How Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul are alike:
- Both ran for president in their 70s, without any encouragement from pundits, politicians, or political operatives.
- Both were far more interested in talking about ideas and policies than in criticizing their opponents. (Though I don’t recall Paul taking valuable debate time to defend his chief opponent on her most vulnerable point. Sanders not only drew applause for saying there was no point in talking about Hillary Clinton’s private email server, he raised more than a million dollars during the debate by sending out an email with video of his grant of absolution.)
- Both Ron Paul and Bernie Sanders exploded on the internet during an early debate. Google searches for Ron Paul shot up when he and Rudy Giuliani had a heated confrontation over the causes of the 9/11 attacks in the May 15, 2007, Republican debate. Sanders gained three times as many Twitter followers as Clinton during last night’s debate.
- Each was the most noninterventionist and least prohibitionist candidate on their respective stages — though that’s a low bar. Sanders sounded pretty noninterventionist, but then continued: “When our country is threatened, or when our allies are threatened, I believe that we need coalitions to come together to address the major crises of this country. I do not support the United States getting involved in unilateral action.” The United States has alliances across the world, so that’s a fairly open‐ended commitment. And imprudent intervention is not made much more prudent by having a coalition.
How Bernie Sanders and Ron Paul are different:
- Capitalism vs. socialism.
Congratulations to the San Antonio Spurs on their fifth non‐consecutive NBA championship. Back in 2007, when they won their third, Washington Post sports columnist Mike Wise praised the resilience of the Spurs, who kept coming back to win the NBA championship without ever being quite a Bulls‐style dynasty. He said the Spurs “had their crown taken away twice since 2003 and got it back both times.”
I noted at the time that his comments reminded me of Ron Paul, who was then the only current member of Congress to have been elected three times as a non‐incumbent. Given the 98 percent reelection rates for House members, it’s no great shakes to win three terms — or 10 terms — in a row. It’s winning that first one that’s the challenge. And Ron Paul did that three times.
He first won in a special election for an open seat. He then lost his seat and won it back two years later, defeating the incumbent. After two more terms he left his seat to run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate (and thereby did his greatest disservice to the American Republic, as his seat was won by Tom DeLay). Twelve years later, in 1996, after some redistricting, he ran again for Congress, again defeating an incumbent, this time in the Republican primary. Some political scientist should study the political skills it takes to win election to Congress without the benefit of incumbency — three times.
Now the Spurs have won five times as the “non‐incumbent,” to Ron Paul’s three. But then, Paul won 12 congressional elections in total, and the Spurs are still a long way from that.
Here’s something you don’t see every day: A discussion of Murray Rothbard’s anarcho‐capitalism in the New Yorker, in a broader review of books on “anarchism” emerging from the Occupy movement. Author Kelefa Sanneh writes:
In fact, there is one anarchist who could be considered influential in Washington, but he wasn’t among the activists who participated in the Occupy movement—he died nearly twenty years ago. His name is Murray Rothbard, and, among small‐government Republicans, he is something of a cult hero. He was Ron Paul’s intellectual mentor, which makes him the godfather of the godfather of the Tea Party. Justin Amash, a young Republican congressman from Michigan and a rising star in the Party, hangs a framed portrait of him on his office wall.
Rothbard was an anarchist, but also a capitalist. “True anarchism will be capitalism, and true capitalism will be anarchism,” he once said, and he sometimes referred to himself by means of a seven‐syllable honorific: “anarcho‐capitalist.” Graeber thinks that governments treat their citizens “like children,” and that, when governments disappear, people will behave differently. Anarcho‐capitalists, on the contrary, believe that, without government, people will behave more or less the same: we will be just as creative or greedy or competent as we are now, only freer. Instead of imagining a world without drastic inequality, anarcho‐capitalists imagine a world where people and their property are secured by private defense agencies, which are paid to keep the peace. Graeber doesn’t consider anarcho‐capitalists to be true anarchists; no doubt the feeling is mutual.
“Cult hero … among small‐government Republicans” seems a real stretch. But maybe among Ron Paul and Justin Amash, which is more congressional fans than most economist‐philosophers have. Author Sanneh no doubt learned about Rothbard when he wrote a long and fairly sympathetic profile of Ron Paul on the campaign trail.
At Libertarianism.org Aaron Powell examines the New Yorker’s examination of anarchism, both capitalist and anti‐capitalist. Also at Libertarianism.org find out more about Murray Rothbard, including some exclusive videos.
Tonight at 6:00 pm ET, Brian Doherty will discuss his new book Ron Paul’s Revolution: The Man and the Movement He Inspired, with comments by Sen. Rand Paul, in Cato’s Hayek Auditorium.
You can, as always, watch it live at www.cato.org/live.
But if you prefer the old‐fashioned, 20th‐century technology of television, it appears that C‑SPAN will broadcast the event live. And probably again later in the evening, as is their wont.
Television schedules always subject to change, of course.
I have a new piece up at ForeignPolicy.com on Ron Paul and the Republican Party, focused in particular on the strong support that Paul draws from young people, with some additional speculation about where those young people will end up, if and when Paul steps back from his very public role. My instincts are that these young people are motivated at least as much by the ideas that Paul espouses as by Ron Paul, the person. If I am correct, many of them are likely to remain active in politics. I close with a warning to GOP leaders that they would be making a grave error if they ignored this libertarian‐leaning voting bloc. Unfortunately, that is what the GOP’s leading candidate, Mitt Romney, seems to be doing by pushing a short‐sighted plan for boosting military spending at a time when the country is awash in debt.
I have always been puzzled by the fact that conservatives who rail against welfare dependency here at home miss the pernicious effects of security dependency among our allies. Tim Pawlenty didn’t get it. Neither does Mitt Romney. Rather than questioning the mantras that have guided U.S. foreign policy for over a generation, Romney simply assumes that the United States will remain the world’s policeman, other countries will continue to free‐ride on our security guarantees, and U.S. taxpayers will happily foot the bill. He proposes spending at least four percent of GDP on the military’s base budget, plus whatever additional money might be needed to fight the wars that he wants to fight (for example, this one).
I commented on the Four Percent Gimmick a few months ago, and now I have a bit more detail about Romney’s plan relative to the Obama administration’s latest 10‐year projections. I alluded to these numbers in the ForeignPolicy.com piece, and below provide some more detail. (I am grateful, as always, for the help of my colleague Charles Zakaib in sorting through these, and in preparing the charts).
The GOP presidential candidates will participate in yet another debate tonight from South Carolina in anticipation of the primary there on Saturday. I hope that the moderator, CNN’s John King, will bring up some of the major national security issues at hand, namely military spending.
Out of all the GOP contenders, it is clear that Ron Paul is the only candidate still standing that offers an alternative to the entrenched Republican foreign policy views. Some have called his foreign policy positions naïve and outside the mainstream. Others point to the fact that Ron Paul is so popular precisely because he is outside the mainstream and presents a different perspective on the intertwined issues of national security and military spending. Of course, the “mainstream” views on foreign policy are relative: what is common thinking inside the Beltway is not usually representative of the country.
Tonight at 10 PM EST on Fox Business Network’s Stossel, a host of experts will discuss Ron Paul’s foreign policy views, war, and whether the federal government has gone too far in its Constitutional obligation to defend the homeland. I will be discussing military spending and argue that we can cut the Pentagon’s budget and be more secure for it.
In the New Yorker, Nicholas Lemann frets over Ron Paul’s “hostility to government” in an article titled “Enemy of the State.” I wonder if Lemann, who is both a long‐time writer at a great magazine and the dean of a great school of journalism, would think “Enemy of the State” was red‐baiting or otherwise inappropriate language if it was applied to some other candidate.
But I was especially struck by this comment in Lemann’s lament about all the government programs Paul would repeal:
As for the financial crisis, Paul would have countenanced no regulation that might have prevented it, no government stabilization of the financial system after it happened, and no special help for working people hurt by it. This is where the logic of government‐shrinking leads.
The famous New Yorker editing process seems to have broken down here. Here’s how the paragraph should have read:
As for the financial crisis, Paul would have countenanced none of the regulation that helped to cause it, no government creation of cheap money that created the unsustainable boom, and no special help for Wall Street banks when the bubble collapsed. He would have seen that that was where the logic of government‐expanding leads.