Universal Translator

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Toward a Woldview-Centric Assessment of Politicians

A few days ago Taryn Hart over at Plutocracy Files had an excellent piece up titled “Glenn Greenwald on Ron Paul:  Why Worldview Matters.”  Essentially, Hart critiqued Greenwald’s reductionist evaluation of Ron Paul in which he looked only at Paul’s asserted positions on isolated issues, and argued that a better means of evaluating political candidates is to try and suss out their overall worldview:

[I]t’s not just a candidate’s positions on individual issues that are important, what’s also important (in most instances more important) is the candidate’s worldview.  A President’s worldview will determine the outcome of thousands of decisions the President will make, almost all of which will not be campaign issues and many of which are unforeseeable.

Thus, it matters to me that Ron Paul doesn’t believe in evolution, not because I think teaching evolution in schools should be prioritized above the lives of Muslim children, but because it’s proof that Paul rejects science, evidence and rationality, which tells us a good deal about how Paul could be expected to approach the thousands of decisions he would have to make as President.  Similarly, it matters to me that Ron Paul is anti-choice and claims to be a libertarian, as it suggests to me his defense of freedom is disingenuous and that his positions are likely motivated by a defense of hierarchy and patriarchy.  (footnote deleted).

I think this assessment of Ron Paul is spot-on.  For too long Paul has gotten a pass for on his “libertarianism” because he opposes current practices that he feels violates individual rights.  For example, he opposes the federal government’s War on Drugs.  But it is important to understand exactly why Paul opposes the War on Drugs – because it is federal in nature

On every single issue in which Ron Paul claims the government has overstepped its bounds he always devolves to the same position:  the federal government has no right to proscribe personal conduct, but the states do.  This is why Paul can justify attacking the Voting Rights Act or the Civil Rights Act of 1964 – not necessarily because he is a bigot, but because they are (in his mind) examples of federal government overreach. 

According to Paul, each of the 50 states has the authority to define the rights and freedoms of its citizens.  He isn’t angry that Texans now have to treat black people equally, he’s angry that Texans have to treat black people equally because a majority of US citizens from outside of Texas told them they had to – Paul thinks Texans should still be free to discriminate against black people if that’s what they want to do.  His overriding belief is not in the sanctity of personal freedom but in the supremacy of state law.

But this, of course, is insane and is in no way reflective of actual Libertarian principles.  A Libertarian, for example, holds that “adults have the right to put whatever they want into their own bodies, and therefore criminalizing drug use is wrong.”  Ron Paul holds that “adults have the right to put whatever they want into their own bodies, unless their state government tells them otherwise.”  As many others have pointed out elsewhere, Ron Paul isn’t fighting for the Constitution, he’s fighting for the Articles of Confederation. 

Of course, devolving authority downward – away from the federal level and onto more local levels – is exactly the “defense of hierarchy and patriarchy” that Hart argues one should expect to see from a man who rejects science in favor of ideology and who claims at once to be for freedom but not for the freedom of a woman to control her own reproduction. 

The utility of a “worldview-centric” assessment of candidates is that it allows you to think about and predict what a candidate’s position is likely to be on issues about which he or she hasn’t been asked.  I don’t know, for example, whether Ron Paul believes that wives are supposed to be subordinate to their husbands because I don’t know that he’s ever been asked that question.  But in light of Paul’s belief in local authority and his general policy of strict non-interference, I suspect he still adheres to the old phrase “every man is a king in his own home” – and that’s the kind of thinking that stripped women of their individual rights once they got married. 

It seems to me that these are the kinds of things people should be thinking about when they consider political candidates, and the “worldview-centric” way of considering candidates is really the only way to do so.

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