The Revolution

So I think I made the jump from being a Conservative to being a Libertarian, and I think a certain representative from Texas had a lot to do with it. Other factors would include Milton Friedman, some of my good friends, and a lot of time to rethink past positions, but Ron Paul’s Revolution: A Manifesto was definitely the leading cause. I picked it up on my Kindle when I was back in my home state of Pennsylvania, and read most of it on the flights back to California.

Three areas of his manifesto surprised me, and especially made me think.

Non-interventionism
Ron Paul echoes the advice of the early American political theorists to treat the nations with equal friendship, but to refrain from entering into military alliances. I’m not sure if Dr. Paul opposes all foreign intervention – his description of overseas adventures that he thinks were bad ideas seems to leave out Korea – but his overall theme seems to imply that. We certainly agree that American foreign policy is something of a disaster, though I have some reservations about moving to complete non-interventionism. Ron Paul’s point that non-interventionism does not by any means require isolationism is a good one, but I do wonder what he would think about the first Gulf War. There is certainly an argument for using American troops to protect American interests, but do we have a duty to go beyond that? I might wish peace and friendship with all men, and entangling alliances with none, but if I see a thug attack one of my neighbors without cause or provocation, I would think I would have a personal duty to come to my neighbor’s aid. Things get more complicated when the President is not rushing to the front lines of Kuwait himself, but ordering “our boys” into the fray, but we do have an all-volunteer army. Dr. Paul makes a lot of excellent points, and I especially appreciate his support of the requirement that we declare war when committing forces, but I’d want the President to do something the next time some short man in Europe decides to make geography easier.

Abortion Stance
“Pro-choice” is always a deal-breaker for me. Any politician who sanctions the elective murder of our unborn citizens is not worthy of my respect or support, regardless of his other positions. Given that many libertarians are apparently pro-choice, I was interested to see Ron Paul’s position on abortion. The Defender of the Constitution did not disappoint, citing a new-to-me passage from the Articles allowing Congress to set the jurisdictions of the various courts, apparently including the Supreme Court. He cites the Congressional removal of court authority over Reconstruction as precedent. The issue of abortion would then revert to the states, which have shown greater moral fortitude on this issue than our highest court. However, I have some concerns about the use of this power. Some of its past uses have been less than moral. Toward the bottom of the wikipedia page on jurisdictional stripping, there are a few examples of its more recent employment – note the one on detainee rights. The Supreme Court cannot be stripped of its original jurisdiction, so I don’t believe that this could ever be used by Congress to remove the enumerated rights we more-or-less still enjoy. I am somewhat uncomfortable with the power, but it is in the Constitution, and if there was ever cause to use it, that cause is abortion.

Money
Revolution also has a lot to say about our monetary system. Ron Paul submits the writings of the Founding Fathers and the rampant inflation since the removal  of the gold standard as a two-point indictment of our current fiat monetary system. He cites Hayek’s work on the unequal effects of inflation on the populace. I agree that the current fiat currency system has some very undesirable traits, in particular the diminishment of real savings when the government runs out of money and decides to fire up the Xerox at The Fed. While Paul’s solution of removing the ban on contracts that specify payment in gold and let Americans choose between the paper and the metal, the idea of having stayed on the gold standard raises some interesting questions for me. Since advances in manufacturing processes and efficiencies gained from economy-of-scale considerations drive down nominal prices of most goods over time (even in our inflationary fiat-money system), gold standard monetary systems must be deflationary. A corollary of this is the fact that sticking money under one’s mattress has a real – if not nominal – return on investment. I haven’t done the math on this, and I suppose this particular ROI would be very low, but it feels off that the effective value of ones savings could increase over time, even if that savings is never employed as rented capital. Perhaps this wouldn’t be any sort of problem, or perhaps my misgivings simply step from having grown up in an inflationary system, but it has made me think a lot recently.

He brought up a lot of interesting points, and won me over on most of them. Even here, when I list my contentions and misgivings, my disagreements are few. The book is well-written, well-informed, and well-argued. I would highly recommend it.

Coming up will probably be some sort of spiel about the Ames Straw Poll and the recent GOP debate (transcript here). Next on the short-term read/review queue is the Theology of the Body, so some of that might trickle in as well.

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5 responses to “The Revolution

  1. truelibertarian

    I have a few issues with this.

    1. If you’re not pro-choice, you’re not a true libertarian. The Harm Principle is the defining characteristic of libertarianism. Oliver Wendell Holmes’ timeless quote: “The right to swing my fist ends where another man’s nose begins” (I may have bastardized that, I’m reciting from memory here) comes to mind. And if you say that fetuses are people, then I’d have to disagree.
    2. Paul’s idea of returning to the gold standard is a terrible one. It would increase the class divide, as the rich would easily be able to purchase all the gold. One class possessing all the money would be disastrous.
    3. I think allowing different states to have different legal standards when it comes to issues like abortion is ridiculous. Someone in a state without abortion could easily go to another state and get one. Not to mention the fact that the state should not have a say on the issue to begin with.

    • 1) Regardless of whether or not true libertarians are pro-choice, I don’t think I’d define myself as a true libertarian, just now leaning more libertarian than conservative. I’m certainly no objectivist – my personal philosophy is very much at odds with Ayn Rand’s ideas. I reject the argument that an unborn child is somehow not a person, and have always found arguments to the contrary unsatisfying. That said, in the case of a pregnancy, there exists a human life created by the mutual consent of a man and woman (in the case of rape, obviously only one party bears responsibility, and should pay whatever civil penalties are forthcoming for lost wages, etc, in addition to the criminal penalties attached to such a heinous crime), and those two people have a duty to that life. If you would like to make the argument that parents have no responsibility to their children on Objectivist grounds, please feel free to do so. I reject that philosophy, and will pay that argument no heed.

      2) That is an interesting counter-argument. Ron Paul advocates a more option-based return over time, it seems, but even an immediate return to having the US dollar backed by gold doesn’t seem as if it would provoke a greater class divide to me. I suppose that given the current high debt load of lower and middle class Americans, moving from an inflationary to deflationary system would certainly benefit the rich more. Optimally, I’d like to have a system with zero inflation, so that the real value of a debt is neither increased nor decreased by anything but the agreed-upon rent for that money. High inflation seems to rob the creditor, while high deflation would rob the debtor. Paul’s idea is appealing to me because it appears that the rate of deflation would be very low, and should be predictable. If we could somehow mandate that the money supply only expand or contract to keep inflation at zero, and do so without the delay effect Hayek describes, I would love that. I don’t see a way to get there, and this seems like a reasonable approximation.

      3) I would agree – different legal standards on abortion would be ridiculous. I would hope that the light of the moral law would eventually lead all states to act in concert to protect life. I understand that some loopholes, such as the one you described, would continue to exist for some time. While it is not within the domain of the enumerated powers of Congress to legislate nation-wide abortion policy, the states quite clearly have the authority to make their own laws, and to ban murder, robbery, and all sorts of crimes one man might commit against another. That authority to establish laws protecting life should not end at the womb. Criminalizing abortion is no more an infringement upon the privacy of a woman bent on killing child than criminalizing murder is an infringement upon the privacy of anyone else bent on killing his neighbor.

      Before membership in any faction of political ideology, I am a Catholic.

      • truelibertarian

        1. I think of myself as a true libertarian (hence the name), but I am NOT an objectivist. Some of that stuff isn’t wrong per se, but I don’t find capitalism to be an evil system at all. I actually wrote a blog called “Why I Am Not a Socialist” earlier today, so that explains my justification for libertarianism, capitalism, and the free market.

        And let me be simple. You use very empathetic terminology. It’s not a unborn child, it’s a fetus, a multi-cell organism that cannot function, cannot think, cannot feel, cannot do anything. If that screams human to you, then I don’t know what to say. The main argument against abortion I’ve heard is about “potential.” Well potential is irrelevant and doesn’t actually have any moral bearing, unless you’re a straight-up consequentialist, which I’d bet money you aren’t.

        I do, however, think that abortion, regardless of its moral standing, is a horrible thing to have to do. I’m against late term abortion, I think there should be mandatory counseling before any abortion except in cases of rape, and I think abortion should NOT be covered under healthcare, except in cases of rape (another benefit of this is that so few rape victims actually come forward, so more rape victims would have to actually report the crime and go to the police to get a free abortion). And I think the argument “it’s her body” is a bullshit one. It was her body when she (most likely) had unprotected sex. By this, I mean that if the woman wants an abortion, and the man doesn’t, I don’t think the woman should legally be able to get one. It’s a messy situation, but I don’t care.

        2. Any return to a standard backed by a resource, ANY resource, would result in the rich becoming richer. Due to Pareto optimality, the top ~20% (probably closer to 10-15) would consume/purchase ~80% of the wealth. Look at the Arabian states. They have currency, but oil is essentially another form of wealth. The already wealthy have it, the poor do not. And then the wealthy tax the shit out of the poor.

        3. I would hope that even as a Christian that you would not want there to be a law against abortion. The role of government is NOT to make moral statements, which is why abortion should be legal, the death penalty should not be, and sin taxes should be repealed. Prostitution should be legal, as should drugs (or decriminalized. I’ve been thinking about this for a while and I can’t decide which.), and the justice system should be about rehabilitation, not retribution (studies say that over 80% of jurors claim retribution is their main motive for their verdicts. And due to the phenomenon that the bigger and more horrible the event, the less likely they are to believe it was an accident and the more likely to blame him, it’s all ridiculous. It really is true that the bigger the lie, the more likely they are to believe it. So I would hope that regardless of your personal thoughts on abortion, you would still want it to be legal. Much like the Casey Anthony trial. I know people who are convinced of her guilt but glad she got off, because the prosecution didn’t prove anything at all, and had she lost, that would have been a miscarriage of justice.

        Whew. Damn, that’s a long ass post.

  2. We could go into personhood and potential arguments, but you have probably heard mine and rejected them, and vise versa. As for state laws against abortion, our positions on that are likely determined by our respective positions on the personhood of the unborn, etc. I do not support government legislation of morality, except to protect individuals from being injured by other individuals. Thomas Aquinas treatise on law talks about this some – I think the practice of prostitution is exactly the example he uses for an immoral act whose restriction is not something the government should involve itself in. I would agree with legal use of contraceptives and drugs, and oppose the criminalization of prostitution, but my position on the right to life of the unborn would pretty clearly place abortion into the “violent crimes” category, and thus something the state should have a hand in, to protect its citizens.

    My economics knowledge is pretty basic, I’ll have to check out this theorem. I’ve been putting some time in on that subject this summer, but I still have a long way to go.

    Thanks for your thoughts on the subject. I think I’m going to go read what you wrote about the death penalty, I tend to vacillate on that issue, and reading more arguments tends to help the process.

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