Ron Paul Fix

Please somebody with a different perspective make a comment! I welcome different viewpoints.

Hooray! A dissenting opinion. Here it is in unvarnished glory.

Hey Shawn,

You invited criticism with a recent Ron Paul video you posted, so here goes.

He notes the problem of a "corporate military-industrial complex" but he does so in passing. It would probably be more thorough to really define that term, but I don't think I would disagree with his definition much. My concern is that Ron Paul and the small government philosophy seems to ignore the powerful force of corporations. Big government didn't come from no where without reason. The rise of industrial America and corporations led to massively powerful political actors outside of the political balance created by the constitution (Ron Paul's complaint about the Fed--a good one). Big corporations have caused suffering for profit--abusing the environment with cost-cutting negligence, abusing their workers with efficient but brutal working conditions and unlivable wages, and abusing their customers with fraudulent and dangerous products. Not all big corporations do this, but there are plentiful examples, and even just one would be too many for the people that would suffer its abuse. Conditions for working class people in America have improved when working people have fought to improve them ... but government usually has to be a tool in their arsenal. A recent example has been the financial crisis. Paul Krugman of the New York Times recently had an opinion piece looking at how differences in regulation contributed to different outcomes in Georgia and Texas.

Getting back to Ron Paul, my question is ... with an investigative media that is degenerating without a business model, if you try to approach government reform with a smaller is best approach, who will protect little me who has a modest income from corporations whose massive wealth makes them immeasurably more powerful?

Either this question is a big problem for me with Ron Paul's ideology, or Ron Paul has not explained his position on it well. The US needs deep institutional reform. As Ron Paul said in the video you posted, the Fed shouldn't just be ended tomorrow because it wouldn't help anyone. The unsaid reasoning is that the United States is a complicated beast and the process of ending the Fed is much more complex than simply deciding to do it. That same reasoning applies to a great deal of reform (such as the much maligned 2000 page healthcare reform). Treating the reduction of government size as the fundamental solution for the many problems the United States currently faces seems like looking for or even worse selling a cure-all miracle tonic.

That is the end of the criticism/feedback--as an aside, I think I like reading your political thoughts and giving feedback because although I disagree with some of your basic views, I get a sense that you hold those views for moral reasons and that your main goal is to support politics that will help a whole lot of people as opposed to just yourself or your family. I think I could say I get a similar sense from Ron Paul. Sadly, I think a lot of Americans and a whole lot of politicians don't think that way, and we end up with a really poor political discourse as a result.


Shawn's Comment
My only rebuttal here is to suggest that companies only become draconic and tyrannical with the HELP of big government (and legislation that regulates smaller competitors out of existence). Also note that no company has high-powered rifles and SWAT and Federal Prisons to take away your liberties by force if you don't buy their products. On the other hand, if your employer doesn't dutifully pull the payments for your government-mandated Social Security Insurance, he WILL be fined and if he resists, he WILL go to prison. So much for Life, Liberty and Property.

Note: this is just something that I am putting on the table. Am I wrong? Do I not have my facts straight? Heavens, I don't even have any facts!

The dissenting comment and your response raise some very big issues that I don't think I can do justice to, but I have a couple of small points. First, I think American history is replete with examples of acts of violence committed by nonstate actors to impose their will in the economic, political and social spheres. For example, the use of armed strikebreakers by corporations in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the role of the Klan in enforcing white supremacy in the South. I think that there is a strong argument that only a powerful state can restrict such private violence.
Second, the kind of libertarian ideology that Paul represents defines liberty in a very narrow fashion, as basically only freedom from government coercion. However, if we look at societies with weak central and local governments, I don't think we see conditions that most of us would define as "free" at least for significant parts of the population. The state had a weak hand in pre-Civil War America, but of course African-Americans and women lived lives of unfreedom by even the most conservative standards. More recently, the condition of failed states in sub-Saharan Africa also raises doubts about whether the lack of a strong central government leads to a more free and just society.
I can't really do this stuff justice, but I have found the recent debate between libertarians about whether late nineteenth century enjoyed a "golden age" of freedom helpful in clarifying some of the issues. Check out recent posts at Tyler Cowen's Marginal Revolution blog for some of the links.



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