January 6, 2012
I should start by pointing out that I am hardly a fervent Ron Paul supporter.
Yes, I will probably vote for him in the general election if he gets the Republican nomination (not that I think that’s likely). If he is not nominated, however, my plan is to either vote for Obama or not vote. Even if I can vote for Paul, I will hardly be enthusiastic about him; I see him as the least evil of the dozen-or-so bastards running for an office that has without exception been occupied by thugs, incompetents, and mass murderers. Notice how I wrote “and,” not “or.”
That being said, it is important in any debate to address real issues, and not just regurgitate popular sound bites. If you have a real objection to a candidate or to a position, state that objection. If you just feel like criticizing someone for no reason, you need to stop wasting your time with me and apply for a job on The Sean Hannity Show.
Probably 95% of the criticisms I’ve heard of Dr. Paul consist of the words “that,” “guy,” and “is crazy.” I’ve heard this from friends, family, coworkers, and homeless people off the street. It’s a defense mechanism: If you know nothing about politics but for some reason want to pretend to have opinions, Ron Paul’s purported insanity is a great topic.
No one, of course, bothers to actually provide any evidence of Paul’s mental illness. Are there medical records demonstrating that he is not mentally sound? Does he claim to be fleeing a Soviet plot on his life? Did he keep watching Glee after the second season? I’ve been shown no evidence of any of this; people just say that he’s insane as if it were self-evident.
This wouldn’t annoy me so much if it didn’t obscure real issues. Unlike virtually any other candidate, Ron Paul proposes policies that might actually change things if enacted. If Paul is crazy, however, it is easy to assume that all of his proposals are absurd, thus precluding any debate on the topic. If there are coherent arguments in favor of the Federal Reserve or the war in Afghanistan (I’ve yet to hear any), they’re never raised. The public is left with no means of evaluating the issues.
The Devil We Know
Another problem I have with the “Ron Paul is crazy” defense mechanism is that it obscures many far better reasons for hating him.
It’s similar to my objection to the “Obama was born in Kenya” myth. There are plenty of great reasons to hate Obama regardless of his birthplace, and there are plenty of great reasons to hate Paul regardless of his sanity.
Of course, non-libertarians hate Paul because they believe that the welfare state, imperialism, and/or fiat money are necessary. I won’t bother addressing those issues in this article, as it would require me to admit that non-libertarians have functioning brain cells. Even from a libertarian perspective, however, there are plenty of reasons to hate Paul.
For one thing, Paul has a long history of pork barrel spending. He has brought hundreds of millions of dollars in earmarks back to his home district, often for completely inane projects, such as subsidizing the shrimp industry. Paul defends this on the grounds that he is making up for the taxes taken out of his district, but that’s absurd; such an argument could justify any spending. Besides, much of federal money is not taxed out of his district, but rather is debt, to be taxed from future generations.
Then there’s the issue of Paul’s immigration stance. In between speeches on the virtues of free markets and free trade, Paul has called to secure the United States’ borders and deport any immigrants who are in the country illegally. This is, of course, blatant hypocrisy. There is no libertarian case to secure the border; immigration is just another form of trade, and one cannot oppose government intervention in the economy while simultaneously wanting the government to tell people where to live. The congressman has defended his position on the grounds that he merely wants to uphold the law, but that presupposes that American immigration laws are just. No libertarian with any credibility would deny that laws are not just in themselves, and should only be enforced if they serve a reasonable purpose. Paul himself has acknowledged this principle by supporting income tax resistance. In the case of illegal immigrants, however, he seeks to enforce a law with absolutely no moral legitimacy.
Some will also make the case that illegal immigrants scam the welfare system, increasing the size of government, but any intelligent libertarian will see that this misses the point. Government will continue to grow regardless of who is on the welfare rolls, and if the immigrants didn’t take these benefits, someone else would. The solution is to get rid of government spending, not to punish one particular group that benefits from it. Besides, mass deportation cannot be a rational solution; the expansion of government necessary to deport ten to twenty million people would far outweigh any savings in welfare spending.
Finally, there’s the issue of race. While I find Paul’s “racist” comments to be somewhat ambiguous, I acknowledge that they could represent dangerous sentiments. It’s certainly conceivable that Paul is racist; his fallacious immigration views would make far more sense in that light. Racism is, of course, an absurd and dangerous ideology, and I hardly need to make the case against it here. Suffice to say that it is unquestionably authoritarian, and libertarians in particular should feel ashamed to associate with it.
So Paul is clearly a hypocrite, and may also be racist. These are real reasons to oppose him. People should be talking about these issues rather than arbitrarily declaring his insanity and then changing the subject.
Of course, when people say that Ron Paul is crazy, what they really mean is that he is outside the mainstream. His views are radical, and he takes positions that most Americans would never even consider. Paul is crazy, people say, because he’s on the fringe.
Certainly Paul’s views are radical, but since when does that define a person as crazy? The mainstream is hardly a realm of sanity. One hundred years ago, the mainstream view was that women were inferior to men; are modern views of gender equality crazy? Two hundred years ago, race-based slavery was commonplace; does that make support for racial equality crazy?
A far better criterion for deciding whether an idea is crazy is coherence: if an idea is logically consistent, it’s sane. This test, however, would seem to make Paul a lot more sane than any of his critics. The idea that the government can promote freedom by bombing people is crazy. The idea that the government can spend its way out of a recession is crazy. If anything, Paul is restoring sanity to the political arena, not abandoning it.