Monday, November 12, 2007

Hornberger Endorses Paul

This morning, Jacob Hornberger, president of the Future of Freedom Foundation , published an article on Lew about why he is so ecstatic about the Ron Paul campaign for President. At first, I was a bit surprised, but then again, not surprised. I wasn’t surprised, because many libertarians all across the country are excited to see someone they view as one of their own is raising a ruckus. However, I was surprised to see Hornberger in particular, because he and his organization are very passionate in their support for free immigration, whereas Paul is not only in favor of closed-borders, but proposes to round up 10-20 million "illegals" for a forced relocation back to where they came from. My thought was that if there ever was a dividing line, these two surely would represent polar opposites in libertarian thought. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

Hornberger anticipates this question:

Some libertarians might ask, "But Jacob, how can you support Ron Paul when you all disagree on the immigration issue?"

My answer: For the same reason that I assume Ron awarded The Future of Freedom Foundation his Liberty in Media Award for Outstanding Freedom Website – and for the same reason that libertarian think tanks and educational foundations support each other despite disagreements on particular libertarian issues: We know that we’re a small band of people who are committed to the same overall goal – the restoration of a free society – and we’re not going to let differences over particular libertarian positions split us apart and interfere with attaining our overall objective.
It’s nice to see that even the most hard-core libertarians can still be reasonable enough. So often, I’ve seen all too many libertarians take the line that if a person even deviates from libertarian principle by even a fraction of the width of a strand of hair, he is then a State-Worshipping socialist. I’m not saying Hornberger is, or ever was, one of this breed. But given Hornberger’s no-holds barred approach to criticizing today’s moral and political landscape – on top of being one of the most passionate spokesmen for open immigration – one might be tempted to think that Ron Paul’s radical position on immigration would be a deal-breaker.

Hornberger continues:

Does that mean that I would vote for any self-described libertarian, either within the Libertarian Party or without? No. Like many other libertarians I have my own particular litmus test as to which libertarians I’ll vote for and which ones I won’t vote for. If a self-described libertarian favors either the drug war or the war of aggression on Iraq, I will not vote for him and, in fact, I don’t even consider him a libertarian. But if I’m convinced that a candidate is libertarian in spirit and commitment, I will vote for him even if he calls for Social Security reform, Medicare reform, welfare reform, school vouchers, immigration controls, a national sales tax, or any other compromise of libertarian principles.

I would agree with this paragraph, as this is precisely my own thinking. I have my own "litmus tests" to which I would apply to any prospective candidate. I don’t insist that a candidate be 100% "pure" in my view in order for me to give him my support. There is room for disagreements. It’s just a matter of looking at the big picture. I often tell people who are what I call "except for" libertarians – people who would be a libertarian, except for one or two issues on which they seem to disagree – that we should all work together on the issues we agree with, and set aside our differences to resolve them at a later date. We have too much at stake to let one or two issues divide us.

But what strikes me about Hornberger’s position as a bit curious is that given his ardent, pro-immigration position – indeed, its probably one of the most common topics he writes on – why does he overlook the disagreement on this issue, while saying that the drug war or Iraq war would be deal-breakers? What if Paul was in 100% agreement with him on immigration, but instead was even mildly pro-drug war? I can’t help but feel that Hornberger’s willingness to compromise on one of his most central issues, calls into doubt his sincerity on the issue. If he has a litmus test for libertarians, as he claims, then it would seem that it should be his most passionate issues which get priority in evaluating the feasibility of a candidate. Perhaps Hornberger has reasoned about this in a way that has allowed him to come to terms with this type of compromise. If so, it's not immediately clear to me. Furthermore, I worry that Hornberger is overlooking this deviation from principle simply because it is Ron Paul, and the possibility for political success is providing the temptation to sacrifice a principle.

One other thing was brought up in Hornberger’s article relates to a point I’ve made in the past: The Ron Paul campaign will spell complete irrelevance for the Libertarian Party in 2008, especially now that Paul is really making waves. I’m not particularly bothered by this – afterall, my first and foremost desire is for liberty, and the party implementing it is irrelevant – but I simply say that as an observation. The LP will be an "also ran" after the Paul campaign fizzles. If anyone doubts this, ask yourself, let’s say Paul actually wins the GOP nomination. Would the LP run a presidential candidate? Will serious LP activists really get out there and campaign for someone else who is not Paul? Most LP activists are firmly on board with this Republican party candidate. If Paul is actually successful, those people who are working to advance the political organization of the LP won’t be around. The LP, in effect, will become just a subset of the Republican party for that election cycle.

A person at a Libertarian Party convention once said to me, "The worst thing that could ever happen is if the Republican Party were to adopt libertarian principles." Intrigued, I responded, "Oh, and why is that?" He said, "Because it would really damage the Libertarian Party."

The guy was obviously missing the forest for the trees. The greatest thing that could ever happen to our country is if both of the major parties – Republican and Democrat – were to re-embrace libertarian principles, because the only way we are going to restore freedom to our land is through the repeal of the wrongful, oppressive, and tyrannical laws and policies that emanate from the federal government.

Hornberger is absolutely correct on this point. Furthermore, the entire history of minor parties in this country has been to agitate and harness support for new political ideas – abolition, women’s suffrage, prohibition, socialism, etc. all started out as the centerpiece of minor parties. When these ideas got enough support that they actually threatened to take power away from the establishment parties, the Big Two simply co-opted the ideas and made them their own. If there is a political solution to re-establishing liberty, it will most likely happen the same way. The Ron Paul candidacy, in my view, could be the beginning of this co-opting of libertarian ideas, albeit in a limited sort of way.

My support for Ron Paul is still tentative. There are many aspects of the guy that I like, as well as some troubling points. His anti-war stance, and his support for returning to a "sound money" monetary system are very appealiing to me. The immigration thing is, admittedly, very troubling. 10-20 million people is a LOT of people to try and forcibly relocate. Not all of them are going to go quietly. Not to mention its just flat out immoral to tell someone where they can live and work, and who they can and cannot associate with. It is this issue, on top of the fact that, by all accounts, the immigration issue is a hot button issue (and not in a good way). I worry that Paul’s campaign is tapping into that anti-immigrant sentiment, and that the larger picture is that Paul’s campaign is only fueled by that and not a real desire for liberty among the general public.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

While Ron Paul has stated that he'd sign the FairTax, Mike Huckabee is ardently pro-active in its regard. The FairTax Act of 2007 (HR 25/ S 1025) represents a power shift of massive proportions in America. It lays out a practical ideal of voluntary payment of taxes, based on a substantial level of taxpayer choice that the plan affords. Since FairTax untaxes basic necessities (up to socially-accepted poverty-level spending), what is taxed is marginal, and/or desired or preferred, on a broader base of retail products and services. This is to say that the taxpayer may, under the FairTax, choose to purchase used products and avoid paying the tax. And, to the extent desired, the taxpayer may choose to self-perform certain services rather than pay for them. This will stimulate do-it-yourself education, improve citizens' self-reliance; indeed the FairTax represents the possibility of ushering in a new can-do, citizen psychology that would accrue to greater demands for government accountability - truly, a cultural sea change.

Government is the "necessary glue" that enables the social fabric to cohere. It does this by effecting "rules" that ostensibly provide members with equitable access to wealth and resources. It also must provide ostensibly equitable enforcement of those rules in order to mitigate threats to the social fabric. It is unrealistic to believe that the structures of a national government can be supported on donations, thus the need for taxes. Naysayers love to characterize anything purporting to be a "fair tax" as an oxymoron - but it is not true. The idea of fairness has to do with equitable sharing in the cost by all members who depend upon the social fabric for food, shelter, clothing and post-necessity economic enterprise. And, because of the shift of power from politicians and special interests under an enacted FairTax, the elected will find it more difficult to both enlarge government, and implement any dual system of taxation. FairTax strategist, Dennis Calabrese, discusses how the FairTax repeals the income tax, how it does away with the IRS, and how it addresses other aspects of frequent concern to skeptics.

The FairTax has a much greater opportunity for success to operate as a "self-regulating" mechanism because of increased visibility. One finds that the current system, ostensibly regulated by the Internal Revenue Code, is in fact poorly regulated because of continually increasing complexity (the effect of tax favors from politicians, through lobbyists, to favored corporations and other special interests) stemming from the desire by those holding government position to steer public behavior using tax code "carrots." We have seen how 100 years of this type of behavior has eroded the Nation's currency and the purchasing power of working family incomes. "Visionist," Tom Frey believes the current tax system will simply collapse; and economist Laurence Kotlikoff heralds - short of enactment of FairTax (or an otherwise unlikely change in spending habits) - the U.S. will shortly face an irrevocable economic breakdown. (Kotlikoff believes that passage of the FairTax can stave off the economic ruin we're facing, but would be surprised to see it happen.)

Frey and Kotlikoff may be right on both counts, and we may not be able to successfully evoke change; but shall we not try?

(Permission granted to republish, in whole or part. -Ian)

10:54 PM  

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