Ron Paul Retiring is the Beginning, Not the End, of LibertarianismSubmitted by legalizeliberty on Fri, 11/30/2012 - 16:29
With the retirement of Congressman Ron Paul (R-Texas) from the House of Representatives, libertarianism will lose its most famous leader in public office. While Paul plans to stay very active outside of Congress, it will be interesting to see what the future of libertarianism will look like without Paul's presence.
As someone who advocates for libertarian principles to anyone who will listen, supported Paul during his last two presidential campaigns, and been immersed in as much literature, protests, and reflection as possible, I wanted to give my thoughts on the future of an intellectual movement that Paul, perhaps more than anyone in history, has done to spread and popularize.
I have already noticed some in the broad libertarian movement looking towards the presidential race of 2016, the supposed gains made in Congress with Paulian Republicans, and involvement in the political process in general. While I sympathize with the desperation behind much of these short-term answers, libertarianism and politics are like oil and water. Looking to politics, elections, and offices for solutions will only lead to selling out, compromise, and frustration.
Just look at American history. Is there a single U.S. president that left office with the country more libertarian, freer, and more prosperous? There are examples of presidents that did the least amount of damage compared to the rest (Cleveland and Harding come to mind), but even that great classical liberal Thomas Jefferson was so embarrassed of his presidency he left it off of his gravestone. The history of presidents is a history of wars, police states, taxation, welfare, spying, and imprisonment.
A recent story in the New York Times sums up the futility of looking to the White House for anything remotely libertarian. In case of a Romney victory, President Obama was apparently scrambling to write a legal code governing his illegal drone war in the same manner that Obama expanded upon the authoritarian powers former President Bush seized. Would, say, a President Rand Paul or Justin Amash's kill list be more libertarian?
No, the libertarian movement sees the presidency itself as the problem, not as an office that needs a bit of tweaking. This may seem like a radical concept to some, but the idea of society as a self-governing, spontaneous order goes all the way back to at least Lao Tzu in the 6th Century BC. In his classic libertarian work, Tao Te Ching, Tzu recognized that peace and voluntarism are the way of great nations, and by letting go of our desire to coercively control others, human prosperity will flourish.