The Libertarian Party Believes Ron Paul Is Not A Libertarian

in Philosophy/Politics by

It is often said that political parties are ruining the dignity of American discourse. Instead of discussing policy points, many identify with one of two partisan identities and allow their loyalties to fall in line. Here, policy support shapes around their team and they turn against whatever the other side opposes. It’s shallow. And it is growing worse.

The problem with the political arena is that as the investment grows more significantly, so does the need for self-preservation. Political careers mean that principles can take a backseat to the race discussion because nobody is going to make either a name for himself or money by losing with dignity.

This is a phenomenon also not restricted to the Democrats and Republicans. The Libertarian party has the same problem.

The Libertarian Party has developed a tendency to attack non-enrolled libertarians, including prominent figures like Senator Rand Paul and his father, former Texas Congressman Ron Paul.

Two-time Libertarian Party presidential candidate Gary Johnson has attacked Senator Paul in the past as not being libertarian. While there is a legitimate debate whether Senator Paul is more conservative than libertarian, the former New Mexico Governor is hardly in a position to talk.

Now it’s Libertarian Party chairman Nicholas Sarwark who is stepping up criticism of Paul, echoing a common claim of party members. Ron Paul, according to Chairman Sarwark, is not a libertarian. He claims that the liberty leader has often been wrong and even anti-libertarian, then pointing to his support of states’ rights.

To libertarians, the states’ rights debate is more like a game of semantics. Technically, a state does not have rights — only individuals do. The state is still government and thus, the power for its existence is derived from the people themselves. Given this, only the people themselves have rights.

This is a position that Paul supports.

In 2002, he wrote that “states’ rights simply means the individual states should retain authority over all matters not expressly delegated to the federal government in Article I of the Constitution.” Essentially, the term “states’ rights” simply alludes to the Tenth Amendment, which itself states that the people retain all power not specifically delegated to the federal government or prohibited to the states.

In his book “Liberty Defined,” Paul states: “Technically, states don’t have ‘rights’ — only individuals do. But states are legal entities that are very important in the governmental structure of the United States, of course. They serve as a kind of bulwark against an overweening federal government. The Constitution was written with an intent to protect the independence of each state by establishing for the states a very limited relationship to the federal government.”

Paul clearly states that states don’t have rights and again notes the term itself alludes to the Tenth Amendment. Under our system of government, the state is supposed to retain its independence from federal overreach while still acting on behalf of the people.

If this is not libertarian, what is?

The Libertarian Party has a confused history on what libertarianism is. They have previously had individuals run for president like Bob Barr, a former Congressman who voted for the USA PATRIOT Act and the invasion of Iraq. Given this fact, it’s not entirely surprising that the party had a Hillary Clinton apologist run for vice president, described as “the original libertarian.”

Ron Paul may not be perfect, but he did not support the USA PATRIOT Act. The Libertarian party has supported people who did, including their latest vice presidential candidate. Paul did not support the Iraq invasion, while the Libertarian party has advocated for people who did. Former governor Bill Weld himself has supported affirmative action and stronger environmental regulations at the federal level.

Before criticizing others for not being libertarian, the Libertarian Party should probably learn what it means to be a libertarian first.

Chris Dixon is a liberty activist and writer from Maine. In addition to being Managing Editor for the Liberty Conservative, he also writes the Bangor Daily News blog "Undercover Porcupine" and for sports website Cleatgeeks.

  • Yeah, but the LP’s Parties VP candidate Bill Weld is supposedly “the original Libertarian.”

  • the education and upbringing dr. paul had is near nonexistent today! i hope the true governors, we the people, take heed of his teachings! the principles he has exemplified are instructive to self-rule.

  • The LP has gone off track. Time to go back to the shed for some fixin’.

  • I like to hear him talk. He’s got some good points, I like.

  • libertarians aren’t perfect.

  • Where does Sarwark say RP is not a libertarian? I’m not going to slog through the entire 40 minutes, and didn’t see a timestamp or quote in the article

  • >one LP official makes some statements against Paul
    >”The Libertarian Party believes Ron Paul is not a libertarian”

    Look, I love Ron Paul, and I disagree with the statements made by Sawark (spelling?), but this is just unfair. All this article does is add to the useless infighting that literally does nothing to help the liberty movement progress.

  • GeorgeDance

    Weld: “We want to get the government out of your pocketbook and out of your bedroom.”
    Paul: “The State of Texas has the right to decide for itself how to regulate social matters like sex, using its own local standards.”

    It’s easy to play the ‘more libertarian than you’ game, if you look for the right quotes. You’re right that libertarians shouldn’t be doing it; but it wasn’t the LP who began this round.

  • Oh you think you speak for the Libertarian Party now?

  • Toipster

    Well then the libritartan party can go f themselves

  • If Ron Paul is not a Libertarian than either am I.

  • He’s as perfect as I can imagine. My #1 political influence.

  • shane_c

    Can you be a libertarian if you oppose McDonald v Chicago and don’t think the Bill of Rights applies to the states? Because thats what Ron Paul believes. Maybe you’re unaware of that.

  • Bill Goode

    Gary Johnson is no libertarian. Neither was Bob Barr when he was nominated by the Libertarian Party for President in 2008.

    The Libertarian Party has lost its way in seeking presidential candidates, not based on libertarian philosophy, but based on name recognition. This is the political party that would distance itself from Ron Paul, the party’s own candidate in 1988.

    The Libertarian Party has lost its way. It seems the Libertarian Party is no longer libertarian, as it places more importance on rising in the polls than adhering to libertarian philosophy.

  • June Genis

    This whole things has been blown totally out of proportion and smells a lot to me like an attempt by social conservatives to draw more socially liberal conservatives away from the Libertarian Party.

    The controversy appears to stem from the single idea that Ron Paul apparently believes that the Bill of Rights does not apply to the states and that theoretically states can therefore pass laws which violate at least some of its amendments. Sarwark never said anything more in the interview than that Paul disagreed with Libertarians with regard to states rights. Certainly most Libertarians agree that states have rights guaranteed by the 10th amendment, that is, any NOT explicitly mentioned in the Constitution.. But they also do not believe they can selectively ignore rights it guarantees in any amendments.

    In short, Sarwark has been deliberately misinterpreted.

  • jmillsintacoma

    Why do we have to have a label “in or out”? Ron has some good libertarian ideas; on some issues not so much. That would be true of virtually every L candidate.

    On thing that’s true is that Ron isn’t a (big L) Libertarian. He’s a Republican. But, on many issues he thinks like libertarians.

  • Steve

    Chris, your claim is greatly exaggerated. Sarwark said that DOMA was un-libertarian because it violates the NAP (which it does). He then mentioned that Paul supported DOMA (which he did). He never once came close to saying Ron Paul is “not libertarian.” He was using Ron Paul as an example to point out that there is no such thing as a “perfect libertarian” because the LP tent is large and there’s room for debate underneath that tent – just try to bring up abortion around your libertarian friends. This article is an exaggerated account of a small, out-of-context portion of a large interview with Sarwark, and I’m not sure why you decided to publish it. It’s doing more harm than good in the quest for liberty.

  • Jon

    He offered several very valid criticisms of Paul. Namely beyond whatever policy disagreements you may have with Ron Paul, I think he has actively used his influence in the movement to keep up the Ron Paul cult of personality at the expense of the movement as a whole.

  • BDUB

    Wait, Gary Johnson is claiming Ron Paul is not a real Libertarian? While true, he’s hardly the spokesman for what is or isn’t a real Libertarian. Gay-Cakes all’round Gary!