As I mention below, I see Paul as a sort of counterweight to the Party of Crazy. I do not see him as the Messiah, nor do I agree with his libertarianism at all times. Pace Ryan McMaken, I think I have sound reasons for doing so, since libertarianism is, as I have said before, a philosophy for people with no children.
C.S. Lewis once remarked that, as a general rule, men conceive of neighborliness as not giving trouble to their neighbors, while women conceive of neighborliness as taking trouble for their neighbors. I think this is fairly accurate, though your mileage may vary. Certainly, for me, one of the things i like about libertarianism (and ordinary Catholic parish culture, by the way) is that it leaves me alone and discourages meddling in my life by self-appointed do-gooders. Libertarians believe in the no harm principle: do not do to others what you don’t want them to do to you. Fair enough. But that’s not Christian charity, it’s a sort of pagan minimalism. If you feel like taking trouble for others then do, but you don’t have to. And in the extreme vision of libertarianism articulated by the Enemy of God (and inspiration for Paul Ryan) Ayn Rand, such care for others is actually condemned and the Gospel of Selfishness proclaimed.
Moral: Libertarians and Objectivists may fight, but like all heretical Protestant sectarians, they have no Magisterium and Libertarianism winds up being whatever the loudest, richest and most bullying Libertarian says it is. I don’t think Libertarians are (necessarily) libertines, but I also see little in the libertarian philosophy to counter libertinism if, like the randy and repellent Rand, one is so inclined. Many Libertarians want personal responsibility. Great. But if one wishes to be a libertarian without personal responsibility, libertarian philosophy says, “No skin off my nose. Feel free to wreck your life.” Raising children on libertarian principles would be, I think, deeply immoral as this victim of an extreme Libertarian (read “Objectivist”) upbringing attests.
Again, I don’t think libertarians *hate* the poor. I merely think they don’t care about the poor because they share in common with Calvinism a peculiar tendency to be more alive to theories and diagrams than to actual people. Unlike most people, I don’t think the whoop of glee at the thought of somebody dying without health care (YEAH!) was primarily motivated by hatred so much as a sort of Aspergeresque inability to see beyond some libertarian diagram about freedom to the actual persons who are dying. As somebody who is unable to get health insurance who has just been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, I have rather a different take on our civilization’s inability to provide health care, and an even more pungent view of the people who shouted, “YEAH!” in enthusiasm over the triumph of their diagram of “liberty” over the lives of the undeserving poor. I don’t think they hate me. I merely regard them in much the same way I regard many New Atheists: as people who suffer from a sort of personality disorder that renders them incapable of the normal social and affective interactions that normal people are capable of. There is something in Libertarianism, as there is in other ideologies and too-diagrammatic theologies, that exalts the theory over the human reality. I think Ron Paul is prone to this too. That’s why he makes absurd statements about how Libertarians can’t possibly be racists in the teeth of the obvious evidence to the contrary from his own newsletters.
I hasten to add that I don’t think Paul is a racist in the slightest. But it is obvious that he “reached out” to crazy racists and other fringies and kooks via whoever it was that wrote for his newsletters. That, while troubling, is not a deal-breaker for me, because I recognize that politics is the art of the possible. In Paul’s case, “the possible” meant (20 years ago) trying to cobble together support from a wide variety of kooks as well as more normal people. Paul, being a doctrinaire Libertarian, did what Libertarians did and said, “I’m not going to try to micromanage other peoples racist views” even though he does not share them. But it’s come back to bite him now and will only do that more so till he really makes a clean break. I’m perfectly satisfied he’s no racist himself and, in an almost charming way, is *such* a doctrinaire libertarian that, motivated by the Vision of the Triumph of the Diagram Over the Actual Human, he really believes that a libertarian cannot be a racist, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. This naivete is one of his most fetching qualities to me.
Speaking of fetching naivete: Ryan McMaken says:
Some Catholic pundits, such as Mark Shea, claim that libertarians inflate a concern for subsidiarity at the expense of solidarity. This notion of course, is based on an acceptance of Myths #1 and #2.
This myth can be dispelled in two different ways. First, we can note that libertarianism is not opposed to the success and legality of non-governmental organizations. Secondly, we note that libertarians oppose the organization that has done more to destroy human solidarity than any other organization in human history: the state.
I appreciate Ryan going to all that trouble to prove my point even as he imagines he is refuting it. For the fact is, of course, that the Church (as distinct from the Libertarian) does not “oppose” the state. The Church, ever since the time of the violently persecuting Nero, has always granted that the state has a real role to play in ordering the common good and that Caesar does not bear the sword in vain, even when he uses it to cut off the head of the man who wrote Romans 13. Can the state be abused and perverted? Of course! But it remains a (limited and qualified) good. Not an evil to be met with unqualified opposition.
Ryan’s next two “myths Catholics tell about libertarians” are, in my experience, myths indeed, so long as we are talking about garden variety libertarians and not the Jose Cuervo types known as Objectivists. But, again, libertarianism lacking a Magisterium, there is no such thing as “orthodox” libertarianism. There is merely the loudest libertarian in the room saying whatever it is he or (in the case of Ayn Rand, she) believes. And Randians do most definitely exalt self-interest to a deadly virtue and would most definitely like to see Christianity extirpated from the face of the earth. But many libertarians are quite generous and are devout Christians (though if they are Catholic they may–not must–have a troubled relationship with the Church’s teaching).
Finally, while it’s true that Dr. Paul is certainly prolife (of which more anon) it is not a “myth” that some libertarians are pro-abortion. Ayn Rand was emphatically pro-abortion and many libertarians are as well as a brief Google will show you. In short, it’s not as simple as Mr. McMaken wishes to believe. Only by practicing the No True Scotsman fallacy can one arrive at the claim that Catholics wary of libertarian ideology are indulging in “myths”. It’s a myth to say that *all* Libertarians hold the views Mr. McMaken dismisses. But it is by no means a myth to say that Libertarianism is a tent wide open to such views.
So given my difficulties with Libertarianism (which I have never hidden) why have I been willing to give Paul my (qualified) support? Simple. His views a) do not require me to embrace grave and intrinsic evil and b) I think his insistence on certain principles, in this particular hour in the history of the Republic outweigh his kookiness and his unsavory associates.Dave Armstrong has recently argued that a vote for Paul does involve us in grave and intrinsic evil. I think Dave is misreading Paul. Paul does not seem to me to be arguing that abortifacients are okay, but that like it or not people are going to use them and that it is therefore a matter of changing hearts rather than changing law since that state cannot realistically police such a matter. Me: I’m mystified at how an obviously prolife man who wants to overturn Roe has his desire to do so suddenly treated like a bug instead of a feature. Up till now, wanting to overturn Roe has been the far off dream of all prolifers. Now Paul is faulted for it? I don’t get it. I see no evidence that Paul is pro-abortion from what he’s written. Merely that he is pro-realism about what the limits of human law are in the real world. Unless you believe there is a realistic possibility that, not just abortion, but the Pill can be outlawed in our present civilization (which, you know, there is not) then it seems to me that Evangelium Vitae has the last word:
A particular problem of conscience can arise in cases where a legislative vote would be decisive for the passage of a more restrictive law, aimed at limiting the number of authorized abortions, in place of a more permissive law already passed or ready to be voted on. Such cases are not infrequent. It is a fact that while in some parts of the world there continue to be campaigns to introduce laws favouring abortion, often supported by powerful international organizations, in other nations-particularly those which have already experienced the bitter fruits of such permissive legislation-there are growing signs of a rethinking in this matter. In a case like the one just mentioned, when it is not possible to overturn or completely abrogate a pro-abortion law, an elected official, whose absolute personal opposition to procured abortion was well known, could licitly support proposals aimed at limiting the harm done by such a law and at lessening its negative consequences at the level of general opinion and public morality. This does not in fact represent an illicit cooperation with an unjust law, but rather a legitimate and proper attempt to limit its evil aspects.
Paul, because of his devotion to the Constitution as a sort of sacred text wants, among other things, to get rid of Roe and turn the question back to the states rather than pass a federal law outlawing abortion. He is not “pro-abortion” by any stretch. He merely believes that the evil of abortion should be dealt with by persuading the majority of people that it is wrong and having them reject it, rather than by imposing a ban by the Feds while the culture still embraces it–a ban sure to be overturned if the work of changing the culture is not done first. I can live with that. If he manages to destroy Roe, he will have done more than 30 years of Republicans have ever bothered to do. Having a disagreement about how to defeat the evil of abortion is not gravely and intrinsically evil. It’s just not.
So Paul steps over the extremely low bar of Basic Minimum Human Decency that the entire Republican and Democrat field fails to meet (except for Huntsman). As to why I have supported him over Huntsman, the answer is pretty simple: he has more clout and as I noted below, he therefore acts as a counterweight to the worst impulses of our Ruling Class on both sides of the aisle. He is opposed to the Police State we are erecting. He is opposed to the Eternal War for Empire our chickenhawk elites are sending our young men and women off to suffer and die in. He wants to seriously cut back Leviathan and its massive encroachments into our pockets and our lives. He opposes both the left’s sacrament of abortion and the right’s sacrament of torture (and I do mean sacrament since torture apologist Marc Theissen has actually praised waterboarding as relieving its victims of the sense of sin). Sure, he’s got some kooky ideas. But in a time when a bipartisan coalition, led by our God King, has just signed into law an act empowering the Dear Leader to strip any or all of us of habeas corpus and jail us forever, even as the Republican field (led by dissenting Catholics like Santorum and Gingrich) is revving up for a new insane war and the re-establishment of the torture state, I’ll take a kook like Paul over the sanity of the leaders of the Party of Crazy any day. Is he an ideologue who sincerely believes the US can somehow magically return to the 18th Century? Yes. Is he kooky for thinking the Civil Rights Act was a mistake? Yes. Did he screw up by letting racist nutjobs write his newsletter and trying to “reach out” to other racist nutjobs? Yes. And if any of these things had a serious bearing on our hastening plunge into a fascist crony capitalist police state, I might worry about them. But they don’t, so I prefer him to the leaders of the Party of Crazy and the worshippers of our God King.
Unlike many Paul fans, I have no delusions that Paul will win. And if Huntsman ever gains traction and Paul fades, I’m quite willing to back him instead. Like Tolkien, I regard history as “fighting the long defeat” and have only the most modest hopes for any sort of real victory for good through the political processes of this world. If Paul, or Huntsman, can act as a break on the increasing insanity of the American political scene, I will back them. But I don’t see salvation for the US coming through our demented politics. So, in the end, I’m not terribly invested in him. It is a mark of our diseased culture that somebody as curiously daft as Paul is so much more sane than the people constantly recommended to us by the elders and pundits of the Party of Crazy. That an empty suit like Romney, a war zealot and torture enthusiast like Santorum, and the very embodiment of the incestuous relationship of Wall Street and Caesar like Gingrich are the emblematic Holy Trinity of the Thing that Used to be Conservatism, while Paul is constantly shouted down and ignored even when what is says is obvious common sense is an almost tragic Greek doom for the GOP. It is a common place of all good tragic (and Christian) storytelling that it is the fool who winds up being wiser than all the clever people. Ron Paul is the fool God has given the US. His craziness not only makes Romney, Santorum and Gingrich look odious and embarrassing, but (as Glenn Greenwald argues with his fellow lefties) it also shames and embarrasses the hypocrites in the Democrat party, particularly our God King whom Greenwald eviscerates with verve and style.
With the passage of the NDAA, I am now thoroughly persuaded that the dynamic in this country is no longer Left v. Right, but our Ruling Elites vs. the rest of us. Paul is that rare relic, a man of principle (even if his principles are sometimes rather kooky and prefer the diagram over the human being). He is also, quite obviously, a *good* man: virtually the only man in Congress I would trust alone with my grand-daughter or my wallet. He is unalterably opposed to the Crony Capitalist Police State that the overwhelming majority of his fellow lawmakers (led by our President) wish to erect. Since he does not ask me to support grave intrinsic evil and he *does* get that fact, I back him. When (not if) he is defeated, I will either support some other candidate who shares his views or write him in. My vote will not change the outcome of the election, but it will change me if I choose to support the enemies of America who just stripped us of habeas corpus, who wish to be a torture/abortion state, and who are eager plunge us into another pre-emptive war in defiance of the Catechism.