Friday, August 26, 2011

Ron Paul and conservatism

Putting aside the fact that he won't win the Republican nomination and that he has a few good stances on issues, its often overlooked just how extreme some of what Ron Paul believes is. Here is Matt Ygelsias laying out Paul's view on abortion:

He has also stated “I believe beyond a doubt that a fetus is a human life deserving of legal protection, and that the right to life is the foundation of any moral society” and noted that his states’ rights take on abortion law is purely opportunistic “It is much more difficult for pro-life advocates to win politically at the federal level.” This makes perfect sense. If you believed, as Paul and other abortion criminalizers do, that legal abortion is a form of mass murder comparable to the Nazi genocide you obviously wouldn’t believe in any principled way that the mass murder is fine as long as the perpetrators have to drive from Idaho west to Oregon in order to perpetrate it.

This is perhaps the most distinct break with states' rights that you see conservatives take. On many issues they claim they would let states decide which way they want to legislate. But their anti-abortion stance is fundamentally about taking a life. So even they can't just leave that up to states to decide. And rightfully so as Matt points out. It would make no sense whatsoever to let a state kill a person simply because the state claims it has the right to do so. Here is more from Matt:

The “pro-life” position amounts to a conjunction of the proposition that a fetus is a moral person and that a pregnant woman has a strong legally enforceable rescue duty. But Paul doesn’t believe the state should tax people to feed the poor, or impose rescue duties in any other context. Rather, he simply seems to feel that pregnant women aren’t really people. Paul himself, I note, is a good deal clearer about his ideological positioning than are many of his friends on the Internet. He’s a social conservatives who sees his political views as an extension of his personal relationship with Jesus Christ running for president on a promise to “Restore America Now” to some past edenic state.

Another good point from Matt. He is really good at thinking through an argument and coming up with unique ways to understand things. Pregnancy is very much like rescuing a person. In fact its way beyond rescuing. The mother is vital to the life of the fetus. She spends around 8 months making sure the the fetus is healthy. That's so much more invasive, time consuming, and costly than cutting a check that gets thrown into a pot and doled out for welfare. Yet Paul thinks cutting that check is vastly more oppressive than forcing a woman to risk her life to carry a child.

In relation to Paul, here is Adam Serwer on how his conception of freedom is different than Paul's:

My conception of personal freedom involves not just the absence of government interference, but within reason, a certain amount of freedom from need--the elderly shouldn't live their twilight years in destitution, children should not lack for medical care because they were born into poverty, and getting cancer shouldn't mean that you lose everything you own to pay for medical bills. It also means you don't leave the states to dole out constitutional rights as they see fit. This is a profound philosophical difference that really can't be bridged through Paul's support for a less interventionist foreign policy and the rule of law.

That's one of the big ways in which I conceptualize freedom. Paul and many conservatives only view freedom as a one way street. Its only about what the gov't is doing to you that matters. And everything it does to you restricts your freedom, except when it protects you with the justice system, police, firefighters, and military.

I respect Ron Paul's views on foreign policy and drug policy. Liberals can agree with him on those issues because we have a more open and wide-ranging conception of freedom than mainstream conservatives. I think there is room for more liberals to agree with conservatives like Paul on other issues because liberals can embrace more limited gov't if it enhances freedom. What conservatives then have to choose what they value more, freedom or the strict belief in limited gov't as an end in itself.

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