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Saturday, March 1, 2008

RE: [cal-libs] Ron Paul critics again confusing jurisprudential fact with libertarian theory

Ron Getty wrote:
RG) Perhaps you or anyone can show me factual evidence in the US Constitution or a state constitution that any legislature has the right to impose by fiat laws any form of morals or ethics or civics on anyone under any circumstances.  (RG
It's indisputable that the U.S. Constitution, as amended by the Bill of Rights, left wide latitude to the states.  The Tenth Amendment says: "The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people."  The only factual dispute here is the extent to which the 14th Amendment applies the Bill of Rights to the states.  I think it should be interpreted as doing so, but I don't think disagreeing makes Ron Paul unlibertarian.  See for more information.

RG) Any person claiming to be a card carrying dues paying member of the Libertarian party or espousing libertarian values who believed any government state or federal under any circumstances has the right to impose such by fiat or jurisprudence should not be a Libertarian  (RG

I'll keep saying it until one of you Paul critics bother to read it:

You conflate two distinct things: 1) Paul's belief that as a matter of jurisprudential fact under our system of government, states have the power to regulate the sex lives of consenting adults, and 2) Paul's alleged belief that states should use that power to regulate the sex lives of consenting adults.

In short, you're confusing what is with what ought to be.

RG) If Ron Paul does not outright and vocally condemn the state of Texas for its sex laws or drug laws or any such moral imposition laws, and pushes for their immediate repeal  (RG 

David Friedman has already addressed this complaint:

Brian Miller wrote:

BM) Ron Paul insists that "states' rights" bring liberty (and take precedence over individual rights); (BM

Again: he asserts that precedence as a matter of jurisprudential fact and as a recommendation regarding the institutional design of government, saying that individual rights should be protected at the most local level possible, and not at the most central level possible.  You cannot quote Ron Paul asserting as a matter of normative ethical theory that so-called "rights" of states should trump individual rights.  I doubt that Paul even considers "rights" of states to be on the same ethical level as individual rights, since he constantly repeats the basic libertarian tenet that rights inhere only in individuals, not groups.  You know very well that "state's rights" is shorthand for the principle of federalism that the central government should not usurp the role and responsibilities of state and local governments.

BM) in Ron Paul's ideal America, the drug warriors, the sex police, and the government censors would thrive at a state and local level (BM

Again, you confuse Ron Paul's ideal America with Ron Paul's ideal interpretation of the federal Constitution.  To know what Ron Paul thinks states should do with the power that the Constitution leaves to them, let's just ask him. He says: "A free country is designed for individuals to deal with the subject of virtue and excellence. Once we defer to the government to get involved in worrying about our own virtue and our excellence and perfect fair economies, it is done at the sacrifice of liberty. If we do that, and sacrifice that liberty, and the job of virtue and excellence is taken over by the government, you can only do that through tyranny. [...] If you want to change people, you change them through persuasion, through family values, through church values, but you can't do it through legislation, because force doesn't work."

BM) "States' rights" doctrines inevitably lead towards majoritarian oppression (BM

It would be absurd to claim that federalization of rights protection hasn't led to majoritarian oppression in the areas I cited and that you again ignored: substance use and campaign speech and warrantless monitoring and gun rights and "hate crimes" and reproductive technology and digital copying technology. 

I happen to agree that it's possible and indeed advisable sometimes to centralize the protection of negative liberty while avoiding the nanny-state imposition of positive liberties.  However, the historical record is decidedly mixed, and it's just not intellectually serious to call it unlibertarian to fear what happens when rights protection is centralized.

I challenge you to explain why (or whether) you think that the protection of individual rights shouldn't be moved up from the federal judiciary to the United Nations.  If you don't think it should be, then I could accuse you of being unlibertarian for advocating "nation-state's rights" -- if I were the sort of person you are.

BM) Policy prescriptions have consequences. (BM

The institutional design of government has even more consequences.  Do you think a libertarian Supreme Court justice should just always rule in whatever ad hoc way leads to the most libertarian result in the case at hand, or do you think she should instead apply a consistent theory of constitutional/legal interpretation?

BM) The rest of your argument is a Clintonian "depends on what your definition of 'is' is" sort of thing. [...] your excess puffery [...] (BM

Calling my arguments names is strongly suggests that you can't answer them.  Thanks.

BM) Why do states' rights activists hate the idea of a Bill of Rights that restricts all government so much? (BM

Why do you ask questions that I've already answered?  Do you understand my argument enough to be able to quote from my previous message what I would say is the answer?  Go ahead and try.

Does your question mean you'd favor the U.N. having the authority to enforce on the American federal government, say, articles 1-21 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, or sections 6-27 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights?  The indicated provisions are quite good -- generally much better than the Bill of Rights -- but I don't trust the U.N. to enforce them.  Do you?

BM) Why would libertarians argue -- under any conditions -- for absolute power of government at any level? (BM

Ron Paul isn't arguing for "absolute power" at any level of government.  He's arguing that a given power -- the protection of individual rights -- should be more decentralized in America than you or I would have it.  That doesn't make him unlibertarian, it just makes him more suspicious of the federal government than we are.  His suspiciousness is consistent with his many conspiracy-tinged beliefs, but isn't unlibertarian per se.