L: Doug, we’ve had a lot of readers ask us what you think about Ron Paul, and he’s just announced he’s running for president again. What’s your take?
Doug: Ron is a decent human being. I’ve met him on a number of occasions, mostly when he came to meetings of the Eris Society, and always found him to be philosophically sound, as well as pleasant and sincere. A genuinely likable guy. As far as I’ve observed, he’s always done exactly what he’s said he’d do – certainly when it comes to voting against almost everything.
But if you’re asking if he’s got a chance of becoming president, I’ll skip the “Slim and none” joke, and just say not a chance. The proverbial snowball in the mythical hot place has better odds.
L: I’m not surprised. Short of something far-fetched, like L. Neil Smith and Aaron Zelman’s novel Hope, in which a gun-toting libertarian becomes president because the other candidates happen to die the night of the election, I can’t see an honest libertarian – or any honest man at all – becoming president. But let’s talk about the man first. How well do you know him?
Doug: Just socially. The only political candidate I’ve really been close friends with was Harry Browne, who was the Libertarian Party Presidential candidate in 1996 and 2000. I genuinely supported Harry, partly because we’d been friends since the mid-‘70s. And because I don’t believe we ever disagreed about anything beyond what wine to have with dinner. And because Harry was the only avowed anarchist that I know of to have ever seriously run for president. And because he promised that, if he won, he’d make me Chief of the Secret Police – just kidding.
Seriously, though, I thought that Harry could win several million votes just because he was so rational and eloquent. And because I believe that, since most people are basically decent, there would be at least that many who would support him, if they just knew he existed. But I was wrong. It shows that I’m actually not a cynic, but a romantic. Of course it’s also said that a cynic is just a frustrated romantic. And that may well be true.
L: What about religion? Dr. Paul is a Christian…
Doug: Most people who are Christians are Christians only by an accident of birth – because their parents were. The same is true of Muslims. And Jews. And Hindus. And almost all religious types. It’s the same as politics, actually. Most people are Democrats or Republicans because their parents were. It’s reflexive and it’s easy – even if it’s totally irrational.
I lose some respect for people who believe things because of an accident of birth, but I’ve got nothing against Christians being Christian. It’s when they try to force their religion on me that I have a problem. More and more, though, religion in the West has nothing to do with theology; it has much more to do with a general sense of shared identity and values. Even if it’s mostly just lip service.
Anyway, I think Ron is sincere about his Christianity. But I feel confident he’s the type of Christian who admires Christ – who was actually very admirable in many ways – as opposed to the uptight kind of Christian who mimics the strictures based on the aberrant theories of Paul.
L: Something Christ, I think, would have objected to.
Doug: Yes. I suspect if Paul had tried to join the apostles Jesus would have politely, but firmly, asked him to go away. Jesus was a rather Buddha-like figure, whereas Paul was a proto-Leninist.
The number of murders, massacres, and whole wars fought in the name of a peaceful carpenter who taught people to turn the other cheek and forgive just shows you how capable of willful ignorance and self-serving myopia people are.
But that’s getting in to a different subject… Back to Ron; he’s not the type to impose his religion on people. Thank God Huckabee, that smarmy, slick preacher, has dropped out of the race. In any event, I believe Ron’s libertarian principles would restrain him from seriously mixing his religion with his politics, even if he were tempted.
So no worries there.
L: Are there any other policy areas that would concern you, issues you know you disagree with Dr. Paul on?
Doug: Well, he’s not an anarchist, as was Harry Browne, and he could support a lot more laws than I would, but our visions of how to restore America are probably about 90% the same. We’d be pushing in so much the same direction – less government, fewer laws, fewer regulations, lower taxes, bring the troops home, etc. – it would probably be a long time before our 10% differences would become problematical. And he’d never get that far; he’d have to fight tooth and nail to get any of that 90% of the needed change we agree upon done.
But this is entirely an academic discussion. The chances of Ron even being a contender for the nomination of the totally corrupt Republican Party are zero. And if he got it, the chances of his being elected are less than zero – c’mon, this is the same electorate that just put in Obama.
And if, through some form of Olympian intervention, he was elected, real change would be impossible. The NSA, the CIA, the FBI, the DoD, and the rest of them are now an empire within the empire. If he ever tried to make serious changes I suspect he’d get a very serious talking-to, much more scary than a small town mayor might get from the Mob. The situation is beyond redemption in my view.
L: Okay, but... There’s the Tea Party, The Libertarian Party, even a few genuinely pro-market Republicans out there – all constituencies that might vote for Ron Paul. There are a lot of disillusioned people out there, a good number of whom might vote for an honest man, even if they don’t agree with him about everything. How can you say there’s absolutely no chance he could win?
Doug: To start with, about half the population is on the dole – 45 million are on food stamps alone. Worse yet are all the corporate welfare recipients and high-finance fat cats in bed with the government – there are just too many people whose rice bowls would be broken for Ron to get elected. Organized labor would never stand for him, and much of corporate America would actually be on their side.
Furthermore, there’s no constituency that would really be for him. The Libertarian Party is a completely ineffectual nonentity, and unworthy of support, as they proved by nominating the Congressman Bob Barr for their last candidate. The Tea Party has no central philosophy, as we’ve discussed before.
And that’s not to mention Ron’s own well-publicized libertarian ideas that are easy to paint in a bad light, like his opposition to the War on (Some) Drugs. The stars are just not aligned for Ron. Or they are aligned – all against him. The voters will go for a statist, collectivist fear-monger who promises free lunches.
L: Sounds like Dr. Paul’s got as much chance of getting elected as you do – and Slim’s out of town. But can his campaign not still do some good, shifting the debate? If the Republicans see themselves being outflanked on the right, might he put some spine in to them and make them actually embrace free markets in deed, not only in word? They might stop walking in lockstep with the Democrats, chasing after the middle…
Doug: Sure, he might change the nature of the debate a bit – and that would be a very good thing. It would offer a bully pulpit for education, which was another major reason why I supported Harry Browne. But none of that will change the way the vast majority of either the electorate or the politicians think or vote. The fact is that politicians all know they won’t get reelected if they force the U.S. to bite the painful bullet it must, if it’s to begin a real recovery.
In other words, what needs to be done – a large-scale firing of government employees, the abolition of most agencies, reinstitution of a sound currency, default on many or most government obligations, radical cuts in spending, and disbanding of the military-industrial complex – would itself bring on chaos at this point. Anybody who did it would be branded a traitor, or worse. So they’ll continue kicking the can down the road. A controlled demolition of today’s totally corrupt system is the best thing that could happen. Instead we’ll get an uncontrolled collapse later.
L: So… we’re back to there being no way out.
Doug: Yes – I’m afraid so. Even if friendly aliens landed on the roof of the White House and gave us some magic technology that would feed, house and clothe everyone for free–
L: That would destroy the native economies worldwide. What would people do all day if there was no point in any work because everything was free? Even if the entire population could become artists or something, the dislocation would be so massive, suicides would probably become the leading cause of death for whole generations. Would any ethical aliens do that?
Doug: Actually, if Ray Kurzweil is right about The Singularity, that’s more or less what will happen. But that’s a subject for another conversation.
So, okay, okay. There are no friendly aliens, and The Singularity isn’t going to happen this election cycle. There is no way to avert the train wreck now. The plus-51% of the population on the dole alone guarantees it – that’s the point of no return. Not to mention the abject failure of the government education system, and many other factors we’ve discussed before. I just don’t see any way out; it’s got to get worse before it gets better. And it likely won’t get better until the present system implodes.
In that regard, I’m happy he’s running because his campaign will almost certainly get a lot more attention than it ever has before. As above, that could educate a lot of people, because Ron will speak on principle, and about things that matter. The fact he can’t win is actually a good thing. I pity the poor fool who’s in office as we come out of the eye of the hurricane we’re now in. Whoever is in office will be blamed, even though the collapse will be the consequence of decades of mismanagement.
But getting the ideas out into TV-land is a good thing. Come the crunch, the more people who’ve heard Ron’s free-market ideas, the better the odds of things looking up after the crash.
I said there’s no way Ron will win or prevent the deepening of The Greater Depression we’re slipping into – I didn’t say it wouldn’t do any good.
I wish him the greatest success.
L: Heh… Well, if you think it’s a good idea, why don’t you run?
Doug: Go wash your mouth out. Ron does not believe the state is necessarily unethical. I do. Big difference; I can’t be a part of a coercive system, even if I tell myself I’m only doing it to do good.
L: Understood. I know where the road paved with good intentions leads to. Okay then… Investment implications?
Doug: Sorry, nothing new there. The sad fact – as I see it – that a man of character like Ron Paul can never get elected in our current system is just par for the dismal course the U.S. has been locked into for some time.
But just because the U.S. is radar-locked on self-destruction, that doesn’t mean our readers need to be. They can and should be doing everything possible to protect themselves. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but I honestly believe the best possible thing for readers to do is to live, breathe, eat, drink, and sleep the mantra: Liquidate, Consolidate, Create, Speculate – and diversify your political risk.
L: A public service announcement from Casey Research: No need to go down with the ship. I actually got an email from a reader who has posted your mantra on the wall in front of her desk. I’m glad some people are listening – especially those I consider friends.
Doug: You sent me that one – very gratifying. I can only hope she’s not the only one. But it’s more than just not needing to go down with the ship; the world will need sane people with capital at their disposal to help lead the way after the crash.
L: Sounds pretty apocalyptic, Doug.
Doug: You know I call ‘em like I see ‘em. But a crisis presents as much opportunity as danger – if you’re prepared for it. So I like to look on the bright side. And I’m not urging anyone to become a hermit in Idaho – I’m simply urging fiscal caution of the sort that is always a good idea anyway, just more so now.
L: A good balance sheet never goes out of style, eh?
Doug: Exactly. Same goes for individuals as companies – and governments too, as will become all too painfully clear to most thinking people soon enough.
L: I think that’s enough for this time. I’ve got rocks to kick in West Africa’s greenstone belts this week, and it won’t help if you depress the heck out of me.
Doug: Look on the bright side: you and many people you like will be better off than 99% of the world’s population coming out of the crash. Most of the wealth will still be here – it’s just going to change ownership. That could have positive social implications, going forward.
L: That is a thought … if the nation-state is the past, and the future belongs to phyles, we sure want to encourage the best phyles possible to form.
Doug: I’ll leave you with your happy thought then. All you need is pixie dust, and you’re all set.
L: According to you, that’s on the way too, come the nanotechnology revolution.
Doug: There, you see, there always is a bright side to look on.
L: Thanks Doug. We’ll talk next week.
Doug: Next week.
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