Friday, February 26, 2010

Beltway Libertarianism vs. the Revolution: Part 2

Before I continue on with the topic of beltway libertarians vs. the Austrian libertarians, I wold like to clarify something that came up in the comments section for yesterday's post. The divide between the two strands is not merely one of demographics or some other superficial factor, it is a philosophic division.

I would also once again clarify that though I identify more with the Austrian brand of libertarians, I greatly appreciate mainstream libertarians and use their resources as well as communicate with them often. Our slight philosophical differences is not enough to put a significant wedge between us. What I do not enjoy is unfounded criticisms and ad hominem  attacks from either side. That is what brought this post about. I have seen the attacks go on for years, but the article The Ron Paul Delusion from Reason finally broke the camel's back--so to speak.

In the article, David Harsanyi goes out of his way to smear Ron Paul, who has single-handedly grew the libertarian movement in recent years by leaps and bounds.

His article begins by offering a legitimate point, which is that his CPAC straw poll victory does not mean that Ron Paul is the new leader of the Republican Party. But Harsanyi quickly turns from his subject to take a jab at the Texas congressman. After offering a rhetorical question as to whether the GOP will become the party of Paul, Harsanyi goes into the following:
Let's, for a moment, forget Paul (and how I wish this could be a permanent condition, considering the congressman is neither a serious politician nor—and I can't stress this enough—a serious thinker).
This is completely uncalled for and completely unfounded. Ron Paul is a serious politician. His not winning the presidency doesn't negate his multiple congressional race successes. If we are to measure "serious politicians" by those who have achieved the office of president, only 43 men in our history have been serious politicians.

Harsanyi then attacks Paul's credentials as as serious thinker--another unfounded claim with evidence to the contrary. Paul is an author of many works that go well beyond the level of reading many are willing to take on outside the walls of academia. Moreover, his positions are held deeply based on cohesive philosophical reasoning. That alone requires serious thought from a serious man. Moreover, the same should be said of his economic and historical scholarship. There is no reason for Harsanyi's statement. Apparently, most of us define "serious thinker" quite differently than Mr. Harsanyi.

After this tirade against Paul, Harsanyi get back on his topic, but not for long. I quote:
"Congressman Paul is committed to bringing the conservative movement back to its traditional platform of limited government, balanced budgets and a foreign policy of nonintervention," claims Jesse Benton, Paul's spokesman.

If only it stopped there. Paul isn't a traditional conservative. His obsession with long-decided monetary policy and isolationism are not his only half-baked crusades. Paul's newsletters of the '80s and '90s were filled with anti-Semitic and racist rants, proving his slumming in the ugliest corners of conspiracyland today is no mistake.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Paul is that thousands of intellectually curious young people will have read his silly books, including End the Fed, as serious manifestoes. Though you wouldn't know it by listening to Paul or reading his words, libertarians do have genuine ideas that conservatives might embrace.
Long-decided monetary policy? I am sorry, sir. But this establishment position on monetary policy may be popular, but things are far from decided. We have seen massive explosion of government spending and financial instability directly because of the rise of fiat currency. The monetary policy of Paul has been right all along and we are seeing the Austrian predictions unfold daily before our very eyes.

Isolationism? You must be talking about someone else. Ron Paul is far from an isolationist; he is a non-interventionist. Like Thomas Jefferson, Paul believes in "peace, commerce and honest friendship with all nations; entangling alliances with none." What he does not endorse is the reckless wielding of military might, imperialism, and unnecessary killing. If you hold a position counter to this, I am sorry that Paul won't play along with you war games.

I am not sure what is meant by "half-baked crusades," but I am sure based on each man's track record, I would land on the side of Paul.

Harsanyi then goes beyond attacking Paul to attacking Paul's supporters: "Perhaps the greatest tragedy of Paul is that thousands of intellectually curious young people will have read his silly books, including End the Fed, as serious manifestoes." I am sorry if we take him seriously because he speaks to issues that greatly affect us. We cannot help but take him seriously. He has seriously fought for liberty throughout his career. Mr. Harsanyi on the other hand seems content simply promoting liberty-lite. (Just read any of Harsanyi's previous work for examples.)

I believe Harsanyi is wrong to say, "Ron Paul as the leader of [the conservative movement]—or, actually, any—charge is a mistake for both parties." but I am also think that he is wrong to denounce Paul while praising Cato's David Boaz as a serious libertarian. I don't say this to downplay Boaz; has done good work for liberty. My point is merely that Harsanyi is picking a fight that need not be fought. You can have both your Paul and your Boaz and do just fine. I will do so myself, but I can't take much more of David Harsanyi or those like him.

There is a divide in libertarianism; it can be overcome. But name calling and unfounded position bashing will not do it.


  1. I now remember why I stopped subscribing to Reason many years ago.

  2. I have a question that's related to this discussion about libertarians and Ron Paul.

    Are you familiar with Eric Dondero of "The Libertarian Republican" and if so, what's your frank opinion?

  3. That name sounds familiar, but I don't know a thing about him. Sorry. Anyone out there have an opinion?

    Update: Googled him. Now I know why his name is familiar--the former Paul employee. Still don't know enough to offer an opinion.

  4. I was just wondering because I've seen his website and his comments around the libertarian/Old Right blogosphere and it kind of reminds me of what you've been writing about the last couple of days. (Disclaimer: I have an unwritten rule not to attack fellow amateur bloggers so I will try to be tactful)

    He was a staffer for Paul for a number of years but never seems to miss a chance on his blog to insult him for not being "pro-defense" and seems to revel whenever his old boss's poll numbers slip for whatever reason.

    Says Ron Paul is only a "half-libertarian" for being good domestically but is not a true libertarian for not supporting the "War on Terror." Seems to think that supporting unconstitutional, undeclared wars against innocent countries is the true libertarian position. He says it's libertarian because if we don't fight them over there, they're going to come over here and impose burkas on American women. It sounds more like the Israel Lobby position to me.

    All that aside, his site is actually run pretty well. Lots of news and commentary. It's just that he slaps the non-descriptive label "libertarian-leaning" on just about every candidate that he likes from Sarah Palin to Rick Perry, who are hardly anything other than conventional Republican politicians. I've seen others note, and I tend to agree, that it might be appropriate for him to remove the libertarian moniker from his site.