No Liberal Hero: Facing The Ron Paul Problem

The following post was originally published on OneWhiteDuck.com.

Many die-hard proponents of “Minimum Government, Maximum Freedoms” consider a Libertarian government as akin to true Americanism – perhaps far more than our country’s preconceived perceptions of Left versus Right, Liberal versus Conservative, “Big” government versus “Local,” etc.

Libertarianism is especially popular among Tea Party Republicans; who more often than not tout an “anti-big government” sentiment alongside Republican political-hopefuls (while, ironically, simultaneously ignoring huge governmental oversight, taxation and spending wrought by Republican presidents, congressmen and statesmen and calling for even more governmental infractions concerning the private lives of American citizens, families and workers).


Meanwhile, “liberals” feeling the funk of a “not what I thought I bought” Obama presidency are also leaning toward Libertarianism – very often without concern for the inevitable endgame of a true Libertarian society.

This sentiment often calls attention to presidential candidates –  like Congressman Ron Paul (R – Texas), who has been running on a platform of Libertarian “Constitutionalism” for years – and their allusions to the original Founding Fathers’ national intents as a proverbial call to arms for members within both major parties.

Disillusionment with the status quo – combined with the buzzwords swirling around a Libertarian campaign –  often strikes just the right chord with frustrated American voters. But while the concept of a Libertarian presidency does have its appeal, there are inherent problems that outweigh the positives.

At the drawing board for what is now America, Libertarianism was based on the moral principle of self-ownership; where individuals possess the right to control his or her own body, action, speech and property. Government’s only role – as generally interpreted by the founders – was to assist its people in defending themselves against outside force and fraud.

“We believe that respect for individual rights is the essential precondition for a free and prosperous world, that force and fraud must be banished from human relationships, and that only through freedom can peace and prosperity be realized.” – From the Libertarian party’s official website.

But while Libertarianism was at the root of the nation’s beginnings, that does not mean it is substantially relevant enough in today’s society to set the course for our future.

Over two-plus centuries, American culture has evolved exponentially in ways that were entirely unfathomable to anyone daring to even attempt to literally change the world in the late 1700s.

Religion, immigration, agriculture, science, technology, business, energy, invention, war, weaponry. Emerging super-powers, a global economy, changing geography, natural threats, unnatural threats, social upheavals, global genocides. Cultural expansion, modern medicine, space exploration, mental discovery….

Our world is nothing that it was during our nation’s humble, noble and often tragic beginnings. And unfortunately – “American” or not – Libertarianism does not bode well against the test of time.

Each places far too much trust in our ability to live a good and reasonable life as Americans without societal checks and balances. For all our cooperative instincts, we are generally still too (or rather have been bred to remain) apathetically uninformed, undereducated and uninvolved to fathom the delicate intricacies of a nation’s best efforts for advancement.

According to the party’s statement of principles, governments “must not violate individual rights, [as] we oppose all interference by government in the areas of voluntary and contractual relations among individuals.”

Libertarianism insists that there are only two real factions of American society: the government and the individual – and that the former is the only one that, if too large, powerful and/or overtly ominous, will work to take away an individual’s personal freedoms. But this is simply not true.

On the surface, Libertarianism is supposed to be about individual rights and freedoms, yet when mixed with human nature and compulsion for personal gain, it becomes about business; where the very term “individual rights” becomes a sub-context for “private business”.

It even holds business in a higher regard than basic human and civil rights, as evident in its support for what I like to refer to as “regressive expansion” – a harkening back to pre-1964 Civil Rights legislation as it pertains to corporate America.

“Consequently, we oppose any government attempts to regulate private discrimination, including choices and preferences, in employment, housing, and privately owned businesses. The right to trade includes the right not to trade – for any reasons whatsoever; the right of association includes the right not to associate, for exercise of the right depends upon mutual consent.”

This is not to say that Libertarians are racist or hold racist views. What it does say, though, is that they believe it should be entirely within the rights of an empowered class to allow the empowered to dictate which race, creed or color gets to realize the American dream of freedom and opportunity – two monikers so highly revered by Libertarians.

As perhaps a “lazy idealist,” a Libertarian my be 100% tolerant and supportive of equal opportunity yet hold government’s intercession to guarantee such opportunity – even when presented with historical truths countering their argument – in great disdain.

As such, true Libertarianism would see American communities revert to a time of legal – if only for the sake of not daring to make it illegal – religious, racial or sexual discrimination in the workplace. It would turn a blind eye to whites-only schools, water fountains and restrooms.

Why? Because these all fall under the protections afforded to the American people by the American government – protections that stand in the face the Libertarian meme of “rights of association.”

A Libertarian nation would constrain rather than free the American public via a social monopoly of oppression at the hands of a non-governmental ruling/rich class. It would make it possible for the rich to control all lands and public commodities and therefore dictate who gets to live where, do what, work how, etc. It would allow for a citizen’s individual rights to be curtailed not by his/her government but by the vast “powers that be” in place of government: corporate bosses, self-organized community and ethnic movements, religions, work houses and other skewed, social conventions.

It would validate the revocation of individual freedoms by nearly any means necessary by placing little-to-no protections under the law that did not have to do with violence and property rights; thereby creating a nation – a world – that is anything but “free.”

As such, the resurgence of American Libertarianism – as personified on a national scale via Ron Paul’s popularity – is a metaphor for many who would rather stifle the legitimacy of a working, Democratic government in favor of “liberty” – allowing for workers to be abused at the whim of overseers, racism to thrive, and powerful theocracies to mandate social norms without the overbearance of government.

As a Libertarian, Paul is in favor of abolishing both the Federal minimum wage and the Occupational Safety and Health Act and “reforming” Social Security virtually to non-existence. He wants the United States to be withdrawn from the United Nations. He supports off shore drilling, constructing more oil refineries and mining on federal lands. He proposes to have no taxes on the production of fossil fuels, and would stop conservation efforts that could be a “Federal obstacle” to building and maintaining refineries. His tax codes would basically stick it to the country’s lowest earners (hardest workers) while placing the richest on a proverbial pedestal.

Socially, he is a nightmare. He believes that sexual orientation is a valid basis for discrimination and that government has no business suggesting otherwise. Yet, in direct contrast, while he has gained wide praise recently for suggesting that the federal government should not regulate who a person marries, he was an original co-sponsor of the Marriage Protection Act in the House in 2004 – legislation that sought to prohibit recognition of same sex marriages across state lines.

He has sponsored legislation to repeal affirmative action, keep the IRS from investigating private schools accusing of using race as a factor in denying entrance, and would seek to deny citizenship for anyone born in the US whose parents are not citizens, and eradicate some of the most “common sense” gun control laws in the country.

The list goes on for anyone with the time to read and the stomach to digest – but the real issue is where do we go from here?

In theory, Libertarianism is about the freedom of the individual, but in practice it is often about the freedom to oppress without repercussion and to regress the nation back to a simpler version of itself; a time when social norms prevailed and anything outside the box was simply outcast (there goes that “Archie Bunker syndrome” again).

Voting for Ron Paul would be akin to handing the Tea Party the keys to the White House and a pulpit to advance some of the harshest and regressive legislation and social commentary since the early 20th century.

That is not a country in which I would want to live.

– Joe Ascanio

Based out of Greater New York, Joe Ascanio is a full time web designer, developer and marketing guy working in the online technology marketplace. OneWhiteDuck.com is a semi-personal blog devoted to opinionated rantings over current events, politics and pop culture as they relate to our modern-day society.

Follow Joe on Twitter @onewhiteduck as well as his personal feed @joeascanio.