Nick Gillespie on Ron Paul, and the Libertarian Collective

“Ron Paul is the Rodney Dangerfield of Republican presidential candidates” – Nick Gillespie

Nick Gillespie is a die-hard libertarian and editor of Reason magazine, and has a piece on Republican Presidential candidate (and my favorite) Ron Paul: 5 Myths about Ron Paul. (Note, the original piece is at the Washington Post, but for some reason they are asking for a sign in to read the whole article, while the link above does not.)

It’s a short article and worth a read. I will take brief umbrage with some of Gillespie’s points though. Before doing so, let me give a HUGE disclaimer – I like Nick Gillespie and Ron Paul (though probably the latter a bit more), and intend in no way for this to be a hit piece on Gillespie.

Gillespie’s 5 myths:

  • Ron Paul is not a “top tier” candidate
  • Ron Paul is a doctrinaire libertarian
  • Ron Paul’s call to end the fed is “crazy”
  • Ron Paul is anti-military
  • Ron Paul has strong youth support because he wants to legalize drugs

Note that Gillespie is saying these items are myths, and he does not agree with the statements.

The issues with point #1 are well known. Jon Stewart did a great number a while back about how the mainstream media is ignoring Paul, despite his clear standing in the polls. In fact, the last poll out of Iowa showed Paul in a statistical tie for first. (And, by the way, he has a better organization in Iowa and will probably show better than his polling.)

I do find Gillespie’s musings on point #2 slightly off-putting. It’s not that I feel any need to defend Paul’s libertarian bonafides. Rather it’s the positions that Gillespie describes as anti-libertarian (I quote at length): “Paul parts company with many libertarians on many issues. These include immigration, where he favors ending birthright citizenship and reducing the number of newcomers until the welfare state is dismantled. Paul says abortion law should be settled at the state level, but in Congress in 2005, 2007, 2009 and this year he introduced the Sanctity of Life Act, which would define life as beginning at conception. He’s known for adding earmarks to spending bills he votes against, thus bringing home pork while maintaining his ‘Dr. No’ credentials”

I haven’t given much thought to birthright citizenship, but stopping the flow of immigrants until welfare is dismantled is the only sensible and reasonable approach in a move toward libertarianism. The libertarian would say that we should have open immigration and no welfare state (no entitlements whatsoever). Right now we have some immigration and some welfare. The notion that you can dismantle these two separately is silly. If you open the borders but allow “majority rule for wealth redistribution” then you can guarantee the welfare state will never go away. If libertarians do not understand this simple proposition, then they would do well to think for a second. I suspect though that many libertarians do understand this issue and would side with Dr. Paul on the correct order of innovation.

Then there is the next bit about abortion. (1) “Paul says abortion law should be settled at the state level.” Well, in some strict sense I suppose I agree. Not because there is a foundational moral justification for this, but because that is the current construct of the Constitution (despite the crude ramblings of the Supreme Court). Then (2) “but in Congress in 2005, 2007, 2009, and this year he introduced the Sanctity of Life Act, which would define life as beginning at conception.”

Here what I find interesting is the divergence between Paul and many libertarian – who are often pro-choice. Ron Paul holds that (a) the government shouldn’t be involved in medical decisions but (b) life begins at conception. Paul is strictly libertarian on point (a). His divergence with the supposed libertarian view is that life begins at conception. But what does this have to do with libertarianism? The man is a medical doctor and fully capable of making his own assessment of the beginning of life. Is there some libertarian collective out there that makes these medical judgments for the rest of us and tells us how to think?

Then there’s the part about adding pork to spending bills that he votes against, and supposedly opposes pork as well. Here I’m firmly in the Paul camp (shocker). One can oppose pork spending and still request it for his district without contradiction. Much like the immigration debate, this is a situation where one must grasp the full risk/reward of the system in question. In investing and business, risk and reward must be coupled (otherwise you end up with crony capitalism … and we know how badly that sucks). The same is true for social safety nets and, in this case, pork barrel spending. “As long as you’re going to tax my constituents to pay for pork projects in your district, then I sure as heck want to get some of that money back for my district. If you say I shouldn’t take pork because I think it’s wrong, then simply agree to stop taxing my constituents to pay for it and I’ll go along.”

The rest of the list flows rather easily, and makes some strong points. The discussion of “anti-libertarian” views just seemed a bit forced. Paul’s positions seem perfectly justifiable to me.

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