Treating Sunk Costs As Sunk

Call it schadenfreude, but I gleefully cheer a little inside as more and more big name (well, big to me, at least) libertarians come out against Ron Paul. Here's Will Wilkinson's witty take:

To my mind, the people who are trying to salvage something of Paul’s reputation are just making themselves look bad. No matter how much money, time, and devotion you’ve given to someone, sometimes the only right thing to do is spit on the ground and walk away, hurting. If it wasn’t before, it is now clear that this just isn’t a man who deserves decent people’s support.

I had hoped Paul would do more good than harm for libertarianism, inspiring lots of college kids to get interested in the ideas of liberty. But now I’m pretty certain that he’s done a lot of harm, causing many people to associate libertarianism with racist cranks. I think it’s pretty important then to publicize the fact that there are genuinely liberal versions of libertarianism out there. The young people who got interested in libertarian ideas through Paul need to be able to find Cato, Reason, the IHS, and other places where one can learn about classical liberalism, which isn’t about keeping the Mexicans out, deploring the abolition of slavery, or hoarding gold.

Hate to say "I told you so" to all the Ron Paul supporters... actually, that's a blatant lie, I love saying it. It's time to pull the plug on the Ron Paul "Revolution" nonsense and mercifully deliver it a much needed late-term abortion. Big ups to the Beltway, major hate to the Paleos.

Update: Well, you can't get a much bigger Beltway name than the Boaz-man himself, second to perhaps only the Kochtopus (well, maybe third after the Kochtopus and Palmer) on the Paleo shit-list. Oh, what a glorious day. Perhaps this will be the final straw for all the remaining decent people to cut their ties with the Paleos? Probably not, but one can hope.

If you haven't read Boaz's piece yet, go do so. In a word: Pwned.

Update II: For the record, I still think Paul is a decent person, who simply didn't, doesn't, but will soon enough understand how poisonous association with racism can be politically (perhaps because he knows more about Texas politics than national politics?), and didn't understand that it is far more politically poisonous to be aligned with racists than to admit to a lack of oversight over ghostwriters. Not that innocent naiveté and lack of oversight are especially admirable qualities for a man running for leader of the free world.

Remember what Nietzsche said about fighting monsters and gazing into the abyss? That playing the political game tends to make you dirty is one of the best reasons not to play the political game in the first place. As a great libertarian theorist once said, "Screw you guys, I'm going home."

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While I love saying

While I love saying I-told-you-so, as opposed to I-didn't-see-it-coming, I would have still preferred to be listened to in the first place, or proven wrong.

The piece you're quoting though makes a weak case.

- What's "liberal libertarianism"?

- What's a crank? I support a stateless society, to most people I am a crank. I don't like crankiness accusations. While most cranks are wrong, the people who are very right generally turn out to be "cranks". Truth is on the fringe.

- What's with the hostility to the gold standard. While not an intrinsic part of liberalism, it might be today the most pragmatic solution to put a limit government on the governmental power on money.

- How does Ron Paul deplore the abolition of slavery? Lysander Spooner whose abolitionist cred' is undisputable also blamed Lincoln for the war, and supported the secession movement.

 

While there are very valid reasons to attack Ron Paul, this "witty take" isn't witty at all.

 

 

Edit: on the original blog post, two points are mentionned which are in my opinion much more relevant. Ron Paul's fixation on sovereignty and his fetishism for the constitution.

Hate to say...

Hate to say "I told you so" to all the Ron Paul supporters...

I believe the phrase you're looking for is "I warned you!"

;-)

 KipEsquire, A Stitch in Haste

Hip vs. Radical Libertarians

"Big ups to the Beltway, major hate to the Paleos."

Is that the dichotomy we must accept? Anyway, the best thing about the Paleos is their consistent opposition to foreign intervention.

"The young people who got interested in libertarian ideas through Paul need to be able to find Cato, Reason, the IHS, and other places where one can learn about classical liberalism, which isn’t about keeping the Mexicans out, deploring the abolition of slavery, or hoarding gold."

Well, Cato and IHS are much larger and more mainstream than Mises U., so they ought to have an easier time finding them.

I've been to both Mises U. and IHS, and IHS is far more milquetoast on issues of war, imperialism, history and minarchism/anarchism. I think to the more hardcore libertarians, especially those outraged by the mass abolition of life itself known as war, this puts Mises U. at an advantage. Now if only the Independent Institute would hold larger conferences. People have pointed out how I.I. is sort of the best of both worlds.

And I agree with Arthur: Who is deploring the abolition of slavery?

Is that the dichotomy we

Is that the dichotomy we must accept?

No, it was written tongue-in-cheek. As I've said before, Paleos' use of the term "Beltway" to describe the Cato/Reason/IHS types they dislike is especially ridiculous when used to criticize the Beltway libertarians' lack of support for a U.S. Congressman running for President. What could be more "Beltway" than that? But hell, I don't really mind it much. I plan to move to D.C. after I graduate to live and work in that libertarian scene, so I can't complain about being lumped together with such great institutions as the aforementioned triumvirate.

And I see the milquetoastiness of IHS as a feature, not a bug. Inforcing ideological uniformity entails devolving into a cult, ala Ayn Rand's inner circle. I'll take the minarchist, pro-interventionist deviationism of Beltway libertarians over the not-so-thinly veiled racism, homophobia, goldbug-crankism, evolution-denial, fundamentalist Christianity and Confederacy apologetics of the Paleo alternative any day of the week.

Ah.

"And I see the milquetoastiness of IHS as a feature, not a bug. Inforcing ideological uniformity entails devolving into a cult, ala Ayn Rand's inner circle. I'll take the minarchist, pro-interventionist deviationism of Beltway libertarians over the not-so-thinly veiled racism, homophobia, goldbug-crankism, evolution-denial, fundamentalist Christianity and Confederacy apologetics of the Paleo alternative any day of the week."

I see. I should clarify what I mean by milquetoastiness. It isn't so much a watered down version of libertarian arguments regarding war, imperialism and the like, but the lack of much discussion on those matters at all. Looking at the various themes of the IHS functions last summer, I saw none on the topic of foreign policy of the military sort, unless it was about foreign aid and globalization. So I mean by "milquetoast" the avoidance of, well, tough issues. For instance, Mises U. held a conference on Fascism, with a graphic that included FDR in the pantheon of Fascist leaders. Now THAT is strong stuff. That isn't enforcing ideological rigidity, but simply applying what is supposed to be classical liberal ideas (espoused by IHS) to figures in a way that is unpopular.

I'm less offended by an ineffectual racist, homophobe, or, god forbid, believer in creationism, than I am a supporter of the murder and bullying of human beings (if this be a euphemism for "intervention") and the extension of US territorial hegemony and the subversion of grassroots democracy abroad. CATO's hosting of the Georgian government, supposedly to congratulate them on advancing Human Rights(!), soon after Sakashvili's illiberal crackdown was rather telling.

180 degrees from me

What I disagree with the 'paleos' on most is their views on war and 'imperialism', though I disagree with them quite a bit. Overall, I'm much inclined toward the reasoning of CATO-style libertarians.

... it always astonishes me

... it always astonishes me how some libertarians can be OK with war. War is far worse than taxes for example. Stealing is one thing but killing is in another league. If there's something libertarianism should  tell us is that the use of physical force is generally a bad thing. It is  bad morally and it is inefficient economically. War, as opposed to police intervention, is  the mass murder of innocent people, it's not OK.

As for the paleos, I have two problems with them

- they are sometimes value-libertarians (i.e. they  associate defence of libertarianism with the defence of a certain set of values... but most libertarians do that unfortunately)

- they believe there is a social contract among the tax-payers that give them a right to decide the use of public property.

 

By the way, since Massachussets is one of the socialist stronghold in the US, I asked the Chinese Air force to free the inhabitants from their state government. They'll raze Boston in an hour, but it's all for the greater good you won't die in vain.

It's not that I'm 'OK' with war

It's that going to war is not a one-way decision. There's a game-theoretic aspect to war. You can be against war all you like, yet if your opponent isn't against war, you die.

But that's not my main point of conflict. Rather, it's bigger than that. It's a mechanistic theory about source of suffering. It's the paleo view that the US govt is responsible for all sorts of hardship that goes on in the the rest of the world. They have a grand unified theory of suffering, and it usually comes back to US intervention. But they ignore other historical, and cultural factors to make the facts fit their grand unified theory.

The razing of Boston is a strawman argument. If all wars were of that nature, then sure, I'd agree that all wars are bad. It's when you get into more difficult questions that the discussion really begins. If Boston were ruled by Kim Jong Il, and other Bostonians and I were starving, forced into hard labor, and being tortured, I'd cheer for the Chinese Air Force to do their minimal to overthrow the Kim Jong Il, even if it meant a chance of my own death.

BTW, I was against the Iraq War.

I do agree with being value-neutral is the best libertarian position, or at least 'value-minimal'. I'm a pluralist.

Libertarianism is about

Libertarianism is about right, not values. In order to defend libertarianism I'd rather ally with a homophobic, racist, white separatist claiming a right to secession than with a a tolerant, gay-friendly liberal calling for centralisation.

Libertarianism is about

Libertarianism is about right, not values.

Only if you define libertarianism "thinly" instead of "thickly".

I'm procr^Wplanning to write

I'm procr^Wplanning to write a post on what I call value-libertarians. I think this may beone of the greatest threat to libertarianism.

Lesser of evils

Dain: "I'm less offended by an ineffectual racist, homophobe, or, god forbid, believer in creationism, than I am a supporter of the murder and bullying of human beings (if this be a euphemism for "intervention") and the extension of US territorial hegemony and the subversion of grassroots democracy abroad. CATO's hosting of the Georgian government, supposedly to congratulate them on advancing Human Rights(!), soon after Sakashvili's illiberal crackdown was rather telling."

Arthur B.: "Libertarianism is about right, not values. In order to defend libertarianism I'd rather ally with a homophobic, racist, white separatist claiming a right to secession than with a a tolerant, gay-friendly liberal calling for centralisation."

Here, here. Someone who weighs association with cultural red flags over full-throated opposition to mass murder and the state is fundamentally an unserious libertarian in my view. There is never going to be a more libertarian candidate than Ron Paul and the state is going to keep expanding no matter how hip some group of libertarians make themselves. Libertarianism may ultimately be doomed no matter what (by that I mean the expansion of freedom, not careers for "professional libertarians"), but in Ron Paul there was a chance to scare some politicians back to their principles or throw a monkey wrench in the gears to slow down the entropy. As the Overton Window keeps moving further and further away from liberty and politicians get worse and worse the libertarians who took turns sticking the knife in Paul are going to start feeling nostalgic for when there was someone like him and regret for how they behaved.

There is never going to be

There is never going to be a more libertarian candidate than Ron Paul
and the state is going to keep expanding no matter how hip some group
of libertarians make themselves. Libertarianism may ultimately be
doomed no matter what (by that I mean the expansion of freedom, not
careers for "professional libertarians"), but in Ron Paul there was a
chance to scare some politicians back to their principles or throw a
monkey wrench in the gears to slow down the entropy.

Wishful thinking. The only thing the Ron Paul movement was ever good for was attracting new libertarians into the fold. That was it. And that marketing goal depends upon the attractiveness and palatability of the views the listener associates with both Paul and libertarianism. I'd much rather libertarianism be associated with a milquetoast, "socially liberal, fiscally conservative", best-of-both-worlds mainstream Beltway movement thingie, than the radical but fundamentally misguided and essentially hopeless marketing strategy of the Paleos.

I have a much more long-term, low time-preference view of things than you apparently do. If Ron Paul was our last, best hope, then we don't deserve to progress as a movement/ideology. I'd rather spend the next few months/years/(decades?) building a stronger movement, making thicker alliances with other groups, fostering future political and intellectual leaders (hopefully ones with fewer skeletons in the closet than Paul), and seeing where public opinion, the course of technology, and the economic course of history goes from here, than concentrating all my eggs in one questionable basket and letting it all ride.

Milquetoast libertarians

Micha: And I see the milquetoastiness of IHS as a feature, not a bug. Inforcing ideological uniformity entails devolving into a cult, ala Ayn Rand's inner circle.

I don't understand this argument at all, Micha. Arthur was referring to the way in which the so-called "urbane" libertarian outlets tend either (1) to shy away from hard or unpopular applications of libertarian principles -- such as anarchism or criticism of bayonet-point Unionism -- in the name of public relations, or else (2) to hold positively the wrong view on what libertarian principles entail. If (1) they are dissembling about their views in order to avoid public embarrassment, and if (2) they are being inconsistent. In either case, criticizing dissembling or criticizing inconsistency is a distinct issue from intolerance of dissent, n'est-ce pas?

This is not to say that the paleos in particular haven't been intolerant of dissent on many occasions. They certainly have been. But I think the reasons have to do with something other than the radicalism of their views.

Micha: I'll take the minarchist, pro-interventionist deviationism of Beltway libertarians over the not-so-thinly veiled racism, homophobia, goldbug-crankism, evolution-denial, fundamentalist Christianity and Confederacy apologetics of the Paleo alternative any day of the week.

Well, O.K.; it's your business which features you choose to treat as decisive or defeating for dealing with someone as a friend, ally, or comrade. But I don't understand how this meshes with your previous argument. As far as "enforcing ideological uniformity" goes, how is treating anti-racism, gay-positivity, evolutionism, "urbanity," "cosmopolitanism," or whatever as a litmus test different in kind from treating anti-interventionism or Civil War revisionism as a litmus test? Surely both of these involve demanding a certain degree of ideological uniformity; it's just that they differ in the particular ideological features that they require.

This is not to adjudicate whether the paleos are right about their litmus tests, or whether you're right about your litmus tests, or whether you're both wrong, or whether it's just a matter of taste. But I don't see that the difference between their standards and your standards amounts to what you seem to suggest it amounts to.

(Personally, I tend to think that you're both right, or both wrong, depending on the level and purpose of association that you're talking about -- who you're willing to form issue-based coalition with, who you're willing to read and cite, who you're willing to consider yourself part of a common movement with, and who you're willing to be friends with are all quite different questions.)

Libertarian Macho Flash

Arthur was referring to the way in which the so-called "urbane"
libertarian outlets tend either (1) to shy away from hard or unpopular
applications of libertarian principles -- such as anarchism or
criticism of bayonet-point Unionism -- in the name of public relations,
or else (2) to hold positively the wrong view on what libertarian
principles entail. If (1) they are dissembling about their views in
order to avoid public embarrassment, and if (2) they are being
inconsistent.

There is a third, more charitable view of milquetoastiness. If the goal is honest persuasion, one may wish to lead with one's strengths, and save discussion of radical, unpopular positions for the appropriate time and place, when such a discussion is likely to be more persuasive, and less likely to be rejected immediately out of hand.

I'm not saying this is the only wise or prudent strategy; there is definitely something to be said for the Libertarian Macho Flash. And granted, there are serious risks associated with even the more charitable version of milquetoastiness. There is the risk that watering down one's views to make them more marketable also tends to make a person less persuasive and less passionate. There is also the risk of convincing oneself of error; "if I'm not confident enough to be open about this aspect of my views, maybe there is something wrong with these views themselves." Keeping ideas hidden, behind-the-scenes and unexamined is a great way to forget and eventually abandon the ideas.

So it's an open question to me which strategy is better. The other issue I raised is how an ideological organization keeps true to its central, founding, guiding principles without inforcing ideological uniformity and devolving into a cult. This is an especially difficult question for libertarians (contra Randians) who recognize that the defining characteristic of being a fellow-traveler libertarian is the political direction one wishes to move towards, and not necessarily the justificatory philosophical journey one has already taken to arrive at their present condition. If we can't (and we shouldn't want to) point to any concrete litmus test one must pass and continually live up to to be considered a libertarian, then we should obviously expect relatively open ideological organizations to have on staff members with varying degrees of deviationist views. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, given the alternative.

As far as "enforcing ideological uniformity" goes, how is treating anti-racism, gay-positivity, evolutionism, "urbanity," "cosmopolitanism," or whatever as a litmus test different in kind from treating anti-interventionism or Civil War revisionism as a litmus test? Surely both of these involve demanding a certain degree of ideological uniformity; it's just that they differ in the particular ideological features that they require.

Good point and mea culpa. This is a pretty glaring contradiction in my own argument that I'm surprised I didn't notice earlier. That said, let's see if there's anything worth salvaging here.

First, I think we are unintentionally equivocating over two very different uses of the term "ideological uniformity." One is the sense used to distinguish libertarian thought from non-libertarian thought. The other is the sense used to describe what's currently considered acceptable thought in polite society. Racism (and to a lesser extent homophobia and misogyny) is (rightly) considered an embarassing, career-ending position to hold for public figures in the academic and mainstream political world. This is, I think, by and large a Good Thing - it shows how successful progressive social movements have been in getting these issues off the table of what's considered reasonable, debatable positions. My dream is that one day, advocacy of coercion will be held in the same disrepute by polite society.

So that's a pretty big difference right there. For one set of issues (anti-racism, gay-positivity, evolutionism, "cosmopolitanism"), the controversy is pretty much over and settled for polite society, and that's a good thing. For the other set of issues (anti-interventionism, minarchy vs. anarchy), the controversy is far from settled, even among libertarians themselves. To use the first litmus test when hiring and firing employees requires little more than what is expected of any mainstream organization. To use the second litmus test requires a much more deliberate and activist inforcing of ideological uniformity, because you don't (yet) have the rest of society behind you. It's putting the cart before the horse, so to speak. And that's what risks turning oneself into a cult. Cults, of course, are distinguished and distanced from polite society not by any inherent, concrete, categorical set of qualities, but merely by virtue of being new and small. Given enough years to establish sufficient gravitas, and enough time and resources to attract sufficient membership, cults eventually reach the status of respectability, both in religion and politics.

 

I'm not saying this is the

I'm not saying this is the only wise or prudent strategy; there is definitely something to be said for the Libertarian Macho Flash.

Fantastic article ! I couldn't agree more. There is a finer point for macho flashing that I think the article forget to make though. People are risk averse in their opinion, they are afraid of being very wrong and thus will generally want to avoid extreme positions. How can one judge his positions ? By looking at the media, by looking at his surroundings, one will know where he sits in the distribution of opinions and will often avoid the tails. Macho flashing is all about telling these people : "You have no idea how far that tails go !". There is no or little chance the macho-flashed will accept the idea of the flasher, but the will update his view of the distribution of opinion and will be more confortable taking a step in the direction of the macho stepper, knowing he is not one of these extremists.

An example of a successful strategy of  this sort is the french Troskyist. They never compromise, their 4 or 5 parties never agree on a common candidate and they hold irrealistic policies. On all grounds their political strategy seems doomed. Yet, the current result is that the right wing president is following a socialist agenda.

Now Jefferson, there was a REAL paleolibertarian

I guess this is the sort of thing that can happen with fringe movements. With all of the various players desperate to be taken seriously, they are quick to distance themselves from their philosophical brethren.

I've been refreshing my google news search for "ron paul" every few minutes for the last month. Yet I have seen only a handful of writers that believe he is or even was a racist. However I see many that worry that other people will think he is a racist, or will think that he once associated with racists.

Do you judge Thomas Jefferson so harshly? He was no less than a slave owner! Do you distance yourself from the Declaration of Independence because you worry what other people think that says about your views of racism? Do you think that it was a tactical mistake for the founders to establish the minarchist government they did--should they have established a familiar tyranny on American soil until such time as they agreed on an ethically pure political philosophy?

Perhaps its that I'm older than you are. I've seen libertarian ideas make a lot of progress over the last few decades. I am optimistic that these ideas are again ascendant. But how many more years would you condemn me to pay income tax? To "invest" in social security? To have my sons registered for Selective Service?

I will still give my vote to Ron Paul. What the hell else was I going to do with it? Even if he never had a chance of winning, I would love to see the Republican party split between the neocons, the theocrats, and the libertarians. Once the tipping point is passed, who knows where the new equilibrium would be? Do you think people will stop discussing the planks of libertarian platforms? Or once new ideas on immigration, monetary policy, and federalism are in play, will they discuss them more vigorously?

By all means, keep working to eradicate all vestiges of monopoly force from the world. Don't rest until everyone has as much liberty as they possibly could. Keep searching for ideological purity. But right now there is a greater opportunity to consolidate our gains than has occurred in a century. Please don't take that for granted.

Do you judge Thomas

Do you judge Thomas Jefferson so harshly?

I do judge Jefferson pretty harshly. He certainly isn't as much of an ideological hero of mine as he once was, before I realized how important his uglier side was in discounting his own arguments for equality and liberty. Still, Jefferson at least has the "time and place" argument on his side. If Jefferson were my contemporary, and still did the same sorts of things and held the same sorts of views now that he held then, I'd judge him even more harshly.

Same with Paul (and Lew, and Paleos in general). It's to their credit that they seem to have given up on their previous strategy of explicit, public bigotry (or association with it). Whether this was for purely strategic reasons or actual intellectual honesty reflecting a change of heart matters little; I would be judging them even more harshly if they continued to say the sorts of things they were saying unapologetically 20 years ago today. But let's keep in mind: 20 years ago and 200 years ago = kind of a big difference.

But how many more years would you condemn me to pay income tax?

Your argument is circular; you are assuming the very thing you are attempting to prove. If I already agreed with you that supporting Paul is likely to lead to actual policy changes in a radically libertarian direction, then you might be correct that my lack of support is in some way condemning you to a life of tyranny. But since I don't already agree with that premise - and since that premise is pretty much on-its-face preposterous to anyone who hasn't already imbibed deeply from the Ron Paul Kool-Aid, it hardly seems persuasive. You are hereby condemned to pay income tax for as long as you woud have been condemned to pay income tax in a ceteris paribus alternate universe in which Ron Paul was never born. Difference in dollar terms between your income tax bills over a lifetime in these two universes: $0.00.

I will still give my vote to Ron Paul. What the hell else was I going to do with it

Park illegally. Smoke a joint. Drain a swamp. Sell something for
cash. Buy something for cash. Don’t report income. Submit false census
data. Buy an unregistered gun. Sell an unregistered gun. Don’t license
your dog or cat. Piss on your own front lawn. Praise Jesus in front of
a Planned Parenthood clinic. Praise free speech on any campus. Ice a
terminally-ill relative who begs to die. Marry the person you love
without getting a marriage certificate. Blow up a cactus. Chainsaw a
really old tree on your property. Encrypt anything. Tune your car so
that it sucks gas and kicks ass. Find a Saturday Night Special Assault
Rifle and load it with Cop Killer Bullets, then use it to pop an
endangered bunny twixt his soft, fuzzy ears. Fuck somebody who wants to
fuck you in a nasty, illegal way. Peel out at a red light. Bet on
something with someone. Write an email using the terms “auto sear” and
“detonator”. Burn something without a permit. Drive uninsured while
talking on your cellphone. Hoard bullets and good pornography. Light a
Marlboro in the mall.

God damn it, stop reading and moaning, go out and fucking do something outside the cattle car-shaped box.

- Dick Freely

Simple answers to rhetorical questions

Not being a hip or "urbane" libertarian, perhaps these questions were not directed at me. Nevertheless...

Mark: Do you judge Thomas Jefferson so harshly? He was no less than a slave owner!

Of course I do. What a stupid question. Why would you take it for granted that libertarians must approve of slavers, rapists, hypocritical scoundrels, and Presidents of the United States?

Mark: Do you distance yourself from the Declaration of Independence because you worry what other people think that says about your views of racism?

No. Admiration for a document or an argument, and admiration for its author, are two different things.

Mark: Do you think that it was a tactical mistake for the founders to establish the minarchist government they did ...

Yes. Also a moral mistake.

Mark: ... should they have established a familiar tyranny on American soil until such time as they agreed on an ethically pure political philosophy?

No.

They should have simply left people alone. You act as if this were not an option. Why?

Well...

I thought Arthur's summary of your previous post got the gist of it right:

Ron Paul is publicity for democracy, for the democratic myth, it is publicity for the idea that freedom is merely a democratic option available to the "will of the people" not a moral requirement.

What's happening now, though, is that Ron Paul turns out not to be playing the political game all that well.

I still think Paul is a decent person, who simply didn't, doesn't, but
will soon enough understand how poisonous association with racism can
be politically

So, in the earlier entry you argued that the problem with supporting Ron Paul was that supporting Ron Paul meant buying into the democratic myth. But now your comment implies that that the problem with supporting Ron Paul is that he didn't play the political game well enough.

These are very different things. Your previous view is not vindicated by the current situation. Ron Paul might very easily have been a savvier politician than he is. Your earlier argument did not turn on whether he was savvy - if he had been savvy, your earlier argument would still have applied equally.

For something (call it X) to be evidence for a claim (thus vindicating it), then not-X would have to be evidence against the claim. Had Ron Paul turned out to be a savvy politician, would you have written a mea culpa? I don't think you would need to, since your earlier point did not turn on that issue. But by the same token, the current situation is no vindication.

Point taken; I was thinking

Point taken; I was thinking more along the final comments in my earlier post about the specific characteristics I disliked about Paul, and the final comments in this post about the dangers inherent in playing politics.

I think there might be a closer connection than you or I currently understand between my earlier argument against playing the political game in general and the Nietzschean warnings about getting tainted. Definitely something worth thinking and writing about in greater depth in the future.

Ron Paul pisses me off but I'm not sure he's a racist

Although I don't think at this point that Ron Paul is a racist it wouldn't take much to tip the balance. He's really asking us to swallow a lot here basically, "I'm not a racist but just totally out of touch".

I like to give people the benefit of the doubt so I'm letting him slide on this issue of his racism. That plus the fact that most of the supposed evidence against him is pretty innocuous. That he believes the Civil War was a costly method to end slavery really doesn't count, nor all the other supposed crank positions he took.

I think the strongest evidence of racism was these newsletters. The other claims about the Thai restaurant, him being a stormfront nazi, etc. are pretty bogus.

I wasn't voting for the guy in any case because he pissed me off in one of the debates where he basically blamed 9/11 on us and not the Islamic terrorists.

Why do we have to keep saying this

I wasn't voting for the guy in any case because he pissed me off in one of the debates where he basically blamed 9/11 on us and not the Islamic terrorists.
He has clearly stated numerous times that it is the al Qaeda terrorists and only they who are responsible for the attacks, but that we are not going to come up with good strategies against them unless we understand their motivations, which are to a significant degree driven by our government's foreign policy.

Because that's not what he said in the debate

I'm also quite familiar with the position the Lew Rockwell crowd has taken on the issue and it doesn't match what you are saying. His tone has been more in their camp. Which is that we're always wrong. I'm pissed at them for having one guy who wrote an article making equivalences between G.I. death benefits with the bonuses being paid out to suicide bombers by Saudis and others. Un-believable. They remember things that are convienient to their view, like the embargo against Japan, while forgetting the rape of China.

I told you so?

"Hate to say "I told you so" to all the Ron Paul supporters... actually, that's a blatant lie, I love saying it. It's time to pull the plug on the Ron Paul "Revolution" nonsense and mercifully deliver it a much needed late-term abortion."

I read your previous articles on Ron Paul and didn't really find anything new in what you were saying. Plenty of libertarians have argued that the LP itself is a mistake, let alone a Republican running on a libertarian platform. 

So where exactly in your article did you point out that Ron Paul had a credibility issue with regard to racism? I didn't see that and that's what you would need to show in order to say "I told you so".

So where exactly in your

So where exactly in your article did you point out that Ron Paul had a credibility issue with regard to racism?

The credibility issue I defined more broadly to include the paleo milieu as a whole, with racism as one of its (unmentioned by me but nevertheless implicit) parts. Try this line:

Paul's position on these issues represents a virulent strain of
libertarianism, a strain I find in parts distasteful, outdated, kooky,
unmarketable, and unlikely to result in a "thick" and flourishing
liberal order if enacted.

Again, this wasn't really my focus, so my claim of "I told you so" is just tongue-in-cheek and not serious. But for those "in the know", this subtext has been there all along. Those who have been voicing disgust and distaste at Paul's paleo side may not have been as explicit as we should have been about it, but we have always voiced our displeasure with being associated with Ron Paul through his association with libertarianism in general, and part of this fear--while mostly self-interested--always contained an element of suspicion, expectation, and warning that this ugly paleo side would inevitably come back to bite him in the ass when he was most vulnerable. Which it inevitably did.

Those in the know

"But for those "in the know", this subtext has been there all along."

Yeah, but for those in the know, you think everyone's a racist.

Running for President

"Not that innocent naiveté and lack of oversight are especially admirable qualities for a man running for leader of the free world."

Ron Paul is not running for leader of the free world; he's running for President of the U.S.

Agree with Macker

Your argument was that Paul justifies democracy. The other big names coming out against Paul think he's scarred by his associations. Very different arguments. Only thing in common is that Paul Goes Down.

Trying to get over it...

Micha: There is a third, more charitable view of milquetoastiness. If the goal is honest persuasion, one may wish to lead with one's strengths, and save discussion of radical, unpopular positions for the appropriate time and place, when such a discussion is likely to be more persuasive, and less likely to be rejected immediately out of hand.

I've been trying to come around to this point of view--that the beltway libertarians had to keep their credibility with the current crop of politicians. I think I'm making progress.

But it's going to take me a while to get over the sense of betrayal I feel from Cato, Reason, and you, Micha. You all seemed awfully quick to kick a kindly old man who had offered to be an ally as soon as you thought he was going to be an inconvenience.

Oh well, it's pretty apparent that I've gotten a little too emotionally invested in this thread. I'm going to leave it now.

Mark - I likewise was

Mark -

I likewise was suprised at the amount of joy Micha displayed in his post. Paul's downfall is not good for libertarians. The downfall of his shady associates as a result might well be a good thing, but Paul's campaign disintegrating at this point is not. I didn't understand Micha's glee.

I view it as inevitable

I view it as inevitable discovery. The newsletters were out there--hell, I knew about them months and months ago by way of Ryan Sager. I'm kind of surprised this didn't make a bigger splash back then; it's certainly orders of magnitude more substantial than the Don Black donation non-scandal. And I'm surprised at myself for not predicting that this would eventually happen. (I think part of the explanation for why this didn't catch on back then is that Sager's reporting was just so over-the-top and unbalanced that it was hard to take his criticism of Paul seriously; it made me want to defend the guy against all the unfair, overly-strong accusations. The TNR piece, regardless of the author's motivations, was significantly more even-handed in comparison, even though it too left much to be desired.)

Whatever element of despair I may feel for the lost opportunity (which is hard to evaluate in light of the fact that I am now completely convinced there never was an opportunity there to begin with), or for the tainting and tarnishing of the idea of libertarianism in the public's mind, it's balanced by the (ugly, perhaps?) sense of self-righteousness, the "I Told You So" factor. If I was a better person, I wouldn't revel in the misery of others, even if that misery was foreseen by me and warned about repeatedly. But, hey, nobody's perfect. *shrug*

On the bright side, it could have been much worse. At least this happened now rather than later. The more popular and successful Ron Paul might have become, the worse this would have been for everyone. So I think I'm doing a public service by encouraging people to get off the Ron Paul train as soon as possible, mercifully putting the campaign out of its misery. Please, there is no need to thank me; your benefit of suffering avoided is reward enough. :P

Kindly old man? We are

Kindly old man?

We are talking about a person who seriously considers building a huge wall between Mexico and the US with armed people ready to shoot at any man, woman or child trying to cross anyway.

Just because someone is old and well-manered doesn't mean he is kind.

Nobody but Arthur is kind

Politics is about the use of force - in the final analysis, deadly force. Political disagreements therefore generally boil down to something like this. As a result, since pretty much every individual has politics unique to himself, then if we go by your criterion, no one in the history of the planet has ever been kind, except, possibly, for Arthur B., and not even Arthur B. if we consider him before the latest shift in his political views.

Oh come on... Sure, most

Oh come on...

Sure, most people would preserve immigration restricitons if they were given the opportunity, but at least

- they are ignorant of the moral implications, while Ron Paul has been exposed to libertarianism.
- they are not actively campaigning and seeking money to do it.
- they wouldn't necessarily want to do it by building a huge wall.
- they wouldn't shoot a video picturing immigrants crawling like bugs across the border.

 

He knows better?

they are ignorant of the moral implications, while Ron Paul has been exposed to libertarianism

So if you argue with someone who is not a libertarian, and they're not convinced by your arguments, then they become unkind, because now they've been exposed to libertarianism and so they know better?

they are not actively campaigning and seeking money to do it.

So if someone has non-arthurian politics and he is an activist, this makes him unkind?

they wouldn't necessarily want to do it by building a huge wall

So if someone has political views not identical to yours, and not only implements them, but implements them by means of architecture, this makes him unkind?

they wouldn't shoot a video picturing immigrants crawling like bugs across the border

So if someone has non-arthurian politics and he illustrates the situation and his views with a video, this makes him unkind?

So if you argue with someone

So if you argue with someone who is not a libertarian, and they're not
convinced by your arguments, then they become unkind, because now
they've been exposed to libertarianism
and so they know better?

They become more unkind, correct.

So if someone has non-arthurian politics and he is an activist, this makes him unkind?

They become more unkind, correct.

So if someone has non-arthurian politics and he illustrates the situation and his views with a video, this makes him unkind?

It's not about the use of video, it's about the content which depicts not immigration as a polical issue but as an evil commited by evil person who are similar to crawling bugs, the most despised species among humans.

Crawling bugs

I'm not sure how a videotape taken of an actual event (as opposed to a hand-drawn animation) demonstrably conveys an intentional comparison to crawling bugs. If I look at traffic from an airplane, it looks like crawling bugs, but if I videotape it and show it from that height, this does not mean I have intentionally portrayed the traffic as crawling bugs. If there is a voiceover that says, "like crawling bugs", that is of course another story.

not immigration as a polical issue but as an evil commited by evil person

These are not distinct. Politics is about right and wrong. Being a political issue makes something an issue about good and evil, and vice versa. Take your own reaction to Ron Paul's views: you have a political difference with him, and it is also - and not merely also but for that very reason - a moral difference.

 

 

Editing and the choice of

Editing and the choice of images matter. If you made an ad for immigration for example, you'd show the people's face to depict them as human being. The ad relied on this imagery because this is how it wanted the viewer to see immigrants. (As opposed to the "good" Ellis Island immigrants whose face you clearly see for example)

These are not distinct. Politics is about right and wrong. Being a political issue makes something an issue about good and evil, and vice versa.

I disagree, many political subjects are treated on different grounds, good or bad "for the economy" for example (whatever that means)...

One may claim he wants higher taxes to provide public employement and help consumption, another may claim he wants lower taxes to help businesses. Both are political positions and none of them are stated in a good/evil framework.

Ron Paul chose to depict immigration not only as a welfare problem but also as a moral evil ("they break the law!")

Overinterpretation

Editing and the choice of images matter.

But you wrote: picturing immigrants crawling like bugs across the border

What choice do you have if you want genuine video of people sneaking across the border? Do you think they will pose for you? Do you think they will let you get near them? In Ellis Island people were herded into the country by the state. There was ample opportunity to take detailed footage.

Furthermore if you want to show them recognizably coming over the border, you need a wide shot to see their movement.

I haven't seen the video recently (I saw it a while ago) and don't have access now. I am going by your own description of it.

While editing matters, interpretation is still very much in the eye of the beholder with videotape.

One may claim he wants higher taxes to provide public employement and
help consumption, another may claim he wants lower taxes to help
businesses. Both are political positions and none of them are stated in
a good/evil framework.

But surely as a libertarian you have moral views about even these topics and your moral views are closely tied to your policy positions. You are hardly unique in this. So, you seem to be saying that it is kind to hide your moral views, and unkind to put them on display.

But you wrote: 

But you wrote: 

So?

What choice do you have if you want genuine video of people sneaking
across the border? Do you think they will pose for you? Do you think
they will let you get near them?

Actually yes. But you can also get actors.

 

Furthermore if you want to show them recognizably coming over the border, you need a wide shot to see their movement.

But why would you specifically want to make that shot ? Why not show them crossing the border secretly in a bus, or hidden in a truck ?

You are hardly unique in this. So, you seem to be saying that it is
kind to hide your moral views, and unkind to put them on display.

What's worst : commiting a crime, or a commiting a crime and claiming an innocent person is an evil agressor ?

Preventing immigration is immoral, but adding on top of this that immigrants are evil trespassers is indication of a wicked mind.

Actors?

But you can also get actors.

Now you're really asking him to bend over backwards to avoid offending your sensibilities. All he's guilty of at this point is failing to go to great lengths to avoid creating a film that Arthur interprets as "bugs".

What's worst : commiting a crime, or a commiting a crime and claiming an innocent person is an evil agressor ?

All you are saying is that Ron Paul disagrees with you about something political (and therefore moral and violent). Given that he disagrees with you, then (a) he supports a violent action which you find immoral and (b) he believes people are at fault who you do not believe are at fault. All you are doing is describing what a political disagreement consists in. Politics is about morality, it is about violence, it is about life and death. A political disagreement is a difference in assignment of good and evil, and it's a difference in the supported application of violence.

Here, by the way, is something from recent news, which simply illustrates the point that politics and morality are intertwined:

The decision by the state Public Health Council, "jeopardizes patient
safety," Menino said in a written statement. "Limited service medical
clinics run by merchants in for-profit corporations will seriously
compromise quality of care and hygiene. Allowing retailers to make
money off of sick people is wrong.
"

 

 

Now you're really asking

Now you're really asking him to bend over backwards to avoid offending your sensibilities.

I'm not asking anything. I just observe how he chooses to picture illegal immigrant.

 All you are saying is that Ron Paul disagrees with you about something political

No. That is not all I am saying. I am also saying amog other things that he pictures innocent people as moraly evil. he could very well politically oppose immigration without considering the illegal immigrants evil. I know people who do, I consider them kinder.

 A political disagreement is a difference in assignment of good and
evil, and it's a difference in the supported application of violence.

Not everyone associates the application of violence and evil.

Ugh

I'm not asking anything. I just observe how he chooses to picture illegal immigrant.

At times like this you sound like a foreigner, or an extreme nitpicker. I could obviously rephrase my point, avoiding such a response, but I am getting tired of this.

I am also saying amog other things that he pictures innocent people as
moraly evil. he could very well politically oppose immigration without
considering the illegal immigrants evil. I know people who do, I
consider them kinder.

Well, if your acquaintances do not believe that immigrants are committing a wrong act and they are simultaneously in favor of expelling them from the country/preventing them from entering, then, based on your description, your aquaintances are consciously in favor of committing what they know to be evil acts, aggression against innocents who are not guilty of anything.

However, what I suspect is going on is that you are not really doing justice to either Ron Paul's views, or those of your friends, in describing them.

Not everyone associates the application of violence and evil.

I don't know how that responds to my point. Politics concerns violence and it concerns right and wrong. No one wants to commit violence wrongfully, but politics is about committing violence, so political positions require moral positions.

Ok, let's focus on a single

Ok, let's focus on a single point

I don't know how that responds to my point. Politics concerns violence and it concerns right and wrong. 

You're begging the question. I agree politics concerns violence and I agree violence is about right and wrong, but not all people think this way. To some people, means justify the ends. While I consider them wrong, it is even worse to justify ends by villifying otherwise innocent people.

Overdone

I think proportional measures will be taken first and it's highly unlikely that his intention is to shoot unarmed children. Those are easily scooped up by adult males without having to resort to any sort of violence. If he intended to take lethal action first one would think he would be considering minefields and not fences.

I don't find such arguments compelling. For instance, I do not find taxation to be the equivalent to armed robbery. I'm quite familiar with the liberatarian argument.

If I were to buy these arguments then I would have to equate my desire to keep people from stepping in my garden with the intention to murder them the second they step on my property. Perhaps in the end after an unbelievable and unreasonable escalation I might have to kill someone to keep them from stepping on my radishes but that doesn't make them equivalent.

More Milquetoastiness

Well, to be fair, I was never on the Ron Paul bandwagon to begin with, I feared he was going to be an inconvenience from the get-go, and I've been kicking him ever so slightly (in a completely NAP appropriate manner!) for a while now. At the same time, I tried not to make it personal; I've met Ron Paul in person, I've read his writings, watched his speeches and interviews, and have an overall positive impression of Paul as a decent, regular guy, if not a great orator or political strategist (and no one seems to be claiming otherwise). He's the sort of guy I'd be more than happy to sit down and have a beer with, or kick back in a rocking chair on a porch on a ranch in south Texas sipping a cool, sweet drink. It's unfortunate that he keeps the friends he keeps, and got caught up in that whole paleo, culural milieu; Paul strikes me as better, more innocent than that. Then again, the paleo milieu may be a large part of why he's gotten as far as he has - in Texas politics, and in appeals to the disaffected Pat Buchanan and Ross Perot crowds. I doubt, or at least have no evidence to justify thinking, that a left-libertarian would have achieved the same level of political support and popularity.

Going back to the milquetoastiness issue, I don't think it's that important to engage in milquetoastiness to keep credibility with the current crop of politicians. That may be important for Cato insofar as part of Cato's mission seems to be directly influencing policy as its written and lobbied for. More important, in my mind, is engaging in a certain degree of milquetoastiness for organizations like IHS, who are reaching out to cream-of-the-crop students at elite universities, who are not yet libertarians and may not be all that familiar with classical liberalism either, but are at least curious about and open to new ideas, and therefore represent potential future intellectual allies and leaders, assuming they are not immediately turned off by Macho Flashers first.