I’m late getting to the essay on libertarianism by Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch from Sunday’s Washington Post. Leaving definition three in the sub-title aside (I am not infatuated with Ron Paul because he is not a libertarian¹.), the opening paragraph is a useful path to a broader discussion of libertarianism:
How to make sense of the Ron Paul revolution? What’s behind the improbably successful (so far) presidential campaign of a 72-year-old 10-term Republican congressman from Texas who pines for the gold standard while drawing praise from another relic from the hyperinflationary 1970s, punk-rocker Johnny Rotten?
Among several positions held by Rep. Paul that I find objectionable, his fondness for the gold standard is silly. The value of gold is subjective, just as the value of dollars or euros or whatever other store of value we’ve agreed upon is subjective. I don’t like gold, aesthetically. I don’t wear jewelry. The only reason I’d need gold is because other people find it valuable. That it possesses value is strictly arbitrary.
I like Jason Kuznicki’s eloquent conclusion (from an unrelated analysis of goldbugs) as a better way of stating why gold isn’t the issue:
… Gold — its weight, its luster, its aura — seems to endure. It may or may not be a technically feasible as a money any longer, but as a throwback to a more certain age, it’ll obviously do. The modern-day goldbugs have all of the anxieties provoked by Austrian economics, but none of its epistemic complexity. Those who wish to preserve something of value should be partisans not of gold, but of the civil society and the market that make money of any type worth holding.
That last sentence, especially.
P.S. Title reference here.
¹ For example:
But his philosophy of principled libertarianism is anything but negative: It’s predicated on the fundamental notion that a smaller government allows individuals the freedom to pursue happiness as they see fit.
Rep. Paul believes in a smaller government. He does not connect that with individual liberty. On several fundamental rights, he is content to allow states to interfere as long as it’s “democratic” interference. But the root of libertarianism is liberty. Smaller government generally makes liberty more likely, but protection of rights must be primary. If a state seeks to deny rights to the minority at the whim of the majority, the federal government’s power to prohibit that is legitimate.
To be fair, I think Rep. Paul encourages useful debate. I just wish he weren’t incorrectly labeled something he is not.