I’m wondering whether author and historian Thomas Woods is in fact too far into the woods despite being one of those city kids. He pens a curious piece today on LRC defending St. Paul and true Lew against another cadre of egghead liberty folk. In typical theory of the leisure class mode, Woods assumes that all mention of certain people directly correlates with the mindful followers of the aforementioned. He takes umbrage with a statement about the state of the movement with regards to a right/left drift made by professor Tyler Cowen at a recent CATO gig.
I know Tom gets out a lot to speak at certain events and does a lot of Break The Matrix interviews. He’s commented on C-SPAN about his like for media attention and the subsequent lack thereof. He’s not DiLorenzo jawing with Brian Lamb about Lincoln yet, but he’s still a young man and those things may come. Like most intellectuals, they think they are the indispensable core of whatever school or faction of thinking that has suddenly powered the movement de jure. The cackling minions of Paul Krugman are still toasting themselves.
Joe six pack libertarian doesn’t see the world the same way as Woods. Gadsen flags, guns and legal weed all appeal to folk who don’t particularly want to see brothers and sisters in foreign lands. They had that done to them since WWII. Even Vietnam era thinking supplies a notion amongst old school believers that such a war would have been won if but permission was granted to ‘win it’. So yeah, another undeclared action abroad for the purposes of good might win the emotions of the day when the stakes are for the whole enchilada (ie the Presidency). Ron Paul suddenly fit the bill of someone valiant enough to stand against the Rudy’s of the world. As an attendee of the 25th Mises Institute affair, I can attest to the fact that the old men of the grand old institute turned in for sleep that night at the Grand Hyatt in NYC. Hardly the stuff of the Green Mountain boys in their quest for freedom.
The reality is that a lot of the people attracted to the Ron Paul movement came out based on the temporary glory of the debates and a feeling more than any movement association. The Birchers, troofers and assembled tin foil hat types have had a decentralizing rally point, but their paranoid notions and musings hold little water even in Moe’s suddenly crowded bar. It was a bigger mix, agreed. Those seeking to get more political have acknowledged the practicality of a GOP presence, but seem perfectly happy pressing issues like MoveOn, within the Dems, as pluralistic parasites and malcontents threatening to leave.
Issues like abortion and immigration is what makes Cowen’s assertions more true than any assertion of what in fact Ron Paul or Lew Rockwell are. That’s the perceptible difference. Those of us who appreciate the movement as well as work within party means have the hardest place to defend. Happy libertarians tend to be more anarchist and unrelenting in their philosophy. If you take those notions and try to act politically and fail, you are blamed as a cow tow artist and maligned and avoided. That’s the element of the right. The left will tends towards gay rights and legalizing pot. RP will say he’s for it, but has never gotten ‘high’ in his life. His reaction to old Sasha Cohen’s film exploits was far more telling than the equivalent jibe at Bob Barr in Borat. The more crunchy or crusty pot smoker is quite different than Uncle Rahm on BTM.
Like Woods I appreciate the activities of institutions, forums and groups that I in fact agree with. Unlike Woods, I’m just a regular woods kinda a guy and don’t stake my professional life on acceptance by any one crowd or partisan effort.
I am a party guy though. I take to the streets for signatures come election time. I suffer through state and national committee work despite full well knowing that nothing much electorally will happen with our efforts. I have in fact read my Mises throughly and Rothbard too. I’ve read Doherty’s piece about the movement and understand that it vast and varied. When Ron Paul goes away, what happens next ? Sure he’s been rooted in the circles of Rockwell.
I’ve worked with and seen a variety of RP folks. Sometimes an aspiring candidate will come for an LP endorsement mentioning Hazlitt or Hayek. The oddity is when they say that protecting their community with zoning regulations is there goal as a local candidate. The candidates can be quite passionate about the Constitution too. They don’t seem to realize a far more reaching effort is at play in the fields of Mises when the Articles of Confederation are heralded by the high priesthood that Woods is a part of.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan. But translating the success of a mantra to End the Fed into the bigger greater picture is more problematic. That’s when the splintering starts. Pragmaticism becomes the clarion call for some, thus the Republicans. As far as I can tell the CFL is a very conservative group. Thus, the conclusion that they are ‘rightist’. The hipper Cato or Reason crowd wants a little more association with money, yes, but also that ‘in’ feeling.
Personally, I prefer toiling in the back yard over vasts tracts of literature and now blog entries justifying and defending freedom. Which I do indulge in, but not as an end all of human or intellectual pursuit. No government ? Fine. But why . . . I’ll take a few weeks or months in the trenches of electoral warfare working with mildly afflicted statists than the constant sniping and harping that can be the ‘freedom’ way. To a large extent this is just marching in the old Rothbard grudge with Cato and not listening to what’s happening on the ground from that grand podium with a microphone attached to it.