I was in Jacksonville last Friday for an event called “Ron Paul on the River.” The Republican presidential candidate was supposed to speak there, but had to cancel at the last minute due to a Libya vote in the House scheduled on short notice. While it was disappointing that the congressman would not appear, the keynote speaker that appeared in his place was well worth the trip.
Doug Wead is a self-confessed former member of the Establishment. In addition to being a best-selling author and world-renowned speaker, Wead has worked as a special advisor to President George H.W. Bush and on the campaign of George W. Bush. According to Wikipedia, Time magazine called Wead “an insider in the Bush family orbit.”
A good portion of Wead’s speech in Jacksonville focused on issues on which he had formerly disagreed with Paul. At one point, he made the startling statement, “but now I agree with him on everything.” He encouraged Paul supporters to persevere through the difficulties of supporting an anti-Establishment candidate and to remember that “logic and the truth are on your side.”
It is not fashionable to admit that you agree with someone “on everything.” To say that you do is to invite the accusation of belonging to a personality cult whose members blindly follow their leader no matter what position he takes. Indeed, this criticism is leveled at Paul’s grassroots supporters, who are called “Paulites” by detractors, implying that they have a pseudo-religious devotion to Paul rather than informed positions on the issues.
In modern American political thought, where only the results of political action are considered rather than the rights of the parties involved, it is not considered reasonable to agree with anyone 100% of the time. For someone like Wead, whose living depends upon his credibility as an expert on those things he writes and speaks about, there is a certain amount of risk in making this statement. Yet he did it in Jacksonville without hesitation, emphasizing the words “on everything” to ensure that no one missed the point.
This immediately struck me, because it was the second time in as many weeks that I had heard a statement like this from someone who had something to lose by saying it. Appearing on The O’Reilly Factor, John Stossel answered O’Reilly’s assertion that Ron Paul hadn’t won the New Hampshire debate by saying, “But he’s right about everything and you’re wrong.” O’Reilly retorted, “Everything?” Stossel repeated, “Everything.” When O’Reilly pressed yet again with the same question, Stossel finally backed up to “Just about everything.”
Stossel is a television journalist, so credibility is arguably even more important to his living than it is to Wead’s. That is not all the two have in common. Stossel also admits that he regrets much of the first 20 years of his career when he attacked the free enterprise system and championed increased government regulation over business. Like Wead, Stossel was a member of the Establishment, albeit from the other side of its aisle. Now, despite the risk to his credibility, he says that Ron Paul is right about everything.
So is this some sort of quasi-religious devotion? Are Paul’s followers simply caught up in a mass hysteria over someone who is likeable and has demonstrated his integrity for so long that they abandon their reason to avoid critical examination of his positions? Isn’t it impossible for an intelligent person to agree with someone on everything?
The answer to all three of these questions is “no.” In fact, contrary to what conventional wisdom tells us, it is actually illogical to agree with Paul on some things and not others. As I’ve said before, Paul is simply applying the central libertarian axiom to each issue. As long as he applies the axiom properly and does not make an error of logic, he is going to come out with a position that is consistent with libertarianism 100% of the time.
For those in the grip of this “conventional wisdom” that has led us to the brink of societal collapse, Paul’s answers are anything but consistent. On economic policy, he seems like a hardcore conservative, surpassing all other Republicans in his zeal to eliminate regulation and taxes. On foreign policy and social issues, he seems to be some sort of lefty hippie, arguing to legalize all drugs, allow homosexuals to marry if they wish to (he wants government out of marriage even at the state level), and to immediately order home every soldier stationed on a foreign base.
Those just learning about libertarianism might conclude that it is some sort of “compromise” between conservatism and progressivism/liberalism. This is untrue. Libertarianism evaluates political issues from a completely different perspective than either mainstream political philosophy. Sometimes, conservatives happen to agree with libertarians, but for different reasons. Sometimes, the same is true for progressives/liberals. Libertarians care not for who agrees/disagrees. They follow one simple principle and let the chips fall where they may.
Walter Block sums this up best in terms of understanding how libertarians like Paul formulate their positions.
“This is because libertarianism is solely a political philosophy. It asks one and only one question: Under what conditions is the use of violence justified? And it gives one and only one answer: violence can be used only in response, or reaction to, a prior violation of private property rights.”
In order to understand Ron Paul’s platform, there are two conclusions one must reach. The first is that libertarians are correct that violence is only justified in response or reaction to a prior violation of private property rights. Block does not limit the definition of “private property” to land ownership or even physical property in general. Instead, property includes all of one’s life, liberty, and justly acquired possessions. So, any murder, assault, theft, fraud, or coercion would be violation of a private property right. Based upon that understanding, ask anyone if they agree that violence should never be initiated, but instead only used in defense, and you will almost always get agreement. So far, so good.
The second thing that one must conclude in order to understand Ron Paul is that all government action is violent action. This is where it gets difficult for conservatives and liberals alike. While it is easy to see the government’s use of its military as an act of violence, it is harder for people to see that other government activities represent violence. How could providing healthcare, ensuring workplace safety, or licensing barbers be violent acts?
This is the great truth that hides in plain site under every human being’s nose. In order to recognize it, one must disengage the deep, emotional attachments that almost everyone has developed to some or all government activity. Once you get someone to that point and they are truly ready to reason, they will come to the libertarian conclusion every time. To the genuinely interested and rational person, only one question is necessary:
“What if you do not cooperate?”
I cannot count how many times I have asked this question and received in response a stare – not a blank stare, but a thoughtful one. You can see the wheels turning. Sometimes they will begin to speak, then stop themselves while they think some more. They are looking for a hole in the theory. They are unable to find one. They are genuinely interested in either proving or disproving your argument. By that time, you have won.
For those who do not immediately “see the light,” you can pick any government action and walk them through that reasoning process:
You: Suppose that I do not wish to participate in Medicare and withhold only that percentage of my payroll taxes that would otherwise go to fund it. In return, I agree not to make use of any of the Medicare benefits. What will happen to me?
Him/Her: You will be charged with income tax evasion.
You: What if I don’t answer the charge?
Him/Her: You will be arrested.
You: What if I do not agree to submit to the arrest?
Him/Her: You will be physically forced to submit.
You: And if I resist further?
Him/Her: (reluctantly) You will be killed.
You: So, you now agree that we are forced to participate in Medicare under the threat of violence, correct?
Him/Her: (Even more reluctantly) Yes.
You: Is there any government tax, law, or regulation that we are not similarly forced to participate in under the threat of violence? Are not all of these answers the same in relation to even the least significant government regulation, like a parking ticket?
Recall the final scenes in the 1999 movie, The Matrix. After Neo’s “resurrection,” he stands up to once again face the agents that had apparently killed him a moment before. However, when we see the matrix through Neo’s eyes, as he sees it now, the whole world is made up of lines of green code. Neo had been told early in the movie that the matrix is a computer-generated illusion. He heard it, but did not know it. He is now seeing that world as it really is for the first time. His mind has reasoned through and understood all of the implications of what Morpheus has told him. Once he truly understands, he is invincible.
This is a wonderful metaphor for the libertarian “conversion.” Once one has had the epiphany that all government action is violent action, there are only three choices. 1) You come to the same conclusions that Ron Paul does on every issue, 2) You disagree with Walter Block and conclude that it is morally justifiable to initiate violence against other people, or 3) You abandon logic and stop acknowledging reality. This is why Paul told the Today Show’s Matt Lauer that “economic liberty and personal liberty are one and the same and foreign policy that defends America and not police the world [sic] – that’s part of the package as well.”
Doug Wead, John Stossel, and millions of Paul’s supporters have had this revelation. This is why they agree with Paul without exception. They refuse to accept the other two choices available to them: to support the initiation of violence or to abandon logic and refuse to acknowledge reality. This is not fanaticism. It is the inevitable conclusion that one must come to if one employs logic and faces reality. That is why Doug Wead said, “logic and the truth are on your side.”
During his 2008 presidential campaign, Ron Paul lost the Washington state primaries by a considerable margin. However, he won big in Spokane. Why? Because that was the one part of Washington in which Paul’s campaign was able to schedule an appearance. During that campaign, Howard Stern remarked about his exposure to Paul’s message just as Wead, Stossel and millions of Paul supporters have: “I think I agreed with everything that dude just said.” Stern went on to say that he had never heard of Paul before and that it was a shame that the Republican Party was not taking him seriously.
Once a reasonable person hears the libertarian message, it is inevitable that they will not only agree, but agree completely and without exception. This is the antithesis of fanaticism. It is reason. It is recognizing the real world for what it truly is and applying logic to those observations. It is the consistent application to separate political issues of one undeniable principle, which can only lead to libertarian conclusions. It is actually illogical and fanatical to come to any others.
During the 2008 presidential campaign, the Establishment media had a strategy to combat this very troublesome dynamic: Don’t let the message be heard. That is no longer a viable strategy. Paul’s grassroots supporters have forced his platform into the mainstream. The media is simply unable to ignore Paul’s campaign this time around. The libertarian message will be heard. Whether or not Paul wins the presidency is secondary. Every day, more Americans are hearing the truth for the first time and its power is irresistible. The revolution is underway. Whether it takes a year, a decade, or longer, liberty is going to prevail.
© Thomas Mullen 2011
 This assumes that Paul continues to apply libertarian reasoning consistently. It is certainly possible to disagree with him if he misapplies the theory. There are also fine points of theory that libertarians would take Paul to task for, but not on his general positions on the domestic and foreign policy of the federal government.