One of my old roommates from graduate school writes a blog that I, now an ex-pat living in France, find very informative because it keeps me up to date on certain aspects of the news and culture of the US. Paul Bauer, PB, now a lawyer living in Milwaukee, is a delightful writer, which might be surprising since he graduated with a PhD in English from the notorious Duke English Department led by Stanley Fish. I recall one day PB bringing home the Sunday New York Times; he liked to do the crossword puzzle. On the cover of the magazine section was his advisor Frank Lentricchia. In those days PB, although not as radical as most in the English Department, was certainly liberal, and if I recall correctly, would always vote for the Democrats, including astonishingly voting one year for Jesse Jackson in the North Carolina Democratic Primary. I readNational Review and believed in Reagan, if not the Republican Party. He has admitted I was instrumental in making him a Republican, in part by introducing him to National Review, but mostly by engaging in conversations. (Apparently actually having discussions about first principles and evidence for political positions wasn’t something that happened very often in the liberal arts at Duke.)
Anyway, in spite of his sterling record, his new political views were insurmountable hurdles to his bid to obtain a permanent postion in the highly competetive world of academia. (He tells the story of announcing to a hiring committee at a major university that he would like to teach Whittaker Chambers’ Witness as literature… you get the picture.) Thus, he went to law school and became a solid Republican and, much later, a Catholic. Now I cannot open National Review and write for LRC so my own evolution should be well understood.
Early during the last election cycle PB was writing about the Republican field and described Ron Paul as “weird.” I called him on this adjective so after some study PB wrote a fair assessment of Ron’s views. Below is my response to that post. I send this article to LRC now in support of the Lew’s wonderful post on Ron Paul’s new Institute for Peace and Prosperity.
Thanks for your comments on Ron Paul. What you have shown after even a brief study is that his views are not those of a politician, but of someone who has studied the philosophy and history of economics and government, and has come to form to a consistent set of positions across the spectrum of issues and throughout his career. I would like to point to a couple of quotes in a very general response to your misgivings about his positions on foreign policy.
Paul bases his positions on government policy, including foreign policy, on the premise that this institution made up of men should be held to the same moral principles as individuals and their other organizations. So my first quote you should recognize comes from November of 2010.
When I used to teach English a million years ago, I taught my students that pretty much everything you need to know about the novel and what it is supposed to be about you can learn from the central moment of Middlemarch where, after hundreds of pages in which the reader comes to loathe the dried-up old pedant, Casaubon, whom the wonderful young heroine, Dorothea Brooke, has unaccountably married in a fit of misplaced intellectual romanticism, the narrator (the Wise Woman, i.e., Eliot herself), turns to the reader and asks, “But what about Casaubon? Does he not have dreams, feelings, hopes, pains? Put yourself in his shoes, dear reader.” I’m paraphrasing, but the effect is thrilling and almost heartbreaking. Middlemarch makes the reader confront what it means to be a moral person – the ability to view other people as things-in-themselves and not as means-to-an-end, to accord even the most unattractive character the dignity and human consideration all are due.
Are we not treating Iran like a Casaubon? Are not the people of Iran things-in-themselves and not as means-to-an-end. I thought you have eloquently affirmed the Golden Rule, and that is what Paul is declaring should be the basis of our foreign policy. Ridiculous, certainly not Christian concepts, such as the US is the indispensible nation, that we not only have the right, but the power and special insight, to destroy and make societies in our own image are false propaganda tools in the lust for empire.
The second quote from William Buckley points to a key reason why we should resist this drive for empire. Writing in the early 50s he wrote that “We have to accept Big Government for the duration – for neither an offensive nor a defensive war can be waged given our present government skills except through the instrumentality of a totalitarian bureaucracy within our shores.” Buckley went on to recommend that we support “large armies and air forces, atomic energy, central intelligence, war production boards and the attendant centralization of power in Washington.” In my own retrospect, I doubt if much of what was done to create and fight the cold war was justified. But I have not had the slightest doubt that totalitarian bureaucracy formed on our shores to fight the war on terror is dangerous and evil in every way and is reason enough to change our foreign policy.
One last note on economic policy. To allow for a transition Paul’s policy proposal is for allowing competing currencies a la Hayek; specifically to allow Americans to make contracts and exchanges in any medium of exchange they desire (e.g., gold). This would drive out of circulation the worthless Federal Reserve Notes and would make abolishing the FED a fait accompli.