Revised for style and grammar 11:36 p.m., December 17, 2007.
I have had a whole flurry of comments on my prior post about Ron Paul (Thoughts on a Ron Paul/Dennis Kucinich ticket, so I thought it might be helpful to post some more thoughts.
First though, let me say that my commentary is firmly rooted in a leftist political perspective. I don’t expect my readers to necessarily agree with this perspective, but do understand that this is where I am coming from. I’m not trying to convince moderates or conservatives to not vote for Paul, but I do want liberals to understand that Paul is not a liberal.
My main criticism of Ron Paul is the same criticism I have of most Libertarians — they are quite willing to attack big government power in some areas, but they refuse to stop the government from allowing the rich to have excessive private property while others are suffering. (let’s be honest, the government not only allows the rich to be rich, but protects the rich and keeps them rich)
I agree that free speech rights are paramount, and Libertarians would agree with me on this. However, is there actually free speech, when the means to speak are controlled by private individuals and companies? No. Our system allows the rich to say whatever they want in the mass media for the most part, but the poor are stuck writing blogs and maybe circulating zines photocopied at Kinko’s. Sure, you can stand on a soapbox and spout, but will it do any good in the onslaught of corporate controlled voices? No, not really. Maybe your voice will be heard, but it is definitely a David and Goliath kind of situation.
Private property rights in America are our sacred cow. Try speaking your mind at a shopping mall. If you as much as raise your voice, or do something crazy like pass out flyers, you’ll be thrown out in no time. Yet, these private spaces are increasingly the closest thing we have to a public square. Libertarians want to take all of the remaining public spaces (highway right of ways, national and local parks, public libraries, etc.) and make them private. What will this do to free speech? It will kill it.
Private property is the root of the problem. I agree (as did the early-day Oklahoma Socialists), that a woman or man should be able to make a living on their own terms, own their business, make their own go of it, either by themselves or working with others. However, socialists also think this right is meaningless if the poor have no means to ever acquire their own means of production (be it the tools of a trade or a piece of land to farm). And socialists believe that since resources are scare, that it is only right to demand that the rich give up some of what they have, if others don’t have enough.
A progressive income tax is one means of doing that. Poor people pay a very low tax rate. Middle classes are supposed to pay more. The rich have the highest tax rate. Now of course our current system is imperfect (I think that when you get past a certain amount, that the tax rate should be 100%– Does Bill Gates or Oprah Winfrey, or the Walton family, really deserve billions of dollars!? Who is to say that their contribution to society is so astronomically more valuable than that that of the working poor?), but it is a step in the right direction. I think there should be a point that this kind of income should be capped, and the excess be redistributed to those who don’t yet own their own means of production. But still our current system is better than nothing: and Ron Paul would even abolish that.
So, for a leftist like myself, I can’t support Ron Paul. I do appreciate Ron Paul’s criticism of the war in Iraq and his call to preserve individual liberty, but I also strongly believe that his support of the capitalist system in the end will cause violence too. The violence may come through future wars, but it also may come through the death and suffering of the poor, both here and abroad. The rich will keep getting richer, and the poor will increasingly be enslaved by a system that doesn’t give them the chance to rise up and make their lives better.
I’ll also add that if one coupled Ron Paul’s suspicion of coercive state power with a critical look at the private property rights of the rich, you might get somewhere. I would be a-ok with smashing the state in that case, if communities took care of their own needs with love instead of force, and if everyone pulled together for the good of all, and everyone had enough. We have enough resources to feed the whole world and to live healthy and rewarding lives, if we only changed the way we did things. It would take courage and it would take dedication but it is possible. I guess this is more of an anarchist argument, but so be it.
The answer is love, not force.
The answer is cooperation, not competition.