Ron Paul's unexpected ascendency in the Republican Party is going to tip off this dialog in the popular press about "Libertarianism" that already has my eyes rolling.
I recommend this article not because I think it does a good job articulating the problem with Ron Paul, but because it gets off a couple of zingers that I do strongly empathize with, such as this:
It irks me that, as far as most Americans are concerned, Ron Paul is the alpha and omega of the libertarian creed. If you were an evil genius determined to promote the idea that libertarianism is a morally dubious ideology of privilege poorly disguised as a doctrine of liberation, you'd be hard pressed to improve on Ron Paul...
I am personally interested in individual liberty. That attracts me to the Libertarian party - who claim to be interested in the same thing and whose think tanks sometimes write good papers on the subject.
Unfortunately, its a bad relationship for me, because, after years of talking to libertarians, I don't think that most of them are really all that interested in individual liberty.
They're basically just interested in not being taxed.
Some think its immoral that they should be taxed because its just like theft. Others have read elaborate rationalizations that trying to build a healthy society is counterproductive and you should just stop worrying about other people and enjoy your money. Whatever the reason, all these people care about is low taxes.
Individual liberty is more complicated than having low taxes. Individual liberty has to do with things like having a right to freedom of speech and being secure against unreasonable searches and seizures and having the right to vote and a guarantee of equal protection under the law. Only a small minority of libertarians care about those things. Most are indifferent, some are actively hostile, and almost none understand the specific policy issues involved or take personal action in support of those issues.
Ergo, we have Ron Paul. Ron Paul is openly hostile to the 14th amendment's guarantee that state governments won't violate the individual rights of people. He is someone who applies the political philosophy of the oligarchy that controlled the 19th century South to modern political issues. He is a principled man, which is more than can be said for a lot of people in politics. Sometimes his principals even lead to desirable results. But ultimately, his principals come from the time before the internal combustion engine, and were discredited in that time, by people we should regard as comparably primitive.
If THEY could think around this but YOU can't - perhaps you're not thinking.
No reasonable understanding of "individual liberty" can be framed through the lens of the political rationalizations of the Slave Power. It was a caste system that had as its central features the violent oppression of people, a total lack of social mobility, and an absence of basic political freedoms and enfranchisement. It was an oligarchy of about 300,000 people who oppressed millions.
How could a movement associated with "individual liberty" become aligned with THAT?
The answer is because they don't actually care about "individual liberty." They just care about lower taxes.
Libertarians have done a terrible job countering the widespread suspicion that theirs is a uselessly abstract ideology of privilege for socially obtuse adolescent white guys.
Libertarians cannot simultaneously have "individual liberty" and Ron Paul. But they do have Ron Paul, and they are about to be associated with him in the national conciousness in a permanent way.
Therefore, it has come time to start pointing out that "libertarianism" has nothing to do with "individual liberty."
Individual liberty is more complicated than having low taxes.