Ron Paul’s Libertarian Revolution
The piece has gotten substantial blogospheric attention, little of it positive.
John Little sees not a revolution but a cult, specifically a cult of personality. This leads commenters to retort, rather persuasively, that Paul hardly has a personality at all.
Ron Chusid argues that Ron Paul-style libertarianism is about racism, conspiracy theories, insanity, and a desire for poor responses to natural disasters.
Isaac Chotiner scoffs at the idea that Paul represents a revolution, contending that “despite occasional bitching from the college kids mentioned by Gillespie and Welch, the vast majority of Americans think they live in a country which generally respects their liberty.” Furthermore, he finds discussion of trifling issues like smoking bans and Internet gambling a diversion.
Alex Massie agrees that Paul has little to no chance of winning anything but thinks the issues he’s talking about are useful as signaling mechanisms, as the major candidates on both sides are spouting rather similar policy solutions on the big ticket items.
Mark @ Publius Endures, “A somewhat ironically titled blog of libertarian principle,” received the piece enthusiastically. Indeed, he sees a recent bevy of libertarian-themed movies, television shows, and columns as evidence for the revolution. (Which, presumably, will in fact be televised.)
As for me, I find Paul’s fundraising success and ability to generate buzz quite remarkable. While I joined the conventional wisdom in dismissing his entry into the race as a lark, he’s making himself impossible to ignore. Indeed, he’s generated far more blog posts than I’d have dreamed possible.
At the same time, I find talk of “revolution” mere wishful thinking. Most Americans, like their counterparts in Western Europe, continue to demand an activist government. They like talk of small government and adherence to the intent of the Framers in abstract but they continue to elect politicians who promise to address major problems well beyond any Constitutional mandate.
Paul’s success may be spawned by young libertarians but it’s being fueled by the same thing that catapulted Ross Perot to prominence in 1992: A desire for something beyond the same old, same old of the two major parties.
The problem, however, is that while there may be an overwhelming consensus that we need “something else,” there’s incredible divergence on what shape that would take. People want more liberty for themselves, to be sure, but think “there oughta be a law” against all the annoying things other people do. People want to keep their money and stop having government funding “special interests” but see their own subsidies as God-given inalienable rights.
These trends, I confidently predict, will continue well into the future.
Our future government be more “libertarian” on some issues, such as homosexuality, immigration, and drug use as the demographics change and the social consensus evolves. At the same time, we’ll almost certainly be less “libertarian” on other issues, notably health care. I use scare quotes around “libertarian” because, regardless of the direction, the change will be based on political compromise and the interests of the dominant coalition rather than ideological revolution.
Image Source: Ron Paul MySpace