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Source link: http://archive.mises.org/8123/the-enemy-is-always-the-state/

The Enemy is Always the State

May 20, 2008 by

Let me state this as plainly as possible. The enemy is the state. There are other enemies too, but none so fearsome, destructive, dangerous, or culturally and economically debilitating. No matter what other proximate enemy you can name – big business, unions, victim lobbies, foreign lobbies, medical cartels, religious groups, classes, city dwellers, farmers, left-wing professors, right-wing blue-collar workers, or even bankers and arms merchants – none are as horrible as the hydra known as the leviathan state. If you understand this point – and only this point – you can understand the core of libertarian principle and strategy.

There have been tremendous advances in state theory in the twentieth century. Start with Franz Oppenheimer’s The State (1908). Read A.J. Nock’s Our Enemy, the State (1935). Learn from Chodorov’s Rise and Fall of Society (1959). Turn to Rothbard’s unsurpassed masterwork For a New Liberty (1973). To understand the historical sweep, see Martin Van Creveld’s Rise and Decline of the State (1999). Then you will understand why we do what we do. Until then, our critics are only unknowing dupes of the very forces they should be fighting. FULL ARTICLE

{ 35 comments }

magnus May 20, 2008 at 8:13 am

The reason that big business, unions, victim lobbies, foreign lobbies, medical cartels, religious groups, classes, city dwellers, farmers, left-wing professors, right-wing blue-collar workers, bankers and arms merchants represent a serious problem in the first place is due to their alliance with the state.

Joe Stoutenburg May 20, 2008 at 2:50 pm

There is one sense in which The Mises Institute (and to a greater degree LRC) may justly be charged with selling out. If the enemy is the state (I agree that it is), then your unqualified support for Ron Paul is difficult to defend.

I understand that Ron Paul is epitomized as an enemy of the state. Yet to support his candidacy is to legitimize the rules of the state. To illustrate your selling-out, check out the Non-Voting Archive at LRC:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/orig2/non-vote-arch.html

Many articles were written leading up to the 2004 election cycle. Not a single one was written after. (Lest the reader wonder whether the archive was not added to after 2004, I challenge anyone to locate an article against voting after that period.) Many of the articles were very principled stands against voting – not on the grounds that no good candidates were available but on the grounds that voting is immoral in itself and perpetuates the legitimacy of the whole statist farce.

I remain an interested student of Austrian economics and a devotee to liberty and voluntary associations. I am disappointed to be convinced that The Mises Institute has undermined a primary mission by associating positively with a political candidate.

Minnesota Chris May 20, 2008 at 3:47 pm

Joe: You’re right, there aren’t that many articles on LRC about voting since 2004, but could that be because that’s the last time there was a presidential election, which is when the civic religion is at a fever pitch?

But to answer your challenge, I did a quick search and found this from 2006:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/shaffer/shaffer147.html

As for Ron Paul, I think that he brings up so many issues that are near and dear to the Mises Institute that we would be remiss in not trying to spread the message. There are some articles that encourage actually voting for him, but most seem to be just trying to spread the word and get people interested in libertarianism and Austrian Economics.

I’m pretty sure Lew would tell you he would never encourage anyone to vote, even for Ron Paul, and I agree.

Nate May 20, 2008 at 6:31 pm

The reason I’m voting for Ron Paul (yes, I’m still voting for him) is because I believe he (or a candidate like him) is the next step in–perhaps the first step in–diminishing the power of the state, with the ultimate goal of eliminating the state.

Bruce Koerber May 20, 2008 at 7:54 pm

Dear Lew,

These involvements you have are providing all of us with a learning environment nestled in a point/counterpoint analysis. How can we ever thank you for being there from way back when up until the present to make it all possible for the rest of us.

The praise and then the condemnation is evidence that learning is taking place.

Continue to shower us with such an intellectually stimulating education.

With warm regards,
Bruce

Michael J. Palmer May 20, 2008 at 11:33 pm

I agree with Joe Stoutenburg. It’s a question of whether we libertarians should hack at the branches of statism or strike the root of it. If we keep affirming foundational statist premises like “the people control the government through magic ballot paper!” then the people will continue to reach statist conclusions, no matter how many economic theories we throw at them.

People are statists for one reason, and one reason only – they identify with the state. This identification with the state is maintained through rituals like elections. Elections are a propaganda tool. If we participate in them, we water the root of statism.

Michael J. Palmer May 20, 2008 at 11:36 pm

I agree with Joe Stoutenburg. It’s a question of whether we libertarians should hack at the branches of statism or strike the root of it. If we keep affirming foundational statist premises like “the people control the government through magic ballot paper!” then the people will continue to reach statist conclusions, no matter how many economic theories we throw at them.

People are statists for one reason, and one reason only – they identify with the state. This identification with the state is maintained through rituals like elections. Elections are a propaganda tool. If we participate in them, we water the root of statism.

Michael J. Palmer May 20, 2008 at 11:40 pm

Sorry about the double post.

Joe Stoutenburg May 21, 2008 at 8:13 am

Minnesota Chris:

Thank you for taking up my challenge. I admit to the likelihood that the archive has simply not been maintained after the 2004 election cycle. Mr. Shaeffer’s article was written for the 2006 elections. I suppose that there could have been a few more during that cycle. If I can further challenge you, can you find any such articles for our current 2008 cycle?

Awaitaing a reply on that challenge, I’d like to quote from the article that you linked:

The media priesthood has already begun the chant: if there is something wrong with the political system, we need to go to the polls to fix the problem. One of the media stalwarts has his own solution: “go to the polls and vote out every incumbent.” Don’t dare consider, of course, that there may be something fundamentally dysfunctional about the system itself. If drinking a quart of Scotch each day has given you cirrhosis of the liver, don’t bother with changing your habits, just change to another brand of Scotch!

Why does introducing Ron Paul (as fine a brand of Scotch as I admit he probably it) somehow remove the dysfunctional nature of the system? The next paragraph continues:

We need to remind ourselves of Albert Einstein’s admonition: “we can’t solve problems by using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them.” Trying to reform the political process makes no more sense than trying to reform the carnivorous appetites of jungle beasts. If it is your desire to put an end to the violent, destructive, corrupt, and dysfunctional nature of government, stop wasting your time by focusing on the current management of the system.

I agree wholeheartedly. Further in the article:

To create a system which, by definition, enjoys a legal monopoly on the use of force, and then allow that system to become the judge of its own authority, is an error of such enormity that one can only wonder why grown men and women would be surprised to discover such powers being “abused.” Creating the system is the abuse.

By backing Ron Paul, Mises is endorsing the system. I admit that he has raised awareness of important issues. Some good may come of that. But at the same time, he has spawned a movement that is convinced that it can accomplish great things through the machinery of politics and elections. If that movement does achieve success, how long will it be before it is highjacked by the people who have always profited from the system of monopolized violence? If it sticks to its free market rhetoric, do you really believe that it can somehow plan a free market? I’ll answer for you. Statists would easily hinder efforts to roll back the socialist state. When only parts of the state were rolled back (think energy “de-regulation”), free market opponents would easily be able to point to the inevitable failures (due to remaining interventions) and blame free markets.

This is not even to begin to address false flag operations and other crises that could be engineered to demonstrate that liberty does not work. I fear that a successful Ron Paul revolution – thrust upon an uneducated, unready population – could only discredit the very ideals that it claims to be built upon.

I suspect that Mr. Rockwell is acting out of impatience. He would surely like to see liberty advanced during his lifetime. But I fear that he is taking a shortcut. I don’t claim to be omniscient. If I am wrong and his efforts turn to good, then I’ll be glad. But I think that this endorsement of the political system is misguided. At best, it is a waste of time and a step backword in the education of many. At worst, it could be a disaster.

Joe Stoutenburg May 21, 2008 at 8:52 am

Nate, I did support Ron Paul for awhile using rationale similar to what you say. I based my support largely upon Murray Rothbard’s well-known article “How and How Not to Desocialize” (http://mises.org/daily/2415). In his conclusion, he wrote:

In a deep sense, getting rid of the socialist state requires that state to perform one final, swift, glorious act of self-immolation, after which it vanishes from the scene.

It was in challenging the premises of that article that my support for Ron Paul began to turn. Ultimately, what Rothbard wrote is true. Once the people will no longer tolerate statism, the state has to only give up. If/when that time comes, it will be an easy decision for the rulers. The people will be ignoring the state’s decrees and shooting at its tax collectors. The rulers might give up in the interest of self-preservation.

The premise that a socialist state can somehow plan de-socialization deserves close scrutiny. He makes the astute observation that you can not plan markets. Yet his entire article is, in a sense, a plan for government to open markets. This could easily be debated, I know. The argument would be semantic. I will not enter into it. Rather, I will address some specific objections.

His first principle was to not phase in. Do you really believe that government bureaucracies are capable of doing this? Could legislatures agree to release their control? Would the special interests allow their officials to do it? I can envision a Ron Paul-led attack on statism resulting in “concessions”. These “concessions” would be designed to retain the special interest benefits that law-makers serve and would surely backfire for the general public. This is the discredit that I alluded to in a previous post.

There is also the factor of public ignorance. Most people still crave a powerful central government. Do you expect our powerful central government to inflict liberty on these people? Most people simply don’t want liberty right now.

The task of the Mises Institute ought to be to educate these people, not to force a leader upon them by the coercive mechanisms of the state. Such political efforts are contradictions to liberty even when made in the name of liberty.

Minnesota Chris May 21, 2008 at 12:36 pm

Joe:

You’re right, I couldn’t find anything from this year that strongly urged non-voting, so you have a valid point there. However, does that mean that LRC and the Mises Institute are getting soft on the state? I think articles like the one we’re commenting one shows that’s not the case.

I understand there are two “camps” on whether supporting Ron Paul helps the prospects of liberty, and arguments from both sides have been widely debated on the internet. I am definitely in the camp that thinks that the Ron Paul Revolution may well be our best shot in turning the tide against statism! Butler Shaffer, who has written many non-voting articles, seems to agree, as he wrote in this article:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/shaffer/shaffer169.html

I quote:

“His [Ron Paul's] candidacy also revealed to the next generation of adults the benefits of decentralized ways of accomplishing social ends. This is the generation that will be incorporating the anarchistic principles of chaos theory – with its “butterfly effect” that so characterized the Paul campaign – into their lives and their children’s learning.”

Lew Rockwell explained in 2004:

http://mises.org/daily/1499

“Are there politicians who do some good? Certainly, and the name Ron Paul is the first that comes to mind. But the good he does is not as a legislator as such but as an educator with a prominent platform from which to speak. Every no vote is a lesson to the multitudes. We need more Ron Pauls.”

I think the Ron Paul campaign has been a tremendous opportunity to further educate the public on liberty. Dr. Paul has mentioned this on numerous occasions, and says that’s why he’s staying in the race even now.

I think we would be remiss not to help him out in his efforts.

josh m May 21, 2008 at 4:18 pm

Privately I support Ron Paul because I think a Paul-like regime would be a net increase in liberty compared to what we now have.

Publicly, I tread very carefully, and I never give him my unqualified support since I think many of the libertarian objections against him are sound.

First, we have the objection (already mentioned above) that support for any candidate in electoral politics—even unimpeachably sound libertarian candidates like Harry Browne, or Mary Ruwart—is a tacit endorsement of the state itself.

But even setting that argument aside for the moment, there is a separate objection, which is, namely, that Ron Paul is not a libertarian, but a statist, (albeit, far better than any of the alternatives, but a statist, nevertheless). I believe he takes too many statist positions to be considered a libertarian.

–I never heard him challenge taxation on the grounds that the state has no right to forcefully expropriate resources, only that it be done constitutionally. I suppose he has to make this compromise in favor of positivism to be consistent politically, but nevertheless, this is statism.

–I recently heard him say that regulation of drugs ‘should be left to the states’. What libertarian would ever say such a thing?

–I believe his immigration policy would interfere in the rights of individuals to associate freely.

–I think he has used the powers of the state apparatus to further social agendas he happens to favor.

Again, I support him privately, and I voted for him in my state’s primary election. I have strong reservations nevertheless.

Nate May 21, 2008 at 4:31 pm

Joe, I hadn’t thought of it like that. I’m reading that article right now.

You’re right, of course. One can not force freedom on people. Becoming free must be a conscious choice.

I wasn’t going to vote until I learned about Ron Paul I’m still voting for him. I still believe a candidate like him is necessary to prevent a (very) violent transition. I’ve seen enough violence in my life.

I’m not trying to force my will or a “leader” on you. I am doing what I believe to be in my rational self interest.

Nate May 21, 2008 at 5:30 pm

Apparently, I still have a lot to learn about being a libertarian. What I’ve gathered so far is that it’s about freedom.

I thought that Ron Paul believed in freedom. He’s certainly not a centrist…but I admit his answer of leaving almost everything “to the states” has given me pause. I’ve heard him say that various other things should be given over to the states…but I don’t recognize the authority of any government to tell me how to live, be it national, state, county, city, or anything else.

Maybe Ron Paul isn’t such a good choice, after all. I wanted so desperately to believe that there was hope.

Is this the future of liberty? To be nothing more than a discussion on the internet (until the government starts censoring that, too). I certainly don’t think Clinton or Obama or McCain are going to do anything to promote the ideas of liberty.

Alex Peak May 21, 2008 at 9:26 pm

Very good article from Mr. Rockwell. I quite enjoyed it.

Peter May 22, 2008 at 7:39 am

His first principle was to not phase in.

You’re misunderstanding. It’s not “not to phase in”, it’s “not to plan to phase in”. He talks about “left sectarianism” and “right opportunism”; you’re avoiding the latter and getting bogged down in the former.

Joe Stoutenburg May 22, 2008 at 8:02 am

Minnesota Chris:

We may quickly get into territory in which each of us sees what we want to see that supports our chosen view. But all the same, I’ll tell you my reactions to your linked articles:

Butler Shaeffer offers two reasons why he did not expect Ron Paul to win the presidency:

(1) the political establishment has far too much at stake playing with the trillions of tax dollars and other advantages of power to allow their racket to be disassembled; and (2) the American people are not of a frame of mind to vote for any such changes. And even if the voters were so inclined, they would not be likely to have the opportunity to so express themselves. The political establishment knows, as did Emma Goldman, that “if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.”

Admitting these points, I fail to see how promoting the election of Ron Paul educates people to resist the state. Michael Palmer (post above) was eloquent when he wrote:

People are statists for one reason, and one reason only – they identify with the state. This identification with the state is maintained through rituals like elections. Elections are a propaganda tool. If we participate in them, we water the root of statism.

As to the quote that you offered from the article, I focus on a small piece:

Ron Paul’s candidacy also revealed to the next generation of adults the benefits of decentralized ways of accomplishing social ends.

Many of his public speeches do speak to the peaceful “decentralized ways of accomplishing social ends.” But his actions speak to political ways – that is to say violent. I believe that people in your camp hope to see politics reduced to the local level and so better dealt with there (at least, that’s where I was when I supported him). On this, we can only speculate (and so could honestly remain in the separate camps). Personally, I believe that a movement that does not attack political institutions at their root will be ill-equipped to counter the efforts to retain power of those in control of those institutions.

Moving on to your article by Lew Rockwell, I might just as well have used it in its entirety to back my view. The section you quote is apologetic about Paul’s role as a legislator, saying that the good he does is as an educator and not as a legislator. The paragraph immediately preceding your quote is applicable:

When a libertarian tells me that he is doing some good as a procurement officer at HUD, I don’t doubt his word. But how much more would he do by quitting his job and writing an expose on the entire bureaucratic racket? One well-placed blast against such an agency can bring about more reform, and do more good, than decades of attempted subversion from within.

How marvelous would it be if Ron Paul quit his campaign, quit his job and denounced the institutions of politics? How would most of his supporters react, I wonder? I think that a lot of them would denounce him as a traitor.

Joe Stoutenburg May 22, 2008 at 8:54 am

Nate:

Is this the future of liberty? To be nothing more than a discussion on the internet (until the government starts censoring that, too).

I’ve encountered an attitude among Ron Paul supporters that I think you’re displaying. It is that “doing something” must mean a political solution. In my opinion, if you claim to work for liberty and you take any political action, you are working against your stated aims. There are certainly other things to do to advance liberty. Minnesota Chris’ article is actually a good start. Going back one more paragraph from the one I last quoted to him:

The thousands of young people who are discovering the ideas of liberty for the first time ought to stay away from the Beltway and all its allures. Instead, they should pursue their love and passion through arts, commerce, education, and even the ministry. These are fields that offer genuine promise with a high return.

http://mises.org/daily/1499

There is something else that we can do. Resist. Even if we can not currently physically resist statism, resist in our hearts. Educate others. If the ideals of liberty were accepted widely enough, physical resistance would be possible. If violence were employed, it would be the just application of violence in self-defense.

Also, I think that it is paramount that we rear families and remain in society. I don’t have any proof for this, but I believe that radicals in the past have tended to be anti-social and to infrequently have children. Today, opponents of the state are more frequently to be found among mainstream people. We have families. Personally, I will teach my children how to live (and hopefully thrive) in a world dominated by states, but I will teach them to deplore states and to do what they safely may do to resist them.

I think that the notion that trading ideas amounts to doing nothing is a mark of impatience. I can understand it, but I believe it is a mistake to short cut this battle of ideals by embracing any part of the state.

Joe Stoutenburg May 22, 2008 at 9:07 am

Peter:

The exact words from Rothbard’s article are Do Not Phase In. He makes no mention of the terms you name in that article. If you think, however, that I am misunderstanding his meaning, I would be glad to know more of what you mean if you’ll explain. I’m afraid that I am not familiar with your terms. If I’m getting bogged down in either, it is not consciously.

My point though, is that any solution engineered within a large political system will necessarily be phased in. Stakeholders within the system will resist any actions that threaten their interests. “Compromises” would certainly be made. But they would fail miserably and leave statists in a stronger position that what they started.

Pending any clarification from you on any errors you think I’m making, I remain strongly convinced that any ideas of planning de-socialization from within the machinery of the state is a horrible contradiction in terms.

Cosmin May 22, 2008 at 10:29 am

I think those who want to advance liberty but oppose Ron Paul are misguided.
There are a few available choices that you must select from:
1. Don’t vote. The media will not inquire as to your motivation and the public will assume you were just too busy playing videogames to give a crap. You’ve advanced nothing.
2. Vote for yourself as a write-in or vote for “blank” (if applicable). The protest vote. People will be confused as to why you took the time to go vote and yet decided not to really participate in the system. You will then have the opportunity to educate them. Most people wouldn’t even notice you, though.
3. Vote for Ron Paul. It doesn’t matter if you think he will end the state or not. He will certainly weaken it. He will create conditions where it will be easier to reach people with your message of freedom. How? I don’t think a government headed by Ron Paul would hound Ed and Elaine Brown in the same manner the current one did. When people face the possibility of not paying income tax and are removed from the fear of reprisals, they will ally to your movement or a parallel movement and inquire as to what the consequences of their new-found liberty are. You will then have the opportunity to educate them.
You will also have all the time in the world to pick the other 2 options in the next elections.
What will I do? I live in Canada, so I can only try to educate. Those of you living in the USA can do more.

Joe Stoutenburg May 22, 2008 at 11:58 am

Cosmin:

I’m still not convinced. I will continue to assert that backing the state in any way is contrary to advancing liberty. I’ll respond to your individual “choices”:

1. I have more of a voice than voting. The people who know me know why I don’t vote. The people who don’t know me won’t care if I didn’t vote or if I wrote in Mickey Mouse. The establishment will, of course, try to convince its willing subjects that non-voters are apathetic. It’s up to us to inform them. When the majority of people choose to not vote out of principle, it will be more difficult for the political institutions to cover up the movement.

2. It is the system that I am protesting. How do I protest it by participating. I refer you back to Michael Palmer’s post.

3. I will not agree with you on your certainty that Ron Paul would weaken the state. While I know that would be his intention, I think that we are naive if we believe that the establishment will simply roll over and allow anyone to strip them of their privileges.

Ron Paul supporters seem to have this idea that their movement can discover some magic formula or rules within political institutions that will make the establishment rulers powerless to resist liberty from within the state. For emphasis, I repeat Butler Shaeffer again:

To create a system which, by definition, enjoys a legal monopoly on the use of force, and then allow that system to become the judge of its own authority, is an error of such enormity that one can only wonder why grown men and women would be surprised to discover such powers being “abused.” Creating the system is the abuse.

In the long run, the state can only be resisted by striking at its root. I understand that change can seem slow when done the way I suggest and that you hope for dramatic changes by working within the system. But I just don’t think that it will work. The stakes are much higher when examining the expansions of state power and people talking about world governments. If there are people who seek to rule us, playing their game might only discredit us while serving their purposes. I say to leave their game alone and work to turn people against them.

Eduardo May 22, 2008 at 12:40 pm

Joe, you oppose voting for Ron Paul, or anybody, saying “we are naive if we believe that the establishment will simply roll over and allow anyone to strip them of their privileges.”, and nothing “will make the establishment rulers powerless to resist liberty from within the state.”

I think the same arguments can be made against not voting. Do you believe that the establishment will change if there is a massive absence in voting?
I think that they will not do that, they will continue to hold power.

I read that in every US election less than half of the voters do vote, please correct me if not. Not matter the percentage, there is always a lot of non votes. And nothing had changed, right?

I am inclined to the proposition of producing the change from inside, but your arguments are sound also. So I am not sure which is the way to go.

In any case, for both ways, most important is to educate the people. The pressure of informed citizenry is what will make the changes.

Minnesota Chris May 22, 2008 at 12:53 pm

Joe:

I agree that there are many in the pro-Ron Paul camp that think his candidacy provides the best option for a political path to a freer society, and it’s possible that this will not be good for the prospects of liberty in the long run. You think that possibility outweighs the fact that Dr. Paul has educated many on important issues, and I disagree.

I know for me personally, this has been a tremendous opportunity to talk about freedom with those who would not normally be receptive at all. Most people I’ve talked with aren’t ready for that next step and see that the state itself is the problem, but at least they’re thinking outside the box and seeing the issues from a fresh perspective. Perhaps in time, through more conversations and sharing articles from websites like LRC and Mises.org, more will come to realize who our true enemy really is.

Time will tell who is right, but I think the educational value of his campaign and work in Congress will have lasting positive effects on the freedom movement. And if he had not run for president, would a book he wrote, which prominently praises Austrian Economics, be on the New York Times bestseller list for four weeks (and counting)? Perhaps Dr. Paul is today’s Thomas Paine, and this is the best shot we’ll ever have to bring people on the side of freedom.

Joe Stoutenburg May 22, 2008 at 3:19 pm

Eduardo:

You’re right. Not voting in itself is insufficient to induce change. The fact is, non-voters today are composed (this is probably an incomplete list) of the apathetic, the dis-illusioned and the principled. The first two groups are no threat to the establishment. The political rulers would have everyone believe that all non-voters fall into these two groups. The fact is, the third group is not yet large enough to influence matters though it is growing.

I think that most people reading would agree that our goal is to foster a large number of people who take principled stands against the state. We disagree over whether such people can be created by influencing them to participate in political elections.

People who choose to not vote out of principle would also resist or ignore unjust laws, refuse to pay taxes and stop sanctioning crimes committed by state officials. As I have gathered from my readings here at the Mises Institute, the state only has power to the extent that it is sanctioned. If people ignored it, it would disappear. By participating in its rituals, you feed it and grant it legitimacy.

So yes, I think you are correct that voter turn-out is something a little less than 50%. Nothing has changed because very few of these non-voters have any mind to resist the state. If I may pick on you a bit (not intending to be mean – just hope to make a point), you just promoted (though perhaps not intentionally) the attitude that things can only change if people vote.

That is just what the establishment wants us to think.

Nate May 22, 2008 at 4:08 pm

Joe, I’m beginning to see your point.

The truth is, I am impatient to reduce and finally eliminate the power of the state. I know firsthand how these people love to control lives, and I’ve seen firsthand the violent culture that statism breeds. I am eager to throw off the yoke of government, because I am tired of the government trying to control my life.

In Ron Paul, I see a man with the potential to limit the power of the federal government in my lifetime, and I believe that will help free up more assets to reduce the power of governments elsewhere, from the state on down. I see a course of action, and I am going to take it.

The ideas of liberty, of course, are far more important than the man himself, but he has certainly helped raise awareness of libertarian ideas.

And to quote a certain guy, “Ideas are bulletproof.” But when those ideas lead me to a certain course of action, I feel that I would be irresponsible if I did not take it.

Joe Stoutenburg May 22, 2008 at 4:16 pm

Minnesota Chris:

If someone endorsing Ron Paul’s candidacy isn’t promoting a “political path to a freer society” then what are they promoting? I endorse what he teaches about Austrian economics. I applaude his calls to abolish the Federal Reserve and IRS and to bring U.S. troops home. I have enjoyed seeing him expose the hypocrisy and lack of substance in politics and the media. But all of this is different than cheering him on toward becoming head of state.

You seem to have softened your stance a bit (though I may simply have poorly understood it). Your argument has gone from endorsing his candidacy to praising the educational opportunities he has raised. I agree that the profiles of The Mises Institute and LRC have been enhanced. But at what cost? I wrote earlier about taking short cuts and this is it. Many people have at the same been introduced to Austrian economics and been convinced that American politics can finally be made good and noble “again”. Those two views are contradictory. In our world of nationalistic pride, which will dominate and survive?

The comparison of Ron Paul to Thomas Paine is apt. Yet it should not be forgotten that Thomas Paine and the other Founders introduced the seeds for popular government “by the people.” We should be careful to not fall in line with statist worship of these people (fine as many of their characters may have been).

Joe Stoutenburg May 22, 2008 at 4:22 pm

Thank you to the people who have conceded at least parts of my points. To be fair, I do recognize the good will and educational efforts of many in the Ron Paul movement. And though I strongly disagree with their endorsement of state institutions, they have my sympathies.

I am left reflecting upon the difficulty of getting Mises Institute readers to abandon political institutions. It kind of discourages me at the prospects of influencing rank and file Ron Paul supporters (let alone general Americans) to do so. Yet I have known a few people to reject the state to about the same point as have I. Once so convinced, I don’t think any of us go back.

Minnesota Chris May 22, 2008 at 5:27 pm

Joe:

If I gave the impression that I endorsed Ron Paul as a presidential candidate, I didn’t mean to; I took myself off the voting roles shortly after the 2000 election and plan never to vote again. However, I do applaud his candidacy because of the platform it provided to talk about liberty. As I guess I made more clear in my second post, it’s about educating the public, and what better platform to do that from than a presidential election as a candidate in a major party.

I fully agree with you that we should work toward a stateless society; I think Ron Paul’s candidacy and continuing work in Congress is a tremendous means to that end because it sows seeds of liberty. In my opinion, people already exposed to ideas on liberty are more likely to take the next step and oppose the state itself. I have nothing empirical to back that up with, but I know it worked for me.

Thank you for the discussion, it raised some good points to ponder. Hopefully we can agree to disagree and continue to work together for liberty!

Cosmin May 22, 2008 at 5:30 pm

I have never voted and am completely against the concept of electing someone who will have power over me. I fully understand Joe’s position.
Having said that, I still think voting for Ron Paul is a good idea. Here’s why:
A huge percentage of the population, in addition to being ignorant of Austrian economics are close-minded. They don’t even want to hear about it or think about it or entertain the idea of learning about it. You can try to educate them, but they don’t want to listen because they don’t care about who you are enough to want to learn what you stand for.
However, if someone holding a position they’ve traditionally respected extolled the virtues of Austrian economics, they might listen.
You may see voting as a betrayal of your principles, but in the real world, you have to fight the staists on their own ground, especially if there is a chance you can win.
Think of slavery for instance. If I live in a world where slavery exists, which of the following actions would make a bigger statement:
1. Standing on a street corner, denouncing slavery on principle.
2. Buying slaves and releasing them immediately and with great fanfare.

Someone being given power and relinquishing it, that is more powerfull than statements about not wanting power. It’s why Marcus Aurelius told Maximus Decimus Meridius: “That is why it has to be you.”
Is Ron Paul that kind of man? I have to believe so.

Nate May 22, 2008 at 6:03 pm

Cosmin:

While I certainly agree with what you say about Ron Paul, I must say that releasing slaves immediately would be disastrous. I think someone who’s been a slave their whole life would be unable to cope with the ideas and realities of immediate and complete freedom.

Hmm. Writing that, I think I just understood Joe’s arguments about patience and education of ideas being vital.

guy May 22, 2008 at 11:22 pm

As an ancap guy I like ron paul but I can only fear what would happen if he is elected president:
1) Allies with Kucinich (as the only supporter paul could have in the congress) and the economically uneducated thereby causing ron paulism to be synonymous with new leftism; which can only weaken his focus on free markets.
2)Allows the states to do whatever the hell they like because it’s “state’s rights”.
3)Makes it generally impossible for ancap to flourish anyways since the const. says that all state gov. are guaranteed (as a matter for the survival of the national gov.) a republican state-form.
So basically, I applaud his teaching but I wonder about his presidency.

guy May 22, 2008 at 11:24 pm

As an ancap guy I like ron paul but I can only fear what would happen if he is elected president:
1) Allies with Kucinich (as the only supporter paul could have in the congress) and the economically uneducated thereby causing ron paulism to be synonymous with new leftism; which can only weaken his focus on free markets.
2)Allows the states to do whatever the hell they like because it’s “state’s rights”.
3)Makes it generally impossible for ancap to flourish anyways since the const. says that all state gov. are guaranteed (as a matter for the survival of the national gov.) a republican state-form.
So basically, I applaud his teaching but I wonder about his presidency.

Joe Stoutenburg May 23, 2008 at 8:52 am

Minnesota Chris:

I think that I’ve caught up to your position. Our opinions do remain somewhat apart, but that’ll happen in a free society. I think that our disagreements have been freindly all along, and I too have enjoyed the exchange.

I do still remain very critical of LRC for its strong endorsement of Ron Paul. Applauding his candidacy (as I do as well to a point) is quite different from endorsing it, helping him raise money, urging people to vote for him and so forth. For an organization that has “anti-state” in its banner, it has been decidedly pro-state. I fear that it has been working against some of its stated aims with regard to Ron Paul.

Joe Stoutenburg May 23, 2008 at 9:41 am

Another recent article by Lew Rockwell warned us that knowledge must be continually taught to new generations:

As we get older and see ever more young generations coming up behind us, we are often struck by the great truth that knowledge in this world is not cumulative over time. What one generation has learned and absorbed is not somehow passed on to the next one through genetics or osmosis. Each generation must be taught anew.

http://mises.org/daily/2982

I fear that in making compromises with the state that many will forget their opposition to it and settle down into believing that we have found political solutions to our problems. They will celebrate the advances of our “Constitutional Republic” or other such statist icons and forget that they have left the seeds for future tyranny. Indeed, I think that this happened to a great degree in the American Revolution.

The dilemma in which we find ourselves is to question whether we might get short term gains (i.e. avoid war with Iran, temporarily roll back the state, etc.) in exchange for working within political institutions. I admit that I remained for awhile at this position after I had decided my disagreement with Rothbard’s de-socialization plans. I finally officially denounced Ron Paul as I contemplated the likelihood of success for even modest retrenchment.

In this, I am applying my own subjective judgment. Clearly, other valid predictions are possible. In my opinion, the control exerted over society by political institutions is too great to expect much success from movements within government. I believe that any movements fostered within the state will be hindered, sabotaged and blamed for state failures. As I’ve written several times here, if those state-fostered movements are discredited, statists might be able to strengthen their positions. Because the public would not have been prepared, I think that they would be very susceptible to notions that liberty had failed. It would have been “proved” that we need a strong central state.

Has the public done anything to make us think that they would not fall for such rhetoric?

The implications of my stance are challenging, I must admit. Since I agree with the assessment offered by several of you that few people are ready to consider the state as the enemy, we could probably expect no short term improvement. Indeed, crisis would be likely (though I wonder if it isn’t so regardless of our actions). I think though that we must stand aside as consistent opponents of the state. Make no deals with it. In this way, our movement may be preserved and passed on (rather than supplanted by political patriots).

Like old superstitions, the concept of the need for the state might someday fade away. But that day will be pushed further off the more we make deals with the state. By approving in any way of political institutions, we are providing them the life blood that they need to survive.

Minnesota Chris May 23, 2008 at 9:44 am

Joe:

I do appreciate your position, and understand where you’re coming from. I agree that an “anti-state” website should not be promoting political action. But does LRC support Ron Paul because they want to see him elected? Here’s what LRC publisher Burt Blumert had to say early on:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/blumert/blumert122.html

“As to Ron Paul, we have some history here. In 1988 I was chairman of Ron’s first presidential campaign. Lew has been his friend and associate since 1975, and served as Ron’s chief of staff in Congress. We both know him very well, and, like all who know him, think the world of him, as a man of great integrity and as a leader. This is not political; it is supporting the ideas we have loved and promoted for decades.”

I have no problem with helping him raise money to raise public awareness of the issues. I admit I’m a bit uncomfortable with a few of the columnists and bloggers encouraging people to actually use violence and vote for Dr. Paul (although I do see the point of the “self-defense” argument, and perhaps there’s room in the anti-state camp for both views), but I don’t think LRC itself has done so. Maybe that’s just semantics, but that’s the way I see it.

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