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Understanding Ron Paul

Matthew Yglesias points out that Ron Paul is much more of a Buchananite than a libertarian:

a lot of progressives seem to be slightly confused as to who Ron Paul is. They think he’s like that one rich uncle you have, shares a lot of your basic values but hatespaying taxes and seems to take a dim view of poor people. The reality is that Paul is much closer to Pat Buchanan, a socially conservative nationalist whose idea of nationalist foreign policy is to withdraw troops from South Korea and deploy them to the Mexican border. Given what a strong force nationalism is in American life, I do wish that we had more nationalist isolationism and less nationalist enthusiasm for global contrast. But Paul’s view is that the quest to ban abortion is “the most important issue of our age,” his signature economic policy idea (“End the Fed!”) is a crank slogan that has nothing to do with free market economics, etc.

I agree. Being much more of an interventionist than Yglesias is, I find Paul's domestic and foreign policies to be very closely aligned and easily understood. He is fatalistic about successful government action, and he wouldn't support it even if convinced it worked. Paul sees the notion of government as a means to carry out a collective action to help people utterly inimical to his views.

If you think of war, as Yglesias does, as primarily reflecting "nationalism," then Paul's combination of views is a little odd. But consider something like the intervention in Libya. This was a decision to use government power to try to help a bunch of people overseas who were about to be massacred by a sociopathic dictator. The surprising thing isn't that anybody on the right would oppose such an operation. The surprising thing is that anybody on the right would support it. Military intervention does carry nationalistic overtones that non-military intervention lacks. But there was no real national interest at stake here, and the question boils down to what risk and expenditure the U.S. should take to aid Libyan rebels. I don't see any part of Paul's ideology as sharing my views.