A Libertarian’s Lament: Why Ron Paul Is an Embarrassment to the Creed

Rp2 Will Wilkinson in TNR:

[I]t irks me that, as far as most Americans are concerned, Ron Paul is the alpha and omega of the libertarian creed. If you were an evil genius determined to promote the idea that libertarianism is a morally dubious ideology of privilege poorly disguised as a doctrine of liberation, you'd be hard pressed to improve on Ron Paul.

Much of Paul's appeal comes from the impression he conveys of principled ideological coherence. Other Republican presidential aspirants are transparently pandering grab-bags of incoherent compromise. Ron Paul presents himself as a man of conviction devoted to liberty, plain and simple, who follows logic's lead and tells it plain. The problem is, often he’s not.

According to Paul's brand of libertarianism the inviolability of private property is the greater part of liberty. And Paul is crystal-clear about the policy implications of his philosophical convictions about property rights. As Paul writes in his 2009 book Liberty: A Manifesto, the income tax implies that “the government owns you, and graciously allows you to keep whatever percentage of the fruits of your labor it chooses.” To Paul, the policy upshot is evident: “What we should work toward … is abolishing the income tax and replacing it not with a national sales tax, but with nothing.” Whatever you think of this, you can't accuse Paul of dancing around the issue. However, Paul is not so dogged in consistently applying his principles in other domains.