Working almost alone for the majority of his career, Ron Paul didn’t get his agenda through Congress, and he never gained much power as a politician, only becoming a subcommittee chairman in his last term. Up till recently, most people would have concluded that he labored in vain. They would have argued, perhaps, that he should have compromised to get more power. He could have worked up to a top position in the House, Senate, or even the White House had he gone that route, but his hands and probably his mind would have been tied to a agenda that we would not even recognize. To my surprise, I have noticed some people in the liberty movement don’t quite understand this.
Ron Paul followed three strategic principles throughout his political career. As a result, he changed millions of minds and kept his integrity and credibility. He did far more than one Congressman could have been expected to accomplish. Imagine what would happen if there were more like him? What could two, ten, or fifty “clones” of Ron Paul achieve?
There can be more. We need only find effective ambassadors for liberty that will adopt a strategy based on those three guidelines, which Murray Rothbard talked about in his exceptional article “The Case for Radical Idealism”:
- Whatever the means to the end are, an ultimate goal should be clearly upheld
- Strive to achieve the goal as rapidly as possible
- No steps should ever be taken that contradict the ultimate goal
What is the ultimate goal? That’s up to you. You don’t have to be a “purist libertarian” (though I wouldn’t discourage it!). Just figure out what your ultimate goal is- and constantly uphold it- despite the fact that it will probably not be achieved quickly or in one step. Even as you support baby steps towards your goal, continue to uphold your ultimate goal.
It is worth noting, moderating your ultimate goal, merely because it may be extreme, is to pass up two opportunities: First, the enthusiasm that a logically consistent goal inspires (think Ron Paul’s deep support); second, watering down your demands reduces your ability to sway the ideological matrix in your direction.
Dr. Paul upheld the Constitution and a fairly minarchist vision as the ultimate goal, and acted consistent with it. This is the reason he won support from all of us, including anarcho-capitalists who want less government than he did and some tea party types who would have more government than him.
To illustrate that we can all adopt this strategy without even being libertarian, let alone anarcho-capitalist, I point you to several more examples: Glenn Greenwald (proud “civil liberties extremist”, but no libertarian) and Jacob Hornberger, Ludwig von Mises, and Gary North (all three can probably be considered “minarchists”).
The conservative movement has failed because their strategy is primarily one of incrementalism. They lack clear goals, urgency, and consistency. Meanwhile, “progressives” and their socialist ilk have followed a more radical and consistent strategy and have implemented much of their agenda. Let’s learn from this, and not allow ourselves or our “Ron Paul Republicans” go down that slippery slope of obfuscation and hypocrisy. There is no shortcut to liberty. As Ron Paul has noted many times, people’s attitude (ideology) must change first. Politics will follow.
“Purity” – consistent support for liberty - is important, but I dare say smart strategy is more important than absolute purity, if we want to make progress. We can disagree on how libertarian we need to be and yet be strong allies and friends because we are employing Ron Paul’s and Murray Rothbard’s effective strategy for radical change.