March 11, 2008

Ron Paul's gifts
Go home, nice man

Editor-in-chief, The Last Ditch


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Introductory note. I originally wrote this piece for distribution by a forum that had solicited my writing, but it was rejected. (That rejection should remind us all of the unique value of TLD. It certainly has reminded me.) Since then, Dr. Paul has started easing himself out of the Republican presidential race (or non-race) — this time for good, it seems. However, the points I make here remain as valid as ever.

I have made a few changes in the text from the original version, but none of them would have made the piece any more acceptable. I have not bothered to update the piece to take account of Dr. Paul's withdrawal.

NS, March 11, 2008

I met Dr. Ron Paul once. Twelve years ago, it was. I talked with him for about a minute. Maybe 90 seconds.

He seemed like a nice man.

Seeming to be a nice man is all it takes to get many people to support a candidate, even if they've never met him and he is, to them, only a character on TV. And this man Paul offers much more — he is the only presidential candidate so far this year to stand up for peace and freedom. That's nice, too. I like peace and freedom, and I wish I had more of it.

But I wish also that this particular nice man, who says so many nice things, would just go away — back to Texas, back to medicine, or maybe to retirement — and leave what passes for a peace and freedom movement in this country to its own devices.

Of course I'm an anarchist, so I don't support anyone, nice or nasty, for electoral office. I don't support the offices themselves. And I wish all pols would renounce the temptations of Power and just go home. But Dr. Paul, in running as a maverick libertarian, has inflicted a special kind of damage.

He has accomplished the same thing the Young Imam, Barack H______ Obama, has accomplished, though the Imam has accomplished it on a much larger scale. Dr. Paul has lured many of the hitherto alienated and disaffected into electoral politics, so that by their actions they have now endorsed the personnel-selection apparatus of the System that oppresses us all. While Rev. Obama has seduced many millions more than Dr. Paul has, the latter has seduced a larger proportion of those who are righteously disaffected and a smaller proportion who are merely hysterical children of whatever age. Optima corrupta pessima sunt, as I'm always saying.

By reposing their hopes in electoral politics, these would-be friends of peace and freedom diseducate themselves; they numb themselves to the volume and depth of the vat of soup in which we're all simmering. In fantasizing about some ju-jitsu political revolution within the System, the Paulists distance themselves from understanding what a profound, even miraculous, cultural and intellectual revolution would be necessary to resurrect our liberty and civilization. They distance themselves, that is, from reality.

In so doing they disable themselves from thinking about what can still be saved and how we might save it, as we dodge the falling pillars of our civilization and avoid the cookfires that our dark successors are lighting in the rubbled fora.

Those among my readers who are friends of the white West are likely to admit the urgency of pillar-avoidance and cookfire-evasion, but I don't know how congenial they'll find my outright anarchism to be. So I'd better proceed to my second objection to Paulism, and try to sneak up on them. That objection, I think, answers those who agree that the election of Dr. Paul was always a fantasy and insist that his mission is instead one of education.

Before proceeding, I note for the benefit of "educationists" among the Paulists that Dr. Paul himself has had to tell his interviewers in the established media that he actually, really, sincerely was trying to become president and that he believed he had a chance to do so. Ronn Neff, the eminent philosopher of liberty, once noted that "deceit is the basis of all politics," and here we see how inescapable that deceit is, even for nice men. (I allow that Dr. Paul may have been deceiving himself as well as his listeners; rulers and those who would rule often resort to self-deception.)

Dr. Paul's fund-raising efforts have been a blazing success, tragically. He slowed down his presidential campaign for a while to focus on getting renominated for his congressional seat, but then on February 20 he "reactivated" his campaign, according to the Los Angeles Times. So I imagine that he has begun spending millions more in donated money. That's dismaying, because his education program, if that's what it is, has already cost the peace and freedom movement a vast fortune. And though a part of the Paul money must go to pay travel expenses, salaries, rent, and so forth, the largest portion — I'm sure — is helping to enrich the established media: the entities I like to think of as America's informal Ministry of Truth.

That in itself is fairly repulsive, but much worse are the opportunity costs inherent in those donations and that spending. If we have to send money to the media, it would be less repulsive if it went to paying for TV spots opposing the war, military recruiting, and militarism in general. As it is now, the enemies of peace and freedom dominate the world of "public-service announcements" and advocacy ads. If the networks and cable channels rejected our TV spots, that truly would be educational.

Even better opportunities have been lost. The money given to Dr. Paul and his operation is money that will not be invested in freedom-oriented publishers and publications. It won't go to the Foundation for Economic Education. Or to private, freedom-oriented schools, such as Freedom Mountain Academy in Tennessee.

It won't go to helping political prisoners and their families, and it won't go to funding organizations that work to dissuade impressionable young people from enlisting in the imperial legions. If I may perseverate on this point, Dr. Paul's antiwar speechifying is all very well, but not a cent of the money donated to him will finance community support groups aiming to discourage young mothers from deserting their children in order to commit war crimes in Mesopotamia.

The money given to Dr. Paul will not be available for freedom-oriented parents to spend on their children and their children's future, including the children's education at a private, freedom-oriented school. It won't pay lawyers to help them defend their right to home-school their children. It won't be available to buy books on liberty — or on Western civilization — for themselves and their children. It won't be available for charitable giving, either.

It won't help hard-pressed families put food on the table, keep their car on the road, pay their mortgage or their electric bill, or lay in a few gold coins in case our masters prove unable, at last, to keep their financial house of cards from fluttering apart. And it won't help freedom-loving people invest in guns and ammunition, and firearms training, in preparation for even darker days.

LewRockwell.com, one of the world's leading pro-liberty Websites, surrendered its tax-exempt status in order to shill for Ron Paul. The correspondent of mine who informed me of that fact observed that the loss to the liberty movement is more than just monetary. And it affects more venues than just the Rockwell site: "Just think of all the Ron Paul-related articles that are being written. Think of the time spent reading them. Hardly any of them has any long-term potential."

I hope that the Ron Paul-related article you are reading at the moment will be an exception.

Unlike money donated to the fantasyland of electoral politics, money invested or spent on the projects I have listed goes to real things in the real world, and it goes there directly. In distinguishing social action from state action, Murray Rothbard used to point out that when you enter a restaurant and plunk down your money for a hamburger, you actually get the hamburger. Not so when you plunk down your money for a political candidate. In past writing I've expanded on the theme, pointing out that you may get a ratburger full of broken glass and insect parts, and you may get nothing at all; and that in any case your order will be combined, communist style, with those of thousands or even millions of your fellow political "customers."

Chances are you'll wind up paying for other people's ratburgers, at gunpoint. And you'll go away hungry.

Undaunted, some "educationists" among the Paulists argue that the Paul campaign is laying the foundation for a permanent, non-electoral freedom movement. But even if people sucked into politics are interested in pursuing something like that, where will the money come from? Hasn't it already been spent? The entire Paul project seems to me a classic case of feeding the birds through the horses. And it's not very nourishing birdseed to begin with.

It's certainly true that a big chunk of the money cascading into Dr. Paul's fantasyland would never go to my fine real-world causes even if he weren't running. That's because many of those donating to Dr. Paul aren't real libertarians, however righteously disaffected they may be. Seriously, how many do you think want to abolish the Fed and the FDA? Private coinage of money, anyone? How many are likely to investigate those particular issues as a result of hearing Dr. Paul debate Giuliani and McCain? I've been around since the beginning of the modern libertarian movement in the late 1960s, and I can tell you that people who involve themselves in "libertarian" political activism tend to move away from informed, principled libertarianism, not toward it.

But this works against those who dream of a non-electoral Paul Movement, too. Assuming they have any discretionary money left by the time the Paul campaign ends, the less-than-libertarian sentimentalists and naifs aren't going to be spending it to promote liberty. No, any numskulls who don't understand that they've just been mugged by reality are going to be waiting four years for the next election ceremony, hoping to find a new champion to moon over and waste their money on.

After all, Dr. Paul and his "educationists" will already have taught them the main lesson — that spending money on pols and their gyrations is where the real action is.

Go home, Dr. Paul. Go home and stay home.

March 11, 2008

© 2008 by WTM Enterprises. All rights reserved.

My supertitle, "Ron Paul's gifts," is a play on the title of this 2001 piece by senior editor Ronn Neff.

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