By Professor Steven Yates
January 14, 2012
J. B. Williams’ article “Why Ron Paul Is Unelectable” contains misinformation but does raise a few questions; thus this effort to sort matters out. I should note before proceeding: I have defended Ron Paul or discussed his thinking in the past here, here, and more recently here. I have written this article because (1) if Mitt Romney’s nomination really were inevitable it is no guarantee, obviously, of a victory over Barack Obama (especially if those who supported Ron Paul decide out of conscience that they can’t support Romney and choose to vote third party or go fishing—like it or not, the GOP needs us); and (2) if Romney is the best the GOP can do, it only guarantees more of the same because—as with McCain vs. Obama back in 2008—the differences are more cosmetic than substantive.
In other words, the anybody-but-Obama rhetoric we are hearing from a lot of conservatives these days is as deceptive as the anybody-but-Bush rhetoric of Democrats was back in 2008. Obama has more in common with Bush than he has differences. He, like Bush, proved to be a creature of the power elite—on Wall Street, in the Trilateral Commission, and elsewhere. He continued Bush’s foreign wars and has even widened them to include Libya and Pakistan—and possibly Iran before near-future events can play out. The hope-and-change rhetoric changed nothing. Likewise, promises of a change in direction coming from the Romney camp will change nothing. We’ll see why before we are done here.
First, let us deal with some misinformation in Williams’ article. Neocon is not an insult. The word is short for neoconservative: a specific political position worked out in detail. One can find the “Cliff Notes” version on Wikipedia and elsewhere. Wikipedia says:
“Neoconservatism is a variant of the political ideology of conservatism which rejects the utopianism and egalitarianism of modern liberalism but sees a role for the welfare state. Their main emphasis since 1990 has been using American power to foster democracy abroad, especially in the Middle East. They were notably visible in Republican administrations of George H.W. Bush (1989-93) and George W. Bush (2001-2009).”
Wikipedia’s discussion continues by noting how the stance was developed by former Trotskyite left-liberals, perhaps explaining how one of its founding fathers, Irving Kristol, could famously describe a neoconservative as a “liberal who has been mugged by reality.” Back in the early 1980s, the term was not an insult. But as it developed, it was clear that neoconservatism retained a good bit of the leftism from which it originally sprung—having made peace with the welfare state, for example, or Keynesian economics, or a good deal of the trappings of political correctness when that became an issue in the 1990s. It was fundamentally a creature of Fabian socialism, created in academic centers of Fabian permeation such as New York University and think tanks such as the Heritage Foundation and the American Enterprise Institute where Fabian ideas hijacked both capitalist economics and conservative politics. Neoconservatism combined these with a violently militaristic view of the world. Accordingly, Carnegie Council for Ethics in International Affairs senior fellow Richard Clarke could describe neoconservatism as having these “main characteristics”:
• a tendency to see the world in binary good/evil terms
• low tolerance for diplomacy
• readiness to use military force
• emphasis on U.S. unilateral action
• disdain for multilateral organizations
• focus on the Middle East
• an us-versus-them mentality."
Is this really conservatism? Should we have problems with it? Neoconservatives believe in a brand of “American exceptionalism” holding that the U.S. both can and should police the rest of the world, that it should intervene in the affairs of other nations including initiating violent “regime change” against foreign leaders who have neither attacked nor threatened us, nor have the technological means of attacking us (Iraq is an example). To be fair, this idea hardly began with neoconservatism—Mohammed Mosadegh was forcibly unseated from his position as Iran’s elected president in a CIA-backed coup back in the early 1950s, after all—but today’s neoconservatives, especially since 9/11, have taken this kind of program further than ever before. All we need as is how many stable democracies neoconservatives have created in the Middle East in the past 20 years? The answer is: none!
The movement’s history of belligerence passed off as conservatism has caused friction between neoconservatives and, e.g., paleoconservatives, or libertarian-leaning Republicans such as those of us backing Dr. Paul. It is probably true that the term neocon has been thrown at some of the other candidates for the GOP nomination as an insult, or at their supporters. I confess to having done this a time or two myself. Mea culpa. Point taken. We should try to do better, to focus on issues instead of on personalities. We shouldn’t have too much trouble, because there are plenty of issues!
Our national debt is pushing $15.2 trillion! This is just the official figure! The actual figure, which would include, e.g., Social Security obligations, is at least five times higher! Republicans cannot blame this on Obama. He hasn’t been around that long. The national debt was $5.7 when George W. Bush took office and $10.8 trillion when Obama took office. Republicans controlled both houses of Congress from 1994 until 2006. Congressional spending did not drop appreciably. Both mainstream Republicans and mainstream Democrats have contributed to the skyrocketing national debt, and neither seems to have any incentive to do anything about it once its people are elected.
Ron Paul promises to do something by immediately cutting $1 trillion from the federal budget. He pledges to end six federal agencies, including the worthless U.S. Department of Education.
But we shouldn’t take these actions, under the admittedly tall assumption that he ever gets to make them, out of context. Ron Paul wishes to take the federal government back to the U.S. Constitution. What does it mean to do this? Is it doable? J.B. Williams understandably wants to know how? One of the main arguments he makes is that Ron Paul hasn’t shown us how he would do anything. To find out whether this has the sting he thinks it has, let’s focus on a specific: the Federal Reserve, which Dr. Paul wants to abolish (one of his many books is entitled End the Fed).
The first thing to note is that Ron Paul has never promised to enact a program and obtain comprehensive results overnight. Such a promise would make him a raving lunatic. This is why he’s introduced bills into Congress aimed at subjecting the Fed to a comprehensive audit. He believes that such an audit would generate sufficient outrage that many besides himself would demand it be shut down—and replaced by a decentralized banking system that would allow both public banks and private ones giving the buying public a genuine choice. Whether Dr. Paul is right about this or not, I don’t know. But what we have learned is that the Fed gave $16.1 trillion to the banking leviathans both American and foreign between December 1, 2007 and July 21, 2010.