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.


"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."

I agree with the general principle here, but it's not obvious to me what harm you think may come from a politician who is too exuberantly pro-gun (given that you don't expect the attitude to directly produce bad policies). Care to elaborate?

First, let me congratulate you on your recent traffic surge. I'm sure you've figured out a correlation between high volumes of traffic and mentioning Dr. Paul. After all, there are "Markets in Everything", yes?

Next, this post -though much clearer than your previous one - still lacks a concrete answer as to why exactly you're so suspicious of Dr. Paul. Why is it necessary to include this:

"... 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?"

The ideas he proposes are not solely those of Dr. Paul, but those of a few men far wiser than you and I, Mr. Cowen. Guys like Ben Franklin, Thomas Jefferson and George Washington come to mind. Perhaps you appreciate the "thinking on your feet" of our current administration?

And since you brought it up as an example, I am a firm believer that our actions in the past fifty years did provoke the events of 9/11. How long can we continue to poke a hornet's nest before we are stung (again)? Let's stop meddling in the affairs of others who neither asked for nor appreciate our assistance and fix our own problems first.

Liberty is lacking in the United States but I'd like to see it more closely bundled with reasonableness, moderation, and yes pragmatism

I don't get it. You have finally found a politician who will vote uncompromisingly for free trade, limiting welfare, less regulation - everything most economists preach - and you don't like such position, because it is not 'pragmatic' and 'moderate'? What I find particularly shocking is that Paul proposes transition programs to get rid of bad government programs. What is not moderate on such position?

It seems to me that you are either uniformed, hypocrite or socialist. I am still giving you benefit of doubt, but if you continue posting such comments, I would have to choose another option.

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.

I don't like to call names but this is really, really stupid assessment. Paul has some views and he is vocal in defending them. Any person who is strongly defending his views is insufficiently intellectual by your standard, regardless if he is wrong or right. I guess most great scientist would fall in this category despite defending the right views.

Your ideal politician wouldn't have any views (because he might be wrong), wouldn't defend them (because he wouldn't have any views) and thus you could call him intellectual. Bravo.

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.

I am not sure what do you mean by that. Care to elaborate? Paul proposed letters of marque and reprisal as a reaction to 9/11 - constitutional reaction. He chose different reaction than the establishment. How does different reaction than majority show inability to improvise?

Paul seems to me much like Dean back in '04 - alot of hype and a huge internet presence but not enough to sway the mainstream.
At least Fair Tax is gaining ground...

The America Firsters were formed largely as a result of what they perceived as America's unsatisfactory experience with World War I. Woodrow Wilson sold that war to the American people with the slogan, "Make the World Safe for Democracy." He felt, as Bush II seems to feel, that democracy would be a cure for all the evil that the nasty Europeans had produced over the preceding centuries. If only we could get rid of the Kaiser and Tsar and a few other despots, a new era of peace and prosperity would dawn - World War I was to be the war to end all wars. In retrospect, all of this seems pathetically naive. Yes, Americans spilled their blood and spent their treasure to beat the nasty old Kaiser, but then the Europeans went right back to doing what they had always done - plotting and scheming and stabbing each other in the back. The Versailles Treaty was a disaster, and both Germany and Russia felt bitter resentment at the way they were treated by the victorious powers. It was tyranny rather than democracy that emerged as the leading force in the 20's and 30's, as Hitler, Stalin. Mussolini, Franco and a bevy of other despots seized power. The America First movement was a reaction to all this. Indeed, non-interventionism surfaced again following World War II, with the appearance of Senator Robert A. Taft of Ohio ("Mr. Republican") as a leading advocate. With the Cold War, the movement mostly disappeared, as Republicans assumed the role of strong anti-communists. However, with the demise of the USSR, non-interventionism has again emerged as a powerful force in US politics.

he is unable to see how or when his views might ever be wrong; it is in that sense I consider him insufficiently intellectual.

Well, that is the pot calling the kettle black.
Look in the mirror Tyler.

Since we left the Gold standard in 1971 the price level has risen at least 500%, and that is the official Gov estimate, too low.

When it comes to monetary policy, you too are nsufficiently intellectual.

I disagree with the assessment of Ron Paul: "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."

There is evidence that Paul is open to reassessment of his ideas. An example of this is his change in view on the death penalty: "For federal purposes, I no longer believe in the death penalty. I believe 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. Today, with DNA evidence, there have been too many mistakes. So I am now opposed to the federal death penalty."

That said, I think libertarian supporters of Paul will need to ready their case in several areas where Paul's positions differ with the consensus view. Just using the Libertarian Party platform as the starting point, a few points of disagreement include the legality of abortion, differences on immigration goals, and Paul's meddling with gay marriage at the federal level, including his support for the Defense of Marriage Act and Marriage Protection Act. To many libertarians, any differences with Paul in these areas can be forgiven when compared to extensive policy differences with the other major candidates.

"Just voting no on everything that passes his desk isn't enough. He needs to show that he knows how to compromise in order to get higher priority and more critical legislation through."

Just curious if you think the current Bush much of a compromiser. Maybe a compro-miser.

Just curious if you think the current Bush much of a compromiser. Maybe a compro-miser.

Speaking in pure politics Bush is actual quite good at compromising and getting most of what he wants when he tries. It's when he digs his heals in and gives nothing back that he gets nothing out of the bargain. See the whole Social Security Reform mess among others.

That's why I would be concerned about a President Paul, despite my agreement with him on many issues. I just don't see him as willing to work with congress. A necessary part of the job.

holy cow the crazies are out on this one. Tyler Cowen socialist has quite a ring. Do these people get to this site through some sort of Ron Paul news feed? To make claims along these lines they must not be familiar with your work, or your website.

This conversation reminds me of a movie my wife made me watch the other day (bear with me). In it, the newly elected UK PM rhetorically slaps the POTUS, telling him that the relationship between the two nations will be different from now on, that he his different from his predecessors and will not kowtow any longer. I think it was supposed to be a big high moment in the movie or something, but such sentiment is impractical in both the movie and here. How would that work? What would he be willing to give up in terms of what benefits his country from our relationship in order to stick-up for his country? Is the implication that his predecessors lacked sufficient pride in their country to stand up, or that they had cards they refused to play in diplomatic negotiations?

I would agree that the administrations preceding the "Paul Administration" probably haven't sufficiently valued personal and economic liberty, but that doesn't change the fact that the Paul administration would likely be ineffectual. As ideologically (er, rather rhetorically) far away from congress Bush seems to be, he's still much closer (even to the Democrats now) than Paul would be. NCLB aside, it took 9/11 for him to get his most radical legislation through. What would it take for Paul? Would he be willing to compromise in order to move things in the right direction?

Does the executive have the power to unilaterally make all the reforms Paul promises? That's not meant as a pointed question, I really am curious about everyone's thoughts.

"Since we left the Gold standard in 1971 the price level has risen at least 500%, and that is the official Gov estimate, too low."

That statement doesn't really mean anything in isolation. Yes, inflation is bad, but so is unemployment. No one can say what would have happened if Bretton Woods had stuck around. We do know that the situation was pretty dire for the US when Bretton Woods broke down, and external shocks only got worse. A gold standard would certainly have had less inflation, but who knows at what cost?

A better example would be Bernanke's research on the Great Depression. Several countries stayed on the gold standard (France, Poland, Belgium, Switzerland), and several broke off (US, UK, Japan, Italy), and some didn't use it at all (China, Spain). The first group of countries took the longest to start their recovery.

No No Mo,

The post was a reply to Max. Not some guy named andy.

max has a point and Tyler is correct, "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"

Tlyer and you seem to be quite taken with this floating unit of account. Tell me. Is it possible that YOU and TYLER just might be wrong about that.

The problem with Tyler and the other floating unit of account guys, is that YOU like to ignore the facts of the matter. And you call us obdurate.

Tsk Tsk You will have to do better than that.

Dear Tyler,

In light of your criticism of Ron Paul, please tell me three ideas you have that you think might be wrong.



1-1 Uh.

England was on a Gold standard from 1815 to 1914, that must have been a terrible time for them.

Do you think they had 99 years of depression.

After the Bush presidency, I think it's clear we want the president to believe himself fallible. We don't want someone who sticks to his guns even in the face of overwhelming disconfirming evidence.

By the way, I wasn't trying to claim that having a gold standard invites constant depression. A gold standard works fairly well most of the time, as does a fiat currency. I was pointing out that in times of depression, a gold standard seems to make things worse.

This article and the study it discusses, may answer some of the questions about the relationship of gold to economic depression.

From what I understand Paul isn't a gold bug by traditional standards. He is more interested in legalizing alternate currency like gold. Let fiat dollars compete against gold and silver notes or actual commodities. Best idea I've heard from a pol in a loooong time.

AC - thank you for your definition.

The Austrians argue that monetary inflation causes problem. They argue that gold is (still) such a commodity that it is physically impossible to easily raise its supply.

This may or may not be backed by enough gold to buy out the entire monetary base.

My problem with your definition is this: even if I concede that gold standard made great depression worse - it still does not refute the austrian argument that the whole mess was created by not backing the money with gold.

BTW: I don't appeal to the authority of the austrian school. I am just trying to explain their ideas - I don't want to claim that they are mine.

So, I read all the links at the beginning. By far, Ezra Klein's was the best and fairest, even though he apparently has the least interest in Paul's policies.

And that is what is so shocking to me, (even though it is dangerous to project motivations onto others) the people who should (supposedly) be ecstatic and proud of a Ron Paul campaign are the ones lobbing the most damaging criticisms.

But why are a lot of those like Klein, opposed to Paul's views, giving him a fair shake?

I was thinking that there are (at least) 3 things we look for in a president. (1) policy (2) integrity and, for lack of a better term, (3) theme. So, for an acronym, it's PIT.

I think that, although many would argue, mainly because they have another dog in the fight, Paul wins (2) and (3) hands down. His integrity is unquestioned. The few questions of it I've seen are lame not even considering comparisons to his competition. His record is laid bare if someone just wants to look. If someone was wanting to win at all costs, he most definitely would not say the things Paul is saing. This is beyond debate.

His (3) theme dovetails perfectly with the zeitgeist of the country. Thematically, he is the opposite of what has tired the people of the Clinton and Bush presidencies. People are sick of the wet finger in the wind politics of opinion polls of Clinton and The Decider's complete faith in his own faith. Paul is rational and works from principle.

The statement by the author that Paul is full of his own ideas is just nonsense. Seriously. It could be quite correct that Paul really is not putting any stock in his own ideas. So, you think he was born an Austrian economist and a Jeffersonian Federalist? No. He reads and those principles which make sense, he incorporates into his worldview.

There are finance scandals, Paul accepts no PAC money. The people distrust the establishment elite, Paul distrusts the establishment elite. Paul is the anti-politician, in theme and integrity. The people are craving this. If he were making it up because he thought that's what people wanted to hear, they would be able to tell. They can't because he's not.

Over and over again, the swing voters will tolerate policies they may not prefer in order to get the politician they like. The pundits, themselves single issue voters, overestimate the layman's proclivity to exclude a politician based on one policy shortcoming.

So, the question still bugging me is, why do the people who do agree with more of Paul's policies not see the rest of the package? Who knows. I think it's just political snobbery.

Even the critics have resorted to criticizing his supporters rather than the man or the message. And when they do criticize the message, they use the Paul version of "Hilary is a socialist!" tripe. I for one know that I offer reasoned arguments for the man and his positions. Though I'm sure this still annoys the critics, I know for a fact, because I get compliments from all sides, that I am not shrill or rude. That is not tooting my own horn, just stating facts. Surely there are rude and shrill Paul supporters. But a short search on YouTube will show that Paul's critics can be all the more crass.

I'm going to go out on a limb here. Ron Paul will win the primary and he will be President. To most, even supporters, this will sound like hubris. I won't divulge my analysis right now, except that he won't even need a recession to do it.

Forgive my rapid-fire posts. I have a few minutes a day to do this stuff.

G. Ira states Paul's administration would be "inneffectual" and then asks "Does the executive have the power to unilaterally make all the reforms Paul promises?"

It's a good question. One Paul answers routinely. And I will answer it this way. No, and that's not necessarily a bad thing. Many people have come to appreciate gridlock. I'm not talking about flaming libertarians like myself. I'm talking about Possum Party (dead middle of the road) moderates. People like Bob Brinker. Look him up. You'll be glad you did.

So, far from inneffectual, a gridlocked administration actually is worthwhile. What it accomplishes, by leaving things alone, like say not harassing the people with constant tax-policy changes, is allows the people to plan and execute their lives with relative insulation from political meddling. And again, many outside libertarian circles are recognizing the benefits of this.

Knowing "The Answer" and believing you can accomplish it are two different things. That is why Ron Paul answers that there are things he can do unilaterally as The President. Executive branch prerogatives. And these are the things he is campaigning most strongly on. It is the things further down his priority list, things that basically get one-line nods in his speeches, that he has acknowledged he would need Congress' support. These things are what most critics are making the most hay over. I.e., they are missing the point.

I was one of the 25,000 first time contributors to the Ron Paul presidential campaign on Dec. 16th. I really like Dr. Paul’s adherence to the philosophies of our founding fathers. I especially like the “no entanglements† part. With every pothole that I crash through and every creaky bridge that I survive, I think towards the time when President Paul's sound domestic/foreign policies have Americans working to repair USA infrastructure instead of destroying and then rebuilding the rest of the world. Why just the cash given to Israel alone would have paid for the "$14 Billion Dollar Big Dig" in just over two (2) years. Next year Israel wants the cash in euros.

So many of Dr. Paul’s young supporters are written off as freaks, flakes or even worse. What I have come to understand is that many of them are the families and friends of all these young people coming back from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. They know that they are next to be shipped off to some foreign land to fight and die in these endless wars that only the bankers love. Is that why this government pushes so hard for ever more poverty stricken immigrants? They need the poor for their war! Say, NO MORE!

Our government has admitted that almost 4,000 of our children have been killed so far in this war for Israel. Tens of thousands have been horribly maimed and burned. A literal army of teenagers and twenty-somethings in their wheelchairs. They have been permanently disfigured and they will forever suffer from this insane war for Israel.

I am almost fifty years old and I have always voted. I have already changed my party to Republican for the primary in my state (FL). I will be voting for Dr. Paul.

For the first time in my life, I sent $50 to a politician.

If you look at Cowen's bio at his home page, the answer to a couple of mysteries becomes clear.

If you don't understand why people who too stridently advocate for the 2nd amendment upset him, read his bio.

If you don't understand why the most libertarian-ish major party candidate in decades makes him uncomfortable and angry, read his bio.

Tyler fancies himself a sophisticate. He lives in the metro DC area and writes for the New York Times. He writes restaurant reviews, for Christ's sake. He doesn't like the 2nd amendment advocacy part of libertarianism because gun rights are something that people in flyover states worry about. People who turn first to the Style section when they get their Washington Post can't possibly worry about a measly right like the right to bear arms. Only scruffy, chubby guys with dirty baseball hats and lumberjack jackets can talk about guns. Tyler's nervousness about the gun issue is based on his perception of the proper markers of his status as a member of the urban literary and academic class.

His seemingly nonsensical chatter about Paul's purported "nationalism" is similar. If you're confused how a man can live through the W Presidency and call Ron Paul a nationalist, remember that the social life of our nation's capital and of New York City is enriched by the presence of an international expense account set. If the US pulled out of the UN, the World Bank, the IMF, etc., there would be fewer open bar parties for intellectual restaurant critics and philosophers to attend in Washington DC and in New York. This is, of course, of much more importance than the fact that the only defense of our liberties we have is our legislatures and courts, and that therefore elevating any transnational body above our legislatures and courts can only be destructive of liberty.

Most Paul opponents who style themselves libertarians and libertarian leaners are against him because of the war and the war only - but I think Cowen's opposition is more existential, and probably is very close to what I've outlined here with my tongue only slightly in my cheek.

Oh, I almost forgot to address the part of Cowen's post where he calls Paul insufficiently intellectual.

If you might wonder why he would say such a thing, when Paul is almost certainly the most well-read candidate for the Presidency in Cowen's own discipline [even if most of that reading is in an unfashionable school] since Wilson [if you don't count Reich, who was never a serious candidate] I can explain that for you, too.

Cowen is an academic and Paul is an autodidact. Now, everyone knows that academics hate all autodidacts right off the bat, because autodidacts tend to insufficiently respect the system of academic credentialism and the mores of academic society in general [and then there's the fact that people who read for themselves threaten academics' pocketbooks the way that people who change their own oil threaten the pocketbooks of the guys at Jiffylube]. But above and beyond that, Paul suffers from the chief personality flaw of most autodidacts: excessive earnestness. You see, if Tyler has a difference of opinion with Ben Bernanke, he might write a witty and well-cited article or paper about it; when Paul has a disagreement with Bernanke, he snarls at him and accuses him of devaluing the savings of old people. As an academic, Cowen regards the ideas he discusses as features of a career and a lifestyle, and as part of the way he socializes with his colleagues and peers; as an autodidact, Paul regards the ideas he reads about as a desperate matter, and something to intellectually and morally street-fight over. Paul's sin is not that he does not have an intellectual mind, but that he does not have the manners of a public intellectual. Perhaps more precise word choice on Cowen's part could have avoided misunderstanding here.

Translation: He won't send the bank to Israel.

Yeah, sure, an M.D. autodidact. No. Anyone who speaks out of their field then is an autodidact.

How were the America Firsters wrong about WW II?

Empires are realms of evil.
While the U.S. is not operating a colonial empire, it is nonetheless running an empire. Check the fasces on the Statue of the Lincoln mrmorial, they are the emblems of empire.

Ron Paul proposes the dismantle the U.S. empire and I support that proposal wholeheartedly. I think this is critical to the advancement of leberty.

Well, I guess I'm not a Ron Paul supporter. To me he's just more conservative, right-wing, Christian evangelical nonsense.

Uh, Fluffy, some people are against the war, but also do not like Paul's authoritarianism
on the aborition issue, his nationalistic anti-free trade positions, and some other distinctly
non-libertarian stuff he happens to believe in, not to mention some past remarks that are frankly
racist, quite aside from his somewhat goofy monetary views.

BTW, your personalistic slam on Tyler does suggest that your name is appropriate for the
quality of your intellect: fluffy.

Offhand, one of the things that makes Tyler's concern about the emotional atmospherics here
is precisely your kind of commment, ranting hysteria dripping with venom. I am personally
not afraid of Ron Paul, who seems like a mostly personable guy who is fairly reasonable, even
if I disagree with a lot of his positions. But some of the people who are backing him? Sheesh,
please save us from the likes of people like you.

Barkley: Your ad-hominem attack on Fluffy suggests that you are a doody head.

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

I'll bite: Which candidate doesn't do this?


If making an ad hominem attack on somebody for making an ad hominem attack (which is what "fluffy" did
to Tyler) makes me a "doody head" then so be it. I am a doody head, and proud of it.

John V

Oh really? I just did a quick google. Came across Paul's statement from 1992 about 95% of black men
being "criminals." Not a racist? Give me a break.

The free trade issue is more complicated. He loudly says he is for free trade. However, he just seems to
end up voting against almost all trade agreements or deals that come before the Congress.

Liberty-loving, reasonable, moderate, pragmatic, intellectual, open, and of course non-reminiscent of America First

Well that should be easy! Tell me Dr. Cowen, how many people have you met in your whole life who satisfy all of these criteria? I can think of only one person that I know. Heck, maybe you ought to run for President!

Frankly, I don't agree with Paul on everything but I'm going to take your advice and try to be "reasonable".


One more thing about guns and Paul. The main thing I wish Paul would stop talking about is how people carrying guns on airplanes could have stopped 9/11. Even if Paul managed to legalize the 2nd Amendment, airlines would still have the right to refuse to allow people on airplanes who were carrying guns. No doubt they would all enact policies like this.

Oh yeah!

I am all for a gold standard or competing currencies or whatever, but a gold standard is to rigid a money supply for fradulent fractional reserve banking. Fractional reserve banking requires an elastic money supply to bail out banks since fractional reserve banks are frauds and terminally insolvent. I would like to see fractional reserve banking outlawed. Then gold would rule, and the US would attract a very substantial amount of the world savings as the most rock solid currency and banking country in the world.


Well, hopefully in another 60 or 70 years there'll be a perfect libertarian candidate of the variety that you'll vote for.

Sure, there might be a perfect libertarian candidate in another 60 or 70 years............but this country will be unrecognizable by then. Look at where we were 60 or 70 years ago; any reason to think that the advance of socialism and fascism we have witnessed will begin to decelerate?

If you claim to be a libertarian, is there another conceivable candidate that has a ghost of a chance, as Ron Paul does? The Libertarian Party has been around for over thirty years -- take a look at their whopping .5% vote totals (as Dr. Paul himself got in 1988!) to see how libertarianism is poised to change this country.

No, it's not a freedom-loving candidate who is going to change the political philosophy of the citizens, from the top down. It is a freedom-loving citizenry who must choose a candidate in favor of freedom. The election of Ron Paul (or A Ron Paul) is a necessary first step in that process. I can see no good reason for sitting on the sidelines of this very important election.

Ricardo writes (David, is that you?):

"The difference is that most academics have had to debate and defend their ideas around people who are as smart as they are, if not smarter. That experience causes all but the most arrogant and self-aggrandizing to develop a sense of humility and skepticism."

Right, and the most arrogant and self-aggrandizing become professors.

"As Cowen said, Paul almost certainly is a highly intelligent guy. However, as a politician, it is unlikely he has spent large amounts of time among people who are in his same league intellectually but who have different views."

Right, he's been in Congress.

Sorry, couldn't resist.

But you are right about one thing. Almost everything I've learned except for the first year of largely useless classes (interesting to be sure, but useless as applied to my research) I've had to teach myself.

This is another aspect of graduate school that is in actuality the opposite of what they want you to think it is.

But, don't we all pretty much have to synthesize the information that enters our eyes and ears? I don't think that is what Fluffy was talking about.

I think he was referring to the system and the implicit appeal to authority built into the respectability of the opinions of the coronated ones. Again, I speculate what Cowen meant was really anti-elitism, not anti-intellectualism. Maybe in his 3rd installment, he'll clear this up.

And one last thing before the market opens...

So, I think there's confusion here between strength of conviction versus political flip-flopping. They are not mutually exclusive.

Al Gore was fairly politically opportunistic. But he's also pretty convinced we need to shut down the economy to stop the threat of global warming. He came pretty close to being President. Did he make his full intentions clear before the election?

I imagine that most of these candidates are flip-floppers to get elected, but once elected their opinions on the things that will help benefit their key interest groups will suddenly get really firm.


Uh, I never said that Ron Paul was "anti-intellectual," quite the opposite.

If you are so into making nasty jibes about peoples' class backgrounds,
then why are you anonymous? What is your class background? Who the hell
are you? I would suggest that you can't take what you hand out.

John V,

You may be right on both points. The racial comment seems to be a murky
business, appearing in a column that appeared under Paul's name, but is
now claimed to have been written by someone else. At best this is very
poor judgment, and even if Paul is not a racist, which actually he does
not seem that much like the type, it is disturbing that he seems to attract
such types to himself. I have already said that what bothers me about
Paul probably more than anything he says, is the nature of some of the
people who seem to be supporting him.

I said that the free trade issue is murky. I read your "explanation,"
but it is a far from satisfying one, frankly.

At best this is very
poor judgment, and even if Paul is not a racist, which actually he does not seem that much like the type, it is disturbing that he seems to attract such types to himself. I have already said that what bothers me about Paul probably more than anything he says, is the nature of some of the people who seem to be supporting him.

Barkley...racist blacks would definitely support anti-racist in a society where blacks are discriminated. Would that bother you as well? Would you consider voting for racist-white instead?

What bothers me is that the "guilt by association" is still taken seriously. Do the ad-hominem, ad-autoritatem, ad-antiquatem bother you too? I ignore them because they are completely irrelevant. There is no point in taking such arguments into account...

By "the nature of some of the people who seem to be supporting him" (Ron Paul). Are you referring to Austrian economics adherents?

You are quite right. Ron Paul hasn't spent appreciable time debating his ideas with people that can equal his intellect. He's been in Congress 20 years.


"Guilt by association" is relevant for a presidential candidate.
Why? An administration is not just a president, but the people
s/he brings on board as well. It is fine to have a good president,
but s/he can be completely undermined by being surrounded by scumbags.

John Dewey,

I did not accuse Ron Paul of flip flopping with regard to the abortion
issue. Nor have I accused him of any sort of insincerity. I have long
assumed that his views were what he said they were/are. So, this is a
matter of disagreement. I have three daughters of child-bearing age, and
I take seriously preserving their rights to control their own bodies. I
do recognize that abortion is not something good or desirable. I go along
with the argument of "safe, legal, and infrequent."

I gather that Paul's and perhaps your views are kind of along the "ugh, yuck"
factor. Fair enough. However, I am going to point out to anybody who pushes
a religious argument, that there is no solid support for a strong anti-abortion
stance in the Bible, although to listen to all the religious fanatics in this
country, you would never know this. The only place the matter is ever directly
addressed is in Exodus, I think around 21-22, where there is a discussion of
what should be the punishment of someone who physically attacks a woman and
causes her to spontaneously abort a fetus. Murder? Nope. The punishment is
that the attacker must pay a fine to the would-be mother's family, more like
a misdemeanor. So much for all this baloney about the Bible equating a fetus
with a born and living human being.


No. The debate over monetary policy happens to be an intra-Austrian debate,
and it is not the monetary people who bother me. It is the sort like "Fluffy"
who hysterically flame those who dare to question or criticize Ron Paul, while
hiding behind phoney monikers. There seems to be altogether too much of this
sort of contemptible conduct on this blog, anonymous jerks flaming other people,
and the Paul contingent seems to be way too full of these scum.


I know three (yes three!) devout Democrats who are somewhat racist and very, very blue collar populist. All three have a very folksy view of business, think unions keep workers from falling into slavery AND they make racial and sexist comments all the time. And they will vote for and support whoever the Dem nominee is...though doesn't like the idea of Obama winning.

What does their racial view say about the candidates? Not much.

I think my explanation of Paul's trade views are quite simple. He is an idealist who doesn't like special interest-laden trade agreements and doesn't want jurisdiction over such matters to go to supra-national body. He would rather just do away with tariffs and altruistic sounding barriers to trade.

Seen in this context, being against NAFTA and CAFTA does not have to be a protectionist position. And in Paul's case, it is not. In his mind, he has the free trade position because he views these agreements as corrupted managed trade deals. The problem is that we equate NAFTA and such to "free trade" in daily language when it really isn't the same thing.

Now, I admire Paul's purity on the matter. But I don't agree with his stridency. Managed trade, to me, is better than more protectionism. I would vote for NAFTA and CAFTA because a better alternative is not on the table. To me it's the lesser of two evils to vote for managed trade. Now, if I were in Paul's shoes and a bill was up for a vote to simply abolish all tariffs and protectionist barriers OR vote for NAFTA and CAFTA-like deals, I would take the former and vote against the later.

@Bernard Yomtov,

Liberty is lacking in the United States

Oh give it a rest. That's ridiculous.

Liberty may not be lacking for you, but for the 2+ million Americans in jail, I think it is. I also think liberty is lacking for the 600,000+ Iraqis which fell victim to trade sanctions (under Clinton), or the many who have died in the Iraq war.

So don't think about that. Think about the number of people killed and in jail from America's various wars (on drugs, Iraq, or whatever).


Paul believes abortion is murder, which isn't a political position to have at all (so it is consistent with libertarianism). While I don't agree, I don't think there is much of a chance of his legislation getting passed. Most of his supporters are pro-choice, after all.


Paul is by the far the most pro-immigrant, pro-trade, and anti-nationalist (in the Nazi sense) of any of the GOP candidates.

I can understand why intellectuals feel that Paul is insufficiently intellectual (I do as well). However, we should know by now that it is impossible for a politician to take good positions on issues PhDs spend their lives studying, for Hayekian reasons if nothing else.


Apology accepted. Perhaps I was again too sensitive.

I doubt that Tyler wanted this thread to evolve into an emotionally-charged discussion of abortion, so I'll leave that for another day.

Liberty may not be lacking for you, but for the 2+ million Americans in jail, I think it is. I also think liberty is lacking for the 600,000+ Iraqis which fell victim to trade sanctions (under Clinton), or the many who have died in the Iraq war.

Well, yes. Liberty is lacking for those in prison, and I agree that our drug laws are far too harsh in many respects. Indeed, there are probably other aspects of our criminal justice that are too harsh as well. I also agree that liberty is lacking in Iraq, but Tyler's statement refers to the US.

However, I interpreted Tyler's statement differently. I took it to mean that society and especially our economy should be organized much more in accordance with libertarian thinking, and that the fact that they are not causes "liberty" to be lacking. I think that's silly. To the extent that personal liberty in the US is under threat it's not from OSHA.

I would disagree with your assessment that Ron Paul is too entrenched in his own ideals. First, I would say that his ideals are very broad and cover a large philosophy. Freedom is generally popular as well as peace. People like that. Second, Ron Paul himself has made a 180 degree turn on immigration from 1988 to 2007. He used to be for completely open borders, now he wants to control illegal immigration through economics and legislation. Don't tell me that a smart intellectual like Ron Paul cannot change his mind/policy on key issues. Come up with a compelling argument and I am sure that he is willing to take it into account and even change if it is warranted.

It's naive to take the tack that the President's views on abortion are irrelevant. Of the most lasting legacies of any president's tenure are his Supreme Court appointments which can be heavily influenced by issues of this ilk.

Again, all we have to choose from are available alternatives.

So, who are the "intellectual" candidates so open to new ideas?

Rudy ("I've never heard that retaliation might be a motivation for 9/11) Giuliani

Irregardless of Osama's fatwa mysteriously entitled "Declaration of War against the Americans Occupying the Land of the Two Holy Places." You gotta admit, it would take a scholar to interpret an anti-interventionist motive from that title.

Maybe it's Mitt Romney. Open to discussing the idea of medical marijuana.

Perhaps John McCain-Feingold, known for his easy-going intellectual demeanor, always rational not appealing to authority or emotion or a sense of duty.

Fred Thompson? Well, the flip side of being open to compromise, is being completely two-faced.

So, hmm, someone principled yet willing to compromise. I guess it's got to be Huckabee who recently said "The greatest challenge we face in this country is understanding the war that we are in from the perspective of the enemy, not from our own Westernized perspective..."

He's finally come around to Ron Paul's way of thinking.

There has evidently been a terrible misunderstanding. Some people have been describing Ron Paul as "not intellectual" when in reality they mean "too intellectual." Ron Paul, being the primitive that he is, doesn't understand the Epicurean turn in human thought which was decisively accomplished in the third century BC. What the gods think, or even their existence, is an aporia from the human standpoint. Our task in life is not to cognize either from a moral or a metaphysical point of view, but to manage our sensory life in such a manner as to harmonize our feelings with our environment. Paul is obviously hung up on a kind of philosophical realism which generates such cognitive phantasmagora as "rights," "property," "human dignity," and "freedom." In lieu to supporting Paul,or for that matter any candidate,I suggest waiting until after the election and then greeting the winner with accolades. An even better possiblity would be the proclamation of Bush as President-for-Life, which would obviate the neccessity future political imponderables and uncertanties. Then we could all just vist museums and enjoy Thai cooking without taxing ourselves with these quadrennial disturbances of our tranquillity.

The point is well taken that it has taken us many years (200 plus) to get to this point and it is going to take some time to get our country back on track. In 1905, the airplane had just flown, our country had the third largest navy in the world, our country did not have any deficit (it had not been invented as of yet), we had just purchased the large gorge that the French had started in Panama and that we turned into the Panama Canal and not one American citizen had paid a penny in personal income tax nor had any corporation paid any income tax as well. We need to understand our history and then we need to come together and read the Declaration of Indepedence as well as the Constitution. Our country can be the greatest country in the world by at least attempting to do what our founding fathers desired of us to ensure our freedom.

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