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The Opportunity Cost of Ron Paul:

One of the main points cited by Ron Paul's libertarian defenders is his fundraising prowess. And it is indeed true that Paul has succeeded in raising far more money than most political observers would have expected. As of October 29, the Paul campaign had raised some 8.3 million dollars, and no doubt it has taken in more since then. However, now that it's clear that his candidacy is both a flop politically and likely to damage the image of libertarianism, this fundraising success turns out to be a double-edged sword. The millions of dollars spent on Paul's candidacy could surely have instead been spent in other ways that do far more to promote libertarian causes. The same goes for the time and effort invested in Paul's campaign by libertarian political activists. To take just two of many examples, imagine what all that money could have accomplished had it been given to the Institute for Justice or to the Milton Friedman Foundation.

To be sure, not all of the money Paul raised was contributed by libertarians. Some no doubt came from the sorts of people who agree more with the antiwar, right-wing populist, nativist, or conspiracy-mongering aspects of his message. But to the extent that many libertarians did contribute time and money to Paul, they would have served their cause better by investing those resources elsewhere.

UPDATE: Paul's campaign claims that it raised almost $20 million in the fourth quarter of 2007 (the figure cited in the original post only covers the period up until October 29). If the claim is accurate, it further reinforces my point by making the opportunity costs of Paul's candidacy even higher than I thought.

UPDATE #2: Instapundit, and some commenters question whether the money given to Ron Paul really would have gone to other libertarian causes had he not run for president. Maybe, Instapundit suggests, it would have gone to "beer and skittles" instead. Perhaps so. But to the extent that some of that $20 million came from committed libertarian activists, it is not implausible to suggest that it might have gone to other libertarian causes instead. In addition, my main point is that libertarian donors should invest their funds in projects with better returns for libertarians than Paul's presidential bid - whether or not those donors are actually inclined to do so. Finally, even more spending on "beer and skittles" might have been better for libertarianism than the damaging debacle that Paul's campaign is rapidly becoming.

CrazyTrain (mail):
Ilya, your numbers are hilariously off and the date you use is curious. Ron Paul outraised everyone in the fourth quarter -- indeed he raised 20 million dollars in the fourth quarter, roughly 2.5 x what you have for his total fundraising.

Not a Ron Paul fan at all, but I don't see how he "hurts" libertarianism, he seems to help it by giving it such a national hearing.

Furthermore, given the candidate that most conspirators support (Foghorn Leghorn Fred Thompson) got like 20 votes in New Hampshire, don't you think that the money that went to him should have went to "causes" that he supposedly supports?
1.11.2008 2:50pm
Ilya Somin:
Ilya, your numbers are hilariously off and the date you use is curious. Ron Paul outraised everyone in the fourth quarter -- indeed he raised 20 million dollars in the fourth quarter, roughly 2.5 x what you have for his total fundraising.

IF this is true, it just further reinforces my point. It suggests that the opportunity costs of Paul's candidacy were even higher than I claimed.
1.11.2008 2:53pm
Jim at FSU (mail):
Libertarian views have gotten more mainstream press in the past year than in the past 10. At the very worst, Paul's attempt is a trial run to gain experience for future efforts.
1.11.2008 2:57pm
Ilya Somin:
Not a Ron Paul fan at all, but I don't see how he "hurts" libertarianism, he seems to help it by giving it such a national hearing.

The problem with this claim, as I explained in several earlier posts, is that the "hearing" was not for libertarianism, but for Paul's own views, many of which are distinctly unlibertarian and create the risk of tainting libertarianism by association with nativism, conspiracy theory, and far right populism.
1.11.2008 2:58pm
ejo:
yep, I now know that, when I hear libertarian, I should think racist, survivalist or nazi. thanks, ron paul.
1.11.2008 2:59pm
Avatar (mail):
The problem isn't just that Paul will lose - surely that's always a potential when you're donating to a campaign, else why are you donating to it in the first place? The danger is that Paul holds two sets of ideas, and while one of them is full of appealing small-L libertarian ideals, the other one has a bunch of weird conspiracy theory / old time nuttiness. By combining the two in a single candidate, there's the risk that voters who might find some of those libertarian ideals appealing will instead end up conflating them with thoughts of the grand North American Nation conspiracy theorists and dismissing all of them as the ravings of a lunatic.

It's kind of like the big-L Libertarians perennially running LaRouche. The party needs all the help it can get, but the candidate it ends up with detracts from their already-slim chances of success by being, by all accounts that I've seen, a thoroughly unwholesome fellow.
1.11.2008 3:02pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
damage the image of libertarianism

That is hilarious. What did you think it was before Ron Paul? Randian wackos, druggies and Alasakans.
1.11.2008 3:03pm
Crust (mail):
[T]o the extent that many libertarians did contribute time and money to Paul, they would have served their cause better by investing those resources elsewhere.

That's not obvious. It is quite unlikely that Paul will become President. But if you support his ideas and feel they were not being represented in our public discourse, then you might think it was worthwhile to spend money to give them an airing with the public and the pundits. Who knows, perhaps Paul's enthusiastic supporters are the analogs of Goldwater's enthusiastic supporters in 1964? In which case they may yet have the last laugh in elections down the road. (Not saying I expect this. Just saying it's possible.)

In other words, what CrazyTrain said.
1.11.2008 3:03pm
justwonderingby:
crazytrain is right. I don't hear anyone here at VC wondering if Fred Thompson's money might have been better spent. It's pretty clear that VC is a front for FT.
1.11.2008 3:05pm
guy in the veal calf office (mail) (www):
It's pretty clear that VC is a front for FT.

Are you suggesting VC is a Conspiracy?
1.11.2008 3:08pm
Not a Paul Supporter:
Not that this is not interesting, but it really would be nice to actually see posts about the real issues raised by Paul once in a while. All these posts on Paul's character give no information about the desirability of the Gold Standard, the NAFTA Superhighway, foreign aid, the UN, free trade agreements, the Federal Reserve or the Trilateral Commission.
1.11.2008 3:09pm
Ilya Somin:
crazytrain is right. I don't hear anyone here at VC wondering if Fred Thompson's money might have been better spent. It's pretty clear that VC is a front for FT.

First, I have not endorsed THompson. Neither did David Bernstein and Dale Carpenter, the other authors of VC posts on Paul. Second, if Thompson's campaign does indeed fail (as now seems likely), it will indeed be the case that the money spent on it would have been better spent elsewhere. That in no way undermines my point about Paul. Third, Thompson almost surely attracted far less specifically libertarian funding than Paul did, and has not tarred libertarianism by association with conspiracy-mongering and the like. Thus, his campaign's failures create far fewer opportunity costs for libertarianism than Paul's did.
1.11.2008 3:15pm
Lugo:
Telling other people what to do (and what they should have done) with their money and time is a libertarian principle now?
1.11.2008 3:17pm
Greg C (mail):
Avatar,

The big-L Libertarians have never ever run LaRouche. LaRouche has always run as a member of the Democratic Party. Yes, many news media outlets, from the big-3 TV networks to large and small newspapers, have incorrectly identified LaRouche as a "libertarian" or "Libertarian" -- possibly assuming that since LaRouche is weird and (most) Libertarians are weird, LaRouche must be a Libertarian. But the Libertarian Party has tried repeatedly to clarify that LaRouche is not one of them. And, as far as I can tell, LaRouche has never represented himself as a libertarian or member if the Libertarian Party.
1.11.2008 3:19pm
Elliot123 (mail):
I imagine we can identify just about any dollar spent and ask if it resulted in the highest marginal benefit for the spender. It works for anything.

But what fun would life be if we listened to all the scolds who think we could have done a better job spending our own money.

Perhaps we can forget about the money and just ask if RP's campaign has been a benefit for the cause of libertarianism? I'd say no since he is now tainted by the stupid stuff in those old newsletters, and his equally stupid response last week. Since few know anything about libertarianism, they will simply equate it with some old bigot from Texas, or Arizona, or Mexico.
1.11.2008 3:20pm
JNS405:
That is hilarious. What did you think it was before Ron Paul? Randian wackos, druggies and Alasakans.



Before I went to law school at GMU, I thought that libertarians (based on my association with one at my undergraduate institution) were people who sat around smoking pot all day.
1.11.2008 3:24pm
Tom952 (mail):
Ron Paul often sounded like a screwball last night. As I watched, I began to wonder if the mediators were using the event to allow RP to discredit himself.
1.11.2008 3:33pm
Ben P (mail):

Before I went to law school at GMU, I thought that libertarians (based on my association with one at my undergraduate institution) were people who sat around smoking pot all day.


To be completely snarky, My experience at a small liberal arts college was that the difference between the "liberal students" and the "libertarian students" was how much one cared about things like poverty.

Obviously I'm making huge generalizations, But In my experience college students on the whole tend to have a significant libertarian bent compared to the general population.
1.11.2008 3:57pm
bittern (mail):
Paulies, step away from the microphone, the blimp, and the ballot box, and nobody gets hurt.
1.11.2008 3:58pm
ejo:
I guess now you know they are a little more sinister than the old pot smoking roommate. at least the real ones, not the professors who talk about limited government while collecting a public paycheck.
1.11.2008 3:59pm
bittern (mail):

LaRouche has always run as a member of the Democratic Party.

Greg C: Don't think so. He's been in and out, just like Ron Paul on the other side.
1.11.2008 4:01pm
BitOfReason:
The greatest problem that I have with your argument is the assumption that the money donated to the Ron Paul campaign would have otherwise been donated to other libertarian causes. Due to the exposure and press of his candidacy, I highly doubt that most of the money he receives would have gone anywhere but to other presidential candidates or beer, in which case his fund raising is a big victory (unless you disagree with his policies, of course).

The second problem I see is that you assume these other organizations could have done more good for the libertarian cause. I believe that one of the greatest obstacles to the libertarian party is that very few people have even heard of the Institute for Justice or the Milton Friedman Foundation let alone know what they stand for. A candidate that can break election records and stay in the top tier of candidates on a libertarian platform would do more good than 200 million dollars for those organizations in my opinion (as to whether RP is that candidate is another discussion).

I also see the stream of anti-Paul posts on this site as very disappointing, since they focus far too much on meaningless attacks such things as his supporters and articles written in his name 20 years ago. There is plenty of fertile ground in questioning his policy, why resort to playing up these non-issues?
1.11.2008 4:02pm
bittern (mail):

he is now tainted by the stupid stuff in those old newsletters, and his equally stupid response last week. Since few know anything about libertarianism, they will simply equate it with some old bigot from Texas, or Arizona, or Mexico.

None of you right-liberarian types knew he had suspect materials in his old newsletters? His newsletters were a secret while he was republican congressman for his Texas district? His views were a secret when he ran on the Libertarian ticket for president? Boggles.
1.11.2008 4:12pm
merevaudevillian:
I would also tend to disagree. Libertarian think-tank ideas tend to be isolated or even introspective in their efforts. Paul, meanwhile, has brought mainstream support and attention to libertarianism in ways so far unseen in the electorate. He's garnered sizeable portions of the vote in early primary states. He's invigorated youth who are attracted to its ideals. He's obtained massive amounts of publicity (much good, some bad) as a result of his campaign. He's forced discussion of fiscal and monetary policies into mainstream media outlets (in limited, but noticeable ways).

A year ago, I don't think the average American voter could name Ron Paul, identify tenets of libertarianism, or acknowledge some of the issues Paul has championed. To me, it's been surprisingly effective. Where it ends up is uncertain, but we'll see how far the next $20MM takes him.
1.11.2008 4:16pm
Gramarye:
BitOfReason wrote:
A candidate that can break election records and stay in the top tier of candidates on a libertarian platform would do more good than 200 million dollars for those organizations in my opinion (as to whether RP is that candidate is another discussion).
I would challenge this, even on even money grounds, not your inflated, hyperbolic figure. I think $20 million to the Friedman Foundation, Institute for Justice, or Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (felt like adding that one myself) would have done substantially more to advance genuinely libertarian causes untainted by Paul's nuttery.

However, I think you're right to question the assumption that all of Paul's donation money would have gone to such causes. As Ilya noted, a good bit of it probably came from the darker elements of Paul's support bloc, who would have no interest in supporting such classical libertarian institutions. Also, their lower profiles mean that the odds that they could raise that much money on their own minimal.

That doesn't mean that they appreciate the association of Ron Paul with libertarianism. Far from it. Because they don't have the kind of pulpit he's been given and probably never will, it will be hard for them to reach enough ears to counteract the message that Ron Paul has been sending and distance themselves from the association into which he has involuntarily drawn them.
1.11.2008 4:17pm
Aultimer:
IS is so wrong that there's actually a cliched quote to prove him so - "There's no such thing as bad publicity [except your own obituary]".

$20M is a reasonable sum to introduce millions of Americans to (1) the word "libertarian," and (2) the idea that you don't have to be a potsmoking longhair to think the federal government should have a limited role in some things, etc.

I'll agree that SOME of the money was counterproductive, but I can't see many better uses if promoting libertarianism is your goal. Maybe a superbowl commercial ($2.7M airtime + $x00K production costs)?
1.11.2008 4:18pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Okay Ilya, can you name a non-wacko Libertarian (either big or little 'l') who should run for president?
1.11.2008 4:19pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
BenP-

To be completely snarky, My experience at a small liberal arts college was that the difference between the "liberal students" and the "libertarian students" was how much one cared about things like poverty.

Right, the libertarian students knew something about economics, so they knew the best way to fight poverty is to enact competent economic policies so there are less poor people in the first place. The magical thinking of redistributionism results in more poverty the more it is done - see the communist countries as illustration.

Thanks for pointing that out.
1.11.2008 4:21pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
yep, I now know that, when I hear libertarian, I should think racist, survivalist or nazi. thanks, ron paul.

Like Veal said, and Avatar demonstrated, we've always been identified with fringies and out-and-out-kooks. The big difference is that in the past we were identified with kooks who could be ignored, because they couldn't campaign their way out of a paper bag.

There are now Libertarians running for the LNC nomination, such as George Phillies. He might well argue that he's bearing the opportunity cost, but I suspect the biggest thing he's losing that he'd have were it not for Paul is the support of the LNC.
To bad for Phillies, but I think it's a net win for liberty for Paul to have carried the standard this year. (Sorry Professor Phillies, but the purpose of the LP candidate is not to get elected POTUS, it's to bear a standard and hold a place, and maybe garner some press.) I have alway voted for the Libertarian; this year I will probably vote for the libertarian, unpleasant and anti-libertarian warts and all.

BTW, I'm not going to delude myself that all the Paul supporters are libertarians. I'm sure a lot is that he's captured the NOTA voters who in years past have voted for Anderson, Perot and Nader. If (big if) the MSM and blogospheric sources who counted Nader's 1% have to admit that a libertarian was running, it will be a net good.
1.11.2008 4:26pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
ejo-

I guess now you know they are a little more sinister than the old pot smoking roommate. at least the real ones, not the professors who talk about limited government while collecting a public paycheck.

Oh yeah, we're real sinister. Socially liberal advocates for personal freedom that actually know something about economics.

Stop comparing all libertarians to fringe groups that don't believe in the core values, or we'll have to start referring to all liberals as Pol Pot, Hitler, and Stalin wannabees.
1.11.2008 4:26pm
Toby:
Larouche a libertarian? Ever?

He has run for President in eight elections since 1976, once as a U.S. Labor Party candidate and seven times as a candidate for the Democratic Party nomination.
1.11.2008 4:31pm
SenatorX (mail):
I love the American Psikhushka (whatever that is). Always setting the record straight on the libertarian philosophy.

Anyway I tend to disagree with the post. It goes along the same line of thinking as socialism where if only everyone would work together and focus we could get so much done. But where to put the effort? Who decides? No, the libertarian way is for each individual to put their resources where they decide.
1.11.2008 4:31pm
Greg C (mail):
bittern wrote:

"Greg C: Don't think so. He's been in and out [presumably of the Democratic Party], just like Ron Paul on the other side."


I didn't write that LaRouche has always BEEN a member of the Democratic Party, only that when LaRouche has run for President of the United States, he has always represented himself as a member of the Democratic Party.

Nevertheless, I can find no evidence that LaRouche has ever represented himself as a member of the Libertarian Party or as a small-L libertarian.
1.11.2008 4:36pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Ilya-

the Milton Friedman Foundation.

A lot of libertarians have differences with Friedman.

Also, a more controlled immigration policy is not necessarily at odds with libertarianism. And implying that anyone that supports a more controlled immigration policy is a "nativist", "right wing populist", and whatever other unsavory innuendos have been made is pretty much an ad hominem.
1.11.2008 4:36pm
ejo:
who gets to name who the "real libertarians" are as opposed to what ever libertarians consider to be the kook fringe. Ron Paul seems to have been the real thing. Certainly, if one runs for president as one, you likely are as legitimately a libertarian as a law professor somewhere. he also appears to be a racist kook.
1.11.2008 4:39pm
Elliot123 (mail):
"None of you right-liberarian types knew he had suspect materials in his old newsletters? His newsletters were a secret while he was republican congressman for his Texas district? His views were a secret when he ran on the Libertarian ticket for president? Boggles."

I can't speak for the other right-libertarians, but I confess I didn't know. I thought he was much smarter than that.
1.11.2008 4:39pm
KR:

Okay Ilya, can you name a non-wacko Libertarian (either big or little 'l') who should run for president?


Don't you pretty much have to be a wacko to want to run for President anyway?
1.11.2008 4:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Telling other people what to do (and what they should have done) with their money and time is a libertarian principle now?
What is it with a few people who think having an opinion is antitehtical to libertarianism? Forcing other people to do something is antithetical to libertarianism. Giving opinions or advice is not.
1.11.2008 4:49pm
bittern (mail):
Greg C, Toby's got the facts, see above. U.S. Labor party is the incarnation that made the first impression on me. LaRouche sure is far from being Libertarian. It's more that his out-there coefficient is of the same magnitude, so perhaps people just get confused. It's so wrong, though, that I originally read Avatar's post as some sort of hypothetical.
1.11.2008 4:53pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
SenatorX-

Psikhushka (whatever that is).

Psikhushkas were the mental hospitals that the Soviets used to abuse dissidents in. After all, who in their right mind could have a problem with totalitarian communism?

Anyway I tend to disagree with the post. It goes along the same line of thinking as socialism where if only everyone would work together and focus we could get so much done. But where to put the effort? Who decides? No, the libertarian way is for each individual to put their resources where they decide.

Well I hope the post was referring to resources that were freely given, not taken, from people. Perhaps the best course of action for now is for libertarians to use their capital to make more capital until someone can come up with an effective vehicle for change.
1.11.2008 4:55pm
Ben P (mail):

And implying that anyone that supports a more controlled immigration policy is a "nativist", "right wing populist", and whatever other unsavory innuendos have been made is pretty much an ad hominem.


To be fair, I don't know the details of paul's immigration policy preferences, and neither do I conciously attach a negative cannotation to nativist or populist.

But I think a significant number of politicians and pundits have adopted policies and opinions that it's difficult to describe as anything but nativist. Even the pro-immigration folks are generally supportive of plans to regulate immigration, whether it be guest workers or work visas or whatever, but they consistently seem to be drowned out by shouts of amnesty and equivalent positions.
1.11.2008 5:01pm
PersonFromPorlock:

Ilya, your numbers are hilariously off and the date you use is curious. Ron Paul outraised everyone in the fourth quarter -- indeed he raised 20 million dollars in the fourth quarter, roughly 2.5 x what you have for his total fundraising.

IF this is true, it just further reinforces my point. It suggests that the opportunity costs of Paul's candidacy were even higher than I claimed.

Or, it can be taken as showing that the opportunity costs of scoffing at Paul's candidacy aren't zero, either.
1.11.2008 5:02pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Okay Ilya, can you name a non-wacko Libertarian (either big or little 'l') who should run for president?
No. People who want to run on the Libertarian line are by definition wacko; people who want to run as a mainstream candidate -- or, at least, people capable of doing so -- aren't libertarian.
1.11.2008 5:07pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Also, a more controlled immigration policy is not necessarily at odds with libertarianism. And implying that anyone that supports a more controlled immigration policy is a "nativist", "right wing populist", and whatever other unsavory innuendos have been made is pretty much an ad hominem.
Uh, no, it isn't.

Saying that Paul is wrong on the gold standard because he's a nativist would be an ad hominem. Saying that he's a nativist is simply a descriptive label.
1.11.2008 5:11pm
Guest101:
Not sure if this has been raised already in the many comments, but I think that in order to legitimately refer to money spent on Paul as an opportunity cost for other libertarian activism, you'd need to have a reasonable belief that donors who gave to Paul's campaign would have contributed to other libertarian causes but for their decision to give to Paul; I'm not sure that assumption is justified even for Paul donors who do identify as libertarians. The most remarkable thing about Paul's campaign is his ability to generate almost fanatical devotion to Ron Paul, not necessarily to libertarianism more generally. It seems likely to me that much of the money given to Paul would simply have been spent for non-political purposes otherwise, in which case it's hard to see that Paul's quixotic campaign is really costing the libertarian movement much of anything (except perhaps some public credibility).
1.11.2008 5:14pm
bittern (mail):
At minimum, Elliot123, it suggests that information is still very sticky, notwithstanding its abundance.
1.11.2008 5:14pm
r78:

To take just two of many examples, imagine what all that money could have accomplished had it been given to the Institute for Justice or to the Milton Friedman Foundation.

Nonsense.

Last time I checked, libertarians still believed in the free market, right?

Arguing that these two organizations somehow "deserve" the funding more than Ron Paul smacks of the worst sort of central-planning mentality. After all, Ron Paul has been much better at getting his message out and funding it than those organizations, hasn't he?

And he has done it largely through the internets and he isn't funded by millions of his own dollars, so it must be because people are responding to his ideas. You have to admit that "charisma" is not something you would associate with him.

Despite this being my 3rd or 4th post in his defense, I am not a Ron Paul supporter, by the way.
1.11.2008 5:16pm
bittern (mail):
The dozens of quibbles expended in this thread would perhaps have had a more libertarian effect had the post been about the attempt to place onto the Appropriations Committee the perhaps second-most libertarian congressman, Jeff Flake. To be sure, he may be a bit wacko himself, I hardly know. But to the extent that many libertarians did contribute time and keystrokes to this thread, they would have served their cause better by investing those resources elsewhere.
1.11.2008 5:22pm
CrazyTrain (mail):
Everyone knows the real problem people like Ilya and Glenn Reynolds have with Paul is his views on the war. So, it's really not that Paul is hurting libertarians; it's that he is exposing the glibertarians.

Other than the guilt by association, what else is there to fault Paul for in advocacy of policy. During the debates, he has articulated traditional libertarian views quite well and quite correctly. If as Ilya claims that libertarians can be for or against the war and still be "good" libertarians, then I just don't see the problems with him, and most of his money has come from individual contributions. There is no way in hell that most of that money comes from wackos; it comes from good people who believe in libertarian ideas and also people who are against the war and have no one else to vote for (I mean if you are a Republican and really against the war (there's got to be a substantial number who are), who are you going to vote for?).
1.11.2008 5:24pm
bittern (mail):

smacks of the worst sort of central-planning mentality

I believe I.S. values libertarianism on an efficiency basis, not a freedom basis. So, you're likely to see this sort of assessment from time to time, r78.
1.11.2008 5:25pm
BitOfReason:

I would challenge this, even on even money grounds, not your inflated, hyperbolic figure. I think $20 million to the Friedman Foundation, Institute for Justice, or Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (felt like adding that one myself) would have done substantially more to advance genuinely libertarian causes untainted by Paul's nuttery.


Please note that I never said Ron Paul's candidacy qualified as a better use of money than ANY other organization, only the future will determine whether he's remembered for his libertarian ideals or his isolationist right wing ideals. I also can't really call RP a top tier candidate so far.

As to my 'hyperbolic' figure, I just want to say (on the minuscule chance that anyone cares) that I honestly believe that the level of public discussion it would create would be worth that much. If I was just being dramatic I would have said a trillion dollars (in spirit I wish we could dedicate that much to such a noble cause, but in practice it would do much more harm than good).
1.11.2008 5:32pm
Beziers (mail) (www):
With all respect due, this post illustrates all that is irritating about academic conceit.

First conceit is that the idea is somehow useful absent the mechanics of its implementation. The Institute for Justice, CATO, Reason or the Milton Friedman Foundation will not increase the implementation of libertarian ideas without a person who captures the public imagination. Think tank papers knocking around pointy headed blogs generate no leverage. Money and popularity do.

Second, the worthies that carry the covenant of ideas must be pure and mouth the necessary caveats and nuances. Those worthies never get a hearing and are of comfort only to the illuminati. If you want policy change, you need to take the messengers with a loud voice, warts and all.

Last, the cloistered guardians of an idea will always damn the smelly proles who try to popularize it. Banging on Paul, tarring him with guilt by association and clinging to decades old nonsense that he repudiates doesn't serve the message at all.

For over twenty years, actual voting libertarians have held their noses and voted for crackpots and crazy Any Rand acolytes. If Paul ran in the general election, I'd vote for him and with any kind of symbolic showing he'd advance the libertarian profile far more then dry policy institutes and indecisive academics.
1.11.2008 5:38pm
happylee:
How can you argue it's a waste of money after viewing Paul's performance at the debates? Who else is advocating an uncompromising defense of freedom -- both economic and personal? I just do not understand why he must be attacked and denigrated like this. Paul has done more to advance libertarian ideas than any candidate since Reagan.
1.11.2008 5:46pm
Thales (mail) (www):
Reg: Listen. If you really wanted to join the PFJ, you'd have to really hate the Romans.
Brian: I do.
Reg: Oh yeah? How much?
Brian: A lot!
Reg: Right. You're in. Listen. The only people we hate more than the Romans are the f---ing Judean People's Front
PFJ: [together, nodding in agreement] Yeah
Judith: [disgusted] Splitters
Francis: And the Judean Popular Peoples Front.
PFJ: Oh yeah. Splitters.
Loretta: And the peoples Front of Judea.
PFJ: Splitters.
Reg: What?
Loretta: The Peoples front of Judea. Splitters.
Reg: We're the Peoples front of Judea.
Loretta: Oh. I thought we were the Popular Front.
Reg: Peoples Front! [scoffs]
Francis: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
Reg: He's over there.
[A single old man sits on a lower seat.]
PFJ: [To the old man.] SPLITTER!
1.11.2008 5:51pm
John Kunze:
I'll bet only a quarter of what Ron Paul has raised came from libertarians who would have ever given to a think tank. The average contribution was perhaps $110 per person in the 4th quarter and I just think dedicated libertarians would have given more if they gave at all.

And I'll bet the rest of the money comes more from antiwar fold than (which Ilya mentions) than his "right-wing populist, nativist, or conspiracy-mongering" people.

Let's get the facts.
1.11.2008 5:54pm
Avatar (mail):
Apologies for being mistaken. All I know about Lerouche personally is what I've picked up from seeing his supporters on campus...
1.11.2008 6:10pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
ejo-

who gets to name who the "real libertarians" are as opposed to what ever libertarians consider to be the kook fringe. Ron Paul seems to have been the real thing. Certainly, if one runs for president as one, you likely are as legitimately a libertarian as a law professor somewhere. he also appears to be a racist kook.

Contrary to the smears from the Establishment Left and Establishment Right, libertarianism has nothing to do with racism. In fact Ludwig von Mises, who is a major figure in the Austrian School of economics which many libertarians support, wrote this excellent essay noting the similarities between the "class conflict" model of socialism, nationalism, and racism and describing all three as "antiliberal". (This was the old European or Classical "liberal", not the modern American term. The old European liberals were very close to libertarian.)

Note again that Ron Paul has disavowed those articles. But in any case racism is not a part of libertarianism. There may be some libertarians that are racist, just as there are Democrats, Republicans, etc. that are, but it is not a part of libertarian philosophy.
1.11.2008 6:15pm
formerbeltwaywonk (mail):
Avatar: It's kind of like the big-L Libertarians perennially running LaRouche

Why does this lie keep being repeated by the likes of Avatar even though it has been debunked a million times? And even though a quck Google search would quickly find that it is quite false? Libertarians have never run LaRouche as a candidate, and indeed their political philosophies are about 180 degrees apart.

What is the motivation for these continuing lies?
1.11.2008 6:22pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
BenP-

...and neither do I conciously attach a negative cannotation to nativist or populist.

Well the implication tends to be that those who are "nativist" or "populist" are racist, prejudiced, etc., or at least xenophobic. Which is pretty absurd, since a significant portion of the globe has immigration controls.

But I think a significant number of politicians and pundits have adopted policies and opinions that it's difficult to describe as anything but nativist. Even the pro-immigration folks are generally supportive of plans to regulate immigration, whether it be guest workers or work visas or whatever, but they consistently seem to be drowned out by shouts of amnesty and equivalent positions.

Which is evidence its basically being used for partisan smearing, as noted above.
1.11.2008 6:28pm
formerbeltwaywonk (mail):
damage the image of libertarianism

That is hilarious. What did you think it was before Ron Paul? Randian wackos, druggies and Alasakans.

Exactly. The image of libertarians will always be damaged in the eyes of Beltway folks as long as we are libertarian, i.e. as long as we want to cut the supply lines of Washington D.C., cutting the jobs of the Volokh Conspirator's government employee, lobbyist, and journalist friends by ending the income tax and foreign wars.

The only way its image will be "rescued" in the minds of Beltway denizens is if "libertarianism", like "liberalism" before it, is coopted by the paycheck vampires into something that does not threaten _their_ paychecks. And on top of that, for the Volokh folks, is coopted by an anti-libertarian ideology of sending our children off to initiate force in foreign lands, to become maimed for life and to kill people who have not done any harm to the United States. Such is the "libertarianism" that Somin wants us to convert to in order to avoid being called kooks by his crew.
1.11.2008 6:35pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
David M. Nieporent-

Uh, no, it isn't.

Saying that Paul is wrong on the gold standard because he's a nativist would be an ad hominem. Saying that he's a nativist is simply a descriptive label.


Not in this context. With the current rancor surrounding this debate "nativist" is freighted with all kinds of unsavory implications. And note that controlled immigration is still immigration, so if anything but open, unattended borders is "nativist" then just about everyone is, so the distinction is meant to imply something else.
1.11.2008 6:36pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
BitOReason-

...only the future will determine whether he's remembered for his libertarian ideals or his isolationist right wing ideals.

Since he wants to trade with everyone I think "isolationist" is a little off. Since he doesn't want to bomb and invade countries that aren't attacking us I would say that "non-interventionist" is a bit more accurate.
1.11.2008 6:57pm
BitOfReason:
American Psikhushka-

isolationism: a policy of national isolation by abstention from alliances and other international political and economic relations



Not only do I not want a North American Union, I want us out of the U.N., the IMF, the World Bank, the WTO, NAFTA and CAFTA.



Despite his and your protests at the label, I don't think Ron Paul could be described as anything except an isolationist, even if the reason for his isolationism is that each of the international organizations are detrimental to the US on their own merits.
1.11.2008 7:39pm
BitOfReason:
Hmmm, my links don't seem to have worked.

http://www.m-w.com/dictionary/isolationism
http://www.ontheissues.org/TX/Ron_Paul_Free_Trade.htm
1.11.2008 7:40pm
Mike Keenan:

To take just two of many examples, imagine what all that money could have accomplished had it been given to the Institute for Justice or to the Milton Friedman Foundation.

As someone else pointed out, I am very surprised to read a statement like that on this website. Don't abandon your principles just cause the guy attract a bunch of nuts.
1.11.2008 7:50pm
bittern (mail):
BitoReason, Wikipedia defines Isolationism more specifically as a combination of non-interventionism and protectionism. Paul is a non-interventionist but he's anti-protectionist. "Isolationist" sounds bad, but that's not him.
1.11.2008 8:06pm
BitOfReason:
As popular as it is, I can't believe that anyone cites wikipedia as an authority on anything. It's a useful place to begin looking for truth, but anyone who stops there is just asking to be misled.

The definition I found is the usual one, most people don't see protectionism as defining part of isolationism, even if they often join forces.

wiktionary
dicionary.com
encarta

I could list more, but there's no use belaboring the point.
1.11.2008 8:39pm
Honyocker:
Just sent twenty-five dollars to the Paul campaign...felt great.
1.11.2008 9:03pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
First conceit is that the idea is somehow useful absent the mechanics of its implementation. The Institute for Justice, CATO, Reason or the Milton Friedman Foundation will not increase the implementation of libertarian ideas without a person who captures the public imagination. Think tank papers knocking around pointy headed blogs generate no leverage. Money and popularity do.
Even if your theory is right, you seem to be confused about the IJ. It is not a think tank that produces papers; it is a libertarian public interest litigation organization.

IJ may have lost in the Supreme Court on Kelo, but it has more tangible libertarian accomplishments than Ron Paul has in his entire career. (I don't mean that as a slam on Paul per se. He's just one of 435 Reps; there's just not that much he can do to advance libertarian objectives.)
1.11.2008 9:14pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
BitoReason, Wikipedia defines Isolationism more specifically as a combination of non-interventionism and protectionism. Paul is a non-interventionist but he's anti-protectionist.
The problem is that Paul is "anti-protectionist" only in rhetoric. In office, he votes with protectionists because he makes the perfect the enemy of the good.
1.11.2008 9:15pm
SenatorX (mail):
Psikhushkas were the mental hospitals that the Soviets used to abuse dissidents in. After all, who in their right mind could have a problem with totalitarian communism?

Ah hah thanks! I think they still do a bit of that don't they?

totalitarian communism : is there any other kind?
1.11.2008 9:22pm
Ted10 (mail):
The Opportunity Cost of Ron Paul

On the other hand, I'd have never heard of the 'Institute for Justice' or the 'Milton Friedman Foundation' or 'VC' for that matter had I never heard of Ron Paul. God works in mysterious ways...
1.11.2008 9:54pm
Smokey:
irony n.
Explaining how Ron Paul supporters should spend their own money.

/ ...not a big RP supporter
1.11.2008 10:08pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Explaining how Ron Paul supporters should spend their own money.
Once again: there is nothing anti-libertarian about giving opinions or advice, even unsolicited, so there's nothing ironic about it.
1.11.2008 11:54pm
wuzzagrunt (mail):
If Ron Paul's candidacy is injured due to guilt-by-association, it is an entirely self inflicted wound. On the other hand, it was only by surrounding himself with so much cracked pottery that he became the "Next Big Thing". It is the wacko/loser fringe that propelled him into the national spotlight.

If Dr. Paul had confined himself to impeccably libertarian positions, he'd still be anonymous.
1.12.2008 1:31am
Ryan (mail):
Ron Paul has had plenty of opportunities to firmly smack down the supporters that are racist bigots. He keeps passing it up. I'm not at all sorry for him, and anyone who thinks that he did WELL in those debates is smoking something. Rambling incoherent arguments with 'Constitution' and 'Deficit' thrown in don't help - they just make people associate libertarianism with that person standing on the streetcorner barking at the moon. Pepper in the conspiracy theories and it gets even worse.

How is an incoherent conspiracy theory slinging rambler a boon to libertarianism?
1.12.2008 7:57am
Mike Keenan:

Once again: there is nothing anti-libertarian about giving opinions or advice, even unsolicited, so there's nothing ironic about it.

Obviously, that depends on the opinion, doesn't it?

If someone buys a 50K watch and you say: "think of all the starving people you could have fed with that money?" Is that really a libertarian perspective? I thought I was libertarian, but I guess not. What's the difference between that and "imagine what all that money could have accomplished had it been given"?
1.12.2008 8:08am
David Schwartz (mail):
If someone buys a 50K watch and you say: "think of all the starving people you could have fed with that money?" Is that really a libertarian perspective? I thought I was libertarian, but I guess not. What's the difference between that and "imagine what all that money could have accomplished had it been given"?


That's neither a libertarian nor a non-libertarian perspective. It's libertarian to the extent that it implicitly acknowledge the watch buyer's right to spend his money as he pleases. Why do you think it's not libertarian?

Libertarianism is more about the scope of individual authority than what individuals should do. It's very hard to come up with a view about how individuals should choose to expend their own resources that's not libertarian -- other than perhaps investing them in lobbying for non-libertarian policies.

Libertarianism != Objectivism
1.12.2008 8:56am
Ted10 (mail):
"Ron Paul has had plenty of opportunities to firmly smack down the supporters that are racist bigots"

Ron Paul has stated that prostitution is morally reprehensible to him. Nonetheless, he doesn't believe as a politician or a libertarian that he should dictate to others what they should do with their bodies, much less decide for them what they can think. He has stated many times that he does not agree with racism or bigotry and that America fosters racism by politicians constantly categorizing us into classes of people.

That sounds like a good libertarian position to me.
1.12.2008 9:16am
American Patriot:
"Ron Paul has had plenty of opportunities to firmly smack down the supporters that are racist bigots. He keeps passing it up."

This is because Ron Paul has absolutely no interest in making his campaign about personal morality or personal preferences. What he wants is tell us how the government should work and what he would do as President. He Paul most definitely repeatedly "smack[ed] down" anyone who would want to use government coercion for racist purposes. What he won't do is tell people what they should believe personally, which has nothing to do with his role as President. That said, he is not afraid to say what he personally believes and he repeatedly indicated that he does not personally believe in racism.

Am I the only person whose support for RP has *increased* significantly since the newsletters came out? This is not because I agree with the content of the newsletters (I don't), but because the overreaction and the silliness of the personal attacks against Paul all over the blogosphere make me increasingly more inclined to respect him.
1.12.2008 11:00am
SIG357:
I think that any genuine libertarian is going to get smeared in the media and be depicted as a kook.
1.12.2008 3:20pm
SIG357:
Ilya

.. Paul's own views, many of which are distinctly unlibertarian ..




Having read your earlier posts, your biggest gripe with Paul seems to be with respect to immigration. And I disagree strongly that his positions there are un-libertarian. Open borders are the quickest way to socialism.
1.12.2008 3:25pm
SIG357:
But I think a significant number of politicians and pundits have adopted policies and opinions that it's difficult to describe as anything but nativist.



A "nativist" is a person who believes that the first obligation of the American government is to the well-being of the American people. So I'm not sure why so many regard is as a slur right up there with Nazi or commie.
1.12.2008 3:34pm
SIG357:
Despite his and your protests at the label, I don't think Ron Paul could be described as anything except an isolationist, even if the reason for his isolationism is that each of the international organizations are detrimental to the US on their own merits.




If you accept the idea that "each of the international organizations are detrimental to the US", then it seems to follow that you would think we should get out of them. I don't think that, and perhaps you don't either. But I don't think you can dismiss the argument simply by thowing around labels like "isolationist". You need to show why he's wrong on the merits.
1.12.2008 3:38pm
Ryan (mail):
Oh? He seems to want to tell people what they should do all the time. ROn Paul, however much you want to make him otherwise, is only marginally more coherent than the loons on the streetcorner, and is, in fact, much WORSE because he actively does DAMAGE to the portions of his arguments I can agree with.

I think it is rather significant that a HUGE portion of those voting for him in the primaries describe themselves as liberal.
1.12.2008 5:36pm
Thoughtful (mail):
American Patriot seems unable to make some basic distinctions:

""Ron Paul has had plenty of opportunities to firmly smack down the supporters that are racist bigots. He keeps passing it up."

This is because Ron Paul has absolutely no interest in making his campaign about personal morality or personal preferences"

AP, there is a BIG difference between someone who says "As President of the United States it would be my responsibility to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not to enforce peoples' personal morality, as long as they are peaceful" and someone who says, "My campaign is not about personality morality, so the fact that my close friends and campaign advisors have been revealed as racists, homophobes, and misogynists, while personally abhorrent to me, does not lead me to feel any need to dissociate myself with them."
1.12.2008 9:24pm
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
BitOReason-

Here are some of the definitions you linked:

Wiktionary - "A national (or group) policy of non-interaction with other nations (or groups)."

No, Paul wants to have free trade with basically everybody, so by that definition he isn't "isolationist".

Dictionary.com - "the policy or doctrine of isolating one's country from the affairs of other nations by declining to enter into alliances, foreign economic commitments, international agreements, etc., seeking to devote the entire efforts of one's country to its own advancement and remain at peace by avoiding foreign entanglements and responsibilities."

This sort of applies. But if one views trade as a "foreign economic commitment" it doesn't.

Encarta - "avoidance of international relations: a government policy based on the belief that national interests are best served by avoiding economic and political alliances with other countries."

Paul doesn't want to avoid international relations - he wants to have free trade with basically everyone. And the remaining part of the definition depends on how you define an "economic alliance".

So basically these definitions don't really describe his policy. I think certain parties love to use the term because it sounds negative and sounds like Paul wants to turn this country into a nation of hermits. That is so far from the truth it is laughable. He wants to have free trade with basically all nations and wants to avoid intervening in the affairs of other countries - especially militarily - unless our national security is seriously being threatened.
1.13.2008 2:37am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
SenatorX-

Ah hah thanks! I think they still do a bit of that don't they?

I don't know. I don't follow current political events in Russia that closely. I hope not.

totalitarian communism : is there any other kind?

Yes, communism basically requires totalitarianism to exist on a significant scale, so my usage was pretty redundant.
1.13.2008 2:46am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
Ryan-

...anyone who thinks that he did WELL in those debates is smoking something. Rambling incoherent arguments with 'Constitution' and 'Deficit' thrown in don't help - they just make people associate libertarianism with that person standing on the streetcorner barking at the moon.

From what I saw, including the talk shows, he has mopped the floor with them. He has forgotten more about economics than most of the others have ever learned. The debates are designed for cutesy, dumb, glib little soundbites, and to respond intelligently you have to try to squeeze in a lot of material. He's not a slick snake oil salesman, and that's to his credit. Here's one simple reason why he is better than the rest: He doesn't think that the Federal Reserve printing money and creating credit hand over fist - destroying the buying power of the dollar, hiding taxation, and destroying people's savings - is a good idea.
1.13.2008 2:58am
American Psikhushka (mail) (www):
David Schwartz-

It's very hard to come up with a view about how individuals should choose to expend their own resources that's not libertarian -- other than perhaps investing them in lobbying for non-libertarian policies.

Someone using their resources to violate someone else's rights or damage someone else's person or property would be anti-libertarian.
1.13.2008 3:02am
Ron Paul Will Pardon All Nonviolent Drug Offenders:
THALES:

You are right.
1.14.2008 2:43pm
BitOfReason:

But I don't think you can dismiss the argument simply by thowing around labels like "isolationist". You need to show why he's wrong on the merits.

My original argument was that we have no idea what Ron Paul's campaign will be remembered for, one of the options being an isolationist. Technically, he could be remembered as being one without ever representing that view, but I further assert that his views are indeed isolationist. I made no judgments on whether isolationism is good or bad, and I don't care if some see the term as pejorative or not.


No, Paul wants to have free trade with basically everybody, so by that definition he isn't "isolationist".

This is actually an argument as to the extent of his isolationism. He appears to advocate disassociating the US from all economic treaties, organizations, agreements, or responsibilities, but does not go so far as to advocate an actual hermetically sealed cage around the nation. If that is not enough to make him an isolationist in your mind, that's fine, but I think I've sufficiently made the case of why he is one in mine.
1.14.2008 3:52pm
formerbeltwaywonk (mail):
Am I the only person whose support for RP has *increased* significantly since the newsletters came out?

Nope, same here. These primary day coordinated attacks against Paul by people I thought were libertarians got me off my couch and motivated me to contribute money to Paul and Rockwell and start combatting the smear campaign online. It has motivated me to educate the world about the rotten and greedy paycheck vampire monoculture of the Beltway. I imagine many others have been similarly motivated to get off their butts and do something about liberty before the remnant of it we have left is extinguished forever.

This smear campaign has also given me quite a bit more wisdom about how to recognize who is a libertarian, versus a lover of big government posing as a libertarian or a sunshine patriot who at the first sign of trouble licks the boots of his statist employers.
1.14.2008 9:28pm