Saturday, February 16, 2008

Letters on Ron Paul's defining moment - No. 2

I wrote this on July 30, 2007, in an email explaining to a friend my decision to support Ron Paul,
Your questioning me about my position [on Ron Paul] has led me to write down my thoughts to clarify them, to qualify them, as they can be so easily misunderstood. I've been meaning to write this down anyway. You just happened to be the first person to ask. I can use this writing elsewhere....

There are a few more positions I strongly disagree with Ron Paul on, just so there's no misunderstanding.
Another reservation I have is Paul's association with members of what one fellow from Cato calls the "Fever Swamp".

My own definition of libertarian liberalism is close to the definition put forth by Dean Russell in 1955, Who is a Libertarian?, where Russell coins the word to replace the word liberalism, the meaning of which was being obscured. Unfortunately there have been two camps who have laid claim to the word over the past few decades in the U.S. One is the liberal camp, as understood in the U.S. before the "new liberals" or "social liberals" morphed into socialists and started attacking people's rights (There's a great history that discusses some of this in Alain Laurent's Le libéralisme américain : Histoire d'un détournement.) Then there are the anarchists, whom I view as feudalists. Here be beasts. I could write much more on this, but I'll leave it at that for now. I view the Cato Institute as being part of the liberal camp, and the "Fever Swamp" as being part of the anarchist camp. Ron Paul speaks and acts like he is in the liberal camp for the most part, which is why I have decided to support him. I may change my mind.

Letters on Ron Paul's defining moment - No. 1

This afternoon I wrote a letter to the main Ron Paul Meetup for the Minnesota campaign.
How do people feel about Bob Barr?

Just curious. There are 8-1/2 months left. Would a Bob Barr campaign offer hope and a way out of the mess we're in? He isn't running yet, but there's some buzz that he might, as a Libertarian Party candidate.

Paul cannot since he's defending his Congressional seat as a Republican.

Moveover he's lost the support of many, including me.

Some of you know why, but for those who don't, I dropped my support in January because of his continued close ties with Rockwell, author of the January 1990 "Case for Paleo-Libertarianism" in Liberty magazine. Rockwell wrote, "... the perpetrator was seldom turned over to the police.... The criminal was punished on the spot... it was rough justice and eminently libertarian." 15 paragraphs earlier, Rockwell wrote, "Wishing to associate with members of one's own race... is a normal human impulse." Rockwell's article revolted me when I first read it in 1990, and it still does.

I had written someone in July that I might change my mind about supporting Paul because of this nonsense, and I have.

It didn't help when Paul responded to the TNR article, which exposed his newsletters, by referring to Walter Block, who's written in defense of slavery, "What, precisely, did the slave owner in Alabama in 1835 get from his slave? Moral agency? Will? Heartfelt and cheerful obedience? None of the above. The master only received the privilege that when and if he used violence against the slave, he would not be penalized by law for assault, battery, and kidnaping, as he would have been had he carried out these acts against a free person. That is all that voluntary [sic] slavery would give the owner."

I'm sorry but slavocracy and liberty are inimical. What could be more absurd than "voluntary slavery". Wake up, people! Get rid of the ideological blinders. Lew Rockwell has called for debtor's prisons if he were ever in power. Think about that for just a second. Can debt peonage be too far behind? Don't jump out of the frying pan and into the fire. The principle of free labor, refined in the mid-1800's, is an essential component of liberty.

Returning to my original question.... shaking off the dirt... Please pardon my intemperate tangent.

Would you support Bob Barr if he were to run for President?
(additional note)

As might be expected, one person has basically told me, "Get lost!".

I overstayed my welcome further, writing,
Ron Paul himself appears to be passing the baton. Paul chose to have Bob Barr introduce him at his CPAC appearance last week.

The Ron Paul campaign, as I understood it when I was active, when I donated $100 on November 5 and again on December 16, when I delivered literature to every door of my precinct, and when I met the countless wonderful people who have been involved, was not just about Ron Paul. The campaign was about networking for him AND for future candidates. Is it still?

It's about the message of liberty, NOT the messenger, as Ron Paul himself has said.

It's about the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States of America. It's about the American Revolution.

Such networking is worthless if anyone, including Ron Paul, is above criticism.

As I have communicated to Marianne [Stebbins, the Minnesota Campaign Coordinator for Ron Paul 2008], I hope we can continue to network in some way for future candidates. If anyone has any suggestions on how this networking might be done in a way that's not tied to any one person, including Ron Paul, including Bob Barr, I for one would be interested. It would be a shame to lose the networking that we have started here in this campaign.

Update (Mar 21, 2008 & Mar 22, 2008): More...
Posted Feb 17, 2008, at 1:28 am - I used to argue the same way about my disagreement with Ron Paul on the 14th Amendment. We're only electing a president, not a dictator (knock on wood). I now have changed my mind, particularly after finding Walter Block's 2003 paper at Slavery is not a minor issue. It is the central issue for libertarians, for classical liberals. I understand that Robert Nozick changed his mind about the principle of selling oneself into slavery, with good reason. This is an issue I have worried about for almost 20 years, after attending "Mises University" while I was a grad student at Stanford. I reject the Libertarian Case for Slavery

Are we to dream of states being "free" from the restraints of the 14th Amendment, "free" from the restraints of the Bill of Rights, particularly the Ninth Amendment, free from our Declaration of Independence? Are we to disparage the inalienability of our natural rights, as Block does? We've been there, done that. There's a book that reminds us of this history, Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege": Struggles for Freedom of Expression in American History by Michael Kent Curtis. A central issue leading up to the Civil War was the prohibition of speech by the southern states. One couldn't even hope to change the laws there through political means, since you'd be stopped in your tracks for merely advocating freedom for the slaves.

If you're interested in civil liberties, what do you think of Lew Rockwell's advocacy of "on the spot" "rough justice"? This doesn't sound like due process to me. It sounds like taking the law into one's own hands. Juries are not a minor issue. Combine this with certain overtones, and I sense a disturbing resemblance to some unsavory factions, however clothed with the sweet sounds of liberty. I think of The Ox-Bow Incident.

I hope that Ron Paul agrees with my concerns. I just would like to hear that, but I'm not.

If you could push a button and dissolve the federal government, when it comes to the 14th and 9th Amendments, would you? This would be a mistake. And this is not a minor issue.

Can you name this person who recently spoke at Liberty University? When it came to his "approach to many of the social issues", he said, "The Sanctity of Life Amendment addresses this problem by taking away the jurisdiction from the federal courts. This can be done by a majority vote of the Congress and a signature by the President. ... There's nothing wrong with trying to change our courts which we will and have to someday, but that's a long-term problem. Amending the Constitution is a worthy project, but the fact that we could remove jurisdiction, whether it has to do with public prayer or whether it has to do with saying our pledge of allegiance .... If we could pass state laws, state laws that would stand the scrutiny and yet never be reversed by our federal courts, we could accomplish so much so much sooner and that vehicle is available to us."

Madison wished for a federal veto on state laws. We fought a civil war to establish such a veto when state law violates an individual's rights. I for one don't wish this to be frittered away by playing games with the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, as conservatives are wont to do.

Back to Barr...

Apparently Barr has come around. He now opposes the Drug War. Consider viewing his appearances at the FFF Conference 2007 and at the Commonwealth Club of California. If you have evidence that he does not support the Constitution, please share your evidence. I'd be interested.

Posted Feb 18, 2008, at 1:26 am - First of all, ask people I worked with on the campaign whether or not they think I am speaking in good faith. I wish passionately for the success of the Ron Paul Revolution. The issue nearest and dearest to my heart is Hayek's argument for the denationalisation of money. I'm glad to have heard Ron Paul discuss competing currencies two days ago. It's important that we Americans explore this issue as Milton Friedman and Anna Schwartz recommended back in 1986. When I was a grad student, it was taboo. Now John Stewart brings it up with Alan Greenspan on The Daily Show. Times are a-changing, happily.

The big picture is that the TNR article was devastating for the Ron Paul campaign, and it was not wholly a smear as some in the campaign would prefer to believe. It's important to face this fact. There was a substantial problem there, which many liberty-minded people who've been around for decades trying to move liberty-oriented politics forward were well aware of. Did Lew Rockwell write these newsletter articles? They do match the tone and substance of his disgraceful 1990 manifesto, which I quoted above. The week before the TNR article was published, at a local neighborhood Ron Paul Meetup, I discussed with the precinct captain for the precinct south of mine how I remembered finding Rockwell's writing in the early 90's so disturbing. He quit immediately after the story broke. I gave Paul some time to disassociate himself from Rockwell. A few days later I quit after reading Paul's disappointing response.

I would prefer to speak for myself as to what I am trying to do.

1) I would like to help make the Ron Paul Revolution succeed. Today I happened to leaf through a book by Joseph Ellis on the American Revolution. It's called "American Creation". One interesting point he makes is that our American Revolution was different from other revolutions. Instead of there being one man, we had a brilliant group of people, the founders. One-man revolutions tend to fail catastrophically. Ours plodded along. If we are to renew the American Revolution, which I think this is all about, I think it important that we not place our bets on only one man. That is why the networking is so important. Let's find and encourage capable people to run for office.... Let's brain storm on where to go from here.

2) Let's not be ostriches and hide our heads in the sand. Let's face reality as it is. We may have different opinions about that reality, but let's discuss them together critically.

3) My opinion is that it's game-over for Ron Paul's run for the Republican Party nomination. I do not say this to harm the Ron Paul Revolution. I wish to further it. The harm came from elsewhere, namely the Ron Paul Newsletter and Rockwell's writing. I agreed with Paul's strategy, too, having seen myself how horrendous the obstacles are for third parties.

4) People may disagree, but I'm interested in hearing what people's opinions are who care, and the people who care are here.

5) For those who agree on (3), is there any possible alternative for the presidential campaign? Some have argued that Paul should run as a third-party candidate. Paul cannot if he hopes to retain his congressional seat, from what I understand. The only other alternatives are to vote NOTA, to vote for Obama or McCain, or to vote for a third-party candidate. The only alternative I've seen who's compatible with the Ron Paul Revolution is Bob Barr. Maybe some disagree. Maybe some see other alternatives. The important thing to discuss them, to not sweep the whole unhappy situation under the rug irrationally.

6) Perhaps we can discuss other offices. Fourteen years ago when I was chair of the Legislative Affairs Committee for the Libertarian Party of Minnesota I argued for a strategy focusing on electing Senators (Minnesota Libertarian, State Fair issue, 1994, p. 12). There are reasons for this.

7) Let's learn from our experience. For any campaign to succeed, it is important to assure voters that Lew Rockwell and other vigilantists are to be nowhere near the levers of power. Liberty and vigilantism are opposed. Moreover, vigilantism attracts an unsavory crowd.

8) The Declaration of Independence and the Constitution (yes, including the 14th Amendment) are where it's at when it comes to office-holders. We value "due
process", juries, "habeas corpus", and a "government of law and not of men". It's the flood of legislation that's the problem, not common law. It's the willful, routine sidestepping of the Constitution by office-holders. Can we agree on that?

9) In short, let's discuss where we go from here so that the Ron Paul Revolution succeeds. We may disagree. That's alright.

Posted Feb 19, 2008, at 10:45 pm - ... The Philmore article is actually written ironically. The real author is writing under a pseudonym. His point is to show the absurdity of a libertarianism which attacks the inalienability of rights. Two decades ago I read Nozick's book, Anarchy, State, and Utopia, and loved it, everything EXCEPT his position on self-sale. This is a deep flaw in Nozick's thinking, which apparently he did correct later.

Walter Block, whom Ron Paul mentions prominently in his reply to the TNR article, has written a serious article in which he attacks the inalienability of rights. I included a quote above. Do you not find that disturbing, his justification for whipping a slave into doing what the master wants? What would it take to discredit someone's love of liberty if not that, the advocacy of the ugliest, rawest form of slavery? Here is the full paper.

Before the Civil War there was no political process possible by which the southern states could vote for a 14th Amendment. When you make it illegal to speak or write on an issue, which they did, how can you debate it and move it through a legislature or convention? It isn't possible. That is why there was a war. Secession for liberty is one thing, secession for slavery is another.

The 14th Amendment is there to ensure that states can never outlaw free speech again. Without the 14th Amendment, the 9th Amendment would then only pertain to federal law. As Randy Barnett argues though in Restoring the Lost Constitution, most laws governing everyday life should return to the state level. I agree. What we're seeing is the centralization of legislation at the federal law in matters in which the federal government has no business.

If for whatever reason though, a state becomes tyrannical, there is a clause in the Constitution saying that the federal government can intervene. "The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a Republican Form of Government" People pointed to this before the Civil War when confronted with all the usurpations in the south. Again think of how the southern states tried to have publishers punished who argued for emancipation, and these were publishers in the north (Michael Kent Curtis - Free Speech, "The People's Darling Privilege" - p. 137). When a state attacks its citizens' rights, such as free speech, then the form of that state's government cannot be properly called "republican". This is what the 14th Amendment clarifies. The federal government can step in to ensure that a state respects its citizens' rights. Now we should also have some mechanism for the states to gather together and say enough is enough to the federal government when the federal government attacks its citizens' rights, too. I gave this some thought in the 90's after reading the Virginia and Kentucky Resolutions. Perhaps this needs to be formalized in some manner akin to the 14th Amendment. I don't know...

In short, how do we ensure that the Declaration of Independence lives on at all levels?

But the major point is that we need to stick together. Just throwing up your arms and going back to a bunch of feudal states where anything goes is just going back to the muck that we and our ancestors were trying to escape from. It makes us weak and prone to warring amongst ourselves. I like the story about the legendary founder of the Iroquois Confederacy, who illustrated the point with a bunch of arrows. This is the same bunch of arrows that is loosely held by the eagle in the Great Seal of the United States.

We can stick together, while backing off from the crazy, unconstitutional centralization of power we've witnessed over the past century. I think the image of a loosely held bunch of arrows helps clarify this. They are loosely held, but they are held. I dislike the tight bundles of rods in the Lincoln Memorial, underneath Lincoln's arms. That symbolizes the centralization that took place, which took off in the Wilson administration, from what I've recently read in Jonah Goldberg's new book. Wilson, by the way, was the first post-civil-war Southerner to be elected, as I understand it, bringing with him a taste for Jim Crow laws. See Nicholas Patier's book Jim Crow and the Wilson Administration Notice in that book how the struggle for rights included prominently a fight against peonage and lynching (pp. 25, 125, 129, and 203). Wilson was a disaster. (I'm embarrassed he was president of my college, no less my country.)

Is it not natural then to suspect an organization which prominently advocates vigilantism and "voluntary slavery"? Does this ring a bell? Is there not some cognitive dissonance?

I have a suspicion that there are some who wish to make it possible for states to have authoritarian laws that contravene the Bill of Rights, while talking the good talk of liberty federally.