Thursday, December 27, 2007

And the very last on Ron Paul (for now)

Earlier in the week, Megan McArdle asked just what a Ron Paul protest vote actually means. A little late to the party, I commented here. Here's a taste of what I had to say:

The problem is just what you've said- maybe there's a lot to like about Ron Paul, but what if the only policies he's likely to affect as president are policies you disagree with?

Forgetting about Iraq, I can't shake from my head the idea that Ron Paul wants to bring our troops home from around the globe and not deploy them again unless we're attacked. As far as I'm concerned this is idealistic and shortsighted and would threaten global stability. I'll consider candidates who have different strategies in regards to foreign policy and American power but it's hard to take seriously someone who's not even willing to play the game. And this is just foreign policy here, not the gold standard or any of the immigration stuff he's likely to wield considerable influence over as president.

I'm glad many of you support Ron Paul - And I know he's as honest a politician as they come. But what Megan is asking is what a vote for Ron Paul actually means - voting is like any other economic calculation and the ramifications of our votes are important. Should a vote for Ron Paul be a protest vote behind a losing cause? I think any liberty-minded individual could stand behind that. Or is a vote for Ron Paul just a vote for a lesser evil? If that's the case, then you need to think very hard about what programs Paul will and will not be able to enact.

Two people actually took the time to respond to me, here and here . What stands out most to me is not the foreign policy discussion, but this particular passage from the first response by someone going by ScottyC:

I can say this with absolute CERTAINTY. The standard of living of the average American citizen will decline dramatically over the next few years. How bad it gets - I'm not sure. But the debts are so huge already that there is no way they can actually be repaid. We will either dilute the debts (through inflation) or just outright default (or some combination of the two).

This is what I tend to take home from Paul and his supporters- not the sunny, optimistic libertarianism that celebrates human ingenuity and the spirit of the individual but a dark and gloomy libertarianism that fears national power, fears the rest of the world, and fears the economy is going down the toilet. Along the same lines, Hit and Run links to a post by Reason contributor Tyler Cowen that expresses sentiments similar to my own.

The Ron Paul phenomenon reminds me of the old America First movement, with Misesian 100 percent reserve banking theory on top. He is making (one version of) libertarianism much more popular by allying it with nationalist and also states' rights memes. That includes his stances on immigration, NAFTA, China, devolution of powers, and "The Constitution." Even when the policy recommendations stay libertarian, I fear that the wrong emotions will have the staying power. Evaluating a politician is not just about policy positions; for instance personally I am skeptical of most forms of gun control but I worry when a candidate so emphasizes a pro-gun stance.

That sums up my Ron Paul concerns in a nut shell- the fear that the wrong emotions will have staying power.


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