Saturday, December 24, 2011

Ron Paul again, butting in on my vacation

I'm going to take a break from sipping coffee and watching the sun rise on the snow-covered San Pedros looming outside my window to talk a little more about Ron Paul and actually this time highlight some good responses from libertarians, particularly Steve Horwitz and Nick Gillespie. Both do what I really think are the most important things to do here: (1.) recognize that Ron Paul has a history, particularly associated with race politics, that is deeply disturbing - even if we all agree he's likely not a "racist" himself (to repeat - I doubt he's a full blown racist very much. I think he's an opportunist and he probably has a few mid-century insensitivities that he hasn't matured out of, but he's not a racist), but that he's been the sort of enabler that justifiably appalls people, and (2.) that libertarians can consider the question of abandoning him electorally. Steve Horwitz does an incredible job recounting the political history of libertarianism and the various problems created by Rothbard, Rockwell, and others. Gillespie gives a good take on everything that's been happening recently.

I'm a little bothered (but like some parts) of this post by Jonathan Catalan too. What I'm bothered by is his anger at Brad DeLong for not "focusing on the issues" and for making too much of this racist newsletter thing. I don't know if it's because Jonathan's from Spain and doesn't have a deeper American identity or what (nothing wrong with that, of course), but my view is this is really serious stuff. The relations between black and white Americans, the brutalization of black Americans, and the relatively recent progress on these issues is one of the defining facts of American life. And it wasn't just "history" - and you know that if you live in the South or in any city with an appreciable black population. If someone maintains or even tacitly approves of that sort of thinking in the 1990s, that's a big deal. Various sideshow political discussions can be rightly brushed aside with a "we should focus on the issues" dismissal, but I don't think this is one of them. Race in America is a hard thing to discuss too. Not nearly all of the problems associated with it are caused by "racism" per se, so some sort of paean to "colorblindness" isn't going to do anything. The legacy of the Civil War is complex as well - much more complex than people who tend to agree with me politically often like to admit. It's hard. But it's not just another election sideshow that can be dismissed. This is the sort of thing that rightly makes or breaks a campaign.

What I do like about Jonathan's post about this line: "Brad DeLong has spent a lot of energy blogging about Ron Paul. I understand why: Paul’s beliefs are nearly diametrically opposed to those of DeLong. Their means of establishing a greater degree of freedom are different. I think the simplest way to describe it is to call DeLong a Rawlsian and Paul a Nozickian (roughly)."

The bolded sentence is very perceptive on Jonathan's part. Very perceptive, and something a lot of libertarians don't even seem to understand - much less are willing to say. I'm no philosopher so I won't jump into categorizing things as Rawlsian or Nozickian, but I think Jonathan's point is clear. And this is another reason why Ron Paul bothers me a lot and I could never vote for him. He's one of those libertarians that uses terms like "statist" and "authoritarian" and "socialist" to describe people who disagree with him. I don't know why this is so hard for some people to digest, but that's a really uncomfortable thing for people like me to listen to on a daily basis. To be treated as outside the liberal tradition, to be branded a statist by a large group of libertarians who are clearly devoted to this one politician, and then to have that politician say the same sorts of things is not something you can just brush off. Imagine if a political leader and his devoted followers regularly singled out libertarians and libertarian ideas as "radical anarchist threats to the freedom of the country" or something like that. Imagine if it was argued in every discussion with these people that you were a threat to freedom. Would a political leader like that make you a little uncomfortable coming to power? Of course he would. Ron Paul has been a minor player for a while now, but this is why people are pushing back hard after his recent successes. This is not pleasant stuff to hear from a bit player. It's even less pleasant stuff to hear from a man that might win Iowa.

I could never vote for Ron Paul for four major reasons. I talked about the first two in this post:

1. His associations with a lot of racist material and statements
2. The fact that he is neck-deep in a community that labels me a statist and considers me a threat, and then also
3. He has a very weak grasp of economics and supports economic policies that could be disastrous for the country - and through sheer obstructionism could put a lot of them into practice, and finally
4. I don't feel that he takes the threat of fascist Islamism to world peace seriously enough. I like his opposition to the Iraq war. I like his general opposition to war. But he seems too rigid on war and foreign policy in general. Bush erred on the other side, of course. Obama is starting to bring us back to a balanced position - Paul probably wouldn't be too bad on this point in practice - but it's still an issue for me.

The point is, libertarians could probably assuage me on a lot of these points. But the best way to do that is drop Ron Paul. That's a risk, I know - he's the one that's surging. But if you don't want to take that risk, don't blame me for being disgusted at the option you're presenting.


  1. Daniel

    First, your whole premise is false. True liberals, and I am a true liberal, have never had and do not now want nothing to do with socialism--actual ownership of the means of production--we want, instead to use markets when it makes sense to do such.

    And, we long ago understood that firms can seek rents through protection by the gov't, against which we need to be constantly on guard.

    What we believe in is a safety net, a strong safety net, and real regulation of capitalism because debt, itself, is a weapon of mass destruction.

    And, we realize that a safety net encourages risk taking.

    Steve Keen and Minsky have shown that capitalism is inherently unstable when debt is used to grow the economy.

    This second propostion removes the entire Austrian school from relevance. Capitalism must be regulated, There is no debate.

    Horwitz (and you) are just full of BS about Ron Paul. He is a racist. Your friends Don and Russ are racists. Most all "libertarians" are racist. There is ample room in the Demo tent for concerns about individual freedom (none in the Republican), so you find yourself a victim of the Sarah Palin business model (tee shirts and DVDs sales for millions)

    Grow up and get ready for the depression coming with the austerity you have worn out you knee pads praying will happen

  2. Yes master Kuehn. I shall disown Ron Paul to assuage your rattled mind. I know better than to ask what facilitating discussion has to do with casting a ballot for Ron Paul. If I were an ignorant heretic. I would think that you're just making a futile attempt manipulating people to drop Ron Paul.

  3. re: "Horwitz (and you) are just full of BS about Ron Paul. He is a racist. Your friends Don and Russ are racists. Most all "libertarians" are racist."

    First, I think you're wrong on these points on a simple factual basis. But I do think my alleged associations here are interesting. It's not often I get accused of being a friend of Don and Russ or being too easy on Paul. The change of pace is nice.

    I don't like talking about "true" liberals and that sort of demarcation of things... but I will say I agree with much of the view of things that you attributed to "true liberals".

  4. re: "Yes master Kuehn. I shall disown Ron Paul to assuage your rattled mind."

    Oh good - we get the other side of the paranoid crazy coin too.

    You do what you want to with Ron Paul. Just don't scratch your head or cry "smear" when people raise actual questions about his fitness towards office. I'm no enemy of libertarians, even though I'm not one myself. I'm just trying to be honest - you guys can do better than Paul.

    Or, you can circle the wagons. Be my guest. But this is how things work, anonymous - if you decide to circle the wagons people are going to tell you if they think that's unwise.

  5. I just don't think that any racism that Paul might hold just wont manifest itself if he were to be president -- I don't see it as an issue which would pop up.

    And, for what it's worth, I think that most people are a little racist -- including past presidents. I just think that Paul is unfortunate enough to have racist remarks published in his newsletter during the 1980s and early 1990s.

  6. Of the four-point list of disagreements, the only one I'm tempted to disagree with is #4 - but that's a sign of how tone-deaf the prosecution of the "War on Terror" has been. I can't speak to Ron Paul's preference here (is he isolationist as the popular wisdom has it?) but it's mainly Afghanistan and Pakistan that were (or are) preventing this from simply being a global, cooperative policing action. Unfortunately, the current policy tends to spur tempers both there and here; the current policy of being as quiet as possible is just one of the best of the bad options.

    I don't believe in "Islamic fascism" as a threat to the United States. I do believe in political ambitions that have been repressed, and people who drape themselves in the flag or abuse their religion. We've seen (through the Arab Spring) that this repression doesn't just find an outlet in butchery and fascism - though when we believe those like Mubarak who would make Islamists out to be the bogeyman we certainly help solidify their resolve towards militancy. Given that pattern, I still don't think there is anything holding us back from really reconsidering our way of engaging with the region.

    If it was a simple dichotomy, it'd be between caving in to the Islamic fascists, and being played by bit politicians. Thankfully, there are other outcomes for us to pursue. On that particular issue, Ron Paul (and the other candidates) need to come up with an argument that will sell the electorate that our current President's successes have been at the cost of liberty. People are tired of war, but I don't think they'll buy the argument that we shouldn't have gone to Afghanistan.

    On the "is Ron Paul racist" argument, I don't think it's correct to say that "Paul is unfortunate enough to have racist remarks published in his newsletter" - if I had a newsletter, I'd make darn sure I wasn't allowing that stuff into it.

    Others have pointed out that "as recently as 1992" is a subjective argument. I think the problem isn't that he was comfortable with this very recently; the problem is that I can imagine him still being comfortable with it. If he goes further in the race, I expect that he will have to address this. Perhaps the media have been slow to catch up to this one, but I can't imagine why, given that a word (a bad word) painted on a rock was the focus of a Washington Post investigative piece recently.

  7. "but that's a really uncomfortable thing for people like me to listen to on a daily basis."

    Kinda like being called a cultist because you're an Austrian? Or, that you're part of the Kochtopus because you're a libertarian? Or, that you're unscientific and that Austrian econ is a religion?

    This is not to say that you've said these things, but they are things that I hear a lot.

  8. Edwin,

    You have to remember that the actual writers are people who Paul is close to (Lew Rockwell), so he probably allowed him a great deal of leeway. When you trust someone, you aren't likely to screen their work as much (or, at all).

  9. Bill Woosley has a good comment on Karl Smith's blog post about Ron Paul. I think it was a good idea to reach out to this segment and try to form an alliance, but unfortunately they made some really bad decisions with the racist material in the newsletter. Just like I think it was a good idea when Rothbard reached out to the New Left in the 60's, but it was a horrible idea when he praised Che Guerrera in one of his write ups.

    Nicholas Glenn

  10. "Bush erred on the other side, of course. Obama is starting to bring us back to a balanced position - Paul probably wouldn't be too bad on this point in practice - but it's still an issue for me."

    How the hell are we approaching a more balanced position now that the Obama has set the precedent for presidents ordering the assassination of American citizens not charged of a crime or give due process?

    I seriously never expected this from you of all people Daniel. This claim is just absurd.

  11. And also what about Obama's association with Rev. "white folk greed runs a world in need" Wright? Doesn't that disqualify him from your support using the same logic you use for Paul?

  12. James,

    On the assassination issue he will say something along the lines of, "this is war and enemies aren't allowed due process". Of course, he has never been to war, nor does he realize that ROE would preclude such actions for a soldier in the field of battle. However, the bigger problem is with who and what defines the "enemy". Currently, the President seems to be able to define it any way that he wishes.

  13. And that's exactly the issue: how the enemy is defined. Should the president be able to decide unilaterally who is an enemy and who isn't? Should one man be vested with so much power? And what happens when Mr. Kuehn is designated an enemy for his blog by potential president Paul for his blog?

  14. 'And also what about Obama's association with Rev. "white folk greed runs a world in need" Wright?'

    Obama profited from letting Reverend Wright ghost-write racist material for a decade under his name? The things you learn on the internet!

    There is a world of difference between associating with distasteful people and lending your name to their ideas.

  15. Daniel's exact words:

    "His associations with a lot of racist material and statements"

    I took Obama attending Wright's church for a number of years, having Wright officiate his and Michele's marriage, and having him baptize his kids to mean some type of "association" with Wright. Silly me.

  16. Obama is and will remain part of the national security consensus; that the U.S. is special and stuff. If you don't think that should be the American role on the planet then Obama isn't "balanced."

    "I don't feel that he takes the threat of fascist Islamism to world peace seriously enough."


    Watching a lot of Fox News I see.

  17. "The fact that he is neck-deep in a community that labels me a statist and considers me a threat..."

    No one considers you a threat to anything. You're just another blogger putting your ideas out there like hundreds of thousands of other bloggers. I could not help but cackle in my Sith way at this statement of yours.

    You might fall within the definition of statism found here: It seems a reasonable claim to explore at least.

  18. One more thing ...

    you're probably not a doctor...

    ... so are you are an academic or do you work on Wall Street?

  19. Daniel Kuehe doesn't grasp what "facilitating discussion has to do with casting a ballot for Ron Paul."

    Daniel, I'll make it real simple. There is good and evil, black and white in the world. And, there is this little matter call judgment, which I am trying to get you to develop.

    There is no talking to evil, only defeating it. Judgment means knowing when evil is so prevalent that there is no need talking.

    For example, take the Catholic Church. It is an evil institution. No amount of talking will ever break through its boundaries. (Same with Islam.) Hence why we took off Mary's head and had the Protestant Reformation.

    You lack judgment to see who is Ron Paul. He is an evil cull of a human being. He is a racist who, like Newt, would sell his Mom for 50 cents.

    There is a lot to talk about, for example, in economics. Kay, Wolfe, Keen, Krugman, Stiglitz, Delong, there are are lots of people with different thoughts and approaches working very hard to get a handle on the Lesser Depression. Plenty of room for conversation. There is no room for conversation with Paul, Hayekians, or Libertarians. They offer nothing, no insights, thoughts, or solutions.

    As I said before, who bothers to sort shit.

    And, you still haven't replied about Keen

  20. Whilst Daniel Kuehn has yet to respond about Steve Keen, there have been criticisms of the Post Keynesian conception of uncertainty before...

  21. Jonathan -
    re: "I just don't think that any racism that Paul might hold just wont manifest itself if he were to be president -- I don't see it as an issue which would pop up."

    It's unlikely to pop up in blatant ways, but you're certainly going to see lower enforcement of civil rights laws and lower level of investment in minority communities. Plus, it legitimizes people who will act on those sorts of views. But even if none of that were true, why the hell should that matter? Why would we even want someone associated with that sort of thing to be president?

    Edwin -
    This is a very good point: "I think the problem isn't that he was comfortable with this very recently; the problem is that I can imagine him still being comfortable with it." Liberty and equality can be values that go hand in hand, but not always. I don't understand why people think this is so diametrically opposed to Paul's actions. And please don't mention the drug war. Even if we all agree on him on the drug war - he thinks what he thinks because he doesn't like the state. It has little to do with his view of blacks. If the drug war were all about cocaine and meth labs in Idaho he'd still have the same views on it.

  22. Joseph -
    re: "Kinda like being called a cultist because you're an Austrian? Or, that you're part of the Kochtopus because you're a libertarian? Or, that you're unscientific and that Austrian econ is a religion? "

    Yes and no. The bothersome thing about being called a statist and an advocate of state theft and murder is that you can be put in jail or violently revolted against for those things. We've generally been fairly tolerant of cults as long as they don't veer into theft or murder. I can see how you wouldn't like being called a cult. But the whole damn point is that a presidential candidate has never repeatedly asserted that you are a cultist - much less authoritarian, statist, or subverting the Constitution.

    Jonathan -
    re: "When you trust someone, you aren't likely to screen their work as much (or, at all)."

    WHY DO YOU TRUST SOMEONE LIKE THAT? You realize someone like Rockwell may very well be a chief of staff or something like that. Why would you be close to a man like that? Doesn't this show poor judgement?

    James -
    re: "How the hell are we approaching a more balanced position now that the Obama has set the precedent for presidents ordering the assassination of American citizens not charged of a crime or give due process?"

    The targeted combatants are given all the due process any targeted combatant is given. You all need to stop glossing over the crux of your argument: the conflation of a military operation and a police operation. You are simply wrong that they are not given due process, and the conflation of the two issues without being up front that that is your argument misleads the whole debate.

  23. James -
    re: "And also what about Obama's association with Rev. "white folk greed runs a world in need" Wright? Doesn't that disqualify him from your support using the same logic you use for Paul?"

    First - if Wright were as close to Obama as Rockwell et al. are to Paul, I likely would not have supported him. Generally speaking, I don't like Wright.

    But his forcefulness is not always as bad as people make it out to be. For example, the quote you've chosen - "white folk greed runs a world in need" - seems to me to be abbreviated and simplified, but relatively accurate. Certainly it's accurate enough that I wouldn't simply dismiss it as "racist". There are few places on the face of the planet where that simple observation doesn't explain huge amounts of social reality.

  24. Blue Aurora

    Thanks to the link re: Keen

    I see no conflict between Keen and Keynes. Keynes is trying to solve the problem, not state its origins.

    Keen brings "origins" into focus, giving us some idea how much work Keynesians must do.

    Gov't spending must grow to offset the declines in spending arising from the drop in private debt, or one makes no progress.

    I have long thought the problems we have had since 2007/08 is that we have no measured idea how much damage was done by the "blast," so to speak.

    I thought this was Obama's great mistake on the stimulus. He should have asked for an back of the envelope estimate of the gross damage, so that he could go on TV and saw, "We don't know all the causes and numbers but the damage looks, total, like 7 to 9 trillion, or whatever."

    We are going to try to get by with spending $800 billions, but no promises.

  25. @Anonymous: I agree with you that John Maynard Keynes was concerned with trying to solve the problem. I agree with you that the stimulus pckage should have been larger. But did you read Michael Emmett Brady's review of Debunking Economics properly?

    He isn't the first one to make the charge that the Post Keynesian stance on uncertainty essentially devolves into nihilism (because the weight of evidence index would show w = 0).

    I suggest that you read this working paper by Michael Emmett Brady to understand Keynes's mathematical contribution.

    It critiques "Keynesian fundamentalism" and demonstrates Keynes's Boole-derived approach. The Boole-derived approach can be applied to international economics, finance, and general decision-making.

    How is this all relevant? Simple. By over-stating their case of "radical uncertainty", Post Keynesians will lose out to mathematically-trained, orthodox neoclassical economists that only allow for risk. Radical uncertainty (with a weight of evidence of zero) is in practice, rather rare for decision-makers, as Brady would say.

  26. "recognize that Ron Paul has a history, particularly associated with race politics, that is deeply disturbing..."

    OK, but Obama has threatened war with Iran, upped the war in Afghanistan, suspended Habeas Corpus, continued maintaining torture centers, authorized the killing of American citizens on his say-so...

    Are you really trying to claim that all that is not a lot, lot more "deeply disturbing" than the Paul newsletters? Saying some unpleasant things is more disturbing than continually killing innocent people?

  27. Wow! Gene agrees with me!

  28. I double Joe's surprise with Gene.

    Though I only read this blog sporadically, this is the first time I have ever seen Kuehn really endorse the "radical Islam is threatening the West" dogma. It's really surprising.

    In regards to the "white people running the world" comment, I agree that it's a fairly accurate quote. But the issue isn't with accuracy, it's making generalized statements about everyone of a given race. Using Daniel's logic, the "teenage black men are fleet footed" (not an exact quote but bear with me) can also be interpreted as being relatively accurate and therefor not a big deal.

    As for being given due process, I guess if you think due process is the military (including the chief executive) unilaterally deciding who needs to be taken out, including the 16 year old son of a cleric who never committed a crime against this country or anyone in it, then at least you are consistent. Some of us find this type of aggressive war waging as horribly unethical, disgusting, and shameful. Perhaps we really are the radicals.

    How Daniel is comfortable with these types of actions is beyond me.

  29. Gene I've been googling the hell out of this claim about Obama and Iran and can't find anything. Are you referring to "no options are off the table"? If that's what you're referring to, that seems extremely deceptive on your part. If there's something I'm missing, I'd be interested in hearing about it. We should keep everything on the table with Iran. I don't want them to get a nuke, but the fact is it's probably going to happen. The administration is likely aware of this. What they are going to do in the future because of that is a great big question mark, but we absolutely should keep everything on the table. What if there's a strike against Israel? What if there's incursion into a destabilized Iraq. It's terrifying, but we should absolutely keep a war with Iran on the table. I'm not quite sure what the logic of taking that off the table would be. Since we don't have a crystal ball, it seems foolish to take that off the table.

    Now - maybe you think I've threatened war with Iran now. But I don't think that's an honest rendition of what I've just said, or of the simple point that we're not taking anything off the table.

    As for "upping the war in Afghanistan", that's part of why I voted for him - because he would bring our attention back to our only legitimate mission in that region, and move it into the Pakistani tribal area.

    As for "suspended habeas corpus" perhaps you could translate that one for us too. Do you mean he hasn't implemented the Boumediene ruling how Gene Callahan would have implemented the Boumediene ruling? That's possible but that's not the same as what you're accusing him of. If you give me three years to get a law degree and some time to think about it I might have some issues with the implementation too. And before those three years are up, perhaps the Supreme Court will offer further opinions. But don't act like it's just a continuation of Bush policy.

    The torture - as I understand it - has stopped. That would be a concern if it hasn't. If you have information on that, I'd love to hear it too.

    And we've been over the due process point a million times before.

    Yes - I think there are legitimate military actions to be taken against terrorist threats, and that's different from many of your perspectives. So yes, a history of flirtation with racism is worse than prosecution of the war on terror and some pretty reasonable statements about Iran that you've construed beyond recognition (again - unless I'm missing something and you're referring to another incident where he actually did threaten war).

    Anyway - we've got lots of crazy Republicans with bad ideas running this time. Why settle on the one crazy Republican with bad ideas who also has years and years of association with bile like this?

  30. James -
    It's not dogma - I try not to think about anything dogmatically (I don't think you or Gene are being dogmatic here either, because I know you two well enough to know you don't propose something out of dogma).

    It's true, I think, that radical Islam is a threat to the West. But that's the least and farthest threat that it poses. The real threat that radical Islam poses is to the Muslim world (and probably also worth noting Israel - although Israel certainly provokes a lot too). But the Islamist threat is first and foremost to the Muslim world. After that, to Europe, and only then and more tangentially, to the United States.

    We had an entirely legitimate mandate, after 9/11, to clean a lot of that rot out. We reacted very poorly and were probably much less effective than we could have been in the first six months of the war. Then there was Iraq which had no justification at all and made everything worse. But now we are at least in a position to try to ensure that we don't leave Afghanistan and Pakistan worse than we found it - and to the extent that we can do that by dismantling and discrediting Islamist networks, that would be a good thing for the Muslim world and for us.

    None of this is dogma. Certainly none of this is unthinking. How anyone could doubt that radical Islam poses some threat to the West baffles me. But it absolutely poses a threat to the Muslim world.

    Ultimately the problem won't be solved simply by more war - but that's not to say there aren't military tasks to accomplish.

    I don't understand how people can get worked up about raw milk, light bulbs, and privatized community amenities (all things I am in support of - just not particularly concerned about) and throw around talk of "statism" and "central planning" when these issues come up, but be so touchy about real violent fascism in the Middle
    East, and the legitimate role we have to play in helping to shut it down or at least weaken it. We do much more for the cause of liberty when we take out top al Qaeda officials or when we support a revolution against a dictator than we do when we foam at the mouth over raw milk and light bulbs.

  31. To quote Bill Maher: "My favorite new government program is surprising violent religious zealots in the middle of the night and shooting them in the face"

    There are coercions that need to be met with coercion. We shouldn't pick random fights. Saddam was a bad guy - the mullahs are bad guys. But the mere existence of "bad guys" doesn't give us a license to play cowboy. I've never been of the opinion that we have that sort of license. But when we do have a legitimate mission, we can advance liberalism by coming down hard on fascists like this.

    I'll come down on the side of the candidate who thinks Islamists pose a bigger threat to liberty than central bankers do any day of the week. If one happens to be an intelligent, articulate, first black president that I can get behind, and the other happens to be a Trilateral Commission obsessed old guy with a resume full race baiting, it makes the choice that much easier.

  32. Sorry this is all so emphatic.

    I don't like taking Islamism seriously tied up with a "Fox News mentality". And I really, really, really don't think Obama ever threatened war with Iran. If I thought that was anything like a real concern, I would not be so decidedly in his camp (I'm not sure what my alternative would be in that case).

  33. DK-

    Thank you for explaining. I guess my next question is how exactly does radical Islam pose a threat to the U.S.? Does it pose a violent threat i.e. in another 9/11 type attack? Or something more subtle as in infiltrating our government and being imposed from a top down authoritarian rule? I doubt you believe the latter (Rick Santorum seems to) but if it's a violent attack you fear, and I think most people fear such, then the issue becomes how to resolve the conflict.

    While radical Islam may preach violence to spread its message, you have to admit that our intervening around in their affairs for over 5 decades certainly isn't a policy of promoting peace. Would you honestly argue that overthrowing democratically elected governments or back door financing of dictators is the best way to suppress a dogma?

    The problem I, and many libertarians, have with our federal government fighting a "war on terrorism" is the history we have behind fanning its flames. I don't trust the money making machine known as the Pentagon to do an adequate job of quelling conflicts. Just look at the sidetrack in Iraq. Or even Libya where French and British oil companies are busy obtaining contracts to operate.

    After 9/11, we had a mandate to bring justice to those who attacked us. It didn't have to be done through war; Paul floated the idea of a letter of Marque and Reprisal. We could have just done a month long, full on assault to get bin Laden and the rest. Instead, we are engaged in a drawn out occupation (it stopped being a war a long time ago). Close to a trillion has been spent, lives have been loss, and there is no end in sight.

    I would rather not get dragged into another Iraq, which it looks like the whole Iran situation is becoming. Even if Iran gets the bomb and looks to use it on Israel, do you really think Israel will stand by and let it happen? And if so, why should Americans be forced to pay to protect another nation of people? Why do we pick and choose who to protect? Why play the game of nation alienation that only breeds animosity toward us? Do you not see the crazed and illogical game that few individuals play which affects the lives of millions?

    Our history of crony capitalist dictated foreign policy should be enough to make anyone wary of the "good intentions" of our government.

  34. "If one happens to be an intelligent, articulate, first black president that I can get behind,"

    After going on a tirade about race baiting, you really just typed those words? Barack Obama's race was really a deciding factor in you choosing to vote for him?

  35. No, it was not a "deciding factor". It would have been exciting to get behind the first woman president too, but I supported Obama over Hillary in the 2008 primary and election (Virginia did go for Obama).

    But yes, I'm very proud to have been happy to cast my vote for the first black president. That's historic.

    What's your concern with that?

    Let's say Obama was completely out of the picture - never was a player - and then 2012 rolls around with Herman Cain as the nominee. And let's say he wins. I'm not sure I could have cast my vote for Herman Cain in this alternate reality, but of course people who do like him and who do vote for him oughta know how important it is that they cast their vote for the first black president. It's a big deal, don't you think? Why wouldn't I recognize it as a big deal? I don't quite follow your logic.

    It's just like your logic above with Rev. Wright.

    What is your point with this exactly, James? Are you suggesting that anything anyone ever says that acknowledges the existence of race is "race baiting"? I don't get it.

    What is it about "having a black president is BFD" that makes you draw lines to the Paul newsletters? I would have thought the fact that the first black president is a big deal would have been entirely uncontroversial.

  36. Perhaps I should put it this way, James - do you disagree that the election of Barack Obama was historic, and if you disagree - why?

  37. On Islamism -
    What I was trying to say is that it doesn't really pose a direct threat to us. There's clearly a threat of future terrorism. I think that's here to stay as long as there's an appreciable Islamist presence. But that's not really the main point.

    The threat is to the Muslim world, not to the United States, in the immediate future. Several decades down the road, of course, a caliphate could pose a more direct threat to the United States. But more immediately, that's not really the point. The point is, a network of Islamic fascists attacked us, we have a good reason to go after them, we should leave Afghanistan better than we found it when we do do this, and while we're prosecuting this war we should recognize how important eliminating these people is to the success of liberalism in the Muslim world.

  38. The first black (half black technically) president is historic, yes. But the issue is that his race seemed to play a role in your decision to vote for him as president; essentially that the man's skin color was a deciding factor in your judgement of him. That's what I got from your statement anyway. I don't see anything incredibly wrong with voting for someone based on their skin color (we are free to make our own decisions, no matter how stupid or uninformed) but I can't help but sense a bit of hypocrisy on your part when you criticize the racist nature of the Paul newsletters.

    The first black man being elected president is a big deal. Voting for him/her partially because they are black is another issue all together. I don't know why you are conflating them.

    And if you look at some of Wright's speeches, you could conclude he was race baiting as well by portraying what it's like to be "black in America."

  39. While radical Islam may pose a threat to Muslims the world over, is it really the duty of the United States government to address this threat? Going after who attacked us is one thing. Waging a war (without a declaration mind you-but that hardly matters any more) on behalf of a religious group is totally different. Why shouldn't other countries participate in this endeavor? Why should Americans be the only ones forced to pay for this crusade?

    Just curios Daniel, have you ever spoken to any American Muslims on how they feel about radical Islam? Last spring, I dated a Muslim girl (hijab and all) for a few months and we talked about it a bit and she didn't regard radical Islam as wholly threatening. But then again, she lived in the U.S. Her roommate was also Muslim and she had the same feelings. They detested radical Islam but didn't see as some all encompassing threat. Those are only two, American influenced, opinions though.

  40. The threat of future terrorism is minuscule (almost non-existent); nothing to lose any sleep over. Now the threat from over reactions to terrorism that is another matter entirely. Of course there are people who fall for the foolish Cheney 1% doctrine...

    I had a very Sithy Christmas.

  41. James E. Miller,

    Yes, true enough. The intelligent and informed realize that U.S. government actions merely add to the very small threat that does exist. See Somalia, where the U.S. government used a proxy state (Ethiopia) to attack some folks that were labeled bad guys and it boomeranged and made the situation worse in Somalia.

  42. RE "Islamism" @ Daniel:
    The term "Islamic fascism" is detested by many because it doesn't admit readily enough the distance between Islam and fascism. Likewise, calling it simply "Islamism" is simply not right.

    RE "Obama and Wright invalidate Ron Paul's newsletters as an issue"
    They do not; if anybody remembers Obama was forced to disavow Rev. Wright's comments and stop attending that church. (There's my response to James, also.)

    Compare that with Ron Paul's consistent record of being vague about the problem and not taking ownership for clearly providing support to racists, even in the case where one argues that he didn't write the newsletters at all (which is very far from being proven, and unlikely).

    For this reason I have to disagree with Jonathan M.F. Catalan's argument that having dishonorable friends absolves one of responsibility when they write something horrendous in your newsletter.

    I do not care or even mind if he has racist friends - it is not his responsibility to force convert them to non-racists (and there is an argument only a libertarian could love!), but as the captain of his own destiny, he had a responsibility to exercise oversight of a newsletter he actively promoted.

    The Obama - Paul comparisons also don't pan out because of how reaching and farcical they were. Remember Bill Ayers? A guy who had renounced radicalism decades ago was used as a convenient link in a web (or actually, more like two tattered strands) of conspiracy around the Democratic nominee, which did not stand up to scrutiny at all.

    The President has been evasive on some issues (his answer to a recent question about why there haven't been prosecutions of outlaw bankers has been one; his response was that "many" of the actions that brought about the financial mess were "not illegal") and no matter where you stand politically, the most popular charges have only stood to further confuse and obscure legitimate issues.

    RE Vader: Congratulations on your Sithy Christmas! I feel compelled to disagree with your statement that U.S. government actions "merely add to" the existing threat; there exist legitimate spheres of security cooperation where the U.S. really has no choice other than to act. I really never cared for the "chickens home to roost" argument, just as I recognize that Osama bin Ladin and his kind did (and do) have some specific legitimate grievances, which they have unfortunately managed to completely obscure through their mode of operation. Just think what the world would think of him if he used his position and connections to give the Arab Spring a decade's head-start and to decry the bigamous connections between states that pass for routine between many countries and their Arab counterparts - but I think it is mainly because of the various out-of-kilter responses included in the spectrum of U.S. action that it appears that any government action against terrorism or extremism appears illegitimate. It isn't illegitimate to protect oneself, just as it isn't illegitimate to put terrorists on trial - it's a matter of whether that trial is held by a shadowy commission or in a U.S. courtroom with process of law guaranteed. It is also not illegitimate to kill terrorists outright, even in the case of former U.S. citizens who have forsaken their nation.

  43. Blue Aurora

    My two cents is that your entire reponse is meaningless.

    I will go back to John Kay's (FT) essay on why the Queen was right to condemn economics. You should read his essay on the INET site

    Your comments are about matters which are meaningless---it is not about uncertainty, which is a given. It is very simple. I will put in in CAPS


    This very simple rule means that a capitalistic system (which has banks, public or private, that can create money) is inherently unstable and unpredictable (and it makes no difference how much capital the bank's have).

    The rule also means that, even if we had no banks, capitalism would still be inherently unstable and unpredictable, because knowledge itself is inherently unstable and unpredictable.

    Keen explains this is great detail, but the concept is very simple.

    Two propositions follows from the observation.

    First, and this is really important, the is nothing to the Austrian, Hayek, Libertarian,etc., nothing. It is all "junk," and there is no point ever looking at the stuff, for it just wrong.

    An economy is in a way like a car on the highway. With no driver, it will pretty soon run off the road and crash. With a driver, you will get, generally, many thousands of miles before a crash and perhaps several generations or even a lifetime.

    Second, and I find it very interesting that Daniel refuses to say anything about Keen, the Keynesian debate we should be having is how best to cancel our private debt.

    Now, I happen to believe that Keynes say this. When the gov]t acts as spender or last resort, it is, ineffect, at least in part, cancelling private debt, socializing losses, whatever term or terms you want to use. Keynes knew that he couldn't then determine exactly what debts needed cancelled, so he focused on what he could see, which as aggregate demand.

    Keen has put forward some ideas about cancelling debt directly (it is not easily done) or by giving everyone equal amount of money, first requiring that they pay off their debts. This would be a stunning devaluation and which I tend to consider to be a great idea.

    I tend to also favor printing special $100s, putting trillions on pallets, wrapping such in plastic, and putting on the next return boat to china, paying off our debt and forcing China's hand, as well. I would tell China no more bonds, just new 100s. We will buy whatever you will sell us, for cash. No more credit sales.

    What is very very interesting to me is that Daniel feels safe in talking about Ron Paul (no threat to his PHD, there) but refuses to discuss Keen (shows the extent to which Keen is right about the orthodoxy in the economics being wrong)

  44. *sigh* If you give Keynes's concept of uncertainty a nihilism, then expect to be outclassed by neoclassical economists that are actually mathematically-literate. I don't care if Steve Keen is capable of using differential equations - complete uncertainty devolves into nihilism, which of course is not the case for practical decision-making.

    And I have read John Kay's essay on the Financial Times - you made a slight error - the Queen did not condemn economics, but asked why the economics profession had not seen the crisis.

    And Kuehn is aware of the Post Keynesian criticisms himself. He attends a university with a fairly heterodox department. Please don't insinuate that he is corrupt or intellectually dishonest.

  45. "Second, and I find it very interesting that Daniel refuses to say anything about Keen, the Keynesian debate we should be having is how best to cancel our private debt."

    Sometimes I let conversations go back and forth in the comment section without feeling the need to jump in. The small familiarity I have with Keen suggests to me he has a lot of good ideas. I simply haven't jumped into understanding his views on the crisis in any great detail. Maybe I will in the future - maybe not. Don't confuse my silence with some sort of dismissal. Finance is not something I know all that much about either, and often I prefer not to weigh in on things that I don't know a whole lot about. But trust me - it's not like I'm negatively disposed towards Keen or anything like that.

  46. Their means of establishing a greater degree of freedom are different.

    True enough, but I would suggest that the differences lie deeper still. The means of establishing particular outcomes is one thing... The very premises underlying the concept of freedom are another. My experiences increasingly lead me to conclude that people define "freedom" differently, and this is where the crucial (and possibly irreconcilable) distinction lies.

    Is freedom the right to go about your business without fear of incurring any overt form of racism and other discrimination? Or is it the right to give expression to such discriminatory views so long as it does no physical harm to man or property?
    Does freedom mean that all children have a right to the same level of educational opportunities, regardless of the social standing of their parents? Or does it require that responsibilities and the consequences for actions be carried from one generation to another?
    Would a free society encourage enterprise and innovation by providing a public safety net for those taking on the risks of a new business? Or would it be better to leave all matters of entrepreneurship entirely to private actors, sponsors and creditors?

    These sort of questions have relatively little to do with "means", yet I sense the likes of Brad DeLong and Ron Paul would struggle to find agreement in determining which outcomes reflects true freedom.

  47. Blue Aurora

    nihilism--WTF--you think that in addition to designing the Universe, Big Ernie set down one set of "moral" rules that are economics? You really are taking yourself too seriously.

    I am not at all worried about neoclassical economists that are actually mathematically-literate. As the Queen remarked, they are not much for they couldn't see these events unfolding. As Keen writes, it was 10 years ago that all neoclassicals were saying we are never going to have a depression.

    If math is built on assumptions, cannot predict, etc., one only need to point out its flaws, to be ahead of the game.

    I realize Keen is trying to build a "Minsky," model. I have questions about about such because the data would be extremely difficult to accumulate.

  48. Daniel

    Keen and Minsky go far beyond finance. Keen' focus on private debt is an important insight to those of us who know and understand banking

  49. I'm being serious, Anonymous. Post Keynesian economics has been accused of nihilism. The Journal Post Keynesian Economics has acknowledged this in this article.

    And while I'm not the best mathematician, don't underestimate the use of mathematics in economics. It's still a very powerful tool with important use for economics, both for orthodoxy and heterodoxy.

  50. "A guy who had renounced radicalism decades ago was used as a convenient link in a web..."

    I agree that whatever connection between Ayers and Obama is probably slight and happenstance, but I gotta ask, did Ayers really renounce violence?

    On Wright and Obama, well, the real "scandal" is that Obama may be a closet atheist who went to church for the connections it provided him.

    "It isn't illegitimate to protect oneself..."

    True enough, but the U.S. government goes far beyond protecting the U.S. against attack in the field of military operations. The constant and current meme is that somehow, somewhere Hitler is on the rise and the U.S. must stop a new Hitler. It is an irrational, ahistorical and over the top response to what are mere dozens of very nasty people.

  51. On the term Islamism:

    It is a term coined by Westerners. It has a bunch of different meanings, some very similar, some at odds with each other. When an American uses the term I generally assume that I'm dealing with neo-conservative, because it tends to pepper their language (along with others bits of jargon like it).

  52. Vader,
    Yes, it is a favorite of the neocon set, but if I ever use the term (which would be a rarity) I am usually referring to political Islam. I imagine that that is the context that DK is using it.

  53. Joseph,

    Well, it is a muddy word at best (especially because it takes in such a rainbow color set of movements - everything from human rights based reform movements to terrorists). Better to just drop the word entirely.

  54. I agree, it has many connotations that aren't related to the actual meaning, which is Islam in the context of politics and law. This is why I have rarely used the word, because if I am talking about a political system, I will usually indicate that that is the case.

    I certainly don't see Islamism as a threat to me, my family or my neighbors. I see Islamism as a political movement in a particular regional territory. So, it doesn't represent more of a threat to me than, say, a communist regime becoming a capitalist regime, a monarchy becoming a republic, or vice versa. If that is the form of economy or government that they choose, that is their choice, not mine.

    The whole idea is often twisted, just as the Soviets were back in the day, into making us believe that this represents a threat to us. But, as John Stockwell once said, "enemies are necessary for the wheels of the U.S. military machine to turn".

  55. Blue Aurora

    if by the term nihilism you are referring to its common definition---life without objective meaning, purpose, or intrinsic value---I could care less that someone has tried to connect such up with Keynes

    My two cents is that, at present, mathematics economics is of no value to economics.

    If it is, I will ask you to tell me, a round number is ok, how much "damage" did the Less Depression cause to the economy. Private debt, as described by Keen, blew one hell of a hole, but how big of a hole?

    If we went out in the physical world we could set some dynamite on the ground, set it off, and measure the hole.

    Economics cannot perform this simple mathematical task.

    You can make assumptions (and mostly the models assume out all real variables) and then say if we increase the money supply by x that prices will go up y, but that is not science.

    However, even the most simple of changes makes the models meaningless. For example, take the Bush tax cuts, add three wars: (1) one lost on 9/11; and (2) Iran and Afghanistan and what does the model show in 3 years? The model can model a war.

  56. correction: The model can not model a war

  57. Re: JMF Catalan: "And, for what it's worth, I think that most people are a little racist -- including past presidents. I just think that Paul is unfortunate enough to have racist remarks published in his newsletter during the 1980s and early 1990s."

    "Unfortunate enough to have racist remarks published"? Passive voice. Claim that Ron Paul is the real victim here.

    Excuse me while I go throw up...

    Brad DeLong

  58. This comment has been removed by the author.

  59. Wait a minute, methinks the above is not Brad. Doh!

  60. Joseph,

    Words have actual meanings? Since when?

  61. It is Paul's time (at least for the next few weeks); every politician waits for something like this where fate and good planning intermix to create opportunity; Bismarck called it listening to God's footsteps and trying to catch his coattails as he walked by:

  62. Daniel

    this link pretty much shows the depths of evil in Ron Paul

    you talk about a greedy selfish cull, with no sense of paying it forward.

    What about the French lives and treasure that bought us our Freedom?

    And you want to have conversations with this wack jobs?

  63. Daniel, I think your methods to achieve a greater degree of freedom require some kind of label so to more readily distinguish them from traditional methods and the differing conception of liberty they are premised upon. Enhanced freedom, perhaps?

  64. Ahem...

    "Texas Congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul is not a racist and is being smeared as one because he is a clear threat to the political establishment, says Nelson Linder, Austin president of the NAACP."

  65. Anonymous Idiot,

    (a) The U.S. didn't fight WWII to end the holocaust. In fact, barring a German declaration there isn't any reason to think that there would have been an immediate conflict between the U.S. and Germany after Pearl. The U.S. didn't risk American lives to end the holocaust during WWII, so why should Paul (or anyone else) take that stance?

    (b) The French didn't aid the U.S. out of some noble sense of enlightened love of freedom; they did it to poke their traditional enemy in the eye.

  66. Lord Vader

    Being a wise man, long ago I learned never to argue with a fool like you

    I have asked Big Earnie to crush the life of you or a near family member through acts of greed and selfishness on the order of Ron Paul

  67. Good lord! A black man claiming Paul gave him and his wife medical treatment for free in the 70s. I must be a made up story, it has to be!

  68. Jonathon Hunt

    Go ask the Austin NAACP leader what he thinks of Ron Paul, now that we have his letters


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