Ron Paul, Matching Funds, and Libertarian Ethics


Libertarian economist Walter Block, author of the wonderful Defending the Undefendable (a controversial book that applies libertarian logic relentlessly to explain why any non-rights-violating action, however disreputable, ought to cheered), wonders whether Ron Paul should accept federal matching funds.

He concludes that Paul would be within his libertarian rights to do so (although most other candidates wouldn't be), but should eschew them anyway for practical reasons. Read the whole thing if you are wondering why.

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  1. Even if Ron Paul shouldn’t actually accept the funds, he should still have the right to accept the funds.

    Monty Python lives!

  2. Why would you write an article about how Ron Paul would be justified in taking matching funds if you recognize that it would be a huge strategic mistake? What is the writer’s goal in this article?

  3. Given that Paul refused to accept Medicaid in his medical practice (treating patients at reduced cost or free instead), refused to let his children accept federal student loans, and refuses to accept his Congressional pension, I see ZERO possibility of his accepting matching funds. It would completely undermine one of his major selling points as a candidate.

  4. Which of us has not entered the premises of the motor vehicle bureau, sued someone in court, posted a letter, attempted to attain a passport, or interacted with government in any of the thousand and one other ways it touches upon our lives?

    This is why I don’t read over at Lew Rockwell. I agree with the author. The point he’s making here is on target. But some of the examples he choses, “Sued someone in court”, “posted a letter”. Isn’t establishing a judicial system to arbitrate tort law something the government is suppose to do? It’s certainly something libertarians frequently cite a being preferable to government regulation. And while I would be happy to privatize the post office, it’s establishment is one of the actual enumerated powers in the Constitution.

    I agree, having principled objections to government funds does not preclude one from accepting them. Ron Paul should refuse matching funds for other reasons.

  5. Why are you always on about matching funds, thoreau?

  6. I say he doesn’t accept them, based solely on the fact that Edwards is getting public funding.

    Just take a second an think of the implication.

  7. There is one way I can think of to make accepting federal matching funds OK from a Libt. standpoint:

    That would be for each person to send in a copy of the tax form along with a letter saying that for this tax season, they will consider their taxes as “voluntary contribution” if Ron Paul will accept that amount in matching funds.

    So if 50,000 ppl send in proof showing they paid 50 million in taxes that year, AND those 50,000 people each say that it is alright with them if the money goes to Ron Paul, then there is consent, ergo NIOF problem goes away.

    This is not to say that it would be a good idea for said candidate to take fed matching funds, just pointing out the only way to make it ethical.


  8. I see ZERO possibility of his accepting matching funds.

    Do you? IIRC, Reason reported recently on how Paul will add pork for his district to bills that he knows will pass no matter how he votes, and then make a show of voting against them. He knows how to get his share when it suits him.

    Learning that put me off Ron Paul for good.

    (makes sign of the cross, clasps hands)

    Dear Lord, if your son Jesus Christ isn’t planning to come again just yet, would you please tide us over and send us a L/libertarian candidate who isn’t a crank or a con artist, or both? Grant this through Christ our Lord, amen.

  9. I am wholly sympathetic to the broad thesis that a libertarian taxpayer is morally justified in recouping as much of his taxes as possible.

    In the case of Ron Paul, however, since:

    (1) Ron Paul is not a libertarian;

    (2) “Politician” is not the moral equivalent of “taxpayer;”

    (3) “Libertarian politician” is essentially an oxymoron,

    to talk of Paul’s “libertarian” rights as a politician is rather silly.

  10. Ron Paul won’t win. I think that’s a given. But one possible ray of light is that he can propel the development of a viable Libertarian alternative for the future. Get the concept of America back to what it was meant to be.

  11. “ron paul won’t win”

    i’m sick of the fox news parrots. if you think he’s a good candidate…then support him and vote for him, and most importantly, shut up with the “he can’t win” garbage. there are too many foolish people who won’t vote for a candidate they like simply because they feel like they won’t win.

  12. Since I’m a libertarian taxpayer, and I don’t get back any of my income taxes in the form of other goods and services that the government incurred in debt that those taxes are interest payments for, I see no problem in Ron Paul accepting his legal share on behalf of taxes paid by me throughout my years. I don’t think he will and I don’t think he should because it would “appear” hypocritical and be a black eye on his campaign, but if he did with my consent based on the amount I’ve paid that would be OK with me. In fact, maybe those of us who feel we are paying for services we don’t use can write a letter to Ron Paul and suggest he accetp matching funds with our permission from amounts we’ve paid. The media would surely take notice of the initial hypocrasy until Dr. Paul shows them the letter of our approval at using OUR taxes for his purpose of saving this country.

    Does that make sense or too much rambling?

  13. correct me if i’m wrong, but i thought public matching funds were voluntary tax withholdings, in which case there would be no conflict.

  14. I hope he accepts the funds and don’t see it as a strategic mistake at all! What a bunch of bs.

  15. if he accepts funds he loses 75% of his support

  16. He will accept matching funds and he should. There is no conflict at all as far as I’m concerned.

  17. “ron paul won’t win”

    Many people who say that then turn around and say that Hillary or Obama is a shoe-in.

    A woman and a black dude? No offense, but most of America is not so open minded as Columbia University undergrads, yet the kindly white male doctor with a record for honest has a worse chance than a woman or a black man in the general election?

    I mean, come on!

  18. correct me if i’m wrong, but i thought public matching funds were voluntary tax withholdings, in which case there would be no conflict.

    JL< you’re wrong. 🙂

    Matching funds come from the amount checked off on the 1040 form. If you don’t check a box you still pay the tax.

    It’s not like you get to say, “No, I don’t want three dollars to go to the fund” and then get to pay three dollars less in income tax.

    You also don’t get to say, “I want my three dollars to go to candidate X.” The money all goes into one pot and the government decides which candidates get how much.

  19. A pure libertarian Congressman wouldn’t accept his salary, either, since it’s stolen loot.

    I say, you play the game by the rules that exist. If matching funds help you win, take them.

    If you owned a baseball team in the American League, but philosophically thought the designated hitter rule was an affront to baseball, you would be nuts to make your team not use a DH on principle. The reasonable course of action would be to play by the same rules as everyone else, and work to change the rules (or sell the team).

    As for the earmarks, I don’t get how any of Ron Paul’s earmarks would ever be accepted by his fellow Congressmen, if they know he will vote against the bill anyway. Aren’t they bargaining chips, or sweeteners to get people to vote for the bill?

  20. “Why would you write an article about how Ron Paul would be justified in taking matching funds if you recognize that it would be a huge strategic mistake? What is the writer’s goal in this article?”

    Um, perhaps because politics isn’t just about horse races? If you don’t understand the value of arguing hypotheticals, you probably need a basic course in Logic or Philosophy.

    “Strategy” is so intensely boring. But it’s apparently what most people love to talk about, because it dominates our political discourse.

  21. thanks issac:

    so the $3 is stolen from you regardless? you have only the authority to divert it to campaign matching if you wish…?

  22. Tom –
    As an article, it’s useless. If he’s not arguing for RP accepting public funds, wtf is he doing writing an article about it being ideologically consistent for him to do so?

    That would be like someone writing an article about how it wouldn’t be ideologically inconsistent for me, a Non-Christian, to cheat on my wife, but that it would be a horribly stupid thing to do and no amount of telling her that it’s consistent with my beliefs would make her support my decision. Even if we stressed that it would be wrong if I were a Christian.

    If he did take matching funds, if he got any political traction what-so-ever, RP would be forced to spend all of those ill-begotten funds defending his decision to the MSM, who really wouldn’t give a crap about the details regarding it’s consistency with his beliefs.

  23. Why are you always on about matching funds, thoreau?

    It embodies the violence inherent in the system.

  24. “If he’s not arguing for RP accepting public funds, wtf is he doing writing an article about it being ideologically consistent for him to do so?”

    Because there is a value in arguing hypotheticals. It brings clarity to the way we think about real-world situations.

    I think the problem is that you’re hung up on the “Ron Paul, presidential candidate of October 2007” part of it. It’s not a column about Ron Paul, per se. It’s a column about the nature of federal matching funds.

  25. thoreau,

    The appropriate response is, “Because I want to be one.”

  26. There is nothing about matching funds in the Constitution, in fact doing so is repugnant to the constitution. No I would bet my vote that he does not accept them and further this policy should be eliminated immediately. These types of policies are ludicrous.

  27. What if Paul accepted matching funds and then refunded his donors, who could then re donate, so he could accept matching funds on redonated matching funds and then refund his donors and…I think I know how to take over the world guys…

  28. An Ottawa Reader:

    Ron Paul has explained his reasoning behind that tactic. He’s up-front about it, and about why. Argue against his rationale, don’t attack a strawman.

  29. As libertarians, we recognize that the entire government run regulatory scheme of campaigns is immoral, unconstitutional, and rigged for the benefit of the establishment players and the two parties. The check off on your tax return is just one part of that scheme. Ron is already playing by the State’s rules in every other aspect that hurts him. Why shouldn’t he also go with the one aspect of the scheme that by the accident of inflation, actually helps him?

    And the give it back suggestion strikes me as having a lot of upside. Just giving it to donors seems indefensible. But if Ron went around the country randomly handing out $25 bundles with RonPaul2008 flyers to random Americans he encounters on the way, he’d be playing the role of libertarian Robin Hood. The legal implications and strings have to be looked in to, but that’s a way he could take the cash, get a massive PR boost, AND stay true to the Libertarian cause.

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  31. Do you? IIRC, Reason reported recently on how Paul will add pork for his district to bills that he knows will pass no matter how he votes, and then make a show of voting against them. He knows how to get his share when it suits him.

    Learning that put me off Ron Paul for good.

    Did you bother to listen to Pauls explanation of the earmark issue? Did you bother to LOOK at the actual earmarks?

    We are not talking bridges to nowhere or a road up to his ranch here, we are talking about needed infrastructure and health expendatures that benefit his constituents. Nothing excessive at all. These earmarks happen all the time, at least when your house REP discloses them you know where your funds are going. Better that than being hidden on some bureaucrats desk for years. Paul admits the system is flawed, but untill its fixed, make the best of it.

    Man some people are too vulnerable to hitpiece blogs or something. Do your own research instead of just kneejerk reactions will ya?

  32. “What if Paul accepted matching funds and then refunded his donors, who could then re donate, so he could accept matching funds on redonated matching funds and then refund his donors and…I think I know how to take over the world guys…”

    Yea! Fractional reserve campaign financing. It’s like the seven cent nickel, only different.

  33. livlove — specially liked the Beer Diet clip here:

  34. I know this is well-covered territory, but just a reminder: many states, including California, do not have open primaries. I don’t want anyone to be surprised; if you are not registered as a Republican, Ron Paul’s name will not be on your ballot.

  35. Look.. The GOAL is to have a PRESIDENT Dr Ron Paul. Edwards has said he will accept matching funds..
    I donated to Ron Paul with an expectation he would do ALL HE COULD to win the presidency..


  36. As wild-and-crazy as the Ron Paul folks are, I’ve found the people who hate the guy to be uniformly distasteful, no matter their political stripe.

    He makes an interesting touchstone, I think.

  37. Pork…

    First of all, pork projects DO NOT raise the budget. The money will be spent anyway. If Dr. Paul did not put in some pork for his district, his district would just be paying for everyone elses’ bridge to nowhere. Their money will be spent anyway! What part of this do you Guiliani supporters not understand?

    He voted against the budget because the budget almost always included increases and things the federal government shouldn’t be doing.

    If you non-porkers are such purists, I expect you to take ZERO deductions from your taxes next year. You don’t deserve to get any of the taxes you paid in back. It should go for the common good, according to YOUR logic.

    But, no worries, nobody takes you Ron Paul haters seriously any more. Your attacks are so beyond stupid, it is almost drives one to pity you.

    Of course, your goal is to turn off people that don’t understand how the system works. You people have preyed on the ignorance of the masses for too long. They are starting to pay attention now and starting to learn. THAT is the miracle of this revolution. Every day, people are informing people about what is going on and what it means and them giving them resources to prove it.

    The only people NOT coming around are the socialists, globalists, and others that actually WANT a different America than was intended. Well, go form your own little revolution so we can identify the hate-america enemies even better.

  38. This snickering is awesome! Everyone should feel great about supporting Ron Paul. Why would we have any interest in whether or not Ron Paul accepts funding? We are sending him money! Time to knock the status quo for a serious loop – we have a very serious chance of taking this election! Take the money Ron Paul!

  39. As a Libertarian, I’m not believing how much other Libertarians attack Ron Paul for not being “pure” Libertarian. Name one other candidate in ANY party that has views closer to Libertarian than Ron’s, AND has a BETTER or as good of chance of winning as Ron. Why would you do anything other than support Ron whole heartedly? He may not be perfect, but his nomination WILL further the cause of Libertarianism to a much farther degree than continuing to vote for candidates that receive less than 3% and continue to keep the ideas of Libertarians in the dark. Hell, most the people I talk to don’t even know what a Libertarian is!!!


  40. With all due respect to naysayers, Ron Paul is a libertarian, and he is certainly as much or more a libertarian than any candidate I have ever seen fielded by the Libertarian Party for any office since I joined the party in the early 1980s — no surprise, as he was fielded by the LP itself for President in 1988. If the Demos offered us candidates who were as libertarian as RP, I would vote for them. On the odd occasion (as now) when a real libertarian runs as a Republican, I would vote for him or her. Mostly, I vote Libertarian, because that is where the most reliably libertarian candidates are. I would love it, were more actual Libertarians to be elected, especially to higher office, so that we could break the back of the two-faced monoparty system. I’ll keep pushing for that, but unless and until that happens, I will gladly support my libertarians where I find them. In this case — in this ONE, SPECIAL CASE — that appears to be the GOP. Oh well. As for who will get my vote in November of 2008, that depends on whom the Libertarian Party nominates, and whether Dr. Paul manages to get the GOP nomination. I’d be quite happy to tell my grandkids someday that I had a real problem back in 2008, trying to decide between TWO truly libertarian candidates. Libertarians need more of that kind of problem, every election!

  41. I say, take the matching funds and repay all the donations he has received.

    It would be the ultimate “f*** you” to the system and it would gain millions of dollars in free advertising.

    “Dr Ron Paul, the ‘long shot’ candidate, gave all of his supporters a “refund” of their tax dollars”


    Yeah, it’s called laziness.

    On the issue of matching funds, I believe it is perfectly justifiable to accept them if they are available, however, I’d like to see the practice reduced to a voluntary basis for taxpayers, which would probably mean they wouldn’t exist and everyone would have the right to contribute however much they wanted as an individual to a candidate. Limitations on contributions take away the freedom of individuals to spend their money as they see fit. And it is effectively an infringement on their right for redress of grievances. It’s just a bad law. Does it mean that billionaires would then be shoving millions in the pockets of candidates who would promise them favors? Probably. But that’s where a free press and campaign disclosure comes in. It is the job of the press to uncover smelly deals and the people’s job to research and vote accordingly.

    We get exactly the kind of leadership we deserve when we do nothing anyway. Might as well give the little guy an equal chance to have eccentric benefactors as the rest of the pack. For candidates who don’t take money from Political Action Committees, they have a hard enough time as it is without making it double difficult by not taking the advantages afforded them, whether part of a flawed system or not!

  43. Hey gang, all of us Ron Paul supporters still pay our taxes and we all can choose to check or uncheck that little box on top dealing with election funds.

    I see it this way, we paid our tax, we allowed a dollar to go to the fund, and I would much rather have Ron Paul have my dollar than any other candidate.

    Ron Paul should definately take the money we donated and he is eligible for.

  44. Pick a Paul speech: Yes or No

    Start with:
    “I oppose all tax funding of campaigns as unconstitutional and will seek to repeal all public financing laws if elected President…”

    “.. however, I don’t believe it is ethical to concede a benefit to those who support a bad law at the expense of those who oppose it. I favor term limits, but I won’t voluntarily consent to abandon my efforts to the benefit of those who would oppose me. In the same way, I cannot condone the use of voluntarily allocated tax funds only by those who favor more tyranny. Therefore, I will accept matching funds and use them to condemn this unconstitutional violation at every opportunity.”

    “… In the meantime, I will depend solely on the voluntary contributions of those freedom lovers who chose to contribute to my campaign. I trust their judgment and have been delighted with their enthusiastic support.”

    Seems to me that NO is both simpler and more consistent with Ron Paul’s message. But, I’d support him on either principled position.

  45. Taking money away from the government is good for liberty. Paul s would do us all a service and accept the matching funds. Why should the government be allowed to keep the money that it takes through taxation? So they can spend it on the war machine? The libertarian thing to do is to take money away from the state to bring it back into the private sector where individuals can freely decide how to spend it, not to let the state keep it.

  46. The reason the author writes articles like this is for 2 reasons.

    1: If Ron Paul takes the funds he will use it as a tactic to call Ron a hypocrite for propaganda reasons.

    2: If Ron Paul doesn’t take the funds he will just say Ron is an idiot and now has no chance at winning for not taking them for propaganda reasons.

    Either way he gets to write another story that does not favor Ron paul and serves more propaganda.

    With that said this is for the people that of said things like, he is corrupt like the rest, he saus one thing but does another etc… etc… etc…. Enough of the propaganda you are fed. I would advise all of you that makes this claims to research them from fact such as his voting record of congress rather then fox news or the main stream media. If people would actually read or do research instead of taking something they hear for fact WE WOULDN’T BE IN IRAQ WOULD WE? THAT IS THE PROBLEM WITH OUR COUNTRY PEOPLE WE DON’T RESEARCH OR CONFIRM THINGS WE JUST BELIEVE WHAT WE ARE TOLD.

    I was a democrat all my life and was a board member of the democratic party for 8 years and i have since after researching all of the candidates i found Ron Paul to have the most solid record in congress and that speaks for it self, so i regstered as a republican and i will be voting for Ron Paul.

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