Friday, January 27, 2012

Ron Paul and the Libertarian Dilemma

It does not seem that it should be the case, but the Ron Paul candidacy is actually causing more than a little dissent within libertarian circles. There are more than a few who are not only displeased, but actually oppose his candidacy.

Some, like Classically Liberal Student over at the Classically Liberal Blog do not care for Representative Paul because of an opinion that he is not libertarian enough to warrant support. Although one can disagree with his analysis, it is still a consistent and supportable position to take. And CLS backs up his opinion with very well thought out arguments. This does not mean to say that CLS is a purist, and he has said he is not, it is just that his arguments are that Representative Paul is not sufficiently libertarian on enough issues, and he has taken the time to highlight those issues to present a compelling argument.

But in general it appears that the more radical libertarians are more eager to support Representative Paul, while those in the so-called "reform caucus" seem to be the most opposed to his candidacy. The Facebook group "Stop Ron Paul 2012" which recently became famous for a proposed false flag attack involving members dressing in Klan robes, was founded by a member of the Libertarian Party.

And outside the Libertarian Party, there are others who claim allegiance to the ideas of liberty in a much less radical fashion than the Libertarian Party’s version, such as the Republican Liberty Caucus; after that caucus endorsed Ron Paul the Vice Chair Aaron Bitterman resigned in protest. The Republican Liberty Caucus had been doing nothing for years, but then Ron Paul's 2008 campaign led to an infusion of new and energetic people that revitalized the caucus in spite of the leadership. Then, of course, there is former staffer Eric Dondero who has spent years opposing Ron Paul and claims to be libertarian.

If an argument can be made that Paul isn't libertarian enough for purists, the Reform Caucus should be the most welcoming of Representative Paul. But it seems the radicals are more likely to be friendly to Paul and instead it seems that for more than a few on the reform side he causes them problems. So what about his campaign causes reformers problems? Taking them at their word, he is supposedly an opponent of Israel and isn’t eager enough to use the military to attack Iran.

He takes the most consistently libertarian position possible on foreign affairs; peaceful relations with all, entangling alliances with none. While he doesn't blame the United States for everything, he does blame the United States for the things that the United States is responsible for. He doesn't believe it is the job of the American Tax Payer to pay for the defense of other countries.

Some on the less pure side of the libertarian spectrum have convinced themselves that the job of the United States military is to force people in other countries to be free. The most well known politician with genuine libertarian leanings is, leaving aside any question on purity on other issues, taking the purist radical libertarian position on foreign affairs. He is putting to lie their arguments, exposing their own departures from libertarian thought.

Since he would not give foreign aid to any country, that means he would not give foreign aid to one country in particular. His statements are then taken out of context to show opposition to that one country in particular, and he is called an anti-Semite as a result. His refusal to help any country is portrayed as a hostility to that one country, and then reinterpreted as a support for that country’s enemies.

The arguments used are identical to the arguments these same people oppose when progressives try to accuse libertarians of racism. Exactly like how a progressive starts with "that person disagrees with me" and ends with "that person must be a racist" these anti-Paul libertarians start with "I don't like Ron Paul" and end with "he must be an anti-Semite" or "he must be a racist." The evidence simply doesn't support such a conclusion.

It is pretty obvious what causes progressives to have problems with Representative Paul. He causes them to have to evaluate what it is they really believe in, and they don't like what he reveals to them about themselves. It is also pretty obvious what causes conservatives to have problems with Representative Paul. He causes them to evaluate what it is they really believe in, and they don't like what he reveals to them about themselves. The same is true about these libertarians against Ron Paul.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Ron Paul and the Conservative Dilemma

If conservatives mean what they say, then Ron Paul would be the ideal candidate for them. He is the only candidate in the Republican presidential race that actually means it when he talks about reducing the reach and scope of government.

According to the Nolan Chart, it is expected that conservatives and libertarians will be divided on social issues, but in this campaign social issues are not at the forefront. The most pressing issues of the day are the ongoing wars and the Greater Depression

The war is big in the Republican Party, of course, and that will make Representative Paul stand out. But when asked about that issue at a recent debate he could have answered "I don't think I’m outside the mainstream. Sixty to seventy percent of this country is tired of these wars. The Republican Party lost control of the congress and the presidency because of support of these wars, and only regained the House because of how bad Obamacare is." It would have used his stand on the wars to good effect.

The economic issue is actually the critical issue to examine. As is demonstrated but not commonly known, conservatives are not interested in laissez faire, in spite of their reputation otherwise. From the first predecessor party, the Federalist Party of Alexander Hamilton, to today under the Republican Party, the one constant has been an economic ideology of government intervention on behalf of large businesses.

President Bush and Senator McCain both supported the bailouts, while Representative Paul opposed them. The bailouts weren't welfare programs for the poor, as is generally favored by the Democrats, they were welfare programs for the rich as has always been favored by Republicans.

This is the real reason why Republicans dislike his position on other issues, such as the foreign wars and the drug wars. Foreign wars mean lush, lucrative government contracts for munitions manufacture. The drug war means even more lush, lucrative government contracts for police enforcement activities. It isn't about winning either war, it is about the same mercantilism that started under Hamilton but carried to a degree even he would have been appalled at.

If Representative Paul were to become president, the practice of the politically connected becoming wealthy at the expense of the taxpayer would be severely curtailed.

In spite of all the “small government” rhetoric, conservatives never meant a single word of it. Representative Paul does mean it. That presents a dilemma to conservatives, similar to the one presented to progressives - he makes them confront what they really believe, and they do not like finding out what it is they really believe. They blame him for being forced to find out. If a ray of light shines on a pigsty, is it the fault of the ray of light that what we see is so bad? The guilty conscience of a conservative causes them to give the say answer of "yes" that the progressives give as well.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Occupy Campaign Finance Reform

For tactical reasons, the Occupy Wall Street movement is disorganized. That has made it difficult for them to come up with goals that can be agreed to by a majority of those involved in the movement. One issue, though, is gaining wide acceptance across the Occupy movement. Opposition to "Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission" and an advocacy of Campaign Finance Reform in general is increasingly advocated by the Occupy movement.

The ire is understandable given the focus of the Occupy movement. In the corporatist collusion between big business and big government, they focus on the business half of the partnership. The goal, as it is forming, is to prohibit all third party campaign activities. The target is Super PACs as well as corporations, and when pressed on the issue there is grudging agreement that unions are covered as well. The only form of donation that would be considered acceptable would be directly to the campaign.

Although the intent is good this will achieve the exact opposite of the desired goal, making it quite the same as every preceding campaign finance reform law. Those pushing this particular change are not well versed in economics, especially the law of unintended consequences, in spite of how the history of campaign finance law is a glaring example of it in action. Ever preceding law was put in place to reduce the importance of money in politics, and money is now more important than ever in politics. The Super PACs are the end result of a long line of those laws.

The basic campaign finance reform law is a limit on how much an individual can donate. This would prohibit the wealthy from bankrolling a candidate at the expense of the masses. What actually happens is that it shuts out competing views. Suppose there are two parties, one fifty times larger than the other. While both would benefit from a few big contributions, only one would benefit from many small contributions because it has the donor base to do so.

One might think that this would therefore encourage those who want actual change to work within the party to tap into that fundraising machine, but the party leadership controls who the party helps. The leadership will then share mailing lists and donor lists with candidates the leadership likes. This has the effect of binding candidates tightly to the party.

A way around the tight control of party leadership was developed, the PAC and then the Super PAC. And the solution to the problem of money in politics is to eliminate the only way left that actual advocates of change might use to get elected? The end result of this is something else that is also suggested often, full public financing of campaigns. When pressed on how someone would qualify for that financing, the suggestion was made of petitions, which would be recruited by the party binding the candidates even more closely to the party.

The way to eliminate the Super PACs and to reduce the influence of money in politics is to eliminate the cause. That means removing all the campaign finance laws that led up to the point where the only way outside of the tightly controlled system is by people pooling their money in PACs. People forget that a campaign donation is indeed a form of political speech, and it was political speech in particular that was supposed to be protected by the freedom of speech clause of the first amendment (the freedom of religion clause covered religious speech).

That does not mean that only the rich would have a voice, contrary to the claims of those who cannot imagine another way of doing things. Just as attempts to limit money have increased its importance, removing the limits would decrease its importance giving more people a greater voice in the political system.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

California High Speed Rail

The California High Speed Rail project is, even by government standards, a disaster. After the rail had been approved, costs quadrupled. It appears that their ridership estimates had the entire population of some of the town riding it ever day. The first stretch of it is in the middle of nowhere instead of somewhere that might start paying dividends from the start such as a line between San Diego and Los Angeles.

Although finding wasteful government agencies is a bit like shooting fish in a barrel, there’s something particularly odious about the California High Speed Rail project. One libertarian blogger compared it to buying a car, and as soon as the contract is signed the car dealer says "Oh, by the way, we’re changing the contract to quadruple the price."

In California people apparently like to approve of any and all public transit initiatives. This isn't because they imagine themselves using the public transit, but because they imagine everyone else using public transit. The reason they have to involve the government is because they don't imagine themselves using it so there actually is no true market for the service.

The original plan would involve some money from government and also some from private investors. No private investors were interested, even with government guarantees. So far there has been more money spent on advertising than anything else, although that has been scaled back because the public has been criticizing the amount spent on advertising.

It has even been noted by some that since the plans changed after the project was initially approved, the bond that the public voted for could technically be considered null and void. Meanwhile part of the alleged profit from this rail line was supposed to come from other train services, most notably Amtrak, sharking the line and paying for the rails they use. The other rail lines then replied they had no interest in using the lines.

Although this is normal for a government boondoggle project, it is a bit of an extreme example of a government boondoggle. So what is to be done by the State of California? And how can this be remedied without costing the taxpayer a fortune?

Well, there is one way, and that is to enforce the contract that the state made with the High Speed Rail Agency. That goes against the spirit of corporatist corruption that established this boondoggle in the first place, but it fits pretty well within the letter of the law. The State of California should say to the High Speed Rail Agency "You will deliver to us the rail you promised, at the price you promised, or we will jail your leadership for fraud."

It might be just the thing to scare the many other corrupt corporatist endeavors that have been bleeding California dry with their promises of many bountiful returns but instead only receive government grants. Putting a few of their directors in jail for never giving any returns might force them to actually create business plans that go farther than the next government grant.