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November 22, 2007



I appreciate the link, and I'll take your criticism like a man.

But the reason I say these people don't understand the word "freedom" is that "freedom" involves not attempting to impose your will on others. Of course, these people want to be free to pursue their own agendas- but so does everyone, yourself included.

The problem is that pursuit of an agenda along the lines of the anti-Semitic Alex Jones is pursuit of an agenda that would make others less free to pursue their agendas is not pursuit of freedom. That's not libertarianism in any way, shape, or form. I would personally have no problem with the Paul campaign if these idiots were just along for the ride; but now that it's clear he is actively pandering to them, it's a different story.


I think I ought to point out, in all fairness, that I was never one of Ron Paul's supporters. (Someone reading your piece might get the impression that I was. )


Thanks, Bithead---I'll revise to make this clear.


I do see what you mean and I appreciate your point. But I think Paul is right: if you're going to be a true libertarian, you can't interfere with those people until they start actively DOING something to take away freedom from others. You shouldn't reject them because they have views different from your own. You have to affirm the dignity of their status as citizens of a free republic and deal with them as individuals. You have to take them at their own estimate.

After all---till they actually get up to something that inhibits the freedom of someone else----their beliefs are just beliefs. Shouldn't a libertarian maintain that bad beliefs get rooted out in the marketplace of ideas? This is the argument I hear over and over again against so-called "political correctness."

And Paul is right that even extremists are just people like you and me. He probably agrees with them that they shouldn't be compelled by the government to keep their views to themselves. He may even think that in his ideal society, they'd be less dangerous or maybe even see the error of their ways.

I don't believe it. Growing up in a charming and not even all that racist Southern milltown, I never EVER heard anyone admit that he or she was a racist. For example: They weren't racist; they just wanted to be free to have their own children educated with their own kind. I hear that argument even today. In my childhood, it stretched a lot further, to things like not having to sit in the same waiting room while waiting for a doctor. I well remember the consternation of a rural family I once encountered when someone proposed that they use a black funeral home (which was cheaper and the only one they could afford) to prepare the body of their recently deceased father for burial. Evidently they could stomach letting black people bring up their babies, but not letting them handle a corpse. None of it made any sense because it doesn't make any sense. It's not rational and therefore it isn't reachable by reason.

Libertarianism would be the best political philosophy in the world if it worked the way it was supposed to. But it assumes that human error eventually gets corrected by reason. Direct experience has taught me that this is not so.


I don't have a problem with these whackos coming along from the ride. My problem is more that the Paul campaign seems intent on making them the ride. They can support whoever they wish, but when Paul panders to this group of people, it creates a guilt-by-association linkage not only with him, but with small "l" libertarians who support him. As such, people like me are left to disavow any connection with these people and, in the process, the Paul campaign.

I'd say your criticism of libertarianism more generally is fair. I do think that it slightly (and unintentionally) misstates the case for libertarianism (or at least the brand to which I ascribe). I'd love to give a long response, but I'm freaking tired from the brouhaha this whole incident has caused with my ex-"fellow travelers" (well, that and turkey). So, short, short answer: free markets are- on average- more responsive to change than government.

As for your example, I'll say this: the couple's irrational racism is something that libertarianism would accept. In the long run, that couple will wind up paying a steep price for their irrationality because they will (in the long run) be significantly limiting their choices.

My own personal form of libertarianism would hold that racism exists, but is something that cannot be stamped out by force. Instead, the best response to racism is to make racists face the true economic consequences of their decisions. This may or may not eventually eliminate racism, but it will result in the institution of a "racism penalty" for irrational actions. For example, limiting one's choices to white-only businesses will ultimately result in either paying higher prices or getting lower quality goods. In support of this, I would say that it's no coincidence that the most virulently racist areas of this country are, on average, also the areas where you will find the poorest white people.

Rich Paul

--- "Of course, these people want to be free to pursue their own agendas- but so does everyone, yourself included."

The difference is that Libertarians want to be able to pursue their agenda, but we do not feel we have a right to impose our agenda on others. Therefore, we may want to see a piece of land preserved ... but feel we do not have the right to force you at gunpoint to pay for it. What can we do? We can buy it ourselves, and preserve it. If we are short on cash, we might turn it into a private park, and let those who benefit from the land pay for it. What we would not do is force people who do not care for this piece of land to pay for it's preservation.

--- "Libertarianism would be the best political philosophy in the world if it worked the way it was supposed to. But it assumes that human error eventually gets corrected by reason. Direct experience has taught me that this is not so."

In the market, human error is corrected by experience, or by lack of resources. Those who make good decisions gain resources. Those who make bad decisions lose resources. The criterion for good or bad decisions is "is this what the public is willing to pay for".

There is no more direct and honest statement of your values than an actual willingness to pull the money out of your own pocket, which you could spend on anything, and spend it on that which you claim to value. This is called putting your money where your mouth is.

My problem with Liberals and Conservatives is that they do not want to put their money where their mouths are. They want to force me, at gunpoint, to put my money where their mouths are. Even if the thing they want to do is a good idea, as soon as they start forcing others to pay for it against their will, it becomes a bad idea.

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