A friend of mine and a libertarian who I admire very much for her tenacity and the courage of her convictions recently put a question to me about Ron Paul's political career, a question that was written to serve as a catalyst for a discussion about the most effective approach to actually create the free society we libertarians believe in. This post is my long form answer. Her question was:
"Dr. Paul has been saying the same thing for over 20 years, expecting different results...hasn't that been defined as insanity?"
First and foremost, I would say this: If it is impossible to forge a free society by working "within the system" of partisan politics and Washington's representative bodies, and the most effective catalyst for substantial and lasting change is to educate people about liberty, then at the very worst, Ron Paul has been by far the most effective advocate for libertarian ideas in at least a generation.
Ron Paul's 2008 presidential campaign disseminated and defended libertarian ideas on a level entirely unheard of perhaps in the entire last century of American history, due of course, in no small part to the coincidence of his campaign with the fully-realized power of the Internet as a tool of social and political activity as well as financial crises that demonstrated the prescience of Ron Paul's libertarian views.
Perhaps most interestingly, Ron Paul's advocacy for libertarianism during his campaign demonstrated his uncanny ability to appeal to Americans across the partisan and ideological divide. The energetic and growing Ron Paul movement is filled with as many recovering neoconservatives as it is recovering welfare statists.
Each were intrigued by Paul's skillful defense of policies they agreed with, and then converted to Paul's side on policies they disagreed with when they saw the correctness and consistency of the principles which allowed the Congressman to speak with such eloquence and authority on those matters that first piqued his listeners' interest.
Secondly, I would argue that my friend's argument is what in formal debate, we would call "non-unique." It is true regardless of which side of the debate is correct. My friend implies that Ron Paul has expected different results from his approach, but instead, Washington continues to grow in power, the establishment continues to become more entrenched, and justice, civil liberties, and the rule of law continue to suffer a sustained assault of growing intensity.
But all these things are also happening despite whatever approach she advocates. I could simply rephrase the question and ask it back:
"The ['education-only' libertarians, or agorists, or anarcho-capitalist voluntaryists] have been saying the same thing for over 20 years, expecting different results...hasn't that been defined as insanity?"
I'll end my line of argumentation there to avoid the ever-present risk of becoming too verbose, and the also ever-present risk of gushing a little too hard over my hero and inspiration, Dr. Ron Paul. Whoops- too late. In summary: Ron Paul's approach of working within the system has the added benefit of simultaneously advancing the educational approach- sometimes even better than those working outside the system; and if Ron Paul's approach isn't effective because we aren't living in a libertarian utopia yet, then neither is the educational or agorist approach... because we aren't living in a libertarian utopia yet.
Editor in Chief, THL
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