Why I (Can’t) Hate Ron Paul

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”.

TimeWaster™

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!

9 comments to Why I (Can’t) Hate Ron Paul

  • Doug

    Eric,

    I’m surprised that Ron Paul’s history as publisher of a racist newsletter doesn’t push him further to the negative side for you. http://articles.cnn.com/2008-01-10/politics/paul.newsletters_1_newsletters-blacks-whites?_s=PM:POLITICS His decision to backpedal from those positions when running for national office hardly made me feel any better about him.

  • Matt

    Doug,

    I’m surprised his decision to reject racist statements (that he in no way made) did not make you feel any better about him…

  • duvexy

    Paul said he had never even read the articles with the racist comments. See the newsletter excerpts for yourself

    “I do repudiate everything that is written along those lines,” he said, adding he wanted to “make sure everybody knew where I stood on this position because it’s obviously wrong.”

    But that’s not good enough, says one political veteran.

  • Xooma

    I mean, he also doesn’t believe in evolution.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yPoCsC8VT9g

  • [...] to Sarah Palin. I’ve been pretty good about ignoring her lately (especially with Bachmann and Paul in the mix), but this is simply too insane. Watch all of this interview if you can, but definitely [...]

  • Doug

    I understand that Ron Paul has backpedaled from his earlier racism. I can’t feel any better about it because I simply don’t believe he’s not lying. He only backed off when called out by the media in the midst of a presidential campaign that he was waging. Not backing off would have been political suicide. To claim responsibility for a publication (he does call himself the publisher after all) and then claim that you never read and didn’t know what you published is either to show that you are completely irresponsible in the first place or that you are a liar. There’s no other option.

    Ron Paul is different than some of the republican establishment, and in mostly positive ways. However, I find it impossible to believe that he is an honorable man. Whether he did it on purpose or not, he used his resources to spread hate speech.

    The video linked above does nothing but show somebody desperate to back away from his real legacy.

  • esp

    Doug: I actually haven’t explored Ron Paul’s views on race at all, but what you describe sounds a lot like what I once referred to as the fallacy of empire’s ineptitude.

    Once Reagan got away with his “plausible denial” nonsense, every politician everywhere just ran with it. It’s embarrassing at best. (But, again, I can’t judge RP on any of this.)

  • inopungbish

    Doug,

    There are three things you never want to be accused of in life. They are rape, child molestation and racism. Regardless of your guilt or innocence, you will always be guilty in the court of public opinion.