An experiment among the grassroot Ron Paul supporters

After a few days of experimentation, I have finally been permanently banned from ronpaulforum.com .

I participated in two threads over there, both on the subject of immigration:

http://www.ronpaulforum.com/showthread.php?t=156865

http://www.ronpaulforum.com/showthread.php?t=144320

Some interesting conclusions I reached are

- for the average debater, a reductio ad absurdum is too complicated, it will confuse him into thinking you embrace the absurd conclusion. 
- people believe immigration to be a privilege granted by the government
- people have a hard time making a distinction between immigration and naturalization
- people generally have a hard time following a sequence of logically constructured arguments 
- Ron Paul supporters are trained to answer to socialist arguments, they're completely off when faced with libertarian arguments, it's fun (in a sad way) to watch.

I conclude with Mises

If you have to convince a group of people who are not directly dependent on a solution of a problem, you will never succeed. 

Share this

Supporters are average

You have personally thought about political questions rigorously for a long time and with input from the best thinkers (probably). On average, people have not. Ron Paul supporters are probably average (though Paul himself probably is not). You can expect their thoughts to be confused and their arguments full of fallacies. I briefly sampled one discussion and very quickly saw an attack on your motivation, an appeal to popular opinion, the labelling of your position as "extreme", and the labelling of you as a troll and a swine (in the pearls-before sense). None of these have any place in clear thought. Evidently these people are not capable of better, or not willing to make the effort.

How to convince

I didn't try to be convincing in my experiment, my purpose was to transpose without adaptation the kind of methodological argument I like to have. With a different login and IP adress I may try other approaches. There are two issues however if convincing is to be the goal:

The first issue: I quoted Mises on it, it's very difficult to convince people of a problem if they're not dependant on a solution.... this kind of behavior ranges from the typical "it it ain't broke don't fix it" attitude to most radical.

There is always the possibility to rely on utilitarian arguments instead of moral arguments, but

a) that is not always more convincing (I became a libertarian years after I was convinced of the efficiency of free markets when I was eventually exposed to ethical arguments)

b) acting ethically may not always be in the best interest of people, even in the long term... slavery comes to mind as a possibility, but also any ethical act that would make one worst of because of someone else. If A say to B: if I see C doing something, I'll kill you, it is not in B's interest to leave C free to do that thing, although it is unethical. Such a situation might exist with immigration and welfare.

Most people on Ron Paul's forum were convinced that some immigration
was economically good and desirable, merely not "practical" and should
be limited because the US would become crowded.... The debate was
really about what the government ought to do or rather not to do.

 

The second issue is how to deal with people who are not able or willing to follow a logical conversation. One solution may be slogans. A slogan like "A strong dollar is good for America" may be worth much more than hours of explanation on time preference and the business cycle... It seems people would be more prone to accept very simple self-contained ideas as axiomatic values than to follow complex arguments. A fortunate thing is that in America, "competition is good" is such a widely believed axiom... too much as it leads to support for antitrust, but at least it's better than the "government monopoly is good" axiom or "competition is wasteful" that used to prevail. Another upside of slogans is that they are easy to propagate... one may not memorize a whole argument but will remember a slogan and repeat it all around. I watched many Ron Paul videos and was surprised to see how simple and basic the message always was.

Problem is, complex issue may not be easily summed up as simple slogans. "Open the borders" is not a very attractive slogan...

Why free immigration

There are many solid arguments for allowing more rather than less immigration. My own position isn't really based on the sort of consideration that most people bring up in arguments pro and con. My position is simple. Let us grant, for the sake of argument, that I would be better off with the borders to Mexico and Canada closed (or something else - the details don't matter, so make them up however you like). Okay, so I would be better off. And I would also be better off if ten million dollars of tax money was distributed to me. But I simply don't have the right to either the money or the closed border. Neither one is mine. Nor is it any one's but the money of the individuals being taxed, and no greater part of the territory belongs to me than the land that my home sits on. It's not mine. Nor is it the property of some collective entity defined as "the voters".

It never occurs to anyone that he has the right to keep the guy who lives two houses down the street from visiting the guy who lives one house down. It's exactly the same situation between me, the borders, and the Mexicans and Canadians across the borders.

That's my basis for my view. I'm not trying to convince anyone right now, just stating my own basis. Other people don't accept my premises - I'm aware of that, but in order to explain my own view I can't give the sort of economic argument that might persuade them, because that economic argument, while a good one, isn't really my own reason.

What everyone, or most everyone, shares in common - that is, among people who favor a partially or completely closed border - is some notion that there exists some sort of right to close that border. The argument, as they see it, is, "should we close or open the border", not, "is it our place to decide whether to open or close the border." That it is our place, is assumed, and it is the weighing of the pros and cons that is taken to be the legitimate arena of disagreement.

As for me, while I can argue the pros and cons, I don't really want to, because even if I win that argument, I haven't really won the argument that matters to me. I don't just want people to open the border thinking that they own the border and have decided after some deliberation to open it. I want them to recoil from the very idea that they ever had any business deciding whether or not to open the border in the first place.

In the latter case, I think, liberty is more firmly secured, than in the former case. (This is a "consequentialist" reason for wanting people to be non-consequentialist libertarians, but the ultimate consequence is the preservation of liberty.)

Slight detour: let's talk about civil libertarianism, e.g. free speech. I would not want to win a purely economic or practical argument that Speech A, B, and C should be allowed. What I would want, would be for people to recoil from the very idea that they ever had any business regulating speech in the first place.

As I see it, a real civil libertarian isn't someone who thinks he owns the freedoms of others - that he has a right to regulate speech, dress, and whatever, of others, and has merely happened to decide (for the moment) that it makes economic sense for him to grant people more freedom. To me, a civil libertarian isn't someone who has merely decided to grant people liberty while all the time still thinking of himself as the jail warden who has allowed the inmates freedom. To me a civil libertarian is someone who recoils from the very thought that it was ever his place to grant or deny these liberties to others.

And just as with civil libertarians, so with libertarians-full-stop. I am bringing up civil libertarians because I suspect that (a) there are quite a lot more civil libertarians than total libertarians, and (b) a large number of civil libertarians aren't merely consequentialist civil libertarians but in essence believe in liberty as a self-justified right, one that requires no outside justification. So essentially I'm explaining the extreme minority opinion of non-consequentialist libertarianism by comparing it to the, I hope, significantly more popular position of non-consequentialist civil libertarianism.

I don't really have any clue how to persuade people to be libertarians in that full sense. One thing it involves is abandoning the mode of thinking that is implicit in virtually all arguments that occur, the mode of thinking implicit in democracy itself. Democracy raises the voter to the role of king. True, he is only a tiny little king, a king among a million other kings, but still, taken as a whole the electorate is considered to have a kind of right to decide matters that in previous ages kings claimed the right to decide. Whereas my position on most topics is that no one has a right to decide.

Anyway, so much for my not very useful comment.

What was up with

What was up with mairiacb48's posts on the second page of the first thread you posted? It's good to see Paul is attracting some crazies, too. Makes me feel better about his chances. Immigration is a little tricky for me. I agree with you, but a part of me is still worried. When you watch the pro-immigration rallies you see a ton of IWW types and other Progressives. The cynic in me thinks that expanding liberty for all will probably lead to a reduction in liberty for all as free market favoring Canadians wouldn't make up a significant portion of future immigrants. Seems to me the only way to convince the folks you've encountered would be to explain to them that personal sovereignty would take care of all the concerns they have tied to national sovereignty. Although, judging from the responses you got, good luck with that.

As I explained in the

As I explained in the thread, I am not expecting open border but rather than any political reform be made in the form of an net improvement of freedom for everyone. My problem with Ron Paul is his will to toughen immigration rules, not his lack of unconditionnal support to totally open borders. Don't touch the immigration status quo or better, make immigration easier but don't tighten it.

What the progressives are after are just votes, open border doesn't imply they'd get it. You don't need to naturalize immigrants, just let whoever wants to live and work in the US do so and don't grant the "right" to vote.

"My advise[sic] to you is to

"My advise[sic] to you is to be happy you have a green card and keep your mouth shut, lest someone show you the road home.

Again, nothing personal..."

Sounds pretty personal to me. Ron Paul's position on immigration is the biggest difference I have with his ideas. I haven't decided if it's a deal breaker yet. It may be, however.

Also, you got called a troll for that?