Will Wilkinson has a must-read post on libertarianism, why he’s more of a liberal than a libertarian, and how he’d rather argue more with liberals than libertarians. He also condemns Ron Paul about as well as anyone could in a paragraph of his usual rhetorical genius:
Somebody’s going to ask “Isn’t Ron Paul making a difference?” So I’m going to say, “Yes.” None of this is to say that right-fusionism of the Ron Paul variety isn’t now having an influence, or that none of it is good. I’m glad to see Paul spreading a few profoundly important ideas about foreign policy. But that doesn’t mean Paul’s decades of bilking paranoid bigots with bullshit prophesies of hyperinflationary race war was really a stroke of strategic genius after all. Or maybe it means it was. But that doesn’t make it right. I don’t think Paul would be where he is today without all those years of vile fear-mongering. And I don’t think anyone ought to get away with climbing up that evil ladder, kicking it away, then pretending he was born a thousand feet off the ground in the pure mountain air right there next to heaven. He knew what he was doing, chose to do it, and none of it can be justified by a little TV-time for salutary anti-imperialist and free-market ideas. I’d rather not be affiliated with a “movement” that includes him in even a conflicted way.
I am not quite persuaded by Will’s rejection of the term libertarian to describe himself. Or rather I am not persuaded by his rejection of the term to describe ourselves, since I share a lot of the beliefs he says differentiate him from libertarians. Will appeals to the prevailing public understanding of “libertarianism”, but I think that this is more about the relative importance of a high level of economic freedom to both freedom overall and general welfare than about which rights and liberties are “off the table”.
Maybe I am biased because I don’t want to surrender libertarianism to those I see as the radicals among us. But then again maybe Will is biased because it’s easier to persuade liberals when you call yourself a liberal.