Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ron Paul regression

First, let's clear the air:

Dr. Paul has a lot of awesome things to say. I fancy myself somewhat of a libertarian myself -- I strongly support free trade and believe that it is the greatest possible good to the most amount of people. You can't artificially enhance wealth in one area without hurting someone else. You must allow those who have the ability and capital to put it to work and only then are you most likely to improve the people in the poorest bracket (here or abroad). Wealth is not a static number that has to be smoothed out over a large number of people -- all that does is create a large number of poor people. Rather, wealth is created! It is alive and holds potential for more wealth -- I don't believe Jesus was just talking about divine justice when he talked about more being given to the haves. It makes complete sense when you talk about to parable of the talents -- wisdom does not let resources lie dormant.

And now for three crucial problems with Dr. Paul (let's limit ourselves).

First, free trade does not happen in a vacuum. But if I have heard the good doctor correctly, that's the practical result of his logic. He seems to do just fine when talking about the problems with our own government meddling in private enterprise, but as soon as foreign influence is added to the equation, he seems to become a protectionist in spite of himself. Sure he has the same goal as I do -- to keep trade unhindered -- but the result of his proposals would completely stymie the global economy, or at least any investment the U.S. could reasonably make to remain competitive in the global economy. Paul seems oppose pretty much every single "treaty" we are a part of -- basically because they require some kind of subordination. What treaty doesn't, and yet the constitution provides for them. The irony is that we don't participate in a myriad of them out there (International Criminal Court for one) and those that we do (WTO), we often end up bucking anyway -- just ask the Canadians in the softwood lumber dispute. Treaties and mitigating bodies are usually made to discourage protectionism (tariffs), which just hurts everybody.

And moving on to the second problem...


If Ron Paul were able to map out exactly what this means, then I would be impressed. Because so far, all I've heard is isolationism -- the same brand that gave us WWII.

Call this the basic foreign policy problem. The idea that we can be passive and never get into any trouble is to deny both reality and history. Paul and Co. cite our our first foreign policy (which they also confuse with the original intent of the constitution) as mandating nonintervention (isolation), a gospel principle that means we can never, no matter what the times, think outside our borders. The problem is that we haven't had a policy like that since the Monroe Doctrine gave us a boast in the world. Besides which, we also are faced with the facts that precipitated WWII. One has only to remember Neville Chamberlain's pronouncement that we had achieved "peace in our time" after giving way to Hitler's demands -- and you know the rest of the story.

Additionally, Mr. Paul complains that "often we give foreign aid and intervene on behalf of governments that are despised." This is indeed true. But to make blanket statements about individual decisions made by multiple administrations with different state departments over a period of several decades, and say you are going to do different *breath* is rubbish. Foreign policy mistakes are inevitable because everyone is hated by someone. You CANNOT make everyone happy by minding your own business and then expect to have a free trade going on.

The third problem with Paul is the one that should be staring everyone in the face -- and ultimately will keep him from getting elected. To be exact he promotes getting rid of the CIA, IRS, et al. Normally this would be something that piques my interest. But try to find a coherent explanation of how this would work (or even a carefully dealt with reason for doing it in the first place), and one comes up short. Granted we all have our frustrations with these various departments and organizations (and I won't even get into all of them), but the fact is, you can't sit back and say "shoot em all" without telling me you have a better idea -- you can't even guarantee that you wouldn't just come up with a worse abuser of power!

I'm going to let this one fly now, having had only sporadic moments over the last month when I could sit and chew on it. I'm trying to keep it as simple as possible in the process, so bear with me.

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Anonymous N. Pannbacker said...

Ron Paul has mapped out exactly what noninterventionism means. It means what it meant to the founders - who cannot be accused of isolationism! It means having friendly relations with other nations but avoiding entangling alliances. It means paying close attention to national sovereignty and examining things from a critical perspective to ensure that it is not being encroached. It means using persuasion where possible and example where persuasion fails.

Ron Paul's an author. He's even written a book on foreign policy. It's one of his core competencies. His view is not just more nuanced than isolationism - which is defined as withdrawing from contact with all other nations - it's far different. Noninterventionism means expanding diplomatic contact with all nations while reducing entanglements with them.

That aspect, the expanding diplomatic contact, is the key difference which makes them so incomparable. Japan and China are two states which were once isolationist. They didn't speak to foreign dignitaries unless those 'dignitaries' kowtowed or other humiliating measures. Even then it was rare that they deigned to engage in diplomatic contact.

This is radically different from the 'good relations and trade with all' that noninterventionism demands.

It's nice to see reasonable eloquence on the blogosphere. I hope this helps. Sorry I didn't address all of your points. Time constrains me.

7:38 AM, December 19, 2007  

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