Monday, November 26, 2007

Answering the Obvious Question

Even though I still do not want presidential politics to dominate this blog, Xon posed a legitimate question–and one that I have been anticipating: given my self-professed libertarian leanings, why I am supporting Mike Huckabee for the Republican presidential nomination rather than Ron Paul.

I think that the Libertarians are so right on so many issues, especially concerning the proper role of government and the relationship between the individual and the state. So much so that, in fact, I was a dues-paying, card-carrying Libertarian (literally) back in the 1990s before I migrated to the libertarian wing of the GOP. I would love to see the LP evolve beyond a debating society, but it is not there yet (okay, that is just my opinion).

I think that a libertarian approach to policy is the proper one for the liberal democracies that, generally speaking, make up what we call "the West" (liberal in the Enlightenment sense of the word; government by law as opposed to government by men). Within and among liberal states, everyone is, ostensibly at least, operating by the same set of rules. Of course, such an approach is not possible within authoritarian or totalitarian regimes because power, as opposed to law, is the dominant factor regarding politics. Power is arbitrary, and therein lies the problem.

Thus, the Libertarian approach to international relations collapses because the different sides are playing by different rules; a couple of specific issues on which I disagree with the LP are border control and foreign policy. Ideological purists (i.e. Paul, even though he is running as a Republican – this time around) want what amounts to an open border and a non-interventionist foreign policy. This is all well and good within the realm of political theory, but I think that the realities of international relations (and not just concerning nation states) render such an approach hopelessly naive. At this point in history, I think that such national security issues are paramount, so I cannot in good conscience support Paul.

Nonetheless, I agree with Paul on many specific issues, just as I agree with Romney, Giuliani, Thompson, etc., on many specific issues. However, after careful consideration, I have reached the conclusion that Huckabee offers the best combination of policy positions and electoral possibilities for me. Some may find my reasoning questionable, to say the least, and that is okay.

But it is what it is.

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Xon said...

Of course I respect your wish to have your blog focus more locally. I do thank you for answering my question. Reasonable people of good will can disagree, but it just breaks my heart. I have never been this emotionally invested in any politician or election...I feel as though almost all of our libertarian dreams can come true (as much as a president can do so by himself), and we're shrugging off the one person who actually UNDERSTANDS that government is inefficient and disasterous for everyone, and even more than Reagan actually GOVERNS that way.

And I'd like to hear your reasons for supporting, of all people, the Clintonesque oh so compassionate Huckabee. But, frankly, if you're not supporting Paul I guess I don't care all that much who you are supporting. Just makes me sad...

But alas, like I said, I thank you for your response.

Anonymous said...

Xon -- I know more than a few Howard Dean fans who will empathize with your post primary heartbreak. I venture to guess you'll be very old before your favored candidate ever wins a presidential primary.

James -- I share your libertarian sympathies, and Republican affinities, but find your assesment of Ron Paul's foreign policy stance curious. Whatever the ideological basis of Paul's views may be, when it comes to Iraq his views seem to be most consistent with those of a traditional "realist" conservative hawk.

james said...

I must admit that the realist school has a lot going for it. When the chips are down in the "real" world, realist policies usually come to the fore.

I guess that it is just that the "Libertarian" approach to foreign policy strikes me as being more isolationist than realist (if not in theory, at least in practice).

But again, reasonable people can disagree.

BTW, if you've never read Kissinger's "Diplomacy," do so. As one may suspect, it is the epitome of realist thinking.

james said...

I will freely admit that some aspects of Huckabee's approach are a bit off-putting for libertarian types. I also appreciate and expect ideological consistency from the candidates I support.

Even so, practical electoral concerns matter, too.
As noted earlier, I can find areas of agreement and/or disagreement with all of the GOP contenders. That said, when I considered the policy positions of those that I thought actually stand a chance of getting elected, Huckabee is the one who emerged.

My hope is that Paul can nudge the debate on all issues, not just foreign policy where I think the Libertarians are weak, from traditional conservative thinking toward a more libertarian mindset.

Xon said...

Okay, but just suppose that Paul makes a strong showing in early primary states. Would you then consider reconsidering your super Tuesday vote for Huckabee? I mean, if it looks like Paul actually has a chance to win, then does that modify your assesment? Or are you not voting for Paul even if he does have a chance simply b/c of the weakness you see in his foreign policy?

And by the way, Ron Paul is not an isolationist. Isolationsim historically refers to folks who want to insulate American culture--economically, militarily, socially--from other influences as much as possible.

Non-interventionism is not the same thing. Non-interventionism means that, when it comes to military endeavors (i.e., killing people or threatening to kill people), we only go in if it is a matter of clear and direct self-defense. But in all other cultural matters, trade, diplomacy, social interaction, etc., we deal with other countries on a regular basis. Trade and friendship with all, alliance with none. It's Jeffersonian, and I don't think Jefferson can fairly be called an 'isolationist.'

james said...

Okay, so isolationism and non-intervention may not mean the same things in a technical sense, but I am not sure that the distinction is meaningful in contemporary political terms.

Given the importance that I place on the issues on which I think the Libertarian approach is weak, I can't see myself voting for Paul (but that doesn't mean that I am happy about it).

For what it is worth I saw Pat Buchanan on Glen Beck's show last night. He made many good points about US involvement around the world, echoing those of Paul. While I may agree with the points offered by both on a philosophical basis, I can't help but think that their practical implementation would be destabilizing and problematic in the extreme.

That is not to say that I discount your reasoning on this particular issue or do not appreciate the supportive things you have written about me on other blogs. I dare say that we agree on far more issues that we disagree. This just isn't one of them.

Anonymous said...

Huckabee's stance on the Fair Tax alone makes me run from him.
This is such a horribly thought out and justified plan, any pol that supports it like Mike does, makes me question their though patterns on other issues.