Shirley you jest!

Ilya Somin on whether Ron Paul's candidacy is "good for libertarianism":

As the Club for Growth describes here, Ron Paul has opposed virtually all free trade agreements. Few ideas are more fundamental to libertarianism than free trade. As the Club has documented, Paul also has opposed school voucher programs. In both of these cases, in fairness, Paul claims that his position is based on the idea that some other approach - unilateral free trade or home schooling - is even more libertarian than what he opposes. Even if he is correct on these points, I see no libertarian virtue in supporting the far less libertarian status quo against free trade agreements and school vouchers respectively. Even if trade agreements and vouchers are not the optimal libertarian policies, they are surely superior to the status quo of tariffs and government monopoly schooling.

Surely superior? I'm not as certain as Somin. There is a legitimate argument to be made that introducing school vouchers would bring under government control what today are private schools - "Your voucher can't be used at this school because it isn't licensed by the authorities". For those of us who favor true diversity in education, Paul's position is reasonable. It's a question of strategy: take what you can now with both positive or negative potential consequences in the future, or hold out until you get the jackpot. There is a real debate among libertarians about vouchers.

Similarly with free trade. The US could do a lot of good for itself and the world by unilaterally dropping all trade barriers.

Paul's positions on these issues don't make him any less libertarian.


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I never quite understood

I never quite understood that argument against vouchers, it probably stems from my relative ignorance of the american system... If government does indeed register and control private school under a voucher agreement, it does not mean private school could not operate without control nor the ability to receive vouchers, after all don't they already do?

In France there are three type of school, government run, private run with a government contract and fully private.Private run with a government contract approximate the voucher system in a way, the school is private but it has some control on the content being taught (it must include official programs) and in exchange, they get free labor from state teachers (which they can more or less pick, so they manage to get good ones

The existence of this system unperfect does not prevent pure private school to operate without any control and improves on pure public schooling. The libertarian argument against vouchers is a slippery slope argument, I do not find those morally acceptable.

Back to Ron Paul... the way I understand the guy, I think he does not perceive free trade agreements as bads because they are not pure libertarian free trade but rahter than they impede on "national sovereignty"... the government owns the border... sure we'll let you have free trade because it's good for the economy, but this only rely on our good will. You'll get free trade, but the government gets to decide if you can have it, not some foreign country.

The root of Ron Paul's argument against free trade agreements has nothing to do with purity and everything to do with his un-libertarian ideal of national sovereignty...

I had already formed this idea when recently I heard a young girl in a yellow Ron Paul t-shirt argue that: "As a nation, we should retain the right to place tariffs"

Re: Shirley you jest


Everyone knows that the only true libertarians are those who support creating new transnational government trade bureaucracies and federal government subsidies for "private" schools. Didn't you get the latest memo from HQ?


Returning tax-payer's money in the form of a voucher is now a subsidy ?

Re: Subsidy

No, "returning tax-payers' money" is not a subsidy. But forcing the recipients to give the "returned" money to one of a select cartel of government-approved "private" schools is a government subsidy to those schools.

If you want to return tax-payers' money, why not just advocate tax cuts?

The money is not completely

The money is not completely returned, it is returned with rights withheld. Currently, the government steals the taxpayer money. With a voucher system, the government steals only the right to use this money on something else than approved schooling, therefore the government steals less. A voucher system *is* a tax-cut as less property rights are being stolen.

Returning taxpayer money

A minor point but I disagree. A voucher should not be thought of as a return of taxpayer money, because it is in large part taken from taxpayer A and given to recipient B. True, B is also a taxpayer, but the same can be said of the recipients of all government transfers (even the homeless pay taxes when they buy things). If you class school vouchers as a return of taxpayer money, then to be consistent you must class all cash transfers as return of taxpayer money, because every recipient is a taxpayer (in some form or other - there is no avoiding death and taxes).

As a matter of fact, social security differs from vouchers in that there are no government restrictions on how the money is spent by the recipient, the money is simply handed over. Just above you characterized vouchers as different from a tax break in that government places restrictions on how the money is spent. But if that's really correct, then it follows that social security must be exactly a tax break, since those restrictions which make a voucher different from a tax break are gone. I don't know about you, but I think social security is far from being appropriately classified as a "tax break".

I am not, by the way, arguing against vouchers, just pointing out that they are not "money returned" any more than social security or any other cash entitlement is "money returned".

In a weird world where only

In a weird world where only social security whitholding are in place, introducing social security benefits wouble be some sort of a tax break. It all depends if the person is a net taxpayer or tax receiver. Of course abolishing social security alltogether is best, much like abolishing public schooling is best.

Vouchers are a net increase of freedom for everyone, there is nothing unlibertarian about that.

Just to restate

Vouchers are a net increase of freedom for everyone, there is nothing unlibertarian about that.

Just to restate so there can be no mistake, I was not arguing against vouchers.

Subsidies, again.


Again, I'm not denying that parents have a legitimate right to reclaim the money that is stolen from them in taxes, whether through education vouchers or through other means.

What I am saying is that voucher systems constitute a government subsidy to private schools, in virtue of forcing the parents to spend that reclaimed money within a cartel of government-approved private schools. There is nothing wrong with parents reclaiming stolen money through the voucher system, but the cartelized schools that financially benefit from federal patronage are still subject to the usual libertarian analysis and criticism offered against government subsidies.

There is no benefit that you could possibly get from a government voucher scheme that you could not get just as easily from a no-strings-attached tax break, and some specific evils that vouchers but not tax breaks would produce. So the question is, given the choice, why advocate the cockamamie transitional government scheme, rather than just advocating the simple libertarian measure?

It really depends how you

It really depends how you define a subsidy, but granted it is akin to a subsidy... however what is not? Every law that requires someone to do something is a subsidy to the producers producing the means to do so...

All in all, I don't see anything ethically wrong with a subsidy, the problem is the stealing in the first place... So private schools will benefits from a voucher system... that money would have been a subsidy to something if it were kept by the government, at least the payer regains some control.

Why advocate vouchers instead of pure tax-breaks? They're not labelled as tax-breaks and hence are more sellable to the general voter. You can get a tax-break AND vouchers, it would be harder to get two tax-breaks in a row.

Another weaker argument is that it will have good consequences by turning away kids from public schools , the kind of place where you learn that taxes are good.


I agree. But how about his

I agree. But how about his position on immigration?

Ron Paul: anti-libertarian

Tim Sandefur has also been making arguments against Paul from a libertarian perspective. I sent him an e-mail about this post of his that I later put up here.