Thursday, July 24, 2014

Where Ron Paul Might Be Wrong

Ron Paul has said that he thinks some people are born libertarians and that he himself was born such.

There is an understandable natural tendency for life-long libertarians to agree with Ron's claim. I think he may be wrong.

If it is true that most libertarians are born libertarians, the libertarian movement is in a lot of trouble. At best, I estimate that maybe 5% of the population is libertarian. If you become a libertarian at birth and we have the percentage that are libertarians, then there is little chance we will ever see a libertarian society.

But, as I say, I do not believe people are born libertarians. I believe some people are born with a healthy brain balance between reality, logic and emotions (as contrasted with, for example, pathological altruists). That is, they do not allow emotions to interfere with their understanding of the real world. They recognize reality for what it is and don't try to emotionally block out clear thinking or go into denial about some things in the world.

Freedom and libertarianism are very logical things. If you have an open mind (no blocking mechanisms operating) and think things through logically, you are going to be a libertarian. But, it's the thinking logically, and having a correct balance with reality and emotions that people may be born with. Thus, it is very easy for such people to become libertarians early in their life. But it is the logical thinking that we are born with that begins the process, not an inherent libertarian philosophy.

I have talked to many adults who have only come to libertarianism in recent years. They all tend to be very logical, thus, it is not surprising that they would be attracted to libertarianism. In fact, most tell me that in the past, although they might not have been full-fledged libertarians, they had libertarian "instincts." To me this means that they likely were simply thinking logically about events and society without having a full libertarian perspective presented to them early on. That is, it may just be that while they weren't exposed to libertarian ideas at an early age, their logical way of thinking was always pushing them in that direction--always suspicious of interventionist and government propaganda.

Thus, if the key to being a libertarian is logical thinking and a healthy balance between emotions and thinking, and exposure to libertarian ideas, then there is a lot more hope for a libertarian society, since the number of current libertarians is certainly only a subset of generally logical thinkers. The more logical thinkers that can be made aware of libertarian logic, the better.

Further, many of those, who let emotions get in the way of their thinking logically, are always attempting to improve themselves. Thus, an introduction to the logic of libertarianism can be a step in their growth process.

In other words, I hope Ron Paul is wrong on the point of how people become libertarians but I hope he keeps on spreading the logic of the libertarian message, because he is the master at it.



  1. "They all tend to be very logical, thus, it is not surprising that they would be attracted to libertarianism. In fact, most tell me that in the past, although they might not have been full-fledged libertarians, they had libertarian "instincts.""

    That's me, exactly. For whatever reason I went through three different university's(although much of it night school while I worked during the day), even briefly had a major in poly sci, and yet never was exposed to libertarianism(go ahead and call BS, it's true!).

    I didn't come around to being fully anarchist until around 40...Ron Paul knocked my socks off in 06' and there was a progression from there is what it is.

  2. What really turned me to anarchy/libertarianism was Atlas Shrugged then Ron and his books/thinking. I haven't looked back since.
    I'm a fundamentalist Christian but firmly believe if freedom of choice is good enough for God it should be good enough for men.

  3. Wikipedia posts the David M Halbfinger February 5, 2012 NYT article "Ron Paul’s Flinty Worldview Was Forged in Early Family Life".

    From that article, I conclude that it was family life training in morals, meaning virtue, and ethics, meaning relationships with others, that developed the Dr. Paul’s character set of independence, personal responsibility, and frugality. It was this that provided a heart for learning and communicating Austrian economics.

    Being an Calvinist, and not an Libertarian, I believe that God, from eternity past, purposed and brought him forth to champion Libertarianism and the call to End The Fed.

  4. libertarianism is the only scientific political view. Everything is derived from basic principle. This is why it appeals to logical thinkers.

    As to expanding numbers there is a truth to what Ron Paul said, people are born into logical thought but the state exploits emotional thought, nurtures it, grows it. The state intentionally diminishes the numbers of logical thinkers. It gets people thinking of ends instead of means. However only so many people are capable of resisting years of conditioning when they are children. Libertarian numbers will forever be stuck at a small percentage of people who successfully resist and break conditioning unless we the government's hold on schools, it's hold on children is broken. Break that and prevent any replacement and we can have a libertarian society.

  5. I was a 'natural' at computer programming, which means I am naturally logical. Robert J. Ringer's book(s) from 1979 to the mid 1980's first introduced me to libertarian ideas, and since then I always leaned that way. I back-slid for a long time thinking these ideas are hopeless, and not politically practical. I suppose it was Ron Paul that gave me hope again, and it was the Mises Institutes courses that made me realize that no matter how far off the goal seems, it is still the only morally justifiable system. So I'm stuck with it. No other considerations are able to trump that one.

  6. While I was never very supportive of Ron Paul's political career as I prefer anarchy, if he believes libertarians are born not made he is at least moving in the right direction. There are other laws of human nature besides the law of association and division of labor. I believe the most powerful is what I call the law of biological efficiency. All humans desire to live big on minimal effort and this drive for efficiency has made humans one of the most successful species. This drive can lead to stealing as it is often the most efficient way to wealth. Particularly if one can do it without suffering legal penalties or social condemnation. Politics has become the art of getting away with it and libertarianism as a political philosophy is totally illogical in this arena. It only wants to judge and punish this aspect of human nature. Even if this natural imperative to live efficiently could be eliminated would we even be human? I am not advocating theft as a way of life. In fact I believe thou shall not steal is the only commandment worth obeying. Don't steal other peoples things and don't steal their life. But the biological imperative for efficiency has a logic of its own which has been incredibly successful and is not compatible with NAP or libertarianism. Perhaps those who profess belief in libertarianism have been born without the drive for biological efficiency or perhaps its just words since there is no realty to test their beliefs. However, libertarianism is not the logical answer for the world in which we live.

    1. Brian,

      I would like to offer these thoughts on your comment:

      You went from suggesting the human desire to "live big on minimal effort and drive for efficiency" "can lead to stealing" to then suggesting later it is a "natural imperative", even suggesting that not having a desire to steal might betray human qualities.

      See what you did there? You originally left room for a human without the desire to steal, then later equivocated stealing with human nature.

      Aside from the lack of logical continuity, which naturally puts into question the statement that libertarianism as a philosophy is illogical as a response, I can make a simple argument against this particular state of "efficiency" as you call it(stealing).

      If logical humans(and thieves aren't usually that logical) carry your notion of efficiency to their logical extent, then they would expect at some point in time to be robbed of their property...meaning a society/life of stealing would yield little long term benefit to their ongoing work(theft). I doubt most people that are logical would accept this style of life as "efficient".

      So in conclusion, your statement that the NAP isn't compatible with this "biological imperative for efficiency" that you equivocated to theft seems suspect in the least, but more likely fallacious(with all due respect). Those in politics in terms of percentage are actually a very small number of the population statistically....

      Also, I'm nitpicking, but the NAP/libertarianism doesn't only "judge and punish this aspect of human nature"(theft), it does also speak to other form of aggression/harm. (fraud, physical attack, etc.)

    2. Clearly, "We want the world, and we want it now!" I'm not sure "biological efficiency" is the right way to put it. It doesn't immediately follow that theft is the best way for human beings to obtain their wants. Even an immoral person can see the benefits of not stealing.

      It could also be argued that since man is a naturally social animal, and theft is not conducive to a prosperous society, theft is unnatural. It then becomes a question of logically extending that principle universally, amongst all human beings, and eliminating arbitrary rulers, rules and boarders.

    3. Thanks to Nick and Steve for thoughtful responses. I am struggling with this issue myself but am serious about a biological imperative for life that is so strong it easily overwhelms ethical or social rules about stealing. And yes I realize that some people may have a lesser biological imperative but this could simply be a biological defect. The logic moving from the idea that all humans want to live large on minimal effort to stealing can be a logical way to achieve this is an observable reality. Despite all the rules and laws that have been passed stealing persists. Stealing has become institutionalized through politics and government and is sanctioned by billions of people. Here I disagree with Nick, I think most people participate in politics whether they hold office or vote or abstain. They maneuver to place themselves on the side with the largest gang. It may not be logical for a prosperous society but it can be perfectly logical for an individual or group with a limited time horizon. And we all have limited time horizons its just a matter of degree. But to RW's point, the NAP is not logical given human nature. Its just throwing words at a biological/genetic imperative.

    4. "Here I disagree with Nick, I think most people participate in politics whether they hold office or vote or abstain."

      While I obviously agree that most people participate in politics,but that doesn't make them politicians in the sense that they are actually in positions of power, which was my intended meaning(sitting congressmen, Presidents, etc.). I understand there's room for clarity from my original response.

      I think where you might be in error is this assumption as to why people participate in politics. I highly doubt a significant number of participants are saying to themselves, "I'm going to get mine by participating in organized theft.", there are some, but it's a small minority IMO.(and I'd bet most of those really feeling that way are elected officials, Re: Hayek)

      Also, I disagree with your contention that people in general would steal over being productive in other ways(even if stealing was easier), you have to consider why on one hand "ethical and social rules" exist(without law) if your notion that a "lesser biological imperative" to steal is a "biological defect". That is an important question.

      In fact, even though said participants in politics are actually doing that very thing(stealing), you notice most of them rationalize said behavior, because no one actually wants to be associated with the very thing they are doing(organized theft, killing, etc.). Instead, we hear buzz words like "fairness", "spread the wealth" or "defending the country" because few want to acknowledge the reality.

      I think this very fact speaks well to RW's point about emotion overwhelming reason, to the point of cognitive dissonance. The question is, how do we overcome it?(or can we?)

      I think the NAP is consistent(logically) with "ethical and social rules" as you put it and I think it consistent with human nature in general(but can't be universally applied to all humans naturally), but the current paradigm has obfuscated said nature.

      Being an agnostic, that might be easier for me to say than Christians might be able to believe, due to "fallen man" concept, but the fact remains that to strive for a society that is affluent as possible with as little violence as possible, the NAP seems to be completely compatible with Christianity as well as the aforementioned goals.

      I appreciate the dialogue btw and your well thought out response.

    5. I'm no philosophy major, but in David Gordon's lecture about the political philosophy of Plato, he mentions that in Plato's book, The Republic, there is a discussion between Socrates and some other people, where Socrates explains that the human mind is not unified.

      The example Dr. Gordon uses to illustrate Socrates' point (Plato's point I suppose) goes like this:
      Suppose one is very thirsty, and would like to drink some water. But, at the same time, this person is having some medical tests done, and can't drink water because it will screw up the tests.

      The point is that reason or logic can tell us one thing, while lust or gut feeling or whatever can tell us to take a different course of action.

      So maybe we have a natural urge to do something, but reason/logic (also coming naturally to man) can say not to do that something.

  7. I was raised as a child of a college professor, and self proclaimed socialist. My libertarian/anarchist views create some pretty awkward family get-togethers with siblings and parents alike. I was raised, however, not to back down from a fight.

  8. RW, this is a very thought provoking article.

    A few quibbles.

    Logic is not a prerequisite for libertarianism. Nor does it follow that a logical person would choose not to aggress against non aggressors.

    I think the point Dr. Paul is trying to make, is the same as the point Walter Block makes on a regular basis; "keep your mitts to yourself." Most people will agree with that.

    You are correct when you say that logic plays a large role in pushing one towards libertarianism. But, this logical deducing is merely turning man's natural tendencies, into an explicit and consistent set of interpersonal ethics.

    When Ron Paul speaks, he's pretty good. But it's obviously the things he says, rather than the way he says them, that really clicks with people.

  9. Ron Paul may be Libertarian at heart, but he is a registered Republican like many others.