Ron Paul as President

Bryan Caplan defends the prospect of a Ron Paul presidency.  Here is Megan McArdle.  Here’s yet another perspective.  Here is Ezra Klein.  Here is Paul himself.

The Ron Paul phenomenon reminds me of the old America First movement, with Misesian 100 percent reserve banking theory on top.  He is making (one version of) libertarianism much more popular by allying it with nationalist and also states’ rights memes.  That includes his stances on immigration, NAFTA, China, devolution of powers, and "The Constitution."  Even when the policy recommendations stay libertarian, I fear that the wrong emotions will have the staying power.  Evaluating a politician is not just about policy positions; for instance personally I am skeptical of most forms of gun control but I worry when a candidate so emphasizes a pro-gun stance.

Many libertarians see the Paul candidacy as their chance to have an impact and they may well be right.  There is also no one else for them to support.  But, raw milk or not, I am not myself tempted to take a stance this year in favor of any of the candidates, Paul included.  Liberty is lacking in the United States but I’d like to see it more closely bundled with reasonableness, moderation, and yes pragmatism; I
am looking to advance on all fronts at the same time.  Call me fussy if you wish.

I fear that Ron Paul is so taken with his own ideas that he is unable to see how or when his views might ever be wrong; it is in that sense I consider him insufficiently intellectual.  (Admittedly all the other candidates are too open to whatever is politically popular at the moment.)  Openness also means ability to improvise, which is a critical leadership quality; many of the challenges of the presidency are the surprises, 9/11 being one example of many.

The America Firsters, by the way, were right about many things, but
they were very wrong about a few very big things, such as World War II
and the civil rights movement.  They also suffered a virtually total
eclipse for decades.  I don’t see nationalist and states’ rights memes as a path toward a future with more human liberty.

Ron Paul is changing the ideological landscape of American politics and the fabric of modern classical liberalism.  No matter what your point of view, I recommend that you take the Ron Paul phenomenon very seriously indeed.

Addendum: Here are good remarks from Arnold Kling and Steve Horwitz.


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