I voted for Ron Paul for President in 1988, and, in fact, heard him give a speech at Stanford during the campaign (I had received my Ph.D. from Stanford a few years before). Only a small group attended the speech; Dr. Paul was articulate but not very exciting; and of course there was no suggestion that he could win. Everyone knew the campaign was really for educational purposes.
I had assumed that the current Ron Paul Presidential campaign was a similar educational effort — until early October.
Our family was driving back from vacation in San Diego (Legoland, the San Diego Zoo, and the wonderful museum exhibit on the Dead Sea Scrolls). We had taken a side trip to Tustin, east of Los Angeles, to visit a piano store my wife wanted to check out.
While my wife and kids were trying out the pianos, and I was bored, I idly engaged the store owner in a discussion about the Presidential race.
To my surprise, without my mentioning Ron Paul's name, she started passionately explaining to me that the only worthwhile person in the race was Dr. Paul and that we desperately needed Dr. Paul to restore Constitutional government in the US and end the disastrous foreign and domestic policies of the G. W. Bush Administration. She also told me that, earlier in the day, she had seen a group of teenagers handing out Paul literature and that the kids were behind Ron Paul.
She seemed not to have any connection to the "libertarian movement." It was Ron Paul himself, and what he had to say, that had created her enthusiasm.
She was so animated (and articulate) that it took me several minutes before I was able to explain that I did know who Ron Paul was and thought he was a good guy.
I'd heard that Dr. Paul was not catching fire with "religious conservatives." The store owner turned out to be a serious, observant Seventh-Day Adventist.
So, I finally realized that the Paul Presidential campaign is not simply an educational campaign (although I was still amazed by the size of the "money bomb" we all created on November 5).
After we got back to Sacramento, my kids started noticing "Ron Paul" stickers around town and on the road and asked me why we didn't see any "Giuliani" or "Hillary" stickers.
And just last night, at a Christmas party, I started talking politics with the husband of a friend. I'd known his wife for several years, but didn't know the husband well, and had no idea of his political views. Without my mentioning Ron Paul, Doug started explaining to me why Dr. Paul was the only worthwhile candidate in the race.
Of course, the most important aspect of the Paul campaign is the involvement of the kids. My own children became avid Paul boosters when I explained to them that he was the Jeffersonian in the race — we're homeschooling, so my kids know the distinction between Hamilton and Jefferson. In fact, my kids kept reminding me to send in my hundred bucks to the Paul campaign until I finally contributed on November 5.
When I myself was a kid, a junior in high school way back in 1971, I had read Mises' Human Action: at the time, I feared that those of us who favored free markets, limited government, and natural rights were on the losing side of history. By 1979, I realized that we were not the past but the future: by then, the Communist Party of China had chosen to follow a capitalist road, and a Democratic President had actually chosen to abolish a major regulatory agency (the Civil Aeronautics Board). And I had read Murray Rothbard's brilliantly prophetic essay "Left and Right: the Prospects for Liberty" and had met Rothbard personally.
The excitement of the Ron Paul campaign is the latest scene in the scenario laid out four decades ago by Rothbard. Rothbard predicted in 1965 that both socialism and conservatism would prove to be historical dead ends, and that the future of the human race lay with the philosophy of natural rights. And, in numerous essays published in the same period, Murray also explained that the cultural "progressivism" that rejected the civilizing achievements of Western civilization — personal and familial responsibility, classical art and music, science and reason, common courtesy, etc. — was also a dead end.
The only true radicalism is "bourgeois" radicalism. Murray once remarked that human civilization reached its pinnacle in the Baroque era: the true radicals, the real cultural progressives, are John Locke, Isaac Newton, and Johann Sebastian Bach.
Many of our libertarian "progressive" friends cannot understand why the kids — especially the college kids who are always assumed to be "progressive" are turning to an "unprogressive" fellow such as Ron Paul. But the kids have seen what cultural "progressivism" really means — the wrecked families, the wasted lives, the parents who decline to take responsibility for their own children or for themselves, the forty-somethings who act like spoiled infants.
"Progressivism" is passé.
I gave up predicting Presidential elections long ago. I have no idea who will take the oath of office on January 20, 2009 (and neither does anyone else).
But I will predict this. The "unprogressive," "bourgeois," natural-rights philosophy of Ron Paul (and Murray Rothbard and Thomas Jefferson and John Locke) is the wave of the future.
Human beings are creatures of a specific nature. Young mammals need a great deal of parenting, and young humans need more careful and more dedicated parenting than any other mammals. Humans' primary means of survival is their mind, and they can only fully use their minds in a society that accepts the primacy of natural rights. And, in a society that acknowledges natural rights, it is those, like Ron Paul, who exhibit the "bourgeois virtues" — self-control, honesty, thrift, courtesy, reason, etc. — who will flourish and who will have children who themselves can carry forward the banner of civilization.
I only wish that I were a member of my children's generation so that I could follow the revolution through to its end and see the new world in which all human beings are acknowledged to be "endowed with certain inalienable rights" upon which no human government will dare tread.
We are witnessing the unfolding of the political and cultural revolution that Murray Rothbard foretold four decades ago. And isn't it fun to be a part of it!
December 24, 2007