Ron Paul’s campaign: what a waste!

$30 million dollars and countless volunteer hours later, and
what has it achieved?  Ron Paul is done with the election, with barely a mention from the media.

As I wrote earlier, virtually all of the resources and
efforts of a losing campaign are quickly forgotten. To the extent that the
campaign will motivate young people about politics, it will teach them exactly
the wrong lesson, for political campaigns have never been a primary means of intellectual
change.  Imagine what all that money and
enthusiasm could have done under the auspices of an organization dedicated to
intellectual activism, such as the Ludwig von Mises or the Ayn Rand Institute.  Of course, few people get as excited about the
work of a bunch of economics and philosophy nerds as they do about a political
campaign.  But that is exactly the
problem with our anti-intellectual, concrete-bound culture.

An open letter to Ron Paul fans on the limitations of radical political candidates

Dear Ron Paul Supporter,

Do you honestly believe that your candidate has a chance in hell of winning the primaries, much less the general elections?

I could cite results from every reputable polling organization that show Ron Paul with less than 3% of the vote, but I have a feeling that you will find some reason for their bias, and point to the online polls that Ron Paul forums enthusiastically and systematically flood as evidence of his imminent triumph.  Dr Paul himself has repeatedly stated that his campaign is about the message – a message that most news commentators cannot understand, much less inform the public about.  Online communities make for good news quips, but the “archaic” gold standard, or the question of whether Ron Paul is an isolationist is far beyond what news commentators can be expected to understand.

Despite this, it is undeniable that the success of Ron Paul’s campaign has been a surprise to just about everyone, and tapped into some hidden resource that few suspected of existing.  Perhaps it really is the power of the Internet, coupled with public discontent with the presidential administration and congressional incompetence.  Perhaps people are really uniting around a leader who offers radical new ideas rather than yet another personality cult.  Even if his current support base is just a fraction of what is to come, does it really amount to anything?

When the election is over a little less than a year from now, will any of it matter?  Ron Paul will probably face defeat in the first few primaries, and if he chooses to run on the Libertarian ticket, he will get the usual 1-3% of the vote.  What will all the millions he raised and all the hours his volunteers spent mean then?  Even if by some miracle, he were to win, it would be of little
practical consequence.  Like all politicians, presidents wield their power by cutting deals and compromising left and right.  Without willingness to compromise on all his principles, President Paul will be lucky if he is not impeached in the first week.

I am not saying that Ron Paul is the wrong candidate to support.  I am questioning the premise that radical political ideologies can or should be advocated through political campaigns.  This fact has been aptly demonstrated by the pathetic failure of the Libertarian Party over the last 30+ years.  The Left has been much better at recognizing the failure of explicitly Marxist political movements early in the 20th century, and successfully shifted the focus of American politics by establishing a firm foundation in academia and then infiltrating both major

Whatever your particular political philosophy, it is not even that likely that Ron Paul is a great match for it.  Whether it is his anti-immigration views, his promise of saving social security, his blame-America foreign policy, his borderline theocratic positions, or his support for the state as such, he is unlikely to be a perfect fit for anyone.  Much of his success is in fact due to moderating or hiding the most radical aspects of his libertarianism, such as masking his support for free trade by his opposition to free-trade agreements, or his scapegoating of “illegal aliens seeking the fruits of your labor” as part of his plan to save Social Security.

An educational movement does not need to hide its radical views.  Sure, you might not raise five or six million dollars in a day, but the resources you do have will be spent on spreading ideas, rather than a name and a number in the polls.  Even an extra million votes is not going to make a bit of difference in the general election, but a thousand more students motivated to spread rational ideas on liberty can change the world.

I am not telling you to remove that Ron Paul bumper sticker.  Just recognize the inherent limitations of radical political candidates in a two party democracy, and consider supporting educational organizations that will never have to compromise or hide their principles in order to spread their message.

[Follow up post.]

Ron Paul on immigration: What’s the worst that could happen?

One of the more disturbing things about Ron Paul’s popularity is his staunch opposition to legal and
illegal immigration. I pick on him not because his views on immigrants
are especially harsh, but because they stand in stark contrast to his
reputation as an advocate of free markets and Austrian economics. On his campaign issues page,
he warns that “current reform proposals would allow up to 60 million
more immigrants into our country” and that “this is insanity.” I am
surprised to see Ron Paul buying into this tired bit of socialist
rhetoric. The idea that simply allowing 60 million would actually
result in 60 million people rushing into the U.S. is absurd, but
suppose it were true. What’s the worst that could happen?

According to the Malthusian theory subscribed to by socialists and environmentalists, the amount
of resources and capital in a particular region is fixed, so the average income
of individuals can be calculated by dividing the total resource/capital base by
the number of people.  A fixed resource
base means a fixed number of jobs, so a large influx of immigrants means rising
unemployment and falling standards of living.

Fortunately, it is socialism, not open immigration that is
“insanity.”  The premise that
the resources available to meet human needs are fixed – that each new human
being requires a fixed amount of land, metal, and fossil fuels to live – is
absurd.  Each additional individual
creates not only new demand for the products of civilization, but also provides
new resources and insight for meeting those needs.  Every self-supporting worker produces more
than he consumes, adding to total productive output and raising the real wage
rate for everyone.  Historically, the
American standard of living rose fastest during peak immigration periods and
continues to rise today.  Our greatest
source of wealth is not natural resources or the capital base, but the
ingenuity and creativity of our entrepreneurs and workers.

By increasing the division of labor, immigrants free up
workers previously employed in maintaining the capital base to invest their
time in growing capital and efficiency. 
So for example, by lowering labor costs, new immigrant factory workers
free up engineers to invest in expanding production and improving the
efficiency of labor.  This improves
everyone’s living standards.  A free
society allows a growing capital and knowledge base to be multiplied by
entrepreneurs who find new methods to improve human life, proving an
exponential growth in prosperity. 

A further complaint of Dr Paul is
that “taxpayers should not pay for illegal immigrants who use hospitals,
clinics, schools, roads, and social services.”  I completely agree.  However, this is besides the point.  No one
has a right to live of other people, regardless of where he was born.  American welfare bums do not have any more
right to my property than Mexican bums.  It
is the welfare state that is immoral, not immigration.  Furthermore, the argument is misleading
because illegal immigrants and permanent residents are generally not eligible
for welfare, and already pay the property, fuel, and sales taxes that pay for
schools and roads.  Illegal immigrants don’t pay income taxes, which Dr. Paul believes we should eliminate anyway, but they often pay social security taxes via bogus social security cards – effectively subsidizing legal workers.  Do people who oppose
granting illegal immigrants driver’s licenses realize that they are for forcing
citizens to pay for the illegal immigrants’ share of road-maintenance

For more on the issue, read my case for open immigration.