I want to hate Ron Paul. I wish I could just write him off for being crazy and single-minded. But I can’t! He stands for a number of really good positions. Even Dennis Kucinich said he would choose Ron Paul as a running mate, especially since they share very similar views on international policy.

Dr. Paul is a superb example of the annoying complexity of human existence. Lorraine Hansberry spoke to this in her play Les Blancs. A white man accuses a black man of hating all white people, and the black man responds: “No, I don’t hate all white people. But I desperately wish I did. It would make everything so much easier.”

It’s tempting for us on the left to write off someone like Ron Paul (and the libertarians who adore him). But this is a mistake. I disagree with him on several key issues, and therefore I can’t support him as a candidate. But I’m glad he’s running.

Rather than run through everything there is to say here, I’ll simply encourage people to read this Wikipedia article. I’m not going to vouch for everything on there (it’s neither a Good nor a Featured Article), but it’s got over 250 citations so you can check things for yourself if you’re doubtful.

The Good

He’s a real believer in non-intervention. He was the only Republican candidate in 2008 who had voted against the 2003 US invasion of Iraq. He opposed Congressional support for Israel’s assault on Gaza in 2009. He calls for an end to the embargo of Cuba.

He’s opposed to the WTO and NAFTA because they benefit wealthy elites and not citizens. He voted against the PATRIOT Act, and the REAL ID Act. Although he personally believes life begins at conception, he believes abortion should be a matter for states to decide. (He’s big on states’ rights.)

He voted to repeal “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell”. In 2007 he spoke out against the death penalty at the federal level, since (in his words) “it has been issued unjustly. If you’re rich, you get away with it; if you’re poor and you’re from the inner city you’re more likely to be prosecuted and convicted”. He opposed No Child Left Behind. He supports an end to the so-called War on Drugs.

The Bad

He wants us to withdraw from the United Nations. He opposes most departments of the federal government, including the Department of Education, the Department of Health and Human Services, and the Interstate Commerce Commission. He wants to let young workers opt out of Social Security.

He said the Civil Rights Act was bad because “not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society”. He is opposed to network neutrality legislation. He believes the federal government should play no role at all in education, which means no compensation for vast disparities between schools in wealthy and poor states.

He believes in real free-market trade policies, which — while more authentically libertarian than NAFTA and the like — could erode even further the safeguards of smaller, weaker nations against economies of scale and commodity price manipulation. He believes in free-market solutions in the areas of education (voucher systems), the environment (“The environment is better protected under private property rights”), and health care.

Capitalist Libertarianism vs. Socialist Anarchism

Dr. Paul’s devotion to free-market fundamentalism is at least a refreshing and principled change from the quasi-free-market ideologies of neoconservatives who support corporate subsidies and bailouts and loan guarantees and etc. But I cannot support a system of mere force and unenlightened self-interest as promoted by most libertarians (and Tea Party activists) in the United States. This comes to the heart of my disagreement with the US libertarian worldview.

It’s not enough to have personal freedom; we have responsibilities to each other as citizens and as human beings. Any system of economic or political organization which ignores these responsibilities or assumes that individuals will take them on is fundamentally flawed, and I will not support it.

I believe in small government, but it has a role to play. (Public libraries rule!) I don’t like the idea of us giving up our sovereignty to multinational organizations, but the United Nations is a vital (if deeply imperfect) instrument for peace in the world. I dislike the brutality, racism, and class privilege that police departments tend to serve, but I would probably not want to live in a city without a police force. And so on.

So while I can’t endorse Ron Paul, I’m happy to see him bringing important issues to the national stage. And while I’m delighted to have a critique of the WTO and World Bank presented to the American people, I wish we could have a more progressive vision put forth instead, rather than a simplistic refrain of “let the market do its thing”.


I know we usually have an inline video here, but I can’t pass up this list of 40 Things That Will Make You Feel Old. From Buzzfeed, via HighDef.

Today I’m listening to: Soma FM!

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