Response to a Jewish Opponent of Ron Paul
by Walter Block
Recently by Walter Block: Open Letter to the RepublicanJewishCoalition on RonPaul
Aaron Biterman posted his list of "Top 25 Reasons to Oppose RON PAUL’s 2012 Campaign." I repeat his list below, exactly as it appeared on the web site Jewish Libertarians on 12/7/11, interspersed with my commentary (<<) on each of his objections. I have no idea whether his first or 25th reason is the most important, but I follow the order of these reasons that Mr. Biterman set out in his missive.
25) Jon Huntsman
<< It is greatly to his credit that Huntsman turned down the invitation to debate from "moderator" Donald Trump. And, of course, Ron Paul did so too. Heck, even "Mr. Principled" Mitt Romney turned up his nose at this "debate." However, Huntsman is a weather socialist, and has supported the poisonous individual healthcare mandate, along with his spiritual and moral counterparts, Romney, Gingrich and Obama, all unlike Ron Paul. u2018Nuff said. No, I'll say more: Huntsman does not deserve to be mentioned in the same breath, at least from a libertarian perspective, as Ron Paul. That Biterman would place him above the congressman from Texas indicates that his own libertarian credentials are hanging by a thread.
24) Gary Johnson
<< Former New Mexico governor Gary Johnson is not all bad. I go further: he is an excellent candidate. On a scale of libertarianism, I would award him a passing grade of 65 (Romney, Gingrich, Santorum, Bachmann, Huntsman and Perry all clock in at less than 5 out of 100. Ron, in my view, hits the 95 level.) When asked, at one of the few debates he joined, who he would pick as his Vice President, Gary Johnson chose Ron Paul. No one can be all bad who articulates such a thought. Indeed, in my own publications about who Ron should pick as his Veep, Gary Johnson was prominently mentioned; see here and here. This is what my co-author and I said about him then, and I stand by it now: "Gary Johnson. It is too bad that the former governor of New Mexico as of the time of this writing has not been able to enter into the debates. If he did so, then there would be not one but two libertarians on stage at these important events. On the other hand, we know Ron Paul, and Gary Johnson is no Ron Paul. He is more of a u2018beltway' or Reason Magazine libertarian than a real one. He is better than the neocons on foreign policy, but does not call for a purely defensive stance for our military. He wants to legalize drugs, but only some of them; he did not pardon any victimless criminals when he could have. He favors the legalization of prostitution, but not based on a matter of rights; merely utilitarianism. He urges reform of the Fed, not abolition. Go down the entire list: he is pretty good on most issues from a libertarian point of view, but doesn't hit the bull's eye on any of them."
23) The Libertarian Party
<<I am a fan of the Libertarian Party. I ran for office under its auspices in 1972. I have been an active member of it (well, except for the debacle of Bob Barr in 2008 when I quit in protest) for its entire existence. I have spoken often at its conventions. I am a card carrying member of the LP. My expectation is that if Ron wants to make a third party run, which he now denies, 99% of the Libertarian Party members would vote to nominate him. If Ron Paul wins the Republican nomination for president, I have no doubt that the LP will support him as their standard bearer too, and do everything they can to see him beat Obama. But, the Libertarian Party usually polls some 1-3% of the electorate, and is brutally ignored by the mainstream media.
How does that compare with the inroads Ron Paul is now making into the consciousness of the American electorate? To ask this is to answer it. Ron, even though all too often ignored by the mainstream media, is still burning up the airwaves and dominating the editorial pages of the major newspapers and magazines. Anyone who refuses to support Ron Paul on the ground that the Libertarian Party exists is surely smoking some controlled substances. Lots of them. Is this point really worthy of sober comment? No. But, I am determined to refute each and every one of these 25 points, and this is one of them.
22) Paul claims to support free trade, but the truth is otherwise (find Paul’s Cato ratings).
<< Ron Paul subscribes to the Murray Rothbard–Milton Friedman–Hong Kong–Singapore view of free trade; inaugurate a policy of full free trade, no barriers, with all countries of the world. He opposes "fair trade," "managed trade," customs unions, and treaties such as Nafta, Cafta, etc. He wants a unilateral declaration of free trade with all nations, whether or not they reciprocate. Would that the Cato Institute adopt such a strong principled viewpoint. When an inside the beltway "libertarian" organization such as the Cato Institute is proposed as the rating agency for Ron Paul, we are all in trouble.
21) Paul endorsed the Constitution Party nominee for president in 2008; have you read the Constitution Party platform?
<< The Libertarian Party platform, although egregiously watered down from the days that Murray Rothbard was active in this organization, is still far superior to that of the Constitution Party. Here, I agree with Biterman. However, a case can be made out that Chuck Baldwin, the Constitution Party's nominee that year was more libertarian than was Bob Barr. So, Ron is to be blamed for supporting the man, and not the party platform? That seems to be more than just a bit harsh.
20) Paul’s campaign team consists of folks who have spent considerable time working for Pat Buchanan, Pat Robertson, the Christian Coalition, the Family Research Council, and various other unsavory causes.
<< It is time for an economics joke. Economist A asks economist B, "How is your wife?" Comes the reply from B: "Compared to what?" Yes, the two men mentioned, and the two organizations, each have "unsavory" (e.g., non libertarian elements). But compared to what? In 2008 the Libertarian Party, favored by Biterman, nominated Bob Barr as president, and Wayne Allyn Root as vice president. Root is a war monger and Barr is a drug warrior. Neither was much of a libertarian. I would place Barr and Root in roughly the same political economic category as Buchanan and Robertson, and rate the LP for nominating these two non libertarians in 2008, in a similar manner to the Christian Coalition and the Family Research Council. No, worse. At least these latter two did not claim to be libertarians, and thus did not engage in outright fraud.
But suppose Biterman manages to evade these comparisons. Let us stipulate, arguendo, that Buchanan and Robertson, the CC and the FRC, are horrid people and organizations. Just because someone worked for them in the past does not mean they were infected by these non libertarians. I know Ron Paul, and I know he would not knowingly associate with non libertarians in his campaign. I fully expect that when Dr. Paul is sworn in to office in January 2013, he will bring to Washington with him people who will eliminate unnecessary departments, end the Fed, help him bring home the troops, shut down U.S. military bases in foreign lands, etc. Does Biterman really doubt this? No. Course not. These are precisely the reasons that "libertarian" opposes Ron Paul.
19) Where is the campaign money being spent? Who is benefiting from the donations? Who is getting rich? These questions remain unanswered.
<< What is the source of Biterman's income? How does he spend his money? Who benefits from Biterman's largesse? These questions remain unanswered. Biterman, ever hear of privacy? Why is this information any of Biterman's business? It is not. However, of course, the Paul campaign complies with all sorts of intrusive questions such as these because it is required to do so by law.
18) Paul was the economic advisor of Pat Buchanan’s 1992 presidential campaign
<<So was Murray N. Rothbard, for a time, until he could no longer abide Buchanan's protectionism. Is Pat Buchanan some sort of boogy-man, the mere mention of whose name is supposed to send us running for the hills? Buchanan had some libertarian elements in his philosophy, and, many, unfortunately, which were not. Biterman champions the Libertarian Party (see point 23 above) but Barr and Root are no more libertarian than Buchanan.
17) Paul says Gaza is filled with “Concentration Camps.”
<< There are concentration camps, and then there are concentration camps. The meaning that most people ascribe to this phrase is, of course, Nazi concentration camps, where millions of people perished. But never in a million years did Dr. Paul mean to refer to Gaza in any such context. What, then, are the other meanings of this phrase? One such definition is "The term concentration camp refers to a camp in which people are detained or confined, usually under harsh conditions and without regard to legal norms of arrest and imprisonment." Under this definition concentration camps were used by the British in South Africa and the Spanish in Cuba, long before Hitler. And, they were used, too, during the Hitler period, by, of all countries, the U.S., for Japanese-Americans. None of these other "concentration camps" are to be mentioned in the same breath as the one organized by the Nazis.
I regard this of all Biterman's 25 points as the one that rankles the most within the Jewish community, particularly amongst Israelis. But, I contend, when these people hear of this statement by Congressman Paul, they think, only and solely of Nazi concentration camps, for which there is absolutely no comparison. But how does Gaza stack up against the U.S. internment camps (concentration camps) utilized against Japanese Americans during World War II? I maintain that while of course there are differences, the two are in the same or at least similar "ball parks." Also, it is possible that Congressman Paul misspoke, had a slip of the tongue (which of us can say that this never occurred to us?).
Do I regret that my friend Ron Paul used this particular phrase in that interview? I do. Well, at least without mentioning that he had more in mind the U.S.-Japanese-American internment camp rather than anything even resembling the Nazi case. But distinctions of this sort are difficult to make in 3 minute interviews.
Nor must we lose sight of the fact that in this short interview Dr. Paul made the following very important points: He would change our Mideast policy with the goal of preventing these problems in the first place. He assigns blame to both parties. He says that Washington should mind its own business; that people in Gaza know that our weapons are used against them and blame us as well as Israel. And, we can't afford to intervene any longer.
But, stipulate that Congressman Paul erred in this regard. No one should oppose any candidate for one single mistake. We all have slips of the tongue, and bad days (Barack Obama once mis-counted the number of states in our union; for more of his bumbles, see here). For a much more indicative view of Dr. Paul's views on Israel, one where he indicates he is a friend of that country, go here. For the claim that Ron Paul is really a Zionist, go here and here.
16) Paul’s “We the People Act” would forbid federal courts from adjudicating “any claim involving the laws, regulations, or policies of any State or unit of local government relating to the free exercise or establishment of religion”, i.e., it would remove all federal remedies for allegations of state violations of religious freedom.
<<Ron Paul is a federalist, like many of our founding fathers. He sees the major enemy of our freedom as an out-of-control federal government. He believes that placing greater reliance on the 50 states will better ensure our liberty. So, of course, he wants to trim the sails of the federal government, and give the states more control. His reasoning is that if one state violates rights, it is far easier to deal with than when the federales do so. This is a reason to oppose his candidacy? Does not Biterman take cognizance of the concept of "voting with the feet?" Does he not realize that it is far easier to move from one locality to another, than from one country to another?
15) Paul says church-state separation has no constitutional basis.
<< Does Biterman point out the constitutional basis for church separation? He does not. He merely mentions this as a reason to oppose the Paul candidacy as if it is obvious. Is Biterman a member of the mainstream media? Isn't there a rule that only members of the MSM are allowed to do this? I am an economist, not a constitutional scholar, so I really can't delve deeply into this question. However, it appears to me, as an outsider, that the burden of proof rests with this author, and he has not only fulfilled it, he does not realize that it is incumbent upon him to do so.
14) Paul would be age 78 at the start of his first term.
<< True. But Dr. Paul was a national class track athlete when he was in college. He is a young 76, right now. I have no doubt that with any athletic competition between the Republican candidates (running, swimming, biking, etc.), the Congressman from Texas would acquit himself very well. Hey, Biterman opposes Paul. This should be an argument for his candidacy. For if Paul has a short life expectancy, Biterman ought to rejoice in this, not complain about it. If Paul wins, according to this "logic," he will soon be gone in any case.
13) Anyone (including you) can vote “no” on legislation in Congress
<< Frankly, I don't understand this objection.
12) Paul has no executive experience: how will he perform?
<<Obama had no executive experience before becoming president either. So what? In any case, I know exactly how President Paul will perform, and so does everyone else who has not been Rip Van Winkling it through this campaign. He will cut taxes and pull the troops home to a defensive (not offensive) position; he will cut spending by one trillion dollars in his first year. He will end, not mend, the Fed. He will rescue the U.S. dollar with a gold standard. He will no longer allow the federal government to run roughshod over state decisions to allow (medical) marijuana.
11) Paul is the choice of various notable conspiracy theorists, 9/11 truthers, and anti-Semites — and refuses to distance himself from these endorsements
<< They support him; he doesn't support them. He "distances" himself from them all right: by saying he doesn't agree with them. By the way, are all conspiracy theories false? Is not a one of them true? That seems to be the underlying premise of this objection, but, as usual, it is not spelled out, certainly not defended.
10) Paul posed for a photo with KKK Grand Wizard Don Black after refusing to return $500 from Black in 2008
<< Dr. Paul takes pictures with tens of thousands of people. No, make that hundreds of thousands. At the end of every speech he gives, people line up by the hundreds for a quick picture with him. Does anyone really think that Ron Paul can recognize everyone who asks to have a five second audience with him for a picture-taking? As for giving money back, under which conditions will justice better be served: The Congressman is plus $500, and the anti-Semite at zero; or, the Congressman ends up with zero funds from this episode, and the anti-Semite has the $500? Does Biterman favor enriching anti-Semites?
9) Paul supports the Defense of Marriage Act, voted for a sodomy law for DC in 1981, and voted against adoptions for gays in DC in 1999
<<Ron Paul's votes on this matter have more to do with his espousal of federalism than with this particular substantive issue. Ronald Reagan was once so incensed at the rent controls of New York City that he thought seriously of using the weight of the federal government to right this obvious local wrong. Ron Paul is more of a federalist than that, and Reagan was too, in the event. This, too, is a contentious issue amongst libertarians, and, as far as I am concerned, politicians get a bye when the libertarian community is unsettled on a given law or public policy.
8) Paul supports the repeal of birthright citizenship, part of his platform of “common sense” immigration reforms
<< I disagree with Ron Paul on immigration; see here, here, here and here. However, there are leading libertarians (Murray N. Rothbard, Hans-Hermann Hoppe) who espouse the Paul position on immigration. When there are leading libertarian theoreticians on both sides of an issue, it is a bit much to make such an issue a litmus test for politicians. This issue, as far as I am concerned, is part of the 5% where Ron Paul diverges from libertarianism. Go, sue him. No one is perfect. And for this we libertarians are supposed to jettison Ron Paul? And for whom? Mitt Romney? Newt Gingrich? It is to laugh.
7) Paul signed a pro-life pledge from the Susan B. Anthony List, which involves the federal government in the issue of abortion, contrary to his rhetoric.
<< The weasel word, here, is "involves." Of course this pledge "involves" the federal government. Congressman Paul's "rhetoric" is to enable each of the states to determine these issues. Now, who is it do you think that will do this "allowing"? Why, the federal government of course; nowadays, it does most of the allowing and disallowing in our society. So, Dr. Paul's signing of this pledge is not at all incompatible with his States’ rights rhetoric. It is rather disingenuous of Biterman to make this charge. Did he not think that any Ron Paul supporter would look into it?
6) Paul is among the most vocal opponents of equal protection under the law in Congress
<<Why no link to any support for this charge? As it stands, it is a criticism without any foundation at all. Or is it Biterman's view that Dr. Paul must prove himself innocent, rather than this critic demonstrating his flaw, thus turning on its head the usual, civilized assumption of innocent until proven guilty? What does it mean to oppose equal protection of all citizens? Does it mean that a politician wants to violate the rights of the downtrodden? If so, the very opposite is the case. The war on drugs disproportionately and negatively impacts the black community. Dr. Paul has bitterly opposed it, thus helping to better protect this segment of our populace. But, it is difficult to defend the next President of the U.S. on this point, since our critic is so unclear
5) Paul is among the most vocal opponents of Israel in Congress
<< Nonsense. No: nonsense on stilts. Dr. Paul is the best friend that Israel has in the entire Congress. He is among the few that favors Israeli independence. He speaks out in favor of the sovereignty of this country. U.S. foreign "aid" to Israel's enemies is a multiple of what that country receives. Ending that program thus redounds to the benefit of Israel. See on this here, here, here, here, here, here and here.
4) Paul is among the most vocal defenders of earmarks in Congress
<<Earmarked funds are thus already consigned for expenditure. Ron Paul violates no libertarian axiom in attempting to divert some of them to his constituents who have paid for them through taxes. Earmarks also increase government transparency, surely a goal to be desired by libertarians. By the phrase “among the most” is a rather improper way of quantifying anything. Biterman should do his homework, if he wants to make these charges stick. He has not done so. For Ron Paul on this earmark charge, see here, here, here, and here.
3) Paul has the arrogance to want to redefine human life itself.
<< Yes, what "arrogance" on the part of an Ob-Gyn who has delivered some 4,000 babies. Who is Dr. Paul to define life as beginning at conception? Why, everyone knows, they just know, that life really begins at birth. Therefore, such horrors as partial birth abortion are entirely justified. I mean, the effrontery of the man! Here, I must agree with Biterman; Ron Paul is an arrogant would-be dictator, wanting to save the "lives" of mere bits of protoplasm, of no more moral importance than a cyst.
On a more serious note, this is part and parcel of what it means to be pro life. It is entirely legitimate for a libertarian to disagree with Dr. Paul on this issue. The libertarian community, as in the case of the population at large, is greatly divided on this issue. Thus, to make this into some sort of litmus test for libertarians is improper.
As it happens, I disagree with Dr. Paul on this issue. I am neither pro life nor pro choice. I adopt a third alternative, the evictionist position. See on this here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here. But, do I oppose Congressman Paul's campaign since he does not agree with me on this stupendously complicated issue, about which the greatest minds in libertarianism can come to no consensus? Of course not. I'm no Biterman.
Let me end this depressing section on a lighter note. Question: Do you know when the fetus is viable in the Jewish tradition? Answer: When it graduates from medical school.
2) His mean-spirited cult of supporters
<<Well, I suppose I'm one of them. I worship the very ground upon which Ron Paul treads. (Where's the Kool Aid?) I'm meaner than a rattlesnake. Every other supporter of this Congressman from Texas is just like me in this regard. Nasty as the day is long.
Hey, a silly objection deserves a silly response
1) The racist Ron Paul newsletters, which Paul admitted writing in his 1996 Congressional campaign (see: Dallas Morning News, May 1996)
<< This old charge has been answered, and answered and answered once again. Only a mean-spirited cultist would bring it up once again at this late date.
Walter Block thanks the following people for valuable feedback on an earlier version of this article: Thomas Nash, Lew Rockwell. All remaining errors are of course his own responsibility.
Dr. Block [send him mail] is a professor of economics at Loyola University New Orleans, and a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute. He is the author of Defending the Undefendable and Labor Economics From A Free Market Perspective. His latest book is The Privatization of Roads and Highways.