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Why aren't you voting for Ron Paul?

For a while now I've been toying with the idea of writing a post about which major candidate for President ought to receive the "agrarian" vote.

As you know, I support Barack Obama.  But is Obama the most "agrarian" candidate?  After all, if you look at what other self-styled agrarians are saying, you'd probably want to ask me, "Why aren't you voting for Ron Paul?"

The few agrarians on the Web seem to lining up behind Paul. Daniel Larison, for example, doesn't claim that Paul is an agrarian, but supports him nonetheless in part because Paul adheres to a conservatism "that many of them [in the GOP] used to treat with respect less than ten years ago."  CrunchyCon Rod Dreher, although he's more of an agrarian than a libertarian, says "Go Ron Paul!Granny Miller says she's an agrarian, and she's for Ron Paul, too.

It's a difficult question.  The first thing that leaps to my mind -- that it would be weird for an agrarian who takes responsibility seriously to vote for a libertarian like Paul -- is a correct but far from adequate answer.  I'd have to explain why I think that libertarianism is a profoundly irresponsible political philosophy.   It's worth doing, but oh, the work and the time involved is daunting!  (Can't just say "libertarians chirp on endlessly about cutting taxes, Q.E.D."  That's a brilliantly snarky, but inadequate, argument.)

I'd also have to explain why I think agrarianism has even less to do with typical versions of conservatism than seems apparent by looking at the generally right-wing slant of the overtly "agrarian" blogs.  Yes, on some level agrarianism is radically conservative, and perhaps it's even radically "religious," but I don't think that anything about agrarianism necessarily privileges Christianity or, even less, privileges modern right-wing economic policy.  My favorite agrarian, Wendell Berry, is a Christian, but Gary Snyder and Edward Abbey -- both agrarians -- certainly are not.

My excuse for not providing either of these explanations is lame: I'm too busy!  But it's a worthwhile thing to do and maybe soon I'll do it.  For now, suffice it to say that I don't think there are any agrarian candidates running for President -- least of all Ron Paul.  Obama isn't agrarian either, but I think he's the best of the candidates who has a reasonable shot at being elected.  I've voted for Perot and Nader in the past, but this year I'm in a major-candidate mood.  (Just not Hillary-sized major candidate.)

Even though I'm not voting for Paul, I think his candidacy is a great thing, like Nader's and Dean's before him.  As Glenn Greenwald writes about Paul and Dean, "...the hallmark of both was that they tapped into the widespread and intense scorn for the rancid establishment governing the Beltway, and anything that does so is something to be cheered."

Well, maybe not anything.  You have to be wary of a candidate like Paul, when it's so easy to link him to the Ron Paul Political Report.  This should give one at least as much pause as Obama's support for ethanol subsidies, no?  And there was never anything like this in Howard Dean's closet.

(In a later post: Why are you voting for Obama?)


Interesting thoughts. I don't understand why you characterize libertarianism as "profoundly irresponsible"..is it that you believe states exhibit more responsible behavior than individuals will? My experience leads me to conclude on the contrary that all institutions devolve into entities whose major goal is their own continuance and increase in power. That's why the Constitution--a profoundly libertarian document designed expressly to facilitate the rule of law while empowering individuals against the state-- is a work of such profound genius, and why forces constantly conspire against it. Compassion and altruism can only be exercised at the level of the individual.(I also revere WB, and I support RP wholeheartedly.) You sound very thoughtful-can I ask you to look again at your position and at Dr. Paul? As an agrarian you must be aware of how our government has, since the middle of the last century, systematically worked to drive small farmers off the land and convert agriculture into agribusiness, and has corrupted the marketplace with subsidies, etc. And now that a movement has arisen (completely in spite of, not because of, the state) in which individuals are seeking to supply other individuals with local and sustainable food, the state is looking for ways to control and subvert it. Any of the Republicrats now running would find that to be the proper role of government. Except for Dr. Paul, the only one running who cannot be characterized as a Republicrat. Every farmer once knew the oxymoronic joke about the
stranger who appeared on the farm, saying "I'm from the government, and I'm here to help." If you do read Wendell Berry, you know that his message is one of local and individual stewardship, and in fact he contends that the local and the individual hold the only true roots of stewardship. Do you also know of Joel Salatin? His case for the state staying the hell off his farm and out of the relationship between him and his customers is outspoken and passionately put, and he is one of the most responsible farmers I know of. Like you,I also feel myself to a very responsible person. Why should I--or you-- assume that no one else would be as
much so? Compassion and altruism aside, it is, after all, a matter of plain self-interest for an individual to act responsibly. But no such restraint applies to the unfettered state or to mega-corporations coddled with "corporate welfare" from the state. Ron Paul (a profoundly principled, responsible and honest man himself, and a lonely voice for 30 years)is telling a profound truth, the same one that Thomas Jefferson (the agrarian idealist and libertarian) told, and which was all too quickly lost sight of along with the meaning of the document that was to safeguard it. But it remains to be seen whether people are too conditioned by the status quo to see it. Please, look again. (I also note your use of Glorfindel...if you think about it, The Lord of the Rings is also very expressive of libertarian ideals, don't you think?)

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