A Paulbot (much like the mad hatters that comprise the tea party) cannot be repaired by logical argument or social science any more than a broken toaster can be restored with a carefully applied bandage. They are one trick ponies, single-minded AIs with a dazzling persistence, broken records that all sound suspiciously and unpleasantly reminiscent of Rush.
Their particular brand of fringe lunacy has aroused comparatively little public ire lately, and maybe it’s natural that Ron Paul has begun to sink beneath the radar. It could be that the general public is more agitated by Mitt Romney’s aristocratic mien, so universally suspect and so particularly revolting to Americans, who have historically had a little less patience with elitism than the wealth-worshipping college clique that is the conservative movement of today.
Paul’s fading presence might also be attributed to Newt Gingrich’s turn as national trans-continental jester. Gingrich’s refreshingly overt racism and variety pack of wives are reality entertainment at its finest. This stuff is easily more flamboyant than Ron Paul’s folksy, down-home habit of publishing racist newsletters and cashing checks from Nazis.
Meanwhile, Rick Santorum’s relentless ravings about the “homosexual menace” are almost Freudian; they warmly welcome us to speculate on Santorum’s own sexuality, and the roots of his obsession. Who doesn’t love to play at being an amateur psychologist?
Compared to this trifecta of devolution, Ron Paul and his votaries have smaller numbers and probably a little less pure chutzpah. Though they are plenty consistent and as hysterically vocal as any snake-handling congregation, they’ve been drowned out by either the sheer numbers or the greater public relations skills behind the Mormon Mammon, the Polygamist (not the same guy!), and the homophobe. To get to the point, we can now see that the idea of a Ron Paul presidency stops just short of complete impossibility – and his slim chances of a tenure in the White House are mostly provided for by Murphy’s Law with a dash of chaos theory.
Then why fret so over Paul and his Libertarian goons? Glad you asked, Virginia, and we’ll get to it shortly. But first we have to distinguish libertarians and libertarianism from the garden variety Neo-Republicans that have been sprouting like toadstools since the acidified rainstorm that was the Reagan administration.
The mainstream Republican party, as we all know, comprises two very disparate demographics. On the one hand there are rich men of business who intend to remain as rich (and preferably as filthy) as possible. Public spirit and social justice aside, that’s basic self-interest, and nothing surprising.
Of course, wealth has a problem of a pyramidal nature. The very concept of one person being “rich” requires a disproportionate cache of capital gains compared to the general population. As a mathematical reality, rich folks can never be a majority. As such, Republicans must also count on the support of generally lower-class provincials who are helped least of anyone by Republican fiscal policy, but have been seduced into voting against their own interests through strategic misdirection on social issues. As long as they stay scared of gay rights, separation of church and state, and immigrants, these deceived citizens tend not to notice a few millionaires paying tax rates lower than their own. These two branches of the Republican base, one imagines, do not often meet at cocktail parties.
But Libertarians are another beast altogether, and as their vaguely Randist/Nietzschean idealogy slouches toward Washington waiting to be born, it poses some very real questions about the American moral conscience that can’t be simply explained away by the human constants of greed and stupidity.
This brings us to Ron Paul and his recent tirade on CNN. Reiterating Paul’s anarchist verbal spasms verbatim is like chronicling the bark patterns in 40 acres of Oak to try and describe the tree, so let’s stick to his main points, which are consistent with his stance on Katrina victims: FEMA is inefficient (I don’t see Paul volunteering an alternative), the Federal Government has no right to tax or spend (the preamble says otherwise), and victims should have been fully insured (as if insurance companies turned a profit by consistently honoring their policies). Paul’s alternative to ever-affordable and patently reliable insurance companies is a general exodus of the lower classes from tornado alley. To what promised land Paul would send them, God only knows. Considering the general attitude toward the poor and middle class evinced in his voting record (abolishing minimum wage, breaking unions, destroying workman’s comp), one can only imagine it would look something like Auschwitz. The nazi parallel isn’t entirely absurd - it’s old news that Paul picked up a bit of pocket change from Stormfront.
In any case, the general attitude fostered by Paul toward natural disasters other varieties of human suffering is “Not my problem”.
Of course, human history doesn’t cotton too well to the “every man for himself” mentality. Lacking in feathers, fur, fin, carapace, and venom, human beings are remarkably fragile organisms. We can gather food and survive in a relatively limited climatic range. But what we do have is the most complex symbiosis and the most consistent use of cooperation of any other terrestrial life form. Our place at the top of the food chain, it would seem, owes a lot less to unmitigated self-interest and anti-collectivism than conservatives would have us believe.
William Blake once wrote:
“The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship”. He might well have substituted “society”, “civilization”, or even “democracy” and articulated the key to our survival with remarkable clarity.
But a society that functions on a basis of cooperation inherently implies some level of egalitarianism. We are in this together. And that fact does not appeal to an ego that craves unchecked expansion and potentially infinite dominance over other human beings.
And here we begin to see the sinister appeal of Paul’s libertarianism, hiding behind its strategically appealing Latin root-word.
It isn’t economic. Though libertarians and tea partiers will claim that government controls like anti-trust and minimum wage laws interfere with the all-holy market and weaken the economy, they have no empirical evidence to support this. Unlike students of Psychologist B.F. Skinner’s theories, hippie agriculturalists, and religious enclaves of all varieties, Libertarians have never managed to break away from the mainstream society they so detest and form a community to show the world the way. So economics can’t be their strength.
It isn’t an issue of civil liberties. Paul and Libertarians toss around catch-phrases about deploring the “initiation of force”, but they really only seem to have a problem when that force is being applied to the federal government to protect the rights of some vulnerable party.
Keep in mind that Paul has openly stated that he would’ve voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and has conveniently dodged all issues of LGBT rights by referring it back to “the states”. Of course, it isn’t hard to see the track record that state level governments have for protecting the rights of citizens – all we have to do is look at Mississippi. Even the most obvious human rights issue in our country’s history was only resolved by the federal government “initiating force” against Johnny Reb. It was the federal supreme court that enshrined a woman’s control over her own body with Roe V. Wade – before the federal government became involved, less than a dozen states recognized that right. It was federal action that ended segregation of Southern Schools.
So libertarians and their principles don’t exactly have the high-ground on the rights and safeties of the individual citizen, unless that citizen happens to be a CEO who would prefer to toss carcinogens into the air, mercury into the rivers, and probably radioactivity into you and me, and pay lower taxes than a registered nurse or a police officer while he’s at it.
No, the power of Paul’s vision, carefully blended from anarchist daydreams and hyper-capitalist amorality, is the way it appeals to the lowest, most egomaniacal part of the human mind.
“Why should I pay taxes? What does emergency relief have to do with me? I’m not the victim. Why shouldn’t I be allowed to impose my private racism or sexism onto the public sphere through my business? Why should unemployed people eat? Why should I pay for schools that I’m not attending?”
Of course, there are reasonable answers to all of these questions. Taxes are the price we pay for civilization, and at our level of development, we expect things like functioning roads, public safety, and sanitation.
A society where all people have an opportunity to be treated as citizens is the only moral and sane society, and is also the only society free from the spectre of violent revolution. So we have sanctions against racial and religious oppression.
One of the uglier catches of a capitalist society with profit as its only moral compass is that employers maximize efficiency by hiring fewer people and working them harder.
Large-scale unemployment is inevitable when self-interest completely overwhelms social conscience, and has infinitely more to do with the unending greed of so-called “job creators” than with the mythical lazy poor so constantly attacked by conservatives.
Public education is the cornerstone of the social mobility libertarians so vehemently preach. If education is to be privatized and made a commercial commodity (as indeed, everything short of oxygen would be in Paul’s libertopia), then the rich and their offspring very quickly gain an even more absolute monopoly on education and gainful employment.
All of these arguments are sound, but the American libertarian doesn’t hear them. He isn’t listening with a part of the mind that’s capable of social consciousness. Paul is a brilliant snake charmer, and he plays to the Id. His language and his ideas resonate deep inside the Reptilian brian, and they chant endlessly: “I, Me, Mine”. The mantra of the sociopath.
Make no mistake. This is not a bleeding-heart argument. There is no attempt herein to manipulate perfectly noble human notions like compassion and equality to preach some nightmare “welfare state” that Libertarians have concocted in their cauldron of propaganda and nightmares. But Paul’s policies simply chart a straight course for social collapse.
What Paul, libertarians, and tea partiers fail to consider is that social science abhors a vacuum as much as physics, and one power is inevitably replaced with another. While no one wants to live in a totalitarian dystopia, people seriously underestimate how easily that totalitarianism can be made manifest by private interests. At the very least, our elected government has a theoretical obligation to its citizens. But what happens in Paul’s libertopia? Any conception of “public ownership” is a socialist monstrosity to Paul and his apostles. Let’s see how well your “liberty” holds up when Pepsi Cola can buy the entire water supply right out from under you and, without anti-trust legislation, drive the price as high as they please. So who wins?
The very rich, who, in Paul’s materialist religion (and capitalism is a religion to him), are tantamount to “the most virtuous”. Paul is a messiah for the morality of profit, and his followers sell their souls for the snobbish thrill of being included in the “elect”, the “saved”, the “enlightened”. The superiority of their rhetoric gives it away almost immediately. Who, but a total idiot, could put their trust in a crowd who routinely dehumanize all dissenters into “sheeple”?
It’s no secret that the political left has lost its teeth in recent years. Democrats in particular seem to feel some schoolyard obligation to be the “bigger man” and acknowledge merit in the opposition out of sheer fellowship. But when extremist pseudo-prophets like Ron Paul, gun-crazed reactionaries like the tea party, and apostles of Ayn Rand in general begin to garner social credibility, the stakes are far too high for polity.
It’s time we call Paul and his followers out for what they are. Their moral compass is the free market, their moral measure is profit. They chant words “liberty” and “dignity” like truncated psalms, but when you consider their hands-off approach to human rights, it’s clear that what they prize is the liberty of the haves to impose their value system onto the have-nots.
And so it follows that the libertarian/tea party camp, like the mainstream Republican cabal, is comprised of two main constituencies. There are, of course, the hopelessly adolescent, those unfortunately not inclined toward analysis or, even more unfortunately, geared toward laughably bad science fiction (there’s Ayn Rand again).
Then there are the true believers – social Darwinists of the highest order, demoniacal children who would rend the carefully constructed fabric of civilization to satisfy their fantasies of self-righteous superiority, unlimited acquisition, and complete absence of restraint. There have always been sociopaths through history. But now their values have become normalized and accepted to the point where they have a significant media presence and a semi-legitimate political outlet.
And that kind of social decay is newsworthy, Ron Paul not withstanding.