Friday, March 28, 2008

Why I Am Not a Libertarian

I am being described as a "libertarian hawk." I'm flattered...sort of.

I'd rather not make a personal war out of blog disagreements, so let me emphasize that I am posting this just to clarify my views. I don't want to argue against misunderstandings of my position, because it's too easy and it's a waste of time for all involved.

Here is what is said about me:
First there’s the libertarian hawk “New Skeptic,” who dismisses the Gravel idea because 1) the military industrial complex and imperialism are “fake concepts,” 2) it’s no good to criticize the war, and 3) Gravel’s just another “kook”: “Libertarians have a serious image problem, and people like Gravel and Ron Paul have not helped.”

Oh yes, New Skeptic, the Iraq war is so wildly popular that it would be political suicide to oppose it! As for the half million soldiers, administrators, and civil contractors employed abroad—merely an illusion! More over, NS seems quite concerned with the Ron Paul newsletters and oblivious to the fact that this “scandal” had no effect whatsoever on the primaries and gained little to no traction outside the PC Beltway. It’s only the dwindling New Republic subscribers and their DC friends who worry that Paul might be a man “filled with hate.”
First, let me concede that I am a hawk. I believe that war is justified and that the war in Iraq was, at least at its outset, just and necessary. I am not a libertarian, though. I am not a member of the Libertarian Party and I do not self-identify as a libertarian. I am a conservative who is registered Republican, whose views tend to libertarianism, especially on civil liberties and constitutional limits on government. However, I'd more accurately describe myself as a libertarian skeptic. Although I think the state and federal governments have stepped far beyond their constitutional limits, I am wary of revolutionary change - the kind of change Ron Paul seems to advocate, annihilating whole government agencies overnight. Not only would revolutionary change potentially cause upheaval, it might not even remedy the problem it is supposed to address. This is especially true of proposed tax reform measures, which would shift tax complexity, not eliminate it.

In short, I am not a libertarian; however, words being words, it's probably not important what label people attach to me.

I'm receiving some flak for claiming that the military-industrial complex and American imperialism are fake concepts. They are. The military-industrial complex is a conspiracy-theory concoction. American imperialism is an imperialism without colonies or empire, making "imperialism" a dysphemism for a policy of global intervention. I don't take these issues seriously because they are the products of hysteria.

Criticizing this or any war is fine, and perhaps right. Categorically rejecting war as a foreign policy tool is deranged. I thought my original post was pretty clear - Gravel himself said that he was "against war," not "against the war." "War is never right" is not a defensible position, if freedom means anything.

To the extent my critic misunderstands my opposition to "peace at any cost" to mean unflinching support of the Iraq War, I hope this is a useful corrective. As for the supposed military-industrial complex, I suppose there is a Congressional-trial attorney complex and an FCC-telecommunications industrial complex and on, and on, and on. With such a proliferation of shady insiders seeking their rents in the government, it's probably best not to apply a scary-sounding label that hints at a sinister, and unique, cooperation between public and private entities. The military-industrial complex is a bogeyman.

Ron Paul has an unnerving association with racist cranks. He himself may not be a racist; I think I've mentioned that before, but we seem to have no evidence that he is racist himself, and he has repudiated racism on his campaign website. However, this kind of company he keeps may have done something to lower his ceiling; that is, because of his distasteful associations, he could never progress beyond a rather low limit in electoral support. That the Ron Paul movement seems not to have progressed much in recent months indicates that he reached his ceiling some time ago; whether that is related to the accusations of racism is less clear. For my part, the whole issue turned me off even more to the Ron Paul Revolution (admittedly, I never caught the fever anyway).

Ron Paul's appeal is a strange issue. I may go into it later; I may not. I just think it is worth the speculation whether the Ron Paul image was tarnished by some racist friends, and that his status as savior of the Republic fell away as a result of the scandal.


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