A Letter of Paul

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Let's get ready to rumble. Reader Lefty is one of many pointing us to Ron Paul's cross-of-gold speech on the neocons. Let's see a sportsmanlike fight in the comments section. No rabbit punches.

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  1. I read it on lewrockwell.com the other day. I wish I lived in Ron Paul’s district…then I would have a reason to vote. He’s one of the few(if not only) principled, libertarian elected officials we have anywhere in the federal government.

  2. “We have rights, as individuals, to give as much of our own money as we please to charity; but as members of Congress we have no right so to appropriate a dollar of public money.” ? David Crockett, US Congressman (1827-1835)

  3. “[I wish for] a wise and frugal government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, which shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned. ? Thomas Jefferson

  4. Excerpt:

    Ledeen believes man is basically evil and cannot be left to his own desires. Therefore, he must have proper and strong leadership, just as Machiavelli argued. Only then can man achieve good, as Ledeen explains: ?In order to achieve the most noble accomplishments, the leader may have to ?enter into evil.? This is the chilling insight that has made Machiavelli so feared, admired and challenging?we are rotten,? argues Ledeen. ?It?s true that we can achieve greatness if, and only if, we are properly led.? In other words, man is so depraved that individuals are incapable of moral, ethical and spiritual greatness, and achieving excellence and virtue can only come from a powerful authoritarian leader. What depraved ideas are these to now be influencing our leaders in Washington? The question Ledeen doesn?t answer is: ?Why do the political leaders not suffer from the same shortcomings and where do they obtain their monopoly on wisdom??

    Once this trust is placed in the hands of a powerful leader, this neocon argues that certain tools are permissible to use. For instance: ?Lying is central to the survival of nations and to the success of great enterprises, because if our enemies can count on the reliability of everything you say, your vulnerability is enormously increased.? What about the effects of lying on one?s own people? Who cares if a leader can fool the enemy? Does calling it ?strategic deception? make lying morally justifiable? Ledeen and Machiavelli argue that it does, as long as the survivability of the state is at stake. Preserving the state is their goal, even if the personal liberty of all individuals has to be suspended or canceled.

    Indeed, and who would actually want to live under a government run by Machiavelli? The fundamental difference in interests are one thing that need be made far more explicitly: it is in the interests of governors, of leaders, to make themselves as powerful and influencial as possible, to do as they please, and to illiminate opposition that constrains their wishes. It is, however, not in the interests of _anyone else_ – certainly not the governed, unless it is one’s wish to be powerless, to be utterly out of control of one’s own life or the lives one cares about, to have one’s destiny and place decided by individuals of no greater merit or holiness, with no say in the matter whatsoever. It is this very rejection of God-Kings and Holy Benevolent Monarchs that birthed America in the first place.

    As born out countless times in history, that a person supports some interest of yours today gives utterly no guarantee that they will support it or you tommorrow. Thus if one abdicates one’s own power, one’s influence, one’s say in the matter, then it is only by pure blind faith and vain hope that one can expect those with power and influence to continue to fight for what _you_ believe in; powerless to resist, already occupying their chosen place, they may now discard you at will, out of a whim or the slightest change in the direction of the wind, or out of some more pressing need or schism.

    It is for this very reason that a government must be “of, by, and for” the people, while at the same time having it’s scope and power ferociously and wisely constrained, else the beast develop a metaphorical “mind of it’s own” and turn on its former masters. It is the inability to be harmed and the ability and willingness to reciprocate in kind, should an injustice be done, that keeps one safe, not the magical or divine goodwill of some Other who may just as well change his mind as to where his loyalties should lie, or what is right and what is wrong, just as you also have surely changed your own mind at times in your life. But if you give up your power and set your current thinking and values in stone, and seal allegiances with those whos true hearts you can never fully or truly know in blood, you will be forever the slave of that moment, of that limited time in your relative youthfulness, and you shall never thereafter be permitted to correct your mistake.

  5. Whoops, some formatting was lost there – my comments start at “Indeed, and who would actually want to live under a government run by Machiavelli?”

    I apologize for any confusion or falsely arrived at approval or disdain towards either one of us 😉

  6. Rep. Paul quotes Ledeen ?peace increases our peril by making discipline less urgent, encouraging some of our worst instincts, in depriving us of some of our best leaders.?

    I usually hate kneejerk Orwellian comparisons. But if that doesn’t say, “War is Peace,” then I’ll eat my hat.

  7. “YOU ARE LIARS. The supposition of relative liberty is crime, and transgression. AND WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE.”

    Speak for yourself, you holier-than-thou pontificator/troller. Painting everyone with the same broad brush is indeed an old communist ploy. But it never absolves the painter from his own sins.

  8. I’m so confused…was that a joke? maybe i’m hallucinating, it is pretty late..

  9. Go to bed, Rick. Don’t let this insanity bother you. When you watch TV, do you hallucinate, too? It’s just idiots spouting their stuff. Just go to sleep. It’s almost 2:00 AM. You’ll feel better in the morning

  10. A screwy thing about Machiavelli is that most of the people he pointed as examples of his political philosophy died fairly ignoble deaths; and they certainly never unified Italy, as was his ultimate desire.

    The lesson of Athen’s perfidy is never learned; people need to start reading Thucydides again.

  11. “do we need the silly paranoia? ”

    Ask Geo. W. Bush.

  12. It isn’t just the lesson of Athen’s perfidy that are never learned, Cruz. People (civilization) seem to make many mistakes over and over again, and need to relearn the many other writings of wisdom besides Thucydides.

  13. Intervention got us into this mess in the first place. Who supported Saddam and gave him weapons…oh yeah that was us. Who supported Afghanistan and gave them weopons when the already decaying USSR invaded them…oh yeah that was us. Who continues to give money to Saudi Aarabia which ultimately goes to terrorists…oh yeah we do. I’m sure no one intends for our interventions to turn out badly, but that’s the point: you don’t know what will happen. Supporting the “lesser evil” may look good at the time but it can come back to bite you in the ass later.

  14. I was reading the comments at about 9 am on a glorious Monday morning in London, olde England. some of the comments appear to have been written by folk obviously smoking something dubious.

    I like and admire Ron Paul, who is one of the few principled advocates of small government in public life. However, like all too many anti-interventionists, he buys the idea that limited government necessarily means forswearing overseas commitments such as Iraq. Well, yes and no. I agree with the old adage, “war is the health of the state” and also agree that many interventions create more problems than they solve. To amend Hayek, foreign interventionism can be a “fatal conceit”. I say “can” rather than “is” because the operation in Afghanistan, for example, could be justified morally on the grounds of self defence.

    God, I wish we had some people like Ron in the British parliament. Fat chance.

  15. Where’s Laz? We need a Prince expert to speak up to defend lying for a “just” cause.

  16. i think Ron Paul passed a resolution saying “wiuthdraw from NAFTA.” other than that, i like him. can anyone explain whats up with that, because it seems like a bizarre move for a libertarian free trader

  17. for him NAFTA isn’t pure libertarian solution it is better to have massive unfree trade. baby out with the bathwater.

    plus he is anti-immigration, brown mexicans be damned

    i am glad he is there for his economics, but his ideas on forign policy are standard anarcho-libertarian horseshit.

    i like how he is for limited goverment and the gold standard, but whenever he starts playing for the lewrockwell cultists and ranting about neocons and empire, he looks like a crackpot.

  18. Can anyone explain why they believe our government is significantly worse at freeing foreigners from oppressive regimes than it is at keeping our own people free through the appropriate use of the police and army?

  19. I’ve posted here enough for y’all to know that I don’t go around calling people Nazis. But I’ve wallowed through the first 3/4 of Mein Kampf, and Leeden should be charged with plagiarism. Permanent struggles between peoples. Borders are drawn by the victors. War or degeneration. I’m surprised he doesn’t include a comment about farmers not being aware of the battles fought over their land.

    BTW, “Was all this killing and spending necessary?” Libertarianism at its most hilarious. I suppose we’re jusk lucky the two terms weren’t reversed.

  20. good find, lefty!

    bon bastille!

    drf

  21. What is wrong with non-interventionism? MUST government-wielded economic and military might be used to aggressively pursue whatever the government determines to be our “national interests” throughout the world, and why is that approach preferrable to the individual decisions and projects of thousands or millions of private-sector economic and cultural actors? What does it really take to establish the territory of the United States as a place where people can simply be free? I don’t think anyone, from Machiavelli on down, has made the compelling case that international armtwisting and skulduggery are necessary to secure the freedom of a nation like the US. Why is it, then, that people seem to swallow that proposition so uncritically?

    Also, perhaps I am the only one, but doesn’t Machiavelli’s account of leadership sound an awful lot like government by the Mafia? Hasn’t the Mafia operated as an alternative government in many places of the world (including the US) at times? Would anyone seriously prefer such government to something that is founded upon and that tries to live up to the principles and ideals of the US?

    If Paul is right, and the neocons are philosophical acolytes of Machiavelli, then aren’t they just another form of gangster (just as bin Laden and Al Qaida appear to be also, although who knows if they learned any of their principles from Machiavelli)?

  22. hey james!

    this form of conservativism and the PC form of leftyism (with apologies to Lefty) share many traits. both incorporate an inflexible, non-face-saving, hostile “acquiesce or else” style of discourse.

    where it gets strange is that several friends who are Neoconservative in thought, word, and deed, would self-describe as “classical Liberals”. They have the small government rhetorice down pat, and wish for, at least in their opponents, moral behavior.

    while calling the Neoconservatives “gangsters” is strong, the PC types from college were certainly gangsters — even using their twisted language was required! no, not “gangsters”, but “bureaucrats” might be a better word 😉

    and, Prez GW Bush has broken clinton’s record of fed regulations. this from the cato institute last week. congrats. big government republicans. who’d a thunk it?

    cheers,
    drf

  23. ” What does it really take to establish the territory of the United States as a place where people can simply be free? ”

    because you are not under sharia law. yet you buy our oil and you want to be free of allah’s influence?

  24. are neoconservatives individual people?

    or is it a creed?

    and please provide example of both?

  25. You’re right on track about privitizing interventionism James. The problem with many people is they can’t make the logical leap between our relationship with soveriegn countries and our relationship with our own citizens. There can certainly be a difference in policy; however, eventually the line becomes blurred.

  26. This is paranoid, lunatic, hateful raving, which is so unhinged its virtually devoid of any sense whatsoever. I don’t even know how to respond, even though I actually agree with some of the content of the speech to the extent that its a possible to sparse such a diffuse screed.

    Why is it such a common thing to conflate an interventionist foreign policy with the increase of the scope of the federal government at home? The two issues are completely separate. I agree with much of what is said about losing the battle for limited government but I completely support this administration’s foreign policy. I guess the two things are mutually exclusive somehow, so apparently I’m missing something.

    And how the hell do Israel and Trotsky get dragged into everything somehow? And then when charges of conspiracy theorizing and anti-semitism are levelled everyone is so aghast. Likudniks and Trotskyists are not the same group of people. Look at Christopher Hithchens for pete’s sake.

    But what’s really troubling is that even if you accepted all of the thinking in this speech with a straight face, what will alienating yourself from what has become mainstream conservatism get you ultimately? What are libertarians going to do, try to align themselves with the Democrats? You think the government’s growing too fast now, just watch.

  27. You guys should know that I ran across this article on a lefty site, Common Dreams. The left, of course, will use anything they can to deliver news of disenchantment with the Bushies especially if it is from a radical right? state rep like Ron Paul.

    Mr. Paul took a couple of swipes at the Welfare State (how many welfare moms = one Homeland Security Department?) but I find it difficult to disagree with anything else he’s saying. Is he a lefty? Am I actually a righty? Is it possible that Freedom and Liberty doesn’t know left from right?

    I’m so confused.

  28. eric deamer-
    “You think the government’s growing too fast now, just watch”
    cato.org/tech/pubs/10kc_2003.pdf

    watching. seeing the government grow faster than even clinton could achieve. seeing liberties disappear even faster than what janet “jackboot” reno could accomplish.

  29. I can’t remember where I read it (maybe Reason?), but E. J. Dionne actually got something right: the ideological battle of the 21st Century will be between libertarianism and communitarianism. We’ve seen how broad “libertarianism” is (God knows we argue enough about what it “really” is); the communitarians just go by more names: Democrat, Republican, Green, Natural Law, etc.

  30. ” seeing liberties disappear even faster than what janet “jackboot” reno could accomplish.”

    are you fucking kidding me? how many machine pistols have been stuck in the face of 12 year old cubans? how many compounds filled with kids have been burned down? DO YOU HAVE ANY EVIDENCE FOR YOUR ARGUMENT?

    Patriot act is god awful, but imbecilic rantings such as this do not help the cause!

  31. >>And how the hell do Israel and Trotsky get dragged into everything somehow?

    YOU brought this up, Jesse Jackson. People who call paleos anti-semites are usually zionist dupes. If you can’t see who is pulling the strings then you are a pawn.

  32. evidence? you mean like the story in reason about the bust on the pakistani restaurant? you mean like the several hundred sneak-and peak wires allowed by ashcroft (per reason print, last month). you mean the “enemy combatants” like Padilla who are held without charge? those?

    or what would you like? there’s a whole bunch there. and since we’re in agreement about how awful janet reno was, that’s a great starting place!

    cato.org/pubs/pas/pa-443es.html
    cato.org/current/terrorism/pubs/pilon-011210.html
    free-market.net/spotlight/policestate/

    i guess when you approve of the acts, it doesn’t seem like erosion of civil liberties.

    one thing i do grant you, anon, and you, eric deamer: what will the democrat do with the patriot act powers? good by NRA members. all of our guns will be confiscated… that is pretty bad. however, reno started it, ashcroft continues it.

  33. I agree that GWB administrative record would appear to be the antithesis of small government. He appears to be ideologically in favor of small government. That is, where government intervention adversely impacts his ideology, he wants to limit government intervention.

    (i.e. Affirmative Action, Housing, Social Security, etc…)

    I’m not sure the his administration arrived with the neocon ideology. GWB did not act like a neocon in Texas. He did not act like a neocon until after 9/11. After 9/11 he became neocon in the foreign policies that his administration endorsed but limiting U.S. government intervention post 9/11 would have been a really hard sell. One I’ve noticed no one willing to make. Query, If your philosophy is a ‘good’ philosophy, shouldn’t it address real actual live policy questions?

    I have to question the connection between Machiovelli’s The Prince and neocons. This is where Ron Paul joins the realm usually reserved for the Lunatic Left. Mr. Paul has forgotten an important rule about staking out a position to wit: ‘Sometimes it may be better to think bad about how someone governs than to unload a pile of unfocused crap that seeks to claim numerous policy decisions flow from the positions debated by a distant college professor.’ The connections between the GWB administration policies and 9/11 are far more solid a link than those claimed within the article. As for motivations, every policy position, both domestic and foreign seems to flow from one of two motivations (Go ahead try to prove me wrong!!!):

    1. Re-election – taking away democrat issues, really not that uncommon a strategy (see Clinton Re: Welfare reform); or

    2. 9/11 – When the United States declared war on radical Islam or more accurately finally realized that radical Islam had declared war on the United States.

    I don’t find it helpful to look too deep for motivations within an administration that has been buffeted with the Foreign and Domestic problems that the Bush administration has endured. Almost every administrative action has been reactive. GWB has not so much implemented a policy as he has reacted to events. If the resulting policy or direction is undesireable, you need to look at what the alternative policy should have been when you are faced with the specific event under which it was hatched. Remember the philosophy, to be useful, must address real world events. Absent that, the theoretical positions of a more limited government are blather and nonsense!

  34. One more point…

    When comparing the Administration’s actions you need to look at what was being addressed that prompted the action. Remember the Clinton administration had complete domestic shangri-la. The Bush administration has had to address: Accounting scandals, Stock Market Collapse, Recession, Domestic Terrorism.

    Both Administrations have had pretty much identical foreign policy challenges (9/11 was a domestic and a foreign policy challenge).

    Looking at the actions/reactions of the two administrations without considering the events surrounding them is not just naive, it makes you look positively dishonest!

  35. America is a great country, and there is much admirable in libertarian ideas… but much of the commentary in this comment section seems to play into the stereotype of the American libertarian as crackpot gun-toting yahoos fulminating about the federal government and various other conspiracies, Zionists, Trotskyists, etc. Remember Tim McVeigh??

    It’s pretty spurious, and reductionist, to say that a loving liberty means never intervening in any foreign conflict, period. There is plenty useful in being wary about the current increases in spending and regulation, but damn, do we need the silly paranoia?

  36. “this neocon argues that certain tools are permissible to use. For instance: ?Lying is central to the survival of nations and to the success of great enterprises, because if our enemies can count on the reliability of everything you say, your vulnerability is enormously increased.?

    Yes, but how did “our enemies” obtain the status of enemy? How does a nation acquire enemies — thus giving rise to the despots among us?

    And how can a nation prevent itself from acquiring enemies in the first place?

  37. http://www.mysolution.ws/


    Thus saith the Lord unto the Libertarian Party: Your suppositon that aristocracy is compatible with liberty, via right wing supply side economics, comes to end TODAY. The Horses of Revelation are riding and it is your judgement day. And I, the common man, am the Grim Reaper. The suggestion that capitalizing on another human being is a liberty, is a profession of relative liberty, AT BEST, and it is no absolute liberty, in fact it infringes on another man’s liberty. AND SO, I say you are not libertarians, YOU ARE LIARS. Because a Libertarian, is a believer in absolute liberty, not relative liberty, in everyone’s eyes besides his own obscured with narcicism. The supposition of relative liberty is crime, and transgression. AND WE KNOW WHO YOU ARE.

  38. What the hell…? This is the strangest Comments section I’ve ever seen.

  39. wow, some sort of doomsday communist has just posted at reason….ya see something new everyday

  40. Eric Deamer, it sounds like you’re apparently a bit too young to know when you ask, “What will alienating yourself from what has become mainstream conservatism get you ultimately?”

    You may not realize it, but libertarians have already done that — long ago. Ever since Richard Nixon instituted Wage & Price Controls in the United Sates of America.

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