My libertarianish leanings–which counterbalance my conservative ones–notwithstanding, I really don’t have much use for many of Ron Paul’s arguments. We agree on certain economic principles, but a number of his arguments go too far for my tastes. And when it comes to foreign policy, his argument that the United States should adopt the views and the practices of the Founders is antiquated in a world where–unlike the world of the Founders–America is the preeminent power and should act differently than she did at the time of her founding, when she was weak, and had to chart a middle course between an exceedingly powerful Great Britain and a very powerful France.
My ambivalence regarding Paul’s arguments returns upon reading pieces like this one. Paul’s argument that we ought to dismantle the Federal Reserve and return to the gold standard is really not worth discussing at length, if only because the idea is so politically infeasible, not to mention guaranteed to cause significant and potentially dangerous upheaval if implemented. His foreign policy isolationism will serve to cost the United States her primacy in the world, allowing countries like China and Russia to fill the void.
Why Paul believes that this is good for our economic health–or good for the national security interests of the United States in general–is beyond me.
But give Paul his due; he is surely right to note that the Keynesian approach to reviving our economy has failed disastrously. He is right to note that deregulation is needed (let me add here that it is silly to think that with nearly 70,000 pages in the Federal Register, the problem facing the American economy is that we are just not regulated enough), and he is right to note that creative destruction ought to be allowed to run its course by permitting bankruptcies to take place instead of repeatedly bailing out failing companies and creating all sorts of moral hazard problems.
We have seen that bankruptcies in the automobile industry have not had nearly the disastrous effects that so many said they would. Quite the contrary; bankruptcies appear to have done a lot to restore companies like Chrysler and GM back to a semblance of health. We ought to learn a lesson from the examples of Chrysler and GM; if we had insisted that the companies opt for bankruptcy protection earlier, they might have resolved their issues in bankruptcy by now, and we would have saved tens of billions of dollars that otherwise went to bailouts that did not work.
Paul’s arguments against the economic agenda of the Obama Administration should be getting a favorable reception in the court of public opinion, given the President’s own falling poll numbers. That they are not is perhaps partially attributable to the fact that Paul, in the context of issuing his critiques, doesn’t “rein in his more radical ideas.” Doubtless, the White House also enjoys an advantage in putting forth its ideas in the public square due to the fact that the conservative and libertarian right, having recently lost an election, is bereft of a single, unifying leader whose words and actions can serve as a counterpoint to President Obama and his agenda.
In Britain, the Tories at least have David Cameron to take the fight to Prime Minister Gordon Brown. American conservatives and right-of-center libertarians do not have a Shadow President, however, to argue back against Barack Obama. Most assuredly, Anna Schwartz is correct to say that if her longtime collaborator, the legendary and brilliant Milton Friedman were alive, his arguments could push back against the White House’s economic plan. Alas, resourceful and clever as Friedman was, he cannot rouse himself back from the fields of Elysium to take on the Obama Administration. Pity, that.
As time goes on, a spokesperson for the right will emerge. I hope that spokesperson is not Ron Paul, given my aforementioned disagreements with him, and given my preference that said spokesperson be a credible candidate for the Presidency in 2012 (for reasons of age and ideology, Paul isn’t that person). But that doesn’t change the fact that Paul makes some very good points in arguing against the Obama Administration’s disastrous economic program.
Any aspiring GOP Presidential candidate worth his or her salt will take the best and most timeless of those critiques, combine them with arguments that demonstrate attention to ongoing economic developments, and create a powerful and compelling economic platform that will win votes and do right by the country’s interests. And not necessarily in that order.
Read more at Pejman Yousefzadeh’s blog.