Monday, January 14, 2008

The hypocrisy of small government types

Supporters of GOP president candidate Rep. Ron Paul, most of whom are libertarians, amuse me. They seem to have an almost messianic belief in the man, in a way that reminds me almost of a cult. They vaunt his intellectual purity in a party whose watchword is intellectual deceit.

The libertarian wing of the GOP is virtually irrelevant. The party's fortunes are now split among the corporatist, militarist and theocratic wings, all of which promote big government.

You can't blame them for trying, I suppose. The progressive wing of the Democratic Party is largely dead, but a few noble souls are trying to keep the flame alive.

What's interesting is how many folks on the left I've heard praise Paul. He believes (supposedly, but we'll get to that latter) in the dismantling of big government, something you'd think progressives would find anathema. However, many on the left are taken by his foreign policy positions. He opposes militarism and imperialism as well as the wars against civil liberties and Iraq. He's in favor of a non-interventionist, non-meddlesome foreign policy, which makes virtually unique among prominent or even semi-prominent elected Republicans.

I'm no libertarian but you have to wonder if he's all he's cracked up to be.

An acquaintance of mind is part of the Ron Paul cult and he posted a press release from the good doctor (Paul is a practicing MD). The press release stated:

The U.S. House of Representatives reports that Congressman Ron Paul has once again run his Congressional office in a frugal manner, and he will likely return tens of thousands of dollars to the Treasury once again this year. Preliminary estimates forwarded to Paul’s office indicate he has about $75,000 left in his account... [the Congressman's chief of staff] said that the purchase of new equipment, staff changes and postal rate increases made it especially difficult to restrain spending this year. “Considering Congressman Paul’s efforts helped to land nearly $50,000,000 in appropriations for crucial projects in this part of Texas last year, we are most pleased that we were able to once again get the job done under budget.”

The last comment illustrates the Fundamental Hypocrisy of most of the people who pretend to want smaller government. Even someone who acts like the king of small government can't help but boast about the tens of millions of dollars in pork he's brought to his district.

And that's the point. I'm sure that in the eyes of Paul and those in his district, none of that " $50,000,000 in appropriations for crucial projects" constituted pork. All the wasteful spending was limited to the other 434 congressional districts.

And this is exactly why government continues to expand, even when the self-proclaimed small government types are in charge.

All of my projects are "crucial." It's the other guy's projects that are "pork." My bike path is a wonderful addition to the community. The other guy's bike path is a boondoggle.

So the "taxpayers' best friend," as Paul's supporters call him, saved us $75,000 in office expenses but cost us 667 times more in pork/"crucial projects."

Thanks for nothing.


Anonymous said...

Ron who?

Mark said...

Paul freely admits to putting some earmarks into appropriation bills, as requested by the people he represents. He justifies it by saying that his constituents deserve to get some of their money back from all the taxes they pay. However, he tries to make up for it by saying that in the end he has alwayed voted against the larger appropriation bill.
It should also be noted that Paul has forgone his Congressional pension and other financial perks, and that he voted against federal relief after Hurricane Rita, which hit his distrcit very hard.

Anonymous said...

To give you the short version this time...

I think your misunderstanding biggies of Libertarianism. The size of government really isn't an issue for them.

The big soapbox issues are personal liberty & property rights. They're pretty fine w/ it so long as your rights don't fringe on someone else's. Say they believe people have the right to bear arms, so long as said rights do not infringe on my right to life. Or they're fine w/ companies operating their business, so long as said company doesn't pollute my right to breathe clean air or pour toxic chemicals into my drinking well.

They're also fine w/ two males (or two females) seeing/dating each other. Same w/ your right to get tatoos up & down your body. But I'm not sure how abortion fits into the picture.

In terms of the application of force, they're pretty fine w/ it if the other guy throws the first punch. Which is why a lot them were for Afghanistan but not Iraq.

I also don't see anything wrong or hypocritical w/ his press release. View it in terms of a company undergoing layoffs, he needs to pump up his accomplish in order for him to keep his job. EVERYONE DOES IT.

Furthermore, I'd hardly call the Libertarian wing of the Republican Party irrelevant. Well, it may be very overshadowed by the Religious Evangelical wing on a nation level but out in the MidWest & the Pacific Northwest, they easily command upwards to 20-25% of the vote.

Brian said...

That was the short version?! lol...

I don't disagree with your assessment except in one aspect: your implication that there is only one homogeneous strain of libertarianism.

One of my good friends from college and roommate for three years was a libertarian. His philosophy was pretty much identical to what you describe. I was taken by the fact that he actually supported the concept of environmental regulation for exactly the reasons you present.

However, I know other libertarians who take a much more extreme view. Some of them view any application of government as a totalitarian infringement of their freedom. I've heard it argued that speed limits and stop signs are fascist. Yes, stop signs. I've heard it argued that people should have the right to drive drunk (so long as they don't hit anybody). I've heard it argued that age of consent laws should be abolished. When challenged, I was told that yes, an adult should have the right to f**k a 3 year old so long as the 3 year old "consented." I've heard it argued that taxes are theft. I've heard it argued that police officers are by definition fascist because their job is to enforce fascist laws.

So my point is that what you describe is a very moderate and reasonable interpretation of libertarianism, but hardly the only one.

I would call the libertarian wing largely powerless (maybe a better word than irrelevant) within the NATIONAL Republican Party. Most Republicans are libertarian in rhetoric, but not in practice. The unprecendented federalization of education by No Child Left Behind enraged libertarians but was passed by a GOP House and signed by a GOP president. The assault on civil liberties has also made libertarians very angry but was done by a GOP president with the acquiesence of GOP lawmakers.

Militarism and theocracy are inherently antithetical to the philosophy of "everyone mind their own business."

The libertarian wing may indeed be more influential in state Republican parties. Not so much the midwest, I'd say, but in the southwest and places like Idaho, Montana and Wyoming.

Brian said...

Oh and the hypocrisy is not that he got earmarks and bragged about it. It's that in a press release whose primary purpose was to brag about his frugality to the taxpayers, he WENT OUT OF HIS WAY to also brag about all the pork he's brought in. It's the conscious juxtaposition of these two contradictory philosophies in the very same press release that caught my eye... more so than either of them individually.