Monday, February 20, 2012

Why I Won't Be Voting for Ron Paul

(I apologize - and warn - in advance for the length of this post.)

A friend of mine recently posted a couple of blog posts about how he was planning on voting for Ron Paul in this election, just as he did in 2008 (The first post had a link to a very slick and convincing video, but I'm not ready to swallow that enchilada whole since there are too many problems with the assumptions and conclusions in the video.) He said that basically he couldn’t bring himself to vote for McCain, and this go round he feels much the same way- that none of the other Republican candidates are close enough to his political beliefs. As much as I like Ron Paul when he’s talking about domestic or economic policy, his positions on foreign policy as well as a couple other of his views basically disqualify him to me. Granted, if by some miracle Ron Paul becomes the Republican Party nominee, then I will gladly support him when the alternative is four more years of President Obama.

On several issues Ron Paul sounds practically identical to people on the far left. That is very concerning to me as a voter. I have reservations with all presidential candidates, but my concerns with Ron Paul are only second to President Obama. Although I could probably list another half dozen reasons why I have concerns with Ron Paul, I’ll talk about just two:

1) His positions on foreign policy
2) His belief that the country (or at least the justice system) is very racist

To explain my reasons for disliking Ron Paul, I’ll begin with the biggest hurdle – his foreign policy.

I actually agree with him on many important points, such as how we should be reducing our foreign aid drastically (maybe not as far as Mr. Paul, who would eliminate all foreign aid), and how we don’t need our troops in either Korea or Germany any longer. Although I generally supported our efforts to remove the Taliban and Saddam Hussein from power, I still have much respect for those who hold a different view (although not those who cynically say that the only reason we went into Iraq was to steal the Iraqis’ oil). I think that it was a difficult decision for the Bush Administration, not one taken lightly. I do not agree with Congressman Paul, who believes that the administration was full of “glee” after September 11th because they now had a reason to go to war against Iraq. I find that repugnant. Everything I have read about how President Bush interacted with military personnel and their families (frequently out of view of the media and the cameras) left no doubt in my mind that he has the utmost respect, admiration, and concern for the well-being of the soldiers. To suggest that he or his administration went into war gleefully and didn't seriously weigh the consequences of their decisions is one of the most cynical things I can think of.

But really, the biggest reason I cannot abide the foreign policy of Ron Paul is because it is utterly devoid of any sense of morality. Some may say that it is not the job of government to act morally. Although there are difficult questions to answer if we want to justify a country acting in a moral fashion, I think they are worth asking. Whose morality determines a just action? How do we as a nation decide to use our military or foreign aid without falling into unjust wars and unproductive or wasteful foreign aid? Just because these are difficult questions, doesn’t mean that we should completely ignore them.

One of Paul’s oft-repeated phrases is along these lines: “Who asked us to be the world’s policeman?” Although I don’t agree with every use of the American military over the last hundred plus years, I’ll ask, what is the alternative to us being the world’s policeman? Who wants to live in a world, a nation, or a community without policemen?

What is our local police force, but a group of individuals who have agreed to act to enforce a shared morality at our behest to our mutual benefit; to provide security and a safe environment for our community? If a cop stops someone who is breaking the law, stealing, assaulting, or doing some other kind of evil thing, is he acting at my direct command? No. He is acting at the directive of a collective society. I don’t think that the United States necessarily has the legal right to act as the world’s policeman, and nobody granted us that right, but I think that our free, prosperous, (generally) moral, progressive (with regard to civil rights) society can choose to collectively act for not only the benefit of our own self-interest, but for the good of the world at large. Nobody else has either A) the ability or B) the moral standing to act in this role at this time in history. The United States, although not perfect, has been a beacon of democratic governance, civil rights, and prosperity unlike any other nation in the history of the world. To squander the blessings that have been granted upon this country by God, to not use our influence for good in the world, seems, to me, akin to the unwise servant who buried his coin in the earth instead of multiplying his talent.

Many accuse the United States of being an imperialist force. It seems that we have forgotten the meaning of the word ‘imperialist’. It once meant that a nation tried to conquer and rule over nations and territories, not just for short term gain, but sometimes for hundreds of years. Some imperialist nations were brutal and harsh, slaughtering en masse large numbers of the indigenous populations (i.e. Japan in the 1940’s). Some were more benign, keeping authority over the citizens while fostering improved civil rights (and simultaneously doing away with barbaric local customs such as the sati), encouraging economic development, modernization, and improved living standards through better sanitation and hygiene.

One could argue that the United States had been in the benign imperialist camp in the 1800’s, but in the last hundred-plus years, the USA has rejected all imperialist impulses in favor of what might be called (although I don’t like the term) democratic nation-building. Powerful arguments can be made for this type of interventionist power. Japan and Germany are democratic and strong going on more than 65 years now. South Korea is strong and stable for nearly 60 years. Iraq and Afghanistan, although not entirely stable, have at least some semblance of democracy in embryo. Who knows what the future holds for those two countries? But one thing is certain, we have no interest in staying in either place longer than is necessary. We have no interest in holding those territories indefinitely, which I think excludes the USA from the definition of “imperialist”.

Like my friend Scott, I enjoy a good analogy.

Let’s think locally. Say in our fair city (Alphatown), we have responsible government, a good police force, low crime, and a good citizenry. Just next door in another jurisdiction (Betaville), the mayor and his crony city council are corrupt, they wield power over the city politics and the police force, and they are in cahoots with the local gangs. Murder and mayhem reign in Betaville. Let’s say that the gangs and their illegal activities are spilling over Betaville’s city boundaries, causing trouble in our fair community; kidnappings, drive-by shootings, threats to businesses, etc. Our mayor and city council appeal to the government of Betaville to get their problems in hand. The mayor and police of Betaville make grand promises, but do absolutely nothing, after all, they are personally benefitting from the state of disorder. Meanwhile, the citizens of Betaville are suffering under this cruel regime. Their children aren’t safe, property values are declining, and businesses are tired of paying off the mayor and his cronies to provide even a modicum of safety and security.

The citizens of Alphatown are also tired of having this crime affect their community. They clamor for the police to do something, but the police reply that it’s coming from out of their jurisdiction; they can’t do anything. Finally, after years of the same problems, Alphatown’s city council, mayor, and the police force decide that something must be done. They begin to gather intelligence about Betaville. After a time they feel that they have enough information to act. There is a central group of houses and buildings where the gangs reside and plan all of their illegal activity. The police force of Alphatown, with the support of the mayor, the city council, and the majority of citizens raids this compound, killing or arresting the majority of the gang and its leaders, including several corrupt police leaders and city council members.

After the dust settles, Alphatown helps the good citizens of Betaville to stage new elections to remove the mayor from office. Without the threat of the gangs and the Alphatown police providing some sense of security, the citizens vote to oust the mayor and replace him with another who promises to govern more fairly and judiciously. Over time as Betaville begins to function normally once again, Alphatown slowly withdraws its support back into its own jurisdiction.

So, was what the City of Alphatown did legal? Probably not. Was it the moral, the right, the best thing to do? I would say yes.

What is the difference then between what happened in Alphatown and Betaville what happened in Iraq? Scale?

Again on the issue of foreign policy, I must take issue with Scott’s description of the “disastrous results” of our helping the South Koreans. First of all, we were there at the behest of the United Nations. Secondly, are you really willing to say that it would have been much better for the millions of citizens of South Korea, an economically prosperous and free democratic society, had they been left to be ruled over by the communistic tyrants of North Korea? I think that those millions would have to disagree with the idea that our going to war in Korea was a terrible thing.

With regard to the “disastrous results” of the Vietnam War that Scott mentions, did you know that we actually won that war? After which, through morally bankrupt policies of our government, we allowed the South Vietnamese to lose the war after it had been won, and peace had been brokered. The millions that were re-educated, imprisoned, and butchered by both the North Vietnamese and the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia, can be directly tied to our abandonment of the South Vietnamese even though we made signed treaties wherein we promised to support them logistically. South Vietnam could have become much like South Korea is today, free and economically prosperous. Only through the duplicitous actions of a Democratically-controlled congress did we leave the South Vietnamese to twist in the wind. Truly one of the most vile things that this country has done.

Another straw man argument that Paulistas like to make (including Congressman Paul himself) goes something like this:

I’ll counter this line of thinking with the response that Dennis Prager always gives when confronted with that argument: If the United States was a repressive, morally bankrupt, totalitarian state, where civil rights were non-existent, where political opposition to the ruling party or class was not countenanced, where people are kidnapped, imprisoned, and killed without any semblance of due process; then if a free, democratic country invaded, displaced and killed our leaders, and tried to establish a free and democratic society, all good American citizens who value freedom and civil rights would welcome such an invading force. Asking how we would feel if a totalitarian and socialistic China invaded a free and democratic America is a false argument, and comparing that to our invasion of Iraq is like comparing apples to submarines.

Finally, another example of the type of foreign policy that Ron Paul believes in can be found in his response to a question about whether he would have supported intervention in stopping the Nazis from murdering millions of Jews, gypsies, homosexuals and mentally deficient people. His response is typical of his amoral attitude toward foreign policy, and a shameful one at that. I have to think, that, barring the bombing of Pearl Harbor, Mr. Paul would have never found cause to intervene during WWII in either the Far East or Europe. Who knows how much of the world would have come to have been controlled and decimated by unbridled Japan and Germany?

Another thing I recently became aware of is the fact that Ron Paul believes that this country, specifically the justice system, is inherently racist. (An interesting take from a man whose racist newsletters from years ago still provoke unanswered questions today.) In the debate in New Hampshire, Ron Paul invoked the frequently-quoted canard (espoused by hard leftists) that the judicial system in this country is racist. He said that blacks “get the death penalty way disproportionately”. While it is true that blacks are executed in a higher proportion to their population than whites, both in real numbers and as a percentage of those who are found guilty of committing murder, more whites are actually executed. All you need to do is look at the numbers to see that that’s not true. These statistics show that 55% of murderers are white, and 42% are black. When it comes to executions, 57% of those executed are white, while 34% are black, so whites on death row are more likely to actually reach execution. The fact that Ron Paul would propagate this myth, libeling America in the process, causes great concern. This article by Dennis Prager offers slightly different statistics (taken from an anti-death penalty site), but the result is the same.

If Congressman Paul wanted to make the claim that justice in this country is unfairly meted out based on the wealth of the defendant, I think a very strong case can be made. But to claim something so easily disproven, in effect just parroting anti-death penalty fanatics, is unacceptable.

If you still needed one more reason to not vote for Ron Paul (in the final November elections, where a significant split in the conservative vote would almost certainly mean another victory by Barack Obama), keep in mind that the next president will likely be making appointments to the Supreme Court. If ever there was a time that we don’t want more leftist Supreme Court Justices appointed by President Obama, this is that time.

Scott, if you still want to vote for Ron Paul, I respect that decision. My only consolation is that, residing in Utah, your vote won’t have any power to sway the election toward Obama. That being said, I don't in practice object to anyone in Utah voting with their conscience, for either Ron Paul or any other candidate or party. I just hope that, in those important swing states, the number of wasted votes is very small.

I do agree with my friend Scott that Romney et al are not THE solution. Frankly, I don’t see anybody out there who would be a great solution. Governing to an ideal is great in theory, but when politics collide with real life, it becomes, as Bismark famously said, "the art of the possible". Politicians have to work within the existing system, making (hopefully positive) modifications as they go. Those changes have to be generally supported by the voters, otherwise the politicians get voted out and their poor policy decisions will frequently get overturned. I appreciate the conviction of Ron Paul, but I don't think he is the best choice to govern within the existing system. You go with the best among what is available, and I think that whatever Republican wins the nomination will be better than Ron Paul, and much better than Obama. Is there a difference between going off the cliff at full throttle and slowing the car down? Yes. And maybe while the car is slowing, before it actually gets to the cliff, the American people will wise up enough to know that more than band-aid fixes are needed. As of right now, even if Ron Paul were somehow elected president, Americans aren’t ready for major change. They won’t allow it, even if all of the idiot politicians somehow figured out the depth of the problem. They’d get voted out of office. What we really need is a substantial increase in political wisdom among the general population, and I have no idea whether that is even possible in today's society. Barring the United States being transformed into or invaded by a totalitarian ruling entity, with a subsequent revolution, a return to a more constitutionally-conforming republic, I think, is virtually impossible. Even if we were able to get 536 Ron Pauls elected in this country in the next few elections, the inertia of a woefully bloated federal bureaucracy is so massive that it would still take decades to return us to the days of a year 1800-sized Federal Government.

That is the dilemma that those of us who like to think of ourselves as Constitutional originalists face, and truly viable solutions are as hard to grasp as the entirety of the problem itself.


Scott said...

I appreciate your challenge. You're very reasoned and thought-provoking; both of which qualities are seriously lacking in any other refutation I've seen of Ron Paul's ideas.

That said, I'll briefly (yeah, right) state the areas where I oppose your points.

Foreign aid, when provided by tax dollars is something I'm against in any form. Dennis Praeger's colleague, Michael Medved, agrees that we shouldn't send foreign aid to Israel or any other country and he, too, is a Jew. His brother lives in Israel.

My opposition is easily stated and is the entire basis for my "libertarianism," which I'd rather call classical liberalism; it's this: I'm absolutely against the initiation of force. Force is for defense, only. While I hold all manner of moral standards and feelings of my own, it is wrong for me to force anyone to live to those standards. If anyone violates my individual unalienable rights, that's when I'll employ force. Barring that, I'll live and let live. When the govt points a gun at me and takes money I've earned, I don't care what wonderful things they're going to spend it on, it's legalized mugging. Now, if individuals, churches or charities want to give money to people overseas, great. Certainly we should all do this. But it should be voluntary. And that includes the freedom to not volunteer one's own money or help or what have you.

You said, the "police provide security and a safe environment." I disagree. I like the saying, employed by pro gun rights people, "When seconds count, the police are only minutes away." I believe in self-defense. The police have their place and I'm grateful for their work. But the illusion that anyone can provide safety or security is what has fed and abetted the progressive movement for 150 years. The police are great, but they're really there to arrest the criminal after the crime's been committed and safety and security have flown the coup. I can see how getting that guy off the street keeps him from doing it again and that could keep potential victims safe, but the damage to current victims is done. Where there's freedom, there's risk. And besides, we're paying for our local police. Do foreign nations pay for our world policing services? Nope. We're forced to pay for them, too. Our military is to protect and defend our constitution; to defend US. Other countries must work out their own defense. Again, any individual can volunteer to go over and help or teach or even fight for people in foreign countries. I just think our interests or more especially, our security, the threat to us, must be specifically defined when we commit troops, and sometimes it's not. Ron Paul wants congress to approve military action and maybe even declare war before action is taken. That doesn't seem too radical to me.

Scott said...

I shudder a little when you refer to "using our influence for good." Certainly, like many things, the decision to use violence / force must be considered on a case by case basis and there are many things to consider. It's hard for me to argue against WWII and fighting Hitler, etc. Again, I just want to begin with the idea that we must have a specific threat to the U.S., which we're combating, which is the reason we're putting blood and treasure on the line. And then, we should declare war and get the people's approval through congress. As far as the good done in Korea and Vietnam. Good for them. But where was the good for us? Where was the threat to us? Communism seemed to be spreading, but I think free trade did more to defeat it than our wars by proxy or the rest of the cold war.

Individuals must be responsible for themselves. People aren't children. We must treat them as adults. Even when it comes to our kids, I think we parents intervene too much. I think we initiate force too much. Although intervention and initiative force are sometimes called for. I sometimes neglect my kids. I've even spanked them. I'd sure be upset if you or the state intervened. And my kids wouldn't be well served if I were taken out of the home. A stronger argument than that would be, if I got into an argument with one of my brothers. Do you think you should intervene and come to my defense, even if I'm having my rear end handed to me? It's none of your business. Win or lose, I've got to face it myself. Only then am I allowed the maximum growth opportunity. Even if I get beat up by my brother, I can't see an argument for you showing up at his house and exacting revenge. Now, if our argument and/or fisticuffs somehow spill over onto your property, it then becomes your business as far as your right to forcibly remove us from your property because we've then initiated force against you by violating your individual unalienable right to own and control property. And I'd make all of these same arguments to counter your Alphatown vs. Betaville scenario.

As far as our justice system being racist, I don't agree with Ron Paul there. The only flaw I see in the numbers argument is that it still appears that blacks, as a percentage of the whole population, are over-represented in our prisons and executions. That is, if 20% of our population are black, yet 30% of the total number of prison inmates are black, then they're over-represented. But I'd say that it's because they commit more crimes, as a percentage, than whites. That said, there are a variety of what I would call racisim-inducing statistics on blacks. Couple that with the fact that 90% of them voted for Obama and that they appear to be happy to be represented by Sharpton, Jackson and Rev. Wright and it becomes difficult indeed to not make a few generalizations. If you look at a couple of them individually, like Walter E. Williams and Thomas Sowell, not to mention Clarence Thomas and Condi Rice and the list goes on.., Larry Elder; anyway, there are many exceptions to the evident rule. That is, the rule as evidenced by the statistics and voting records. I've read at least some of the "racist" text in Ron Paul's newsletters and didn't find much to disagree with based on the arguments I just made. It does seem like there are some generalizations that can be made. However, I view people as individuals and it would be ignorant of me to assume anything if I met a black man. I would have to get to know him as an individual; like any other individual.

Scott said...

Anyway, maybe in closing I can just restate my libertarian ideology.

As long as no one's individual, unalienable rights are being violated, let people do what they may. That includes drugs and prostitution. Both are abhorrent and completely immoral. But I have no right to force anyone to do or not do anything, even if I think what he's doing is wrong and bad for him. Gay marriage comes to mind. I've stated in my blog why I oppose it and how I think it hurt kids' best chances for the best rearing. But I can't hold a gun to anyone's head and keep him from having sex with whomever. Persuasion, yes. Force, no. Abortion, of course, can be argued on the same basis albeit from the other side. Sure, a woman's body is her private property and she has an individual unalienable right to it. But an unborn baby, too, has that right to his own body and life. If someone leaves a helpless newborn baby on my doorstep, that baby is on my private property but I can't kill it. I really don't see the difference; what, a thin layer of skin, muscle, fat and other tissue separates the two scenarios from each other? I don't buy it. In both cases, you have a baby being deprived of its right to life. I may not want the baby I find on my porch but I can't kill it.

I know government is necessary and that money from taxes is needed. I just start from the basis of national defense being the only legitimate use of govt and that there's no need for the defenders to do anything at all unless we're attacked and that happens only rarely. If we could start the national debate there, it would be great. But when the other candidates talk of "repairing" the social safety net instead of tearing it down, I know we're not even applying the brakes of our careering car as it heads toward the cliff. Let's give to the poor, I love education and healthcare for those who can't afford it. Just let freedom reign by making all of the funding for those programs, whether foreign or domestic, be voluntary, through individuals, churches and charities. It's satanic for the govt to seek to destroy our agency.