Regis is nervous. He auditioned for a role in a BPI campus theatre spring show titled The Gardener’s Lament. It’s a student-written comedy about a warmhearted man whose vegetable garden amazes and delights his friends and neighbors, including a family of squirrels. If he is cast, Regis will have a starring role: dashing onto the stage to carry off first seeds, then a cherry tomato, then an ear of corn, and then a watermelon. Near the end of the play, he borrows the gardener’s tractor and … well, I shouldn’t spoil the ending.
I asked Regis why he’s so nervous, as he’s an expert at carrying away food. I swept a paw around his room to prove the point.
“But dad,” he chittered, “there’ll be a spotlight on me!”
Okay, that can be a problem. Just ask Texas congressman and Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul. For months, his supporters have complained that Paul didn’t get enough media attention. Now they’re complaining that he is.
It seems Paul published some newsletters back in the early 1990s that included some disgustingly racist comments. Or “innocuous” comments, if you believe the U.S. needs “an explicitly pro-White party.” With supporters like that….
Paul says he didn’t write those newsletters and did not approve of their content. He says the fact that racists endorse him doesn’t mean he endorses racism. Or sexism. Or homophobia. Or whacky conspiracy theories.
Except Paul does endorse some of those:
I think this fence business is designed and may well be used against us and keep us in. In economic turmoil, the people want to leave with their capital. And there’s capital controls and there’s people control. So, every time you think of fence keeping all those bad people out, think about those fences maybe being used against us, keeping us in.
So if you’re worried about wealthy Americans hoping to flee to Mexico to escape “capital controls,” Paul sympathizes. Likewise if you think the U.S. should return to the gold standard and end the Federal Reserve.
Paul’s big message, of course, is not racism or sexism or homophobia or whacky conspiracy theories. It’s libertarianism. Or as squirrels like to call it: “Let the big dogs eat.”
The idea is that government should get out of the way and let the most powerful actors – the wealthy, whites, males, Christians, etc. – dominate society. That’s not aristocratic, because libertarians don’t argue that wealthy people are inherently superior to everyone else. It’s not racist, because they don’t argue that whites are superior to non-whites. It’s not sexist, because they don’t argue men are superior to women. It’s not Dominionist, because they don’t argue Christianity is superior to other religions. And so on. Instead, it’s all about “freedom.”
Well, “freedom” for the big dogs.
Of course, libertarians argue that would be “freedom” for every individual, and to compare outcomes across groups of people is to fall into the collectivist fallacy. In that view, all groups and even society itself are illusions. Only individuals are real, the theory goes. To contemplate how a policy may affect groups is to buy into a freedom-destroying fiction. Indeed, Austrian School theorists like Paul expressly reject the scientific method as applied to economics:
Within economics, Austrians favor a method called “apriorism.” A priori knowledge is logic, or knowledge that exists in a person’s mind prior to, and independent of, outer world experience. For example, the statement “two plus two equals four” is true whether or not a person goes out into his garden and verifies this by counting two pairs of tomatoes. What this means is that Austrians reject the attempt to learn economic laws through experiment or real world observation. The only true economic laws are those based on first principles, namely, logic.
As [Friedrich] Hayek wrote, economic theories can “never be verified or falsified by reference to facts. All that we can and must verify is the presence of our assumptions in the particular case.”
In other words, if you can build a logical syllogism wherein each individual has an equal opportunity, without any action by government, and wherein any action by government would limit someone’s freedom of choice, you have disproved the need for government. If Realworldia shows that such a system would let those with privilege – the wealthy, whites, males, Christians, etc. – dominate society and leave everyone else with crumbs … you shouldn’t even try to measure or compare the outcomes of privileged vs. non-privileged groups. Problem solved!
No wonder Paul’s supporters are upset. Shine a spotlight on that, and it looks ridiculous. Because it is ridiculous.
Good day and good nuts.