The BBC recently published the following in a report about the Republican primary contest in Iowa: "Correspondents say a Ron Paul victory in Iowa would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party as many of his views are seen as too libertarian and isolationist. Mr. Paul would order a $1 trillion (£641bn) spending cut, eliminating a number of government agencies, including the Department of Education. He also proposes returning the dollar to a gold standard and cutting all foreign aid, including to Israel…."
"At a recent campaign stop in Iowa a breast cancer survivor began crying after he told her insurance companies should not have to cover those who are already sick, Reuters news agency reports…."
This passage is worth some attention if only because those of us who have sympathies toward Representative Paul's libertarian politics should not duck out when opponents target him for criticism, be it fair or not. Let me start with the last bit, the treatment of a crying breast cancer survivor as a kind of "gotcha" device versus Paul. (And incidentally, who are those correspondents who say that Paul's "victory would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party"? Let's have some names here, some attributions, by BBC!)
Now, we all have hopes and wishes that people will be helpful to and supportive of us, especially when we suffer from maladies or hazardous conditions we had no role in bringing about. Casualties of acts of nature do often deserve our sympathy and even help, unless we have been negligent in taking precautionary measures, such as saving up for health insurance. Even in cases when one has been negligent, often others overlook this and tend to be considerate beyond the call of duty, as it were.
Representative Paul and other libertarians are often first in line with offering private support to such people. The citizens of the US are often first in lending a hand to those who have been hit with natural disasters, like a tsunami or earthquake, and the essence of generosity is precisely that − offering private support and aid to those in need.
What Paul and libertarians in general object to is the coerced support given to those in need by governments that expropriate resources from the citizenry, take a sizable chunk of it for administrative expenses, and distribute the funds according to the lights of the politicians and bureaucrats. This kind of forcible distribution of others' money is what libertarians are against as a matter of principle and Ron Paul is no exception. This does not at all make him, or libertarians, callous, heartless, cruel or anything of the kind, however much many claim this about them, ones to whom it seems to come very naturally to confiscate other people's resources and do with it as they think they should. (I explain this in some detail in my book, Generosity, Virtue in Civil Society .)
As to the cuts supported by Ron Paul, I would urge those who are going to give the matter some thought to consider, once again, that these cuts are an effort to eliminate or at least reduce the forcible taking by some people of the resources that belong to others and to which they have no right whatever. All charitable, helpful acts must be voluntary; otherwise they have no moral merit whatsoever. Yes, there are some spurious arguments claiming that our good behavior may, indeed must, be imposed upon us by wiser and more virtuous people than we are but it is just a ruse. No one can make other people moral except by example!
This also applies to foreign aid, be it to Israel or Mongolia. People abroad aren't entitled to the property of Americans or anyone else who has not voluntarily given it to them. Israel is no exception!
Unfortunately, this line of thinking is rarely if every presented to readers in an accurate way so they could consider it without bias. Instead, journalists have a dogmatic commitment to the coercion involved in government support for the needy, failing to even mention that kind of thinking summarized above and making it appear that those who do share it are monsters.
Lots of people also mistakenly identify the coercive taking of people's resources with Robin Hoodism but in fact, Robin Hood took back from the tax takers what they forcibly took from those whom they victimized. The proper approach to seeing people in need is to mount a serious, voluntary effort to secure support for them, starting with one's own, not to advocate taking from them what belongs to them and what only they have the rightful authority to give away.
Now, in a messy world it is very difficult to be principled and trying to be usually brings on the charge of being an ideologue, a blind adherent to simplistic ideas. But in fact, it shows integrity, nothing less! And it is time that politicians show some of it because without integrity the game is up anyway − trust, honesty, responsibility and all such virtue go out the window, never mind simple, honest generosity.