FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

How Libertarian Dogmatists Are Sabotaging Ron Paul’s Campaign

If Ron Paul’s libertarian handlers and support base could escape their ideology, Ron Paul could be much better positioned to win the Republican nomination.

Here are some suggestions.

Ron Paul should be making the point that Social Security and Medicare are threatened by multi-trillion dollar wars that are funded by debt, by bailouts of a deregulated banking system, and by money creation to keep the banks afloat. Libertarians support deregulation, but their position has always been that deregulated industries must not be bailed out with public subsidies, much less subsidies that are so extensive that they threaten government solvency and the value of the currency.

Instead of hitting hard on the serious threat to Social Security and Medicare posed by Obama and Republican candidates for the nomination, all of whom serve Wall Street, the military/security complex, and the Israel Lobby, Ron Paul has been positioned both by his supporters and his opponents as the danger to Social Security and Medicare. This is an amazing strategic mistake by the Ron Paul campaign.

The mistake is somewhat understandable. Ron Paul’s supporters are mainly among the young. The importance to them of Social Security and Medicare will not register for many years, but for the vast majority of the population Social Security and Medicare are essential for survival. A candidate who is positioned as the destroyer of what scant economic protection the American elderly have is not positioned to win an election for president.

Many libertarians regard Social Security and Medicare as welfare handouts and as Ponzi schemes, when in fact these programs are a form of private property. People pay for these programs all their working lives, just as they pay premiums for private medical policies and make their deposits into private pension plans. Libertarians are great defenders of private property, so why don’t they defend the elderly’s private property rights in Social Security and Medicare benefits? Social Security and Medicare are contracts that government made with citizens. These contracts are as valid and enforceable as any other contracts. If Social Security and Medicare are in dire trouble, why is the government wasting trillions of dollars in behalf of private armaments industries, a neocon ideology, and Israel’s territorial ambitions? Why isn’t this question the most important issue in the campaign?

Instead, in a decade that has seen two massive stock market crashes and an amazing amount of financial fraud, libertarians prattle on about privatizing Social Security and about how much larger the retirement pensions would be. They speak about delaying the Social Security retirement age to 70 without any thought to what a person does who is retired by his employer at 65. People who suggest making Social Security and Medicare off limits until people reach 70 need to have a look at the cost of private medical plans for older people. A group plan with Blue Cross Blue Shield Florida for a 64-year old woman has a $18,000 premium, large deductibles per medical issue, and a 20 per cent co-pay. Even a person with private insurance faces potentially ruinous health care expenses.

Libertarians will not wait to think before they inform me that private savings are funded but Social Security and Medicare are not. They are incorrect on both accounts.

Social Security and Medicare are funded with a payroll tax. It is true that the government has stolen the funds, spent them, and left non-marketable IOU’s in their place. But in our deregulated casino financial system with street registration of “securities,” the same thing happens to private holdings. Where is the money that individuals had in MF Global? What happened to people’s savings invested with Madoff? What happened to Enron’s investors? Can AIG make good on its promises to pay the benefits that people have purchased? Can banks whose balance sheets are loaded with subprime derivatives make good on their depositors’ accounts? US government debt is a component of many private pension plans. How secure are the values of Treasury bonds?

The notion that free unregulated markets are totally trustworthy is the enormous mistake that former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan made, for which American and European peoples continue to pay. Libertarians endorse this fantastic mistake to the hilt.

This is not meant to be an attack on libertarians. Rather, it is an explanation of some of their mistakes. There is much to admire about libertarians. They believe in civil liberty, that is, in the Bill of Rights and the Constitution. They understand that government cannot substitute for the market. I know a lot about libertarians. I was associated with them for years, serving for several years as Distinguished Scholar at the Cato Institute until I was run off for independent thinking.

Libertarians are sectarian, and their tolerance does not extend beyond their ideology.

The biggest mistake that libertarians make is the way they view government and private sectors. Government is the root of all evil, and the private sector is the source of all good. Libertarians have never figured out that people are the same whether in the government or in the private sector. They will abuse their power regardless of where they perch. That is why government needs to be tied down by the Constitution and the private sector by regulation. Yes, regulation can go too far. Certainly, deregulation has gone too far.

The ongoing financial crisis from deregulation and ongoing jobs crisis from offshoring constitute empirical evidence that the belief is false that an unfettered private sector is the source of all good.

Some readers misunderstood the point of my previous column, “America’s Last Chance.” I am endorsing the U.S. Constitution and making the point that Ron Paul is the only candidate for president in either party who is committed to resurrecting the Constitution. Without the Constitution we cease to be American citizens and become subjects of a tyrannical police state. My complaint is that the only candidate who could bring back the Constitution cannot be elected because of the inflexibility and sectarianism of his base. Possibly there are more worthy third party candidates, but they have no prospect of visibility. Ron Paul is visible, and the opportunity is going to waste.

I hope readers will spare me their comments about how important their various single issues are. There are many important things. The question is: what is the over-riding important thing?

Civil Liberty, essentially the accountability of government to law that serves to protect the innocent, is the historic achievement of the English over many centuries from its beginnings with the foundation for common law established by Alfred the Great in the 9th century through Magna Carta in the 13th century to the Glorious Revolution in the 17th century. If this human achievement is lost, it is unlikely to be resurrected. If the Constitution that Bush and Obama have murdered stays in its grave one more presidential term, no one will be able to re-establish the Constitution’s authority.

And please, no prattle from libertarians about “natural rights.” The only rights we have
are rights achieved by centuries of human struggle that we have the wits and strength to retain.

And no prattle from left-wingers who denounce the Constitution for not protecting slaves and native Indians. The Constitution did not establish universal justice. The Constitution protected the people covered by it. Over time rights were extended. During the past decade the Constitution lost its power. Today rights depend on the subjective opinion of the executive branch. This is tyranny. We should be unified in our opposition to tyranny.

PAUL CRAIG ROBERTS was an editor of the Wall Street Journal and an Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Treasury.  His latest book, HOW THE ECONOMY WAS LOST, has just been published by CounterPunch/AK Press. He can be reached through his website 

More articles by:

Paul Craig Roberts is a former Assistant Secretary of the US Treasury and Associate Editor of the Wall Street Journal. Roberts’ How the Economy Was Lost is now available from CounterPunch in electronic format. His latest book is The Neoconservative Threat to World Order.

April 25, 2018
Stanley L. Cohen
Selective Outrage
Dan Kovalik
The Empire Turns Its Sights on Nicaragua – Again!
Joseph Essertier
The Abductees of Japan and Korea
Ramzy Baroud
The Ghost of Herut: Einstein on Israel, 70 Years Ago
W. T. Whitney
Imprisoned FARC Leader Faces Extradition: Still No Peace in Colombia
Manuel E. Yepe
Washington’s Attack on Syria Was a Mockery of the World
John White
My Silent Pain for Toronto and the World
Dean Baker
Bad Projections: the Federal Reserve, the IMF and Unemployment
David Schultz
Why Donald Trump Should Not be Allowed to Pardon Michael Cohen, His Friends, or Family Members
Mel Gurtov
Will Abe Shinzo “Make Japan Great Again”?
Binoy Kampmark
Enoch Powell: Blood Speeches and Anniversaries
Frank Scott
Weapons and Walls
April 24, 2018
Carl Boggs
Russia and the War Party
William A. Cohn
Carnage Unleashed: the Pentagon and the AUMF
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
The Racist Culture of Canadian Hockey
María Julia Bertomeu
On Angers, Disgusts and Nauseas
Nick Pemberton
How To Buy A Seat In Congress 101
Ron Jacobs
Resisting the Military-Now More Than Ever
Paul Bentley
A Velvet Revolution Turns Bloody? Ten Dead in Toronto
Sonali Kolhatkar
The Left, Syria and Fake News
Manuel E. Yepe
The Confirmation of Democracy in Cuba
Peter Montgomery
Christian Nationalism: Good for Politicians, Bad for America and the World
Ted Rall
Bad Drones
Jill Richardson
The Latest Attack on Food Stamps
Andrew Stewart
What Kind of Unionism is This?
Ellen Brown
Fox in the Hen House: Why Interest Rates Are Rising
April 23, 2018
Patrick Cockburn
In Middle East Wars It Pays to be Skeptical
Thomas Knapp
Just When You Thought “Russiagate” Couldn’t Get Any Sillier …
Gregory Barrett
The Moral Mask
Robert Hunziker
Chemical Madness!
David Swanson
Senator Tim Kaine’s Brief Run-In With the Law
Dave Lindorff
Starbucks Has a Racism Problem
Uri Avnery
The Great Day
Nyla Ali Khan
Girls Reduced to Being Repositories of Communal and Religious Identities in Kashmir
Ted Rall
Stop Letting Trump Distract You From Your Wants and Needs
Steve Klinger
The Cautionary Tale of Donald J. Trump
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Conflict Over the Future of the Planet
Cesar Chelala
Gideon Levy: A Voice of Sanity from Israel
Weekend Edition
April 20, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Ruling Class Operatives Say the Darndest Things: On Devils Known and Not
Conn Hallinan
The Great Game Comes to Syria
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Mother of War
Andrew Levine
“How Come?” Questions
Doug Noble
A Tale of Two Atrocities: Douma and Gaza
Kenneth Surin
The Blight of Ukania
Howard Lisnoff
How James Comey Became the Strange New Hero of the Liberals
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail