Wendy McElroy Still a Libertarian?
No; She Opposes
the Ron Paul Candidacy
by Walter Block: Response
to a Jewish Opponent of Ron†Paul
At first glance
this is really a stupid question. Not only is she a libertarian,
she is one of the most talented and creative and hard-working leaders
of our movement. She has done yeoman work, over the years, on a
whole host of issues, ranging from the promotion of free enterprise,
to her opposition to imperialist war, covering dozens of other libertarian
issues, all superlatively.
If I were to
single out one of her essays, my favorite of all of them, it would
be this one, see here
This is her paean to Murray Rothbard, Mr. libertarian himself. Here,
Wendy weaves into a beautiful tapestry all of Murrayís accomplishments
in Austrian economics, anti militarism, revisionist history, political
activism and more. And, she does so with such great love I find
myself almost next to tears as I read this, over and over sometimes,
in appreciation of her absolute and magnificent brilliance. I go
so far as to say that this is certainly one of the greatest appreciations
of my friend and mentor Murray ever written.
No one who
says things like that can be all bad. Heck, no one who says anything
a half a quarter or a tenth as good as that should be accused of
not being a libertarian. This is really good material. I am greatly
envious that she said that. I wish I had written anything half as
good. But, I am grateful that she did so for, frankly, I donít have
her ability to say things like that, much as I loved Murray. I go
further; read this essay of hers, I implore you. Youíll thank me
for insisting that you do. It is a lot better than the one Iím now
about to criticize.
can I call into question her libertarian credentials? I do so on
the ground that she is a bitter opponent of the Ron Paul presidential
campaign, and this is the last best hope for liberty, as I see matters.
I write in criticism of Wendy more in sorrow than in anger. But,
there is a lot of sorrow involved, almost, but not quite, verging
Before I get
to the specifics, let me make a distinction. I distinguish between
being a libertarian, and agreeing with (virtually all) libertarian
principles. The former implies that you act so as to promote
liberty. The latter means that you agree with these principles,
and, may, perhaps, as in her case at present, act against
them. I have no doubt that Wendy is a libertarian in the second
sense. Her whole adult life gives amply testimony to that fact.
She believes in the libertarian message, fervently. She defends
it, brilliantly. She extends it, creatively. But, as far as acting
so as to promote liberty, her trashing of Dr. Ron Paulís candidacy
gives the lie to that. Belief is necessary, but not sufficient,
for being a libertarian. Wendy passes the first test, but
not the second.
What are the
specifics of her case
the Paul campaign?
I now repeat
her August 17, 2007 article, "Ron Paul or antiwar.com?"
(in italics) along with my commentary interspersed.
libertarians, I am stirred by Ron Paul's anti-war rhetoric even
though I know it will not be translated into action because Paul
will cease to be of significance after he is eliminated (as he will
be) in the Republican primary. At that point, the millions of dollars
as well as the incalculable time and energy that libertarians have
donated to elect this right-wing religious conservative will disappear
down the drain.
In my view,
if the Ron Paul campaign stopped tomorrow (I am writing on 12/10/11),
there will be nothing much disappearing "down the drain."
Au contraire, Ron has already put libertarianism on the map in a
way that no one in the history of civilization has ever done. (Ayn
Rand deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as Dr. Paul in
terms of popularizing libertarianism, but she specifically rejected
us, dismissing us as "hippies of the right." She also
confused libertarianism with atheism in the minds of her libertarian
What is it
with this "right-wing religious conservative" name-calling?
Yes, Ron is religious, but since when has religion been rendered
incompatible with the non aggression principle of libertarianism?
"Right-wing?" "Conservative?" Is it right-wing
or conservative to favor peace? To oppose the drug war? To call
for a radical diminution of the government? Alright, I get it; Wendy
opposes Congressman Paul. But why this inflated rhetoric? Nor will
he "cease to be of significance" if and when he
is eliminated from the Republican primary. Who knows? In that unlikely
event, he may run as an independent. If New York City Mayor Bloomberg
and Donald Trump also launch independent campaigns, Dr. Paul has
a reasonably good chance of winning the election in a five
man race. His supporters will not desert him. Even if not, my understanding
is that his organization will long continue to promote liberty,
independent of politics. Maybe then and only then will Dr. Paul
appear in McElroyís good graces.
If you are
supporting Ron Paul because of his anti-war stance, may I make a
suggestion? Support the truly libertarian antiwar.com instead; this
remarkable site is always desperate for donations. For years, the
site has been an acknowledged and courageous leader in the broader
antiwar movement, making people of other ideologies more receptive
to libertarian principles and politics because they respect the
commitment and damned hard work performed by the site. Unlike with
Paul, your contribution will not disappear. Antiwar.com's archives
and features only grow with time; its value as a resource increases
with each passing day. If you care about ending the war in Iraq,
please do not divert money to Ron Paul when it could be used so
well by genuine libertarians who have a proven record of making
I am a warm
supporter of Antiwar.com. I have contributed funds to this wonderful
organization. I was even honored that they once chose to reprint
one of my columns
on their web (http://antiwar.com/,
7/23/07). But, to mention this organization in the same breath as
the Paul campaign, in terms of "making people of other ideologies
more receptive to libertarian principles" is just plain
silly. It is like comparing a mouse and an elephant, and by saying
this I mean no disrespect to Antiwar.com. I am just remarking on
the very different rate of success of the two libertarian institutions
in carrying the word to people. I very much doubt that anyone associated
with antiwar.com would be so rash as to claim that their success
rate in promoting libertarianism is even in the same ballpark as
Ron Paul supported war in Iraq (and Kosovo, for that matter) as
long as there was an official declaration; he argued this position
in Congress. At that same time he asked for an official war, antiwar.com
cried out against any war. I don't know if Paul is currently sincere
in his antiwar rhetoric or merely an astute politician who knows
there is hunger out there for peace...but I do know and trust antiwar.com.
yes, Ron is a waffler. He keeps changing his mind. He is on all
sides of every issue. He doesnít have a principled bone in his body.
You canít trust him any further than you can throw him. Paul, Gingrich
and Romney are all brothers under the skin as far as continually
contradicting themselves are concerned. All three of them are forever
changing their tune to fit the views of their present audience.
This is about
the most outrageous calumny heaped upon Congressman Paulís shoulders,
and to think it could come from a libertarian! Well, a person
who supports libertarianism. I wonder why this author does not supply
a link to Dr. Paulís supposed support for wars in Iraq and Kosovo.
Could it be because this is a gigantic porky, as they say in England?
Yes, Ron has often said that the only legitimate way for the U.S.
to go to war would be for congress to declare it (there is that
little matter of a Constitution that he is always going on and on
about) but this is quite different from saying that were this put
to a vote, he would have supported any such wars. The burden of
proof is on this author to back up her false, malicious and, yes,
libelous charge. She has not done so.
preceding, readers might assume that I argue against PaulBearing
because support for Ron Paul diverts money/time from causes and
activities that have a lasting impact rather than one that evaporates
after the faux-euphoria of political campaigning. While I do make
this objection, I have several other reasons.
To argue that
the Paul 2012 campaign will not have a "lasting impact"
is highly problematic. He has already introduced libertarians to
billions of people all over the world, he has inspired millions
of people to seriously consider this philosophy, and, with his constant
mention of Austrian economics, Murray N. Rothbard and Ludwig von
Mises he has tuned in hundreds of thousands of people to
sound economics. No "lasting impact?"
To be fair
to Wendy McElroy, she wrote this essay on August 17, 2007, and the
Ron Paul campaign of 2012 is vastly outstripping that of 2008 in
terms of impact. However, that scurrilous piece of hers of 2007
is still on the web. Anyone can access it, even now. Has she apologized
for this essay? Not to the best of my knowledge. Has she revised
it in response to the far greater success of the Ron Paul campaign
this time around? Not to the best of my knowledge. She ends her
on this note: More on this as I find time to blog... Has
she done so? Again, Not to the best of my knowledge. For shame,
1) the libertarian
support for Paul a candidate who cannot win because the Republicans
will not nominate him effectively guarantees that a real libertarian
candidate who actually voices libertarianism will not be heard.
Yes, but an LP candidate has no chance of winning, you say? Well
neither does Paul. I do not support the LP because I think electoral
politics is part of society's problems not part of the solution,
nevertheless, I do not dismiss the possibility that a principled
LP candidate may be able to educate or raise awareness. That's always
been the LP's strongest argument. But, now, instead of a libertarian
candidate who cannot win, libertarians are choosing to back a right
wing conservative who cannot win. Libertarians are not even saying
"put MY guy in office"; they are crying out "put THEIR guy in office
because he says some of the right things". The stance doesn't make
sense even to a pro-voting libertarian.
As of this
writing, December 12, 2011, her statement "Paul a candidate
who cannot win because the Republicans will not nominate him"
sounds somewhat premature. Ron is now in the "top tier,"
consisting of him and his two flip-flopping soul brothers, Mitt
and Newt. It looks as if he can take second place in Iowa, and very
likely be in the top three in New Hampshire. The debate, scheduled
for tonight at Drake University will feature only six candidates:
Ron and his two fellow flip-floppers, along with Bachmann, Perry
and Santorum. The Cain train has derailed, and Huntsman has been
dropped due to poor polling numbers. Thus, it will become more and
more difficult for the mainstream media to squelch his viewpoints.
Who is this
mysterious "real libertarian candidate who actually voices
libertarianism" that we are ignoring, because Dr. Paul
is hogging up the libertarian spotlight? Bob Barr? Gary Johnson?
Wayne Allen Root? None of these people can hold a candle
to Ron Paul in terms of adherence to libertarian principles. Enquiring
minds want to know! On the other hand, there are indeed very good
libertarians out there (any of the senior faculty or administration
of the Mises Institute, for example), but none of these people are
politicians; none of them have any chance at all of becoming president
She says: "I
do not dismiss the possibility that a principled LP candidate may
be able to educate or raise awareness. That's always been the LP's
strongest argument." Címon, címon, Barr and Root were the
LPís standard bearers in 2008. Neither is one one-hundredth the
libertarian that Ron Paul is. Dr. Paul did indeed run for president
on the Libertarian Party ticket in 1988, and received the usual
2% or so of the vote, without making much of a publicity splash.
Now, he is absolutely amazing in terms of the bang for the buck
we libertarians are getting out of him.
with the repetition of the "right wing conservative"
charge. Does she think that if you keep repeating something, people
will believe it? Well, if right wing conservatives favor
bringing home the troops, stopping imperialism, squelching crony
capitalism (hear that, Occupiers?), getting rid of the Fed, embracing
free enterprise money, radically cutting down the size of government,
repealing the drug war, cutting a swath through our regulatory bureaucracy,
well, then, maybe, right wing conservatism isnít so bad after
2) by so
wildly embracing a politician as their "savior," hardline libertarians
are abandoning the skepticism with which freedom-loving people must
always view those who wish to assume power over the lives of others.
What do they say to "power corrupts"? Maybe so, but not OUR guy?
Where is the critical analysis of the terrible policies advocated
by Paul, such as the use of eminent domain to facilitate the construction
of wall across the US-Mexico border? For that matter, where is the
libertarian objection to that construction of Fortress America?
It has been lost in the applause being rendered to this evangelical
religious conservative who seeks power.
I do not agree
with each and every opinion of Ron Paul. McElroy is a splendid libertarian
theoretician. Certainly, she is right, and Ron Paul wrong, on the
issue of eminent domain. There is nothing wrong with "critical
analysis" of his positions. I have done a few of those
myself, see here
Speaking as a "hardline libertarian" I have not
at all "abandoned the skepticism with which freedom-loving
people must always view those who wish to assume power over the
lives of others." In a previous column
of mine, I awarded Ron Paul only a 95% on the libertarian scale
(probably, I was too niggardly then; I now think he deserves a 97%
grade). Hey, we libertarian supporters of Ron Paul are not true
believers. When he errs, we are not silent about it. There is nothing
wrong with criticizing everyone, me included. We can all use improvement.
is doing more than this. Far more. She is demonizing him. She is
engaged in false malicious slander and libel against him. At a time
when he is building up the libertarian movement at a pace greater
than anyone else in the entire history of the world, she is busily
trying to tear him down. That is not critical thinking. That is
not being open-minded. That is being an objective enemy of liberty.
As for "Fortress
America," this is just another way of saying that Dr. Paul
favors a defensive military posture, not an offensive
one. If I understand him correctly, the Coast Guard will become
greatly enlarged under a Paul administration, far more able to safeguard
Americans in our cities and towns, instead of focusing on drug running
and smugglers (there will be no more of these, when drugs
are legalized, and we embrace full free trade). President Paul will
stop poking sticks in hornetís nests all over the world, and wondering
why some of these creatures come over here and bite us; this is
blowback, baby. (It is not because of our freedoms or our
mini-skirts or our rock music; according to calculations of economic
freedom in the world, we are no longer even in the top ten in this
regard; there are other countries that mind their own businesses,
have mini-skirts and rock music and have not been subjected to terrorist
attacks.) President Paul will make peace with the nations of the
world. He will engage in free trade, cultural exchange, etc., with
all of them. If this is "Fortress America," or,
"isolationism," it is not all that bad.
3) in the
frenzy that is political campaigning, libertarians are abandoning
resources that have been valuable in spreading the ideas of liberty.
The most recent example is the decision of LewRockwell.com to relinquish
its tax-exempt status in order to advocate for Ron Paul. I differ
with LRC on several important issues but I value highly the site's
past contributions; especially with the economic downturn, I do
not believe LRC will be able to sustain itself. I'd hate to see
it die or wither...for one thing, it is one of the last living expressions
of Murray Rothbard within the movement.
I will let
Lew Rockwell discuss that decision of his. All I can say is that
every dollar, no, every penny that has been donated to the
Paul 2012 campaign has been a magnificent investment in liberty.
Ron does not spend this money at Tiffanyís. He does not spend this
money on pay-offs for girlfriends. He does not spend this money
on fancy cars. He doesnít own a Rolex. He does not buy $5,000 suits.
He spends every penny on promoting liberty, a concept that
seems not to be in McElroyís ken.
go on...but the foregoing objections do not touch upon my main argument
against PaulBearing. That argument: along with some fine statements
about war and the free market, Paul advocates policies that are
as dangerous to personal freedom as I've ever heard.
Oh yeah, as
we say in Brooklyn. Name a few, lady (well, ones on which I have
not already mentioned
in criticism of my friend Ron Paul). Oh, wait, yes, I just realized,
McElory is right! Iíve just hear that Ron has changed his mind on
the Patriot Act, and now supports Obamaís murder of U.S. citizens
abroad, and his use of drones in Pakistan, Iran and God knows where
else. (For those of you who are not paying attention, this claim
of mind about Ronís change of mind is tongue in cheek. I have to
clarify things like this; assure people that I am only joking. Lew
makes me. Otherwise, Iíll get complaints from people denying this.)
I canít help getting giddy. When McElroy says that Paul is "dangerous
to personal freedom," all one can do is laugh.
this as I find time to blog...
I await, with
bated breath, McElroyís return to this topic. Iím all ears, Wendy.
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
Privatization of Roads and Highways.
© 2011 by LewRockwell.com. Permission to reprint in whole or in
part is gladly granted, provided full credit is given.
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