Election 2016

Ron Paul: Neither Trump, Clinton, & Others "offer to reduce the size and scope and intrusion of government"

Libertarian former GOP congressman calls Trump, Clinton, Cruz, Rubio, Sanders, et al "authoritarians," won't endorse anyone.

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Former Libertarian Party presidential nominee (1988), long-term Republican congressman, and 2008 and 2012 GOP libertarian insurgent Ron Paul sees no meaningful differences among Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton, and the remaining Republican candidates.

"It's super-nationalistic populism versus socialism," Paul tells CNN, talking about the Republican and Democratic frontrunners. But he's not done yet, either. When asked if he'd be endorsing any of the other remaining GOP candidates, he says no way and even throws a particular barb in the general direction of fellow Texan Ted Cruz: "Some of the top candidates want to carpet-bomb the world. A libertarian can't endorse this authoritarian approach."

Paul also had harsh words for Bernie Sanders, despite seeming agreement on a non-interventionist foreign policy:

"He's a big voter for militarism, but had one vote he could brag about," Paul said describing Sanders and his vote against the Iraq War. "He's an authoritarian of a different color, but Trump is a super authoritarian."

Read more here.

Over the past decade or so, I'd wager than Ron Paul has generated more libertarians than any other single figure. When I joined the staff of Reason way back in 1993, most people I encountered had been turned on by encountering works by Milton Friedman, Ayn Rand, and perhaps Robert Heinlein. F.A. Hayek and Ludwig von Mises, maybe, and some by Murray Rothbard, but that last trinity was definitely much smaller than the first (and this is only in terms of individuals; publications such as Reason and groups such as Cato, IHS, and FEE arguably played a bigger role than any individual in creating "new" libertarians).

So when Ron Paul talks, many people listen. I'm not a fan of overly sweeping statements but there is something to Paul's leveling approach that made me think of a comment about authoritarianism vs. libertarianism from the recent interview we did with Edward Snowden (full video and transcript here):

In the midst of a fiercely contested presidential race, Snowden remains steadfast in his distrust of partisan politics and declined to endorse any particular candidate or party, or even to label his beliefs. "I do see sort of a clear distinction between people who have a larger faith in liberties and rights than they do in states and institutions," he grants. "And this would be sort of the authoritarian/libertarian axis in the traditional sense. And I do think it's clear that if you believe in the progressive liberal tradition, which is that people should have greater capability to act freely, to make their own choices, to enjoy a better and freer life over the progression of sort of human life, you're going to be pushing away from that authoritarian axis at all times."

There's no question to me that Hillary Clinton is an authoritarian. I don't mean that she's some sort of crypto Mussolini hell-bent on cracking down on political enemies, but among her very top priorities is a belief in order over looseness, which she likely equates with chaos or anarchy (the bad kind). That undergirds her hawkish foreign policy, which is indistinguishable from or even more interventionist than any of the GOP candidate's, and also her fixation on controlling speech and technological innovation (read Matt Welch's "Hail To the Censor!" for an encyclopedic cataloguing of her offenses on the latter).

In this, she is indeed very much in step with both Trump and the other Republican candidates who, despite occasional libertarian rhetoric about individualism, are similarly obsessed with control, prohibition, and regulation of human activity and behavior. All the GOP candidates are foreign-policy hawks, of course, but the way most of them (certainly Trump, Cruz, and Rubio) talk about immigration and even the economy is in terms of commanding and controlling. We can't have a country without borders, right? And we can't have borders without cops, who shouldn't be questioned, right? While Bernie Sanders puts a kindly, old-man face on the regulatory state, the implications of his plans are also authoritarian, too, with the state or some group that has the force of law dictating an acceptable range of choices from which the masses are allowed to choose.

Again, none of this is to equate any of the current candidates with authoritarians of yore, much less contemporary villains such as Putin. I can appreciate the fears of folks "scared" of a Trump presidency because he talks about "opening up" libel laws and doing away with this or that settled reading of the Constitution (hey, where were all those National Review conservatives when Trump, like Rubio and Cruz, dismissed birthright citizenship?), but the United States does a pretty good job of reining in the most brutal and obvious forms of authoritarianism. The government can be more or less bullying, but we tend to moderate many of the worst forms of bullying (and, as the success of the movement to reform criminal justice excesses show, sometimes even correct course).

But Ron Paul is right when he tells CNN that for libertarians the similarities among the remaining officeseekers are pretty striking:

"From the libertarian viewpoint of limiting goverment, there's nothing that [any of the current candidates] offer to reduce the size and scope and intrusion of government. Who offers any cuts in spending? Who offers protections of our liberty? Some of the leading candidates want to carpet bomb the world! A libertarian can't endorse this authoritarian approach."

Indeed, as the talk about forming a new party—or reconstituting the Republican Party in response to Trump's success—picks up, Paul's insights are worth keeping front and center. The axis of American politics isn't right vs. left, or conservative vs. liberal, or even Republican vs. Democrat. It's authoritarian vs. libertarian. And despite all the yapping about the end of the "Libertarian Moment," it turns out that there are more libertarians than ever before and we now outnumber conservatives, liberals, and populists. After 15 years in which conservative Republicans and liberal Democrats each got their shots at running the show, who can blame us?

Here's the Snowden interview, which was conducted at The Free State Project's Liberty Forum a week and a half ago.

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  1. Trump is too secular and moderate for Ron Paul. Chuck Baldwin should run again. Too bad the Atheist-dominated LP would never nominate him.

    1. Too secular?

    2. Too bad the Atheist-dominated LP would never nominate him.

      It is time for a return to the old time religion. If it was good enough for Jesus it is good enough for me.

      1. The Founders refused. If it was good enough for them it is good enough for me.
        Perhaps you should find a country to live in that is closer to your favorite tyranny.

  2. “it turns out that there are more libertarians than ever before and we now outnumber conservatives, liberals, and populists.”

    And yet they cannot manage to field a viable candidate capable of any meaningful opposition to the two party system. Perhaps it is because there are liberal libertarians and conservative libertarians, and for all I know moderate libertarians, and they cannot cooperate within their respective groups never mind forming any type of coalition.

    If the definition of a libertarian is someone who basically wants to be left alone, that would appear to be contrary to any type of coordinated activism. Much better to blog about your own respective opinions than to go out and actually do anything.

    1. Libertarian politicians will never win because while people want government to leave them alone, they also want their paychecks and entitlements. Any meaningful cuts in government will result in lots and lots of people losing their jobs (government workers, contractors, etc) and/or their entitlement check. Those people have friends and family who will be affected as well. Any candidate who even mentions specific and effective ways to cut government has just lost millions of votes, and ultimately the election.

      1. Just because 94%* of Americans will use Federal money at some point in their lives doesn’t mean they don’t want to cut out the middleman.
        *I got the figure off of the internet so you know it must be true.

        1. You mean 94% of people will get some trifling measure of their taxes back at some point in their lives?

      2. “people want government to leave them alone, they also want their paychecks and entitlements”

        And wanting to keep those paychecks and entitlements necessarily means OTHERS will NOT be left alone. So it’s the same old story of principals over principles, just as it’s practiced by every good prog–“Give ME and and my friends liberty but make sure you take it away from those people over there.”

        And people wonder why the system sucks so much. If even the electorate has no principles, why expect the politicians to have any?

        1. At some point people compromise their principles for survival. Is someone with a government job and a family to support going to vote for a politician who promises to put them in the employment line? Is a government contractor with a family to support going to vote for a politician who promises cut contract spending? Are the family members of someone who lives off of entitlements going to vote for a politician who promises to cut entitlement spending? At some point self-interest trumps principles.

          1. It saddens me to admit it, but I’ve done that myself. In 2008 Obama was threatening to cancel the program I was working on. So I choked back the vomit long enough to cast a vote for McCain.

            *throws up in mouth a little just thinking about it*

            I swore then, never again. In 2012 I voted for Gary’s Johnson.

            1. Had no idea his Johnson was on the ballot.

          2. It depends on whether one has any integrity. How is it in someone’s interest to live without principles?

      3. Pretty much this. I’ll also add that while a lot of people think they should have freedom, they also think that others shouldn’t. It’s easy to want the government to leave you alone, it’s not as easy to get people to grok the concept that the government should also leave other people alone too.

        “But they’re not making the right choices! ‘We’should ‘help’ them… for their own good!”

    2. Forming an effective Libertarian party is difficult because its hard to organize people whose goal in life is to mind their own business and whose first wish is that everyone else would just mind theirs.

      1. ^^^^^^^^^ This. I just want to be left alone.

  3. Paraphrasing Ron Paul from the segment of interview above: “They’re all authoritarians, and as a libertarian I cannot support or endorse an authoritarian.”

    Paraphrasing interviewer: “So, who would you endorse?”

    1. I endorse Gary’s Johnson.

      1. You wood!

      2. Yes, but does his Johnson wan to be endorsed?

      3. That’s a pretty flaccid endorsement, Sarc. You need to vigorously endorse. Repeatedly.

  4. “it turns out that there are more libertarians than ever before and we now outnumber conservatives, liberals, and populists.”

    Only if we use two totally opposite definitions of libertarian, to claim the Cult of Ron Paul is libertarian.

    The best true measurement was when Cato commissioned a top political pollster, Zogby.

    59% ov voters would describe themselves as fiscally conservative and socially liberal which Cato defined as libertarian, the definition for 40 years and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz. (gasp)

    And of that libertarian majority, fully 91% rejected the libertarian label. This leaves only 5.3% who would self-describe as libertarians, *IF* they can also choose the definition. In marketing terms, the libertarians brand is toxic

    (scroll down to boldface How Libertarians See Themselves)
    http://www.cato.org/policy-rep…..-2004-2006

    So which libertarians have been fostering the growth of so-called libertarian ideas, 59% of voters who are Nolan libertarians, or 5.3% of voters who are Gillespie libertarians? If that’s too tough, how can the bullshit liberty movement (Ron Paul’s) have promoted majority acceptance of marriage equality? DUH

    Save us all from Libertarian Tribalism and its anti-gummint mentality (versus pro-liberty) — which is why we have NO policy proposals to exploit today’s voter rage. After 40 years.

    1. Hey, you managed to post a link in your incoherent screed. You must be getting smarter.

      1. HeteroPatriarch
        Hey, you managed to post a link in your incoherent screed

        Hey, I always provide a link, with scrolling instructions to the Zogby survey … so readers can see, with their own eyes. exactly how brainwashed you people are. Like Birthers! Thanks for proving my point!!!

        (Why am I concerned that a Hetero Patriarch MAY be a homophobic follower of the Paulista Cult?)

        1. Ad hominem, followed by ad hominem, followed by ad hominem. You’re so smart!

          1. Better than the stuff you pull, mac.

          2. Ad hominem, followed by ad hominem, followed by ad hominem. You’re so smart!

            Linking to undeniable proof is now an ad hominem! … to the fucking phony who opened with this

            HeteroPatriarch
            Hey, you managed to post a link in your incoherent screed. You must be getting smarter.

            Umm, that was in response to a fully documented argument.

            (MIGHT he be a homohobic follower of the Paulista Cult?)

            (my boldface and tone is in defense of repeated aggression. On a libertarian website!.)

      1. coloraDOOM
        Scottsmen, huh?

        That would be a fallacy. This is documented realty.

        1. You seem to have a very narrow definition of what a libertarian is.

          1. The only definition I stated was used by Cato.
            But the definition, as I said, has been the same for 40 years.
            Are you familiar with the World’s Smallest Political Quiz?

            1. Yeah, but the real definition of libertarian is “people who agree with me on every issue”, where “me” is every individual libertarian anyone ever met. Hence the Scotsman mention.

              1. Yeah, but the real definition of libertarian is “people who agree with me on every issue”,

                So either Cato, David Nolan and the World’s Smallest Political Quiz are all full of shit or you are. What are the odds?

                where “me” is every individual libertarian anyone ever met.

                You’re not paying attention. The “real” definition is fiscally conservative and socially liberal … only for 40 years now. And you too don’t know what the World’s Smallest Political Quiz is. How about David Nolan? ANYTHING?

                Hence the Scotsman mention

                Now you’re reading minds!
                “Hence” implies a logical conclusion which you don’t have, and all your premises are wrong.

    2. Save us all from Libertarian Tribalism and its anti-gummint mentality (versus pro-liberty) — which is why we have NO policy proposals to exploit today’s voter rage. After 40 years.

      Liberty doesn’t come from government policy. It comes from a lack of government policy. (Just as darkness is an absence of light and silence in an absence of sound, liberty is an absence of policy that tells people what to do and how to do it.) Liberty means not asking permission or obeying orders. All policy does is define who to ask permission from and who to take orders from. You don’t get to liberty with policy. You get to liberty by shredding policy and giving power back to the people.

      1. Save us all from Libertarian Tribalism and its anti-gummint mentality (versus pro-liberty) — which is why we have NO policy proposals to exploit today’s voter rage. After 40 years.

        Liberty doesn’t come from government policy. It comes from a lack of government policy.

        Ujmm how do we get there? Can we REALLY go to a MINORITY libertarian view (anarchy) all in a single step … with the right memorized slogans and buzzwords? WOW!

        1. Let’s face it. We *don’t* get there with a rigged electoral system. Politicians are reactive, not proactive. We get there with culture and social structures and economics and education. When people realize that national health care makes health care more expensive and less available. When people realize that it’s Apple that made their new iPhone, not the U.S. government, who just wants to be able to hack people’s iPhones.

          The fact that many people don’t want to self-label as libertarians doesn’t mean that they don’t have libertarian views. When 75% of the Americans don’t vote, is it because they don’t care, or because they know how futile it really is? Given the way this year’s election is shaping up, it may well be because they recognize how futile it is, and that any real change has to come from outside politics.

          1. Let’s face it. We *don’t* get there with a rigged electoral system.

            So you’ve given up?

            Politicians are reactive, not proactive.

            Another fine soundbite!

            We get there with culture and social structures and economics and education.

            Who does that and when?

            When people realize that national health care makes health care more expensive and less available.

            Can you guess a date? Do you not know how to do that either?

            When people realize that it’s Apple that made their new iPhone, not the U.S. government,

            How many people believe the US government manufactures iPhones? Any other phones?

            The fact that many people don’t want to self-label as libertarians doesn’t mean that they don’t have libertarian views.

            That’s exactly what I said. Why is the libertarian brand rejected by 91% of libertarians?

            When 75% of the Americans don’t vote, is it because they don’t care, or because they know how futile it really is?

            Neither is true, including the 75%.

            Given the way this year’s election is shaping up, it may well be because they recognize how futile it is, and that any real change has to come from outside politics.

            So you have no idea how we get there.

  5. Sounds like a pretty solid plan to me dude.

    http://www.Anon-Net.tk

  6. Over the past decade or so, I’d wager than Ron Paul has generated more libertarians than any other single figure. George Bush might take that bet.

  7. “I don’t mean that she’s some sort of crypto Mussolini hell-bent on cracking down on political enemies…”

    That’s a statement that requires some serious and voluminous evidence for support.

  8. Yeah, they all are. But Putin isn’t. Putin is good.

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  10. Nick, you make an error when you tacitly equate authoritarianism with order. This implies that freedom is disorder. No!

    Freedom is a different type of order. It is a self-organized order based on distributed knowledge, with decisions made by the actors. In contrast, authoritarian is an imposed order made by a small minority of actors using limited information. Come on, you’ve read Hayek. But it seems you have not internalized this belief to subconsciously throw out an analogy like that.

  11. If Ron is too tired to try running for the LP nom, why not have the balls to come out and endorse Gary Johnson or Austin Petersen instead of just saying “no I’m not going to endorse anyone”. What exactly does he have to lose at that point?

    1. Ron will never endorse Gary, because Gary is pro choice.

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  13. super-nationalistic populism versus socialism

    Given the options, I’ll take the super-nationalistic populism.

    1. Libertarians should be against people making their own personal decisions.

      1. But Ron Paul is not a libertarian.

  14. There’s no question to me that Hillary Clinton is an authoritarian. I don’t mean that she’s some sort of crypto Mussolini hell-bent on cracking down on political enemies,

    Yeah, ‘cuz what’s crypto about her?

  15. Regarding your list of individuals who brought people into the libertarian fold – two things:

    1) My political beliefs were pretty solidly libertarian long before I had a label. Once I heard ‘libertarian’ properly described I said, “that’s me!” So it wasn’t “being brought into libertarianism” as much as finding the label for my true political identity.

    2) Neil Boortz brought me to the libertarian party when he renounced his Republican membership and registered libertarian on his radio show. When he described what being a libertarian meant, I finally found a label to tie together all of those offbeat opinions I held. The last time I listened to his show was 20 years ago, but since he seems to catch a good bit of venom around here, I thought I’d toss him a bone.

    Once the label is embraced, it becomes easy to solidify opinions that were never fully sussed out. Without a label, there’s lots of positions that you never really fully explore. But once you have the label, it becomes easy to apply your principles to most situations. So thanks for the label, Neil. And thanks for Reason and Liberty, which helped me explore the meaning of liberty.

    Now we just need a pamphlet. “So you finally figured out that you are a libertarian”…. It could have helpful suggestions for thing like “how to avoid rolling your eyes at parties” and “how to avoid lecturing your SJW friend about what real feminism looks like”.

  16. No difference? Trump is the most entertaining of any of the candidates.

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  18. “officeseekers”

    offense seekers

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  20. Trump said he wants to get rid of our military bases all across the world & bring all those soldiers home in the last debate. Just as Ron Paul used to say. He said we should be neutral when it comes to Israel vs. Palestine & not be biased toward Israel which is a radical position for a Republican frontrunner to take. He’s condemned the Iraq war & *did* speak out about it before it started. He’s had some tough talk against ISIS but I think even Ron Paul would have to admit that they are a legitimate threat. He’s condemned the Iran deal but mostly criticizes the return of money to them as opposed to the notion of having a deal itself. In fact I believe he’s said that he would not tear up the deal but would rather make sure that it is strictly adhered to which is different than Cruz and Rubio who would rip it up the first day & go to war with Iran & maybe Russia. Overall he’s argued for a pretty non-interventionist foreign policy, especially for a Republican frontrunner.

    Also in the debate Trump said he would like to get rid of the EPA and the Department of Education. Not just cut but get rid of. It seems like Ron Paul has ignored all of this due to his bias of having a son in the race who’s been defeated by Trump.

    1. Yeah, so? Ron Paul is just as much a tyrant, perhaps even greater. Trump does lie a lot, but has he lied about the constitution and federalism? Denied the existence of the 9th Amendment. And you seem to have heard a lot that he never said, like all his loyal supporters.

      David Duke has endorsed Trump. But has Trump ever supported the same principles as the KKK, Orval Faubus, George Wallace and Ron Paul?

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