We are not going to hold your hand, Kotecki
James Kotecki garnered some minor fame in the libertarian movement when Ron Paul came to his dorm room last campaign for an interview, something I can't imagine any other Presidential candidate doing. However, in a recent Huffington Post column, Kotecki expressed his reservations about Paul's candidacy and declared that he will not support Ron Paul. The basic formula of Kotecki's reasoning is that he was associated with evangelicals at some point and Ron's supporters remind him of those experiences.
I don't know how much James Kotecki spent on his college education, but appearantly the sticker price didn't include any classes on logic or argumentation. What follows is a string of logical fallacies in the format of A is C and B is C, therefore A is B, or Fallacy of the Undistributed Middle. These fallacies are acceptable work at Huffington Post though. As Ron Paul supporters, we see this often. Rather than merely pointing out the fallacy, let's discuss Kotecki's feelings regarding Ron Paul's supporters.
"They have a simple solution to every problem. For evangelicals, it's more God. For Ron Paul supporters, it's less government."
This is both a logical fallacy and a version of the utopian charge, so let's address that. Libertarians often get charged with promoting utopianism by the uninformed. I'm sorry that Mr. Kotecki, despite the graciousness of Ron Paul to visit his dorm room for a one hour interview, couldn't be bothered to spend one hour himself researching libertarianism.
The earliest utopian writings come from Plato and Lycurgus. The theme was a bureaucratic, state run paradise where slaves would be kept to do the dirty work, but everyone else would live in peaceful and blissful communes. The wisest and noblest of the functionaries would make the important decisions, leaving everyone else to happy ignorance. Everyone is free to skip through the meadows all day (except the slaves, of course.)
In Europe, utopianism became closely associated with socialism. In 1516, Thomas More wrote a book about communal living and perpetual peace called Utopia. In the centuries that followed, many socialist writers ruminated on the utopianism to come once socialism succeeded in changing human nature, for example Charles Fourier and comte de Saint-Simon. They made fantastic promises. The oceans would turn to lemonade and the lions would become so tame you could ride them. All this would happen as soon as poverty was eradicated through minimum wage laws and unemployment insurance.
Murray N. Rothbard, the great economic and political historian (among other things) put the utopianism charge to rest here. Libertarianism is not a solution to every problem, or panacea, nor do libertarians claim it to be.
Murray refused to accept any theory that is based solely on outcomes. He broke with his mentor and rejected the utilitarianism of Ludwig von Mises, stating in Ethics of Liberty that, "one must go beyond economics and utilitarianism to establish an objective ethics which affirms the overriding value of liberty."
For Rothbard and many libertarians, the question is not about outcomes. This isn't to say we expect bad outcomes in libertarian society. We expect some positives and some negatives. We seek liberty as the highest political ideal because we believe it provides ethical answers (not optimal outcomes, per se) to the problems of human affairs. On the other hand, you can gather a group of central planners - all those adults who as little kids said "I wanna be President when I grow up!" - and you'll get lots of plans seeking optimal outcomes. You may not think that is utopianiasm, but what would you call it then? The State's planners have nothing but utopian promises based on outcomes precisely calculated by technocratic anti-capitalists. (Of course, they always fail to reach those outcomes, which is a topic for another blog.)
As you can see, libertarianism is the antithesis of the State and hence, does not offer the utopianism of the State. Libertarians offer the uncertainty of liberty.
So no, libertarians do not think that less government solves all problems. However, it is fair to say that we believe the government causes many problems, and that getting out of the way can certainly help in some cases. If someone is stabbing you in the neck with rusty scissors, you improve that situation by getting rid of the stabber. This is not difficult material to comprehend. However, libertarianism today must face the reality that simply removing government wholesale from areas of society grown accustomed to the false sense of security government provides would cause social unrest. I think most libertarians do understand that.
I also think most libertarians understand that America must change first. We don't wish to change America through the exercise of power and violence. We certainly do not compromise on the Non-Aggression Principle. When America changes and seeks liberty, they will go about the task of dismantling the State, the ultimate source of violence and coercion in this world. You may not think this can happen, but that was how English liberals ascended to power in the 19th century. Sadly, after dismantling the State, they did a complete 180 and took all that liberty away within the same generation. See Herbert Spencer's Man Versus the State for more on the rise and fall of liberty in England under the liberals.
Their positions are logically consistent, but only if you accept strict, specific interpretations of key documents. For evangelicals, it's the Bible. For Ron Paul supporters, it's the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence.
I'm going to level with you. I'm an anarchist in the tradition of Lysander Spooner, and as such the Constitution does not get my nipples hard. I do prefer American Constitutional government to many other forms of government, but it's not ideal by any stretch. So I have a hard time defending Ron Paul supporters against logical fallacies like this, but I'll try.
I can say that Ron Paul infers not-too-subtely that the Constitution does not protect individual liberty in many cases. He noted in the excellent Tonight Show interview last month that often the individual states abuse the power that the Consitution delegates. Judge Napolitano, as guest speaker at last year's Mises University, openly questioned whether the Constitution is an obstacle to individual liberty rather than an assurance of it. Hans Herman Hoppe, a prominent libertarian thinker and former student of Murray Rothbard, has argued that the Constitution was a power grab by the politically connected and constructed for the purpose of laying the ground work for big government.
Being a strict Constitutionalist like Ron Paul, and the majority of his supporters, is not based on a dogmatic belief that every aspect of American Constitutional government provides strict adherence to libertarianism. It is based on the reality that we have this Rule of Law available to us which is far superior to the tyranny which accompanies the Rule of Men. Why don't we try using it every once in a while?
They have an "us against the world" mentality in which business, government, and media elites are all working against them.
It seems rather silly to say on the one hand, "libertarians want to shrink government because they believe doing so will solve their problems" and on the other hand, "those kooky libertarians think the government is against them!" Well, James..... I'm sorry we have to spell these things out for you.
It's also a strawman to imply libertarians are anti-business or even anti-big business. Libertarians rejoice in the fact that some people are so good at satisfying the needs and wants of others that their business grows to new heights. That's part of the joys of capitalism. It lifts the living standard of all. Crony capitalism, on the other hand, is something most mainstream Americans recognize as immoral and unproductive. Why is Kotecki baffled that people receiving corporate welfare would prefer to keep that money flowing, and therefore oppose anyone trying to stop it?
Kotecki clearly thinks we're being childish. I suppose he believes that the media is an objective institution that never lets its bias influence its reporting, too. Everyone has biases. I'm unaware of any person in human history that consistently approached the world with the objectivity of a Randian super hero. The media's bias against Ron Paul and libertarianism is quite simple to explain. In exchange for stories that paint figures of the State in a positive light, they receive access to the Temple. Being close to the power center is good business for the media. Again, I don't know what is so hard to understand about this. Just the other day, a Pentagon reporter was caught on mic complaining that a Ron Paul presidency would mean fewer Pentagon journalists. (As if losing this unproductive service would somehow be a bad thing.)
Before I move on, I'd like to point out that this criticism of using the "us against the world mentality" can be applied to pretty much every single sports team or competitive group in world history. The New York Giants had an "us against the world" menatility in which the fans, gamblers, and media elites were all working against them in their Super Bowl XLII match up with the Patriots.
In general, passionate and dedicated individuals and groups will have a chip on their shoulder. It's not necessarily a bad thing. (My favorite Tupac album was "Me Against the World"). James might be a little lost right now, moving through life without passion. It is his Unbearable Lightness of Being, perhaps.
They believe our civilization teeters on the brink of destruction and only their philosophy can save it. Evangelicals predict apocalyptic tribulations for the unsaved; Ron Paul supporters warn of a tyrannical socialist police state.
On the 10th anniversary of State Failure Day (9/11), it was reported that 50 people were pulled off planes before take off based on anonymous tips from cowardly passengers. Not only were they held without charges for several hours, many were stripped naked and searched by fat, stinking, welfare parasites known as DHS agents. Each suspect was eventually released hours later, afer being thoroughly terrified and violated, without charges in what one DHS agent called "people seeing ghosts." None of the suspects were allowed to face their accusers. All were minorities (several of them were Middle Eastern.)
This is strictly personal opinion, but I feel that Americans who think there is no police state have to be white. Or maybe they just don't get out much. Either way, our American non-white friends don't appear to be so flip about what is going on around them.
As far as apocalytpic fears of the end of the world, that is strawman nonsense. The vast majority of libertarians are so because of their unshakable optimism. Do you know how easy it is to give up, to be despaired by the corruption and violence, to want nothing to do with political or economic debate? In order to keep at it, you must be optimistic. Fear and depression only take you so far.
Besides, so many libertarians I know have advanced degrees or advanced technological savvy that will not play very well in our future war against zombies. If we say the currency crisis will certainly happen one day, that doesn't necessarily mean that day is tomorrow. Nor does it mean this event will usher in the Zombie Apocalypse. Humans are special because they can adapt.
Kotecki would clearly prefer it if we kept our mouths shut and obeyed our overlords. As Brittney Spears once famously remarked, "I think we should just trust our president in every decision he makes, you know, and be faithful in what happens." Maybe James prefers the Philosophy of Spears to that of Ron Paul.
They reflexively lash out against any perceived criticism of their philosophy or its leader (see: every comment section on the Internet).
In my first blog here, I referred to the cowards at RedState.com banning Ron Paul supporters in 2008 for debating too intelligently. I guess that character "flaw" annoys Kotecki as well. Yes, we are passionate. Yes, some libertarians prefer typing with the CAPS LOCK on. But I am so very proud of the intellectual arguments consistently presented by Ron Paul supporters on every comment thread and forum I visit. Their arguments are vastly superior to the snarky, fallacious, and condescending arguments from non-Ron Paulians. This is why our base is so strong. Ron showed us the way, but so many of you blazed that path with gusto. You took the words about self reliance and individual responsibility to heart. Now you kick tail in every debate, in every setting. Anyplace. Anytime. Anywhere. Naturally, such confidence and competence inspires jealousy, which is what drives people like Kotecki to criticize the passion of the argument while ignoring the content.
My own feeling is that Kotecki should look in the mirror and examine why this is the best argument he can make against Ron Paul. I'm sure if he studied harder, he could find something worthwhile to criticize. Maybe with some hard work, he could even construct an argument to exploit one of Ron's important positions.
In other words, James Kotecki may not like us, but that's his problem, not ours. We're not going to hold his hand while he figures this out.