ron paul

Limited Government Socialism

In a recent Vox post, Will Wilkinson argues that welfare states allow economic freedom. He makes the point that Scandinavian countries and Canada had more economic freedom than United States according to several rankingsdespite having a somewhat robust welfare state. For years in American politics mainly Republicans but often some neoliberal Democrats and even the most corporatist wing of the Libertarian Party have argued for trickle down economics in which they cut social programs while cutting taxes for the rich. Since Reagan, these have been portrayed as some sort of free market solution. Since the rich already receive generous handouts in the form of corporate welfare these policies are hardly libertarian.

What Wilkinson is proposing is some sort of limited government liberalism in line of liberaltarian ideas. He argues that a state should provide a basic safety net and social services but allow a truly free market. Even some right-leaning libertarians like Ron Paul have expressed surprise about how often Republicans want to cut social programs but enlarge the military budget (Wilkinson is also a critic of militarism and said if we want cut spending it should be military spending).

Wilkinson is right, he understands that undermining social programs and the safety net allow the rise of populists like Trump, who if victorious would make the economic problems of the country bigger. But I don’t think there is constituency for what Wilkinson is arguing (at least among average liberals), most of centrists in American and global politics are neoliberals not libertarians they would like to continue with corporatism in a disguise of being in favor of the free market.

What happened in Scandinavia is curious because social democratic governments recognize the failure of central planning and allow some economic liberalization that promoted economic growth and generate a prosperous society. But they are hardly libertarians. That the Scandinavian model is successful because these countries are ethnically homogenous is a very racist argument. Yes, the Scandinavian countries have large white majority, but they had accepted large amount of humanitarian refugees from Africa and Middle East, so they are more diverse than Poland or Hungary, both countries with serious economic problems despite being more homogenous. The big reason the Scandinavian model can’t be put in place in other countries is that they are still small countries that are easier to manage. I can’t imagine a Scandinavian model working in larger states like United States, China or India.

But there is still something that could work. I’m a left-libertarian closer to anarchism that to minarchism but I would like present a minimal program who could require being involve in electoral politics. My proposal is limited government socialism. I know the term sounds funny but it was inspired when I listen Ralph Nader in an interview at the Cato Institute saying he was willing to cut 50 percent of Washington spending, you never hear that from a DLC type Democrat.

I think it shouldn’t be a surprise the American left is broader than just liberals, for example the New Left was widely decentralist and to some extend their influence continues even today. John O. Norquist, the former mayor of Milwaukee who described himself as a fiscally conservative socialist is one example. I think this model is better than the Big Government Libertarianism proposed by Wilkinson. My difference with Norquist was that his expertise was urban planning. I support something close to the Carl Oglesby style of libertarianism. Oglesby the former president of the SDS knew that among liberalism there is an imperialist strain that talks in language of the left: human rights and democracy. But he knew that good intentions could end up in mass murder. On the other hand Oglesby used to think that his particular style of populist libertarianism (not to mistake with libertarian populism) could appeal to both left and right. On the left there was a call to decentralization and on the right the concept of a truly limited government.

So in doing that, the state should be reduced to a few public services like education, healthcare, security and infrastructure while offering a Universal Basic Income. Stop privatizing things and allow a truly free market arrive. The state shouldn’t have public companies but enforce a strong property rights protection against pollution could be good for the ecology. The state shouldn’t recognize patents because they are government granted privilege and that would lower the cost of medicines and software. End the War on Drugs. Erase zoning codes. Eliminate mandatory occupational licenses. Repeal the Patriot Act. Close the military bases abroad.

Someone could ask what about the social issues. As someone could guess I and the majority of socialists are pro-choice, pro-gay rights, anti-discrimination and in favor of a more free immigration system. Though I don’t think that an adherent of limited government socialism makes you a SJW — quite the contrary, Karl Hess of all people used to argue that radical left should seek an alliance with religious conservatives because if they honest about their beliefs their main allegiance is to God not the state. Women’s rights are the reason some believe the left-right libertarian alliance of the 60s fell apart, but I think the respect of different opinions should be fundamental.  On gay rights, I think respecting religious liberty should be fundamental. If communities do not want to accept immigrants they shouldn’t be forced to do, in the case of America it should try avoid get into conflicts that generate refugees. On discrimination, I think affirmative action is a lame government response to the problems affecting minority communities, my belief is that less intrusive welfare programs could generate an economic boom in these communities and as result social transformation, then I think affirmative action would no longer be needed.

Even a right-wing populist libertarian like Ron Paul says the word capitalism shouldn’t be defended, that the goal libertarians should be promote free markets along the board. I agree, I’m a socialist not because I’m a fan of the Che Guevara or Fidel Castro but because I’m a fan Eugene Debs and Norman Thomas. I think early American socialists were right about what American foreign policy would do to America: make it less free. To be fair, I consider myself a libertarian in the Karl Hess way, so libertarianism, anarchism and socialism are synonyms for a decentralist kind of politics, but like Hess I admit there are conservative elements in my own politics, that’s why I admire people like Bill Kauffman.

My plan is far from perfect but I think it’s better than what social democrats and even some left-wing revolutionary parties do when they reach power. That is: to get along with the oligarchy and enact a few reforms while not promoting true social change. Just to be clear, I think limited government socialism will still be part of libertarianism because I think it is still compatible with the ideal of creating a free society. I would even add that it’s not incompatible with the non-aggression principle, even if I know that anarchists would disagree. On anarchism, despite of my personal sympathies for the Zapatistas and the Kurds, I don’t think that the majority of nation states are moving in that direction but if I’m wrong I would be happy, this model is just one model inspired by my peculiar politics that are in the middle of Ron Paul and Ralph Nader.

Ron Paul, Donald Trump and the future of libertarianism

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A little known congressman from Texas became a folk hero American politics for his conviction when he debated with the hawkish Rudy Giuliani, defending his own brand of anti-imperialism. When the supposed common sense would had said that his campaign was over, his results in 2008 showed the possibility of a libertarian future. He was reaching beyond the base of reliably antiwar voters like progressive and radical activists. He counted among his supporters pro-lifers, gun rights advocates and militias. Independents like soccer moms and small business owners also were interested.

Brian Doherty argued in the Ron Paul counter convention of 2012 that the most probable thing would be for his fans to become what Pat Robertson fans were in the eighties after they failed to nominate their candidate: they become part of the GOP. Indeed the religious right is part of the GOP that the establishment can’t ignore but the analogy wasn’t complete. While there are some arguments about how the religious right had become a powerful force they haven’t be able to elect a candidate of their own.

In a GOP when the most likely future is having Donald Trump as nominee is there a future for Libertarian Republicans? People initially were thinking that Rand Paul was just a younger Paul but his moderation has made angry the most hardcore fans of his father. With a big government Republican like Trump, the future is not a bright as one day it was supposed to be when everybody think Rand Paul was a sure thing for 2016. Certainly Trump has mocked the establishment in a way Ron Paul couldn’t despite being fairly more anti-establishment than the reality celebrity. But some Ron Paul supporters are now backing Trump and others Bernie Sanders. Could someone make any conclusion of these? Certainly not all Ron Paul supporters were libertarians but most were anti-establishment that’s why supporting Sanders or Trump make some sense.

The problem for Libertarian Republicans is that in that leaving the GOP would maybe not be a wise choice. The natural place to go would be the Libertarian Party, which has plenty of problems of their own. Despite being the largest third party, it has never garnered beyond 1 percent of the vote. I don’t necessarily think that third parties are a lost cause. But looking at the contenders of the LP nomination, I don’t think they are the ones to be capable of challenging the system. Gary Johnson is the libertarian version of Jon Hunstman, interesting but not exciting. John McAfee is the kind of eccentric candidate that is almost a cliché. While Austin Petersen tries to make his youth his selling point, ignoring the fact that most successful libertarian Ron Paul was a happy grandfather when he became popular.

But for libertarians stay in the GOP could be hurtful process, I don’t think many hardcore rothbardians would be able to go to vote for Trump so they would be distancing themselves from the party for a little while. The future will depend on whether Trump wins or loses. I honestly think that despite that Hillary Clinton is terrible she would be able to beat Trump. Clinton is probably one of the most intelligent politicians out where, she knows how to play beyond its base, like speaking about releasing classified information of UFOs, she knows there is a public for that. Trump probably would try to sound more populist to gain the independent vote but these is problematic since a lot of independent voters are minorities angered with him over his positions on immigration.

They may still be some light in the tunnel. A new generation of GOP politicians are more libertarian like Justin Amash, Mike Lee and Raul Labrador. Amash on some issues is a reminding of the radicalism of Ron Paul but with more smooth style. In a loss of Trump, libertarians should argue that libertarian conservativism is the only way to attract more people for a party dependent in a declining demographic.

But libertarians could go beyond politics, anarcho-capitalism appears to be radical option for libertarians angry about the current electoral climate. There are also left-libertarians that try to merge a support for free market and social justice. The growth of Bitcoin and the sharing economy may be a powerful driving force but there is also the Free State Project in New Hampshire.

Libertarians may learn an important lesson from Donald Trump. For a long time libertarians had argue over what are the correct ideas, but they hadn’t focused much on the candidates. Ron Paul was able to become a visible candidate because of his conviction. It is time for libertarians to realize that an individualist movement needs individuals that could promote libertarian ideals.

What the Latin American left could learn from Ron Paul?

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Ron Paul is clearly one of the most influential politicians in America. His presidential campaigns popularized libertarianism in a way no one had  before. Libertarians overseas know him, and a lot of them had a genuine appreciation, but people outside the United States who are not libertarians don’t know him. The foreign media probably doesn’t have a clue why a Republican Party presidential candidate is against war and supports drug legalization.

I’m a Peruvian who came to politics from the radical left but after getting familiar with libertarianism, I think there are a lot of things that the Latin America left could learn from Ron Paul.

Ending the War on Drugs is the most obvious libertarian idea that the left should embrace. Prohibition of drugs was part of an imperialist policy that generated the corruption of Latin American governments and had caused the boom of large narco guerrillas which endanger the civil population mostly in Mexico and Central America but also in Peru and Colombia.

The drug legalization argument could be based on the idea of individual responsibility and freedom of choose, conservatives would sound like hypocrites if they attack these policy on that grounds.

Oppose corporate free trade deals. That’s a position that the left wings in most countries oppose, but Chile, now governed by the Socialist Party, supporting TPP shows that there are exceptions. Even in countries where there is a right-wing government the left should use the argument that free trade deals are just corporate protectionism and have nothing to do with free markets. What could be reaction of conservatives in a parliament if a left-wing congressman argue against free trade while mentioning Ron Paul and the works of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute on the matter? The conservatives would not only look like hypocrites but also ignorant if they continue to support that policy.

Show respect for civil liberties. The Latin American left had a bad experience in the past with coup d’états promote by the United States but I hardly believe that the protests of indigenous people in Bolivia or Ecuador are a product of imperialism. The right of free speech and free assembly should be consider fundamental for any left-wing government.

Stand for anti-imperialism. Imperialism is not a myth of the left but a real policy of global expansion of influence by the United States. Quoting a conservative congressman from United States would made clear that imperialism is not creation of the left but a reality.

Closing U.S. military bases in the region should be a priority, and reducing military spending. The nationalism of Latin American armies is dangerous. A lot of corrupt military leaders had participated in coup d’états in the region. Giving more money and power to them is not a good idea.

While maybe some readers could had been surprised at beginning of the text, there are several policies proposed by Ron Paul that the Latin American left could embrace. In the American context, Ron Paul is to the left of Barack Obama. Ron Paul had spoken that despite not agreeing with the policies of Venezuela, he doesn’t think that sanctions have done any good. Ron Paul has been saying that United States shouldn’t intervene in Latin America and that the embargo toward Cuba must end. He has some fans in the region — probably not part of left — but maybe Latin American radicals could learn something from the Ron Paul revolution.