The Core Philosophical Problem With Ron Paul’s Libertarian Platform
Congressman Ron Paul is running on the wonderful ideal of “liberty.” And who among us would not like more liberty? – The freedom to choose any personal path, freedom to do whatever it is that sparks our fancy. We’d be free of governmental impediments; who needs all these laws anyway?
The problem is, that when I gain the liberty to do X you necessarily gain the liberty to do Y. And what if X and Y are philosophically or practically in conflict if not incongruous?
When you extend a freedom to a person or people, it’s likely that their freedom might limit the freedoms of other people.
As an extreme example: am I free to smack a stranger upside the head because I don’t like his looks? – of course not. And I sincerely doubt that Dr. Paul would advocate that extension of liberty.
Laws are enacted to limit behavior. They necessarily limit human actions so that a person does not negatively impact on other peoples’ liberty. Thus, laws are anti-libertarian. They restrict our personal freedoms.
This theory was carefully studied and written about by Ronald Coase in The Problem of Social Cost wherein he stated:
II. The Reciprocal Nature of the Problem
The traditional approach has tended to obscure the nature of the choice that has to be
made. The question is commonly thought of as one in which A inflicts harm on B and
what has to be decided is: how should we restrain A? But this is wrong. We are dealing
with a problem of a reciprocal nature. To avoid the harm to B would inflict harm on A.
The real question that has to be decided is: should A be allowed to harm B or should B be
allowed to harm A?
The question becomes: where do we draw that line? Where is it OK to limit peoples’ actions and when should the government stay out?
Dr. Paul has stated that a person is “free” to discriminate on the basis of race. Does that not necessarily limit or reduce the relative liberty of the person or persons discriminated against?
MR. RUSSERT: Let me ask you about race, because I, I read a speech you gave in 2004, the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act. And you said this: "Contrary to the claims of" "supporters of the Civil Rights Act of" '64, "the act did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of" '64 "increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty." That act gave equal rights to African-Americans to vote, to live, to go to lunch counters, and you seem to be criticizing it.
REP. PAUL: Well, we should do, we should do this at a federal level, at a federal lunch counter it'd be OK or for the military. Just think of how the government, you know, caused all the segregation in the military until after World War II. But when it comes, Tim, you're, you're, you're not compelled in your house to invade strangers that you don't like. So it's a property rights issue. And this idea that all private property is under the domain of the federal government I think is wrong. So this--I think even Barry Goldwater opposed that bill on the same property rights position, and that--and now this thing is totally out of control. If you happen to like to smoke a cigar, you know, the federal government's going to come down and say you're not allowed to do this.
Just as Dr. Paul points out (and long before him, Benjamin Franklin) that the seeking of security is at odds with liberty, so too is blanket liberty at odds with equality.
And without equality, by definition, we are not all free.
And Congressman Paul, to actually quote Barry Goldwater:
Equality, rightly understood, as our founding fathers understood it, leads to liberty and to the emancipation of creative differences.