What I was looking for.
Dr. Ron Paul ran for President about eight years too late, in my opinion. That is to say, if you believe in libertarian ideas and would like to see someone who holds them dear in the White House, it would have been better for him to run in 2000 than in 2008.
In 2000, I was weary of the Clinton era. I was tired of the baseless lunacy of the burgeoning Right Wing Media franchise and their constant attacks on the President, and I was tired of the unprincipled sleaze of the man in the White House. I was interested in the Libertarians because they seemed to reflect the common sense, middle ground that I felt I occupied. And the prospect of a Third Party rising that would allow people like me to support the traditional "lefty" causes (ie, be "socially liberal") and the traditional "righty" ideas (ie, be "fiscally conservative") was very attractive.
Dr. Paul's 2008 campaign seemed to be trying to build on that appeal. But by 2008, I was weary of hearing politicians claim that what they wanted was common sense, only to see them fail or get into office and begin pandering to one extreme or the other. It was easy to see where Barack Obama stood, and I respected (and still respect) his willingness to take a centrist position; and his party, while far from perfect, seemed willing to back him up. It was easy to see where John McCain wanted to stand, but his party seemed determined to continue what I see as the simultaneous bloat and erosion of our Federal government - and they had a history of betraying McCain in the past (see "Up, Simba!" for David Foster Wallace's fascinating analysis of the 2000 campaign), a pattern which Palin's nomination as VP seemed to guarantee would be their future strategy, as well.
In 2000, I would have readily embraced Dr. Paul's campaign ideas, but in 2008, I saw him as a tired snake-oil salesman, trying to ensure a Republican victory using discredited memes to lure independents away from Obama's platform. I didn't see any new ideas, just a lot of complaining about the way things were; I didn't see any solutions. And when I have expressed that opinion, supporters of Dr. Paul's revolution have told me to read his book. Considering his Third Party status, and the treatment given to Third Party candidates by the press, it's entirely likely that I didn't get a complete picture of what Dr. Paul was trying to communicate to us.
So, when I opened the book, I was looking for those solutions. I was looking for a vision of what we could realistically do to move in a better direction. I expect a little "Utopian exaggeration", and I expect more than a little criticism of the status quo. But what I want to see is more than that. I want to see how we're supposed to fix things.
I want to see the plans for what we're supposed to build.
What I Found
On the surface, there is much I agree with in Dr. Paul's book. I appreciate his anti-war stance; ironically, when I made many of these same arguments, I was labeled a pacifist liberal sissy by many of my friends and family. Dr. Paul is certainly none of those things. I also applaud his rejection of the creation of laws and federal institutions which have unintended consequences or are unenforceable and needlessly burdensome on our society. I agree with his analysis that many of our government's laws and policies intended to help the unfortunate and unite our wildly different demographic groups have in some cases served to perpetuate the problems they aim to solve.
But underneath some of these ideas, I see some dangerous mistakes. Dr. Paul makes some basic assumptions about what government means and about the basis of our economy which seem rooted in the past. It's good to know our history, but to ignore the direction that mankind is headed, and the fundamental changes that technology is bringing about is a fatal flaw.
I intend to explore some specifics in the next post, but I wanted to make it clear that I did not set out to pick a fight with libertarians or with Dr. Paul's supporters. I read this book hoping to learn whatever truth it was that motivated so many to support his dark horse campaign. There is a lot here to get excited about, and I don't want to seem like I am opposed to everything said here; no one is perfect, after all, and I don't expect anyone ever will be.
However, it would be wrong and foolish to ignore what I see as glaring errors in judgment. So, now that I've spent two "introductory" posts explaining the background, and trying to head off some of the more distracting possible responses, let's explore what those errors are...