Over at The Atlantic, Conor Friedersdorf criticizes progressives for having no alternative to Ron Paul. Leaving aside those that Glenn Greenwald (and others) have called out for being straight up honest in not caring about the NDAA, FISA renewal or empire if it means neglecting the welfare state, Friedersdorf takes on the progressives who claim to prioritize the former but won’t back Ron Paul. He’s got his sights on Kevin Drum in particular:
Over the years, including the Obama years, I’ve known Drum to consistently speak out against needless war-making and to be alarmed by excessive claims of executive power, so I don’t doubt his earnestness, and I respect what he has to say on basically every topic. But here’s my problem: though Drum disagrees with those of us who acknowledge Paul’s flaws but value his ability to inject important issues into the national conversation, he offers no alternative. As far as I can tell, most on the left who dismiss Paul are similarly without a plan of their own.
I’m not familiar with Kevin Drum, but it’s a mistake to think that rejecting Paul must come coupled with an alternative electoral plan of action. Friedersdorf’s (whew, what a mouthful) of the libertarian persuasion, so he should be more than familiar with options for change that don’t involve electoral politics at all. In fact here’s one from Matt Zwolinski, though it does read a bit like an advertisement for the Institute for Humane Studies as one Facebook commenter pointed out.
Of course if civil liberties and US hegemony are paramount for you, a Paul election would do far more and quicker than any outreach efforts by the likes of IHS – at least if you were even close to being the decisive vote caster. But even so, maybe there’s a strategy of foreign disentanglement than would yield fewer short term benefits but greater long term benefits, making it superior to Paul’s. I don’t know. In any case, it isn’t prima facie off base to think that imperialism and the like aren’t the only issues of importance. To bring in a dose of self interest, which readers here should have no problem understanding, could a libertarian really say that an end to the US military footprint across the world is worth some kind of Hugo Chavez style takeover of the US itself? Because that’s probably the equivalent of what the left thinks will come of a Paul presidency. No drug war, sure, but no war on poverty either. No foreign intervention, yes, but no foreign aid too.
Politics doesn’t allow for the revealed preference that would tell us just how much any person values one outcome over another. It’s a package deal, as Public Choice theory reminds us. Friedersdorf’s upbraiding of Drum for not having an alternative to Paul is akin to criticizing a car buyer for not liking the Chevy Volt when they can’t tell you what car they do want. If the analogy comes off as obscene because we’re talking about war – war! – here, then I’ll cop to being emotionally obtuse in favor of seeking an ecology of mutual satisfaction. I’ll just point out that ironically this leaves me de facto more sympathetic to lefty concerns about inequality and poverty than many libertarians are apt to express, so there.
Of course the obvious criticism of the above is that non-libertarians prefer to get what they want via the power of the state, which is precisely the way you don’t achieve an ecology of mutual satisfaction. But this assumes that lefties and many conservatives are in love with the political means per se, and not just what it can obtain with a given end in mind. It’s really about personality differences and their attendant priorities (speaking of package deals), so it’s probably a more fruitful task to seek a structural libertarian rather than policy libertarian solution to our disagreements, to utilize one helpful dichotomy. The latter just so easily sinks into this whole “Yea, well if not Paul, then who?” stuff.
I’m recalling John Hasnas’s The Myth of the Rule of Law and this article, but I don’t want to get into why they’re relevant because I’m off to see the new Mission Impossible right now.
Oh, and now only somewhat off-topic because I brought up movies: I have a review of that new film about sex addiction, Shame, up at In Mala Fide. I hesitate to use the word “review” given I ain’t got the film studies chops nor movie writing experience to back it up, but there it is.