Policies Speak Louder Than Words

I can understand why some people are concerned about Ron Paul.

Whoever wrote his newsletters, they certainly included some nasty and excruciating stuff:

If you have ever been robbed by a black teen-aged male, you know how unbelievably fleet-footed they can be. Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.

I can see why black people would be concerned about a statement like that, given the history of systemic discrimination against blacks in America. Now, Paul is adamant that most of these newsletters, including all the offending passages were ghostwritten, and that he was not aware of the offending content. He has also adamantly disavowed it.

But what if he wrote them himself, or at very least was aware that his ghostwriters had chosen a new incendiary direction?

That would be a pretty strong reason for anyone opposed to racism to oppose Ron Paul, wouldn’t it?

I don’t think so.

Paul is the only major Presidential candidate who opposes the war on drugs.

Paul believes that drug criminalisation in America had racist origins:

We do know that opium was used by the Chinese and the Chinese were not welcomed in this country. We do know that the blacks at times use heroin, opium and the laws have been used against them. There have been times that it has been recognized that the Latin Americans use marijuana and the laws have been written against them. But lo and behold the drug that inebriates most of the members of Congress has not been touched because they’re up there drinking alcohol.

But this is not merely a historical fact, like slavery or segregation. It is a modern fact, a deep and slippery well of real discrimination against racial minorities:

Mass arrests and incarceration of people of color – largely due to drug law violations – have hobbled families and communities by stigmatizing and removing substantial numbers of men and women. In the late 1990s, nearly one in three African-American men aged 20-29 were under criminal justice supervision, while more than two out of five had been incarcerated – substantially more than had been incarcerated a decade earlier and orders of magnitudes higher than that for the general population. Today, 1 in 15 African-American children and 1 in 42 Latino children have a parent in prison, compared to 1 in 111 white children. In some areas, a large majority of African-American men – 55 percent in Chicago, for example – are labeled felons for life, and, as a result, may be prevented from voting and accessing public housing, student loans and other public assistance.

This doesn’t just affect drug users, but entire communities:

The scale of the effects of parental incarceration on children can be revealed simply by statistics showing the number of children with a parent in prison or jail. Among white children in 1980, only 0.4 of 1 percent had an incarcerated parent; by 2008 this figure had increased to 1.75 percent. Rates of parental incarceration are roughly double among Latino children, with 3.5 percent of children having a parent locked up by 2008. Among African American children, 1.2 million, or about 11 percent, had a parent incarcerated by 2008.

Ron Paul is very clear — he will end the drug war, and release non-violent drug offenders from federal prisons. He will allow states to determine drug policy.

The racist effects of the war on drugs have been perpetuated by every recent President, including Barack Obama. One statistic rings out above all — there are more black men incarcerated via the drug war today (and thus engaging in free labour) than there were slaves in 1850. America might have a black President, but slavery is alive and well.

Those who oppose racism — including blacks who rightly fear discrimination and racial hatred — should be more concerned by the racist policies of the current administration and previous administrations than the supposed writings of a candidate who opposes the racist policies of the current administration.

However, my support for Ron Paul is for another reason altogether. Paul is the only major Presidential candidate who wants to diminish America’s imperial largesse. Simply, America’s current role in the world is not financially or economically sustainable.

Paul has stated:

We are like a man who used to be rich and is in the habit of paying for everybody’s meals and announces at a lavish dinner that he will pay the bill, only to then turn to the fellow sitting nearby and say, “Can I use your credit card? I will pay you back!”

Simply, Ron Paul opposes the neoconservative vision that America should be in more than 900 bases, acting as a global policeman, and engaging in proactive interventionism. America once led the world by example — she was once the greatest creditor in history, with the freest markets, and a constitution that enshrined life, liberty, property rights, due process, free speech, freedom of assembly and habeas corpus into law. While some of her founders might have been slavers, the Constitution they created sowed the seeds for that system’s destruction by guaranteeing that “all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

Those are the values that I believe humanity should aspire to as we move deeper into the 21st Century. America’s contemporary economic and foreign policy has not only led to the American government engaging in unconstitutional activities like torture, warrantless wiretapping, indefinite detention, extrajudicial killing, etc. I believe that America’s contemporary economic and foreign policy is a danger to America’s long-term well-being.

As I explained in detail last month:

Neoconservatism holds that American and Western civilisation has a unique moral role in policing the world. That means military commitment, and frequent war. That, in turn, means spending. Spending has meant huge deb acquisition. There are many historical antecedents of empires convinced of their own special role in history, and determined to impose it on the rest of the world by force. Look at Rome — driven into the ground by the cost of imperialism, and her “bread and circuses” welfare state.

Imperial Britain’s debt load hit its peak at the very point when its empire crumbled into the sand. This is not a co-incidence, and the good news for America is that once Britain ended its global role, growth soon returned, and Britain’s debt-to-GDP ratio fell back to a sustainable level.

Of course, America’s debt position might be more sustainable if she was still the world’s greatest industrial powerhouse. But she has instead exported much of her productivity to her hostile creditor, China.

The deindustrialisation of the West has allowed newly industrialised nations, especially China, to build up huge monetary wealth — trillions of dollars of Western currency.

And neoconservatives continue to believe that America — dependent on foreign goods and resources, hugely indebted to hostile nations, and war fatigued — is somehow in a position to expand her empire, and to attack more countries?

Rome and Britain for all of their terrible imperial excesses also embodied many noble values. Yet their empires faded, and they lost influence as new empires arose. Today, a new empire rises: China. China’s political system embodies no liberal values whatever. Modern China’s founder Mao Zedong mused that it might be worth killing half of humanity to implement global socialism. The modern Chinese legal system, and its constitution are thoroughly authoritarian, and lack the American overtures to liberty, property rights, the pursuit of happiness, freedom of speech, and freedom of assembly.

Through over-extension America slowly bankrupts herself, and makes herself ever more dependent on Chinese goods and components. While America outspends the world militarily, the cost of her military commitment is breaking her back.

This seems counter-intuitive: America’s hunger for global power is making her weak? Hawks like Newt Gingrich and Mitt Romney might respond that the only way to maintain American primacy is through more military spending, the commitment of greater resources, and more determination to contain the expansion of China in the Pacific. But what is really happening is that America is breaking herself through the strain of effort. She ships her resources, her productivity, her young men and women overseas to guard sites in Afghanistan, Pakistan, South Korea, Germany and all of the 900 foreign military bases; in doing that she loses the productivity and wealth these people and things would create at home: infrastructure, education, medicine, technology, innovation. That — as empires always discover — is the cost of ruling the world. And it is a backbreaking one.

America should lead the world by example — through her own economic and technological development, through respect for individual and civil liberties and the Constitution, through diplomacy, through trade, through international friendship, and through being what the founders conceived her as — an independent nation that did not entangle alliances, much less policed the world.

How can America be an independent nation — in energy, in politics, in spirit — while she is chained by the shackles of maintaining and controlling an oil-dependent global empire?

Ron Paul is the only major Presidential candidate who comes close to articulating this vision. An independent and strong America can preserve the values enshrined in the Constitution. An America beaten into the ground by the implications of huge debt acquisition, systemic financial fragility and military over-extension may not even be able to preserve America.

Of course many in the media and the political establishment have already preordained that Paul cannot win. The global imperialism and the war on drugs must go on, or so they seem to believe. Anyone who points out the unsustainability of such an arrangement is marginalised, newsletters or none. Dennis Kucinich and Bernie Sanders — two other such Americans — are roundly ignored.

Alas, the march of history goes on too. Empires rise and fall. So mighty they seem, in their time.

As Percy Bysshe Shelley put it:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desart. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away

11 thoughts on “Policies Speak Louder Than Words

  1. I’m coming around to your way of thinking on Ron Paul, Aziz. There are certainly some things I don’t like about him, and some things I find downright scary. But, as the old saw goes, the perfect is the enemy of the good. And RP’s take on American empire building is some of the only sanity out there. Our present course is straight toward disaster. As Pat Buchanan put it: “A Republic, Not An Empire.” Let’s hope the US wakes up before overstretch kills it.

    • I should note that “the perfect is the enemy of the good” is a phrase Obama supporters have used to defend their man. However, I don’t really think it applies to their man. What’s good about indefinite detention of American citizens, the continuation of the drug war, SOPA, the use of extrajudicial killing, the re-signing of the PATRIOT act?

      In the case of Paul, I think it applies.

      I don’t expect Paul to win, and would be very surprised if he did. I am consigned to the reality that because of imperial overstretch, etc, America will soon no longer be the global hegemon, and the new global power (China) will not even pay lip service to the values of life, liberty and property.

      I do however expect him to finish a solid second or third on delegates and win a few states, particularly after Florida if Romney is declared the winner of the contest. I believe the important thing is getting some of his good ideas — repealing the war on drugs, scaling back the empire, etc — to a wider audience. Liberty, individual rights and an open market are very young and brittle ideas, but in the end they can flourish again if enough people remember them.

      At the same time, the Athenians probably said the same thing about Democracy…

  2. As a guy who would choose to live through WW3 rather than a Chinese hegemony – yes, adopting RP’s ideas now seems to be the least bad option for America and for the World. What America requires now is not expansion but restoration, and Paul seems to be the only candidate getting it. While I disagree with Paul’s no-alliance-and-intervention-whatsoever policy, I am sick and tired of those “liberal intervention” that war-hawks always wage into. Reducing American imperial overstretch, while remaining a superpower in the Americas and East Asia-Pacific region, seems to be the only viable option for American imperial soft-landing.

  3. We are still afflicted by tribal narrow perspective. It is not about getting the cool guy to be the head of the tribe, neither is it about pushing your friend’s interests and than cashing on their success. In effective democracy the man himself is quite irrelevant, he’s just there as a conduit of will of entire nation, or at least his voters. His character may be important, as there’s a question if he will stray from his mandate… but should it not be measured on his previous actions? And by actions I mean his actual accomplishments not something said by an associate of an associate?

    Good showman, who can make a narrative that portrays him as likable man, friendly or leader figure gets lots of votes. None of this values (or images of values) influences policy! Even if RP was personally despicable racist (which he isn’t) it still doesn’t matter if he’s not going to legislate anything on this basis. You can check his voting record and statements to see what he’s going to push.

    Moving to the issues themselves – I just can’t get it why people care so much about social trivia. Like in Poland good part of supporters of PiS party like promotion of nationalism and catholic church. PO part was supposed to be liberal in economical terms, but drifted towards social-democracy… most people who voted them to the office last time did it again. Social issues trumped economy. If one stops for a while and think about huge impact of economical policy, that later influence social issues it becomes quite puzzling why it’s so neglected. Economic policy is enormously important, but than overlooked while voting. Or in case of USA there are two parties with the same positions on both important economic and foreign policy issues – so you just can’t vote on these at all. Relatively minor things like what kinda of indoctrination should the govt run, environmental nitpicking and supposed characters of the people in power (or rather images of their characters) are in the spotlight.
    I guess in USA there may be one more part to it. You have one party that preaches low taxes – but rises deficits, and another that is supposed to be left leaning but makes little progress in any social issues… so it’s more like voting on which goal do you wish to see fail…

  4. Pingback: Breaking the Camel’s Back « azizonomics

  5. In the end, the voters will not be swayed by facts and figures. They will be swayed by the early adopters that attract others on an emotional level. Aziz, I suspected you might support the good doctor on first reading your blog several months ago. It didn’t matter, I was attracted to your site because of the economics content. I would ask that you allow yourself to believe we can pull the country out of this tailspin and can elect Ron Paul. If his ideas are right for our economy and the restoration of our Republic we must believe he can and will win. Those of us that visit your site have more than a passing interest in the economy. What argument can be made against the logic you and other economic commentators have laid out on this very site? Yes, Keynes was partially right, but it is abundantly clear that no government has the will to “reign itself during the “good times”. Economic theories be damned – we are dealing with human nature. The celebrity economists of the day may claim the debt doesn’t matter, and politicians are quick to assure us they can “create jobs”. But anyone capable of thinking for themselves can see the writing on the wall.

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