The Futility of a Libertarian Running for High Office

Lew Rockwell lays it all out for libertarians who are excited about Palin's VP candidacy -- you're just getting duped into involvement in presidential politics:

"When a decent person accepts a job such as vice president, our first instinct is to celebrate that good people are in a position of power and influence. This is what McCain is counting on. But this is an illusion. The influence runs completely the other way. Good people become part of the party machine and surrender all their principles in order to survive. This, sadly, is the future of Sarah Palin, who may have been doing some good in Alaska..."

"There are names I could mention here in our time, former libertarians now holding high political appointments in the bowels of the federal bureaucracy. They know who they are. They can pretend superiority, that they are "getting their hands dirty" while the rest of us are merely typing away at our keyboards. But in fact, they have become responsible for great evil..."

I remember when Ron Paul was running for President, and some libertarians foolishly got all enthused, how Lew always would give the same warning, saying, "Don't think putting a good person in the office of President will help -- this is just going to corrupt Ron Paul, and kill off any good he was doing in Congress." How, if he got elected, Paul would only be "responsible for great evil..." and, therefore, libertarians shouldn't support his campaign.

That was what he said about the Paul campaign, wasn't it? "Don't bother getting involved; this is worse than pointless -- it's actually evil." Wasn't it? I can't quite remember now.


  1. This argument absolute hogwash. You are misrepresenting what Lew Rockwell's argument was, and how strongly he stated it, and should be ashamed of doing that.

    If you disagree with Rockwell that the directionality of influence is a rule of thumb, then, fine, disagree with that; don't misrepresent Lew's position and use snide sarcasm to imply that he is a hypocrite. That is completely unethical.

  2. How, exactly, did I mis-represent his argument? May I draw your attention to: "The influence runs completely the other way." Do you note the "completely" there? No, "quite often," or anything like that? Nothing about "rule of thumb"?

    I think you are frantically trying to calm the cognitive dissonance caused by Lew's Palin post and his support for Ron Paul, and attacking me is a means to try to do so.

    Since maybe it will help. let me explain the crucial difference between the two campaigns: Sarah Palin's campaign is not going to generate new names for the LVMI mailing list.

  3. "But the real world of government is the opposite of libertarianism. It is stealing, lying, killing, butchering, badgering, looting, coercing, and sucking the life out of society itself. That is the essence of modern statecraft.

    "You either have to come to terms with that or leave. If you stay, you become part of the very problem that you once fought to oppose. "

    See, dh908098098908, there are no shades of grey here: if you stay, you're part of the problem. Period.

    And Lew had to write this this way, because he had to cut of the possibility that Palin might be an exception -- there are no exceptions.

    Except those who help fund raise for LVMI.

  4. I don't agree entirely. Although Government corrupts, I'd prefer someone with a libertarian background - of whom I hope that he remembers that certain kinds of government behavior are worse then others - then a powermad socialist (I still - maybe because I'm European - refuse to give in on the word 'liberal') who by no means has any knowledge of stuff like 'rights' or 'unintended consequences' of 'minimumwages suck big time'.

  5. Lode, my point wasn't "Rockwell is right about Palin" OR "Rockwell was right about Ron Paul" -- it's that he can't have been right both times!

  6. I think the difference here is Lew trusted Ron Paul as a close friend. I also do not believe he thought Paul had a large chance to become President, but wanted Paul to spread the truth about monetary policy, the Fed, etc.

    It does seem kinda hypocritical, but as an anarchist I have to point out people are fallible and can get caught up in excitement.

    Ron Paul is the black sheep of politics while Palin is an up and comer that has not proven she is not going to fall in line with the status quo.

    Your criticism is fair so I do not see why people should get so defensive. Lew is not perfect and can make mistakes it does not hurt to point them out.

  7. Mr Callahan:

    Let's not treat Dr. Paul and Ms. Palin as some kind of members of a homogenous group or class - One significant difference between them is that Ron has exhibited a certain amount of integrity (even if imperfect) over literally decades in the sewer and Ms. Palin hasn't been in a similar position. Dr. Paul has publicly refused to endorse or support McCain or his policies. I can't imagine he'd even consider the VP slot that was offered to Ms. Palin. She accepted, therefore they are obviously different individuals.

    Now of course he WON'T be asked, not least because of his previous publicly stated positions, so you could well argue that he's not REALLY being tested, but I would argue in response that Ron has merely Pre-emptively declined the VP slot that Ms Palin accepted.

    Also, the *Presidency* is clearly different than the *Vice presidency* - as President, Dr Paul (or Ms. Palin, for that matter) would be somewhat more free to set policy than either of those individuals would be in the Vice president's office (Bush/Cheney notwithstanding - another example of a general rule that doesn't apply to all individuals and situations). And yes, we see the word "completely" in Lew's article, but to argue that that's an ironclad contradiction requires one to treat Dr. Paul and Ms. Palin as the same, and to treat the office of the president and the office of the vice president as the same. I fear that your focus on the word "completely", in all its declarative concreteness has made you miss the word "influence" a much less definitive word.

    Or maybe there's another, more personal, reason you're making this argument... One can't help but be curious...

  8. "I also do not believe he thought Paul had a large chance to become President..."

    I don't think he did, either. So why did he keep writing that an RP win was "inevitable."

  9. "Let's not treat Dr. Paul and Ms. Palin as some kind of members of a homogenous group or class - One significant difference between them is that Ron has exhibited a certain amount of integrity (even if imperfect) over literally decades in the sewer and Ms. Palin hasn't been in a similar position..."

    I agree, but you'd better write this to Lew, not me. In THIS column, his contention is that "The influence runs completely the other way" -- the goodness of the person means nothing, as they inevitably will be corrupted by the office! So I agree with your point we should sort between the candidates -- but in THIS column, Lew is saying that doesn't matter at all.

  10. I disagree, though I'll freely admit my interpretation is merely implied, as Ron Paul is not mentioned in Mr. Rockwell's Palin article at all (though determining his opinion of Dr. Paul is a trivial exercise in LRC archve-mining). The omission of Dr. Paul by name seems to me to be a perfectly reasonable editorial decision, since the article wasn't *about* him, and this omission doesn't change the point of the article or negate Mr. Rockwell's support of Dr. Paul.

    In fact, the (implication of the) article is perhaps best summarized as "Don't expect Ms. Palin to be another Ron Paul". I don't believe Lew is obligated to put "Except Congressman Paul" in every article he writes; he's already exhaustively established that his opinion on that matter. In fact, if he were to constantly stick in "Except Ron Paul" his writing would suffer.

    I certainly don't see any contradiction.

  11. Gene, I have been eagerly awaiting your next LRC article, but haven't seen one in awhile. Perhaps I could just be having browser problems, of course.

  12. Dr. Murray Tyson11:22 PM


    This is your most coherent comment to date. I have looked at it from every possible angle in an attempt to rip it apart, but have found no faults or weaknesses.

    I am curious, however, which side of the debate do you lean towards" Government corrupts good people or Good people can overcome the bad pressures of government?

  13. Dear Dr. Murray, Bob and I were just discussing one particularly obnoxious poster, and Bob asked "If we ban him, won't we have to ban others?"

    My reply was, "Well, the second most obnoxious poster, whom I declare to be Dr. Murray, has achieved about 1/1000 of the obnoxiousness of ob, no, 1 -- Murray is witty, posts sporadically, and is never simply crude.

    And now you actually approve of a post of mine! Oh, mine wits are unhinged from my soul, my senses do reel across the empyream, and mine bowels do unleash their fury upon the waters of the earth!

    Oh thank you, Dr. Murray, for being so much less unwelcome than X.

    But, to answer your question: 50/50.

  14. Still, Dr. Murray, don't ya know, if you're going to pooh-pooh my record of academic publication -- and ya do realize that the CV I poseted lists only scholarly publications, and not the several hundred articles I've published elsewhere, dontcha? -- then, to be fair, ya really ought to show us how much vaster yer own list of academic pubs is than is mine, heh?

  15. Still, Dr. Murray, don't ya know, if you're going to pooh-pooh my record of academic publication -- and ya do realize that the CV I poseted lists only scholarly publications...

    Gene:Dr. T's comment about Gene's CV :: Silas:Bob's op ed on cap&trade

  16. Gene,

    I think you're leaving out important context. In that same article (I remember reading it from the Mises Review mailed to me monthly), he said that while yes there is Ron Paul who held to his ideals, there are thousands others who were corrupted.

    So while, his emphasis is on the corrupting influence, he did admit that there were exceptions.

    As for Palin, she certainly isn't as good as Paul; but she isn't as bad as McCain, Obama, or Biden.

    The difference in Lew's assessment of Palin vs. Paul might have something to do with Palin already caving in on some of her prior ideals (wasn't she for Alaskan independence before?).

    I'm also curious why the snide sarcasm; is Lew Rocwkwell really that bad of a guy, in your opinion, that you can't just openly criticize his position on this without sarcasm? Far be it for me to say that his views are unassailable -- they certainly aren't -- but I think as a decent guy, he warrants better treatment than that.

  17. Gene,

    Reading the article you linked to, I suppose I can see why you think Lew has a view on this without caveats. However, from other writings on the same topic by him that I've read, I do not think this is the case.

    In any event, I stand on my prior comments about sarcasm being unnecessary.

  18. Gene,

    Also, from this paragraph,

    "Part of the purpose of political campaigns is to socialize the candidates in this mold. Sarah will be slapped around if and when she openly disagrees with McCain's politics. When they win the election, she will immediately be required to take on the role of apologist for all that the administration does."

    It seems to me that there is a clear difference in Lew's thinking on whether one is President or Vice President in one's ability to stick with their principles. It is clearly much less for VP's.

  19. Gene,

    Also, responding to your argument that Lew was "right about Palin" or "right about Paul," but can't have both; I disagree. There are differences between them, both in their steadfastness to principle and in the positions they were/are running for.

    In any event, I feel sorry for Ms. Palin; I agree with Lew that there is much to admire about her. Just because she doesn't have the same degree of integrity as RP does doesn't mean she's a despicable person; it takes enormous internal strength to be that way. To use a geeky metaphor, she may very well be the next Alan Greenspan (who many have compared to the tragic character Anakin Skywalker/Darth Vader).

  20. "Reading the article you linked to, I suppose I can see why you think Lew has a view on this without caveats."

    Well, OK, I was just commenting on this article -- not on what he may have written on this topic elsewhere.

    The sarcasm -- that stems from the fact I think he was being less than honest when he kept insisting that "Ron Paul is GOING to win the presidency." (You do know that he repeatedly claimed that. don't you?)

  21. I think the Rockwell article is a street level politics piece that was written as he was trying to extricate himself from strong early positive comments about Palin.

    If you examine Rockwell's posts they were all anti-McCain until Phil Gramm was forced to resign from the McCain campaign. The day after Gramm is gone, Rockwell makes his first positive post on McCain.

    Remember, Karl Rove got Phil Gramm to run against Ron Paul when Paul was running for U. S. Senate.

    I think Lew has a long memory (Probably longer than Gene's).

    Once Gramm was out of the way (I have suspicions he is only out of public eye), Rockwell was freed in his mind from being as anti-McCain. When Palin was announced with her supposed Buchanan connection. Rockwell flipped his beard to the top of his head for a bit. Somewhere along the line he recognized she is a nutball and a neocon, and had to slip his hair off his head and back on his face.

    His column strikes me as the extrication. She was great, but the system will corrupt her. Thus,Rockwell concludes he will have to diss her in the future. Not completely an incorrect hypothesis, except for the fact, as I have pointed out, she was always neocon nutjob:Behind Sarah Palin's Support of Israel

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