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.”
Continuing the discussion I began here and continued here, in this installment, I present for your consideration more of the debate I participated in nearly a decade ago over the inherent contradiction in the term “anarcho”-capitalism.
I should say a little more about why this debate remains relevant. If you listen to the rhetoric of some of the “intellectuals” in the Republican party, you will hear echoes of “anarcho”-capitalism’s sacred principles: private property is a natural right; the state is an impediment to freedom; taxation is theft; freedom to associate with persons of one’s choosing is a natural right. Ron Paul‘s Ten Principles of a Free Society almost reads like a Ten Commandments for anarchos. It’s not surprising given that Paul is a Libertarian and “anarcho”-capitalism is also a product of Libertarian philosophizing, is, in fact, Libertarianism taken over the side of the slippery slope. Paul and his son Rand are far from the only Libertarianism-espousing politicians in power. One other very powerful Libertarian in the Republican party is Wisconsin Congressman Paul Ryan, whose budget aims to dump social welfare programs from the government’s repertoire of services for the citizenry. These ideas are as close as they’ve ever been to America’s power center. Are we all comfortable with that? Continue reading
Continuing from my last post, here reproduced are excerpts from the Usenet debates I had in the summer and fall of 2002, mostly, with self-described “anarcho”-capitalists. The original argument concerned “rights” and “freedom,” but it quickly led, as most debates with “anarchos” go, to the question of property. As I mentioned yesterday, these issues, I believe, lie at the very heart of the debates going on presently over the debt-ceiling (actually over revenues vs. spending) in Congress and the media. But you won’t hear our pundits or politicians for the most part bring it down to the very ground it all springs from. Continue reading
In the wake of September 11, 2001 and continuing through the lead-up to the Iraq War and into 2003, I was involved in an intense debate on several political Usenet groups (my involvement in political Usenet, actually, goes back to the Clinton-Lewinsky scandal of 1997-1998), in which there was a clique of rabidly right wing libertarians holding forth on what they called “anarcho-capitalism.” Many believe that the only logical conclusion to right libertarianism (and to history, actually) is capitalism completely unfettered by government. In a sense, they’re right (except for the history part): If you think government is bad for business and you think business is the best way to distribute resources, then the best government is no government at all. Of course a lot of Libertarians believe government is necessary to provide for the defense of business interests, but the anarchos would argue that if businesses need to be defended, they should do it themselves. Abolish government, they say, abolish borders, open all the world to capitalism. Let the market determine the value of everything. Continue reading