About This Blog

Ludwig von Mises (1881-1973) was the greatest economist of my time. His greatest works can be accessed here at no charge.

Mises believed that property, freedom and peace are and should be the hallmarks of a satisfying and prosperous society. I agree. Mises proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that the prospect for general and individual prosperity is maximized, indeed, is only possible, if the principle of private property reigns supreme. What's yours is yours. What's mine is mine. When the line between yours and mine is smudged, the door to conflict opens. Without freedom (individual liberty of action) the principle of private property is neutered and the free market, which is the child of property and freedom and the mother of prosperity and satisfaction, cannot exist. Peace is the goal of a prosperous and satisfying society of free individuals, not peace which is purchased by submission to the enemies of property and freedom, but peace which results from the unyielding defense of these principles against all who challenge them.

In this blog I measure American society against the metrics of property, freedom and peace.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Ron Paul And Anarchy, PART I

In the late 70's and in the 80's I regularly participated in political activities of the "big 'L'" Libertarian Party. I was drawn to the Party by my interest in individualism, personal liberty, capitalism and free markets, cultivated by reading Ayn Rand, Harry Browne and Ludwig von Mises, among many others. I was anxious to put what I was learning into political practice.

My exposure to the "big 'L'" began one day, while ambling through the merchant's building at a state fair, when I noticed a booth manned by members of the Libertarian Party. I had considered myself a "small 'L'" libertarian and decided the organized, "big 'L'" political party might be a perfect fit for my budding political activism. Government was getting altogether too big and too powerful for my tastes. I wanted to do something about it.

That first meeting of the Libertarian Party that I attended was an eye-opener. The Party was barely a party at all. I was one of about thirty attendees, if I remember correctly. The group was a strange mix, about half were dressed as I was, businessman casual. This half was well-mannered and considerate. The other half was a rowdy collection of nerdy-looking hippies left over from the 60's. I truly had no idea what I was getting myself into.

When the meeting started, I quickly learned that the Libertarian Party was divided along a fault line. The business-like half represented individuals who were interested in political action. Most of us had been Republican activists disillusioned by Gerald Ford or Democrats disillusioned with Jimmy Carter, as I was. We were clearly looking to field and support Libertarian political candidates.

Unfortunately, the nerdy half of the Party had no such ambitions. They were far more radical in their libertarianism than I was and their interest was not in gathering votes but in changing minds. They wanted to "educate" the "sheeple," teach working class folks like the members of my family, why gambling, drugs and prostitution should be legalized, and why government in all its incarnations was the source of all societal evil. They were literally wild-eyed anarchists. I knew they had their work cut out for them.

Soon, every issue brought to the floor of the meeting devolved into a loud and angry argument between the anarchists and the minarchists, those libertarians who believed, as I did, in limited government, one which would provide police protection, judiciary services and military services, but little else.

The debate between anarchists and minarchists was irritating, frustrating and, I thought, a huge waste of time and energy. I soon realized that the Libertarian Party was going nowhere either politically or educationally. The fledgling Party had no money, scant organization and no real candidates. Those nominated as candidates were strictly figureheads. If I had wanted, I could have left that first meeting nominated as the Libertarian Party candidate for my Congressional District. Bizarre.

I didn't think the Party had much chance to "educate" ordinary folks either. I couldn't imagine my working class father being persuaded of anything by a loudmouthed, in-you-face ex-hippy. To my father, a blue collar union member and lifelong Democrat, Jimmy Carter had been a hard sell. Surely my business associates and suburban friends would have none of this. So I took another tack. I struck up conversations with the few reasonable souls in the room and decided to attend a local discussion group they had organized.

That experience proved extremely valuable for my own libertarian education, but it did nothing to satisfy my desire to be politically active, at least at first. Eventually, I became acquainted with others in my town who had similar political interests. We struck out on our own and we made a real difference in local politics. We threw out the entrenched and corrupt city officials, lowered taxes and city debt, opposed the expansionist dreams of these small town fat cats and brought a true "free market" prospective to city government, even electing an alderman or two. It was a heady time. I was convinced the future of libertarianism was at the local level.

Therefore, I slowly drifted away from the Libertarian Party as an outlet for national politics. Besides, Ronald Reagan had gained prominence in the Republican Party and he was saying all the right things. To my great disappointment, President Jimmy Carter had been an unmitigated disaster. I had thought Carter, as a businessman and Washington outsider, could turn things around. I was hoodwinked because at that time I had been philosophically naive. Now I knew how Carter was running the economy into the ground. Inflation was soaring. Interest rates were suffocating. Unemployment was rising. Business was at a stand still. The price of gold had skyrocketed.

Even as a novice Austrian economist, I knew Carter's Keynesianism was the exact opposite of what needed to be done. Reagan promised lower taxes, deregulation and less government, exactly what I knew was needed to avert a total economic collapse. I felt then, as people feel now about Obama, that Carter must be defeated at all costs.

With Reagan's election, the country began to breathe easier again, both economically and socially. Businesses thrived. Individuals prospered. Reagan's effect on the country's mood cannot be overestimated. He made individual Americans feel good again, about themselves and their country. Moreover, Reagan's foreign policy -- rebuilding the military and taking a tough stance against the Soviet Union, the "Evil Empire" -- gave people hope that, finally, the scourge of the Cold War might end. In addition, Reagan's foreign policy was compatible with Ayn Rand's philosophy of Objectivism which still influenced my thinking. It was firm and principled. All seemed right with the world.

As Reagan succeeded, I became less and less interested in political activism and more and more interested in political philosophy. Besides my discussion group which was still going strong, I began to participate in internet forums. I also discovered the newly formed "Ludwig von Mises Institute" and various other Free Market websites. In these different venues, as I read and participated in philosophical discussions, I found myself reliving the old anarchist/minarchist debate of years before. Now, of course, the debate had become more sophisticated, but also more vigorous and hateful. I realized another serious fault line was developing, not merely in the "big 'L'" Libertarian Party, but in the "small 'L'" libertarian philosophy.

That fault line still exists today, and Ron Paul is squarely in the middle, straddling the chasm like the fabled Colossus of Rhodes. Wikipedia says that during an earthquake the famed statue "snapped at the knees and fell over." Ron Paul is hoping to avoid the same fate.

More to follow.

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