The Howard Beale Vote

As a libertarian, I am hugely excited that Ron Paul is getting some positive attention.  However, I have a terrible time syncing up the enthusiasm for him in some quarters with the historic indifference to libertarian ideas in the same quarters.  I am worried that this country has a 5-10% Howard Beale segment (I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it any more) that will get enthusiastic about any third party candidate who seams to challenge the establishment.  Do these people behind Paul really understand him, or are they just the same folks who supported Ross Perot's populist melange?


  1. Jonathan:

    Ron Paul isn't a libertarian! I don't understand how it is he gets away with calling himself one! Ron Paul is a 1980s Republican which in this day and age may seem libertarian, but that's just all the more disappointing...

    Ron Paul is:
    * Pro Life
    * anti-gay marriage

    While I can grant some leeway on abortion as a confused moral issue, opposition to gay marriage is about the least libertarian mainstream issue I can think of. How can you be in favor of decriminalization yet be opposed to gay marriage?

  2. diz:

    It seems to me that whether it is libertarian to be for or against abortion depends entirely on whether one views the fetus as having its own individual rights. This question is not one that libertarian philosophy seems well equipped to address.

    As far as marriage goes, I believe the best libertarian position is that the government should not recognize marriages of any kind. Leave them to the private sphere.

  3. JoshK:

    The little I've read about it seems that he isn't that much of a libertarian. I think Coburn is a lot more in line with libertarian beliefs. Paul is a bit of an odd-ball.

    I don't think there is 1 consistent libertarian approach to foreign policy, but Ron Paul seems a bit out there.

  4. Reformed Republican:

    Ron Paul does not call himself a libertarian, as far as I am aware. Libertarians have latched onto him because they believe his voting record makes him more in line with libertarian ideals than most other candidates.

  5. Jonathan:

    I totally agree that the government should get out of the marriage business; marriages should be replaced with multi-party contracts. However, I don't think Paul is opposed to gay marriage because he wants to do away with the institution altogether and that's why I take issue with his position.

    As for abortion, libertarian philosophy does deal with issues in which the person harms only himself (if even). I think abortion falls into this category as well, at least for the first X number of weeks. I'm certainly not one to decide when that moment occurs, but I'm not convinced that t=0 is it and therefore completely banning abortion is as morally justified as any other nannying (which is to say: not).

  6. JimV:

    Er, ah, Ron Paul is a libertarian -- he was the LP presidential candidate in 1988, and really hasn't changed his views since then -- he was pro-life in 1988, and he is pro-life today. He was against foreign intervention in 1988, and he's against it today. The abortion issue is one that is hugely difficult to decide. His position is that Roe v. Wade should be overturned, and that the issue should be returned to the states, as it was before Roe v. Wade. Some 'liberals' have advocated this same solution as a way to take the abortion issue off the national stage. I'm pro-choice, but the abortion issue is not a deal-breaker to me -- the war and our foreign 'empire' are much more pressing issues... bringing our troops home, ending our provocation of Iran, cutting spending, cutting taxes, shrinking government, etc., etc., are all issues where Dr. Paul and I agree. If I had to agree on everything with a candidate, I wouldn't bother to ever vote -- which is hugely tempting most times. On a scale of 1 to 10, Ron Paul is an 8 or a 9; all the other candidates combined wouldn't get above a zero in my book.

  7. Zach:

    Ron Paul is far more of an anti-federalist than a libertarian. But even if he were a libertarian, there's something I don't get.

    I would consider myself a pro-choice libertarian (my thought pretty much mirrors Jonathan's). On the other hand, I can completely understand a pro-life libertarian in that we both agree that a person has an unalienable right to life, but we just differ on what is and isn't a person. What I don't understand is how someone could be pro-life and anti-federalist about it. If you think abortion is the legally sanctioned killing of a living person, then you should stand against it at all levels. In other words, murder is murder; to put someone's right to life up to a vote is unconscionable, even if doing so appears to uphold the principles of federalism. Yet, it seems to me that that is exactly what a pro-lifer does when he says "leave it up to the states". So how does Ron Paul sleep at night?

  8. Grant:

    If not Howard Beale's, then what sentiment would you expect from an electorate that has been increasingly marginalized, deceived, and ignored by their self-serving representatives?

    People are finally figuring out that they have been the "mark" in an elaborate game of political Three-card Monte for quite a few years; figuring out that their votes for change haven't changed anything. How else are they supposed to feel? "Mad as hell" seems just about right to me.

    Ron Paul's message is resonating with a diverse constituency who, from different starting points, are all converging at the same conclusion: that the only good government is a small government because we can't trust anyone with the kind of money and power that is currently concentrated in Washington.

  9. JimV:

    To answer Zach -- as I understand it, Paul bases his position on what is authorized by the Constitution. Just as the Constitution leaves the definition of murder and its prosecution up to the individual states, his reading of the Constitution puts abortion in that same category.

  10. ErikTheRed:

    As a person with a strange enough combination of liberal / libertarian and conservative views to annoy just about anyone (plus I'm agnostic - I'm going for the ideologically unpopular win here)... I think Ron Paul is sort of like Jesse Jackson. He has a few very intense supporters, but that's all he's ever going to get. Ironically, his loudest supporters help assure this by being some of the most annoying pests on the internet - trolling forums, spamming polls, etc. In the minds of many, "Ron Paul supporter" = "loony asshole."

    I haven't paid much attention to his specific positions and my only real exposure to him has been from watching the sound bite competitions (some call them "debates"), but watching him there the phrase that comes to mind is "moonbat right".

    My thinking is that supporters of limited government need to take the long view on things and work slowly. There are too many heads at the trough to get popular support for turning things around 180 degrees overnight. The problems we've got have taken several generations to blossom, and they will take a few generations to get rid of.

    If I had to suggest exactly one change that would accelerate improvements, it would be constitutionally-imposed 2-term limits for congresscritters. I've been laughing my ass off lately at the liberals who just took control of congress and got exactly ... nothing for their troubles. Congress is set up so that seniority rules, and that means career politicians who get and keep their power through political horse trading. Think of it as political capitalism - politicians will always work in their own self interest. Politicians are in it for the power - they get paid shit when you consider their scope of work (or the work they're supposed to be doing). In congress, power is accumulated through seniority and participating the The Great Legislative Circle-Jerk. Term limits severely limit seniority, and limit the length of time over which favors and trade-offs can accumulate.

    Change #2 - Pay congresscritters 8 figures. Say, $20 million per year. Right now, you can figure that nearly everyone in congress is on the take. And the figures involved are ridiculously low - usually tens of thousands of dollars. They're not just whores - they're cheap whores. Throwing a billion dollars a year at congressional salaries would eliminate enough low-level graft to pay for itself at least ten times over. Additionally, you start attracting money-hungry people in addition to the purely power-hungry people. I'll take money-hungry over power-hungry any day of the week.

  11. diz:

    What I don't understand is how someone could be pro-life and anti-federalist about it.

    He could be unsure about where upon the fetus-baby-adult continuum a right to one's life arises, and within our politcal system determination of such status should be left to the states to decide.

    I think most of us are a bit unsure of when "personhood" occurs.

    I don't see how anyone can argue that a baby that has just traversed the birth canal contains substantially different characteristics that it a "right to life" than that same baby/fetus had moments before.

  12. Chupacabra:

    Not sure if anyone mentioned this yet, but Ron Paul seems to be pretty strongly anti-immigration as well. I guess he supports libertarian ideals (except examples cited above) as long as a person is lucky enough to be born on the appropriate side of an imaginary line.

  13. Deadspin:


    You can't have unbridled immigration and a welfare state. At least not for long.

    Everyone else,

    Libertarian or not, he's the only politician in 50+ years who takes the Constitution seriously. Small federal government, leaving most decisions to the States/People. And because of this he is capable of having personal beliefs without thinking that the implementation of the belief requires federal government intervention. If you get elected to DC, your first job is to follow the Constitution, not try to push through whatever you think would be nice to obtain. Hence, thinking 'abortion is wrong' is not equivalent to 'favors federal ban on abortion'.

    Every time I read a self-described conservative disparaging Ron Paul, I want to punch them in the throat. There is some major cognitive dissonance going on with the GOP base.

    Sorry, had to vent. I'm feeling better, the scotch is kicking in.

  14. Chupacabra:

    In that case, let's abolish welfare before open immigration. I see the former as a much larger source of continued poverty and social problems than the latter.

  15. Charles D. Quarles:


    Logically, morally, medically, and scientifically, human life begins at conception. Personhood, OTOH, is a legal term in this context; and as such changes the form of the question. The answer to this question logically resides with the States. Logically, morally, medically, and scientifically, an abortion is homicide. Where this form of homicide may be considered justified is something best left to the States.

    Marriage is an expression of or the free exercise of religion and is therefore protected in its traditional definition by the First Amendment because it is an expression of the free exercise of religion. It is not simply a contract. Homosexuals are free to marry any one person of the opposite sex just as much as heterosexuals are free to marry any one person of the opposite sex. They can't marry any one person of same sex by definition. A civil union, OTOH, is a contract and should be something done on a state by state basis.