The Ron Paul presidential campaign has the potential to become the best thing that has happened to the cause of liberty since the fall of the Berlin Wall. The campaign may well develop into a mass education program spreading the ideas of liberty throughout the nation, exposing the only true class conflict in society, thereby giving rise to a populist grassroots movement sowing the seeds of revolution.
The state depends for its continued existence on the enthusiastic support of only a few. It requires the acquiescence of many more. The few that are enthusiastic about the state are the ones that profit from it, such as politicians, bankers, bureaucrats, contractors, big corporations, mainstream media (MSM), intellectuals, lobbyists and unions. The profit comes at the expense of the many. This as the classical liberals explained is the only meaningful class conflict in society. The trick to keeping the many complacent is to deceive them into thinking they are actually not being plundered. This is achieved in at least three ways:
1. Intellectuals will come up with theories justifying state institutions before or after they are created; for example, they say that the Federal Reserve is needed to manage the economy; that only the welfare state and redistribution of income keep people from dying in the streets and being exploited by evil capitalists; and that foreign wars must be fought to keep us safe at home. These theories are then spread by state education, the majority of intellectuals and the mainstream media and they are passively absorbed by ordinary people who then think they have a stake in the continuing existence of the state.
2. Mainstream media and intellectuals will drastically narrow the terms of acceptable debate by taking statism as a given. So instead of debating whether there should be an income tax at all, the question is merely whether it should be 35 or 32 percent. Rather than arguing for or against the existence of a Central Bank at all, pundits and experts will only discuss by how much the Fed should lower or raise its interest rate. Instead of discussing the very idea whether the US government’s military branch should busy itself with waging war and killing innocent people all around the world, pundits discuss how the latest surge is working out, whether 5,000 or 20,000 new soldiers are needed. Instead of talking about the coming bankruptcy of the welfare state and the devastating consequences this will have for so many people, they talk about with what programs we should expand it.
Moreover, serious intellectual debate is replaced by what we could call ‘gossip for the intellectuals’. Just as others will read and talk about the latest scandals involving Britney Spears or Lindsay Lohan, or about salary conflicts in baseball teams, upcoming football matches, intellectuals will talk endlessly about things like conflicts between the president and one of his appointees, the possible sacking of one or the other administrator, non-verbal communication during presidential debates, the sexual escapades of politicians or the latest report about the situation in Iraq. All this talk about trivialities numbs the mind and makes it unsuitable for rigorous thinking: we are no longer able to see the forest for the trees.
3. In the ultimate act of deviousness politicians manage to obfuscate their exploitation of the people by using a divide et impera technique: the state creates conflicts between racial groups by giving some preferential treatment at the expense of others, between young and old over social security, between producers and consumers by saying that the former would exploit the latter if it weren't for the government, between Iraqi’s and Americans. The state creates these conflicts and then goes on to profit from the resulting divisiveness and the MSM echo and get worked up over these conflicts continuously, only rarely investigating whether the conflicts are not artificially created by the state.
It is astonishing to see how successful this approach has been: without too much fanfare or discussion the United States has slowly but surely turned into a near fascist war-mongering police state only awaiting a person who will officially assume the throne as dictator. Debate about these developments has been relegated to the back pages of newspapers, short news clips, and blogs on the internet. The general population has been like the Polish man who was in a coma for 15 years only to wake up to a free and non-communist Poland. We have been held in a near-coma only to start waking up to the realities of the fascist police state. And we have the politicians and MSM to thank for it.
Truth and Class Conflict
Enter Ron Paul, the silver-haired knight in the battle of ideas.
In direct debates, Q&A sessions, speeches, get-togethers and interviews, Ron Paul immediately gets to the core and truth of the issues.
The Federal Reserve required to manage the economy? Nonsense! The Fed impoverishes us all through inflation, it causes economic instability and booms and busts and only helps and bails out the big banks and enables politicians to finance their wars!
The war in Iraq is fought to keep us safe at home? Ridiculous and dangerous! Our foreign policy over the past decades is the main cause of terrorists wanting to get at us. It's called blow-back! We need to stop military and political meddling in other nation's affairs and instead engage in free trade with people of all nations.
To Mike Huckabee's remark that we have a responsibility to stay in Iraq because we broke it, Ron Paul directly made clear why this is the wrong way of looking at the situation: “The American people didn’t go in. A few people advising this administration, a small number of people called the neoconservatives hijacked our foreign policy. They’re responsible, not the American people.”
And rather than arguing about how to implement the latest police state techniques such as a national ID card or more gun control, Ron Paul condemns the entire project and invokes the Founders when he warns of the government turning on the citizens.
What Ron Paul is consistently doing is bringing real ideas into political debate and forcing his opponents and the MSM to pay attention and justify themselves. Paul uses libertarian theory and Austrian Economics to show that what the state is doing is morally wrong and that it is wrecking our economy and so many people's lives. He shows why the pseudo-theories justifying pre-emptive war, the Federal Reserve, the police state and the welfare state are morally and practically wrong and he exposes the true interests that these institutions serve. By doing so he makes clear what the only true class conflict in society is: that of the taxpayers vs. the tax-consumers. And the former are the large majority.
By exposing this class conflict Ron Paul stirs up strong emotions among people and thereby awakens the many out of their complacency. A sign of this is the huge and ever-growing grassroots movement that has sprung up and that is spreading the message of liberty all around the country. What is different from other populist movements is that the strong emotions motivating it arose after intellectual reflection, not before it. Only when people, thanks to the ideas espoused by Ron Paul and others, start to understand what is really happening, what the state is really doing, do their emotions flare up. So there is a lot of both intellectual and emotional ammo to do something about the situation.
The grassroots approach itself shows the wonders of liberty: there is no or very little central planning of Ron Paul's campaign; instead out of the uncoordinated efforts of thousands and thousands of people, each doing as they see fit, there arises a formidable spontaneous order swarming over the country and the media outlets. The Ron Paul campaign is a true populist movement and only such a movement will have the power and energy to achieve lasting change.
Mainstream and Alternative Media
This is wonderful news for libertarians everywhere: libertarian ideas are entering the mainstream and to the extent that they are not they are at least causing a shift in the balance of power between the MSM and the new media such as blogs and other websites.
Ron Paul takes part in the Republican presidential candidates debates and thus gets exposure on national TV. Because he was attacked on his ideas on foreign policy during these debates first by Rudy Giuliani and later by Mike Huckabee his ideas got even more exposure and were discussed (no matter how ignorantly or viciously sometimes) in all sorts of TV programs. Furthermore, Paul was a guest on the popular Daily Show, the Colbert Report and Bill Maher's show and was well received by both the hosts and their young audiences who at times cheered his every word.
Mainstream media have reported on the large numbers of crowds Paul draws when he speaks out, and the video of his visit to Google headquarters was by far the most popular video of all Google visits by presidential candidates.
The beauty is that although the majority of people have still never heard about Ron Paul, he does appear on their radar screen more and more and once they hear him talk about his ideas, many get enthusiastic. This is no wonder because people tend to have an excellent antenna for detecting sincerity, which in the realm of politics is nothing less than a breath of fresh air.
Of course, much of the MSM so far have also been doing their best to ignore, dismiss or ridicule Ron Paul and his rapidly growing popularity. And so the Ron Paul campaign forces people to look to alternative sources of information and it makes them see that the MSM are not impartial journalists covering the news but instead are often in bed with the state one way or the other. Through this people will start to realize that the official versions of events are often quite biased, to say the least. They will start to question what they hear and what they thought they knew more and more. If anything, the MSM and the politicians will go down together.
The switch to alternative media creates opportunities for libertarian bloggers, professors, columnists, economists and TV personalities. They will get more visitors to their own sites and more invitations to speak elsewhere, more air time to get their message heard, thereby in turn exciting more people still. So libertarian theorists will get greater exposure and more job opportunities because of it which helps the whole movement.
Bottom-up and Top-down
Some libertarians oppose Ron Paul's campaign because they hold that it is immoral or impractical to achieve liberty through top-down political means. Whether or not these views are correct (I think they are not) actually does not matter much because all libertarians can profit from what Ron Paul is doing, by his getting libertarian ideas to the masses and building up a bottom-up grassroots and populist movement.
Ron Paul's campaign introduces a great number of people to the ideas of liberty, to a viable alternative to the suffocating statism. Because of this people will go look for more information about these ideas and may come into contact with anarcho-capitalism and may be swayed by it while others will, at least initially, not go farther than minarchism. Some will start to work in political action, while others will devote their time and energy and creativity to non-political action such as education, popularizing, convincing others, protests and joining organizations.
The increased publicity and sympathy for said ideas and especially this remarkable grassroots movement will also inspire activist groups such as secessionists and may help those to become more serious and powerful. Should public opinion change enough then people will be more likely to object to a crackdown on a serious secessionist movement. And in case Ron Paul actually becomes president he will have some power to block military intervention or other crackdowns on such a secessionist movement, especially when the people interested in armed revolt team up with the secessionists and help in the defence of the territory should there be a crackdown and possible guerrilla warfare. Once a territory has seceded it can lead by example and other territories will surely follow, especially since the first territory got away with it, thereby imploding the US of A.
So the Ron Paul campaign will likely benefit both theoretical and practical libertarians, both minarchists and anarcho-capitalists, and both libertarians who are using the political process to achieve change and those who are working in bottom-up, non-political movements. All these individuals can go on to campaign for liberty in whatever way they choose and continue to hack away at the state in ever larger numbers and in ever different ways. Likely it is only a combination of bottom-up and top-down action that can successfully bring down the state once and for all. All that libertarians have to do is tolerate the (non-aggressive) strategies of other libertarians instead of devoting their time and energy to bickering with each other.
While we are of course a long way from achieving liberty in our lifetime, the Ron Paul campaign may prove itself to be the biggest educational lesson in liberty since the fall of the Berlin wall. And libertarians of all stripes can seize the opportunity. When ideas start to matter, libertarians will win.
September 20, 2007