I Support Ron Paul and Disagree with Him from Time to Time

Alexander McCobin: I Support Ron Paul and Disagree with Him from Time to TimeIn response to an op-ed that Students For Liberty’s Egle Markeviciute and I wrote on Monday, the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity has published a post attacking me and SFL, even calling upon people to leave SFL and positioning the institute as diametrically opposed to SFL. Students For Liberty is a big-tent pro-liberty organization. SFL does not take policy positions, but we welcome debate and disagreement over the proper application of the principle of liberty to controversial issues.

As such, there are two points that I want to address here.

On Crimea

I do not wish to engage in a protracted dissection of the many false claims made in the institute’s post; there are too many. Here is what I believe needs to be clarified about my personal position on the situation with Crimea:

  1. I believe there is such a thing as a right to revolution and secession given the proper conditions for doing so.
  2. I do not believe that the conditions in Crimea meet that criteria. (The denial that Russian military actions were illegitimate and aggressive is false. Many first hand sources show how Russian soldiers besieged and finally took over Ukrainian military bases on Crimea, even before the questionable referendum took place. See thisthis, and this, among many more.)
  3. I believe Russia ought to be condemned for what it is doing, but I do not believe that the United States ought to engage in military intervention in Ukraine or elsewhere, as I said in my initial statement.

In other words, I don’t deny that any part of a country (thus also Crimea) has the right to secede; I just respectfully disagree that what happened between Crimea and the Russian Federation was a peaceful secession, rather than an armed invasion.

A further escalation (especially by military intervention) would be counterproductive and we don’t advocate any kind of military intervention in Ukraine or elsewhere. This can be read in my initial statement:

Whether the antagonist is foreign or domestic, governmental or nongovernmental, the libertarian philosophy of this generation should condemn aggression and foreign intervention by all agents.

We ought to oppose war, military aggression, and farcical democratic posturing by all governments. SFL is an international organization, and thus our activists come from all parts of the world. Whether in Venezuela, Ghana, or Ukraine, we support the liberty of all people. In this case, I believe we ought to not only call for the United States to not engage in war with Ukraine, we ought to call for Russia not to engage in war with Ukraine. I hope that the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity will come around to agreeing with this claim.

On the Libertarian Movement

As I have written in other places before, I believe one of the greatest things that has held the libertarian movement back for decades has been the infighting between groups within the movement, the purity tests applied to “out-libertarian” one another, and the divisive factionalization of the movement that has led libertarians to focus on the 5 percent of difference between us rather than the 95 percent we have in common.

I have a tremendous amount of respect for Ron Paul and what he has done. I have praised him in many forums; I have defended him in even more; I donated money to him when I was a broke student; and I am proud to have even gotten a picture with him and to have met with him privately in the past. I will continue to praise him, defend him when I think he is right, and try to work with him and those close with him whenever I can.

I both support Ron Paul and disagree with him from time to time. Not only do I think it is acceptable for this to be the case, I believe it is healthy. It is important that individuals and movements alike reflect upon their positions and dialogue about the proper application of principles to policies.

It is a disservice — not only to the liberty movement but also to those who wish to help Ron Paul achieve greater influence and implement those policies to create a freer world — to assume that anyone who has a different opinion from Ron Paul must be a neocon or entirely opposed to Ron Paul himself. To assume malintent on the part of those who disagree with oneself is to preclude any opportunity for understanding their position.

If we are to build a large liberty movement, employing a big tent philosophy that can bring more people into the fold and unify us around our belief in the core political principle of liberty, then we must be willing to have respectful disagreements and debates about important topics. SFL was founded with one purpose: to bring disparate factions of the libertarian movement together to share their ideas and focus on the 95 percent we have in common rather than the 5 percent we disagree upon. (And make no mistake about it: every libertarian has disagreements with other libertarians.)

To help achieve that end, I would like to make an offer to promote respectful discourse and debate within the liberty movement, while maintaining our common commitment to liberty, by inviting Ron Paul to a public forum to discuss how libertarians can and ought to respond to the situation in Crimea. I am happy to arrange the date and location to suit whatever is convenient for him.

I do not pretend to have a level of influence as great as Dr. Paul’s. I cannot even imagine that he will receive this offer, and if he were to, I have even lower expectations that he would take it seriously. However, if this somehow does pass before his eyes, and if he too believes that a big tent approach, founded on respect rather than division, is important for growing the liberty movement, I would be humbled to have a public conversation with him about this. I believe it would do much good for building the movement, and so in creating a freer, more prosperous world.

In Closing

I will end with this: whether you agree or disagree with my position on the current Crimea situation, I hope that you will work with the Ron Paul Institute for Peace and Prosperity. I have nothing but good wishes for the success of the institute. If anyone disagrees with my personal position on Crimea and believes that one position is enough to not associate with me and SFL, I respect your freedom to do so. However, SFL welcomes those who are committed to liberty, whether they agree or disagree on this issue, or many others.

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