A Few Questions, Concerning the Present Ron Paul Campaign Situation
by Walter Block
Recently by Walter Block: Won't You Come Home, Bill Evers? Won't You Come Home?
1. Rand Paul's recent endorsement of Mitt Romney
First, what is the proper libertarian response to Rand Paul’s recent endorsement of Mitt Romney?
For me, an important point was the realization, thanks to Jack Hunter, that Murray Rothbard supported George Bush over Bill Clinton. That strongly indicates to me that there is nothing anti libertarian, per se, about such an endorsement, whether of Bush by Rothbard, or of Mitt, by Rand.
Suppose we were slaves, and the master offered us a vote for either Overseer Baddy, who beat the crap out of us all the time, or Overseer Goody, who only beat us once in a while, and then more gently. And suppose we voted for the latter. Does this mean we support slavery? Of course not. Does this mean that we have thereby violated the libertarian principle of non aggression? Again, of course not. Does this mean we endorse Goody? No, a thousand times no. We can only infer from this action that we prefer Goody to Baddy.
Now posit that a mugger held us at gun point, and demanded either our watch or our wallet, and we gave him our time piece. Does this mean we have acquiesced in the robbery? Certainly not. Does this imply we agreed to having our watch stolen from us? Again, not at all. One problem I have with Rand Paul’s endorsement of Mitt Romney is its timing: it was done before his father, Ron Paul, had actually lost the election, which is to be based on delegates, not popular vote. Another difficulty I have with this episode is that while Rothbard endorsed George Bush over Bill Clinton with the back of his hand, so to speak, Rand Paul practically gushed over Mitt Romney. Not to put too fine a point on it, he told a few u201Cporkies,u201D as the British would say. (I am grateful to Robert Wenzel for convincing me to improve the wording of this paragraph.)
2. Should Ron Paul endorse Mitt Romney?
If in the future, Ron endorses Mitt, I will regard this act solely on pragmatic grounds. I am not sure whether this is a wise move or not. On the one hand, Ron will score points with the GOP establishment if he does; on the other, his legions of fans will be gnashing their teeth. But, as far as libertarian principle is concerned, I would have no problem with it, any more than I did with the prospect of Ron accepting matching funds from the government for his campaign expenditures. As I see things, this decision is not a matter of praxeology, of logic, of libertarian principle. It is solely an issue of history as Mises would put it, or practicality.
Ron will either endorse Mitt, or not. And whatever he does, we will never know if liberty could have been better promoted had he taken the other course. However, were this up to me, my instinct would be to advise Ron not to endorse the weathervane. That is my prudential judgment.
3. What is the best tactic for promoting liberty (assuming Ron Paul does not become the Republican nominee)?
Many people have concluded from this likely eventuality that politics is a fool's game in terms of bringing about a libertarian society. They cite the vicious manner in which our hero, Ron Paul, has been treated by the GOP hierarchy: they have attempted to ignore him, ridicule him, change the delegate rules at the last minute, they have physically abused his supporters, have engaged in outright cheating in terms of miscounting ballots, etc. They offer in contention for their conclusion how the media regarded him: denigrated him, laughed at him, covered everyone else but him, gave him short shrift in the debates; if they were able to, they probably would have engaged in physical abuse and ballot box stuffing too, such disinterested and fair judges were they.
These critics of politics claim that we should therefore return to education. Now, don't get me wrong. I favor trying to educate the general populace. I have devoted a goodly part of my career in this direction, and shall continue my efforts in this regard. However, I am not at all giving up on politics, not even our attempt to take over the Republican Party, and return it to its (Taft, Borah, constitutional) roots. But fairness forces me to acknowledge the fact that one of the best ways to educate the public regarding the merits of personal liberties, Austrian economics and a non imperialistic foreign policy is precisely in the manner blazed by Ron Paul. We can have our cake and eat it too. It is a false choice: either Ron Paul style Republicanism, or education. The former is perhaps the best way, or means, to accomplish the latter! Murray Rothbard used to say something to the effect that every four years, for a few months, the eyes of the public turn to politics, and that this would be a good opportunity for us to take advantage of this phenomenon. Murray was a political hound. He was involved in the Republican Party, the Democratic Party (for Adlai Stevenson, against Ike), the Peace and Freedom Party, the Libertarian Party; he saw this as a good way to get our message to the public. I think his insight was dead on and applies now as well as during his own lifetime.
4. Which strategy should libertarians embrace?
The Free State Project? The Libertarian Party? Free market think tanks? Sea-steading? Bookstores? Fabianism in reverse? Attempting to infiltrate the universities? Supporting Ron Paul's efforts in the GOP? Journalism? Music videos? Novels? Public lectures? I support them all. But in what proportion? With my time? Academia and the Mises Institute are for me first and foremost. I am forever trying to teach my students the benefits of economic freedom, and the importance of understanding the dismal science, from an Austrian perspective. In terms of my monetary donations? Ron Paul and the Mises Institute are head and shoulders above all the rest. But my advice to others? Engage in the course that is the most enjoyable for you. Even Bill Buckley, no friend of liberty he, acknowledged Murray Rothbard and his happy band. This libertarian movement is supposed to be FUN. So, do what feels best, is my advice.
5. Who will be better for the country? Mitt Romney or Barack Obama?
According to this video, there's not a dime's worth of difference between the two of them. I disagree. One reason is, say what you will about Obama, at least he is not a weathervane, changing policy every time the political wind veers. He sticks to his horrendous socialist policies, come rain or shine. The same cannot be said for Romney. Choosing between them is difficult, in that we really don't know what one of them will do (ask the generals? Ask the lawyers? Ask John Bolton?) However, attempting to look beneath the fog put out by the weathervane, in my view Obama is likely to be slightly better on foreign policy than Romney. And, I think this arena more important than the other two, economic and personal liberty, however much all three of them are intertwined. I favored Obama over John McCain in 2008 on this foreign intervention ground, and I now support our sitting president vis a vis Romney for that reason too.
6. Who to vote for in the fall?
Fortunately, our choices are not limited to a "progressive" socialist or a weathervane fascist. There is indeed a third option: Gary Johnson and the Libertarian Party. Again, on the assumption that our man Ron Paul is not in the running in November, this seems like a no brainer. Gary Johnson is no Murray Rothbard. He is no Ron Paul. But compared to Romney and Obama? It is no contest. The counter argument is, a vote for Johnson is a vote for Obama. So what? I favor Obama over Romney in any case.
7. What of the future?
Ron Paul in 2016 is my motto. Ron is WAY better than Rand on libertarian grounds, as Lew Rockwell brilliantly demonstrates. Why support Rand, when Ron will still be around? Yes, he will be 80 years old at that time. What, are you an ageist, you despicable discriminatory creature? What about elder rights? Wait, I'm getting off the point. Ron will have reached his nine decade in four years, but, extrapolating from the present, he will still be in far better physical shape than men 30 years younger than him. Anyone want to challenge Ron to a bicycle race in the heat of Texas? Not I, not I. Ron Paul in 2016, say I.
8. What is the libertarian position?
What is the libertarian position on Ron endorsing Mitt? The libertarian position on anything is based on the question of, Does it violate the non aggression principle (NAP) about initiating or threatening physical violence. If so, the libertarian position is that it should be illegal, and punished by the full force of the law. If not, the libertarian position is that it should be legal, and it would be unjustified to use physical violence against the person who engages in that act. Before answering the question posed, let us consider some other issues. What is the libertarian position on vanilla ice cream, basketball, rap music, Mozart, homosexual marriages, libel and blackmail (as opposed to extortion)? The question that must first be asked is, do any of these things constitute a per se rights violation, in that they are incompatible with that NAP? The answer is, Of course not. Thus, the libertarian position on each of these items is that they should all be legal. What is the libertarian position on murder, rape and theft? Since these all violate the NAP, the libertarian position is, they should all be illegal. Now for the question posed: What is the libertarian position on Ron endorsing Mitt? It should be legal. Ron should not be thrown in jail if he does this. Period.
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.