Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty! A Post-Tampa Review of Walter Block’s New Book

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Recently by Jo Ann Cavallo: How Ron Paul Rocked Our Family (Unabridged)

     

Ron Paul for President in 2012. Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty gathers together articles, email correspondence, blogs, interviews, short parodies, and open letters written by Walter Block during Ron Paul's 2008 and 2012 presidential campaigns (up to April 2012), along with a forward by Rafi Farber (Jews for Ron Paul) and a postscript by economics professor Joseph Salerno (Pace University). Supporters of Ron Paul will undoubtedly enjoy the passion, verve, logic, wit, and sheer mirth with which Walter Block makes the case for a Paul presidency and, when the need arises, fearlessly demolishes the Congressman's detractors. Those who have been wondering what is all the fuss about Ron Paul may find this book to be the proverbial eye-opener. Those already dead set against Ron Paul or libertarianism will of course probably not bother to open the book in the first place, which will be not only their loss, but our collective loss as well.

The opening section deals with three areas of crucial importance to Ron Paul and freedom: economics, foreign policy, and personal liberties. In each of these areas, Walter Block makes a case for his "man" by taking the less traveled road, focusing his attention not on the issues in which he could expect wider agreement from Americans across the political spectrum, but on positions that have been most criticized and misconstrued by the mainstream media. For example, after pointing out that Ron Paul "has done yeoman work in opposing NDAA, SOPA, Guantanamo, the Patriot Act and each and every other government violation of our civil and personal liberties" (95), he turns his attention specifically to Dr. Paul's opposition to our drug prohibition laws.

This overall strategy may be partly Walter Block's modus operandi (as he says, "If we cannot answer the difficult objections, we must rethink our libertarian positions" [35]), but it also stems from the fact that many of the articles were originally written in response to hit pieces by mudslingers of various persuasions — including, surprisingly, a few from within the libertarian movement itself. With implacable reasoning and irrepressible humor, Block submits "vicious screed" to a line-by-line critique, intentionally emulating Hazlitt's refutation of Keynes (272). As the self-proclaimed Jewish Mother of the Freedom Movement, Block also offers several pieces dedicated to the Jewish question and Israel, lucidly defending the Congressman from "outrageous charges" of anti-Semitism and demonstrating that Ron Paul's principled position is the only chance for the United States to help rather than hinder prospects for peace in the Middle East. In this context he supports Paul's assertion that foreign "aid" (i.e., "government-to-government transfers of funds") "harms recipients, amounts to a theft from Americans, and has no Constitutional warrant" (234).

In his aim to defend Ron Paul from attack on all fronts, Block even addresses objections to the Congressman that are "silly, or vicious, or irresponsible or all of the above," beginning with the whopper that "Ron isn't cool" (220). Honestly, though, anyone who could claim that Ron Paul "isn't in sync with younger, more u2018modern' libertarians" has evidently not witnessed his rallies on college campuses to cheering football-stadium-size crowds. When joining thousands of supporters in the pouring rain at his Philadelphia Phreedom rally this April, I overheard my 20-year-old daughter say to my 17-year-old son: "And to think, you liked Ron Paul before he was cool." "Are you kidding?" was his reply, "Ron Paul was cool way before I liked him."

In one section Walter Block shares his open letters and encourages Ron Paul supporters to write their own open letters explaining how Paul's policies coincide with the core interests and aspirations of their particular religious, occupational, or otherwise special-interest group. Suggested examples such as "farmers against farm subsidies" might at first glance sound counter-intuitive — that is, until one recalls that Joel Salatin (whose Polyface Farm was featured in Food, Inc.) is an outspoken libertarian and Ron Paul supporter. In acknowledging that not every pursuit would apply, Block remarks that, for example, "there is nothing Ron says that is narrowly pertinent to waitresses" (212), yet that is not quite the case. Given that Congressman Paul has fought to end all taxes on tips through the Tax Free Tips Act, a 2012 New York Post article accordingly refers to him as the "unlikely hero among bar and restaurant workers."

While acknowledging the uphill battle to the Republican nomination, Block nevertheless boldly envisions the first events to follow the inauguration of President Paul: "The U.S. soldiers will immediately start coming home, protecting us here, where they belong. The bombs will stop dropping on innocent people in Libya, Iraq, Afghanistan, and, who knows, some half dozen other countries Obomba has decided to invade, all on his own" (131). Alas, although the volume's most recent pieces make passing reference to election fraud in the early states (331), Block may not have anticipated such widespread cheating by the GOP across the board leading up to and including the Republican National Convention in Tampa.

In the end, as we now know, Mitt Romney became the Republican nominee, but in one sense, according to Blue Republican founder Robin Koerner, Ron Paul actually won the nomination: "In all fields of human endeavor, winning by cheating is losing. In a competition, when someone cheats, he gets disqualified. The disqualification does not make the runner-up the winner. Rather, it reveals that the man who appeared to be the runner-up had in fact been the winner all along." As one Daily Paul commenter sums up the situation: "We managed, in spite of a corrupt media, corrupt national GOP, corrupt state GOP organizations, voter ignorance, voter apathy, a massive disinfo campaign, an ongoing psy-ops campaign, and physical violence, to get Ron Paul the GOP nomination, based on the rules of four days ago. The GOP and Democrat-controlled media had to lie, cheat, steal, and break bones to stop us."

Most books written in the context of a political campaign lose their relevance once the votes are cast, yet that is clearly not the case here. Indeed, if the preliminary title addresses the immediate context of Congressman Paul's bid for the presidency, the accompanying title, Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty, hints that the arguments are important well beyond 2012. Block contends that Ron Paul's message has awakened not only millions of Americans, but "a significant percentage of the entire world" (112). Although evidence of international support for Paul won't be found on mainstream media, a quick look at Facebook (my personal favorite is Italy for Ron Paul 2012) and the Daily Paul reveals grassroots support everywhere from Australia to Poland, and Spain to Zimbabwe. Incidentally, at the time of writing Prof. Block was trying to verify reports of Paulians on Mars (112n) — he will be glad to know that confirmation has since arrived.

Almost all the chapters treat topics and issues that go beyond the context of Ron Paul's presidential campaign, such as free market environmentalism, property rights, the Federal Reserve system, Keynesianism, the Austrian Business Cycle theory, and the libertarian non-aggression principle. The chapter entitled "Ron Paul: Far Right or Far Left?" starts off by citing those who have placed the Congressman on opposite extremes of the Left-Right spectrum, but then moves on to expose the falsity of this dichotomy in the first place (300-309). His response to a "pro war libertarian" lays out the parallels between "preemptive war" abroad and "preventive detention" at home (74). An interview from Taiwan distinguishes laissez-faire capitalism from "state monopoly corporate capitalism, or crony capitalism, or economic fascism" as well as voluntary socialism from the coercive type (320). Also not to be missed are two blogs about the jaw-dropping incompetence of FEMA following Katrina ("Ron Paul Is Right to Dis FEMA" and "A FEMA story," 344-50). Detailing the ineptitude and abuses on the part of Homeland Security, which concurrently blocked voluntary individual and group efforts, Block presents readers with a contemporary parable of private initiative vs. central planning.

This 329 page volume, despite its comprehensiveness, occasionally gives the impression of having been assembled in haste. This was no doubt the case, since the sooner it appeared in print, the more it might serve to promote Ron Paul's candidacy. For a future edition, therefore, in addition to a bit more careful editing, it would also be helpful to provide the original publication dates and links for all the pieces as well as to include in the index all sources referred to along the way.

In sum, Walter Block's Yes to Ron Paul and Liberty, like Brian Doherty's recent Ron Paul's rEVOLution, will serve not only as a testament to past moments in which, as a people, we could have chosen a government dedicated to safeguarding our liberties and our prosperity, but also, more importantly, as an inspiration for the future of the intellectual and ideological revolution that Dr. Paul has set in motion.

Jo Ann Cavallo [send her mail] is an associate professor of Italian at Columbia University and the Italian literature editor of The Literary Encyclopedia.  Her latest book manuscript, The World Beyond Europe in the Romance Epics of Boiardo and Ariosto, received the 2011 Aldo and Jeanne Scaglione Publication Award for a Manuscript in Italian Literary Studies and is forthcoming with the University of Toronto Press (2013).

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