Saturday, August 31, 2013

Libertarian Centralizers



In his defense of the constitutionality of Lochner v. New York against the critics in the last issue of Claremont Review of Books, professor Richard Epstein invokes the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the 14th Amendment. He claims that this clause, "properly read,"

places a huge limitation on what the states can do to citizens … the state may retain huge powers to initiate legislation, but all that legislation (and its enforcement) remain subject to a judicial override on constitutional grounds.

It is not immediately clear what professor Epstein means by the "proper reading" of the clause, but that obviously is not the "reading" of the framers of the 14th Amendment, because they thought this clause placed a very slight, and not a "huge," limitation on the state police power. As Raoul Berger has demonstrated, the framers adopted a very narrow, common-law meaning of the Privileges and Immunities Clause, as pertaining to "life, liberty, and property." The meaning of those guaranties was just to prevent the states from arbitrarily denying to the newly freed blacks their elementary rights to jury trial, due process of law, right of settlement, and freedom of movement, as well as the right to acquire property. In other words, to prevent the discrimination against them in elementary civil-rights issues, protected by the Civil Rights Act of 1866. It is very important that all social and political rights, including suffrage, were explicitly excluded from the privileges-and-immunities guaranties (at least by the understanding of the framers of the amendment).

Epstein seems to completely ignore this, attributing to the named clause a very broad — actually a sweeping — meaning, which was given to it not by the framers but by the activist judges many decades after the 14th Amendment was (supposedly) ratified. Professor Epstein goes even so far as to assert that the Supreme Court could strike down any state law it finds unconstitutional, just on the basis of the Privileges and Immunities Clause. Both Epstein and David Bernstein (whose views from the book Rehabilitating Lochner he is defending) seem to accept the so-called doctrine of incorporation, invented in 1897 and later exploited abundantly by progressive lawyers to undermine the strict constitutionalism. According to this doctrine, the 14th Amendment was meant to apply all (or most of) the restrictions from the Bill of Rights to the states. It puts the federal institutions, primarily the Congress and the Supreme Court, in charge of policing and supervising the states in regard to their laws and regulations. This is obviously a very attractive doctrine for anyone who wants to advance centralization of power, because it gives a blank check to the federal government. Astonishingly, libertarians have been marching in lockstep with the progressives in advertising the beauties of this doctrine throughout the 20th century. Another libertarian devotee of the incorporation doctrine, Randy Barnett, even castigated Congress for not using its alleged 14th Amendment powers vigorously enough to reign in the intolerable anarchy created at the state level.

But, this is not the end: it seems that Epstein believes not only that the 14th Amendment "incorporated" the Bill of Rights, but also classical liberalism to boot, by giving to the federal Supreme Court a right, moreover — a solemn duty — to police the states and enforce libertarian "individual rights" against them. For example, he thinks that the 14th Amendment gives to the federal government a right to block any state law that infringes on "free competition"! Where is this "constitutional" protection of free competition coming from? Obviously, not from the 14th Amendment. It can only come from reading a particular and historically unjustified libertarian meaning into the amendment.

How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution

This reading of libertarian ideological idiosyncrasies into the constitutional text is not an exception — it is quite widespread in Epstein's works. In his book How Progressives Rewrote the Constitution he argues, for instance, that the Social Security Act was unconstitutional, not because the federal government was not given by the Constitution the right to do such things, but because the theoretical concept behind the act was inconsistent with Hayek's political philosophy!

However, the 14th Amendment did not "incorporate" the Bill of Rights, let alone classical liberalism; it just constitutionalized the Civil Rights Act of 1866, with its very limited purpose of protecting blacks against discrimination in the matters of the most basic civil rights, as unequivocally and repeatedly stated by the framers. And that's all. Epstein and Bernstein, of course, do not like this limitation and propose instead to accept a peculiar libertarian version of the living-Constitution doctrine by which we could short-circuit the cumbersome rigidity of the text and actually read our own philosophical preferences for "liberty" and "contractual freedom" into it (nowhere to be found in the original context), in order to justify judicial policy making along preferred libertarian lines.

For example, Bernstein defends Lochner by claiming that it cannot be compared with Roe v. Wade, because it allegedly did not invent any new right; it just applied the "liberty of contract" that was, according to him, already contained in the 14th Amendment. However, this "liberty of contract" is again a judicial fabrication, invented in 1897 by the Supreme Court in the case Allgeyer v. Louisiana. The definition of "liberty" that the framers of the 14th Amendment adopted was a very narrow common-law notion of "security of person," or as Blackstone memorably said it "power of locomotion, of changing situation … without imprisonment or restraint of the person." Not a word about "liberty of contract," which is, as a "constitutional" category, no less phony than its famous progressive counterpart, the "right to privacy," used to justify Roe v. Wade (or for that matter, Epstein's "free competition").

However, it gets even more peculiar than this. Namely, Epstein's libertarian zeal appears to abate significantly when it comes to the federal government. For example, he considers the Sherman Act and the entire complex of federal economic regulations known as "antitrust laws" to be perfectly constitutional, although those laws apparently infringe on liberty of contract no less than the famous New York labor law. The antitrust laws ban, among other things, voluntary price discrimination and give the authority to the courts and federal agencies to stop contractually agreed-on mergers and consolidations they consider "anticompetitive." So, when the state of New York legally invalidates the freely agreed-on contracts that allow workers a longer-than-ten-hour workday — that's an awful infringement on individual liberty of contract; however, when the federal government punishes Standard Oil for receiving freely agreed-on price discounts from its large customers, the railroad companies, that's just an innocent (and perfectly constitutional) exercising of authority to regulate commerce.

An especially worrying sign is that both Epstein and Bernstein agree that the proper role of the Supreme Court should be not only to impose classical liberalism from the bench but also to arbitrate in the disputes over whether any particular law was in the "public interest," or instead motivated by selfish rent-seeking. To qualify as "constitutional" before this new libertarian Supreme Court, not only would a law have to be in harmony with "economic liberty" and "freedom of contract"; it could not be a product of rent seeking and lobbying for private benefit. How is this supposed to be decided by the courts? What special knowledge or comparative advantage the nine unelected and politically well-connected lawyers in Washington DC have in deciding ethical and economic issues like this? However, our authors think that the Supreme Court justices do have such an advantage, and they seriously argue that the New York state labor law struck down by the Court in Lochner was unconstitutional because it was a form of labor-union rent seeking!

Moreover, Epstein even asserts that "courts have recourse to a wide variety of techniques to isolate those actions that are intended to advance the interest of Madison's factions from those which seek to generate common improvements shared by all." Thus, the Court is given — apart from the "standard" task of protecting libertarian values, "freedom of contract," "free-market competition," Hayekian insights into the superiority of individual versus government knowledge, and similar philosophical tenets — the right to determine what is and what is not in the "public interest," to boot.

One wonders why we need politicians, elections, and legislatures at all if the judges can replace them so nicely with their "wide variety of techniques" for detecting the "true" public interest. If judges really do have such a comparative advantage over politicians in deciding these matters, why not change the name from "Supreme Court" to "Supreme Ethical Council," as Antonin Scalia once suggested? Or perhaps the "Central Planning Board"?

Both Epstein and Bernstein try to brush aside the critiques of their paradigm as just a matter of their critics' "excessive devotion to democratic institutions" (sic). But this conceals the main problem: their own acceptance of the Leviathan state and growing centralization of power. The "libertarians of the 14th Amendment" accept the most basic premise of the progressive political philosophy — the idea that politics is about who is going to control the central government and impose his own values on the rest. They are prominent expositors of a very curious theoretical synthesis that Gene Healy called "libertarian centralism": the idea of bringing about libertarian revolution by taking over central government from the progressives and using it for "good," instead for "bad" purposes — for example for imposing judicial laissez-faire instead of judicial abortion and gun control.

The main issue, therefore, is not "excessive" versus "proper" democracy, as the authors imply, but "who should govern" — the nine unelected philosopher-kings, who can strike down any state law they don't like (but not the federal laws, which they usually just rubber-stamp) or elected representatives of the people? It's as simple as that. Libertarian centralism, dreaming about the great laissez-faire revolution by the judiciary, is in its philosophical implications just another form of "enlightened" despotism.

And contrary to what Epstein and Bernstein say, the Founding Fathers were not concerned so much about the tyranny of the majority as the tyranny of the minority. After all, their main worry, which eventually prompted them to adopt the Bill of Rights, was how to limit and keep in check the minority in central government and protect the sovereignty of the several states. Most of the Founders were devoted to democracy no less than the people our professors criticize. They went even so far as to assert that state legislatures have a right to nullify unconstitutional federal laws. Jefferson and Madison in their Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798 developed the doctrine of nullification as a "rightful remedy" (Jefferson) for the cases "when even the Supreme Court betrays us" (Madison). They knew that the only way to protect liberty was not to strengthen the central government and convert the rulers into "enlightened despots" who believe in libertarianism but to divide power, to decentralize it as much as possible. As Gene Healy said, "Jefferson understood what the followers of the new libertarian orthodoxy ignore: that who makes the decision is often as important as what is ultimately decided."

Previously published at Mises Daily.

Monday, December 31, 2012

How Ron Paul sold out



 “I don’t get paid not to win”
 Penny Freeman, former Ron Paul’s staffer

Let’s face it: Ron Paul has sold out to the republican establishment. He was playing nice all the time with Romney, Rand Paul endorsed Romney even before Ron threw in the towel, and all that was justified by the possibility to influence republicans from within, and especially to have a say over the Republican Party platform. Eventually, Romney campaign and the RNC ended up beating and cheating the Ron Paul people on the ground, stripping Ron of many duly elected delegates for Tampa. The nice behavior of Ron Paul was awarded by insults and by purging the Paulites completely from the Republican Party, the scene to which Ron Paul reacted with a real Buddhist peace and indifference, without a single complaint or objection. And the famous “platform” in its final form called for auditing the Fed, but not too closely, because that could jeopardize its independence. So, Ron achieved nothing, and in return for achieving nothing his supporters have been beaten, humiliated and purged from the party! Am I missing something?
            However you slice it, Paul’s campaign was a huge failure, on its own terms, judged by the criteria Ron Paul and his supporters themselves laid out in advance. Now, Ron and his minions are trying to obfuscate this obvious failure by pointing out the “educational” and motivational effects of the campaign, inspiring the young people and similar crap, but that was not their argument from the beginning; they claimed Ron was going to win, and he was fighting to win, not to educate the public. The first question that anyone should ask is –what happened in the meantime to change so drastically Ron Paul’s priorities? Should we attribute this pathetic result to a deal with Romney, as some rumors would have it? But, if so, would not be a weird and strange thing to claim that a man known for his impeccable intellectual and personal integrity throughout his life and career would become a sell out at 77?
Good questions: with no obvious and self-evident answer. On the one hand, nobody could deny what has been said about Ron Paul’s credentials and achievements in advancing the cause of liberty in the past; on the other hand, nobody in good faith could deny that something was really fishy about this campaign from the beginning, and that it ended just pathetically. And that it is not convincing at all to excuse Ron himself for this pathetic outcome and blame various Judas and saboteurs who acted alone (Jesse Benton, John Tate, Rand Paul and so on).
The solution for this dilemma is I think, simple: yes, Ron Paul did indeed sell out, and what I mean by ‘selling out” in this context is not that he suddenly became a crook, but rather that he allowed his personal, family and nepotistic imperatives to trump his calling of a statesmen and a champion of liberty. He participated during this campaign in a deliberate scam of his own supporters, by refusing to fight for the nomination, while still pretending in public to be doing that.  I think that Ron Paul essentially was blackmailed; if he would not give up, Rand would be politically finished within the GOP machine. Ron decided to betray his supporters, his principles, his message of liberty and his legacy in order to secure the political future for his son within the republican establishment.
            What is the evidence for this? There is a plenty of evidence, and actually it is difficult to see any other explanation for Ron Paul’s behaviour in the last six months of the campaign or so. Many of the direct pieces of evidence were given by Ron himself, only his impassioned devotees did not want to see them, and did their best to suppress the plain truth about Ron’s betrayal by trying to find all sorts of scapegoats – Jesse Benton, John Tate, Rand Paul – everyone and his cousin, except the main culprit, the man who hired and instructed all those people to act on his behalf, to conduct his campaign and to speak in his name. Forgive me for the comparison, but I remember in my young years a man called Slobodan Milosevic, a dictator of my home country Serbia, who was admired in the first few years of his rule: as time went on, however, and people started to discover all sorts of crimes, plunders and betrayals committed by the regime, the real crisis of confidence ensued. But, “Sloba” was at first excused for all the problems, and “crooks and thieves around him” blamed. This changed only much later, when the people finally, after couple of wars, trade sanctions and crippling deterioration of the living standard, got to their senses and understood that there were no crooks and thieves, that there was only Sloba. These fervent Paulistas who excuse the old man while blaming the “crooks and thieves” such as Jesse, Rand or Tate for all misbehaviour and betrayals of the recent campaign remind me strongly of the na├»ve, self-delusional supporters of Slobodan Milosevic in my European childhood. They were for a harsh landing soon. I am afraid that the same crude awakening awaits the Paulistas now.
From the very beginning of the primary season a curious relationship between the Romney and Paul campaigns has developed. Not only that they would not attack each other during the debates and in the campaign adds, but even more peculiarly – whichever opponent of Mitt Romney would show up as a strong contender in the polls, threatening the Romney’s position as the “frontrunner”, be it Michelle Bachmann or Newt Gingrich or Rick Santorum, the Paul campaign would immediately and predictably launch a strong, aggressive and often effective counter-attack against this challenger. I remember Ron attacking Michelle Bachmann – certainly the most libertarian candidate among the rest of the field, very friendly to Ron and even with some interest in the Austrian economics – extremely aggressively and impolitely for her stance on gay marriage, a completely peripheral issue for both Ron and Michelle! Those were the days when many of us still believed that Ron was in to win, or at least to seriously fight for a win, and I remember my astonishment at this apparently stupid and reckless gaffe: “had he lost his mind? If he really wants to win he would need the full support of both Bachmann and Palin, he would have to do his best to coopt and instrumentalize the “fiscally conservative” wing of the Republican Party, instead of spitting them in the face. If he could tolerate and cooperate with Barney Frank and Denis Kucinich in the interest of a higher good, maybe he could tolerate Michelle Bachmann as well”.
            The theory that many of us (including even some foes of Ron’s like Mark Levin) accepted at the time was that Ron was not seeing Mitt Romney as a rival at that point, but was working tirelessly to delegitimize all those phony “conservatives”, and built for himself the position of the only credible anti-Romney. And only after that to go on fighting against Romney. However, even if this was the strategy (and, as I will show later on, it was not) still – to attack so aggressively one of the main stars of the conservatives about such a non-issue as gay marriage, did not seem to be the smartest way in the world of imposing yourself as the leading anti-Romney. Ron has never had a majority among the conventional conservatives and he simply needed in perspective a strong support of the politicians like Jim Demint, Sarah Palin or Michelle Bachmann. Going against any of them in such a drastic and unprovoked way seemed simply stupid and suicidal.
            Now, we know that it was everything but stupid, if we take into account his real objectives. Since Ron Paul never intended to win, his behavior was perfectly rational in pursuing Rand’s long term interests and manipulating the supporters towards this goal. First, his secret contacts and negotiations with Romney campaign started very early and were well underway in the time of the bitter primary debates (not bitter between Romney and Ron, of course). One of the anonymous senior staffers of the Paul campaign, widely speculated to be Jesse Benton himself, said recently for the media: “That (the absence of attacks on Romney) made it pretty clear to anybody with brains that our side had started talking with the Romney people”. This was, of course, denied vehemently during May and June when those speculations popped up for the first time. Now we know that allegations were, of course, true. Romney and Paul campaigns were working together to secure the nomination for Romney and advance the long-term interests of the Paul family.
Here is the additional, irrefutable, evidence: what also happened very early (and was impossible to hide, even temporarily) was the proclamation by the Ron Paul campaign that they would stop competing in the states that did not yet have their primaries; this happened in the mid-May. This declaration, curiously enough, came in the same time when the Ron Paul supporters won the several state conventions and accumulated the majorities even in some states in which Romney had won initially the majority of votes during the primaries (such as Maine). Moreover, it appeared that Paul’s supporters were taking over the Republican state organizations in different states, such as Iowa and Idaho. This development worried very much the Romney campaign and the republican leadership; this dissatisfaction with the effectiveness of the Ron Paul’s supporters even leaked out to the media.
            However, Ron Paul not only suspended his campaign in that very moment; even worse, in an extraordinary statement for the media, Jesse Benton, Ron Paul’s campaign manager, went so far as to condemn what he called “isolated instances of grassroots activists working toward an ostensible ‘hostile takeover’ of the GOP” in Idaho and other states! And he promised that this will not happen again! So, when the republican establishment got really upset about the possibility of Ron Paul amassing a respectable number of delegates for the convention in Tampa, Ron Paul campaign simply poured the cold water on its own supporters by first suspending the campaign, and then condemning them openly for being too successful! What kind of campaign manager is that who apologies to the rival team for the effectiveness of his own people? And what kind of candidate is that who tolerates such a traitor in his team? I remember the forum discussions at the Daily Paul website at the time, in which dozens and dozens of idealistic and energetic activists who selflessly donated their time, money and energy to the Ron’s campaign, and who spent days and nights, weeks and months, fighting for him in caucuses, rallies, conventions, were simply flabbergasted by this betrayal. They were desperate, angry and could not believe what they were hearing from the campaign.
            Just a day or so after this infamous episode, in an obviously coordinated move, Rand Paul came to the Sean Hannity show on the Fox News to openly and wholeheartedly endorse Mitt Romney, promising even to actively campaign for him! The supporters were furious – the same day when Jesse Benton and Ron Paul went out of their way to convince them to continue pouring money into the campaign since this “suspension” did not mean the end of it (God forbid), Rand Paul was seemingly stabbing his father in the back, by endorsing his rival on a show led by one of the harshest Ron Paul haters in the American media! He even went so far as to suggest that the endorsement was a kind of Paul and Romney clans joining together, as he spoke about the “family kinship” between Romneys and Pauls. And what had Ron Paul done in response to this apparent sabotage by his son? Nothing: he was silent! Or more precisely, he was not so silent, after all; on his Facebook page, Ron approvingly posted and urged the fans to read an article published on Daily Caller in which Rand’s endorsement was praised, as well as the new “pragmatism” of both Rand and Ron who, according to the article, finally understood that they have to work within the republican establishment in order to achieve their libertarian goals! So, Ron Paul was supporting his son in his endorsement of his main rival, the same day when he was still busy convincing the supporters to continue sending money to his own campaign which was allegedly not over yet! It was plainly obvious that afternoon that Rand Paul was not the Judas, as many angry a supporter would have it, but that everything he was doing, was done with the full knowledge and approval of his father. In the same time, it became obvious that the entire Paul campaign was a fake – it was never intended as a fight for the nomination but only as a ploy to protect and advance the narrow political interests of the Paul family.
            However, the Paul’s supporters were not to be deterred so easily by this. In a tragicomic combination of an open sabotage of their efforts by their own candidate and their often irrational and immature worshiping attitude towards Ron Paul, they continued to make troubles, completely unaware of the wider game that was being played by their hero behind their backs. They fought hard to amass a very significant number of delegates, all the discouraging signs from the campaign notwithstanding. The new big problem for both Paul’s campaign strategists and for Romney people was how to prevent the stupid rubs from spoiling the party in Tampa by nominating Ron Paul from the floor, what they could have done if they retained the control over the majority of at least five state delegations. They controlled six, which put the entire concept of a peaceful coronation of Mitt Romney in Tampa in jeopardy. The danger had to be removed.
            And it was removed by simply stealing the delegates from Paul and giving them to Romney with the full blessing of the Paul campaign! The level of cooperation between the Romney and Paul campaigns in this dirty business was simply beyond belief. For example, Ron Paul won eventually (after Santorum’s withdrawal) the Louisiana primaries – 27 out of 46 delegates. However, the Romney campaign challenged the results and eventually succeeded in stealing the elections via combination of legalistic trickery and the help from the RNC. Predictably, the local Paulistas were furious and a bitter fight ensued: finally, the two campaigns settled for a “compromise” by which Romney would get a majority of 31, and Paul a minority of 17 candidates. On his Facebook page Ron Paul praised this deal as a “good compromise”! What he failed to mention was that by this “good compromise” the Republican machine just robbed him of one of the critical state delegations necessary to nominate him from the floor. And he was happy about it! Sounds surreal? Not at all, because the days before this “historic” compromise, Jesse Benton was already promising in the media that Paul’s delegates would be “respectful” and that they would not nominate him from the floor: “Dr Paul does not want to be nominated from the floor” exclaimed solemnly Jesse. However, Ron and his cronies obviously did not have enough confidence in the moral corruption of their own people, and they had to make sure that the stupid rubs would not acquire a sufficient majority to wreak havoc on the beautiful historical coronation of Mitt Romney, by “irresponsibly” attempting to nominate Ron from the floor, and forcing him thereby to really fight against Romney! Just in case!
            And then, as if all of this was not enough, RNC changed the rules as they went to Tampa to increase the number of state delegations necessary for the floor nomination from 5 to 8. Needless to say, again without a single word of protestation from Ron Paul or from his campaign.
I believe that in Ron Paul’s behavior was something more than mere working for Rand’s future. This additional and actually more general factor was pointed out in an excellent but (understandably) ignored interview by the former Ron Paul’s senior staffer Penny Freeman with Adam Kokesh. She argued that Ron Paul has never believed he has a shot at winning the presidential elections. Penny Freeman left Ron Paul’s organization in 2007 during the initial, preparatory stage of the campaign for the elections 2008, when she was told by a colleague Kent Schneider that “Ron will never win, they’ll never let him win. We have to run an educational campaign’. The response of Penny Freeman was: “I don’t get paid not to win” and she left. She rightly pointed out that the educational effect and “getting the message out” were just the by-products of a successful campaign to win, and not the goals of the campaign itself.
This little anecdote tells us a lot about Ron Paul and his strategy. We already know that Ron Paul is not a typical politician; he is a man of ideas and theories instead of practical politics and ordinary wheeling and dealing; when it was last time that you heard a lecture about the business cycle theory by a major political figure? In a presidential primary debate? The fact that he was impossible to bribe, to lobby or coopt testifies also to this effect. Years spent in an almost complete isolation in Washington D.C. must have convinced him at some point that he was waging a lost political battle against the system. At some point he must have changed his priorities from making a political success, let alone becoming a president, to educating the public and raising the issues in public that the mainstream does not want to be raised. He had to scale back his ambitions. Being a man of ideas, this transition from political to educational mission might have been much easier for him than for most other people. In 2008 this change was plainly obvious.
And this is the first and critical deception of Ron Paul-the politician: the thousands of people supported him in 2008 and 2012 without knowing that he had never believed he could win and had never intended seriously even to fight for a win! He would raise money for the campaign, pretending that he was competing for the presidency, while in the same time never seeing his mission as winning the elections, but rather as “educating” the public. Everything was a fake from the get-go! Ron Paul testified repeatedly how much he was struck and caught by surprise by the strength of the response to his message in 2008, how many young people accepted the ideology of individual liberty and free markets.
In 2012 the situation was much more serious than in 2008; the level of support for Ron Paul was much stronger. According to the opinion polls, just weeks before the Iowa caucuses he was a serious contender to win. And this created the unforeseen problems to his disingenuous tactic of using the money raised as a politician to run the educational and a-political campaigns. Namely, at this point the thousands of young people, thousands of fervent Paulistas all over the country were convinced that Ron’s time has come, and that he will win; they were ready to spend days and nights, during the cold winter in the cumbersome primaries and caucuses, to endure insults, beatings, cheatings and all the rest in order to carry his message and help him win.
This might have created a sense of pride on his part, and also the sense that the educational tactic was working: every year the more and more young people get acquainted with Mises, Hayek and Rothbard, with the ABCT, with the ideas of gold standard and non-interventionist foreign policy, chant “end the Fed”, and all the rest. And every year the establishment is forced more and more to take this into account.
 However, the dark side of this success for Ron Paul was that he created, so to speak, a monster he could not control anymore. He created an army of self-conscious, educated and radical young people, ready to endure whatever it takes to change America politically. They would donate their money, they would donate their time, they would do whatever needs to be done for his electoral success and they would never give up and they would also expect Ron to never give up. This was the last thing in the world that the Ron Paul, the pedestrian politician-educationalist needed! We now know from the horse’s mouth, from his (ex) chief lieutenant and a member of his family Jesse Benton, that Paul’s campaign started the talks with Romney very early during the primaries and that “everyone with brains” should have known that Ron’s cavalier attitude towards Romney was not a matter of strategic calculation to win, but a matter of the deal that was being made with Romney behind the backs of supporters.
It is very easy to see how Ron Paul was thinking: “I am running one of my educational campaigns, but I know I will not win, so let’s make a deal with Romney who is the establishment candidate and who will win, to push through some of my ideas into the platform and to advance Rand’s career. And let’s extract some more money for these purposes from these poor suckers who still believe that I am a new Andrew Jackson or Robert Taft”. And he was caught in a vice between this prosaic reasoning and the campaign realities on the ground, where his supporters were wreaking havoc on the republican machine. That was not a part of the plan; they took him much more seriously than he was comfortable with. He maybe even got scared of what was going on; at any rate, he simply decided that the only way out of that mess was to quietly strangle his own campaign while preserving at least a minimum of credibility as a principled liberty-fighter and Mr Libertarian. Hence, that difficult balancing between the clear signaling to the establishment that you are giving up and the efforts to convince the stupid rubs that you are actually not giving up. Imagine if Ron had said honestly: “you know what, kids, I am here to advance my nepotistic interests, and not for the reasons you are supporting me and bleeding for me. I made a deal with Romney and I will endorse him, because, you know, that will be useful for Rand and the transition from me to him in the movement. But, don’t be upset, I am still Ron Paul, the leader of your big revolution, and a great Libertarian and Mister No whom you admire, so please continue treating me as such and keep donating to my C4L as if nothing had happened”. I am guessing that the stupid rubs would not be terribly impressed by this; in all likelihood, Ron would have ended up with a barrage of deserved insults and accusations for selling out, just as Rand did, if not worse.
So, instead of this honest and impractical admission, Ron started a long torture of giving the contradictory, convoluted statements and counter-statements, so uncharacteristic for him, intended to “square the circle”; to keep going with the factual betrayal and keep faking his “liberty revolution”. So, one day Ron would be “still undecided” about the support for Romney; the next day he would say that he was “not endorsing Romney fully”, which suggested that he was endorsing him partially. In the interview with Neil Cavuto he would confirm that Neil’s description of his stance as “endorsing the Romney-Ryan ticket, but not wholeheartedly” was correct. In an interview with Jay Leno after the Republican convention he would say he was still “plugging along in this campaign”. It was so sad to watch; Ron Paul in the role in which he was never good; behaving like a politician, i.e. lying.
Some of the Ron Paul’s supporters now claim that such sad end of Ron’s political career is a terrific thing: Ron Paul was never a real politician, corrupt and sold out, all we are now better off with him retiring, getting out of dirty business of politics and doing what he is best at: spreading the ideas of liberty and educating people. But, they forget that Ron Paul campaigns in 2008 as well as in 2012 did not raise the money from the donors and did not ask for volunteers and delegates for their time and resources to “educate the public about libertarianism”, but to help Ron win the presidency! Would Ron and his campaign now refund the donors for the money they extracted from them by falsely promising to fight for the republican nomination, while in practice not intending to do any such thing?
I don’t think so. On the contrary, it appears that the Paul clan is doubling down on the same profitable business strategy; Ron will play his role as an “educator”, this time around as a retired politician and a cash cow for Rand Paul, the best pall of Mitch McConnell, and Jesse Benton, the new campaign manager of the same McConnell! And John Tate is moving back at the Board of directors of the Campaign for Liberty, to supervise the financial operations of the clan. This is intended as a real family business, a liberty factory with a nice division of labor: Ron the honest educationalist and a “man of principle” to whom the army of enthusiastic supporters could still donate a few bucks, Rand as a political arm busy converting Washington DC to libertarianism by palling around with Mitch McConnell, Jesse as a double agent in McConnell’s headquarters working covertly for Ron and Rand (with the neocon operator Trygve Olsen whispering in his ear), and John as financial mastermind. What possibly could be wrong with such a nice scheme?
For those of you who still believe that everything must have been just a terrible mistake and misunderstanding, that Ron was manipulated like “Sloba” by evil or incompetent advisers, and hope to wake up one morning and get your old Ron Paul back, I would like to say: that ain’t gonna happen.  If you believe in such a possiblity, you would have a lot explaining to do, to yourself primarily: to explain the persistence of Jesse Benton as a campaign manager, in spite of all his malfeasance and treason, and explain his subsequent transfer to the Mitch McConnell campaign; to explain Trygve Olsen’s presence and his friendship with Rand Paul, please explain Ron’s explicit endorsement of Rand’s endorsement of Romney, to explain the debates in gloves between Romney and Paul, as well as the mysterious campaign suspension and Benton’s apologies for being too effective in taking over the state conventions and Ron’s silence on this; to explain the silence of Ron Paul campaign about everything the RNC thugs had done in Tampa, including changing the rules five minutes before voting. To explain, after all, that Ron was still undecided five days before the lections about whom he supported, that he “did not fully support” Romney, or that he did not decide yet whether he would vote and that he “supports the ticket but not wholeheartedly”?. And to explain why Ron would not endorse Garry Johnson, after he endorsed by far inferior LP candidate in 2008? Does that sound like Ron Paul you know? Honestly?

Monday, December 17, 2012

Jefferson on Nullification, edition 1792

The following quote is from Jefferson's letter to Madison, October 1st, 1792 and is discussing the Hamiltonian National bank legislation. Jefferson explains to Madison what in his opinion the Virginia legislation should do about this issue. This is the earliest and the most radical Jefferson's formulation of the doctrine of nullification I am aware of:

The assembly should reason thus. The power of erecting banks and corporations was not given to the general government. It remains with the state itself. For any person to recognise a foreign legislature in a case belonging to the state itself, is an act of treason against the state, and whosoever shall do any act under colour of the authority of a foreign legislature whether by signing notes, issuing or passing them, acting as director, or any other office relating to it shall be adjudged guilty of high treason and suffer death accordingly.

*The Papers of Thomas Jefferson, volume 24 John Catanzarity ed. Princeton University Press, 1990., pp. 432-33

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Ron Paul meltdown

I have a friend who is close to Ron Paul, although he was not a part of his presidential campaign. I have sent the following letter to him a few days ago. Got no reply, yet. You can judge for yourselves why:

Hi, ....

I hope that you can help me better understand the situation concerning Ron Paul. Namely, I have a great difficulty understanding why you and many other people close to Lew Rockwell, continue to support Ron Paul? You yourself said earlier that if Ron endorses Romney he would destroy his legacy that way. But, for all practical purposes, he had done that already! He sold out to the establishment, in order to secure Rand's political future in the GOP. It is clear that the Rand's endorsement was done with the full Ron's support, that Ron directly approved it on his Facebook page, etc. In addition, his campaign manager is openly subverting the campaign for months! He condemned Ron's supporters who worked tirelessly to take over a couple of state GOP organizations. He said they were going to suspend the campaign, but asked for money nevertheless. Ron approved tacitly all of this, and called his supporters to be "respectful" in Tampa. I am taking that as a clear proof that he personally approves everything Jesse Benton is doing, and that he made a deal with Romney and GOP. It is extremely difficult to believe anything else.

Do you know something that I don't? It seems to me that Ron gained nothing in return for his despicable behavior towards his own supporters, apart from Rand being co-opted into the GOP machine. That might have been understandable, he might have chosen to act as a father rather than as a statesmen, but that has to be pointed out by someone with real gravitas. He has to be called out for this. Ron's supporters including you were sold out. We who so admired him all over the world were sold out as well. I think that exactly in the name of deep respect for everything that Ron had done for the cause of liberty over the years, his latest sad betrayal has to be severely condemned. In order to preserve his legacy. Do you agree with me? Am I missing something?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Two Great Moral Reformers of Humanity

Abraham Lincoln:

I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved; I do not expect the house to fall; but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other.


Sayyid Qutb:

Either Islam will remain or Jahliyyah; Islam cannot accept or agree to a situation which is half-Islam and half-Jahliyyah. Islam says that truth is one and cannot be divided; if it is not the truth, it is a falsehood. The mixing and co-existency of truth and falsehood is impossible.

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

American Presidents

Five best:

1. John Tyler (did nothing, protected Indians, blocked protectionism, supported Confederacy, for free markets)
2. Martin van Buren (did nothing, against war, against big government)
3. Grover Cleveland (vetoed everything, against war, against big government, for gold standard)
4. Warren Harding (did nothing to "prevent depression" of 1921, freed Wilson's political prisoners, lowered taxes drastically)
5. Andrew Johnson (opposed the 14 amendment, vetoed everything, states rights advocate)

Five worst:

1. Abraham Lincoln (mega killer, warmonger, big spender, paper money, income tax, dictatorship)
2. Franklin Delano Roosevelt (big killer, warmonger, mega spender, New Deal, dictatorship)
3. Woodrow Wilson (warmonger, income tax, Fed, dictatorship)
4. Theodor Roosevelt (warmonger, trust-busting, big government)
5. Lyndon B. Johnson ("Great Society")

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

American Experience and Classical Liberalism

It is somewhat of a cliche among the classical liberals to think of democracy as being a threat to liberty and that the only way of protecting liberty is to limit democracy. That's deemed the best way to avoid tyranny of the majority. This view prevails equally among the majority of classical liberal philosophers and among many practical statesmen, most notably American "Father of the Constitution" James Madison. Beneath the surface of this "concern" for liberty there has been always a distinct note of contempt for the ordinary folk, for the stupid rubes who would ruin everything if left to govern themselves according to their unenlightened biases and whims. Very slyly, many a critic of democracy would say even that the rule of the mob leads to big government and socialism because they want free money from the taxpayer, and are going to elect the demagogues to provide them with the transfers.

However, if historical experience of the 20th century had shown anything with clarity it is the fact that the trend of modern centralized nation state to grow immensely actually did not go hand in hand with incrased "democracy". If anything, it well may have been the other way around - that democracy, in other words, a more direct electoral control and political decentralization, was destroyed together with liberty by the alienated bureaucratic and judicial elites, short-circuiting all the standard rules of constitutional governance and especially local self-government. The choice, in this perspective, would not be the one between liberalism and democracy, but rather between the tyranny of majority and the tyranny of minority. Far from being an offshoot of democracy, the modern national welfare-warfare state was an anti-democratic coup d'etat par excellence, a true tyranny of the minority, imposed through administrative and regulatory centralization behind the back of the voter. Big government in the 20th century was not a project of the stupid rubs, but rather of their Wise Overlords from the political, intellectual and financial elites.

If we look a bit deeper into this problem, we shall see that this was not by accident; a taste for an elitist rule by the few is very obvious among the many "liberals" and "constitutionalists". For example, so much touted Madison's warning against tyranny of majority was just a thinly veiled plea for the tyranny of minority. Don't forget that the argument in the Federalist 10 allegedly warning of tyranny of majority actually offered an argument for a large, more centralized state as a "remedy" for the "factional strife" of the republic under the Articles of Confederation. The same man who developed the canonical and most influential justification of the new Constitution was the one who advocated bitterly, just few months before that, a strongly centralized government with swiping powers of the Congress and President, including the veto power over the state laws and the right of the federal military to invade the grumbling states. Those are the same people who believe that nine unelected and politically well-connected lawyers in the black robes in Washington D.C. should have a monopoly in interpreting the Constitution and an implicit law making power!

However, American political tradition is so wonderful because it offers us a plenty of "basic symbols", political figures, books and documents to fight this tendency; to articulate and defend the idea of liberty preserved by democracy, i.e. by local self-government. Just read the Kentucky and Virginia resolutions of 1798 written by Jefferson and Madison (yes, the same flip-flopper Madison who changed his mind in the meantime) in which the idea of state nullification is elaborated - a right of states to refuse to apply an unconstitutional federal law. Or the noble tradition of secession, which has been repeatedly used by both Northern and Southern states. Or take the books of the authors like Abel Upshur, Litleton Waller Tazawell or John Taylor of Caroline in which the theory of the union as a compact between the peoples of sovereign states is most brilliantly elaborated. We have the beautiful intellectual weapons at hand to help us fight the centralizing ideology and defend an old idea of liberty in a new and unfavorable environment - that of the post-modern centralized and tightly controlled government. And herein lies the historical significance of American political culture! It gives us a manual how to bring back classical liberalism.