Fair Liberty’s Call

Posted: September 27, 2011 in Rep. Ron Paul
Tags: , ,

Someone online (on another blog) asked why Jon Stewart of The Daily Show gives any respect to Rep. Ron Paul. I think there are a few important reasons why Stewart gives him airtime where the rest of the MSM does not.

First, Stewart actually agrees with Paul on a few issues such as the dangers to liberty and the wastefulness of the Drug war and the responsibility that individuals should take on for their own behavior. Of course, on many other issues he does not agree and that is made plain in the interview (I watched the extended interviews)>

Second, Paul is a good interview. Interesting, concise and he goes along with various gags that Stewart uses for comedy such as Paul’s head on a Chris Christie’s body or Paul’s face on Palin’s body in front of her bus….Paul good naturedly laughs along with his host. He doesn’t get angry or pout. He goes with the flow, which is crucial during an interview with Stewart.

Third, Paul polls higher within Stewart’s largest age group, the coveted 18 to 34 year olds. So there is some audience pandering going on there.

Fourth, Stewart admires his consistency. As I told the aforementioned commenter, “…his crazy never wavers.”

Lastly and most importantly, Stewart sincerely believes in the importance of constructive dialog in our democratic experiment. He has voiced this believe on many occasions in very serious tones (a routine departure from his comedic riffs). Although much of his satire also makes the same point but in a much more roundabout way, of course.

Let’s not kids ourselves though. As much as I enjoy Stewart’s show, he is just an entertainer and the show isn’t the place to really get into depth about what Paul really means when he touts the all hollowed concept of “liberty”. Nor can Stewart examine the real long-term consequences but he does a damn fine job for all of those limitations.

So I wanted to burrow into things that were said during the two-part interview (now posted online in toto at The Daily Show).

I had to laugh when Ron Paul said very early on, “…some people don’t understand what freedom is all about….” Oh the irony….I love it when supporters of Ron Paul claim he stands for liberty but they can’t explain what they mean by liberty. And that’s what Sen. Ron is accusing his detractors of. Moreover, I think Ron Paul doesn’t understand what freedom in the U.S. means. There is no pure freedom…no liberty without obligation. Perhaps the only time humans ever had this freedom without obligation is when people lived in very small units, perhaps as small as family units–which would have been pre-homo erectus probably. If you think I’m joking, I’m not. Once those family groups began to live near one another (nomadic or sedentary, it didn’t matter) so that they had to compete for common resources, their pure freedom was at an end. That’s where society begins….the competition for commonly accessible resources. It’s where freedom becomes limited, obligations are invented, and by necessity the all important compromise is born (see my lengthy discussions regarding the social contract here and here).

Later Stewart actually said at one point, “Doctors won’t let people die.” I’m sorry but I have to disagree. While it’s true that doctors are made to take the Hippocratic Oath that says they shall first and foremost ‘do no harm’, it is also true that doctor’s violate this each and every day in a myriad of ways both consciously and unconsciously. To think that we could trust doctors in an unregulated healthcare market to treat the ill is absurd. To know the truth of this you only have to look at healthcare in the U.S. in the 1800’s. Only the wealthy and middle class received medical care with any consistency or quality (not that quality was good then for anyone). Then Jon goes on to mention the 1800’s directly refuting his own earlier statement.

Paul believes we actually have a totalitarian healthcare system by the government, drug corporations, etc……I obviously don’t agree. Paul is using the term “totalitarian” incorrectly here and if anyone should know better, he should. While the government has a lot of involvement its control isn’t absolute and it is still restrained by the laws, the process, etc, etc, etc. The very fact that Ron Paul can stand for election in opposition means that there isn’t totalitarian control in the U.S. But try telling that to Libertarians who see bugaboos behind every curtain EXCEPT the free market.

The government plays several different roles and in some cases it hinders the system and in others it has ensured the only care some people can get. So government’s involvement is not total and its outcomes are really a mixed bag. There is room for improvement there for certain. However, drug corporations and malpractice insurers do have a stranglehold on healthcare in a way that should worry and frighten us all.

Later Paul says that regulation in a free market would be tougher. But that makes no sense….a free market has no official regulations. He does mention property rights and uses the example of how a company wouldn’t have the right to pollute the water on your property. However, without someone to monitor the company (you as an individual are going to do that? Sure, you the non-scientist with no expertise and/or no money to hire experts….see how tricky this whole individual regulation responsibility thing becomes…..). The ability of one person to monitor the behavior of a company is problematic to the point of being absurd and untenable.

So let’s say on average the property owner couldn’t do it sufficiently to prevent the pollution. If the water gets polluted first, the land owner would find out usually through being harmed in some way at some point down the line, and then they would have to create a case against that company. Meanwhile the damage is done. The person already hurt. And the civil courts would be deluged with cases. This type of system would also favor the wealthy since attorneys and filing civil cases takes money.

Furthermore under the current system private companies already calculate the cost it would take to prevent damage to consumers versus the cost of having to pay out damages. And they frequently decide that it is cheaper to ask forgiveness later and thus almost always choose that option. How would their attitude change under Paul’s “free market”? It wouldn’t. So instead of having any preventive regulation and monitoring by the government with fines, fees and licensure penalties the companies would have even LESS incentive to exercise preventative care for consumers. Again, the kind of system Paul proposes would never be pre-emptive, offers fewer incentives for companies to behave AND would favor the wealthy. Mind you, I am not saying our government as it is now does a great job but at least its SOMETHING!

Jon makes this point with him, in far fewer words than I do 🙂 and Paul’s answer is to let local governments engage in the tyranny and not D.C. That somehow local governments would be better suited to governing because we as individuals supposedly have more control over the situation. I don’t have any great factual arguments on this point except for one, pseudo-factual argument. And that is I would posit that local leaders are less likely to be capable than national leaders. If I am to go by the idiots and yahoos that are running the state of Arizona into the ground (or many of the local yahoos that are running many other states and municipalities into the ground) then they certainly aren’t any better than what we have on offer in D.C. Furthermore, I feel that I have as little say in my local governance as I do in my national governance. I also feel that corruption is much worse locally than it is on a national level.

However, a more important point about this “local governance” that Paul favors is that it harkens back to a time when the states were very autonomous entities that developed their own currencies, their own civil rights, their own treaties with foreign agents and their right to secede at any time. This position of Paul’s reveals something crucial about Libertarian thought. They essentially want to return the u.S. to how it existed during the American Revolution. Do we as a country want to return to a time when women and African-Americans could not vote nor own land? Do we want to return to a time when they all had different currencies, completely different economies, and different trade agreements meaning dangerous competitive interests?* The Civil War, was in part, a tale of two regions divided by their way of life….their feelings and need for slavery primarily. However that life, the Southern way, was so dependent on slavery as to make any threat to that institution ane fight for the South’s survival. Not to excuse their actions, however it does make the idea of states with very different economies competing for resources and developing in very different ways a very unpalatable thought after all. Can we afford to let the states diverge to such a great degree again?

There are other problems with the “local tyrants” idea. If you are a student of history you would know (at least SHOULD know) that the loose confederation of colonies that prosecuted the war for independence was a train wreck. First, this glorious experiment of ours barely survived its birth. If not for luck….yes, plain, good old-fashioned luck and some good geography (yes, something we also lucked out on) we would not have won the war against the British. We didn’t win our independence because the union of states was anything that actually worked well in our common defense and we didn’t win it due to Washington’s military brilliance. Read the history…not the conservative versions….the most objective versions of the history available.

Second, the loose conglomeration of states was horrible at raising money to fund even the most basic common functions. In fact, they frequently did not fund the Army properly and our poor soldiers froze for lack of shoes, starved until they boiled and ate their own boots, etc. Furthermore, the failure to raise funds, even after we’d won the war, caused the army to meet in semi-secret and plot a rebellion of their own. In fact a group of officers gathered and threatened to defy Congress if they didn’t get reimbursed. George Washington addressed the gathering and headed off a military coup.

Third, the colonies were still oriented toward wanting strong federal leadership, many going so far as to ask for a new King. Regardless of how much independence the colonies said they wanted, they were also wont to desire strong leadership particularly in the form of a single person. Having come from a tradition of authoritarianism, i.e., hereditary kingship, there were many in the various colonies that asked Washington to become a king himself. This was only thwarted by others throughout the various colonies who did not want to continue with such a government and Washington’s own reticence to replace the King that he had fought so hard against. My point here being that even if we went back to very independent states, that would never stop the ambitions of men and the longing for central strong leadership and authoritarian rulers would still continue to raise its ugly head. So Paul’s assertion that the loose conglomeration of states would help prevent this isn’t correct. In fact, I would posit the opposite. The competition of the states with one another would produce some states as richer than others (particularly without the sharing of revenue from federal taxation) and those states would then leverage that power over others, giving rise to a situation where a state or a leader from such a state could and would take advantage of the situation to become quite authoritarian.

Fourth, does it matter where your tyrant resides? It does to Ron Paul. He says he’d rather have a local tyrant or tyrants than a monolithic one like the Federal government. Here again, history can be our teacher. There was a saying by British Loyalists that went like this, “I would rather have one tyrant 3000 miles away than 3000 tyrants one mile away.” Loyalists liked the protection and stature afforded by being part of the British Empire while having limited freedom from too much oversight by the King who was really prevented from exercising control due to the oceanic separation. It’s the opposite viewpoint from Paul, obviously.

My question, and its one posed by Stewart during his interview, is why do you have to choose between tyrants? Can’t we have a balance where we have no tyrants at all? Isn’t that precisely what the Founding Fathers were trying to create? They created a representative democracy that was not subject to the whims of the masses but also not dominated to the point of tyranny by an elite class.** They added Congress and the Judicial Branches to balance against the Executive to avoid emplacement of a King, etc, etc. I won’t belabor this point. We have a roadmap for the in-between path. It’s very difficult to tread and we HAVE gone too far toward tyranny. What Libertarians and I disagree on, is how far we’ve gone down the road toward tyranny and who the tyrants actually are.

Fifth, it is the year 2011. We know more now than we did before (FSM I hope). We have different technologies and their implications on liberty than the Founding Fathers had to deal with. Going backward to that previous state of being is ill-advised. Our current challenges would only be exacerbated added to the same challenges we had with that type of governance before.

No, Ron Paul is a good interviewee and he is definitely entertaining. But, as Jon Stewart respectfully and briefly illustrated during his show last night, Paul has nothing to really offer the U.S. except for a different and interesting perspective that may help clarify positions but does not, in the end, specify a roadmap of any real use.

Notes:

*Yes, the states currently compete against one another, often raiding companies from the other and Governors brag of their accomplishments. However there is a difference between the competition of today is a matter of degree. Back in the early days of the Union, each state was trying its best to survive. Indeed some territories that tried to become states did not and others states were split up…given to others who formed states later. It wasn’t some clean, nice and friendly competition. It was in earnest and it wasn’t pretty and it set us up for the ugliness that was to come in the Civil War.

**Granted they did limit who could vote to white men owning property. However, that in and of itself was a reform and too many people forget that. They were allowing the common man to have a voice a vote that carried no more and no less weight than the man who owned huge tracts of land with multiple houses and hundreds of slaves. They added the Senate to balance against the House which would be too subject to constant electioneering and thus too vulnerable to the winds of public mood.

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Comments
  1. alopecia says:

    I’m not above quoting myself. I said it over at Nicole’s place and I’ll say it here: if the no-taxers and glibertarians (I’ll put Ron Paul in that category, by the way, because of his hand-waving dismissal of any and all objection) got their wish and found themselves transported to their no-tax, no-government paradise, they’d all be skinned and eaten by the end of day three.

  2. drangedinaz says:

    Alo, Nah I think Ron is too stringy to be much of a meal. His son, Aqua Buddha, however…..I think one could make a meal out of him. Joking aside, I agree. I know some libertarian individuals who wouldn’t last very long in their supposed free market utopia. Funny you should mention “skinning and eating” because my moniker for their utopia is “Lord of the Flies”. Great minds think alike!

  3. alopecia says:

    I actually had Reavers in mind rather than Lord of the Flies (“If they take the ship, they’ll rape us to death, eat our flesh, and sew our skins into their clothing. And if we’re very, very lucky, they’ll do it in that order.”), but it works either way.

  4. drangedinaz says:

    Oh, very nice “brown coat” reference! Speaking of, I am considering getting a tattoo of the symbol on the ship that supposedly means “serenity”.

  5. alopecia says:

    According to my two translation widgets, the ideograms used for the movie are correct. (Which doesn’t surprise me, given that Whedon had a full-time person—who, in turn, took advantage of multiple contacts in Taiwan—doing the Cantonese translations on Firefly. It’s a detail everyone would be careful to get right.) However, if it were my skin, I’d be seeking out a native Chinese speaker or three for confirmation before committing to anything more permanent than a rub-on.

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