Rebirth of Reason


Some Pros and Cons of Ron Paul
by Tibor R. Machan

     Texas Republican House member Ron Paul is undoubtedly the most committed libertarian among all the presidential hopefuls. Dr. No, as he is sometimes called, opposes virtually all government spending and other forms of oppression. He believes that many of the laws passed by Congress aren't authorized by the U. S. Constitution—a document he believes is sound because of its support of the free society and a limited federal government—and could only be passed by state political bodies, not by the feds. He is pro-life but instead of wanting to outlaw abortion—a dubious libertarian idea in my book—he wants the issue of whether there is a right to have an abortion to be dealt with at the state level. His views on banking, the Federal Reserve Bank, hard money, the IRS, and, especially, military adventurism all follow sound strict libertarian principles.

     On one or two points, though, even a libertarian could take issue with Dr. Paul. Is it true, as he claims, that 9/11 happened "because we are there"? And even if the American military presence in many countries where it has no warranted business has contributed to anger at the U.S.A., does acting on that anger by murdering 3000 people not guilty of aggression toward anyone constitute a justified response? That's clearly not the case. Even if I do you wrong, your response may not be to attack my children and neighbors! Moreover, even if the history of American military conduct gives evidence of arguably similar injustices—for example, the bombing of Dresden and, later, of Japan—that is no excuse for perpetrating similar injustices. Such military endeavors are intolerable unless carried out as a matter of defense. No wonder many find Ron Paul’s "blowback" theory highly problematic.

     His theory may sound like just one bit of oddity in Dr. Paul's outlook but it is a very disturbing one since it has to do with the central libertarian issue of when is aggressive violence against others justified.

     9/11 was undoubtedly aggression—certainly the attacks on the World Trade Center cannot be dismissed as anything else. (One might have a case arguing that attacking the Pentagon qualifies as a military action within the framework of the military confrontation between America and various Middle Eastern countries.) To a libertarian, for whom the right of an individual to his or her life is a core principle of community life, thinking that killing 3000 people is ok—because Americans went to Saudi Arabia and other places "there"—is quite disturbing.

     Still, within the context of American presidential politics it is enough to just be against the war in Iraq and to be for substantially dismantling the federal government to come out a big winner to those who see liberty as central to human community life. The way Dr. Paul explains his position may not be perfect but the position in this instance is unassailable.

     The United States military has no business in Iraq. Even the low level suspicion, encouraged by Saddam Hussein himself, that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction does not justify going over there to put American lives at risk. The proper job of the US military is to secure the rights of American citizens, not to right the wrongs of the world. This is the substance of the view expressed in the Declaration of Independence and in George Washington’s prescient farewell letter.

     What about Dr. Paul's states rights stance? Here those who love liberty may again have some reason to be concerned. However constitutionally sound it is to let the states vote in various oppressive laws, voting them in is wrong and should be discouraged however they can be, provided it is peaceful. The states-rights position can render governmental mandated racial segregation permissible as well as a state's banning of innumerable ways of exercising one's rights to life, liberty, and property. Would a war on drugs be fine if conducted in Connecticut or Texas but not if it is a federal policy? Why is the states' oppression so different from that of the federal government? Both have cops who ought to focus only on protecting the rights of individuals and when their majorities insist on a different course that is every bit as much in violation of sound principles of human community life as when the federal government does so, this is wrong.

     Still, since on most other fronts Dr. Paul is as close to being right as it is possible to be within the framework of American politics, he really is the only one a devotee of liberty could possibly vote for, if only to send the message: Liberty matters!
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