From LRC Blog
In Ron Paul’s “noninterventionism” fraud, my old friend, Objectivist Robert Bidinotto, concludes: “To paraphrase an old joke, then: Ron Paul is my second choice for President. … My first choice is anybody else.”
Ha ha. But I doubt that would include, say, Lew Rockwell.
Bidinotto’s latest attack on Paul is the cover story by Stephen Green in Bidinotto’s magazine The New Individualist: the “Abominable Dr. Paul,” portrayed as a B movie monster. Oh my. As Roderick Long points out, “doesn’t this mean that the Randians are giving Paul the same treatment that Whittaker Chambers gave Rand? All this story needs is the line “to a gas chamber – go!” to complete the irony.”
Now we can’t tell exactly what Green’s article says about Paul, since it’s DRM’d (odd that the Objectivists would keep their expose of such a “menace” under wraps instead of trying to alert as many people as possible). But Bidinotto’s previous comments and those in his blog entry detail a few of their problems with Paul.In his mini-essay appended to the blog, “HOW TO JUDGE POLITICAL CANDIDATES,” Bidinotto sets forth a seemingly ad hoc set of criteria that seem to be reverse engineered to demonize Paul. First, he seems to imply that non-intellectual, non-philosophical, unprincipled candidates for office–those who “mainly promote themselves and a haphazard set of only loosely related public policy prescriptions,” “pragmatic careerists like Hillary, Obama, Richardson, Romney, and Giuliani”–actually get a pass. They should be judged by a lower standard, precisely because they don’t have any principles to judge them by. (And remember, by Bidinotto’s “joking” comments above, he’s rather have any of these people–or Nixon or Ford–than Paul.)
But if you actually have principles, integrity, and character, even if you favor individual rights, limited government, and adherence to the Constitution, you are the worst of all–even worse than the execrable Huckabee:
“If consumed, Mike Huckabee’s social conservative porridge would put the GOP flat on its back for a generation. But Ron Paul’s deadly dish would put the Republican Party — and the nation — on life support.”
In other words, according to Bidinotto, you are penalized because you have principles. (Reminds me of Rand’s attack on Kantian idealism.)
What exactly is so bad about Paul, in Bidinotto’s eyes?
“But what of Ron Paul? He is arguably the most philosophical of all the candidates except Kucinich, and thus he must be judged not by his various specific positions and votes, taken in isolation, but by his overall guiding philosophy. That is what he has put at issue, front and center; so that is what I therefore believe we must assess.And that philosophy is a complete mess. In principle, it weds the following: the economics of laissez-faire capitalism (which I emphatically endorse); a religious-based conception of individual rights that leads him to appalling positions on the separation of Church and State, abortion, immigration, and certain other social issues; and, most dangerous of all, a platonic, utopian notion of “noninterventionism” in foreign policy: a view derived directly from his philosophical misunderstanding of the implications of individual rights, which would render America completely vulnerable to its enemies, destroy the security infrastructure at the foundation of international trade, and thus impoverish the nation.”
It is clear that the primary objection of Objectivists to Paul is his foreign policy views and non-interventionism. The other criticisms do not seem to be very coherent or really what bugs the Randians (indeed, Bidinotto admits as much: “If Paul had chosen to showcase and emphasize only domestic and economic issues, where his views and arguments are much better, I might be far less harsh toward his candidacy. But Paul has chosen to make foreign policy, where his views are completely irrational, the centerpiece of his campaign.”). What one wonders here is why an Objectivist–even one who is anti-noninterventionist–thinks someone other than Paul will be able to really “intervene” as the Objectivists think we should; clearly, this is not a reasonable expectation–so even those who are pro-interventionist ought to realize that there’s no Great Randian Intervener on the menu, and at least settle for lower taxes and increased individual liberty as as consolation prize.
And as noted, the other issues Bidinotto dashes off are not really what bugs Randians; it’s foreign policy. I haven’t heard Paul drone on about some “religious-based conception of individual rights”, any more than, say that of the Founders whom the Randians admire. Paul speaks of individual rights and individual liberty; he speaks of the right of people to engage in behaviors he does not personally condone or engage in, such as prostitution or drugs. What supporter of individual rights could find fault in that?
What are his “appalling positions on the separation of Church and State, abortion, immigration”? On the first two, I assume Bidinotto is referring to Paul’s federalism–his view that the Constitution does not authorize the federal government to regulate these matters. On this he is right. Bidinotto speaks of Paul’s “utopian” notion of noninterventionism. But it is Objectivism that has long held a utopian view of the federal government: that is is (or at least, can be–remember Judge Narraganssett?)–a benign protector of individual rights, and that it ought to have central control and “final say” of all legal disputes. The idea of decentralism and federalism, of having fifty state policies, strikes Objectivists as too untidy; not neat. It’s my impression that many Objectivists have such an obsession with order that they would rather have the Supreme Court give the wrong answer, as long as it was final; better than than the chaos fifty states’ approaches (no wonder they abhor anarchy). The belief that a central state can get it right, and should be given the authority to at least try, is what is utopian, if not obsessive-compulsive, it seems to me.
On abortion, Paul seeks to prevent the federal government from interfering in state laws regarding abortion, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade. Does Bidinotto defend the abomination which is Roe v. Wade? It is a clearly unconstitutional decision and policy. The federal Constitution does not empower the federal government to outlaw state laws that regulate abortion. If Bidinotto wants to oppose Louisiana’s laws on abortion, he is free to do so. But as I recall, even Rand implied that late-term abortion is a type of crime.
And does Paul even want to outlaw abortion? Not that I’m aware of. On his site, he notes that he has never performed an abortion; he has “authored legislation that seeks to define life as beginning at conception, HR 1094?; he has sponsored legislation “which would negate the effect of Roe v Wade by removing the ability of federal courts to interfere with state legislation to protect life”; and he has “authored HR 1095, which prevents federal funds to be used for so-called “population control.”” None of these policies would cause the federal government to outlaw abortion. At most, it would prevent the federal government from illegally exceeding its constitutionally authorized powers by dictating abortion policy to the states.
As for foreign policy: give me Paul’s “non-interventionism” anyday over Randian “nuke ‘em all” warmongering: on this, see the Ayn Rand Institute editorial War, Nuclear Weapons and “Innocents” (9/28/01) (see also Justin Raimondo on this: “Of course, Schwartz and his crowd, notably Rand’s “intellectual heir” Leonard Peikoff, have called for a nuclear first strike against the entire Arab world”); also Lynne Cheney’s Circles Call for Mass Murder (”Dr. Yaron Brook, the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute … warned that “Islamic totalitarian states pose a severe threat to the security of the United States,” adding that a way to defeat these regimes “is to kill up to hundreds of thousands of their supporters.” This, he said, would “shrink popular support for extremist ideas to a small minority of the population,” instead of the 40% which he claims supports such regimes now”); Peikoff on nukes; Barbara Branden’s The Lepers of Objectivism; Yaron Brook and the ARI; Objectivism Online topic “Can You List Five Reasons We Should NOT nuke Tehran?“; ARI Attacks ‘Just War’ Theory, Advocates Nuclear Option.
From an anonymous correspondent:
Great post! I’m an Objectivist who supports Ron Paul. A good point to bring up may be that the Constitution is a contract with our politicians, and for them to go against the terms of that contract is an initiation of force against the American people. Objectivism detests the initiation of force.Ron Paul is personally wrong on abortion, but is wise enough to recognize that if he wants to be President he has no contracted power to mandate it.
Also, Ayn Rand supported Barry Goldwater in 1964. Although his premises (religion) were wrong, she said that was his problem. However, Goldwater was more hawkish than Paul (not so much as Bush though; he thought we should only fight wars we could win immediately), and was pro-abortion.