I generally count myself as being among the ranks of the libertarian-left. I’m an anarchist in the classical tradition of Godwin and Proudhon, Bakunin and Kropotkin, Berkman and Goldman, Sacco and Vanzetti. I generally agree with Noam Chomsky’s and Howard Zinn’s New Left critique of US imperialism (which overlaps very well with the critique of the same advanced by the Old Right and the Rothbardians). On economic matters, I lean towards the pluralist outlook developed by Voltairine De Cleyre. I agree with the anti-statist outlook of Jefferson, Proudhon, Bakunin, Mencken and Rothbard. In fact, I also agree with the Left on most social and cultural issues as well. I’m for legalized abortion, against the death penalty, for the abolition of prisons, for the decriminalization of drugs and other vices (“vices are not crimes” as Lysander Spooner insisted), for tolerance of gay people, “alternative lifestyles” and cultural minorities.
I also support Ron Paul for President of the United States. I do this for the simple reason that, more than any other political figure to emerge in the US in decades, perhaps a century or more, Ron Paul has it right on the issues that matter most. Whether on the most immediate economic matters affecting the poor and working people, primary civil liberties, the grotesque expansion of the police state under the guise of the terror war, the equally grotesque “war on drugs," imperialism and militarism, the need to dismantle the empire and the uncontrolled statism that has become the norm in modern politics, Ron Paul sides with the good guys. Nor is Ron Paul just running his mouth on these questions. He has spent a total of nearly twenty years in Congress. His congressional voting patterns have remained identical throughout his entire career. Dr. Paul ran for President once before, as the Libertarian candidate in 1988, and voiced virtually the same set of views during that campaign as he has during this one. I foolishly refused to support Ron Paul in ’88, for sectarian ideological reasons. I’m making up for it now.
Many from the libertarian-left have taken a position diametrically opposed to my own concerning Ron Paul. In fact, many left-libertarians seem to be falling over themselves to see who can denounce Ron Paul most unequivocally. I consider this to be an extraordinarily foolish stance. For the first time in many of our lifetimes, a national leader has emerged who aims to shut down the empire and roll back Big Brother. How can we not support him? However, there are some left-libertarians who have their reasons for not doing so. With some variation, the justifications for this stance usually come down to three questions: abortion, civil rights for racial minorities and immigration. Let’s look at these one by one.
As I said earlier, I’m for legalized abortion, though I think it’s an issue reasonable and honest people can disagree on. Taken to its extreme, the pro-life argument could be used to justify prohibition of contraceptives (as was the case in some American states prior the landmark Griswold v. Connecticut ruling by the USSC). Taken to its extreme, the pro-choice argument could be used to justify legalization and legitimation of infanticide (as the crackpot “philosopher” Peter Singer has suggested). Jurisdictional issues aside, I agree with the abortion policy implemented by Roe v Wade and subsequent USSC decisions, one of general legality subject to modest regulation on the periphery and in the later stages of pregnancy. For me, the tie-breaker is the experience of other nations where abortion is illegal, but where per capita abortion rates are higher than what is often found in nations with legal abortion. In other words, abortion prohibition is like drug prohibition in that it is simply an unworkable and unsustainable policy, and efforts to make it work inevitably involve giving the state and the law dangerously intrusive control over our personal lives.
Ron Paul’s pro-life positions are well known. Perhaps Dr. Paul would like to see most, maybe all abortions outlawed. Maybe he has good reason for feeling that way. But so what? The President of the United States cannot unilaterally declare abortion illegal. Who would want to live in a country where he could? A President has some discretion over the funding of abortion by federal agencies. But why should anti-statists of any stripe be in favor of federally funded abortions any more than they should be in favor of federally funded marijuana farms or federally funded private firearms collections? Of course, the big issue is the power of the President to appoint Supreme Court justices, including those with pro-life views. But the Supreme Court cannot simply outlaw abortion nationwide. Instead, the Court could simply rule that it has no jurisdiction over state abortion laws, and send the matter back to state legislatures. Why would that be so terrible? It is unlikely that most states would enact a complete ban on abortions. In 2006, a comprehensive ban was put to the voters in South Dakota by means of referendum. The referendum failed in what is one of the most conservative states in the Union. South Dakota only had one abortion clinic anyway, located near the Minnesota border. In my own state of Virginia, another rather conservative state which contains the headquarters of both the Rev. Pat Robertson and the late Rev. Jerry Falwell, even the modest restrictions allowed by the Supreme Court have yet to be fully implemented.
If pro-choicers really want to protect abortion rights, the best policy they could advocate would be to devolve control over such matters to the local city, town and county level. At present, something like eighty-five percent of US localities lack abortion providers due to poverty, lack of availability of medical services overall, or local cultural or religious taboos. In other words, despite formal legality, abortion is de facto prohibited throughout most of the US for economic or social reasons. The majority of the US population lives in the seventy-five largest metropolitan areas. It is in these locations that most abortions occur, with roughly one-third of them being experienced by urban minority women. Would abortion ever really be prohibited in New York City, Los Angeles, Washington, D.C., Chicago or other major metropolises? Of course not, given the culturally liberal cosmopolitan values of the elites of these areas. So by all means, protect abortion rights by making it a local community issue, towards which Ron Paul’s program of respect for constitutional federalism would be a monumental step.
As for the minority civil rights issues, does any informed person really believe the US federal government cares one bit about the well-being of African-Americans? For Republicans, black voters are simply a nuisance they wish would go away. For Democrats, black voters are a reliable voting block that can safely be taken for granted. Where else are they going to go? Since the advent of civil rights during the 1950s, 60s and 70s, a much larger black middle class has emerged and a significantly larger number of blacks have been admitted into the professions and into the ranks of the elites. However, as some black commentators such as Walter Williams and others have observed, certain subsets of black Americans are arguably worse off today than they were before civil rights. The most immediately pressing issues facing African-Americans are the unusually high rates of homicide and other violent crimes in black communities, the mass imprisonment of a generation of young blacks thanks to the war on drugs and the growth of the prison-industrial complex, the destruction of organic family, community and economic life in primarily black urban areas due to the corrosive effects of the welfare state, so-called “public-private partnerships” (state-capitalism) that uses eminent domain, “urban renewal," “slum clearance” and other high-sounding acts of aggression against private property as a means of wrecking urban black economic stability for the sake of corporate beneficiaries, and all sorts of class-biased regulatory efforts, from zoning laws to anti-peddling ordinances that essentially regulate entire sectors of urban economic life to death. In some urban housing projects owned by the state, residents are prohibited from owning firearms for self-defense purposes, even though their lives are placed in danger on a daily basis due to the violence that is prevalent in such facilities. Unlike any of his rivals, Democratic or Republican, Ron Paul consistently supports the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the right to private property, an end to corporate welfare and its predatory effect on urban economic life, an end to social welfare and its destructive effects on organic family life, an end to the war on drugs and the prison and police industries that have emerged from it, and the right of honest people to engage in self-defense.
Ron Paul seeks to avoid the inevitable economic collapse that will result from present day monetary, fiscal and trade policies if these are not reversed. Such a collapse will hit the urban black “underclass” as hard or harder than any other sector of US society. This will in many instances be a matter of life and death for the lumpenproletarian sectors of the American economy, whether blacks in South Central Los Angeles or whites in rural Kentucky or Native Americans on the reservations. Blacks and other racial/ethnic minorities are also disproportionately represented in the US armed forces. More aggressive wars of the kinds desired by the neoconservative cretins and their left-liberal accomplices will naturally result in more deaths and disabilities among the ranks of soldiers, with a disproportionately high burden being placed on America’s minority populations. Ron Paul may well be what stands in the way of impending casuality-of-war status for many of these people.
This is the twenty-first century. There is no Bull Conner aiming to turn attack dogs loose on racial minorities seeking basic constitutional rights. There is no serious effort to bar black Americans from voting, attending schools or universities, pursuing skilled labor or professions, or running for office. A politician who wished to restore old-style racial oppression of the kind represented by Jim Crow would be considered a joke. Constitutional federalism of the kind favored by Ron Paul is NOT simply a code word for racism. Indeed, “racism," a term that is increasingly defined in ever more exotic and implausible ways, has become the ultimate taboo. The most sure-fire way to end any career is to acquire the label of “racist." Indeed, an authentic federalism may well be the means for African-Americans to achieve the political, economic and cultural sovereignty and self-determination they have never previously held in their history. Zora Neale Hurston, an early cultural anthropologist and one of the leading African-American intellectuals of the twentieth century, described how American blacks in her hometown were able to achieve self-government and a relatively high level of prosperity even at the height of segregation. Her town of Eatonville, Florida was “a pure Negro town-charter, mayor, council, town marshal and all. It was not the first Negro community in America, but it was the first to be incorporated, the first attempt at organized self-government on the part of Negroes in America.” In Ron Paul’s America, the freedom of voluntary association would once again be restored, private property would be respected, local autonomy would be recognized, and America’s vast array of cultural, racial, ethnic, religious and other minorities would finally have the means of independence and autonomy.
A major source of hostility to Ron Paul on the part of left-libertarians has been driven by his proposed policies on immigration. Recently, I suggested on a supposed “left-libertarian” discussion list that immigration is an issue on which reasonable people, including libertarians, can disagree. This simple comment produced a firestorm of protest by those who insisted that the only “reasonable” approach to immigration would be a free-for-all where nothing less than inviting the entire population of Europe, Asia or Latin America over for a beer would suffice. Of course, such an attitude is as elitist as it is silly. Mass immigration is something that poll after poll indicates the majority of Americans oppose. But it is something that the entire array of American elites favor. These include “big business” interests seeking cheap immigrant labor, government bureaucrats seeking more clients and consumers for their agencies and services, ethnic lobbies seeking more constituents, political parties seeking more voters, and intellectual and cultural elites committed to a fanatical “multiculturalist” ideology, and who see immigrant subcultures as exotic curiosities whose presence helps to dilute a traditional American society that is unduly sexist, racist, homophobic, nationalist, jingoist or religious. These elements don’t give a damn about the effect of the mass importation of Third World labor on poor and working class indigenous Americans, whether white, black, Hispanic, Native American or Caribbean. Ron Paul is NOT advocating a Nazi immigration policy where those who don’t give a satisfactory answer to “Where are your papers?” are taken out and shot. Instead, Dr. Paul is advocating some very basic, common sense reforms of entitlement programs, visa programs and naturalization procedures designed to curb the flow of immigrants. Refusal to recognize the “right” of foreigners to trespass on public property is no more unlibertarian than refusal to recognize the “right” of domestic citizens to trespass on private parking lots and school campuses. Public thoroughfares, streets and lands are public property, the “commons” owned by those who derive their right of ownership through ancestry, tradition, inheritance and community rituals (such as naturalization procedures).
Ron Paul is the people’s candidate. It is the poor, the working class, racial minorities, the rural white lumpenproletariat, the prisoners, the rank and file soldiers, the small businessmen and self-employed, the persons whose livelihood is criminalized or regulated to death by the state, the crime victims, the everyday taxpayer, the young, the elderly, the drug users, the homeless, those in need of alternative or experimental medicine who most need Ron Paul. Ron Paul is also the candidate of the masses of people of Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East who are under the boot of the American empire. He is the candidate of the Venezuelans whom Washington thinks should not be allowed to elect a government of their own choosing, of the Iraqis and Afghanis subject to American bullets and bombs, the Iranians facing imminent death and destruction at the hands of the Neocons, the Palestinians kept as prisoners in their own homeland, the Asians and Muslims subjected to the insulting presence of the empire’s military outposts in their homelands, the citizens of Arab and African countries kept under the thumb of dictators and tyrants propped up by foreign aid from Washington. America needs Ron Paul. The world needs Ron Paul.
December 31, 2007