Freedom For Some

Matthew Yglesias on Ron Paul:

After looking at his positions and statements, the most remarkable thing is that if it weren’t for his loud fanbase of self-proclaimed libertarians you wouldn’t really think this is the platform of a libertarian. He’s loudly trumpeting his plan to impose criminal penalties on women who terminate their pregnancies and he makes it clear that his interest in freedom doesn’t extend to the freedom of anyone unfortunate enough to have been born in a foreign country. His campaign slogan of “RESTORE AMERICA NOW” is strongly suggestive of conservative impulses and nostalgia for the much-less-free America John Boehner grew up in. The mainstay of his economic thinking is the ridiculous proposition that “[t]here is no greater threat to the security and prosperity of the United States today than the out-of-control, secretive Federal Reserve.” Not only is Paul’s goldbuggery nutty on the merits, like his affection for forced pregnancy and severe restrictions on human freedom of movement it’s difficult to see what it has to do with freedom. The freedom of the government to set a fixed dollar price of gold? America’s current monetary policy—a fiat currency that’s freely exchangeable for other currencies and commodities—is the free market position.

These are among the reasons I can't get too excited whenever Ron Paul defends due process, questions the wisdom of aggressive military intervention or assails the surveillance state. While Paul isn't a vocal member of the GOP's homophobia wing, preferring to leave such questions to the states, his vision of freedom comes across as terribly limited to constituencies whose individual freedom, throughout American history, has come from the intervention of the federal government. It's impossible to imagine black people or women having the freedom they have today without the Civil Rights Act. For gays and lesbians, who are hoping to secure their own fundamental rights, Paul's federalism would give individual states the right to violate those rights by a show of hands. Paul-style libertarianism too often comes across as an agenda of individual freedom for straight white men. And because he is libertarianism's most visible ambassador, his vision the one most Americans associate libertarianism with. 

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