Thoughts, essays, and writings on Liberty. Written by the heirs of Patrick Henry.

November 2, 2007

Radicals For Capitalism: A Book Review

by Doug Mataconis

When the 20th Century was still young, things didn’t look good at all for the ideas of individual liberty and self-government that had been the spark that lit the American and French Revolutions. Intellectually and politically, collectivism, of both the right and the left, was on the march. In Europe and most of the rest of the world it manifested itself in either the dictatorships of Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, and Franco, or the supposed freedom of “social democracy.” In the United States, it manifested itself in a boring New Deal consensus that seemed to accept as inevitable the idea that the state would become more and more involved in the daily lives of it’s citizens.

And god help you if you happened to dissent from the prevailing orthodoxy. Academically and politically, advocates of ideas that used to be the prevailing philosophy of the nation were treated as if they were troglodytes. And, as World War II dawned, the prospects for freedom seemed dim indeed.

That, roughly, is where the story begins in Brian Doherty’s Radicals For Capitalism, a massive 700 page history of the libertarian movement in the United States. As would be expected, Doherty gives plenty of coverage to the intellectual giants of libertarian thought whose names should be familiar to most contemporary libertarians — Hayek, Mises, Rand, and Rothbard — as well as plenty of the lesser-known names who have contributed to the growth of libertarian ideas and the libertarian movement. Since most of us weren’t around during those days, it’s valuable to learn how we got to where we are today.

As with any good history, Doherty’s book also teaches a lesson or two.

First, as he points out in the concluding chapter of his book, there is tendency among libertarians to believe in the worst of all possible outcomes, and a failure to recognize just how much progress toward human liberty has been made in the past 50 years or so. Before the libertarian movement came into it’s own, American males were drafted into the armed forces when the turned 18, marginal tax rates exceeded 70 percent, Americans were legally forbidden from owning gold in any form other than jewelry, airline travel was heavily regulated by the FAA to the point where consumer choice was virtually non-existent, and socialism in one form or another was on the march throughout the world.

All that’s gone now, in part thanks to the ideas put forward and the world done by libertarians. Are things perfect ? Of course not, but they’re better than they have been, and they’re better here than most other places in the world.

Instead of recognizing progress, though, libertarians seem to wallow in gloom-and-doom and seem especially susceptible to some of the far-right scams that suggest people who disagree with libertarian ideas aren’t just adversaries, they are enemies out to enslave us, and that the day of gulags in the southwestern desert is just around the corner. More often than not, that leads to rhetoric and policy ideas that, to the average American, sounds just a little nutty — which is part of the reason that something beyond the waterted-down libertarianism of “fiscally conservative, socially liberal” that, I would submit, most people outside the movement mean when they refer to themselves as libertarian, isn’t likely to succeed in the United States in the short term.

If you doubt me, and as Doherty points out, then tell one of these newly-professed libertarians that their philosophy also requires them to advocate legalizing all drugs, legalizing prostitution, closing the public schools, and privatizing the roads and see how long they keep calling themselves libetarians.

The second lesson that can be drawn from Doherty’s history is that, partially because of the personalities that have populated the movement and partially because of the philosophy itself, libertarians have always seemed to have a tendency toward infighting and, for lack of a better word, tribalism. Two of the movements greatest philosophers — Ayn Rand and Murry Rothbard — were both guilty of banishing people for insufficient orthodoxy, often in a mean-spirited manner. While that may have been a function of two very strong personalities, it’s also evident elsewhere in Doherty’s book — for example, there’s been almost as much purging and infighting in the Libertarian Party in its 35 years of existence as one would expect to see from a bunch of communists.

And, it’s something we still see today.

Libertarians who dissent from what someone perceives to be the accepted orthodoxy on a given issue have been written out of the movement, or subjected to personal attacks, or simply just marginalized even when they’re on the same side of an issue. For example, and this is probably an oversimplification, the guys at Lew Rockwell don’t like the guys at Cato, even though they’re on the same side of the Iraq War issue. Here at The Liberty Papers, a post questioning the effectiveness of Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign, challenging his ideas or pointing out that someone else happens to be in the lead, draws comments that border on personal attacks, which draw comments in response that border on the same — all of which accomplishes nothing.

Just as the gloom and doom is unwarranted given that America circa 2007 is indisputably a freer country than America circa 1960 was, the advance of freedom around the world, all of this infighting is ironic considering that libertarians are still, decidedly, a minority in the political system.

Doherty concludes his book with a quote from Murray Rothbard, and, while I generally don’t agree with most of Rothbard’s political conclusions, this quote is one I think we can all agree with:

“[Libertarians] should remain of good cheer. The eventual victory of liberty is inevitable, because only liberty is functional for modern man. There is no need, therefore to thirst maniacally for Instant Action and Instant Victory, and then to fall into bleak despair when that Instant Victory is not forthcoming. Reality, and therefore history, is on our side.”

Sounds like a good idea to me.

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  • http://www.thesparsematrix.com rho

    Why is the 20th century for you only the past 50 years?

    Libertarians have arguments and discussions. That is why it is a vibrant political philosophy. Giving up and compromising core principles, as you seem eager to do, is not a vibrant political philosophy.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    rho,

    The meat of Doherty’s book covers the post World War II era because, effectively, there was no libertarian movement before then.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    “Here at The Liberty Papers, a post questioning the effectiveness of Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign, challenging his ideas or pointing out that someone else happens to be in the lead, draws comments that border on personal attacks, which draw comments in response that border on the same…”

    Of course, a lot of the venom in those attacks comes from the fact that the author of the great majority of those Liberty Papers posts on Ron Paul tends to nitpick marginal or non-existent issues that seem to be brought up solely because of that irrational pessimism you just mentioned, and many otherwise non-pessimist Ron Paul supporters get tired of hearing him continually bitch for little or no apparent constructive purpose.

    Look in the mirror, Doug, or at least go re-read your own Ron Paul archives…I think you’ll find that you’re quite often one of those irrational pessimists you just complained about.

    Beyond that, good article. I enjoyed “Radicals for Capitalism” as well. Doherty did a good book. I found the part about the libertarian thinker (whose name currently escapes me) who refused to let his followers spread his arguments without paying him for them really interesting. Definitely a quirky character.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Giving up and compromising core principles, as you seem eager to do, is not a vibrant political philosophy.

    Funny, that’s exactly what the arguments always boiled down to in the past too.

    Something tells me we’ll never learn.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Crawford,

    If there’s an honest disagreement on an issue then I don’t call it nitpicking. I call it a discussion, or at least that’s what I thought it would become.

    And I think it’s legitimate to raise concerns when unsavory characters like David Duke and Alex Jones start hitching their stars to ideas that they clearly don’t believe in.

    After reading the book, its obvious that the libertarian tendency to demand orthodoxy and loyalty (which is ironic considering we’re supposed to be individuals) is something that still exists.

  • Jeff Molby

    If there’s an honest disagreement on an issue then I don’t call it nitpicking. I call it a discussion, or at least that’s what I thought it would become.

    Ok, but can you acknowledge that your expectations were wrong for the most part?

    Did you ever play organized sports, Doug? Constructive criticism is fine and dandy during pre-season and practices. It helps everyone improve and prepare for the big games. But during the game, you bite your tongue because emotions are too high criticism to be effective. Our opponents are across the field heckling us constantly; we don’t need to hear it from our captain too.

    Mistakes will be made. The outlook will be gloomy at times. But if you want to win, you let the minor stuff slide and work your tail off. And even if you’re content to mail this one in, the very least you can do is be nominally supportive of those who are working hard for something we all want.

    When the dust settles, then you reflect on the game and teach the lessons.

  • Jeff Molby

    After reading the book, its obvious that the libertarian tendency to demand orthodoxy and loyalty (which is ironic considering we’re supposed to be individuals) is something that still exists.

    Of course we’re individuals, but an intelligent individual understands that we can’t overcome the challenge we face without teamwork and that involves some compromise.

    If the team has already agreed to pursue a certain strategy, and an individual thinks it’s the wrong strategy, what possible good would come from that individual continually arguing with the team? If the individual shares the team’s goal, he should acknowledge that he might be wrong about the strategy and either pitch in or stay out of the way. Any other approach will only reduce everyone’s chances of successfully moving towards our goals.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    “I think it’s legitimate to raise concerns when unsavory characters like David Duke and Alex Jones start hitching their stars to ideas that they clearly don’t believe in.”

    That’s when you look at the candidate’s track record, Doug, to determine if there’s something to be worried about. Paul’s never given an indication that he’s a racist or a “truther”, he’s never voted along those lines, and he’s come out against those philosophies repeatedly. Unless you’ve got some evidence to prove he’s been lying to everyone for the last 20 years, your concerns don’t have a lot of validity. Yet you keep bringing this up despite the fact that you have no evidential basis for real concern and despite the fact that this has been repeatedly pointed out to you. That doesn’t make you someone looking for a debate, that makes you a malcontent and a pessimist just looking for something to bitch about. Thus the venom.

    And I think Jeff’s sports analogy is entirely appropriate.

    “…its obvious that the libertarian tendency to demand orthodoxy and loyalty (which is ironic considering we’re supposed to be individuals) is something that still exists.”

    Yes, the libertarians demand orthodoxy and loyalty to individual freedom, non-aggression, free markets, etc. We have ethical and philosophical standards that must be met for someone to legitimately claim they’re one of us, or we expect the person to convince us why we should accept their arguments as libertarian. That’s why we’re an ideology and not just a political party, unlike the Democrats or Republicans. This is not a bad thing. This is also why libertarians often go after you when you claim to be someone who shares our views but then advocate statist positions (like your foreign policy positions, which are distinctly neo-conservative). Libertarians go after each other for moral breaches because we expect people who claim similar ideologies to our own to justify their divergence to us and that’s how we maintain the integrity of our ideology. If you want to take neo-conservative positions, that’s fine and that’s your right…but you shouldn’t expect a free pass when you start claiming that your beliefs are something that they’re not. Libertarians are usually combative, I’ve found, because they don’t like being misrepresented.

  • gmason

    Todays Smoke Screen Premise to provide cover for Doug’s real purpose of this post is:

    Book Review, Blah, Blah.

    and now to the real purpose/crafty Doug’s subliminal messages:

    “Here at The Liberty Papers, a post questioning the effectiveness of Ron Paul’s Presidential campaign, challenging his ideas or pointing out that someone else happens to be in the lead, draws comments that border on personal attacks, which draw comments in response that border on the same — all of which accomplishes nothing.”

    Translation-Most have caught on to DD’s game, so it is necessary to backtrack a bit from pressing DD’s primary agenda(neo-con, warhawk,GWOT, AIPAC/scuttling the Ron Paul for POTUS campaign) to perform some faux credibility damage control.

    Doug, Orthodoxy? The Big Megaphone Media peddle orthodoxy and you are peddling the same line.

    Unsavory? I’ll take someone voicing their unvarnished opinion over someone that trys to game people into accepting their agenda anytime. Who is the most unsavory from a true Liberty perspective, someone who’s voice/ideas vary from the majority message/current majority view or the people that try to convince others that minority voices MUST be silenced lest someone hear and perhaps agree with some of their ideas/opinions?

    Doug, unfortunately for you, the days of some twit taking the primary source information and filtering it out/telling us mere mortals what to think about it are nearly gone. Doug, we are perfectly capable of examining those primary sources for ourselves and deciding what it means. We do not need you interpret that information for us.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Gmason,

    Its posts like yours that make me wonder if we libertarians will ever get beyond our differences enough to actually worry about arguing with people who don’t agree with us rather than each other.

    There was no ulterior motive to the review bud, except perhaps to point out that history repeats itself.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Gmason,

    And if you don’t understand what I mean by unsavory people, then, well, that’s your problem

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    gmason,

    I’m sure you had a point in there somewhere but it got completely lost in the gibberish, acronyms, slurs, and meaningless slogans you slapped all over it like so much bad spackling.

    I’ve got my gripes with Doug’s positions from time to time, but I don’t go after his Paul pieces because I think you Paulestinians are any kind of brainiacs. Perhaps you should learn to put together paragraphs that don’t read like they were written by someone who’s off his meds before you start sharing your thoughts with us.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Doug,

    “…make me wonder if we libertarians will ever get beyond our differences enough to actually worry about arguing with people who don’t agree with us rather than each other.”

    This is the sticking point that actually bothers me about your Paul posts. You seem to spend an inordinate amount of time focusing on the small flaws you perceive in Paul’s campaign (the Stormfront donation, the unsavory people who vote for him, the long odds of a win, etc.) and far less time than is merited focusing on the benefits of a Paul presidency versus a Guiliani/Romney/McCain/Thompson presidency. It’s all downside with you and very little upside, and since Paul is the candidate you have the most interest in Paul is the candidate you choose to nitpick or slap at the most, despite the fact that he’s really the only libertarian-friendly candidate in the race. Thus, you end up falling prey to the same syndrome that you decry in other libertarians and create a self-fulfilling prophesy. You focus on the internal problems and the navel gazing and the negativity while ignoring or minimizing the potential for success. This is why I (and, I suspect, some others) keep taking you to task for your more recent prognostications of doom for the Paul campaign in an attempt to get you to see the fruitlessness of this approach. Perhaps this is a poor strategy to use, because the Paulestinians’ more irrational attacking posts seem to have the effect of reinforcing this negativity, but frankly I haven’t seen the people who’ve used a softer approach towards correcting you have much more success.

    My basic point is, Doug, if you want to see the libertarians get past the sniping and the complaining and in-fighting to focus on pushing their agenda to others perhaps the first attitude you show evaluate and consider changing is your own…at least as far as Paul’s campaign is concerned.

  • http://deleted gmason

    UC, The point is there, sorry you missed it.

    You don’t go after Doug’s Paul pieces, that’s great. Freedom is good. If you change your mind on that or not it is OK with me. You may have noticed I do. Do you support that UC, my personal freedom/Liberty I mean, as I support your freedom not to be critical of Doug’s Paul pieces?

    Paulestian? Freudian Slip?

    “Perhaps you should learn to put together paragraphs that don’t read like they were written by someone who’s off his meds before you start sharing your thoughts with us.”

    UC, if you are the thought sharing monitor, my apologies, I was unaware of that, if true I will start clearing my comments thru you in the future.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Crawford,

    The fight for liberty is about a lot more than just Ron Paul’s campaign for the White House.

    The one thing that I’ve wondered since this started — and it keeps getting reconfirmed all the time — is that once this campaign is over, it will be just like what happened with Ross Perot and the Reform Party — the movement will wither away or be taken over by one faction or another. Perhaps I’m being pessmisstic, but given the number of Paul supporters who told me that they’ll have nothing to do with the GOP (or politics) if Ron Paul isn’t the nominee, I don’t think I am.

    As for the other issues, I’ve talked about disagreements on foreign policy because I think its an issue that, for the most part, libertarians haven’t really development coherent ideas that can be taken seriously. With the exception of guys like Ted Carpenter at Cato, all we usually get are suggestions that bringing the troops home and opening the borders to trade will ensure that every nation loves us, and that’s just naive. It’s an issue that needs to be discussed as are issues like immigration policy (although that seems like an easy one to me — libertarians are for open borders).

    And yet when I brought those issues up, I was attacked, not so much for what I was saying, but on a personal level (not by you, but you know who I’m talking about) because I dared to disagree with Ron Paul, or at least that’s the impression certain commentators were giving off.

    I could say the same thing about the Stormfront/Alex Jones issue.

    Have I been overly aggressive with some of the commentators ? Perhaps, but it’s a two way street and I don’t think I was the first one to cross it.

    And I’ll stop there before this comment becomes post-length worthy.

  • http://deleted gmason

    Doug, I know very well what you meant and what you are trying to accomplish when you label someone/some group as unsavory. Your opinion of what is unsavory is merely your opinion. If you find some specific idea unsavory then specify which idea and why you find it unsavory. What you consistently attempt to do, in orthodox opinion molding and divide and conquer fashion, is promote group identity/group thought over individual identity/individual thought. What serves the cause of Liberty better, promoting individual thought or groupthink?

    No Ulterior Motive?

    My opinion remains exactly as expressed above and in previous threads.

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Gmason,

    If you don’t think that outright racists like the people at Stormfront or David Duke are unsavory, then I’d love to know what your definition is.

    How does being associated with people like that help the cause of freedom ? Not one bit.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    gmason,

    Oh I’m sure you had a point, but as I said you buried it in all the bullshit and grammatical errors so nobody’s going to go looking for it.

    Actually, I do go after Doug’s Paul pieces (as you’d know if you’ve ever paid attention). What I was saying was that those posters who tend to make long rambling statements where they throw out every libertarian boogeyman in the book (neo-conservatives, AIPAC, warmongers, blah blah blah) aren’t actually discrediting anything Doug says, they’re just making a lot of noise and confusing jargon and sloganeering with making valid arguments. “They” in this case meaning “you”.

    “Paulestinians” – supporters of Paul who are incapable of making rational arguments and often punctuate their defenses of Ron Paul with inaccurate assessments of his actual policy platform. Very often “Paulestinians” include “truthers”, populists, racists, anti-capitalists, anti-Semites, and crazy people. Most accurately identified by the pronounced victim mentality that pervades almost every belief system they throw out.

    “UC, if you are the thought sharing monitor, my apologies, I was unaware of that, if true I will start clearing my comments thru you in the future.”

    No need to have me arbitrate your thoughts, but you apparently need some assistance in the area of proper grammar and sentence and paragraph construction. Having someone else proofread your work would probably do wonders for cutting down on your gibberish factor.

  • Jeff Molby

    Perhaps I’m being pessmisstic, but given the number of Paul supporters who told me that they’ll have nothing to do with the GOP (or politics) if Ron Paul isn’t the nominee, I don’t think I am.

    Your assessment is spot on. There are many that don’t plan on sticking around and the movement may very well experience a hangover.

    So what are you going to do about it? I’m not sure what the answer is or even if there is one, but I do know that there’s a very smart man leading the charge right now and it’s silly to think he hasn’t considered it as well. My guess is that if Paul loses, he will anoint a successor(s) that he knows and trusts and then he will campaign hard for him in this and future elections. Can you think of a better plan?

    How does being associated with people like that help the cause of freedom ? Not one bit.

    Time and money. Many unsavory people kickstarted this campaign, whether you want to admit it or not. We all know Ron Paul’s integrity is unimpeachable, so there’s nothing wrong with accepting their donations and thanking them for foolishly acting against their own interests. It’s a PR problem. Nothing more, nothing less.

    The only question is whether severing association at this point reduces the PR problem enough to justify the repercussions. The campaign has chosen to walk the tightrope and you harping on it only complicates their job.

    It’s a great academic question and you may very well be right, but now isn’t the time for that. At this point, we must simply hope the saw is already sharp enough to fell the forest.

  • Jeff Molby

    Damn, UC. You’re on a roll this week. :-)

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Jeff,

    Your assessment is spot on. There are many that don’t plan on sticking around and the movement may very well experience a hangover.

    So what are you going to do about it? I’m not sure what the answer is or even if there is one, but I do know that there’s a very smart man leading the charge right now and it’s silly to think he hasn’t considered it as well. My guess is that if Paul loses, he will anoint a successor(s) that he knows and trusts and then he will campaign hard for him in this and future elections. Can you think of a better plan?

    I didn’t say that I could, but don’t you think someone should ?

    Otherwise, this will all just be a memory once the race for the GOP nomination is over.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Doug,

    “…all we usually get are suggestions that bringing the troops home and opening the borders to trade will ensure that every nation loves us, and that’s just naive.”

    Actually, that’s not what Paul’s been saying. Paul’s pointed out (as have Jeff and I) that withdrawing the troops is a transitional strategy meant to eventually minimize the rage and frustration caused by our interventionist foreign policy (which he has stated he realizes won’t disappear soon). I’m well aware of the fact that we have enemies in the world, which is why I’m also a proponent of having a strong military and intelligence apparatus to defend our country against imminent threats and to wage defensive (but not aggressive) wars. I just don’t think we need to be aggressively planting those into every country that doesn’t like us and interfering in their internal affairs in the futile hope that we’ll somehow eliminate all threats…since that usually increases the chances that such an attack will occur in the future because of the blowback. From what I’ve read, Paul’s platform is pretty much identical to this. If it weren’t, and he was one of those idiot pacifists, I’d never vote for the guy.

    As for your aggressiveness with the “truthers” and most of the others I mentioned, it never really bothered me. Frankly, I’m not all that interested in being diplomatic with them either, considering the overwhelming majority of them are either fools, liars or mentally ill, with no interest in objectively analyzing their beliefs. Insulting them isn’t going to accomplish any less than trying to talk to them rationally.

  • Jeff Molby

    Yes, we should, but you forgot the “if we lose” part.

    Look, I’ve only been in the movement for a couple years now, so I respect your experience and perspective, but you’re shooting yourself in the foot on a regular basis. You’re not going to influence people by repeatedly making it obvious that you think their efforts are wasted and misguided. It’s not going to happen.

    How do I know? Because you even did it me. I am an incredibly patient and optimistic man. I gave you the benefit of the doubt for a long time and went out of my way to show you the fallacies in your arguments. You were just trying to temper what you saw as irrational exuberance; I understand and respect that now. But your execution that you were as intellectually dishonest as the MSM, if not more. You were steadily pursuing an agenda and everyone could tell. It doesn’t matter that your agenda was altruistic because your dishonesty trashed your credibility.

    Like I said, I don’t have any magical ideas and I don’t fault you for making an effort, but it didn’t work and here we are today.

    All I want to know, is how do we move forward?

  • Jeff Molby

    *”But your execution was so bad that you were…”

  • http://www.belowthebeltway.com Doug Mataconis

    Jeff,

    Not everyone at TLP agrees with me, but I’ve been of the opinion that the Paul campaign, while it can accomplish things, is ultimately doomed when it comes to winning the nomination for reasons that have less to do with RP than they do with the Republican Party and the way politics works.

    While there’s been a lot to be encouraged about recently, I haven’t changed my mind on that point. And, as you can probably tell, I’ve been less optimistic that this campaign will result in a rebirth of a libertarian tradition with the Republican Party, which, for the moment, is the only viable avenue that we’ve got.

  • Jeff Molby

    So you want to hedge the bet; that’s fine. Go ahead and prepare to mitigate the hangover. Just make sure you do it in a way that doesn’t make your prophecy self-fulfilling.

  • http://deleted gmason

    Doug,

    The short answer. Silencing or restricting voices is a very dangerous path to go down. Let all people(individuals and institutions, i.e. groups of people ostensibly having a common goal) voice their exact thoughts, let all be free to agree/disagree/somewhere in between with a clear and full knowledge of those thoughts. Are we currently well served by watered down/evasive expressions of opinion by politicos afraid to speak their minds/intentions?

    Encourage complete freedom of expression in the marketplace of ideas(Yes, that is an ideal and there will be some, very slight, limitations). Creating artificial boundaries for speech does not place boundaries on thoughts. Better to find out what the true range of thoughts are by keeping limits on speech to the barest reasonable minimum. Allow the full range of thought to compete in a free market of ideas. The freer the idea market the ideas emerging/surviving will be of higher quality. Impose needlessly tight restrictions/attempt to restrict flawed ideas from reaching the market only breeds suspicion about market fairness/breeds further flawed ideas and encourages pulled punches on thoughts and a skewed(inaccurate) perception regarding the true range of opinion.

    I will not go into the flaws of making blanket assumptions about ALL of an individuals views based on that individuals view on one discrete issue.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Doug Mataconis

    Gmason,

    Stormfront and Duke have every right to say whatever they want.

    I, however, have the right to say that I don’t ever want to be part of a movement that has them as members.

  • Jeff Molby

    You would leave the movement because they were too dumb to realize they were standing in the wrong line?

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Doug,

    “…but I’ve been of the opinion that the Paul campaign, while it can accomplish things, is ultimately doomed…”

    While optimism and persistence are no guarantors of success, defeatism is a guarantor of failure. I can understand the skepticism to a degree, the pessimism is absolutely unfounded. When you get to the point where you’re convinced that nothing’s going to change and that things will always persist as they have…well, then you’re not that much different from the “truthers” or the nutjobs who think Paul’s going to get assassinated, are you? I’m not one of the delusionals who thinks that a Paul presidency would change the world overnight, but it would make things better and even if he doesn’t win the resilience of the campaign is definitely a step in the right direction. Why undercut that by continually telling the pro-freedom crowd that it won’t work? What purpose could that possibly serve other than to tell them that their beliefs are stupid and childish and will never actually work in the real world?

    Frankly, I’ve got more faith in the libertarian ideology than that. And defeatism is nothing more than settling for mediocrity and failure. Is that really what you want to be pushing?

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    gmason,

    Now that was a well-worded argument that got rid of the rubbish. Well put.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Doug,

    Sorry, but I take gmason’s side with it. And frankly, just because Stormfront or whoever vote for Paul doesn’t mean he’s actually one of them, nor does it mean that you’re one of them just because you’re voting for the same candidate.

  • Akston

    The challenge in courting the libertarian voter is that the same qualities that make them value libertarian ideals also tend to effectively inoculate them from becoming sheep. They actually enjoy being the captains of their own lives.

    If Ron Paul doesn’t win, will his voting block leave the GOP? I know I will. Why would I vote for 3 magical initials G-O-P no matter what they espouse? How many blank checks like that would you write? I’ll vote for Ron Paul because I trust him to work towards the policies I want addressed in the White House.

    To me, all the other choices look like votes for big-government domestic tyranny (socialism) or big-government international tyranny (pre-emptive intervention).

    But if Paul fails to get the nod and you can propose an alternate libertarian candidate to carry the torch, I’m all ears.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    If Ron Paul doesn’t win, will his voting block leave the GOP? I know I will. Why would I vote for 3 magical initials G-O-P no matter what they espouse?

    The key is to recognize the difference between voting for the GOP nominee and staying in the party. No one will ever know what you do with your general election, so do whatever you believe is right.

    The key to correcting the party, though, is to stay involved. Be a delegate, go to those monthly meeting, and develop a rapport with the insiders and gain influence.

    Then, the next time the movement peaks, we won’t be on the outside looking in.

  • Akston

    The key to correcting the party, though, is to stay involved. Be a delegate, go to those monthly meeting, and develop a rapport with the insiders and gain influence.

    Then, the next time the movement peaks, we won’t be on the outside looking in.

    Valid point.

  • Akston

    In reference to Stormfront, the KKK, et al, it gives me a chance to trot out one of my favorite quotes:

    “Ignorant free speech often works against the speaker. That is one of several reasons why it must be given rein instead of suppressed.”

    — Anna Quindlen

    There are idiots and sages in most groups. Denying an idiot the mic only insulates us from his idiocy. And whether misguided idiot or insightful sage, I welcome their resources to further the campaign of a man who’s free speech has worked for him in my eyes.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    And that’s really the crux of Doug’s efforts, misguided as they may have been. He’s been through this enough times to see the bigger picture.

    However, in his pessimism, he forgets that there are key structural differences between this wave and the previous ones.

  • http://dangerouslyidealistic.blogspot.com/ UCrawford

    Jeff,

    Good points. I’ve actually talked to a local GOP member about getting involved here, since the Wichita area Republicans are pretty libertarian friendly. The guys leading the GOP up in the KC area are a bunch of neoconservative trolls, but fortunately they’re also old, they’ve got a lot of people who aren’t happy with what they’re doing and they’re on the way out if the Republicans lose next year. Besides, I gave the Libertarian Party a look-see during my disillusionment, and I’m telling you there’s nothing there worth spending a significant amount of time on. They aren’t going to turn into anything more than a protest vote…they just don’t have the tools to pull it off.

    Jeff’s right, you can vote for whoever you want in the general election regardless of your party affiliation. But if you want to have a hand in who the Republicans put up for office you need to stay involved with the party and not just walk away in disgust no matter how unhappy you are with the neocons. The GOP is the most open to our ideology of capitalist economics and small government, it’s just that they’ve lost their way lately. Plus, it’s not like the Democrats are ever going to embrace a pro-free market agenda…if the Bush administration hasn’t convinced them to budge off their socialist platform to steal the libertarian voters the Republicans are alienating, nothing will.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Doug Mataconis

    Akston,

    And sometimes, there are idiots who it is necessary to disassociate from.

    When it comes to racists, they’re at top of my list.

  • http://www.thelibertypapers.org Doug Mataconis

    Jeff,

    Differences ? Maybe, maybe not. We shall see and maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

    But, victory isn’t going to happen if the freedom philosophy becomes associated with people that the average middle class American wants nothing to do with.

  • http://www.orderhotlunch.com Jeff Molby

    Differences ? Maybe, maybe not. We shall see and maybe I’ll be proven wrong.

    Thank you. All I’ve ever really wanted from you was a little humility.

    But, victory isn’t going to happen if the freedom philosophy becomes associated with people that the average middle class American wants nothing to do with.

    If they’re not intelligent enough to understand that A can associate with B without B reciprocating, well they’re just not intelligent enough to understand and embrace the freedom philosophy anyways.

  • Akston

    But, victory isn’t going to happen if the freedom philosophy becomes associated with people that the average middle class American wants nothing to do with.

    If they’re not intelligent enough to understand that A can associate with B without B reciprocating, well they’re just not intelligent enough to understand and embrace the freedom philosophy anyways.

    Ron Paul can turn support from unpopular groups from a liability into an asset by once again speaking the truth.

    One of the primary founding principles of this country is Freedom of Speech. It’s in the First Amendment, and tends to get support from a wide variety of crowds. I can see Frank Luntz polling: “How many here oppose free speech?”

    When anyone brings up these unpopular supporters, Ron Paul can remind the questioner that liberty and free speech are the kinds of American values he’s fighting for.

    If he were to try to decide whose speech is “unacceptable”, he’d spend all the campaign’s resources hunting down unpopular supporters in order to refund their money and denounce their support. That’s all Dr. Paul’s meager staff would be doing, day and night. It also gives a gigantic free weapon to any detractors by validating their un-American demands and letting them decide who will support Dr. Paul’s campaign.

  • Eric

    Jeff, Doug has said many times that he may well be proven wrong.

    Someone, Jeff or gmason, or both, accused Doug of espousing a neo-con foreign policy without, obviously, having read his posts on foreign policy and military issues. Try checking those posts before making accusations.

    And these are the reasons why I cannot claim to be a libertarian. Doug tries to point out that libertarians make accusations and denunciations around orthodoxy and you promptly denounce him for it and accuse him of being a neo-con.

    Good job!

  • http://www.no-treason.com Joshua Holmes

    First, as he points out in the concluding chapter of his book, there is tendency among libertarians to believe in the worst of all possible outcomes, and a failure to recognize just how much progress toward human liberty has been made in the past 50 years or so. Before the libertarian movement came into it’s own, American males were drafted into the armed forces when the turned 18, marginal tax rates exceeded 70 percent, Americans were legally forbidden from owning gold in any form other than jewelry, airline travel was heavily regulated by the FAA to the point where consumer choice was virtually non-existent, and socialism in one form or another was on the march throughout the world.

    How about the fact that blacks were second-class citizens in a number of states and now have much more equal rights than they did? That’s the most promising liberty development of the past 50 years, and that was thanks to liberals, not libertarians.

  • Eric

    Actually Joshua, it was not thanks to “liberals” in the sense you mean it. In actual fact, the Republican Party did far more from 1860 to 1960 to bring about liberty and freedom for people who were not white anglo-saxons than other political institution. It was a WASP Republican (Barry Goldwater) who first championed gays serving in the military, not a Democrat “liberal”.

    Now, of course, if you meant liberals in the original meaning of the word, then you would be correct. But, you didn’t.

    “Liberals” have done a fantastic job of creating a new, modern plantation for blacks. I’m happy to agree with you on that.

  • Eric

    To add to this line of thought. First, some anecdotal comments. I have several black friends who are young, intelligent and educated. They grew up in what they refer to as the urban plantation, which is the poorer urban neighborhoods that are heavily supported by federal and state money. They believe that the drug war, affirmative action and welfare approach has made them a nearly permanent second class unless they can find a way, on their own, to break free of it.

    Anecdotally speaking, it would appear that liberals have not done all that much for blacks. In fact, the problem is that “liberals” approach any given problem by believing that the government must do something to create equality of outcome, and that is really the problem. Libertarians (and many conservatives) believe that providing equality of opportunity is the true solution. Look at the difference between the civil rights acts that Republicans were instrumental in creating (yes, the GOP led the charge on congressional civil rights legislation in the late 1950’s, not the Democrats) versus the ones that Democrats created.

  • http://www.no-treason.com Joshua Holmes

    Actually Joshua, it was not thanks to “liberals” in the sense you mean it. In actual fact, the Republican Party did far more from 1860 to 1960 to bring about liberty and freedom for people who were not white anglo-saxons than other political institution.

    I said “liberals”, not “Democrats”. The Republican Party was the party of urban northern liberals in 1960s.

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