Crossing the Ronulan Neutral Zone Posted by: Dale Franks
on Wednesday, November 21, 2007
Whenever you criticize Ron Paul, a number of defenders—usually people who are not regular readers or commenters—pop in to take you to task. I don't mind it so much, even when they copy and paste their comments from other blogs to make their points, such as comment #6 here at Blogs for Victory and the ninth comment to my previous post, both from Francine. After all, when you're on fire you want to share it.
Actually, I kind of like it, since it's so instructive.
So, why Ron Paul? I mean, he has no chance of winning, so why not go after Mitt or Rudy? As commenter "mkultra" puts it:
Rudy will become the wingnuts nominee for President. My guess is this site will eventually endorse him. After all, how many posts have appeared on this site critiquing Rudy compared to those critiquing Ron?
I dunno. I don't care either. I blog about what interests me at a particular point in time. Rudy doesn't interest me. Don't like him much, but other than that, there's nothing particularly weird or amusing about his campaign that causes me to sit up and take notice. I suppose I prefer him to anyone the Democrats are likely to nominate, but only because he promises us to take a trip down the road to hell a bit slower.
On the other hand, if Rudy breaks off in the middle of a speech and begins shouting, "It's the Freemasons! The Freemasons who are destroying America!" I'm sure I'll come up with something to say about it.
I think the other thing about Ron Paul I dislike is that, he personifies the old-school libertarian tendency to make the perfect the enemy of the good. As the Club for Growth details in his voting record, Mr. Paul has voted against free trade agreements, school vouchers, tort reform, and has—gasp!—even done a bit of nosing around at the pork trough. In each case, these votes have been made because Mr. Paul has in mind more perfectly libertarian solutions. And if we can't have them, then, to him, that means we get nothing. To him, some imperfect progress towards more freedom in these areas is worse than no progress at all. As the Club for Growth says:
But Ron Paul is a purist, too often at the cost of real accomplishments on free trade, school choice, entitlement reform, and tort reform. It is perfectly legitimate, and in fact vital, that think tanks, free-market groups, and individual members of congress develop and propose idealized solutions. But presidents have the responsibility of making progress, and often, Ron Paul opposes progress because, in his mind, the progress is not perfect. In these cases, although for very different reasons, Ron Paul is practically often aligned with the most left-wing Democrats, voting against important, albeit imperfect, pro-growth legislation.
Ron Paul is, undoubtedly, ideologically committed to pro-growth limited government policies. But his insistence on opposing all but the perfect means that under a Ron Paul presidency we might never get a chance to pursue the good too.
None is not better than half a loaf.
In any event, to return to the proximate case, Not only did I find Ron Paul's statement on racism to be baffling, I find some of his defenders to be baffling, too.
Ron Paul spoke clearly about his opposition to racism.
His claim that it is collectivism and contrary to the ideal of individualism is almost exactly the way Ayn Rand described it.
His claim that it is collectivism is simply wrong, according to common understanding. The electorate, in general, neither knows nor cares how Ayn Rand described collectivism. When the electorate looks up "collectivism" they find that the Random House Unabridged Dictionary defines it as, "the political principle of centralized social and economic control, esp. of all means of production." The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language defines it as "The principles or system of ownership and control of the means of production and distribution by the people collectively, usually under the supervision of a government." The WordNet Dictionary offers the following definitions: " 1. Soviet communism [syn: Bolshevism] 2. a political theory that the people should own the means of production"
Collectivism means something specific, you see, and you don't get to hijack the language and apply a term to a completely different meaning than the common understanding. To do so is to willingly invite incomprehension.
Many libertarians believe that the Federal government should not have the power to prohibit state policies, even if they are bad. This would include enforced segregation. (Or even slavery.) Those libertarians believe that appeals to state constitutions, or else libertarian political movements at the state or local level should change those unjust policies.
And yet, in 100 years of Jim Crow, neither "appeals to state constitutions" nor" libertarian political movements at the state or local level" did so. The federal government did so through legislation. Why, one wonders, did that come about, what with the amazing efficacy of "appeals to state constitutions" and the like?
Moreover, I've got a copy of the constitution somewhere around here that says the United States will guarantee to each state a republican form of government. Now, whatever a "republican form of government" may be (the Constitution doesn't define it), it isn't one where everyone gets to vote, except black guys. So, I have to wonder, if the argument is that enforced segregation or slavery is not approachable by the Federal government, then in what way does Article 4 of the Constitution have any force at all? And even if you argue that Art. 4 doesn't mean what I think it means, then you now have to explain how, precisely the 14th and 15th Amendments don't give the federal government the explicit power to strike down segregation.
Slavery, of course, we don't have to address, since the 13th Amendment specifically prohibits it.
So, libertarians may well "believe that the Federal government should not have the power to prohibit state policies, even if they are bad." They may also believe that fuzzy kitties and fluffy bunnies should fall from the sky, for all the good it'll do 'em.
Many libertarians believe that government should not prohibit private discrimination... All libertarians are quite aware that opposing laws against private discrimination or taking a strong "federalst" [sic] stance will result in charges of racism
Well, the reason it will result in charges of racism is because, under such a regime, there will simply be more of it. Are you seriously arguing that if private racial discrimination were allowed that no one would engage in it? I wouldn't. I support legalization of drugs, prostitution, and gay marriage. I automatically assume that if those things are made legal, there will be more of them.
As a result, I also assume that there are a number of people of all races, who would simply choose to discriminate against other races of people if private discrimination were allowed. I don't have to make value judgments about whether people should to that to accept that they will.
Many libertarians believe that the market system tends to destroy racial discrimation [sic]...
That may very well be true, in the sense that, absent a concerted effort by government to enforce a discriminatory regime, the free market will result in less discrimination. To the extent that discrimination is unsupportably economic, some people will be forced not to discriminate if they wish to support their families. The obvious corollary to this is that to the extent that it is economically supportable, some people will discriminate. However, it is also true that, an increase in overt discrimination will inevitably occur, even if only at the margin, as opposed to a regime that outlaws private discrimination. One should at least be honest enough to acknowledge the truth of this. The question then becomes, "will there be more or less overt discrimination in a regime where private discrimination is allowed, as opposed to the current system, which outlaws it?" I think the answer to that question is obvious.
But, let's be very clear here. Ron Paul was making a different argument. His statement was:
The true antidote to racism is liberty... Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence - not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.
That simply isn't true. Free-market capitalism may very well reduce overt discrimination in the circumstances described above. But capitalism is an economic system (and the only rational one in existence), not a system of moral improvement. Capitalism provides incentives that reward behavior, not moral laws that affect one's inner life. Capitalism will certainly reward you for overcoming your revulsion at other races in order to take their money, but it can't make you like it.
I invite the Ronulans to respond. Assuming anyone is interested enough to take a break from Turkey Day.
I recommend that your read "The State Against Blacks" by Walter Williams.
I will grant that "other things being equal" anti discrimation regulations will reduce racial discrimination.
Some kinds of anti-discrimation, especially if it is difficult to enforce, can be counter-productive.
For example, if equal pay regulation is enforced, while regulation of who is actually hired is not effectively enforced (say, because affirmative action is rejected,) then the market process that brings groups that suffer discrimation into the market can be stymied.
Equal pay regulations were advocated and implemented in South Africa for specifically that purpose. People hiring blacks for less pay had a competitive advantage over firms that did "the right thing" and limited skilled employment to blue collar whites.
While Ron Paul’s short statement opposing racism didn’t go into detail, it is consistent with an understanding of how the market works agaisnt discrimation.
You state that advocates of legal toleration of private discrimation will be considered racist because legal toleration of private discrimation will result in more racism is peculiar to say the least.
We can imagine many policies that would reduce racism that are unjust and so must be opposed.
For example, suppose we imagine a policy where anyone suspected of racism and all their friends and relatives are executed on the spot.
Secret policy would monitor telefones and the like, informers would be paid and so on. Any hint of racism, and a squad would be dispatced, and a bullet put into the back of the head of the racist. Their family would then be sought out and shot in a similar manner.
I beleive this policy will result in less racism. While many nonracists would die, the policy would surely catch some racists and their racists attitudes would follow them to the grave. And, fear would help break up the transmition of racist attitudes from parent to child.
But, I reject this approach, even though I believe it would reduce racism.
Not because I like racism, but rather because it would kill many innocent people, and even those guilty of racist attitudes don’t merit death.
I hope my reductio doesn’t confuse you too much. My point is that one might oppose many much less extreme anti-racist policies for reasons other than racism.
Being a racist isn’t the same thing as supporting or opposing a policy that will have the consequence of increasing racist actions by other people.
This is obvious, of course.
Many libertarians oppose efforts to ban private discrimation. Some libertarians oppose having the Federal government stop state governments from preventing private discrmination.
I suspect there are some libertarians who are racists, but many who take these positions are not racists. In general, they take the positions primarily based upon applications of some kind of general principle.
Again, this is all obvious.
It all looks like bad faith on your part.
AS far as I can see, you are not willing to explictly argue for anti-libertarian positions on these matters. But you seem to want Ron Paul or his supporters to take "purist" libertarian positions.
Ron Paul is not running for President on the issue of opposing school vouchers or opposing tort reform.
He is running against Nafta and the WTO, but not in favor of imposing greater trade restrictions after their repeal.
If he were to actually win, I think have a President advoating unilateral free trade would be an interesting change. And I suspect he could stymie efforts to increase tariffs or other trade restrictions.
I admit that I am troubled that many Ron Paul supporters appear to know little about public policy, and especially, little about libertarian approaches to public policy.
However, I am not especially impressed by your level of knowledge either.
AS far as I can see, you are not willing to explicitly argue for anti-libertarian positions on these matters. But you seem to want Ron Paul or his supporters to take "purist" libertarian positions.
Actually, I’m not arguing any position at all on these matters. I’m intentionally refraining from making normative arguments. I’m just describing the way things work.
Nor am I arguing that I want Ron Paul supporters to take inflexible, purist positions. I’m arguing that they do. The whole point of your comments here is that I am not explaining libertarian positions with enough orthodox rigor, so you have charitably undertaken to assist me.
Physician, heal thyself.
Being a racist isn’t the same thing as supporting or opposing a policy that will have the consequence of increasing racist actions by other people.
Great. Good luck with making that point effectively in a national debate.
However, I am not especially impressed by your level of knowledge either.
I’m not making a display of knowledge. You seem to have trouble reading for comprehension. I’m not making any libertarian arguments at all, not am I trying to explain libertarian political philosophy. You seem to think I have a philosophical explanation deal happening here, and I just don’t. I am describing how the world works.
My knowledge of libertarianism simply doesn’t come into it. You keep making these philosophical rebuttals to what you think I mean, rather than tackling what I actually write. You’re wasting your time with reductio ad absurdum arguments, without addressing the real issues I’m talking about.
As I remember, you had a bit of heartburn when I said we could have a debate about whether private discrimination should be banned, as if it were obvious beyond debate. Well, not to the American public it isn’t. If you want to eliminate private discrimination, you are going to HAVE to have that debate. Again, that’s not a statement of philosophy, it’s just the way things are.
Similarly, opponents of eliminating private discrimination can call it "racism", and explain, very simply, why it is so, in their view. What is the counter-argument you’ll use to rebut them?
You’ve spent two very long comments dancing about the philosophical edges of what I’ve written, without addressing any of the substance.
So, I’m not impressed by your ability to comprehend written English.
I am NOT a Paulista, by any stretch of the imagination. I would take some exception to Dale’s discussion of "Private segregation," though. I object to your discussion because it is one-sided. I agree, and I don’t think that Paulistas would disagree, that if allowed there would be more discrimination….in the beginning. The fact that Tom Robb will be able to LEGALLY discriminate against the “Mud People” does not mean he will succeed or that his actions will in any way be a meaningful trend. I grant Tom the right to not rent property to Nigra’s, if he so desires, HOWEVER, I would fully support, morally, financially, and if possible physically any boycott efforts that emerge in response to his actions. Tom can choose to be a racist, but then others can protest and boycott and threaten boycotts of all involved who acquiesce to Tom Robb’s racism. I would argue that this is at least as effective as governmental interference. Further, I doubt that fact that some can now act as racists is going to spread, I don’t think most people consider this a socially acceptable practice and I think that many others would fear the economic/political/social consequences in participating. Overall, I don’t see the acceptance of “private discrimination” as a fore-runner of awful things to come.
You’re exactly right. Liberty doesn’t guarantee virtue and to sell it as a utopian cure-all gives critics an easy target to refute. Paul’s utopian foreign policy is equally absurd and embarrassing.
Of course, without anti-discrimination laws you’ll have discrimination. And, of course, a free economy has a natural limit on the damage such discrimination will do. The repeal of Jim Crow and economic boycotts of discriminating institutions did more than all the anti-discrimination laws to help integrate blacks back in the 1960s.
I suspect that if we got rid of anti-discrimination laws today, whites would be the most discriminated against group because there would be no limit on university and corporate discrimination (i.e. affirmative action). That will have to be tackled by moral suasion and, if needed, boycotts. Liberty just doesn’t guarantee virtue. That’s an unavoidable cost. Let’s not pretend otherwise.
First let me say that I believe that Ron Paul is providing a lot of ammunition for those who like to paint all who call themselves libertarians as kooks. It would be better if he ran as a Libertarian.
Once women were no longer thought of as property, our society decided that “All men are created equal” also included women. Once blacks were no longer considered sub-humans, they too were considered equal. In my judgement, the federal government is charged with protecting the rights of its citizens from any individual or group. States do not have the right to pass any laws restricting the rights of their citizens except in criminal cases.
Phil, quite possibly that’s true, BUT so it seemed to me at least, Dale isn’t talking about state action, but PRIVATEY action. That Wil Whitebread, or Abbas Arab, or Alfred African-American, or Oscar Oriental, or Red Cloud the Red Man can choose to DELIBERATELY not deal with people of other races or religions. It’s YOUR property why should you have to deal with those you despise? I could be wrong about that but I thoght the focus was on what individuals could do, not what teh state can do. Certainly the state or the "state" can not deny its citizens the benefits of citizenship, speech, assembly, voting, property, jury service, and the like.
First off: Mr. Paul has voted against free trade agreements, school vouchers, tort reform, and has—gasp!—even done a bit of nosing around at the pork trough
In so far those free trade agreements, voucher programs, and tort reform proposals have the effect of skewing the system further in the favor of certain already favored interests, and/or expanding government interference in areas where the reverse is desirable, Paul’s no votes are not rejections of "half a cake is better than none". They were rejections of slices of fake cake.
As for the racism argument, I’m viewing that not through the prism of what happened in historical times and in the 1960s, but what is happening now—which is the appropriation of superior racial status because of historical victimization. (Primarily, but not only, by blacks.) Someone who doesn’t approve of racism can object to that. In fact, someone who doesn’t approve of racism should object to that—which demonstrates just how pitiful the "civil rights" movement has become over the years. And given that most government interventions in the area of race are in support of that victimization ideology—instead of working to make everyone the equal of everyone else, they aim at making some favored few more equal than everyone else—they should be opposed. That’s why the current political agenda of the Left is aimed at expanding the groups which can claim victimization. They want the government to prohibit discrimination not only against blacks but against every group they wish to slap the ’victim’ label on, even when the victimization of those groups is very debateable. And that’s why a seemingly good idea (government prohibition of discrimination in housing and other areas) can turn out to be very bad.
Is it appropriate to give blacks compensation for what their ancestors endured under slavery? Possibly, if you can put an economic valuation on what they suffered, and decide how to split up among their descendants, without making it seem like another giveaway of "free" money. I’ll even be glad to contribute to the fund, as soon as the check from the Russian government comes through to compensate me for what my grandparents went through under the Czars, before they emigrated to the "goldene medineh". But the civil rights movement doesn’t want that sort of compensatin. They want compensation because, you see, they’ve been victimized in the past.
And liberty is the enemy of racism. Not by conversion of the racist into a non racist, but by empowering the victim of racism to work for himself without constraints. And a society that is actually educated in the principles of liberty won’t have many racists to begin with, whereas a society that is not will always have many racists. It’s the Sy Syms philosophy applied to life in general ("an educated consumer is our best customer")
And this sums up the excuses/rationalizations/arguments of purist libertarianist zealots. The inability to grasp that politics is the art of the possible. The tendency to never miss an opportunity to miss an opportunity. If 9,999 points out of 10,000 are offered, by gum, in the name of PRINCIPLE, reject it! Because it only makes it worse!
So here we sit, almost 40 years later from the founding of the party, and the third largest party in America has elected countless dogcatchers, water commissioners, and one sheriff - oh yeah - the sheriff, the highest ranking Libertarian holding office, changed parties because he (Like Ron) couldn’t be actually elected as a Libertarian.
35+ years. A full generation - at least - by anyone’s reckoning. So. How is that "purity" working out for ya? What say? Another few decades, perhaps, of doing the same old thing and expecting a different result *THIS* election cycle?
you don’t get to hijack the language and apply a term to a completely different meaning than the common understanding
Dude, if this were true, James Carville would have never had a job in Washington. Misappropriating American phraseology is now part and parcel of all Democratic talking points. "Comprehensive immigration reform" immediately comes to mind.
How else to explain the almost word for word stuff showing up from people who never posted here before, on other blogs where they’ve also not posted previously?
I’m telling you, Billy, it’s like Clockwork. I’m sure the guys here have seen it as well... Post something with the string "Ron Paul;" in it, however benign, and my spam filters ...both email and comments... go into overdrive.... voluminous posts that cannot possibly have been constructed on the spot... given that they’re both non-responsive to the points at hand, but also near copies of what’s showing up elsewhere. I’ve even had the same exact response show up from two different IP’s from supposedly two different people.
If you’ve got some other explanation for it I’ll entertain it...
Forget Ron Paul as his mass internet support by those desperate for change but unwilling to change the system has begun to cause little ticks to sprout up in various muscles throughout my body.
I’d like to read an entry about how capitalism which is best friends with corporation promotes the opposite of "moral improvement" and actually increases a slow but inevitable moral deterioration. If you are feeling extra kind you can then explain to me why after hundreds of years it is the best thing we intelligent life forms have.
Vote Hillary. No Vote! No Sex! I am kidding of course.
I dunno, I read qando all the time, but I rarely comment. When I do it’s because there’s something exciting like the antics of the Ron Paul Revolution. Though I have heard about his army of drive-by posters.
Umm, what was the point... Oh, do we support affirmative action? See, I don’t think President Paul would do anything whatsoever about race issues, but if he did, it wouldn’t be to legalize discrimination. It would be to end racist programs like affirmative action. So that would be good.
You guys have to think about the practical consequences, not just the theory. : D