They say he's inconsistent and kooky, and they're right. But since the left doesn't have a better champion of liberty, shouldn't shouldn't it cheer his rise?
What's the worst thing that could happen if Ron Paul won the presidency? After I posed the question, writers including Patrick Appel, Alex Pareene, and Pascal Emmanuel Gobrey responded. Each post is worth reading - and if you're the Ron Paul campaign, worth responding to.
How about it, Dr. Paul?
Meanwhile, a couple of my favorite progressive writers, Matt Yglesias and Adam Serwer, have written posts looking at Ron Paul's positions on civil liberties, and they don't like what they see. Theirs is a different critique, and one that should concern all civil libertarians. Let's start with Yglesias:
After looking at his positions and statements, the most remarkable thing is that if it weren't for his loud fanbase of self-proclaimed libertarians you wouldn't really think this is the platform of a libertarian. He's loudly trumpeting his plan to impose criminal penalties on women who terminate their pregnancies and he makes it clear that his interest in freedom doesn't extend to the freedom of anyone unfortunate enough to have been born in a foreign country. His campaign slogan of "RESTORE AMERICA NOW" is strongly suggestive of conservative impulses and nostalgia for the much-less-free America John Boehner grew up in. The mainstay of his economic thinking is the ridiculous proposition that "there is no greater threat to the security and prosperity of the United States today than the out-of-control, secretive Federal Reserve." Not only is Paul's goldbuggery nutty on the merits, like his affection for forced pregnancy and severe restrictions on human freedom of movement it's difficult to see what it has to do with freedom.
These are among the reasons I can't get too excited whenever Ron Paul defends due process, questions the wisdom of aggressive military intervention or assails the surveillance state. While Paul isn't a vocal member of the GOP's homophobia wing, preferring to leave such questions to the states, his vision of freedom comes across as terribly limited to constituencies whose individual freedom, throughout American history, has come from the intervention of the federal government.
It's impossible to imagine black people or women having the freedom they have today without the Civil Rights Act. For gays and lesbians, who are hoping to secure their own fundamental rights, Paul's federalism would give individual states the right to violate those rights by a show of hands. Paul-style libertarianism too often comes across as an agenda of individual freedom for straight white men.
Wow. They make Ron Paul sound pretty bad. But they're planning to vote for a guy who is even worse on civil liberties! That's what gets me about these posts. I am all for critiquing Ron Paul. The newsletters to which he foolishly lent his name were awful. It is indeed wrongheaded that he wants to return to the gold standard. And if America were on the cusp of protecting the civil rights of black people for the first time, I'd campaign against Paul, despite being quite sympathetic to his stance on other issues. Do you know why? It's because I care about actual liberty enhancing outcomes, whereas both Yglesias and Serwer are evaluating Paul's candidacy in a way that is curiously removed from the issues that confront us or what would plausibly happen if he won.