Ron Paul, Libertarianism & Catholic Teaching

A reader has taken issue with my characterization of GOP presidential candidate Ron Paul as "a libertarian wingnut." I have reflected on the phrase and stand by it. Indeed, while libertarians can be very smart, there is something a little crazy about their beliefs, a craziness that is rooted in their unbalanced view of human nature. Remember in senior year of high school or freshman year of college when you had to read Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead or Atlas Shrugged? There were some students who embraced her theories and you thought: wow, I wonder what their parents are like. Rand was a woman who came to America, looked around, and concluded that if American society were just more selfish, everything would be better. She is a patron saint of libertarians. (DC Trivia question: who was the longtime treasurer of the Ayn Rand Society in Washington?) Ron Paul’s views may not be as crazy as some libertarians – he has not advocated removal of traffic signals as unconstitutional infringements on our personal liberty. But, his isolationist foreign policy views were happily repudiated by Harry Truman and GOP Sen. Arthur Vandenberg more than 50 years ago. The Gold Standard is not the economic panacea Paul thinks it is. (I once had a libertarian disrupt a dinner party with his insistence that the government had no right to issue paper money because the Constitution only gave Congress the power "to coin" money. Ugh!) Assessing health care, Paul thinks that government needs to get out of the health care business entirely, but most people think Medicare and Medicaid work pretty well and with lower overhead than the private sector. And, while no one likes paying taxes, repealing the income tax would surely be the single most regressive policy our government could take. The libertarian worldview could not be more at odds with Catholicism. The Promethean promise the libertarians champion is a Promethean nightmare to us Catholics. We do not value human autonomy above all else, nor place freedom above truth or equality or justice in the scale of virtues. Libertarians defend genetic engineering and human cloning: there really is a book, Liberation Biology, with a chapter entitled "Hooray for Designer Babies!" and the CATO institute had a forum to discuss and promote it. Catholics defend human dignity and see in genetic engineering an assault on that dignity as well as a basic ignorance of human nature. Now, Ron Paul did not write that book. But he is running as a self-described libertarian and holds enough outlandish views to justify the wingnut label. Of course, it’s a free country and all are welcome to disagree. Just ask Ayn Rand. Michael Sean Winters
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9 years 10 months ago
While most people do think that Medicare works pretty well, the Comptroller General of the United States (David Walker) warns us that we cannot possibly pay the bill. There is no presidential candidate other than Ron Paul who is willing to acknowledge the truth that we are overextended in both entitlements at home and commitments abroad. Our resources are finite, we cannot spend money endlessly.
9 years 11 months ago
Boy, talk about a straw man! Mr. Winters, when you criticize someone, it always helps when the person you're criticizing is recognizable from the positions you ascribe to him. I couldn't recognize Ron Paul at all from what you wrote. It is obvious that you did not do your homework properly, and as a result you have born false witness against your neighbor. I'm now penning a biblical paradigm primer for Christian voters. I'm writing from a basic trinitarian perspective that should be concomitant with the beliefs of all trinitarians (i.e., Christians). When we look at the candidates in the light of biblical paradigms, Ron Paul is not only clearly better than any of the other candidates, he is also a candidate that any Christian should be able to support enthusiastically. Which is not to say that he is a Christian's "dream candidate" -- but he is darn close . . . and Ayn Rand hasn't got anything to do with it. I'll send you a link to my paper when it's online and I hope you'll read it.
9 years 11 months ago
Rather than dismantling your straw man argument vis-a-vis Ayn Rand, I'll confine myself to one of your less obvious, but more insidious, errors. You really should be a bit more circumspect in your verbiage. Eliminating the current, PROGRESSIVE income tax, is not "regressive." The word "regressive" in the context of taxation means: "Decreasing proportionately as the amount taxed increases." Ergo, eliminating the income tax is not, in fact, "regressive."
9 years 11 months ago
Catholics for Ron Paul - do you really think any of the other candidates have anything to offer - much less offer in relation to the Church's teachings? God bless that man.
9 years 11 months ago
The writer Frank Chodorov once said that while he could see how somebody could be a libertarian without being a Christian, he couldn't see how anybody could be a Christian without being a libertarian. Libertarianism simply holds those in political power to the same rules of basic human decency--i.e., Thou Shalt Not Kill, Thou Shalt Not Steal--that govern the rest of us. Why shouldn't those in political power be so bound? After all, they *are* only human. Strike that. Anybody who drops atomic bombs on innocent civilians is no human. Alas, it is this same mass-murdering terrorist whom Michael Sean Winters regards as the repudiator of "isolationism." God help us.
9 years 11 months ago
I am in no way qualified to judge neither whether a “libertarian worldview” or Mr. Ron Paul’s views are “at odds with Catholicism”. I suspect honest people may disagree. However, I do have to take umbrage with aspects of your argument. Your articles contain unmistakable examples of name-calling, gleaming generalities, guilt by association, and cherry picking. There may be examples of others, but why create a laundry list. You should know that logic and reason demand you avoid such errors and fallacies if you wish to make a lucid argument. The simplest of these errors to discredit is name-calling, which you do when you use pejorative terms such as “wingnut” or “crazy”. Why would a person use terms such as these? Typically, it is an effort to elicit a visceral negative reaction, and is usually done without being followed up with a consistent line of reasoning. It is clear that you did not disappoint or buck such a trend. Feel free to take your article to be evaluated by an expert in logic and reasoning and I suspect they will concur with my evaluation. Next time, maybe you can try a different approach. May I suggest that if you do so, you leave the disreputable practices of ill-conceived argument out of your article? You owe it to your readers, and yourself, to follow the norms intellectual honesty.
9 years 11 months ago
This article merely sets up straw men and knocks them down. It's a very old tactic. Mr. Winters knocks Ayn Rand, and "libertarianism" in the abstract. He does everything but provide an honest evaluation of Ron Paul. For Catholics, here are the essentials: * Ron Paul's philosophy on war is grounded in the Christian Just War theory * Ron Paul was against the Iraq War, just like Popes John Paul II and Benedict. * Ron Paul is a pro-life OB-GYN who delivered over 4,000 babies in his career. * Ron Paul has been married to the same wmoan for 50 years * Ron Paul's political philosophy is very consistent with the principle of subsidiarity, and important element of Catholic social doctrine. For more, see here: http://mn4ronpaul.blogspot.com/2007/12/why-catholics-should-vote-for-ron-paul.html
9 years 11 months ago
These are the words of Ron Paul on the death of Pope John Paul II: "To the secularists, this was John Paul II’s unforgivable sin -- he placed service to God above service to the state. Most politicians view the state, not God, as the supreme ruler on earth. They simply cannot abide a theology that does not comport with their vision of unlimited state power. This is precisely why both conservatives and liberals savaged John Paul II when his theological pronouncements did not fit their goals. But perhaps their goals simply were not godly. "Unlike most political leaders, the Pope understood that both personal and economic liberties are necessary for human virtue to flourish. Virtue, after all, involves choices. Politics and government operate to deny people the freedom to make their own choices. "The Pope’s commitment to human dignity, grounded in the teachings of Christ, led him to become an eloquent and consistent advocate for an ethic of life, exemplified by his struggles against abortion, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty. Yet what institutions around the world sanction abortion, war, euthanasia, and the death penalty? Governments." This does not sound at all like the kind of libertarian you describe in your article. Perhaps that is because, unlike Catholics, not all libertarians are alike. The ones you quote, such as those from the Cato Institute, are described derisively as "Beltway" libertarians. Ron Paul is more aligned with the so-called paleo-libertarians of the Mises Institute. Sir, you didn't do your homework.
9 years 11 months ago
Despite the title, I don't see any discussion of Catholic teaching in this blog post. It looks and smells like another vicious Ron Paul hit piece. I am still at a loss as to why so many spin artists hate him so much. Mr. Costello in his comment said it best: "Guilt by association and hyperbole, still don't make a convincing argument.", but I would like to paraphrase the argument: Ron Paul has described himself as a libertarian. There are a lot of nut cases who are libertarians. Therefore Ron Paul is a wingnut, and what's more, people who support the gold standard can ruin a good dinner party.
9 years 11 months ago
Michael: No one seems to have taken you up on your trivia question. I believe the Treasurer of the DC Ayn Rand Society was Alan Greenspan. Regards, Peter
9 years 10 months ago
First, the disclaimer: I am not a supporter or opponent of Ron Paul for President or dogcatcher or any other elective office. That said, I found this piece to be, er, intriguing. Firstly, it exhibited a puzzling conflation of Objectivism (i.e., the tenets of Ayn Rand), upper-case Libertarianism (i.e., the tenets of the Libertarian Party) and lower-case libertarianism. Secondly, the opinion expressed on the income tax is also curious, because -- setting aside the issue of the woefully burdensome and unjustifiably excessive costs of compliance and policing; which do not benefit the economically disadvantaged in the least unless they receive a commission based on paperwork tonnage -- its elimination will not be automatically good, bad or indifferent. The mechanics via which the state avails itself of monies from its citizenry are of secondary importance. Thirdly, it bears noting that human autonomy is valued and valuable precisely because it is predicated on the premise we have been endowed by God with Free Will. To, for example, contribute financially to the wellbeing of our least fortunate only as a result of the police power of the state is, frankly, not the most virtuous act to perform or to demand be performed. In proper context, human autonomy is supremely compatible with Catholic teaching. But this requires and presupposes these autonomous humans have a properly formed conscience, a concept the Founders stated repeatedly and our increasingly secularized society denigrates. Just one man's opinion...
9 years 11 months ago
Many Libertarians (ie. Neil Boortz) reject Ron Paul since he is too principled to tow ANY party line other than the Pro-Christian U.S. Constitution. Ron Paul is the most fiercely Pro-Life candidate as proven by his 20-year Congressional record and 30-year professional record as an OBGYN. He submitted legislation numerous times that would negate Roe V Wade. He wrote a book that outlines how abortion works against the liberty movement (now available for free: http://files.meetup.com/504095/Ron%20Paul-Abortion%20and%20Liberty.pdf). Not one candidate (not even Huckabee or Keyes) can match his position on key life issues as follows: AGAINST Abortion AGAINST Embryonic Stem Cell Research AGAINST Pre-emptive War AGAINST Iraq Occupation AGAINST Torture AGAINST Death Penalty FOR Marriage as a Religious Institution FOR Education as a Family Institution FOR Civil Rights FOR U.S. Constitution FOR Liberty Please visit http://www.catholicsforronpaul.com to explore more how Dr Paul's record and principles line up with Catholic teaching. Also check out http://www.ronpaullibrary.org to explore his common sense views. As for the other
9 years 11 months ago
I find that people who are against Ron Paul generally fall into 1 of 3 classifications. Some absolutely hate Ron Paul simply because outside influences call him names like petulant children. Others dislike Ron Paul because they have been trained to view government to run a certain way and Dr. Paul's ideals may seem a bit too edgy for their taste. Yet others don't like Dr. Paul simply because they don't know anything about him. I find that you may fit into the second classification. You are clearly not one of the ranting morons on TV such as Bill Riley's on Fox News. You have a decent understanding of our government and how it works and I applaud you for being in the upper 5% of the US population. Nevertheless, it seems that you simply do not, and could not know, the details required to make the proper choices. You can believe me or not, seeing as this is the internet, but I have worked in 4 completely separate sectors in the medical field from pharmaceuticals, to emergency medicine, to nursing care. I have had the opportunity to analyze healthcare costs from the perspective of the patient, provider, and insurance companies. You mention "most people think Medicare and Medicaid work pretty well and with lower overhead than the private sector", which is true. However most people do not know that 87% of all 911 ambulance calls are deemed Not Medically Necessary and are called in by medicare/medicaid beneficiaries who do not need emergency care. These are people who are professional government swindlers. To check my facts, you can simply call your local municipal EMS service. They will have the statistics for you.
9 years 11 months ago
Dear Mr. Winters, I offer Dr. Paul's own words, as they are more eloquent than any defense I can offer for him. Please take a minute to read this speech which was given following the passing of Pope John Paul II. Rather than being the words of a 'wingnut,' I would argue that they come from a person with a deep abiding belief in our right to life, and a strong respect for the Catholic faith: http://www.house.gov/paul/tst/tst2005/tst041105.htm Peace be with you.
9 years 11 months ago
The name calling needs to stop in earnest. We cannot even discuss the virtues of policy anymore without labeling people and their ideas. To do this really marginalizes your arguments against Dr. Paul's beliefs and policies. I think that a lot of the problems we have in our country is evident in the tone of your article regarding the US Constitution. If we would pay more than lip service and sometimes outright disrespect to this founding document we would not have many of the current major problems our country is now facing. With less money going to our inefficient government there would be more money for the average American to give to his fellow countrymen in need. These are the principals we have lost as a nation. Expecting the government to care for us from cradle to grave is against what our founding fathers fought and died when establishing this great country we call home. Until we can openly discuss differences without slandering and name calling others we will not be able to solve the great problems our country faces today. Calvin Patrick
9 years 11 months ago
Oh sure. Medicare is fantastic, except that there's no money there and it's going to go broke before I hit age 65. And taxes are great, too. I just love paying them. Oh, and I've never read anything by Ann Rand.
9 years 11 months ago
The answer to your trivia--but not at all trivial--question is Alan Greenspan. That connection has never received the attention it deserved, in light of the implications that you mention. Thank you for the incisive, astute posting.
9 years 11 months ago
Sorry. The previous posting on Alan Greenspan was mine, but I had a glitch that removed my identification. Don't worry, I'm not afraid of government surveillance and black helicopters.
9 years 11 months ago
Dr. Ron Paul is the only Republican candidate to oppose both abortion and the death penalty. His chief policy advisor Lew Rockwell is Catholic. Just something to consider.
9 years 11 months ago
I guess a lot of us like the Constitution. We think it is still the law of the land, what with the President and Congress swearing to uphold it. If we think it is outdated, we can ammend it, but we shouldn't just break it. We tried prohibition by amending the constitution, but that didn't work, so we removed it. The constitution still says that only gold it legal tender BECAUSE the founders believed that being able to create money out of thin air is the way to war. The constitution forbids giving up rights BECAUSE God gave us rights, but now congress is giving them up anyway. The constitution says only congress can declare war, BECAUSE they were so concerned that a strong executive would take us straight to war, and guess what? THEY WERE RIGHT! Just obey the law, the constitution. What's so kooky about that?
9 years 11 months ago
You invest more time and energy in a label than you do in the substance. To use the label "Libertarian" as a basis for your judgments, without hearing the convictions of a man, is mindless claptrap. Dr. Ron Paul is a devout Christian, whose theology includes an abiding respect for man as being created in the image of God, with all that that entails. An obstetrician, he is a champion of life, having delivered over 4000 babies, and NEVER having found a reason to perform an abortion. This carries through to trying to save the lives of those who have already been born, by preventing them from being killed in an unjust war. He even quoted St.Augustine on the floor of Congress, to demand justification for that war. That justification was never forthcoming. His viewpoints are closer to the Pope's than any other candidates'. So he doesn't waste time railing against other's sinfulness, as do his opponents who wish to contribute to this country's destruction? "Meanwhile, let the sinner continue sinning, and the unclean continue to be unclean; let the upright continue in his uprightness, and those who are holy continue to be holy. Look, I am coming soon, and my reward is with me, to repay everyone as their deeds deserve." Jesus Christ, Revelation 22:10-14, NJB
9 years 11 months ago
Guilt by association and hyperbole, still don't make a convincing argument. Ron is by no means the ardent Objectivist (the Ayn Rand inspired movement you refer to) you make him out to be, so tearing down Ayn Rand and asserting that by extension Ron Paul is effectively espousing her philosophy 100% you reveal a willingness to lie in your rhetoric; erring on the side of incompetence rather than malice- at least it reveals a thoroughly incomplete understanding of his actual policy intent. This is available on his website (http://www.ronpaul2008.com) for all to see. Elimination of the Income Tax for individuals does not eliminate the 60 or so odd forms of other taxation (including corporate taxes) the Federal Government collects to support its activities, all of which are constitutional and some of which he supports. You make a simplistic defense of income taxation, which is inherently regressive, and highly damaging to the Middle Class of America. Most of Income Taxation is directly funneled to maintain the interest payments on the debt the great international banking corporations that make up the Federal Reserve give us every year, with little to no oversight or effective control over policymaking. It staves off the debt on currency supplied by interests that have no interest (pardon the pun) in that debt decreasing. Foxes truly run the henhouse from which we all are required to acquire eggs. Your appeal to the interests of those in need of medical care arguably could best be served by charitable contribution of services (Catholics are big on charity I heard?) by any person willing rather than state mandated wealth-redistribution and centralized control of economies. Especially if the IRS weren't taking such a large take of laborers earned income.
9 years 11 months ago
(In continuation) To me this broad demonization of Ron has come from many sides revealing that many sides are really adherents or devotees for the most part of one common agenda: The ceaseless support of the controlling state above all other moral interest, and the steady removal of all individual rights. Ron is a champion of Natural Law which I would think any Catholic could at least respect even if disagreement on specific ethics or moral reasoning backing up those ethics was found. And he is ardently pro-life in a way that is inspiring to even those opposed to that agenda.
9 years 11 months ago
Thanks for all the comments, folks. Just an FYI, I've only approved those with a full name attached, as is that's the magazine's policy.
9 years 11 months ago
Dr. Paul is running as a Republican, not a Libertarian, as you reported. He is not an isolationist, but believes in non-intervention, i.e. no policing of the world. He believes in being friends with nations, and trading with them fairly, but that the US should stay out of their internal affairs. This is a very different idea from cutting all ties with the rest of the world, a distinction that a political journalist should know. I sense from reading your article, your complacency with accepting a currency backed by nothing. Because it has been so for so long, it is easy to believe that it is a rational part of the economy. But does that mean you cannot question it, and just dismiss others who raise concerns. Is it the fear of admitting how ignorant and complacent we've been that we don't question controversial issues? Take as much time as you need to research and consider the gold standard, the Federal Reserve and the federal income tax, and decide, logically and from a truly informed position, whether these deserve a place in today's system. Support for an un-backed dollar may have been justified in a booming economy, but with the national debt in the trillions, overseas spending spiralling out of control, among other things, the world's good faith that the dollar has some value just because we say so,will be spread very thin. Finally I would like to say that Ron Paul, and I, believe in the separation of church and state. I am aghast to listen to the other Republican and Democratic candidates spout religion as a campaign strategy, whereas Dr. Paul is promoting a constitutional platform, one that serves people of all religions, even Catholics like me. Please don't be so quick to dismiss Ron Paul; you will soon find you are in the minority. Given the self-interest of the presidential alternatives and his massive internet support despite the media blackout, Ron Paul is an absolute miracle.
9 years 11 months ago
Actually - Ron Paul is the best choice for churches - especially those with crumbling bases like ours. First - Paul mentioned at some point (something like) 'while government grows, personal liberties shrink.' Well - here is another correlation of my own: "While government grows, church attendance shrinks." - I don't think that can be denied... Consider that Paul doesn't want the government in our lives... "But who will take care of all the people" - you and me... and communities - and states, and...... churches. Here is my take: In days gone by, people depended less on the government and much more on their family, friends, neighbors and churches. Now - this help wasn't guaranteed - it was in your best interest to be a good person in your community - you got much more than The Good Word at Church, you maintained a relationship with your community. Point being - you had to respect people and help others if you wanted the same asset available to you (i.e. 'help')... Of course - now with Big Government, who needs their church, family, friends, community? You don't have know your neighbors and be a 'good person' - the Government will be there to help. I am certainly convinced that Big Government contributes greatly to our declining moral base in this country. I don't understand your comment on foreign policy... is it a Catholic position to be for stationing legions (sounds Roman, eh?) in over 130 countries? Are we not the Romans of the 20-21st century? The foreign policy you suggest is seriously against 'The Golden Rule' (do you want foreign bases/troops here??) The libertarian philosophy is heavily rooted in The Golden Rule. Thanks, bill gillingham
9 years 11 months ago
For a good discussion of the differences between Ron Paul's crowd and the Cato Institute, read what the Nation had to say: http://www.thenation.com/doc/20071224/hayes I wish you had done so before writing your piece. I wonder about your claim that the libertarian worldview is at odds with Catholicism. Compared to what? I could argue any worldview except for the primitive socialism of Acts 2:44 is at odds with Catholicism.

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