Thursday, June 14, 2007

Incredibly Stupid Statement of the Day, 06/14/07

I'm not going to specifically source today's Incredibly Stupid Statement because it's been made in many forms, in many forums, by many individuals. The particular iteration I'll be using occurred on a semi-private discussion list for members/supporters of the Libertarian Party Radical Caucus. I'd rather send people to the Caucus so that they can subscribe to the list if it's their cup of tea than send people to the list directly. I'd also rather go after the statement istelf than the particular individual who made it, especially since that individual is one among many who are making similar statements, and not someone I'm looking for a fight with.

So, the statement:

There is absolutely no principled reason to denounce [Ron] Paul's [presidential] campaign.

Of course, generically speaking there are all kinds of principled reasons to denounce anything. Different people espouse different principles. I may think that the principles of, for example, Maoist communism are idiotic principles, but I would not mistake a Maoist's denunciation of Paul's campaign for an "unprincipled" denunciation. Paul's principles are at odds with (and, in my opinion, far superior to) the principles of Maoism. Denunciation is the only principled response a Maoist could make to Paul's campaign.

But, of course, I'm writing here from a libertarian perspective and a Libertarian Party perspective -- so here's a revised and extended version of my reply to the statement on the aforementioned list:

Au contraire. One might disagree with the principles involved, but any number of principles could be invoked in denouncing his campaign.

Here are a few:

1) If one believes that the Republican Party cannot be reformed into a libertarian party, and that on the other hand the Libertarian Party is the only vehicle through which it is even remotely likely that libertarian ideals may -- sooner or later -- be translated into public policy, then Paul's campaign is worthy of denunciation by virtue of the fact that it will inevitably cause some people who are looking for a libertarian political party to mistake the GOP for that kind, or potentially that kind, of political party, at the expense of the LP.

2) If one believes that libertarianism and conservatism are two different political philosophies, then Paul's campaign is worthy of denunciation due to the confusion it is raising on that question. Paul is very specifically running as a conservative. That's what he calls himself on the debate stage, and that's what he calls himself in his campaign fundraising letters (in the fundraiser I received from him he referred to himself and/or his supporters as "conservative(s)" numerous times; the word "libertarian" appeared nowhere in the letter). The media, on the other hand, calls him a libertarian. This is bound to cause some people to mistake conservatism for libertarianism or vice versa.

3) If one believes that party affiliation/loyalty has importance and/or meaning, then Paul's campaign is worthy of denunciation due to the fact that he has none -- at least not to the LP, anyway. In 2000, for example, Paul signed a letter urging registered Libertarian voters in two California US House districts to vote for Republican congressional candidates who were on the ballot opposite Libertarian opponents. Paul has continuously exploited his prior LP presidential candidacy as a tool for raising funds from Libertarians for his Republican campaigns, and the LP has gone out of its way to avoid running candidates against him in his US House District. That relationship has been a one-way street. Paul uses the LP, but the LP has gotten very little use from Paul since 1988.

[N.B. Since I posted this reply to the list in question, a prominent Texas Libertarian has opined that Paul has in fact been of great use to the LP by, for example, speaking at its events and bringing larger numbers of people to those events than would otherwise have attended. I'm not necessarily conceding the point here (it's possible that Paul benefited much more than the LP did from those appearances), but I'm certainly willing to admit that this particular point may not be as open and shut as my original post implied]

4) If one believes that putting a xenophobic or homophobic face on libertarianism is damaging to the libertarian movement and the Libertarian Party, then Paul's campaign is worthy of denunciation because that's exactly what it does. Paul has received the most attention on foreign policy so far, but if you read his fundraisers, you'll see that that's not been HIS choice. In those fundraisers, he hasn't even able to bring himself to use the word "Iraq," instead throwing out some very mealy-mouthed, coquettish stuff on foreign intervention and then launching into his preferred position of emphasis: Immigration, an issue on which he is firmly in the anti-libertarian Know-Nothing camp. Although he advertises himself as a "constitutionalist," he sponsored an act intended to legislatively invalidate the Constitution's "full faith and credit" clause where marriage is concerned, for the specific purpose of depriving same-sex couples of their rights.

5) If one believes that honesty is important, then Paul's campaign is worthy of denunciation, because he lies ... or at least articulates different, mutually exclusive policy positions to different audiences. For example, when speaking to libertarian audiences, and perhaps even to national non-libertarian audiences, he opposes farm subsidies. But go to his congressional site, and you'll find press releases where he brags to his home constituency about how hard he is working to bring home the farm pork for them.

You may or may not agree with any of the principled reasons for denouncing Paul's campaign articulated above, but that doesn't mean they aren't principled reasons (and for the benefit of Brian Holtz, I don't think any of them would fall under the "Rothbardian anarchocapitalist heresy" classification). It just means that they aren't YOUR principles. They are, however, mine -- and to put as fine a point on it as possible, there are no circumstances under which I will be voting for Ron Paul for president, even if he receives the GOP nomination and even if the LP nominates NOTA. I hold nothing personal against those who see it differently, but I think they are mistaken and I don't intend to be mistaken with them.

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