Ron Paul and Libertarianism


Alex Knapp

Alex Knapp writes about pretty much everything under the sun, including politics, art, religion, philosophy, sports, music, culture, and science.

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40 Responses

  1. Avatar MFarmer says:

    That’s a good spin to oppose Paul, but it lacks any substance. Wilkinson is a modern, run-of-mill liberal who like many poses behind a designer political identity. It plays well in his circle I’m sure, and I hope all ten of them like the article. If Wilkinson has a workable answer to the problem of immigration, he should put it forward to show how a real compassionate fighter for liberty does it.Report

    • Avatar Dan Miller says:

      Will Wilkinson is many things, but he’s not a run of the mill liberal. He’s in favor of private accounts for Social Security, for one thing, and generally takes a dim view of the welfare state.Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        I think that basically he is just a plain old liberal, although as they say, there are different kinds of liberals, until election day. He plays with different ideas, sort of like intellectual puzzles, but I’m pretty sure where his political heart lies — modern liberalism.Report

        • Avatar larrym says:

          If by “liberal” you refer to the current se of the term, then you’re just wrong, either not familiar with Wilkinson, or misreading him in an hilariously ignorant manner.

          If you are using liberal in the largr sense, which would incorporate classical lieralism, Wilkinson is indeed operating int he larger liberal tradition, and he would (and has) put himself in that tradition.

          But the thing is that, philosophically, libertarianism is also in that tradition. Libertarians ARE liberals, in that larger sense.

          And Paul knows that – which is why he doesn’t call himself a libertarian. So Wilkinson is entirely right.

          Since Mr. Farmer is himself outside that tradition, he of course doesn’t agree with Mr. Wilkinson’s critique.

          Which is fine. But don’t expect the good people of this world – the liberal in the larger sense – to lie down and let the facists, paleocons, islamists, movement conservatives,a nd other noxious ideologies return us to the middle ages.Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            This is precious, and hilariously ignorant. I dare say, I’m much more in the tradition of classical liberalism than Wilkinson — you seem to misunderatnd classical liberalism — perhaps you mean the statist transition from classical to modern, which saw the old liberals begin to compromise and embrace certain aspects of statism. I’m not calling Wilkinson a John Kerry-like liberal, just a plain old modern liberal — civil liberties, yes, economic liberties, well, it depends — that kind of modern liberal. You also seem very angry for some reason.Report

            • Avatar MFarmer says:

              To go a little further, it’s a designer political identity — politically-correct libertarianism, ad hoc expediency/pragmatism, intellectual aloofness, civil liberties, and necessary statism. This is fashionable among young intellectuals who are basically modern liberals in their political support of Democrat welfare state policies and in their political opposition to anything that seems inappropriately and unfashionably right-wing.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      I wonder, which of Wilkinson’s points in that article do you consider substanceless? Even if you disagree, the article definitely contains substance, and arguments for why he says the things he says about Paul. Did you dismiss it from the quote alone?Report

      • Avatar MFarmer says:

        No, I read the article, and he fails to mention the content and context of Paul’s positions — he spins it according to his oh so eclectic ideology.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          What context did he leave out?Report

          • Avatar MFarmer says:

            The context of the welfare state as it relates to immigration/open borders, and the fact that coercive confiscation of income taxes isn’t the only way to raise money to help people access social goods. Wilkerson is a master at specious argumentation.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              Ah, so he pointed out that Paul said there were reasons to oppose immigration despite his stated principles, but he didn’t point it out well enough. And Wilkinson’s criticism wasn’t really about the taxes. Are you sure you’ve read the article?Report

              • Avatar MFarmer says:

                “Wilkinson’s criticism wasn’t really about the taxes.”

                Did you read the article? It was one of his main points regarding Paul’s principled stances, but at the expense of social goods, so why won’t Paul bend on taxes/property rights like he bends on immigration due extenuating circumstances.

                Better yet, have you read Paul’s book?Report

  2. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Oh, and if he’s for turning Social Security completely over to the private sector, I’ll be surprised.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Ron Paul is a Paleo.

    For the most part, I’d prefer a vaguely principled Paleo to a vaguely unprincipled Republicrat.

    I’d see Ron Paul as a good start. He’s not anywhere near where I’d want to end up, though… he’s just pointed at it.Report

  4. Avatar Katherine says:

    Wow. Great article. He really hit the nail on the head.

    I like Ron Paul for being the only Republican to oppose empire and support civil liberties, and tolerate his economic and other views because they’re at worst only moderately worse than those of other Republicans. But as the unofficial standard-bearer for an ideology that can lean either left or right, it’s true that he certainly makes it look inherently right-wing.Report

  5. Avatar MFarmer says:

    There is nothing wrong with Right as established by the Old Right — now, social conservatives, neo-cons, homophobes and racists are thrown under the Right umbrella. There has been such a smear campaign that it’s practically killed a true Opposition to progressivism. Obscurantism will be the death of America, if she dies. The anti-ideology ideology is the worst ideology around.Report

    • Avatar North says:

      Smear campaign implies that the right did nothing to claim those perjorative (to some people) descriptors for themselves Mike.Report

    • Avatar Art Deco says:

      There is nothing wrong with Right as established by the Old Right — now, social conservatives, neo-cons, homophobes and racists are thrown under the Right umbrella.


      Mike, people have all kinds of uncharitable prejudices with all kinds of objects. Organized and public antagonism to blacks breathed its last around about 1977. You only see it in and among micro-organizations and small-circulation publications.

      ‘Neo-con’ is a nonsense term. There was a corps of publicists and officials, ca. 1979, for whom the descriptor ‘neoconservative’ was passably instructive to others. It has not been for near on twenty years. William Kristol is Jewish and more secular in his dispositions than the ordinary run of Republican. He does not otherwise differ from the Republican mainstream in anything other than some interests and emphases. There are invariably disputes over particular public policies among those with some common purposes. Such disputes do not necessarily delineate distinct political tendencies.

      There is nothing shameful about antagonism to sexual transgression.

      As for ‘social conservatives’ and we are fairly numerous, we have our priorities, and we are not going away. Fat chance you ever get anything enacted without our co-operation.Report

  6. Avatar MFarmer says:

    Or working to reclaim it.Report

  7. Avatar Anderson says:

    Excellent piece, it’s always good to see a libertarian get cred in TNR. Wilkinson’s writings on the Economist’s site are consistently thoughtful and substantive. (And he’s a great writer’s writer too). In this piece, I found his thoughts on the definition of “justly-acquired property” to be quite illuminating:

    “Most of us think there’s a sort of statute of limitation on the sins of our fathers, and for good reason. But it’s absolutely undeniable that the distribution of property and power in America partly reflects hundreds of years of constant and systemic violation of precisely those rights Paul claims to prize. Anti-discrimination legislation indeed puts some limits on rights to property and free association. But in light of America’s cruel history of official social, legal, and economic inequality, it’s hard to see these limits as “arbitrary,” even if we want to pretend, for the sake of social peace, that the distribution of property reflects a history of mostly just acquisition.”

    A strong understanding of history, not just abstract ideology, is needed when considering what determines a right. Of course when you sign a contract the property is technically “all yours”, but what about the context and history of said property? What circumstances made it possible? Is taxing something akin to saying “this property is definitively not ‘all yours'”, or is it just part of the true societal cost to anyone choosing to own something in the U.S.? In this case, it seems anti-discrimination laws are society’s attempt to nuance the meaning of “justly acquired” under the umbrella of greater justice.Report

  8. Avatar b-psycho says:

    Freakin’ bravo to his inclusion of this:

    it’s hard to say exactly what “justly acquired property” amounts to in a country built in no small part by slave labor on land stolen from indigenous people. How much of Thomas Jefferson’s property was justly acquired?


  9. I’ve gotten this article sent to me by a million liberal friends over the last few days, and only now have I had a chance to read it.

    I’m not going to say W.W. is not well-read on Ron Paul, but Paul has repeatedly cited Milton Friedman’s point that a generous welfare state plus open borders is a recipe for disaster. You must choose one. Paul has said he prefers open borders, but only after the welfare state has been rolled back.

    Still, I find Wilkinson’s criticism pretty trenchant. A libertarianism that strips away benefits for the poorest before it strips away benefits for the richest is not a libertarianism I want to be associated with.Report

    • Avatar Silus Grok says:

      “A libertarianism that strips away benefits for the poorest before it strips away benefits for the richest is not a libertarianism I want to be associated with.”

      Damn well put.Report