Why Libertarian Patience With Ron Paul Should Be Exhausted

by Pejman Yousefzadeh on September 2, 2011

Will Wilkinson is a better libertarian than Ron Paul could ever hope to be:

In the Appendix to his most recent book Liberty Defined, Paul usefully lists “The ten principles of a free society.” First among these is the proposition that “Rights belong to individuals, not groups…” The second asserts that “All peaceful voluntary economic and social associations are permitted…” So, if groups have no rights, Americans as a group have no collective right to impede non-American individuals in the exercise of their rights to free movement and association (which, Paul insists, “derive from our nature and can neither be granted nor taken away by government”). These are principles that ought to lead straightaway to the conclusion that anything but a policy of open borders and open labor markets is violation of fundamental individual rights, and Paul does recognize this, sort of. “In the ideal libertarian world, borders would be blurred and open,” he admits in the immigration of Liberty Defined.

But suddenly we find Paul dancing daintily around the policy sombrero. “Civilization,” he writes, “has not yet come even close to being capable of such a policy, though it engages in some historical discussion.”

So when it comes to protecting the wealth of propertied Americans, Paul is an absolutist who will brook no compromise. Taxation is slavery! But when it comes to defending an equally basic, principled commitment to free immigration and unrestricted labor markets, Paul develops a keen sensitivity to complicated questions of feasibility, hemming and hawing his way to a convoluted compromise that would continue to affirm the systematic violation of the individual rights of foreigners who would like to live and work in America, and those of Americans who would like to live and work with them.

“I strongly believe in the principle of peaceful civil disobedience,” Paul begins in a chapter on that subject. “Those who resist the state nonviolently, based on their own principles, deserve our support,” he says. But when it comes to mostly poor foreigners who break immigration laws that straightforwardly violate Paul’s own principles, the congressman can hardly summon a flicker of sympathy. “The toughest part of showing any compassion or tolerance to the illegal immigrants … is the tremendous encouragement it gives for more immigrants to come illegally and avoid the wait and bureaucracy,” Paul writes. In other words, if we allow ourselves to go soft on brown people with bad English, even more of them may wish to exercise their “individual rights that derive from nature and cannot be granted or taken away by government.”

Add to this Paul’s embrace of eminent domain abuse (look what that position yielded us!), and his weakness on free trade, and we see that Paul isn’t even the most outstanding libertarian seeking the Republican Presidential nomination, let alone a worthy symbol of libertarianism in general.

Previous post:

Next post: