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Wednesday, December 05, 2007

It Really Is About The Issues, Not Ron Paul

Professor Roderick T. Long has a new post up at Liberty & Power that is somewhat of a supplement to Professor Horwitz's post about Ron Paul that I blogged about yesterday.

While I agreed with the points that Horwitz made (but had a different conclusion about the Paul campaign), I think Professor Long may be putting words in the mouths of Paul's more enthusiastic supporters that they may not actually be inclined to say.
The argument goes like this: “Even if you think Paul is wrong on some particular issues, he’s still far, far more libertarian than any of the other candidates, so why not support him?” [Emphasis in original]


So far so good. Actually, this is the rationale for my support of Paul's campaign. I elaborate on this in yesterday's post. But here's where I think Long is incorrect:

The reason I find this argument puzzling is that those who make it would not, I suspect, find it plausible in most other contexts.

Imagine, for example, that instead of Ron Paul it’s Randy Barnett who’s running for President. Paul and Barnett have a lot in common; they’re both fairly thoroughgoing libertarians, they’re both enthusiasts for the Constitution, and they both take some positions that many libertarians regard as deviations.


Understanding that I cannot speak for Long, what he seems to be saying here is that there is something about Ron Paul personally that is drawing libertarians to his campaign. And that if the presidential candidate was someone with libertarian positions similar to Paul's, but not Paul, Paul's current supporters may not support that other candidate. As a Paul supporter, I will say that this is not true for me, and I would definitely be willing to support another candidate with a quasi-libertarian platform, even if he or she is not Paul. I agree with this paragraph from Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch's article about libertarianism and Paul in the Washington Post:
That force is less about Paul than about the movement that has erupted around him -- and the much larger subset of Americans who are increasingly disillusioned with the two major political parties' soft consensus on making government ever more intrusive at all levels, whether it's listening to phone calls without a warrant, imposing fines of half a million dollars for broadcast "obscenities" or jailing grandmothers for buying prescribed marijuana from legal dispensaries.

Also, to be honest, I had not heard of Randy Barnett prior to seeing his name dropped in Long's post. But from what Professor Long says about Barnett in his post ("Barnett’s two major deviations ... would be his support for the war and his insufficiently decentralist approach to federalism."), Barnett may not be a good example of an alternative to Ron Paul. One of the major attractions to Paul's campaign for independents and libertarians is his opposition to the war in Iraq. That war is not only putting American troops in harm's way for a questionable reason, but it is severely damaging America's reputation abroad.

I'm going to risk putting words in other Paul supporters' mouths here too, but I would think that they would agree with me that Ron Paul is the most likely candidate to bring the troops home anytime soon. Yes, all the Democratic candidates are speaking out against the war, but it seems to me that they are saying this more to beat the Republican candidate than to actually bring the troops home promptly. Maybe I'm being cynical, and believe me, I'd love to be proven wrong if a Democrat is elected president, but I'm not convinced as to the Democrats' sincerity. One of my favorite things about Paul (and I think even most of Paul's critics would agree) is that when he says something, he means it.

Paul's service in the House of Representatives, voting no on nearly every (every?) spending increase, has been admirable. And his outspoken (although, in my opinion, not outspoken enough) opposition to the War on Drugs is almost unheard of in modern politics, in either party. However, I see no reason why I wouldn't be willing to support any other candidate who spoke out in favor of such positions.

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