Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

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Paulist press

Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch, two libertarians, engage in some self-congratulation about the improbable attractiveness of Ron Paul, who, for them, is intellectual heir of Barry Goldwater via Ronald Reagan. This is evidence, they contend, that "[m]ore than at any other time over the past two decades, Americans are hungering for the politics and freewheeling fun of libertarianism."

I think they have the "fun" part of it right, and perhaps even the "freewheeling." But I wonder where the responsibility is. Gillespie and Welch characterize the libertarian combination of fiscal conservatism and social liberalism as loving one’s countrymen and mistrusting one’s government. I don’t see the love, unless it’s based on the unconservative assumption that human beings are naturally good and hence can be trusted to do well for themselves and their fellows without much in the way of cultivation, encouragement, or regulation. And I do see a certain selfishness that has little to do with love.

Discussions - 8 Comments

Gillespie (I don't know about Welch) is a left libertarian. Ron Paul is not. Ron Paul is not hostile to religion and traditional morality. In fact, he knows they are essential to maintaining any sort of ordered liberty.

I know one thing that some paleoconservatives are/were concerned about with Paul (they generally like his politics +/- trade) is that he will popularize/normalize libertarianism as a philosophy which is essentially a form of classical liberalism.

I don't have that concern. Paul has become a sort of anti-establishment Rorschach test. People see in him what they want to see. Anti-war libs don't think he really wants to cut social programs. Fair traders think he is one of them because he opposes supra-national agreements like NAFTA. Populists have suddenly become advocates of the gold standard against the inflating Fed. (An amazing development if you think about it.)Etc. Etc. Etc. So I don't think supporting Paul equals supporting libertarianism per se.

Most of the reluctant paleos I know are now fully on board without hesitation. And the reason is because the recent unscrupulous attacks on Paul from the mainstream establishmentarians via the smear of what seems to be first recourse these days, racism and anti-Semitism.

Paul has the right enemies, the thinking goes, so he must be doing something right, and it is time to ride to the sound of the guns.

In brief, Gillespie and Welch are wrong if they think that the support of Paul represents some sort of generalized endorsement of left libertarianism. If anything, it is more an endorsement of Constitutionalism and a repudiation of the current state of affairs.

Ron Paul is not the heir of Barry Goldwater. Goldwater recognized the magnitude of the challenge of international communism, and understood the need for a massive national-security apparatus. Ron Paul is an isolationist and a quasi-pacifist who seems to believe we live in a world without enemies, if only we would recognize it.

David is correct. Goldwater was an interventionist. Paul is a non-interventionist. (Repeating over and over again mantra like that he is an "isolationist" does not make it so.)

And interventionism in Barry Goldwater's day was just as inconsistent with the principles of limited government as it is today.

Paul has never said we live in a world without enemies, although he has correctly pointed out that many today intentionally stoke fear to justify an ever expanding security state apparatus. He has said we have no obligation or constitutional authority to go forth seeking monsters to destroy. Our military should be protecting the homeland and our vital proximate national interests, and that is all.

I have a problem with the "men are not good by nature and therefore government needs to guide them" argument.

If all people are inherently flawed, then how is letting my behavior be dictated by a behemoth government made up of thousands of similarly flawed individuals going to improve the situation?

Mr. Frisk, Ron Paul is neither an isolationist nor a pacifist. He supports free trade, strong borders, maintaining a strong defensive structure, and destroying those who hurt Americans. I believe he voted for the invasion of Afghanistan following 9/11-- he just believes that, since then, the United States has fallen off course.

Come on, Question! Everyone knows that people are more virtuous in groups. Ask any lynch mob!

It's hard to characterize Goldwater along the tired old "isolationism/ internationalism" axis. He, like many conservatives, expressed skepticism about Eisenhower and Kennedy's early forays into Vietnam. Once the United States had made a major commitment to the country he embraced a policy of "go big or go home." His suggestion that nuclear weapons could be used in Vietnam was a reflection of the fact that he didn't want a long-term troop presence in Southeast Asia.

John, The Conscience of a Conservative which I know he didn't write but he endorsed, spoke very plainly of a need to contain and roll back Communism internationally and to spread American values abroad.

Goldwater supported Taft over Eisenhower, and he was skeptical of Vietnam, but I don't think he was a reluctant Cold Warrior.

Daniel McCarthy has a good article on the Goldwater legacy in the most recent American Conservative.

The issue isn't isolationism and internationalism. What are free trade and friendly relations with all if not internationalism? The issue is role of government. Is the US government supposed to be primarily concerned about America or is it supposed to concern itself with the rest of the world? Of course it is natural to be concerned about the world because what happens other places impacts us, but there is a very limited number of things the US government can actually do constitutionally to influence or alter the outcome.

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