Revolution Blog

Ron Paul and the Trajectory of Freedom

Published on 2012-01-08
This is not a site dedicated to the discussion of politics. It is, rather, targeted toward the necessary post-political world which is required in order to build true human freedom in the future. However, at this point in human development, the state – and politics – unfortunately still occupies a central pedestal in societal affairs. And so it seems appropriate to address the burgeoning phenomenon of the campaign of Texas Congressman Ron Paul for the US Presidency.

What does Paul's ascendancy in the public eye mean for the cause of freedom generally? What is likely to happen if he wins, or conversely if he loses? In the past there has never been a question of “if he wins,” because there was essentially no chance of that occurring. Today however, one would be foolish to discount this as a possibility, even if still a remote one.

The Paul candidacy has progressed steadily through Gandhi's famous stages leading to ultimate victory: first they ignore you(external link), then they ridicule you, then they fight you, then you win. His campaign is clearly now entering the third stage of “then they fight you.” That doesn't mean the attacks won't succeed, but there is a growing note of desperation evident. Every supposedly serious recent interview invariably digresses into attempts to embarrass Paul on the basis of what somebody else said: an alleged supporter on YouTube(external link), a Tweeting staff member, some wacko campaign donor, or even an anonymous ghostwriter of some twenty-year-old newsletter. This is evidently what you resort to when you cannot embarrass the candidate with his own words or positions any longer, due to his lifelong consistency, and because those views have now been proven to enjoy significant popular support.

In this recent interview(external link), Fox News' Chris Wallace (who previously said that if Ron Paul won the Iowa Caucuses, then it would serve to discredit Iowa voters!) actually brings up some things Ron Paul wrote in a book published in the 1980s. This strategy suggests that the slime from the racist comments in the antique newsletters isn't sticking, probably because Paul can simply point out that those weren't his words(external link) and have plainly never been his views. (Indeed, the culprit has recently been outed as a contributing freelance writer named James B. Powell.) One gets the impression that Fox must have numerous paid hacks desperately speed-reading through every word Paul has ever written, and poring over the transcript of every speech he's ever given in Congress over the last thirty years, looking for something, anything which can be taken out of context and used to confront and hopefully embarrass him with some apparent deficit of political correctness.

The trouble is that Paul is typically able to defend his words of years ago, since he's not in the habit of staking out ground he cannot defend in the first place, nor of changing his basic position over time. Of the two quotations dredged up here for Wallace's interview (from Paul's 1987 book Freedom Under Siege), the first is cited to attempt to depict him as homophobic because he objects to government subsidies for care of AIDS patients. Paul is able to defend this by bringing up the issue of personal responsibility for behavioral consequences, by impugning the morality of socialism which transfers that responsibility onto society, and by invoking market forces expressed in differential insurance rates based on behavior; other less inflammatory examples include smoking and drinking.

Seeing that he isn't getting the desired result, Wallace cuts him off and segues to the next item, which is a quote suggesting that the victims of workplace sexual harassment share responsibility for its continuance if they do not exercise their right to quit the hostile environment. Again, Paul is able to make this sound reasonable by pointing out the difference between an actual sexual assault (a crime to be reported to the police) and mere boorishness, which does not warrant government intervention. Basically, no one has a right to bring government thugs into a situation simply because they feel offended, and federal laws against mere rude behavior are inappropriate and overreaching.

Having thus struck out twice and failed to portray the congressman as either anti-gay or anti-women, Wallace then moves on to allegations that Paul's effectiveness in Congress has been extremely small, and finally ends with a rather ludicrous charge that his campaign paid a Michelle Bachmann staffer to defect. It's self-evident that while “Dr. No” is only one nay vote in the House, as President, his veto would be worth two-thirds of both houses. So the question about how anyone could believe that his effectiveness would suddenly increase if elected, is laughably foolish. As for the campaign staffer, no rat ever needs to be paid to abandon a sinking ship. This kind of straw-grasping desperation is now prevalent in mainstream media interviews with Paul; a quick sampling on YouTube provides many additional examples.

Why are they so desperate to discredit him? Because, just as his own campaign staff has publicly stated(external link), three tickets emerged out of Iowa, and one of them (Rick Santorum) lacks the money or campaign organization to go the distance. Which means it's now a two-man race, between the principal establishment candidate, Mitt Romney, and the people's candidate, Ron Paul. Romney's campaign presumably knows this too, which is why they've joined Paul in attacking Gingrich and Perry, to push them out and consolidate all the establishment support behind Romney's banner. Then they'll take on Paul down the stretch. This may be more difficult than it sounds however, since some 3/4ths of the GOP are known to be searching for an alternative to bland moderate Mitt Romney.

Such a race between a “freedom candidate” and another candidate (who must by definition be the anti-freedom candidate), an us/people's candidate vs. a them/establishment candidate, is potentially very dangerous for “them.” In the present climate, a race with this general character could very easily go to the pro-change, populist candidate. This is precisely why libertarians are always ignored, not included in debates, kept off the ballot when possible, their vote totals unreported, and so on. (None of which is new; this has been standard operating procedure for decades.) Because if the people ever get a chance to vote between freedom and slavery, they might just opt for freedom. Such a clear choice is the deepest electoral fear of the imperial establishment. And yet, oddly and remarkably, this kind of perfect storm appears to be exactly what is brewing. The primary establishment defense has always been to belittle the freedom candidate as a crank who simply has no chance of winning. But after finishing third in the Iowa Caucuses, that dog just won't hunt anymore. Moreover it looks like Paul will come in second in New Hampshire.

Of course, Ron Paul still has to sell freedom to a Republican Party that long ago abandoned liberty for totalitarianism, money for debt, peace for war, and reason for madness. Winning in a state-worshiping party overrun with gray-haired neocons, bloodthirsty chickenhawks, hateful bigoted Christian fundamentalists, and flip-flopping influence peddlers, is no small task. By analogy, consider pitching sanity within an institution for the criminally insane. In fact the general election would be a cakewalk by comparison, since non-Republicans can vote in a general election. But in a closed caucus or primary system (rules vary widely by state), only registered Republicans can participate. Still, the Paul campaign is going all out to expose the others as status-quo tweedle-dums. Consider these hard-hitting ads against Newt Gingrich(external link), Rick Santorum(external link), and the Washington machine(external link) in general, not to mention this hip ad which openly depicts exploding entire federal departments(external link), poof! Breathtakingly good stuff.

It's easy to get caught up in the enthusiasm for sticking it to the enemies of freedom through their own rigged and degraded political process. Everyone paying attention who's thought about it knows that the the two major US parties are just wings of the same bird of prey, and the purpose of elections is to shape public opinion(external link), not sample it. To see the process turned around on them, just for once.... But would it truly be a good idea?

What if Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination, either outright or at a deadlocked convention after the third ballot? In that case — and assuming Paul escapes convenient assassination by some neo-John Hinkley, Jr. supposedly trying to impress some contemporary actress — Obama would probably prove to be little more than a speed bump in the road to the Offal Office. The “Us vs. Them” election would simply be repeated writ large. So let us imagine further that Paul is elected President, and indeed, let us even suppose that the members of Congress are actually frightened into enacting his proposed program. (Not impossible to imagine, since as a group they have no clear principles anyway.) What happens then?

Potentially, some very positive things. American imperialism overseas would pull in its horns, which couldn't help but be good for the overall peace and prosperity of the world. The debt would be reduced, or at least its rate of increase, and the value of the dollar would be supported. Particularly egregious legislation such as the Patriot Act and the NDAA would be discontinued, or no longer enforced. Routine sexual assaults in airports by TSA personnel would cease. Gitmo and other islands in the gulag archipelago might disgorge their prisoners, or at least put them on trial. FEMA and its infamous camps awaiting dissidents might close their doors before they got started. Some federal gun and drug laws might die on the vine. While the outright abolition of the IRS or Federal Reserve and restoration of the gold standard seems unlikely, allowing free market commodity money to compete openly with the central bank's money could easily be achievable.

So what's not to like? The point that Ron Paul and his supporters fail to grasp is that government is hostile to liberty by its very nature, and merely seizing momentary control of the juggernaut of the state is ultimately no substitute for demolishing its power. This cannot be done whilst wielding it, not even in the cause of greater freedom. Paul and his supporters are like the character of Boromir, who urges that the One Ring be used against the Dark Lord by “the Free Lords of the Free.” Tolkien's wiser characters all refuse to have anything to do with this idea, since the Ring's power is to corrupt the ends of the one who wields it, and ultimately the wielder himself. As the wizard Gandalf says: “We should seek a final end to this menace, even if we do not hope to make one.” While incredibly apt at pointing out the growing threat posed by Mordor-on-the-Potomac, when asked what the purpose of government should be, Ron Paul invariably responds: “to protect liberty.” This the great fallacy of classical liberalism. It is akin to claiming that the purpose of foxes is the protection of hens.

To supply a less mythical and more historical analogy, Ron Paul finds himself in much the same position as Claudius following the assassination of the corrupt and insane Emperor Caligula. Claudius always wanted to restore the Roman Republic, but is persuaded by his friends that he cannot refuse the opportunity of the crown when it falls into his lap. By the end of his reign, Claudius comes to understand that he has made a mistake. When he became Emperor, Rome was weary of overbearing autocrats, after the detached Tiberius and the demented Caligula. But by ruling wisely and justly, Claudius reconciled Rome to monarchy again, and thus ironically ensured the continuance of the imperial system he despised for another 300 years. Dr. Paul is most unlikely to achieve the continuation of the US federal government for any such length of time, because the contradictions, debts, and stress-fractures in that system are simply too great; but he could very well succeed in kicking the can down the road for a few more years, if his reforms were adopted. Another possible historical analogy would be to Mikhail Gorbachev, whose efforts to reform the Soviet system in order to save it proved to be too little, too late.

Let us turn now to the scenario if Dr. Paul fails to win the Republican nomination. (And frankly, this remains the most likely outcome, despite the fact that establishment attacks on Paul so far appear to be making him stronger.) In that case, the general election will be between two slick “hairspray” candidates, empty suits Obama and Romney, both of whom will dutifully read their teleprompters and say anything at all to win votes, while meaning none of it. In that case, the Wall Street candidate wins regardless, and the people's candidate simply does not exist. (Goldman Sachs and other financial firms have been the top contributors both to Romney's campaign in 2012, and to Obama's super-PAC in 2008, and again in 2012.) In that case, voter turnout would presumably be low. In that case the freedom-loving public, the people who are fed up with being treated as slaves (in equity, if not in legal title), and all those who supported Ron Paul's campaign, will receive a clear and unequivocal message: “You have no representation in government, and you will never have any. Our system belongs to us and is closed against you and anyone who might seek to help you. We own you. Accept your fate. Resistance is futile.”

It could perhaps go without saying that this message will incite resentment. It will not be meekly accepted. To make matters worse, Paul himself will be leaving Congress in 2013 and going into retirement from politics. So there won't be another round in four years, either. Ironically, the only way the establishment can now save itself from significant damage is by defeating the candidate whose defeat will serve to undermine the very legitimacy of the establishment. In winning, they potentially lose worse than they would if Paul got elected. After all, if Paul gets elected, his supporters will stay in the system. They'll go on voting and paying their taxes. They'll retain their belief in America's experiment in “republican democracy.” They'll pat themselves on the back for saving their country. They'll keep cheering their military heroes, and keep using banks and Federal Reserve notes. It will be possible for the statist establishment to bounce back from the damage inflicted by a Ron Paul administration, when the worm turns in 2014 or 2016, as it inevitably will.

But if Paul isn't elected, his supporters will gain instead a more truthful understanding of the real nature of government, and of their own status as its slaves. They'll figure out that the military they like to thank for their service may soon be “serving” them by rounding them up and tossing them in camps. They'll grasp that their faltering economy will remain hagridden by the special interests of the 1% for the foreseeable future. They'll understand that their currency may soon inflate into worthlessness. These sober realizations will manufacture anarchists and refuseniks by the million. Sic transit gloria democracy.

What will these newly minted free market voluntaryists do, now that they're thoroughly disillusioned about working within the system to reform it? Now that they're perforce following a trajectory toward lasting freedom, instead of transient freedom of the merely political variety? Many of them will join the real revolution, by moving their economic lives into the underground economy, also known as “System D(external link).” The global gray market underground economy is bigger than China's at $10T per year. Nearly half the workers in the world are already working in it, at least to some extent, some 1.8 billion people. System D is growing faster than any other part of the global economy, and the OECD projects that by 2020, the number will have grown to two-thirds of the workforce. These statistics are shocking to most people in developed countries like the USA. Why? Because their citizens are still shambling off to their system jobs every morning (those that still have jobs), and spending their spare energies begging their corporate/government masters to let them have a little more freedom. This is one area where the “developing” world is actually way ahead of the “developed” world. Their citizens get it; ours don't.

As appealing as a successful Ron Paul campaign might appear, in the long run it's surely better for freedom if he loses. The establishment will expend and forfeit a lot of its legitimacy in beating off his attack, and many of his supporters – particularly the young ones – will learn their lesson about politics and turn their attention to more practical and rewarding concerns, while turning their backs with contempt on the corrupt system they leave behind. It will slowly burn itself out, while they get on with their lives.

All of which is not to say that the eloquent and always forthright Dr. Paul isn't making headway for the ideas of liberty within the limited context of his campaign, ultimately misguided though it is. Even such a hardened left liberal as Phil Donahue has felt the power of the message. In this CNN interview(external link), Donahue is clearly moved by the observation that Ron Paul is virtually the only sane voice in the political landscape these days. For all the rest, they appear to perceive no conflict between being a proud American, and then waterboarding somebody. Whether Donahue perceives that the policies he has long supported have contributed to the erasure of that conflict isn't clear; but it obviously bothers him that the only spokesman left for the America he once believed in is now marginalized and derided as “dangerous.”

By forcing his opponents to call names and demagogue the issues, Ron Paul exposes the intellectual poverty and moral depravity of the very state he seeks to lead. That's the strategy which could get him elected. If he isn't elected, it's also the strategy which will subsequently recruit millions of Americans into the real Revolution. Hats off to Dr. Ron Paul!