The most notorious moment in the Republican presidential debate the other night revealed something about Ron Paul the “liberty” candidate’s idea of what freedom actually means to him. Clearly some vociferous audience members, presumably members of the Tea Party, think they define it similarly, but I don’t think all Americans do or would. Continue reading
To understand Paul’s third principle for a free society (“Justly acquired property is privately owned by individuals and voluntary groups, and this ownership cannot be arbitrarily voided by governments”), it would be helpful to understand his theory of justice.
One thing seems absolutely certain: it isn’t the same as John Rawls’ theory. In fact, without being explicit about its debt, Paul’s theory, based on what I sussed out of it in the previous two posts, bears a lot of resemblance to Robert Nozick’s anti-Rawlsian theory of justice formulated in Anarchy, State and Utopia.
Full disclosure: I haven’t read Rawls or Nozick. Does this disqualify me from commenting on the ideas I’ve read about from them? I leave that up to my readers. I’m going to plow ahead because I think it’s necessary to discuss Nozick’s idea of “distributive justice” (i.e., how “justly” resources are distributed among individuals) to understand Paul’s. Continue reading
I want to spend a little more time on the notion in Paul’s third principle that “justly acquired property” is “privately owned,” which implies that government (or public) property can only be unjustly acquired. I suspect the primary libertarian principle at work here is “taxation is theft,” a right-wing perversion (or theft, if you will) of Proudhon’s original libertarian socialist principle that “property is theft.”
It seems to me a bit sneaky of Paul not to put his cards flat on the table and admit that that is precisely his meaning here, if that is his meaning. Of course it would open him wide up to the charge of supreme hypocrisy for having accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars over the years of “unjustly acquired” income as a representative to the Congress from his district in Texas. Continue reading
Back to the critique of Ron Paul’s libertarian principles that I began with this post. We’re onto principle number 3:
3. Justly acquired property is privately owned by individuals and voluntary groups, and this ownership cannot be arbitrarily voided by governments.
[Aside: There's that word "voluntary" with groups (associations) again! ]
As I’ve shown in my previous critiques, Paul’s principles are half-baked by-products of social contract theory. They want to assert that rights precede government (which even social contract philosophers have to take on faith) and then do away with the government that those philosophers posited as a necessary evil for preserving those rights in society with other individuals. Really? Do away with the government, you might ask? Doesn’t Paul, like Jefferson, for example, just want to keep the government to a size that isn’t able to overwhelm the individual with its potentially arbitrary and despotic power? I would argue that the way these principles are phrased–and this one in particular is a very good example–Paul seeks to postulate a society that operates according to natural rights, with or without a government. He seems to believe that rights in themselves, if we would only just respect them, are sufficient for self-government.
I received an interesting comment from Jan C on the previous post which I’d like to respond to in part here. There’s a lot to unpack in Jan’s comment, so I may take another post to elaborate on the question of “property” vs. “possession” and “use” vs. “usury.” But here I want to address a crucial point Jan made about “the commons” and “the individual.”