Monday, May 16, 2011

Why we need Ron Paul

By Capt. Fogg

I rather hope Ron Paul becomes the Republican presidential candidate in the next election. It's true that I agree with some of what he says, some of it quite strongly and it's true that I disagree as well and just as passionately, but if he is Barack Obama's challenger, the nature and tone of the debates and the wider campaign will have to address some fundamental assumptions that always are ignored. One of the many fundamentals that separate the left from the new right is the ranking of rights in our society. Paul asserts what most of his party would rather hide beneath heaps of polemical hyperbole: that Property rights are the basis of freedom and being thus fundamental, must not be abridged for the common good.

I'm one of those people, you see, who thinks all ethics, or at least all ethical judgements are situational and that what we like to call fundamentals is an abstract construct, a bit like Euclidean geometry, which is immune from other, perhaps decisive factors. Parallel lines do indeed intersect in a universe with curvature and morally clear decisions become less clear when they have to cope with the purpose of morality and ethics.

Speaking to Chris Matthews last week, Representative Ron Paul (R-TX) declared that he would not have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act -- not because he's a racist, and to be sure he says he would have desegregated government institutions like schools, but because the rights of property owners are fundamental to our basic freedoms; freedoms that our constitution implies, property rights are rights inherently and independently fundamental as they stand. Is he insisting that those with no property have fewer or no rights? That's up to him to clarify and I expect he would like the opportunity.

“I believe that property rights should be protected,”

says the man from Texas. Who would disagree when presented in the abstract? But life isn't an abstract thing and may I defend building a nuclear waste dump next to Manhattan because of that declared axiom? Are property rights part of a constellation of rights all designed by humans to make human life free of certain abuses? Are rights, like Newton's laws, fundamental or descriptive? If they are things invented by the people and for the people, to what purpose were they invented; to protect the one against the many or the many against the one or both? Do they apply equally at all points on the long curve or are only around the middle where we experience things?

I'm sure Paul would have to admit with liberals, that there are limits to "fundamental" rights, but just what those are and for what reason those limits are put there, needs to be dragged out of the cave and into the light. Do rights exist for the benefit of people and if so does the right of one man always trump the right of every man? Are we here for the law or is the law here for us? Do the rights of all really flow from the rights of an individual or are individual rights sometimes an impediment? If there is an impediment to that road to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness, must 300 million of us endure it so that the abstract right of one may be protected? Yes, that's extreme, but as with Newton's laws, it's the extremes that absolutes are shown not to be so absolute. In short, can Libertarian theory produce a country that any of us will want to live in - in whole or in part?

(Of course if I were to debate him, I would, in my quasi-deconstructionist way ask him what he means by property and whether that question isn't more fundamental because without asking that, defending property rights can defend slavery or rape and some slightly worse things.)

We need to talk about it. We've been stuck at this point for too long. These concerns aren't new and they aren't going away and we all need to rethink our opinions at a fundamental level as a regular practice. I think Paul and Obama are both well qualified to do it and will do it -- and if we have to endure another hysterical fugue about flag pins and death panels and birth certificates and Communism aimed at the stupidest elements of the population; lies and slander and tactical statements of opinion that a moment may reverse - - well let's just say that the civil war doesn't need to be fought this way again.

(cross posted to Human Voices)

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  • I think your question has a simple answer. Your rights only go so far as they don't violate the equal rights of others.

    All you have to do is read up on tenents libertarianism and you won't even need to ask Ron Paul the questions as you'll know his answers.

    In the case of your example of the waste dump, the owner of the property is certainly violating the rights of others if (and it will) any pollution escapes his property and does harm to anothers.

    Laws are there to punish this person if he/she does harm to others. They are a detterant to similar behavior.

    Laws that punish people for acts that they have commited which violated the rights of others are aspects of a good government. However; laws that apply prior restriant or attempt to keep people from doing things whether or not they will hurt others are aspects of bad government.

    Gun control is a good example of prior restraint; and remember, to a libertarian, the object of the restraint is unimportant, so long as the restraint is applied. You are required to get a federal background check BEFORE you may exercise your second amendment rights. Even though you haven't hurt anyone and don't plan to, you must beg permission from the government to exercise the right. If the same were applied to free speech, we would all be bound and gagged and would need to seek government permission to speak about anything the government may or may not like.

    Let's go to the 1964 Civil Rights Act to give you a better definition on the meaning of property for the libertarian. Firstly, the Jim Crow laws implemented by many states and local governments were blatently unconstiutional, wrong and morally reprehensable. Among other things, that's because the government must abide by the constitution and the Bill of Rights. The private property owner does NOT need to abide by the BoR as it only restricts government. That's why you can moderate your own blog (you don't need to abide the 1a), may search your children for contraband (no need to abide by the 4a) and force them to tell you the truth about something through coercion(5a).

    You can see the can of worms it would open up if you needed to abide by the entire BoR on your property.

    A person has NO right to anyone elses property. If you don't like their rules DON'T GO THERE. Libertarians would find government enforced anti-smoking rules on private property wrong as well. Once again, if you don't like it, don't go there.

    What about FEMA or Social Security? Private property again comes into play. You have no right to my property. In taking someones tax dollars living on a mountain in Colorado to pay for someone elses beach house that was blown down in a hurricane the government is STEALING. If I walked up to you and forced you to give me 50 bucks on the street it would still be exactly the same thing. No matter how morally justified it seems it's still stealing, taking of private property.

    So, private property is not only land, it is your land, your dwelling, your money, and any of your personal belongings. Anything that you gained through fruits of your own labor.

    In short, just because you don't like something doesn't make it your right. You don't have a right to "feel comfortable" or take anyone's property because you feel you (or someone else) needs it more. Without property rights, the very fabric of our nation breaks down.

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 2:43 PM  

  • Nobody is attacking property rights here although I'm hinting that all rights have limits and responsibilities attached, but that's not what the post is about. It's about reality as reality is not as it's portrayed by political theorists with a portfolio to sell.

    I'm suggesting Paul as a candidate simply because such questions need to be presented openly and not in the way they've been presented: as a litany of abstract axioms which fails to address such important things as how the government addresses disasters, for instance.
    Some have suggested that the government should let New Orleans drown a second time rather than flood some farmland. Property rights are at odds here and the problem isn't looking for slogans, but for solutions. Is drown baby drown really what we want? We need to talk about specifics.

    Do we really spend much time thinking about how daily life would be for different people in a country with a minimalist government? We need to before shooting the horse and jumping on a jackass.

    After all Communism looks great on paper and so do many things that don't work. Those who sell it never talk about the fatal flaws. Are there fatal flaws in Libertarianism? Unintended consequences? Is it open to abuse? Are you sure? What really does work may not be so easy to sum up in glorious phrases or gilt edged principles.

    There needs to be a debate and so far we've just had a lot of bellicose recitation of credos. Paul is a forthright person if nothing else and if he represents what the nucleus of the GOP really believes, I want it all out in the open.

    By Blogger Capt. Fogg, at 10:02 AM  

  • I posted above.

    Firstly, history teaches us that limited government actually worked very very well in this country for a long time until the power was usurped by the federal government in a few unconstitutional supreme court decisions.

    I'm having a hard time getting on the same page as you here because (and I'm not trying to be insulting) you don't seem to understand that what was written above doesn't consist of slogans or "gilt edged principles" they are libertarian tenants. If you understand them and understand that liberty is held in the highest regard, against which all is judged then you can decide what a libertarian would say about a particular law or subject. We're not that hard to understand. It doesn't require you to have the same beliefs as it uses simple black and white logic. I always say that people are free to disagree with my beliefs but there is no excuse for not understanding them in the context of a logic based structure.

    I honestly believe you need to read a little more into the concept of property rights, some Locke, Jefferson, and the specific reasons that the U.S. Constitution was written the way it was. After all, many of our founders were students of Locke and "classic" liberals. Jefferson was very close to a modern day libertarian; in fact, I find it hard to disagree with him.

    My problem with our discourse is not only that however; because we can't talk about what we'd like to do about natural disasters and the like as libertarians WITHOUT entering into the theoretical minimalist government because it DOESN'T exist in this country as it once did. In other words, the answers I would give you are different in our current welfare state vs the ideal. We unfortunately have to live with things that violate libertarian principles for a bit as the government would get scaled back to it's proper size.

    Paul has said as much and talks about phasing out social security (obviously we've made a promise to older generations that we must keep)and then keeping it in place ONLY if it's optional.

    As for morality, which you seem to be hinting at you could check this out:

    Unfortuately, Paul doesn't represent the nucleus of what the GOP really believes but rather what they used to believe before the neocons and other pseudo-republicans took over the party. That's why he didn't get the nomination in 08 and will have a heck of a time in 12. That being said, each time he runs people come around a little more to his way of thinking.

    If we don't get someone like him in soon this country is going to go down the tubes in our lifetime.

    I'd like to add that I'm glad you posted this article and are giving this some serious thought.

    By Anonymous Jinx, at 4:19 PM  

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