Libertarianism and the Choice between Freedoms

Article excerpt

Let us count the ways in which the nomination of Ron Paul would be groundbreaking for the GOP.

No other recent candidate hailing from the party of Lincoln has accused Lincoln of causing a "senseless" war and ruling with an "iron fist." Or regarded Ronald Reagan's presidency a "dramatic failure." Or proposed the legalization of prostitution and heroin use. Or called America the most "aggressive, extended and expansionist" empire in world history. Or promised to abolish the CIA, depart NATO and withdraw military protection from South Korea. Or blamed terrorism on American militarism, since "they're terrorists because we're occupiers." Or described the killing of Osama bin Laden as "absolutely not necessary." Or affirmed that he would not have sent American troops to Europe to end the Holocaust. Or excused Iranian nuclear ambitions as "natural," while dismissing evidence of those ambitions as "war propaganda." Or published a newsletter stating that the 1993 World Trade Center attack might have been "a setup by the Israeli Mossad."

Each of these is a disqualifying scandal. Taken together, a kind of grandeur creeps in. The ambition of Paul and his supporters is breathtaking. They wish to erase 158 years of Republican Party history in a single political season, substituting a platform that is isolationist, libertarian, conspiratorial and tinged with racism. It won't happen. But some conservatives seem paradoxically drawn to the radicalism of Paul's project. They prefer their poison pill covered in glass and washed down with battery acid. It proves their ideological manhood.

Recent criticism of Paul -- in reaction to racist rants contained in the Ron Paul Political Report -- has focused on the candidate's view of civil rights. Associates have denied he is a racist, which is both reassuring and not particularly relevant. Whatever his personal views, Paul categorically opposes the legal construct that ended state-sanctioned racism. …