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Ron Paul and the Downsizing of Freedom

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[Editor’s Note: Ron Paul is kookier than Lyndon Larouche on crack. His vision of society is something similar to what existed in the Dark Ages and his take on the constitution dismisses anything that happened after the 17th century. His economic policies are the same neoliberal tripe that has brought this nation to its knees and that he is a racist is abundantly clear. Yet I see too many people of color slobbering on his crusty old knob. I will address the racism in a future post, but for now I want to take apart the bullshit Kool-Aid about Ron Paul’s “freedom.”]

We’re all Austrians now…

 — Ron Paul, during post-Iowa Caucus speech

Much has been written about Ron Paul’s “honesty” and adherence to libertarian ideology since he has surged (somewhat) in the reality show/ clown care debacle also known as the Republican Primary. Paul is kookier than a Laoruche fan on crack, but that doesn’t mean shit these days. Two major influences on Paul are Ayn Rand, the cult figure, former Hollywood hack-turned-novelist, and Austrian economist, Frederick von Hayek. American libertarianism would be unthinkable without Ayn Rand’s influence. Even an establishment conservative like Rush Limbaugh has occasionally shown signs of having been influenced by Rand’s ideas, albeit indirectly, through second or third-hand sources. His attempt to defend the “greed” of the eighties borrows heavily from Rand. Before Rand, only a handful of iconoclasts and other eccentrics would have dared defend greed in public.

Rand’s followers, who often come off as cultists (as do Ron Paul fanatics) attempt to paint her philosophy as grounded in logic and reason, but nothing could be further from the truth. Her understanding of the mechanics of the human brain, or the role of emotions, for example, has nothing to do with modern science or empirical research.

When I was growing up, reading Alisa Zino’yevna (aka Ayn Rand) was almost a family tradition. It was necessary reading in our household. My father would often give each one of us something to read and then we would have to discuss it critically. He also encouraged me to read Walt Whitman and other American transcendentalists — which was probably the antithesis of Rand’s “objectivism.” Looking back, I see he was trying to show me how to think critically — how to hold two opposing ideas at once and come away with something of value and original.

I think Rand appeals to young people because it is a philosophy mired in the lower levels of moral reasoning. It appeals to young people because it addresses an immature, self-centered slice of life. In fact, previous posts of mine have been a refutation of Rand’s “philosophy.” Her epistemology has been taken apart by others, no need to revisit that here. I mention Rand today because she connects to the first part of my series on the history of humankind’s struggle to define freedom.

By the 1950s, both fascism and its antithesis, communism, had redefined freedom, but largely failed to deliver anything resembling freedom when implemented by the likes of Stalin and Mussolini. A ramped up Cold War with the Soviet Union was being waged and the biggest thing then was the Red Scare (communists were the Muslims in the 1950s) and the threat of nuclear war. Unbelievably, people were actually buying “bunkers” to protect themselves from radioactive fallout in those days. Today, we’re bombing innocent people in bunkers in far off lands.

In the 1950s, both Rand and Austrian economist Friedrich von Hayek proposed a new vision of freedom. Their freedom was more of a negative type freedom. They asserted that self-interest controlled all human behavior, and the only true measure of what was best for individuals were their belongings or what they were attempting to accumulate. This “market” of getting and hoarding, acted out simultaneously by millions of people in a society as complex and huge as the United States, for example, produced hundreds of millions of individual “decisions” every moment. Hayek suggested there existed a force of nature, the product and consequences of all these individual buying and selling behaviors, which he called the “free market.” At the same time, Ayn Rand’s hugely popular novels, the Fountainhead and her magnum opus, Atlas Shrugged, championed a philosophy of greed and an enlightened self-interest similar to von Hayek’s.

Freedom was being redefined.

Instead of being a collaborative effort, the result of a society working together to provide for the basic needs of the individual, the family, and society, freedom was now being reconceptualized as the individual’s ability and right to act in his or her total freedom for selfish self-fulfillment, regardless of the consequences to others (within certain limitations). Freedom was a negative force in the worldview of von Hayek, his student Milton Friedman (father of the Chicago School of libertarian economics), and Ayn Rand’s objectivism. This freedom was more of a freedom “from” than a freedom “to”: freedom from social obligation, freedom from taxation; freedom from government assistance or protection (now perceived as “interference” or “serfdom”); freedom to consider one’s needs and wants, because if each individual followed his selfish desires, the mass of individuals acting in concert in a “free market” would result in a utopia.

Shades of Thomas Friedman! The world is flat, burn the fuckin’ olive tree and hock the goddamned Lexus!

This vision claims to be the true vision of a free world. Its creators claimed that a world where government limited nothing but violence and all markets were free — market here meaning the behavior of individuals or collectives of individuals (corporations) — had never before been attempted. Their opponents, progressives and liberals, pointed out that their system had in fact been tried many times throughout history, and was the history of every civilization of the most chaotic eras (feudal times comes to mind). Lacking a true social contract and interdependence, these societies were characterized by physical and economic violence. In this social schematic, those most willing and able to plunder would rise to the top of the economic heap. In the past, they were rightfully called robber barons and today are diagnosed as sociopaths.

In the late 1970s and throughout the 1980s, think tanks funded by wealthy individuals and multinational corporations joined forces with subservient politicians to win the “battle of ideas.” Greed, combined with a blind belief in free markets, was their dogma. This movement brought into power both the feeble-minded Ronald Reagan in the US and Margaret Thatcher in the United Kingdom. Reagan would oversee the greatest redistribution of wealth and the destruction of Labor. Both Thatcher and Reagan would turn government into a force against labor, both busting powerful unions in their respective countries. Both “freed” markets by dropping tariffs and undoing regulations. In both instances, industry fled both countries, to wherever labor was cheapest, and the middle class was rudely bent over and fucked without so much as a kiss.

This new economic religion would be put into operation in Chile with disastrous results. Poverty and wealth gaps would increase dramatically and the privatization of the social security system threw even more people into abject poverty. Of course, a few bankers, industrialists, and politicians became wealthy.

After the downfall of the Soviet Union, Milton Friedman’s “Chicago Boys,” not satisfied with the failures their policies created in Chile, would apply this system with equally disastrous results in Russia. Undaunted and in need of a new country to experiment on, they found a series of willing dupes starting with the inept Ronald Reagan on through to George W. Bush, whose entire cabinet was made up of people who shared the von Hayek/ Rand worldview. The result, as we all have seen, has been a failure of historic proportions. Well-paying jobs were replaced with jobs whose only requirement was that workers ask the question, “Do you want fries with that?”and with social mobility dropping and wealth gaps increasing to levels not seen for over a hundred years.

This is where we are living today and there are people still demanding we continue on this road to serfdom.

My name is Eddie and I’m in recovery from civilization…

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Published on: January 5, 2012

Filled Under: Politics

Views: 979

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  • @Storris

    This is well written, but you’ve got a few points wrong.  Firstly all human behaviour is driven by personal intent, the genetic predisposition to survive and reproduce.  It is empirically proven.

    Margaret Thatcher didn’t chase manufacturing away by destroying the Unions, the unions destroyed manufacturing with excessive wage demands (and low productivity) that couldn’t be met by the government/taxpayer. The manufacturing industry in UK was largely nationalised before Thatcher, and so the Taxpayer had to foot the bill for costly mistakes and wage bills, and so UK was not a good place to do business.  MT changed this, not with the best of results (allowing as in the US corporate interest to lobby lawmakers), but she changed it.Chile was not a free-market experiment. Pinochet was a ruthless dictator who copied Reagan and Thatcher in terms of Economic policy, but also employed his army to disappear the dissenters and voices of opposition without the rule of law and without the General Elections that a democratic and free society requires.Same in Russia.  Those with contacts and special interests made a killing.  The rule of law and the general public lost out.

    This is where Ron Paul differs.  Strict Adherence to the Law (as prescribed by Milton Friedman but not carried out by Pinochet), in order to enforce contracts and the prosecution of those that break the law.  This isn’t currently happening, Huge Corp PLC is able to lobby government and write the regulations that it will have to follow, ‘the people’ have little or no say in the matter.  This is what Ron Paul wants to change.  THis is why you must vote for Ron Paul.  Any other GOP candidate is a Huge Corp PLC stooge in just the same way that Obama is.  Don’t believe me? Who is Goldman Sachs backing this year? Certainly not Ron Paul.  Peace & Prosperity, Freedom & Responsibility.  Four simple words that could change the world, if you let them.

    • http://heavyarmor.wordpress.com Heavy Armor

      Of course, the Paul-bearers love their slogans about Law and Freedom.

      Too bad Ron Paul’s Congressional Record Says Otherwise:

      http://dneiwert.blogspot.com/2007/11/ron-pauls-record-in-congress.html

      Ron Paul does not believe in “Strict Adherence to the Law.”  There can be no such thing when the Prevailing Authority in which the law would need to be enforced with would have no authority nor any power to try.  And Ron Paul’s philosophy would suggest that the Federal Government needs to “get out of people’s lives” and leave it to the states, despite the fact that State Governments have proven themselves to be just as corrupt (and just as susceptible to corruption) as the Federal Government.  Contrary to Paul-pular Belief, Huge Corps lobby State Houses as much as they do the Feds, and Paul blithely looks the other way, considering that it has been because of State-level corruption and backroom dealing that led to many of the Federal Agencies being created in the first place.

      Try again.

      • Stephenmorris

        Try again? You’ve proved nothing!  You have linked to proof that Ron Paul wants to limit the size of Federal Gov & Federal intervention.  You’re preaching Ron’s message for him.  And I thank you for it.

        • http://heavyarmor.wordpress.com Heavy Armor

          And the cognitive dissonance of the standard Paul-bearer is once again in evidence.  Like a typical Paul-bearer, you ignore the substance of the why (which was outlined in the corruption of State Governments item) and focus on “Federal Intervention.”

          And how is pointing out Corruption and Criminality at the State Level, something that Ron Paul himself has said that he would never intervene to stop, preaching Ron Paul’s message?  Or is that really his message?  As long as the false arrests and deportations, legalized brutalization and bullying of minorities, gays, and other undesirables, happens at the “State Level,” it’s OK?

          And you obviously didn’t do anything more than skim over the link, found a section that YOU liked, and came back to comment.

          Typical.

  • http://twitter.com/mightymatt Matt Smith


    , Atlas Shrugged, championed a philosophy of greed and an enlightened self-interest similar to von Hayek’s.”
    I disagree. The message of Atlas Shrugged isn’t about greed. 
    “I swear by my life, and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.” … This is the fundamental thesis of Atlas Shrugged. If you think that novel is about greed I fear that you missed the overall point. The point is that when one works for their own benefit, he winds up benefiting others around them. 

    Also, I think most people misunderstand returning to the constitution. The idea of constitution was that each state would govern themselves and there would be a federal government for national defense and interstate commerce. Under this system, progressive’s could move to a state that held progressive values, and make all of the “looter laws” they wanted to, and libertarians could live in a state that had very few laws.

    The fundamental idea that government is incompetent, and less efficient than a private corporation is not so crazy. The idea that one is motivated more when they are working for themselves is not kooky. 

    When the government meddles with free markets it picks winners and losers. That’s been proven time and time again. I personally think that the country has too long of a history of government dependence to truly move to a Utopian Rand society, however right now the country is skewed towards the looters. In my opinion we need some balance. There are too many consumers and not enough producers right now. 

  • Anonymous

    That was an excellent and very informative post.

  • Reggie

    Now you know damned well that this man is NEVER going to be president.  He is even considered crazy by Republican standards.

  • Tim Peterson

     The only “kookie” one I see here is you, Eddie. You claim Ron Paul is like these people whom you criticize, but you don’t state any facts about Ron Paul himself in this article.

    First, let’s clarify a few things. If you don’t believe people are driven by self-interest, you need a reality check. Why did you do what you did during your lifetime? I would assume, probably correctly, that you did what you did because you wanted to do what you desired. If my assumption is correct, you did what you did because of self-interest.

    Also, freedom is the ability to pursue one’s self-interests. Negative freedom, or negative liberty, is the ability to pursue one’s self-interests so long as they do not prevent another from pursuing his or her self-interest. It is in everyone’s self-interest to help one another because the receiving person may, at a later time, return the favor when the gifting person is in need. Although it is true that not everyone will help the needy, there will be plenty of people who will, even without self-interest. Some do it simply to help those less fortunate because it is the right thing to do.

    Finally, small government doesn’t mean non-existent government. Small government simply means it is only large enough to help those who need help and to protect ourselves from danger, both within and from outside sources. Small government would still help the needy.

    So not only will be in self-interest to help those in need, but the government will help them as well.

    Now, onto Dr. Ron Paul. Here are the facts: Ron Paul is all about small government, promotes negative liberty, and has a plan to eliminate wasteful federal spending by trillions of dollars.

    Personally, I don’t want to see the day when our nation’s debt becomes more than our GDP.

    I suppose ignorance is bliss. Enjoy your super-powerful, repressive government with your vastly limited freedoms. Have fun doing what your superiors mandate you need to do. Don’t forget the ever-vigilant Big Brother that comes with big government, because he is and will be watching you.