclusion
Ron Paul does not like the 14th Amendment. In his response to Lawrence v. Texas, he decries the Court’s reliance on an “imaginary” constitution in its decision to overturn anti-sodomy laws. He claims, “The State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards.” But if Barnett is right, the Constitution does not give Texas this right. The presumption in favor of liberty requires Texas to justify its anti-sodomy laws against the privileges and immunities of its citizens.

I hope most libertarians are against anti-sodomy laws simply on principle. Why some of them support Ron Paul, who favors such laws as long as a militant Christian minority in a state can get enough votes in the legislature, is mysterious to me. Perhaps they think that in their comfortably blue state, the local government would not try to prohibit sodomy, birth control, or abortion. But this is a remarkably self-serving attitude, one that confirms some of the left’s worst prejudices against libertarians.

Rather than supporting oppressive proposals for expanded states’ rights, libertarians ought to support genuine rights for all individuals, regardless of what state they happen to reside in. They should support the 14th Amendment and not Ron Paul.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

Thoughts on Ron Paul, Abortion, and Federalism

Because of Ron Paul's relatively strong showing in the recent Iowa straw poll I find it necessary to make a few comments about Rep. Paul and explain why I do not whole-heartedly support his campaign.

I have a friend -- a die-hard libertarian -- who supports Ron Paul with an enthusiasm I cannot muster for any politician, Republican or Democrat. I'm sure he wonders why I haven't jumped on the Ron Paul bandwagon yet. My reluctance to support Dr. Paul can be explained fairly simply: I do not think his beliefs can be fully reconciled with my own libertarian position.

From my understanding, Dr. Paul believes that a) the right to life extends to pre-born human beings; b) federalism is the best way of protecting all of our rights.

As a libertarian, I hold the following belief: c) rights, if they are anything at all, must be understood as what Nozick called "side-constraints" on action. This means that one person's rights may not be traded away in order to protect some other person's rights. I reject a "utilitarianism of rights," as do many other libertarians.

These preliminary remarks should be enough to set up the dilemma. If the right to life extends to pre-born human beings, then the killing of such a being must count as murder. The only conclusion we can draw from Dr. Paul's legislative record is that he accepts this implication.

Suppose you are anti-abortion because you think abortion is murder. If the killing the pre-born is murder, then we cannot allow abortion law to be decided on a state-by-state basis. Murder is murder. If it's wrong in South Carolina, it must also be wrong in California.

Suppose, instead, you believe that pre-born human beings have no rights. Or that the rights of the pregnant woman trump the rights of the pre-born human she is carrying. Either way, if you believe that women have a right to abortion, then you must believe they have this right regardless of where they happen to live.

The pro-choice libertarians I know are comfortable with Dr. Paul's belief (a) because of his belief (b), federalism. They believe that abortion law should be decided on a state-by-state basis.

Dr. Paul, himself pro-life, believes that federalism is the best approach to securing the abolition of abortion. Pro-choice libertarians must believe that federalism is the best way of securing the rights of women to have abortions. Both have an end in mind they would like to achieve and think that federalism is the best way to achieve that end.

From my point of view, it doesn't matter who is right about this, because both approaches conflict with my belief (c), that rights are side-constraints.

Suppose we knew that through various sociological processes, killing a certain group of people would result, eventually, in fewer murders occurring. Indeed, suppose we knew that, in the end, we would prevent far more murders than we would have to commit or allow to be committed in order to reach that goal. We should still not allow those prior murders to be committed.

In other words, it is not appropriate to violate the right to life of some in order to prevent the violation of many more rights in the future. It is certainly not appropriate -- ever -- to allow such murders to proceed with the full sanction of the law, even the law of another state.

If abortion is murder, it must be treated as murder. Likewise, if banning abortion violates the fundamental rights of women, it must be treated as such. We cannot allow, or hope, that through the machinations of state legislatures fewer rights violations will eventually occur.

Libertarians I know tell me that, despite Ron Paul's belief (a), we should hope for his nomination because his many other beliefs are fully consistent with our libertarian views. But this is again to fall into a utilitarianism of rights. Abolishing the IRS will prevent the occurrence of many property rights violations. It will drastically limit the government's ability to control our lives. All true, perhaps, but I find myself unable to cheer if the rights of women are going to be traded away to achieve that end.
We all know Ron Paul is not going to receive the nomination, no matter how many of us -- libertarians -- support him. Thus, support for Ron Paul is, at this time, a matter of personal expression, not a matter of changing the outcome of an election. Like much political activity, including voting, those who do it do so because the candidate projects views they hold themselves.

But precisely because support for Ron Paul is an expressive activity, the message such support sends must be clear and consistent with my own beliefs if the activity is to be successful. In this case, it is not. Despite the fact that I probably share many other beliefs with Dr. Paul, he is in the end a very bad reflection of my overall ideology.

It is no use and in bad faith to say, "I support Ron Paul, but I also support the rights of women to have abortions. And that's OK because he also believes in federalism. " Dr. Paul is counting on federalism, on state legislatures, to ban abortion, and violate the rights of women. He would like to amend the Constitution to prohibit abortion permanently In his own words, amending the Constitution to prohibit abortion is perfectly compatible with his version of federalism.

Legislatively, we should focus our efforts on building support to overturn Roe v. Wade. Ideally this would be done in a fashion that allows states to again ban or regulate abortion.

I suppose this is the part pro-choice libertarians focus on when they muster their enthusiasm for Dr. Paul. But here's what he says next:

The alternative is an outright federal ban on abortion, done properly via a constitutional amendment that does no violence to our way of government.

As far as I can tell, for Ron Paul, either alternative is consistent with federalism. But I can reconcile neither with my own understanding of libertarianism.

Rights are not chits to be exchanged one for another. Especially not the rights of others. One might as well say, in support of a candidate, "Well, he'd like to bring back slavery, but at least he'll certainly lower my taxes!" One should not say this even if one knows the candidate has no chance of winning an election, and no chance of ever bringing slavery back. It's the very idea that should be repulsive to anyone who loves liberty.

Friday, August 10, 2007

John Murtha's legacy of corruption

Over at Economics and Liberty, Larry Eubanks posts on the latest in earmark corruption.

Here's my "favorite" bit:

What is a voter to think when 326 members of Congress vote to spend $1 million on something they don't know exists?

Larry's talking about John Murtha's (D-PA) "Center for Instrumented Critical Infrastructure" in Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

James Chang at the aptly named Through the Magnifying Glass has already investigated what this Center is supposed to be. It's a part of Concurrent Technologies (CTC), a firm based in Johnstown that seems to survive entirely on government handouts. Chang writes:

It would seem that back in 1988, Murtha asked the University of Pittsburgh to form a non-profit entity that would focus on excellence in metalworking. This entity would receive funding from the Navy. Over the years, this non-profit became CTC. It would seem that this "corporation" is totally funded by earmarks.
Furthermore, according to Chang, the president of CTC is part of an outfit called the PMA Group, one of Murtha's biggest contributors.

I really hate politicians...

Since Chang's investigated where Murtha's earmark is going to go, if it is going to go anywhere at all, I thought I'd look into Johnstown a little more. A bit of digging on CAGW's Pig Book revealed that Murtha has been sending money to Johnstown and the surrounding area in Cambria county for years. Here's a sampling:
  • FY 2001. $1,000,000 for a parking garage.
  • FY 2001. $400,000 for pedestrian and streetscape improvements.
  • FY 2002. $200,000 for a neighborhood recreation project.
  • FY 2003. $900,000 to continue building a recreation facility.
  • FY 2004. $450,000 for a a war memorial and conference center.
  • FY 2004. $150,000 for renovations of Point stadium.
  • FY 2005. $388,000 for improvements to Johnstown's "technology complex."
  • FY 2006. $400,000 for improvements to its convention center.

Whew, disgusted yet? Remember, no one is saying that these projects are unworthy of funding, but why must they use federal funds? Why should taxpayers in California, Arizona, North Dakota, Washington State, etc. pay for the construction of facilities they will almost certainly never get a chance to use?

Also remember that Murtha never had to justify these earmarks to the rest of us. We'd all like to think Johnstown really needed a war memorial and conference center -- but did it, really? When taxpayers in other states are picking up most of the tab, it's much easier to say "Yes, of course!"

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Lawrence Auster: "Is Women's Political Equality a Good Thing?"

On his blog, Lawrence Auster addresses the question, "Is women's political equality a good thing?"

Part of the discussion seems to take off from an interview Dr. John Lott gave to Frontpage Magazine discussing his new book Freedomnomics: Why the Free Market Works and other Half-Baked Theories Don't. Apparently, in the book, Lott links the growth of government to women's suffrage, claiming that "giving women the right to vote explain[s] at least a third of the growth in government for about 45 years."

Lott gives two (or maybe one) reasons to support his claim. First, women are more risk averse, and see government as a way to insure themselves against the bad things life can bring. Second, divorced mothers are particuarly likely to seek out the government for protection.

Suppose Dr. Lott is generally correct in his analysis. What comes next?

Auster writes:

There is much to be said for the view that affording women political rights (as distinct from the protection of their human rights, property rights, and civil rights) inevitably leads society in the direction of the Nanny State that we see in full bloom in today's Britain and Europe, leading ultimately to the end of national sovereignty and the onset of global governance.

But, even given Lott's conclusions, there's nothing that says the state must inevitably continue to grow and grow, until we're all trapped in a one-world socialist nightmare.

Think about it: why might women be more risk-averse than men? You can give an evolutionary story to explain some of the risk aversion, I'm sure. But surely, the way women have been historically treated might just have something to do with their risk aversion.

Traditionally, women have had few options and none of the most significant legal rights. Even relatively privileged women had few freedoms and little choice of opportunities. They could not own property, nor were people willing to hire them. Both the legal system (which defines rights) and general attitudes were against them. This placed them in almost state-of-nature kind of situation, their fate almost entirely in the hands of others -- men who were all-too-willing to inflict violence on them.

Wouldn't YOU be risk averse in that kind of environment?

Well, the legal system changed, as did attitudes. But arguably the law changed more quickly than attitudes, or at least the attitudes of those that mattered: those of the men who had control over the options -- employers, mainly. Women were granted formal rights but their substantive option set remained narrow and fixed. This got them a little further from the state-of-nature, but only a bit.

What women did gain was the opportunity to petition the government to expand their options, through subsidies, anti-discrimination legislation, and so on. Although it can be risky to increase the size of government, women were faced with an almost Hobbesian-like choice: give the government more power, or risk going back to the state-of-nature.

And, for Hobbes, the state-of-nature is so bad that any government is an improvement on it.

Having missed out on the Nazis, Hobbes was probably wrong about this... but he would have been the first to admit that legal rights are not enough to transcend the state-of-nature. The state-of-nature is bad, NOT because people are without legal rights, but because they have no options (life is solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short, etc.)


Lawrence Auster doesn't want to limit the rights and options women presently enjoy. At least, I don't think so. But he isn't looking at the big picture: women were granted formal rights, but their substantive option set was not expanded to the same degree. This was mainly because of the bad, anti-feminist attitudes of powerful men.

If we're all now under the boot of a powerful government, it's because we're paying the debts those men incurred for their misogyny.