Monday, February 04, 2008

Ron Paul and Ralph Nader

Even though I like Nader, and favor him in any independent race, Ron Paul's ideology should still be looked at. Paul comes out of the tradition of Texas populism, which is an interesting phenomenon that grew out of Southern Populism, only with class being more important than race.Indeed, this is what makes the Texas Populist movement that people like Jim Hightower and Molly Ivins come out of more authentically progressive than the equivalents in the rest of the South, who inevitably mix their populism with a liking for white supremacy. In Texas, because slavery was less of an issue there, especially in central and western Texas even though the state was a member of the Confederacy, the emerging difference between rich and poor not due to ability but due to birth lead to a class based reaction by small farmers and others. Paul also comes out of the paleo-conservative tradition, which has always been skeptical of power and concentrations of power, of the necessity of taking action where action doesn't need to be taken. It's sort of a folksy conservatism that finds expression also in certain progressive writers. Gore Vidal, for instance, provided a preface to the book "America First!", which is probably the only objective book written about the movement against intervention in World War II written, which dispels ideas that these people were basically racist pro-Nazis. Instead, they sympathized with the people suffering in Europe but considered how a foreign war done during a Depression might affect the country. I'm not saying they were either right or wrong, just saying that this sort of conservative skepticism finds echo or at least sympathy with well known progressive writers.

Paul is against U.S. intervention abroad, he's against unnecessary legislation impeding personal liberty, he's against NAFTA and the WTO because they enable corporations against the little guy. It's an interesting and philosophically consistent formula, but although it has good features there's the issue of the ideas and attitudes at its base. On this count Paul doesn't do well, while Nader does very, very, well.

You can believe all the things that Paul does, and for similar reasons, and not be fundamentally conservative. Nothing in the ideas I just mentioned necessarily favor an overall conservative ideology, but Paul has one and as they say the devil is in the details. Paul favors removing ecological laws based on the idea that they're unnecessary statist impositions on economic behavior, progressives tend to think that ecological laws are a good thing because they prevent the exploitation of resources and destruction of our natural environment by large corporations unaccountable to anyone. It's also an open issue on whether the ideas regarding gay rights, gay marriage, and abortion are based on a progressive or conservative ideology.

Paul rightly sees much of the abortion conflict as stemming from the decision of the Supreme Court to legalize abortion even though many, many states did not in fact want it to be legalized. In this sense the Supreme Court went against the will of the people and it might have been a good idea to fight the abortion battle state by state instead of depending on an overarching legislative decision. But would Paul support abortion rights if they were passed in a more democratic way on a local level? The same question applies to gay rights and gay marriage. Additionally, the unspoken issue of Christianity and evolution in schools fit into this same pattern. But these directly come into conflict with the Bill of Rights, in a way that's impossible to avoid saying infringing on fundamental rights.

The point is that all of these are in a sense procedural objections, but if the procedures were fixed were would Ron Paul come down on the issues?

This is a reason that I support Nader above Paul.

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