I am just reading through another article on the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog site. This is a nice contrarian article where an invited guest explains why he doesn’t consider himself one of these eponymous “bleeding-heart libertarians”. I agree with most of what is posted in this article.
In particular, I enjoy this bit: “Here are some not-standardly-libertarian things I believe: Non-coercion fails to capture all, maybe even most, of what it means to be free. Taxation is often necessary and legitimate. The modern nation-state has been, on the whole, good for humanity. (See Steven Pinker’s new book.) Democracy is about as good as it gets. The institutions of modern capitalism are contingent arrangements that cannot be justified by an appeal to the value of liberty construed as non-interference. The specification of the legal rights that structure real-world markets have profound distributive consequences, and those are far from irrelevant to the justification of those rights. I could go on.”
Word. So could I. (And as most of you know, frequently I do.)
This basically goes to the core of what I think on the subject – libertarianism is woefully simplistic, appeals to feelings about being “free” without addressing the substance of what “freedom” actually involves, and seeks to dismantle institutions vital to our well-being.
It is good that someone said this, no doubt. But perhaps it is a testament to my contrarianism that I also have some criticisms of this article. Principally, it is regarding the nature of the politics of the Paul family – which seems to be a popular topic in national conversations these days as well.
So much of the illusion about Paulism is maintained by this author, even though he hits most of the other points correctly in this article. Take this, for example: “Somebody’s going to ask ‘Isn’t Ron Paul making a difference?’ So I’m going to say, ‘Yes.’ None of this is to say that right-fusionism of the Ron Paul variety isn’t now having an influence, or that none of it is good. I’m glad to see Paul spreading a few profoundly important ideas about foreign policy. But that doesn’t mean Paul’s decades of bilking paranoid bigots with bullshit prophesies of hyperinflationary race war was really a stroke of strategic genius after all. Or maybe it means it was. But that doesn’t make it right. I don’t think Paul would be where he is today without all those years of vile fear-mongering. And I don’t think anyone ought to get away with climbing up that evil ladder, kicking it away, then pretending he was born a thousand feet off the ground in the pure mountain air right there next to heaven. He knew what he was doing, chose to do it, and none of it can be justified by a little TV-time for salutary anti-imperialist and free-market ideas. I’d rather not be affiliated with a ‘movement’ that includes him in even a conflicted way.”
I agree that it’s better not to mess around with the politics of Ron, and I would gladly throw Rand in with that as well – but I take strong exception to the idea that either of the Pauls have something to teach us about foreign policy. “Profoundly important ideas about foreign policy”? Isolationism is a profoundly important idea?
It’s especially odd that someone who accuses Ron Paul of furthering “bullshit prophesies of hyperinflationary race war” in the very same paragraph could possibly think that Ron Paul has salutary ideas about keeping the country out of a foreign war. (Or am I misunderstanding that there is a meaningful difference between promoting violent conflict at home and seeming to eschew it abroad?)
It would seem like a more appropriate conclusion to reach about Paulism is that it’s an ideologically consistent philosophy of not bothering to get involved when other people need basic protections of human life and decent care. They don’t do that at home, and they don’t do it abroad either. (Some of our current liberals only differ in that they want to do this at home, but still don’t care about people abroad. This is, in my view, why they’re sometimes willing to play footsie with the Pauls. However, I will not be joining them.)
Anyway, it’s good to see this blog has some decent debates going – hopefully the next one will involve someone questioning “libertarian” foreign policy, bleeding heart or otherwise.