The main problem I have with Rand Paul's endorsement of Mitt Romney is its timing: it was done before his father, Ron Paul, had actually lost the election, which is to be based on delegates, not popular vote.What is Block's reasoning? He writes:
For me, an important point was the realization, thanks to Jack Hunter, that Murray Rothbard supported George Bush over Bill Clinton. That strongly indicates to me that there is nothing anti libertarian, per se, about such an endorsement, whether of Bush by Rothbard, or of Mitt, by Rand.Is this a case of the fallacy of an appeal to authority? It sure sounds pretty close to me.
Rothbard in my view was a genius, but we should never simply take Murray's views or actions on anything as gospel. We should try and understand Murray's thinking on subjects, and his actions, because he was such a clear thinker, but to say Murray did this therefore it "strongly indicates to me," is wrong.
To be fair to Dr. Block, he does then make another argument that at least is not an argumentum ad verecundiam, but even this argument falls short of justifying a Rand Paul-type endorsement of Romney. He writes:
Suppose we were slaves, and the master offered us a vote for either Overseer Baddy, who beat the crap out of us all the time, or Overseer Goody, who only beat us once in a while, and then more gently. And suppose we voted for the latter. Does this mean we support slavery? Of course not. Does this mean that we have thereby violated the libertarian principle of non aggression? Again, of course not. Does this mean we endorse Goody? No, a thousand times no. We can only infer from this action that we prefer Goody to Baddy.Say what?
Now posit that a mugger held us at gun point, and demanded either our watch or our wallet, and we gave him our time piece. Does this mean we have acquiesced in the robbery? Certainly not. Does this imply we agreed to having our watch stolen from us?
My views on the difference between the Rothbard endorsement of Bush and Rand Paul's endorsement of Romney, I have already discussed here. My conclusion was that if Rand is willing to come out and call Romney a bozo (as Rothbard called Bush), then we can connect the two endorsements, otherwise I see them as two different things.
Rothbard clearly made his endorsement noting its limits. Rand did the opposite, he stretched his endorsement to make Romney appear better than he actually is, especially when Rand said that the positions between Romney and Ron Paul on the Fed are similar.
As for Block's Goody versus Baddy example, and its inference of preference justification. I think he is being too clever here by half. Who ever said that people wouldn't choose the lesser of two evils? And who said that this couldn't be surmised by the inference of preference? But what does either of these have to do with the misleading enthusiastic endorsement of the Rand Paul-kind of Romney? I propose they have nothing to do with each other, and that thus these arguments shouldn't be placed in a section relative to Rand's endorsement.
It is one thing to endorse someone as the lesser of two evils, or as a bozo, it is an entirely different thing to suggest that such an evil person is actually a good person. This, as I have written before, is my chief problem with the Rand endorsement.
Rand has stated in interviews that he made a pledge when running for the current position he holds, U.S. Senator from the state of Kentucky, that he would endorse the presidential nominee of the Republican Party, and that is fine. But an endorsement along the lines of "A second Obama administration would be very dangerous for the country and my full support goes to Mitt Romney", would have even worked for me. But, it is Rand's comments beyond this, that Romney is somehow similar in his views to Ron Paul, which cross the line.
This is of no help to advancing the libertarian cause. It creates dangerous confusion. Those who are only casual observers of the political scene and hear Rand make the absurd claims that Romney is close on many issues with Ron, may result in some turning to learn about what is wrong with the Fed and what is libertarianism by (horror) turning to the Mitt Romney internet page and finding things like this.
Hunter was wrong in using Rothbard as a comparison to Rand's endorsement. It would have still fallen short (because of Rand misleading in his endorsement) but there is a comment, not by Rothbard but by Ludwig von Mises, that could shed light on the matter. Mises understood that there was a difference between high theory and politics. He wrote (Mises emphasis):
The practical politician must take into account the voters' reaction to his program if he wants to succeed in the short run. He must compromise. But the intellectual pioneer of a better world is not restricted by the concerns of Realpolitik. His program must be a sound program that triumphs in the long run.And while Mises here is discussing a politician in relation to voters, it is not difficult to take Mises concept of Realpolitik and apply it to maneuverings and endorsements within a political party. In other words, when looking at the actions of a politician, we must look at those actions through the political framework. And, bottom line, Rand Paul is a politician, nothing more, nothing less.
The real problem with Rand is thus not that he compromises (That's what politicians do) or his Romney endorsement, but the manner in which he has gone about the endorsement and the type of compromises he is, thus, likely going to have to make.
He is setting himself up to be swallowed by the system. He will not come out of the machine advancing any important libertarian issues. He will not be able to go to the farm belt and talk cutting farm subsidies. He will not be able to go to Boeing and talk defense cuts. He will not be able to go to Sheldon Adelson and talk elimination of foreign aid to Israel. You see, none of these will advance the Romney cause and the Romney cause for Rand will be put ahead of the liberty cause. The establishment will stick Rand inside the machine running rinse and tumble over and over again. It will mean Rand' making the wrong kind of compromises---ones that will advance his standing in the machine. That's not what we need.
An astute political compromiser, interested in advancing liberty, would, say, vote for some government pay out to some group, if in return it means an audit of the Fed and Fort Knox. That's a compromise to advance liberty and educate the masses. It's an in your face choice in the right here and right now on specific issues. But blind support to the machine will only hold as long as the support is to the machine. It appears Rand has chosen this path. It may advance his personal power, but it won't help much in advancing liberty. He may get to advance some liberty programs on minor issues, but the machine will like this. They will point to Rand as a libertarian and hoodwink some weak thinking libertarians into thinking that he represents all libertarian issues, but he won't come close to a libertarian position when the machine really wants the non-libertarian vote from him. Rand's over the top endorsement of Romney is sending the signal to the machine that they will be able to count on Rand.
What Rothbard once said about the "Objectivist" Fed chairman, Alan Greenspan, may apply someday to Rand:
It becomes almost piquant for the Establishment to have this man in its camp...as icing on the cake, they know that Greenspan's "philosophical" Randianism will undoubtedly fool many free market advocates into thinking that a champion of their cause now perches high in the seats of power.Forget watching reruns of West Wing on television, watching Rand get bounced around by the machine is going to be much more fascinating and educational.