Now Is The Time To Criticize Ron Paul

Now is the time to publicly proclaim what is wrong (while not denying what is right) with the Ron Paul campaign. The last thing we should do is keep our mouths shut for the sake of the "movement"; if you support Paul's campaign as a means of libertarian outreach, then it is your responsibility to steer people towards the ideas themselves and away from the personality cult. It is also your obligation to point out and explain any differences you may have with Paul's positions, so as not to give the impression that Paul speaks for all libertarians or that his positions represent (or are even compatible with) thoroughgoing libertarianism. Don't think for a minute that the appropriate time for public critique is after Paul inevitably loses the primary; by then it will be too late and nobody will care. Rad Geek puts it well:

As for rising libertarian consciousness, or openness to libertarian
ideas, I’d like to believe that it’s true, but I’m not especially
convinced. If it is true, though, I would suggest that absolutely the
most urgent thing to do is to start those conversations and unhitch
them as quickly and as thoroughly as possible from the Ron Paul train,
because we have a very short window of time — somewhere in the vicinity
of 1-3 months, depending on the breaks — before Ron Paul’s prospects in
the primaries are completely decided. If nothing significant happens in
that direction between now and then, then I think that a lot of money
and a lot of organizational energy will disappear right into the same
dark, lonely station where the Clark train, the Buchanan train, the
Perot train, the Nader train, and the Dean train are sitting idle after
all these election cycles. That’d be a shame, because, as much as I
dislike some of what they’re producing, they are certainly showing a
lot of genuine organizational intelligence.

There are a few different ways to try to do the unhitching. One is
to sympathetically engage current Ron Paul supporters in conversation,
to try to lead them to see the higher principles they are fighting for,
and not just the man. Another is to try to body check current Ron Paul
supporters on sloppy arguments or significant problems of consistency
on Ron Paul’s part, in order to try to more forcefully knock out some
of the blinders that may be preventing them from seeing the higher
principles. Another is to try to sympathetically address (for example)
lefty-statist critics of Ron Paul, in order to help them see some of
the genuine merits of the libertarian parts of his platform, and to
convince them that the anti-libertarian parts are a problem with Ron
Paul, not a problem with libertarianism. All of these things are
valuable, but unfortunately most of the stuff coming out of, for
example, is just more mindless partisan cheerleading
that does none of these things, and instead throws out some gross
distortions of genuine libertarian criticism on Ron Paul’s positions or
on electoral methods broadly.

Roderick Long does his part by taking on a particularly poor though frequently heard argument from Ron Paul supporters:

The argument goes like this: “Even if you think Paul is wrong on some particular issues, he’s still far, far more libertarian than any of the other candidates, so why not support him?”

The reason I find this argument puzzling is that those who make it
would not, I suspect, find it plausible in most other contexts.

Imagine, for example, that instead of Ron Paul it’s Randy Barnett who’s running for President.

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Ron Paul has a personality cult?

"if you support Paul's campaign as a means of libertarian outreach, then it is your responsibility to steer people towards the ideas themselves and away from the personality cult."

The poor guy barely has a personality, never mind a cult of it.

For many the war is a deal-breaker

Obviously there's one issue which dwarfs all others for many voters; there are no pro-war voters supporting Paul to speak of and no anti-war voters would support Barnett.

 And of course Paul is only making waves because he's the only anti-war Republican. If Fred Thompson, for instance, had run on an anti-war platform Ron Paul would have immediately gone off the national radar screens - the media would have no use for him.

I'm anti-war and would

I'm anti-war and would prefer Barnett over Paul.
By the way, I've missed you, JTK. Glad to be back.

Let's not get mushy

I'm anti-war and would prefer Barnett over Paul.

Well, there may be dozens like you for all I know.

While I wouldn't consider wasting 10 seconds on a movement, I find Paul preferable as a person. Paul mostly means what he says. I can't even be sure what Barnett's positions are since he intentionally obfuscates them. Why do you like Barnett better?

"I'm anti-war and would prefer Barnett over Paul."

Enough to vote for him?

Probably not enough to vote

Probably not enough to vote for him. And while I don't personally approve of Barnett's obfuscation, his views are fairly easy to grasp if you read his work. The obfuscation is just there to prevent soundbite labeling and undesirable first-impressions for mainstream statists.

Fairly easy to grasp?

I've read his last book. What in it would lead one to believe he's an anarchist?

I never heard of him before,

I never heard of him before, but from the information I could gatherhe seems to be a contractualist like Block which is generally a sign of radicalism and he points to on his website. That's a good start...

The introductory section in

The introductory section in which he rejects the "consent" arguments for the legitimacy of a constitution. His followup article in the Journal of Libertarian Studies makes it clear that his purpose is to establish some way of determining "degrees of legitimacy," rather than the strict "all or nothing" understanding that came before it. While I'm not sure how useful this is for understanding constitutions in general or how accurate this is in understanding the U.S. Constitution in particular, I don't think it's incompatible with anarchism.

My opinion on this article

My opinion on this article can be accurately summed up as an emphatic "meh". It clearly indicates he is an anarchist, but I don't find any substance in his dubious separation of justice and legitimacy. He does not really reply to the objection that libertarians can and do distinguish between governments by the amount of right violation they commit.

But isn't the response to

But isn't the response to that objection obvious? Rights violations are incommensurate. If they could be compared and ranked, that would be some sort of utilitarianism, not deontology.

Deontology holds that we

Deontology holds that we should be judged by our acts alone, or rather that our responsibility is only engaged by our actions. It is a tool to make moral judgments and assign blame.

When one talks about what kind of society is desirable, he speaks of desire and therefore he leaves the normative realm. One may find that a desirable order is one where immoral acts are commited very scarecely, one may think that a desirable order is one where no one has a beard.

Anyone expressing desire for a particular order is making a positive statement and therefore is not particulary deciding between a consequentialist or deontological ethic.

However, ethics may tell us what kind of order we should desire, and provide a framework to rank our preferences, but this is outside of the reach of deontology which is a part of ethics solely preocupied by our actions, not our desires. "One should not desire for a right violation to happen" is a simple normative statement, outside of the realm of deontology. Since I hold it to be a normative truth, I also think I should not desire any other order than anarcho-capitalism.

One may therefore very well find that deontology is the correct ethical position while maintaining a somewhat quantitative evaluation of different orders. The question of what one should prefer is not answered by deontology, it does not mean answering it invalidates deontology.

So from that.... would naturally conclude he was advocating constitutional anarchy? It's rather hard to avoid the sense that he's advocating constitutionalism.