Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Response to Comments

Since I don't usually have dissenting commenters, I've decided to address their counter-arguments in a separate post. This isn't meant to be an attack on anyone -- on the contrary, I love dissent, and wish there was more of it around here. I thank those who left replies for their thoughtfulness and civility.

Anonymous at 10:57 pm says:

Not all of us are like Rockwell. I fully agree with Ron Paul that Fox and all the other networks have a right to do what they're doing because they are private companies. But it doesn't mean I have to watch them nor buy the products of their sponsors.

Granted. And that's the way libertarians ought to respond, which is what makes the statist revenge fantasies I've come across (not to mention the "hit list" referred to here) hard to explain.

Anonymous at 11:12 pm says:

The belief that politics should be local is why I do support a stronger
State. You have far more chance of managing your government the closer they are to your environment and needs...The Federal government is now a nation unto itself, it's the Hollywood of politics and it gets bigger, dumber and less in touch with local realities every single year. [Emphasis added.]

Let's grant the truth of the emphasized passage. It really is the case that I have a better chance of getting laws passed that impose my preferences at a more local level than at the federal level. And this is supposed to be a good thing? Is this the kind of freedom Ron Paul supporters are concerned about -- the freedom to tell people (usually those in the minority) what to do?

I dunno... as a libertarian, I've never been really interested in having that kind of freedom. You know, because I don't really believe in enforcing my preferences on others via the law. But I guess that makes me a war-mongering cosmotarian, or whatever term Lew Rockwell is using these days.

Tam at 12:00 am says:

[Ron Paul] is basically a Constitional Libertarian. meaning while he believes in liberty, he also believes in a strict interpration of the Constitution.

In your photo example, just as the Constitution does not allow the federal government to ban the display of such phots, it also doesn't get the fe gov the right to force the states to not ban such it.
There are two issues here: the first is the extent to which "constitutional libertarianism" is a consistent position. The second is the credibility of Ron Paul's supposed strict interpretation of the Constitution.

First, let's define a "small c" constitutional libertarian as a libertarian who a) believes in strong rights to life, liberty, and propery, and who b) thinks a strong, written constitution is one of the best means of guaranteeing those rights, as a matter of institutional fact. Now, a libertarian like this will have grounds to criticize a document like the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which, in its very first section, subjects the rights it recognizes to "reasonable limits." Such a libertarian will also criticize the Charter for the absence of any recognition of property rights.

To a constitutional libertarian (CL), the Charter is defective. It should be altered in a way that will expand people's liberties: Section 1 should be abolished; property rights should be added. And at no stage will the CL be willing to accept the constitution just as it is. At all times, he will want to adjust it in ways that will increase liberty, and decrease the amount of control government (any government) exercises over peoples' lives.

Ron Paul also wants to change the American Constitution in various ways. Unfortunately, it is unclear that all of his changes would actually increase liberty, instead of simply increasing state police power. For example, Ron Paul is not interested in adding to the Constitution some kind of explicit recognition that the First, Second, Fourth, and Fifth Amendments restrict the power of state governments just as they restrict the power of the federal government.

A good question to ask yourself is why a so-called Constitutional libertarian would not be interested in modifying the Constitution in this way, since doing so would increase individual liberty, while decreasing government power at all levels.

Second, Ron Paul calls himself a constitutionalist, but he seems to pick and choose the parts of the Constitution he's willing to accept. Note, there's nothing wrong with such selectivity. What is wrong is failing to recognize that one is being selective, all while berating other people for being selective in other ways. That's simply hypocrisy.

What does Ron Paul's interpretation of the Constitution seem to leave out? Primarily, the Fourteenth Amendment. But the doctrine of substantive due process, which is derived from that Amendment, culminating in the Lawrence decision is great from a libertarian point of view.

I've written a lot on this already. What I can't understand is why an American "libertarian constitutionalist" would reject the Fourteenth Amendment. It would be like a Canadian LC wholeheartedly accepting Section 1 of the Charter.

Anonymous at 6:40 am says:

What would be the difference between the government having the power to censor the aforementioned photo and the state having the power? I don't want a born again Christian from Alabama telling me what i can and can't see (hence the dislike of a sprawling federal government).

But this is a false dichotomy. It is not the case that if state governments do not have the power to violate the First Amendment than necessarily the federal government will have that power. Maybe nobody should have that power. That's essentially what the Supreme Court decided in Cohen v. California, and their ruling was based on the First and Fourteenth Amendments

I'm a libertarian: I don't think anybody should be able to limit your freedom of speech, whether the mob in a state legislature supports that limitation or not. I agree with the Supreme Court's decision in Cohen v. California. Do Ron Paul supporters wish that case had been decided differently?

14 comments:

Witchwindy said...

Some state constitutions are stronger on liberty than the federal constitution, my state for instance. As long as state governments follow their state constitutions, I see no problems with Ron Paul's position on returning all of those things the federal government has usurped from the states back to the states. Once the federal government is returned to its constitutional limits, the people of the various states can then work to get their state government to follow their state constitutions (most state governments have usurped power from the people and grown beyond their constitutional limits, too.

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