When Platform Shoes Pinch

[cross-posted at Liberty & Power]

I didn’t catch Tim Russert’s interview with Ron Paul, but check out the transcript. (Caveat: I don’t know how accurate the transcript is as a whole, but I’m willing to bet that Paul didn’t actually say “Randolph Bourne says war is a helpless state.” And what is “the Robert/Taft wing of the party”? Who’d they get to do the transcript, Dana Perino?)

anarchist rEVOLution I think Paul did a pretty good job on the whole, but the transcript does illustrate the perils of a libertarian electoral strategy. If you run as a consistent libertarian, you’ll scare off voters as they now are; if, instead, you water down or soft-pedal some aspects of your philosophy, you’ll get called on the inconsistency – as happens here, where Paul ends up sounding like he’s defending the FBI, the CIA, public schools, and the legitimacy of invading North Korea as long as Congress declares war first.

I don’t think this dilemma is a decisive argument against going the electoral route, but it certainly counts in the minus column.

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5 Responses to When Platform Shoes Pinch

  1. Anon78 December 24, 2007 at 5:19 am #

    The dilemma you cite raises another potential problem. As I see it there are 4 possibilities:

    1) Libertarianism is right and people naturally tend to be in favor of it.

    2) Libertarianism is right and people naturally tend to oppose it.

    3) Libertarianism is wrong and people naturally tend to be in favor of it.

    4) Libertarianism is wrong and people naturally tend to oppose it.

    Ron Paul’s dilemma seems to favor option 2. But option 2 can’t be true, since for a social system to be right it must be consistent with human nature, which cannot be if people naturally oppose that thing. Since option1 seems unlikely (why else would most every civilization have strong government?), this seems to leave only options 3 and 4….

  2. Kevin B. O'Reilly December 24, 2007 at 8:13 am #

    Anon78, your comment falls prey to the naturalistic fallacy. If you had typed out such a comment in 1800, it could have read exactly the same way except substituted “slavery” for “libertarianism” and “abolitionists” for “Ron Paul.” Also, right and wrong have little to do with popularity.

  3. hewler December 24, 2007 at 10:22 am #

    (why else would most every civilization have strong government?)

    Because the few who are in control (or hope to have control) of the strong government naturally tend to oppose liberty (and they have the guns & money). The world does not always operate by majority rule.

  4. Administrator December 24, 2007 at 12:45 pm #

    These four possibilities all seem to assume that people’s reaction to libertarianism, whatever it is, is “natural.” Now that might or might not be true, depending on what sense of “natural” you have in mind. There’s a normative sense of “natural,” for example, in which the best and healthiest version of anything is the “natural” version even if it’s statistically unusual — and in that sense I’d be happy to say that support for libertarianism is natural. But if you mean some kind of innate or instinctive response, then I don’t see any reason to suppose that either support or opposition to libertarianism is natural — which means I reject all four of these “possibilities.” As human beings have in different eras and in different cultural contexts supported a dizzyingly wide variety of political systems, it seems that ideology is not something that’s inborn in human nature.

    As for “why else would most every civilization have strong government?” — um, they haven’t. See this.


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