I didn’t get a chance to see Ron Paul at the U last night. And even if I had, I’m not sure I’d have gone.
Partly it’s because I just don’t so much care to listen to politicians in my off time. Even politicians I generally like. Unless a politician offered some major insights to Western Civilization – a list I pare down to Ronald Reagan, Winston Churchill, Lech Walesa, Vaclav Havel, Benjamin Netanyahu, and not a whole lot more – they don’t generally interest me (beyond those that are personal friends, which is a whole ‘nother thing).
I went to a happy hour before the Paul event, at the Nomad over in Five Corners. A few people asked me if I were planning on going; I replied “No, sorry – I already had unicorn farts for lunch”.
Which is a little harsh and dismissive, I know. I’m a former Libertarian, and agree with Libertarians about a lot of things…
…in theory. And, in a lot of ways, in practice. The idea of limiting government – getting it out of as many interactions we can between people, and limiting peoples’ interactions with the state, and the burdens the state places on the individual, to the barest minimum necessary – is good. Also conservative. And, in a perfect world, Republican – although the GOP falls woefully short of this ideal in so, so, so many ways that it gets depressing sometimes.
Ron Paul certainly has a way of stirring up activism. He does it by talking about a brand of politics that relies on absolute adherence to what he calls – and his disciples chant – “principles”. Principles are, of course, the bedrock of a cohesive philosophy, and the basis for any sense of integrity. And when combined with an unwillingness to sully them with any contact with the ambiguities of the real world, they’re also a straitjacket that limits ones’ political impact, and even horizons, to the absolute distillation of ones’ beliefs and nothing more.
Which is satisfying to think about – spending one’s political days vigorously agreeing with people like you – and never, ever occurs in nature.
Anyway – I’d have loved to have gone to see Ron Paul last night – if he’d have been answering questions. Because I have a few for him.
The Hothouse Flower: The easiest way for a “libertarian” conservative to get thrown under the bus by your disciples, Representative Paul, is to compromise on any political issue with any “liberty” aspect to it. At all. Ever. No matter how abstruse.
It appears as if it the “libertarian” base doesn’t realize that a good 40+ percent of the population is perfectly happy with big government, and that some sort of compromise – that being the origin of the term “politics” – is inevitable.
As a result, it would seem to be impossible to implement “a libertarian society” at a policy level, by legislative action (since legislatures inevitably involve compromise); the only way, in fact, to implement a “libertarian society” would be through a libertarian absolute, if wise and benevolent, dictator who imposed libertarianism on society from above.
How am I wrong here?
People Are Strange: One of conservatism’s core tenets is that humans, left to their own devices without any sort of overarching moral code, are fundamentally corrupt and untrustworthy.
Pure libertarianism seems to believe that people, in their hearts of hearts, are yearning primarily to be reasonable, and are spontaneously moral. I’m not sure that anything in libertarianism says this in as many words, but you, yourself, Mr. Paul, have imlied throughout your career that without some arbitrary authority figure and their monopoly on power, people – even nations – would behave in pure, enlightened self interest.
Which sounds cool, but it is utterly unsupported by history. In any large enough group of people, there’ll be somebody, or some group, they would rather take what other people have than produce it themselves. We call them criminals – unless they managed to find themselves wearing one mantle of authority or another, and which point they become “gangs”, or with enough authority, “government”.
And yet libertarian dogma – especially that of the anarcho-libertarians that eat up much of your movement’s bandwidth – constantly presumes that if we just didn’t have any authority, society would become a mass of gentleman farmers, coexisting, negotiating, and getting along.
What basis for this is, in any heterogenous society, in any of human history, is there?
That should be a good start.