Ron Paul, Pat Buchanan and Dr. Seuss

Kevin Drum discusses the matter of Ron Paul in an exchange with Daniel Larison.

The back-and-forth began with Drum’s post “Crackpots Do Not Make Good Messengers,” which I’m going to quote at length because his whole point is that this list of complaints is not short:

Ron Paul is not a charming oddball with a few peculiar notions. He’s not merely “out of the mainstream.” Ron Paul is a full-bore crank. In fact he’s practically the dictionary definition of a crank: a person who has a single obsessive, all-encompassing idea for how the world should work and is utterly blinded to the value of any competing ideas or competing interests.

This obsessive idea has, at various times in his career, led him to: denounce the Civil Rights Act because it infringed the free-market right of a monolithic white establishment to immiserate blacks; dabble in gold buggery and advocate the elimination of the Federal Reserve, apparently because the global economy worked so well back in the era before central banks; suggest that the border fence is being built to keep Americans from leaving the country; claim that Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional and should be dismantled; mount repeated warnings that hyperinflation is right around the corner; insist that global warming is a gigantic hoax; hint that maybe the CIA helped to coordinate the 9/11 attacks; oppose government-sponsored flu shots; and allege that the UN wants to confiscate our guns.

This isn’t the biography of a person with one or two unusual hobbyhorses. It’s not something you can pretend doesn’t matter. This is Grade A crankery, and all by itself it’s reason enough to want nothing to do with Ron Paul. But of course, that’s not all. As we’ve all known for the past four years, you can layer on top of this Paul’s now infamous newsletters, in which he condoned a political strategy consciously designed to appeal to the worst strains of American homophobia, racial paranoia, militia hucksterism, and new-world-order fear-mongering. And on top of that, you can layer on the fact that Paul is plainly lying about these newsletters and his role in them.

Now, balanced against that you have the fact that Paul opposes the War on Drugs and supports a non-interventionist foreign policy. But guess what? Even there, he’s a crank. Even if you’re a hard-core non-interventionist yourself, you probably think World War II was a war worth fighting. But not Ron Paul. He thinks we should have just minded our own damn business.

Whew.

Larison objects, though, that despite his crankitude and all of that baggage, “Paul Has Been Good for Non-Interventionism“:

The amusing conceit in all of this is that Paul has been or will be bad for non-interventionism. Far fewer people paid any attention to these ideas just five years ago. Non-interventionism has gone from being a more or less marginal position to one that is starting to receive a lot more attention and at least a little serious consideration. It’s impossible to ignore that this wouldn’t have happened had it not been for Paul’s last two presidential campaigns.

Drum responds that “non-interventionism” has gained support in recent years for two big reasons that have nothing to do with Ron Paul: Iraq and Afghanistan.

That’s an important bit of context. So is this: Daniel Larison writes for The American Conservative, a publication co-founded by Pat Buchanan.

Buchanan has, for years, been a much more prominent spokesman and standard-bearer for “non-interventionism” than Ron Paul has ever managed to be. If liberals want to embrace Ron Paul due to his support for “non-interventionism,” then consistency requires that they embrace Pat Buchanan too.

It’s hard not to read Larison’s defense of Paul as a proxy defense of Buchanan. If Paul’s disagreeableness, oddball conspiracy theories, xenophobia, homophobia and racism can be forgiven due to his staunch defense of “non-interventionism” in a futile presidential bid, then by the transitive property of right-wing cranks, Pat Buchanan’s disagreeableness, oddball conspiracy theories, xenophobia, homophobia and racism can also be forgiven due to his staunch defense of “non-interventionism” in a futile presidential bid.

But I want to look one further step back from this discussion and question the assumption here that “non-interventionism” is a Good Thing.

I don’t think it’s a Good Thing because I don’t think it’s a thing at all. “Non-interventionism” is no more a principle than “interventionism” is. It’s not obvious to me that “never intervene” is a wiser, more sensible, more prudent or more just approach than “always intervene” would be.

It seems to me, rather, to be the sort of crutch one falls back on instead of engaging in the difficult, messy business of an actual principled approach to evaluating any given situation. It allows you to escape having to know or care at all about any particular situation, because you’ve got a one-size-fits-all answer to any and every question.

Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul both happened to be right in opposing the invasion of Iraq, but that had nothing to do with their principled evaluation of that situation. They’re more like my friend in algebra class in high school who always said that X=3. Sometimes X did equal 3, but even when he got the answer right it wasn’t because he understood the question.

“Non-intervention” may sometimes be the better course of action. It usually is. But it may also sometimes be the worse course of action. President Franklin D. Roosevelt spent three years battling against non-interventionists. I think that he and his supporter Dr. Seuss were right and their non-interventionist opponents were wrong.

President Bill Clinton chose to intervene in Bosnia. He chose not to intervene in Rwanda. One of those decisions was justified. The other proved to be a monstrous mistake.

Those same two cases — Bosnia and Rwanda — shaped the perspective of our current secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, in response to Gadhafi’s lethal attempt to quash the uprising in Libya. The Obama administration chose the path of intervention in Libya, with an approach that in many ways mirrored NATO’s intervention in Bosnia. It confuses more than it clarifies to label that response as “interventionism” and to declare it indistinguishable from the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

I try to follow the just war tradition. That tradition cannot be classified as either interventionist or non-interventionist. What it does is provide two sets of principles — the first set is intended to help sort out when intervention is or is not justified and permissible, the second set is intended to help sort out what kind of intervention is justified and permissible. Overall, the tradition is intended to restrain, constrain, reduce and limit both the incidence and the execution of war, which it insists is never justifiable except in the very last resort, when every other alternative would be even worse. That’s not interventionism, but neither is it non-interventionism.

Nor can pacifism accurately be described as “non-interventionist.” Read any of the great advocates of pacifism and non-violence — Gandhi, Rustin, Yoder, King or Sharp — and you’ll encounter vehement denials of the accusation that they are advocating isolationism or non-interventionism.

So I don’t see why the non-interventionism of Pat Buchanan and Ron Paul should be seen as a principle shared by progressives or liberals. I don’t think it’s a liberal principle because I don’t think it’s a principle at all.

 

 

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    you guys are gettin cranky!

    At this point I have to suggest that you’re not interested in engaging in any substantive way on any topic. You keep hopping hither and yon and seeming to revert to basic Libertarian talking points rather than attempting to make a coherent case for how the changes you suggest might benefit society as a whole, or even just a sizable number of residents within it.

    You can’t simply suggest that free-market solutions will help without being cognizant of when the free market may fail.

    You can get monopolies, price fixing, failure to adequately inform consumers, failure to do proper fiduciary duty*, and so on.

    In effect, the best regulations essentially save the free market from itself, and work to keep it operating as best as it can as an approximation to the ideal free market.

    Where that isn’t possible, the government can and should step in. Most Libertarians I know of recognize even this and express a “minarchist” ideology which relegates the government to ensuring the security of the nation within and without, so that the police forces and the military remain the province of the state rather than private agencies.

    What Liberals** prefer is a much broader scope for government activity, even to the extent of stepping in even when a private sector approach might work as well as a government approach.

    * an example of this might be conspiring to misappropriate funds from a company you work for and concealing this by manipulating the financial statements. A form of this is what did in Tyco, Accenture (what used to be Arthur Andersen) and Enron, when it was revealed that the executive officers of the companies involved conspired to misappropriate substantial sums from their companies.

    ** I’ve seen the term with the capital “L” used a lot by Libertarians, admittedly less pejoratively than I’ve heard it from Republicans.

  • Anonymous

    I’ve never understood where, on a libertarian account, government regulations come from. After all, it is a libertarian article of faith that the free market is obviously and unambiguously superior to regulation in all things, but even a cursory overview of the past 200 years of the history of the english speaking world gives the libertarian worldview a collossal challenge. Why, in the libertarian view, has it taken the USA seventy years to see that child labour laws are harmful, and why can’t we see the harm in the historical record? Why hasn’t regulation caused something *worse* that the Triangle Shirtwaist incident? Why do *fewer* people die of food poisoning and food-borne pathogens since the establishment of the FDA? Why were the only two diseases ever eradicated not eradicated by the free market? Why was the internet a *government* initiative?

    Not that I expect an answer form our newest troll, but what is the sophisticated libertarian response?

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Not that I expect an answer form our newest troll, but what is the sophisticated libertarian response?

    I think it’s something like “well, now that the government’s done THAT, we don’t NEED them any more.”  For the same reason it’s PERFECTLY LOGICAL to shut down the fire department after they’ve put out one fire.

  • Ima Pseudonym

    I can add to this.

    I can be reasonably certain that homeopathy doesn’t work because:

    (1) One of the basic principles states that the more diluted a solution is, the more effective that solution is, and many homeopathic solutions are so dilute that they contain, on average, not one single molecule of the active ingredient(s). 
    (2) No experiment has shown that clusters of water molecules carry any sort of a “memory” of the chemicals with which they have been in contact, and that they don’t typically last long enough to do anything, even in the event that they somehow DID.  Homeopathy advocates occasionally claim that the process of succussion–that is, shaking or whacking the solution against something–is what makes the solution effective–for all intents and purposes, they’re invoking magic. 
    (3) Homeopathic treatments have not been shown in controlled experiments to be any more effective than placebo at treating any medical condition.

    Unless some or all of these change, then there’s little reason to conclude that there’s anything to homeopathy except quackery. 

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    fangs first- again, I’m not opposed to an agency that provides the services that the FDA does. This part of the conversation started out in response to an author wanting to eliminate the American Medical associate because it was leading to too few doctors which led to too high costs.  It’s a radical idea for sure but neither he nor I took aim at the FDA or the srvice it provides.  Could what the FDA does conceivably be handled by the free market is the question. We have ascertained there is DEMAND for their services the way there is demand for other basic neccessities. No argment.

    re: homeopathy from what you gyus are saying it seems like snake oil but I just can’t imagine banning it. Some things people need to figure out for themselves.

  • Lori

     
    Could what the FDA does conceivably be handled by the free market is the question.   

    No, and we’ve explained why not.

  • FangsFirst

    re: homeopathy from what you gyus are saying it seems like snake oil but
    I just can’t imagine banning it. Some things people need to figure out
    for themselves.

    You were already told: no one is talking about banning it. At all.

    the free market drove down the costs of computers to the extent that anyone could afford them.

    …the free market that has been regulated? And still is? so it works WITH regulation?

    This part of the conversation started out in response to an author
    wanting to eliminate the American Medical associate because it was
    leading to too few doctors which led to too high costs.  It’s a radical
    idea for sure but neither he nor I took aim at the FDA or the srvice it
    provides.

    Well Ron Paul has taken aim at the FDA AND the service it provides, and you’re here to defend him, so, uh, too bad? He’s against centralized regulation. The end!

  • Lori

     
    You were already told: no one is talking about banning it. At all.  

    Chris does not seem to understand that “it should not be legal to sell it as medicine” is not the same thing as “it should be banned”. 

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    So we have a legal, part of the government food and drug adminstration now. yet, we have homeopathic …stuff being sold as medicine. so as it turns out the FDA doesn’t prevent fraud very well!

    fangs first – well I asked consumer if he wanted to ban it and he said yes. So you want to ban it …being sold as medicine but not ban it ban it. thats not that big of a deal, its still getting sold it just has one word less on a package. why bother?

    and my point about the internet was if we didn’t all have personal computers the internet wouldnt’t be of much use to us. and we have computers because of competition and the market. of course at the same time the internet is a selling point for these computers. I’ll give the state some credit on that.

  • Apocalypse Review

    Wikipedia isn’t an authoritative source, granted, but the site notes that the regulatory structure of the FDA, from the very beginning, was compromised by the presence of a homeopathic doctor helping write the laws that governed it. This is an early example of “regulatory capture” in which the regulated bodies (corporations, individuals) get too close to the regulators with the resulting effect that the regulation itself becomes weaker or less vigorously pursued.

    Regulatory capture is a symptom of a regulatory apparatus compromised by policies that favor easing the hand of government on corporations. As such it can be traced to, in particular, Reaganite policies in the 1980s and following Republican-influenced policies in the years since then.

    As such I would say that the homeopathic loopholes in the FDA procedures bear all the marks of the problems with unregulated medical remedies: lack of effective quality control; persistent adulteration of the product (note the presence of alcohol permitted, which is an antibacterial agent in its own right); claims may be made about the product without effective legal remedies for making false or inaccurate statements; et cetera and so on.

  • Consumer Unit 5012

    Regulatory capture is a symptom of a regulatory apparatus compromised by
    policies that favor easing the hand of government on corporations.

    “…which is why new need to abolish ALL government regulation!  Then the Free Market can make everything perfect!”

  • Anonymous

    yet, we have homeopathic …stuff being sold as medicine. so as it turns out the FDA doesn’t prevent fraud very well!

    The point isn’t that the FDA and other federal administrative agencies prevent fraudulent medicine from existing — no one can do that.The point is that it gives people an opportunity to tell the difference. It gives people the opportunity to walk into a drug store and choose whatever medicine they would like, and the opportunity to go to the mystical faith healer next door and choose whatever they would like from there, knowing that the mystical faith healer isn’t actually a doctor. The faith healer can sell any potion he would like; he just can’t put water in a medicine container and tell you that it’s Benadryl. No one is stopping you from eating newt eyeballs and horseradish; the only thing we’re doing is preventing you from telling someone that newt eyeballs is really Aspirin and horseradish cures AIDS.

    Do you get it now? It’s not about stopping people from taking whatever medicine they like. It’s about making sure that people who buy medicine are getting what they ask for, not whatever the manufacturer or the clerk or whoever felt like putting in the bottle. It’s about making sure that the meat you bought at the grocery store isn’t filled with maggots or encrusted with human feces. It’s about making sure you can go outside without suffocating on toxic smog. It’s about making sure that your drinking water doesn’t glow in the dark.

    You believe in freedom, but are you really free if you don’t know what you’re eating or what you’re drinking?

  • FangsFirst

    You believe in freedom, but are you really free if you don’t know what you’re eating or what you’re drinking?

    Considering the ideology seems to be “ignorance=freedom”–yes! Absolutely!
    I can never be more free than when I am not shackled by the limitations imposed by knowing with conviction what I am ingesting!

    Plus it takes all the mystery out of things. Gosh.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    How did I end up defending homeopathic medicine?

    apocalypse review – “As such I would say that the homeopathic loopholes in the FDA procedures bear all the marks of the problems with unregulated medical remedies: lack of effective quality control; persistent adulteration of the product (note the presence of alcohol permitted, which is an antibacterial agent in its own right); claims may be made about the product without effective legal remedies for making false or inaccurate statements; et cetera and so on”

    but they ARE regulated. right?

    The regulations bear the hallmarks of unregulation?

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    The FDA does not regulate homepathic remedies with the same vigor as it does more conventional remedies. Weaker regs = more chanciness in the meds. It’s no surprise.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    “The point isn’t that the FDA and other federal administrative agencies prevent fraudulent medicine from existing — no one can do that.The point is that it gives people an opportunity to tell the difference.”

    OKay but in this case aren’t you guys saying that they are NOT currently doing this re: homeopathic medicine?

  • ako

    So we have a legal, part of the government food and drug adminstration
    now. yet, we have homeopathic …stuff being sold as medicine. so as it
    turns out the FDA doesn’t prevent fraud very well!

    Do you not recognize the existence of partial success at all, or only when it’s being done by the government?  People have better information now, and are better equipped to make choices.  In an unregulated market, the main difference is that there’d be fewer sources of information pointing out that homeopathic medicine is ineffective, or certain herbal remedies are dangerously toxic, or that certain stuff being promoted as medical treatment hasn’t been shown to do any good, and giving people a better chance to make choices.  It doesn’t perfectly prevent the dangerous bullshit, but nothing can do that, and it works better than a completely unregulated market.  Better is a good thing. 

  • Lori

     
    How did I end up defending homeopathic medicine?  

    Being an ideologue tends to lead a person down dome strange paths. 

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    ako- Okay, so this is what they’ve done: they’ve analyzed homeopathic medicine and arrived at the conclusion that it isn’t good.

    Now, how did we hear about this opinion of theirs? did they do like a press release or something?  Is there a statement on the package of homeopathic medicine or would a clueless person such as me have to “dig” to an extent?

    I mean, basically it sounds like they are Siskel and Ebert giving it a thumbs down and not much beyond that.

  • ako

    They require supplements that claim to alter the structure or function of the body (such as anything that claims to treat illness) to carry the following disclaimer “This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is
    not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease”.  If you read the packaging, it’s there.  Granted, it’s not as effective as it could be, but it does provide a way for people who are interested in finding out the distinction to read the package and tell whether they’re getting real medicine or not.  (I’ve done this before, particularly with cold remedies.)

    So it requires the effort of reading the box, but it isn’t incredibly difficult to find, and even companies that would happily claim to have effective medicine aren’t allowed to lie like that. 

    You should really start looking up some of this stuff yourself before trying to persuade other people of your ideas.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    ako- I’m not trying to persuade anybody of anything. I’m asking you about the FDA’s policy regarding homeopathic medicine.

  • Anonymous

    Here you go: these articles — one two, three, and four. I chose these fourarticles because they’re in plain English and designed to be easily readable; you don’t need to have a hard science background to understand them. You don’t need to read all of them — each one explains what homeopathy is, the assumptions behind it, and why these assumptions are not borne out by actual scientific testing.

    I get what you’re trying to do — you’re trying to say that government doesn’t need to regulate everything. But in doing so, you’re inadvertently wading into an area of law and science that you don’t seem to actually understand. If you don’t know what homeopathy is, what business do you have lecturing people about how effective it is compared to regular medicine? If you don’t know how homeopathy is regulated, how can you seriously expect people to take you seriously when you try to criticize regulations that you don’t even really understand what they do or even what they are?

  • ako

    In that case, here is some good information on FDA regulation of dietary supplements: http://www.fda.gov/food/dietarysupplements/consumerinformation/ucm110417.htm

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    john k – thank you for the links. I’m not pretending to know anything abuot homeopathy I was just trying to figure out what the FDA does to inform people that it is apparently not good.

  • http://twitter.com/lesterhalfjr Chris Hadrick

    I wonder if the FDA label has affected the sale of homeopathic medicine at all. I bet it hasn’t.

  • M Edward Graves

    Please think this through again. The SS trust fund is in the green… only if the federal government intends to pay that money back. The US government debt is several trillion less than $16 T… only if the debt to the SS trust fund “isn’t a real debt”, i.e. they don’t intend to pay it back. It cannot be the case both that the SS trust fund is in the green and that the money owed it by the feds “isn’t a real debt”. If the US government wants to play sleight of hand by saying it’s an internal debt they don’t have to pay back, then they will do so by defaulting on our seniors.

  • http://www.internationalpatentservice.com/trademarksearch.html USPTO Trademark Search

    So then: Ron Paul. Should we lefties be happy he’s in the presidential
    race, giving non-interventionism a voice, even if he has other beliefs
    we find less agreeable? Should we be happy that his non-mainstream
    positions are finally getting a public hearing? This is a depressingly
    common view.

  • http://www.internationalpatentservice.com/trademarksearch.html USPTO Trademark Search

    “I’ll tell you what happens to you — you find out as Richard Nixon once
    told me that when you are down or have either got a problem you find out
    who your friends are,” Buchanan said. “And both in ‘92 and a ‘96 I was
    astonished. You know, I challenged George Bush and ‘92 and we did great
    in New Hampshire, and ol’ Newt Gingrich down there comparing me to David
    Duke in Georgia because I was coming out for a border fence along the
    San Diego line.”

  • http://apocalypsereview.wordpress.com/ Invisible Neutrino

    You… do realize that the use of an accounting identity does not constitute default to seniors?

    Look, if I have a company, and I take money from R&D and move it to Sales, I debit R&D and credit Sales. Now if I want, I could say “Okay, Sales has an IOU to R&D for that amount down the road”, but the revenue for that comes out of one stream.

    I can cancel the IOU and simply keep giving money to both R&D and Sales, because the IOU is a debit to R&D and a credit to Sales, but as it’s purely internal, it has no real effect since they report to me anyway.

    The US government is in the same situation. They collect taxpayer money, and for all intents and purposes the $$ just goes into a big pot. What they do is take out a chunk for social security and then for budgetary purposes, grab the extra that isn’t payable to seniors that year, and go spend it somewhere else. Now since Social Security is some kind of ersatz trust fund, the US government gives a Treasury Bond to the SSTF (an IOU) and says “there, we debited SSTF this much, here’s your future credit.” But it wouldn’t even matter – it’s just accounting. If the SSTF ever falls into deficit in the future, Congress can just appropriate funds from general revenue, and pay it to the SSTF.

    If they want they can even redeem the bonds. But as far as the effect on the US federal debt is concerned it’s meaningless, because it’s owed internally.

    Payments to senior citizens will never stop, IOUs or no IOUs, because the government can always provide the funds to the SSTF. It’s not like military spending is some sacred co– oh, wait. I forgot, Republicans think it is.

  • Opulence

    Wow, this made me like Ron Paul even more. I guess you can’t reason with an obama lover. They are just too dumb to realize that Obama and Bush are one in the same.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X