Sunday, January 08, 2012

Ron Paul's Strategic Ignorance

Ron Paul on Lincoln and the Civil War:
No, I don’t think he was one of our greatest presidents. I mean, he was determined to fight a bloody civil war, which many have argued could have been avoided. For 1/100 the cost of the war, plus 600 thousand lives, enough money would have been available to buy up all the slaves and free them.

This is untrue. The market value of all the slaves in the US was about $3 billion, about the government spending on the war on both sides. Paul underestimates the cost of compensated emancipation by two orders of magnitude. Death and destruction was on top of the government spending, so on narrowly utilitarian grounds, compensated emancipation would have been a better choice. Taxing the citizens to bribe the slave owners to stop owning their fellow humans is morally troubling, however, and should be especially so for a libertarian like Paul, who makes a fetish of personal liberty, except when inconvenient to the policies he prefers.

Lincoln, in our universe, was an advocate for compensated emancipation. He signed it into law in the District of Columbia. He tried to get the slave states to accept it, but they refused.

And then there is the inconvenient truth that before Lincoln even took office slave states declared themselves independent, seized Federal property, and fired on an unarmed Federally chartered ship trying to sail to Fort Sumter.

Once Lincoln was in office, they bombarded Fort Sumter and took it by force. Even if we accept the unlimited right of states to secede for any reason that seems good to them, including preserving the right of some people to own other people, which I do not, this was at best an act of war, since Fort Sumter did not exist until the Federal government created it, on top of an artificial island the Federal Government also created by importing it in pieces from New England.

So surely we must assign some moral agency to the Confederate side in the conflict.

I take this at best at evidence that Ron Paul is extraordinarily careless in accepting false claims that support conclusions he thinks are convenient to the outcomes he prefers.

I don't know what is in his heart, but his position is exactly the one I would take if I was a libertarian that was cynically pandering to southern Paleoconservatives in hopes they would join my coalition.

Achieving this level of ignorance doesn't come naturally. It requires Paul to stuff his fingers in his ears every time he encounters an inconvenient truth, and shout LALALALA until it goes away. Congenial false claims, conversely, are seized on with joy, clutched to his breast and nurtured with unquestioning love.

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