My only thoughts on CPAC

Typed on a Sticky Note so that I could express my thoughts to Sarah, my layout editor, without further irritating the girl sitting in front of me who couldn’t handle my negative comments.

This event is called “Will Obama’s Tax Policy Kill Entrepreneurship?”

I have not yet heard anyone speak of entrepreneurship. I’ve heard that our president and the government in New Jersey are socialists, maybe communists, and I’ve heard a lot of [sic] stock ownership, but not one thing about taking the entrepreneurial risk. Maybe Wall Street capitalism is going to kill entrepreneurship before the president has the chance to?

I think this sorta sums up the problem with the Republican idea of economic liberty.

Lincoln

Will, at Dispatches, has a post-Presidents Day post in which, amongst other things, he links, critically, to my Terrapin Times piece on Roger B. Taney. He packs quite a pit into a brief paragraph, so I’ll post it in its entirety and respond as appropriate.

I’m baffled by the rise of anti-Lincoln sentiment on some quarters of the Right. Freeing the slaves ought to count for something. Moreover, letting the South go and hoping for the best (voluntary manumission, perhaps?) seems like wishful thinking. I’d also argue that Jim Crow would have been a lot more durable had the South gained independence. Patrick Deneen’s assessment is a bit more balanced.

First, I’m not sure why this baffles Will. Criticism of Lincoln from the Right is nothing new; granted, unfortunately, a fair amount of it comes from certain neo-Confederate paleoconservative/paleolibertarian corners where racism, I suspect, seethes just below the surface, awaiting the day when Jim Crow laws can be revived, perhaps “for the good of” Blacks. However, such denouncements come from conservatives unpossessed of such virulent tendencies. (I like to think that I belong to this latter category.) For instance, long ago (by blogosphere standards), Larison offered this:

Serious conservatives of old (and some still around today) frequently disparaged Father Abraham and rejected the politics that he represented; to the extent that the GOP really was always the Party of Lincoln, conservatives are hard-pressed to ever find a real place in it, since our tradition via the Agrarians and Bradford ties us to the Antifederalists, Jeffersonian Republicans, Southern Democrats and Populists.  At each stage of our history, the revolutionary forces of consolidation wanted to transform and do violence to the settled order of American life and sought to damage the constitutional order as well.  At each stage serious conservatives opposed them and their works . . . .

. . .  if “Lincoln Republican” means anything it refers to the post-1865 Republican stranglehold imposed on the country by the post-War arrangements of power . . . .

It was only ten years ago that Bob Dole lectured us about how the GOP was the Party of Lincoln and anybody who didn’t like it could get out right now.  I got the hint when I was still just 17 and never joined the Party of Corporations, Corruption and Consolidation.  Weaver’s argument from definition notwithstanding, Lincoln was certainly no conservative or, if he was a conservative, I would not want to have anything to do with such a conservatism. [Emphasis in the original. – NPO]

Moreover, of course this antipathy toward Lincoln is emerging perhaps more openly now, as we’ve marked his bicentennial. Such anniversaries are frequently the points at which we curmudgeons escape from our cellars long enough to inject politically incorrect vitriol into staid discussion. Pro-Lincoln agitprop (along with pro-Darwin commentary and anti-Darwin screeds) have dominated the media of late; that dissidents would keep opinions to themselves is neither to be expected nor desired.

Of course freeing the slaves ought to count for something; as far as I know, none of us expressing our disapproval of the Great Emancipator have denied that this was a good thing. I fully challenge the notion that ending slavery was Lincoln’s principal intention — if, initially, an intention at all (I’ll not pretend to know what motives drove him from deepest within.) —; preserving the Union, for better or for worse, I think, is what he sought to do. That the Emancipation Proclamation immediately freed slaves only in states over which Washington had no de facto authority — and in those parts of the Confederacy over which the Union had regained control (a fact seemingly lost to too many critics of Lincoln) — suggests an unwillingness, or ambivalence, at least at first, respecting the issue.

I certainly agree that expecting to see the end of slavery, at least any time soon, by way of “letting the South go and hoping for the best (voluntary manumission, perhaps?)” is wishful thinking. I certainly had no intention of making such a suggestion when I noted that Taney manumitted his own slaves. I make mention of that only to suggest (specifically to my primary audience; more on that below) that, dreadful and mistaken as his Dred Scott opinion was, Taney was not a complete beast.

Slavery is unequivocally immoral, a particularly sad stain on this nation’s sad history. However, I’m not at all convinced that the liberation of Black slaves into a Southern society in which de jure discrimination and, notwithstanding the Fourteenth Amendment, de facto inequality reigned and into Northern cities where the absence of slavery and the chimera of tolerance did little to meliorate the fact that Blacks often remained second- (perhaps third-)class citizens justifies the deaths of more than six hundred thousand Americans, more deaths than every other war, Revolution through Vietnam, combined.

How could we have ended slavery otherwise? I don’t pretend to know. Perhaps, as Will suggests, had the South been left to its own devices, Jim Crow would have been a lot more durable. On the other hand, that a South not embittered by bloodshed, conquest and Reconstruction, Sherman’s rape of Georgia, and the quashing of the important Constitutional question of secession (More below.) and states’ rights, could have gradually ended slavery and slowly developed, more organically, healthier race relations is not, I submit, impossible. I may reveal naïvety by expressing such an opinion, but, left with few options, I’m willing to entertain it.

Ultimately, for me, the question of slavery is almost irrelevant to my personal assessment of the sixteenth president. Rather, his willful violation of the Constitution (the fundamental point of my Taney piece), nationalism/centralism, refusal to negotiate with the secessionists over the legal transfer of Fort Sumter (and other forts) to the Confederacy (which could have precluded the attack that incited the War Between the States), and being beholden to corporate interests inform my judgment. That emancipation resulted from his war wins him a few points, but that it was such a bloody, dubious war that brought forth this result suffices to negate much of the gain here.

The Taney piece to which Will responded will be on the front page of the forthcoming issue of The Terrapin Times. The fact is that I’m running a beleaguered-from-the-get-go right-of-centre paper on a heavily liberal/apathetic campus; running a piece like this is something I’m doing because a) Provocation draws attention and b) Notwithstanding the great flaw of Taney’s, I believe that people ought to realize the important of Taney qua judge in Ex parte Merryman whose opinion was most recently reaffirmed in Hamdi v. Rumsfeld. Had I written a piece about Lincoln, I, doubtless, should have dedicated more of the piece to criticizing him, but I also should have offered at least a small bone to the vastly more numerous pro-Lincoln crowd.

On the question of secession, I hold firmly no opinion. Unwilling to say that the States definitely possess the right to secede, I’m even more loath to submit that they lack such a right. Doubtless, whatever the Constitution says, I suspect that many States’ leaders failed to realize the Hamiltonian machinations at work to guarantee that, regardless of what they all believed, whatever right to re-establish autonomy would slip into the mists of history courtesy of the centralizing tendencies of Madison’s document.

The Ron Paul Interview

On Monday morning, 13 October, I spoke with Congressman Ron Paul for about eighteen minutes. Find hereunder the edited transcript of that conversation, which I intend to publish in the forthcoming late-October pre-election issue of The Terrapin Times


NPO: I want this paper not just to offer commentary, but to have an intellectual tone to it, so I’d like to get your thoughts on a couple of American Founding Fathers to whom you suggest the conservative or libertarian really concerned with Constitutional issues might turn.

RP: Well, I like Samuel Adams. He was an intellectual behind it and he agitated and wrote about it, so I admire him, but I like all of them to some degree, some of them a lot more than others. 

Just the other day, on one of our news interviews, Steve Forbes was bragging that if only Hamilton were here, he’d love what we’re doing.

NPO: Yeah, I think he probably would.

RP: He was saying Hamilton would endorse what he was saying, so I had the chance to answer back. I said, “Well, if Jefferson were here, he would probably endorse what I’m saying.”

NPO: I think you’re right.

RP: Jefferson, of course, there’s a lot to admire about what he said, and I think the whole atmosphere then, of overthrowing the king and tyranny and giving us not a perfect, or the best, document, that unfortunately has not been followed, but —–

NPO: No, it hasn’t.

RP: We can look to that period of time as being pretty significant in human history.

NPO: Okay, I want to play up on something that you just said. Now I don’t think anyone in our government more faithfully defends the Constitution than you. Is that because you believe that it is right; because it is the document given to us, and even if imperfect, it’s what we have; or somewhere in the middle?

RP: I think it’s the respect for the rule of law. I’m interested in having rigid restraints on the government and the Constitution was written not to restrain us but to restrain government. I see the imperfections; early on there were more than now, especially when it came to slavery. It’s still an imperfect document, but it’s reasonably well written.

There’s a need to adapt to current times and the possibility is there. People get frustrated and they say it’s too slow. The other side always argues, “Well these times are different, they’re modern, and it has to be a living document.” We say, “Sure, you’re right. There’s a way to do this: You amend it.” What they’re frustrated about is the slowness of it, but what they do is throw everything out. I’m more concerned about that than defending every line in the document.

Some of the things in the Constitution could probably be written better today. The Second Amendment could be a lot more explicit; it’s hard for me to understand why some of these debates come up, but maybe, if it were written a little bit differently, we’d argue a lot less about it.

I think the most important thing is the rule of law and that people follow the law and not do what they want today, whether it’s the executive branch, legislative branch, or judicial branch. I think they have essentially no respect for the Constitution. 

NPO: Okay, two more quick Constitutional questions. First, other than the Sixteenth Amendment, do any Amendments strike you a being particularly disconnected from the vision of the Founding Fathers?

RP: The Seventeenth is one. That introduced the notion that the states could be undermined. Senators had been elected by the legislatures to represent the states’ interests. It was recognized that the states were independent and needed protection; they were to stand up to the federal government and represent their individual states. I favor repealing it.

NPO: And the last one: Obviously, the Civil War essentially ended this debate, but what do you think of secession as a Constitutional issue? The Second Vermont Republic generally polls about thirteen percent; there’s a lot of talk about it in Cascadia; even Minnesota has the North Star Republic group. 

RP: In a free society, when certain groups came together, like the Colonies, it was assumed that if you came together voluntarily, then you could leave voluntarily. In the early part of our history, I think it was understood. That‘s one area where we could make the Constitution explicit. Think of how restrained the federal government would be if they knew that a state could just leave. I believe in the principle of secession. It has been part of our system that has been knocked out of us, especially since the Civil War, but we’re completely inconsistent internationally. Now we go and bomb and kill people from a country like —–

NPO: Kosovo?

RP: Like Kosovo. We allow them, and defend their secession, and at the same time we have no sympathy at all for Abkhazia and South Ossetia. I think that principle, self-determination, we should defend.

NPO: Then the one gotcha question, as Sarah Palin has come to call it, of the interview. What happens if, tomorrow, the people of Texas vote overwhelmingly, fed up with the American government, to secede and to re-establish the Lone Star Republic? How do you, as a Texan and a congressman, react to that?

RP: Cautiously. 

NPO: Good answer.

RP: If that were the majority opinion and we were able to, I think it would be great, but I’m cautious, because I know that our state officers aren’t necessarily going to protect my personal liberties a whole lot better right now. It’s a system we’re up against. We might have even more state regulations. We have this whole idea that even our cities tell us everything we can do with our own property. We have too many regulations and very little respect for private property. But I think the smaller the unit of government, the better.

NPO: Now I’d like to talk a little bit about the movement — the liberty movement, the Campaign for Liberty, the Ron Paul Revolution. We saw, the other night in the Comcast Center, five candidates whom you endorse, Republicans in Maryland who support liberty. Has the GOP a future, with or without this type of politician?

RP: Well, if they do, it will be in spite of themselves; that was a good example. We have five Republican candidates who went through the process, ran in the primaries, and became their nominees. We plan a rally, and the Republican Party on the campus claim they’re going to help us and invite all the Republican students, and then they back out of it. It’s destructive. My guess is that they got word from higher up, whether it was the state party or the McCain people, and they said, “Hold up.”

If we were all socialists, you might understand if they said, “Wow, you guys have strayed too far”, but what did we do? We’ve defended what Republicans claim they believe in: limited government, free markets, private property, balanced budgets, and low taxes, and they don’t want anything to do with this. It’s strict Constitutionalism. If they continue to do that, they’re going to self-destruct, because they can’t do it without young people coming into it. Our campaign rallied as many young people as any Republican has in a long time.

NPO: Right.

RP: It scares them to death, but I think it’s the old guard. They don’t want to give up control. What are they going to have to guard? There won’t be much of a party left if they don’t welcome new people into it.

NPO: You’ve attracted a lot of support from the Left, as well as the Right. Before you officially endorsed Pastor Baldwin, you brought him, Ralph Nader, and Cynthia McKinney on stage and offered the don’t-vote-for-the-major parties endorsement. Do you think that, if not in the GOP, the future is in these left-right coalitions, even if they’re only short term, when we look at where we have common ground, rather than where we differ?

RP: It might be. And, you know, there are lot of Democrats — sometimes we assume that all Democrats tend to be overly socialistic. 

NPO: Bob Conley’s a great example of —– 

RP: Yeah. 

NPO: Of that sort you’re talking about. 

RP: Some Democrats do believe in the marketplace and — who knows? — it may be easier to build it with the Democrats, because there’s a tendency for them to be better on civil liberties and being anti-war.

NPO: Except for Barack Obama.

RP: Haha, yeah, that won’t work. 

I think that we need more Conleys joining the Democrats; it’s a philosophic struggle, not a partisan struggle. I’ll work with anyone; I want to bring those people together and worry about the other issues later. On the big issues, we should come together. 

NPO: Can we possibly, in our current state, recover from the Wall Street welfare that we’re witnessing right now?

RP: Yeah, but it’s going to be difficult if we continue to do what we’re doing. We’re going to go downhill until they throw in the towel and say, “You can’t just print money to solve they problem.” They’re destined to destroy the dollar if they keep creating new money and credit. What comes out of this depends on whether we come to our senses.

Right now, it doesn’t look too good in Washington, but outside of Washington, I’ve been encouraged to see these tens of thousands of young people listening to the message of freedom. People are paying attention to us because they know that things aren’t working. We’re not on the horizon of a victory, but I think that we’re going to hold our own, and there’s every reason to believe it’s worth the effort.

NPO: Okay. 

You believe that we need to withdraw our troops from Iraq; I do, too. Something that has bothered me is how we exit that country morally justified after leaving it in shambles. Hussein was a terrible leader, but at least stability existed. We have turned Iraq into a quagmire; we have made it possible for al-Qaeda to work there. How do we find an answer that gets us out of there, where we don’t belong, and doesn’t leave the people of Iraq worse off?

 

RP: I believe that Iraq will be better off. Maybe not immediately, but they used that argument in then 1960s: If we ever left Vietnam, the Soviets or Chinese would take over, and they’d be Communists forever. Well, we left and there was a bit of chaos, because we and the French had been ruining their country for twenty years. Stopping the killing never can be a bad idea. Just stop the killing and leave and let the people of the country take care of it. Let the Iraqis have their country back again; it may well be a lot better than anything we ever dreamed of. 

Continuing to do the wrong thing, to do things that are immoral and against the Constitution, that we cannot afford, doesn’t make any sense whatsoever. The good has to come by changing that policy, although there may be a short period where there may be some realignments. They would be better off, and we’ll be better off. We have to leave anyway, because we’re going broke and can’t afford it. We might as well do it under a calmer set of circumstances, rather than waiting until we’re running, panicking, and trying to get out.

NPO: Okay.

That’s about all I have. Anything that you’d like to finish this off with, anything to speak to the readership that we’re going to have at this paper?

RP: If young people read and study why freedom works and why the market works and why we don’t need the income tax or the Fed — if they read it and understand it and promote those ideas — things will change. The next generation, they’re the ones that really can make the difference.

NPO: Okay. Whom should they read? 

RP: The Law by Bastiat. Any book by Murray Rothbard, especially The Great Depression and What Has the Government Done to Our Money? A little more in depth, Mises on Austrian economics. I would certainly recommend the Mises Institute to find the books that would be very valuable for everybody.  Another book, Hayek’s book, influenced me a lot, The Road to Serfdom. That was one of the first books I read on economics.

NPO: Thank you so very much, Dr. Paul.

RP: Thank you.

Don’t blame the SoCons

Schwenkler:

To repeat: religious and social conservatives, like quite a lot of other conservatives, certainly deserve to be criticized for enabling the GOP’s collapse, and Rod isn’t saying otherwise. But causing it? By way of actual policy successes? Come on now …

This, in response to Rod’s piece, wherein he reminds us that blame for the GOP’s doom lies with the Establishment.

Bangarang! A pretty sweet zing from Sarah Palin

“I guess a small-town mayor is sorta like a community organizer, except that you have actual responsibilities.”

I have to give her credit for that one: It cracked me up. And it’s true. (I say this, of course, as a really bitter urban planning student.)

“He’s still my guy.”

I really hoped that we’d get some substance from Palin. The closest thing I heard was my roommate, Robert, reacting excitedly to the cameraman’s focusing on some girl with “huge boobs”, who turned out to be Bristol Palin. Nice job, Robert.

“Drill, baby, drill!”

Really? They actually wear “Drill ANWR now” badges at the RNC? You have to be f**king kidding me. 😦 I’m not necessarily wholly opposed to drilling in ANWR, but I realize that it will be a “drop in the bucket”, anyway, perhaps not worth the environmental damage. I cannot believe that the GOP has stooped to this level. Actually, I can.