Why Jeffrey Sachs is Mistaken About Libertarianism and Ron Paul Part 1

In an article in the Huffington Post, Jeffrey Sachs criticizes Ron Paul by misinterpreting libertarianism and expounding on his misconceptions about the said political philosophy. It is an easy mistake to commit that even those with a Phd degree in economics are not exempted from.

It is disappointing, really. I first got introduced to Jeffrey Sachs when I watched the PBS documentary Commanding Heights: The Battle for World Economy several years ago where he was seemingly against economic central planning and statism. He even seemed "extreme" (a word he uses to criticize what he supposes to be Ron Paul's views) especially when it comes to his "economic shock therapy" policy enacted in Chile and several other countries.

In case you get bored with all my chatter, you can check out Ron Paul's consistent principled integrity on the video above

First off, we shall examine Jefrey Sachs' method or approach in smearing the Ron Paul campaign by attacking libertarianism in general. Secondly, we move on to show why he is wrong about how he sees libertarianism. Lastly, we make a strong case for Ron Paul. These are our objectives for today. The bold parts are Sachs'.
"Ron Paul's appeal goes beyond these specific positions. His libertarianism itself is beguiling."
It's a red herring of sorts to attack libertarianism in general and not the specific policies in Ron Paul's platform. He even goes on to mention several libertarians who would disagree with some of Ron Paul's political positions.

He attacks Ayn Rand. He talks about how Hayek or Milton Friedman (significant contributors in libertarian political philosophy) will disagree with many of Ron Paul's views. He even mentions how Robert Nozick retracted when he got older.

That's really a lot like saying Ayn Rand is wrong therefore Ron Paul is wrong or Hayek/M. Friedman disagrees with Ron Paul and those people contributed a lot to libertarianism so therefore Ron Paul is wrong.

Why not debate Ron Paul's policies and not attack other libertarians or namedrop those who agree with him? Why not just stick to the issues?

Also, why not mention people like Bastiat, Mises, Henry Hazlitt, and many other classical liberals/libertarian thinkers who Ron Paul openly says had a great deal of influence to his political beliefs and positions.

Speaking of Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson is a book I would highly recommend to Jefrey Sachs and to all of my readers because it's a brilliant introduction to libertarianism, the Austrian School of Economics, and to many of Ron Paul's political positions. 

"Like many extreme ideologies, libertarianism gives a single answer to a complicated world."
No. The fact that he already mentioned several libertarian thinkers who would disagree with Ron Paul mean that there is a lot of debate among libertarians and that there are a lot of proposed solutions and answers to different problems.

It's actually good he mentioned Ayn Rand because the Objectivists (libertarians who worship Ayn Rand) are actually very very critical of Ron Paul. They disagree with Ron Paul's foreign policy. From my understanding, they want to go to war with Iran and others like those who have a violent interpretation of Islamic texts while Ron Paul and other libertarian sects don't.

There's a lot of bickering and disagreements when it comes to tons of other issues as well like IPR (intellectual property rights), immigration, abortion, capital punishment/imprisonment, taxation, political action (as means to promote liberty), size and scope of government, and many others.

So no, Jeffrey Sachs, libertarianism doesn't have a single answer to the complicated world.
"Libertarians hold that individual liberty should never be sacrificed in the pursuit of other values or causes. Compassion, justice, civic responsibility, honesty, decency, humility, respect, and even survival of the poor, weak, and vulnerable"
The mistake here is that it is assumed that these values will not exist if they are not legislated. It is the notion that this "pursuit of other values or causes" can only be attained if we give money and power to Big Brother so that Big Brother can make sure we are all compassionate, just, honest, decent, rich, strong, etc.

Individual liberty actually ends where the liberties of others begin. This doesn't mean that because libertarians are for "individual liberty" doesn't mean that anyone can do whatever they want and be disrespectful with the liberties and properties of others and just live in a valueless society. Advocating individual liberty mean that you are against force and fraud; and that these be settled by police/courts and should be punishable in accordane with the rule of law.

It's so easy to make the case against force or fraud and yet when it comes to giving the State the power to use force and take a part of one's income to spend as they wish without transparency, all of a sudden it's okay because it is for the "pursuit of other values or causes".

The biggest problem here is that these bureaucrats (most of them merely appointed without the consent of the governed) have the power to spend and act in according to their own interests or in favor of special interest groups. Again, we should consider both that which is seen and that which is not seen. The fact is that statism and government intervention, no matter how noble the intentions, only leads to crony-capitalism and hurts the poor and only benefits the rich and elite. I've made this case so many times in this blog that libertarianism can easily be viewed as anti-poor when in fact it is for peace and prosperity. Ron Paul is actually the only candidate, as he expressed in the recent debates, who sympathizes with the Occupy Wall Street community only he has more libertarian solutions to their demands.

Again though, I would like emphasize that this is why I wish Jeffrey Sachs focused on the political positions of Ron Paul instead of just attacking libertarianism. As abstract as values may be, surely one's advocacies and political positions will reflect the kind of values one possesses. Here are some of Ron Paul's political positions that showcase his values:

  • Sachs himself said that Ron Paul "rightly emphasizes the massive corruption that has overtaken Washington". Yup, Ron Paul is the only candidate (not just those in the Republican Party but also Obama) who doesn't get funded by lobbyists and gets all his money from grassroots support and "moneybombs". Doesn't that show the value of honesty and decency and others from Sachs' list of values above?
  • Sachs himself noted that Ron Paul's foreign policy is a worthy position. Obama ran on a platform of a peaceful foreign policy and yet expanded the wars and yet US troops remain in thousands of bases all of the world. Ron Paul wants to talk and trade with nations like Cuba just as they did to to the Soviets during the Cold War or to the Vietnamese after the useless Vietnam war. What values do you think it reflects when you are against endless wars and nation-building and if you are for diplomacy and trade?  Compassion? Justice?
  • Ron Paul strongly opposes abortion. Some libertarians may disagree with him. But again, what values do you think this reflects? Does it reflect only advocating individual liberty and therefore disregarding other values just as Sachs mentioned?
  • Ron Paul is the only candidate who opposes corporate bailouts, TARP, and the secrecy and power of the Federal Reserve. Do you think that benefits the rich or the poor? What values do you think that kind of position reflects? Just individual liberty and nothing else?

I usually dislike having to respond or explain my thoughts regarding issues or misinterpretations of libertarianism. I'm gonna have to take a break for now and address the issues on Ron Paul allegedly supporting racism, the welfare state, Barry Goldwater, and other issues and misconceptions raised by Sachs another time. I knew it was going to be long, tedious, and sadly incomplete just as when I wrote in response to the venus project (I did say it was just an introduction but never got to continue).

I tend to be a lazy procrastinator many times. I honestly hate writing these things. The problem is it does feel like a responsibility to respond and defend the libertarian perspective. I guess it's really like that when you truly, passionately believe in something.  There's that quote about being able to say in 10 words what others have to say in 10,000 or something like that, I forgot who said it, but I do wish I have that skill. I knew it would be long and tiring to respond because there's just so many things I want to say that probably even a thousand posts will not be enough because, as I have said, I truly believe in the philosophy of liberty.

Rest assured that there is a libertarian response to all of Sachs' claims and allegations that I have not covered and that I will respond to them as soon as I can.

1 comment:

  1. Nice article, Harry. But Jeff Sachs I think was never a libertarian, and been a statist since many years ago. He's a high profile, highly-paid consultant at the UN, the WB, other foreign aid and governments, advising governments to intervene more to "save the poor, save the economy, save the planet" drama.


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