The opinions expressed here are mine and do not necessarily reflect the views of Zaphu.com and its affiliates. -Sam Davis. He is a 10th term congressman from Texas, an obstetrician who has delivered thousands of babies, and a candidate for president of the United States. And although he is running as a Republican, Ronald Ernest Paul gets little love from mainstream party members and conservative pundits. His unambiguous anti-war message has some in the conservative media wondering if he should be running for the other team (i.e., Democrats). But Paul doesn’t belong to either ‘team’. [Paul has garnered] an astonishingly high level of support from . . . internet technophiles. Trying to define his platform as categorically Republican or Democrat is like trying to fit a round peg is a square hole because it is neither. His politics and philosophy are thoroughly libertarian. And even though his belief in free markets, individual liberty, and small government would have resonated with old school Republicans of the Barry Goldwater variety, the Giuliani’s and McCain’s of the world think his faith in the constitution and bill of rights (which I might add all congressman swear to uphold when confirmed into office) is an anachronistic relic of a by-gone (simpler) world. Thus, Paul finds himself a pariah, and currently draws support from only 1-3% of likely Republican primary voters (according to major polls). His support among the general electorate isn’t much higher. However, Paul has managed to garner an astonishingly high level of support from one demographic, that which includes bloggers, blog readers, and internet technophiles. Paul has scored overwhelming victories on online polls frequented by such individuals. And, although Republican commentators suggest this is a result of a few conspiring techies unleashing an army of bots to influence poll results, there is a far simpler explanation. Paul’s libertarian philosophy resonate with this internet savvy demographic. Here is why.
1) Technophiles are comfortable with a dynamic society
To most people, change is a scary thing. To libertarians like Paul, change is an exciting and necessary prerequisite of economic growth and social improvement. Technophiles, of course, are of a similar mindset. We are in constant anticipation of the next best things, the next iPod iteration or Ubuntu release. We love to trash the social and economic establishment who selfishly use political and economic power to slow the adoption of new product and more efficient methods (think digital music vs. recording labels). Moreover, like libertarians, technophiles are nauseated by technocratic politicians who think there is one best solution to any social problem. Usually this solution involves some kind of ban, censorship, or other violation of our liberties but always involves restricting our choices (think Hilary Clinton’s campaign to protect the children from violence in the media).
2) Technophiles truly believe in and promote equality
For sure, Thomas Jefferson’s immortal phrase “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal” was meant to exist on some intangible sphere of human philosophy. How are men created equal? Certainly not equal in stature and intelligence. Perhaps equal under the law. But regardless of the meaning of this ‘truth’ it is certainly not ‘self-evident’. To libertarians, Jefferson’s words primarily mean men and women should be afforded equality of opportunity. To libertarians, Jefferson’s words primarily mean men and women should be afforded equality of opportunity.On the other hand, many politicians of both parties think this phrase suggests people should be guaranteed equality of outcome. That is, all people have the right to the same amount of money, the same level of education, etc., never stopping to think of the obligations these rights force the rest of us to satisfy.
The internet has taken equality of opportunity to a whole new level. Google and Wikipedia have made information widely and cheaply available, empowering people to be more efficient with their dollars and less trusting of information middle men who used to be able to hold us hostage with their niche knowledge monopolies (think car salesmen and Realtors). ShareBuilder and Zecco give virtually everyone access to the financial markets. Now anyone with an internet connection can trade stocks, invest in foreign markets, and punish bad companies by moving their money away from poor investments with a click of a mouse. On the net, no centralized authority is promoting some opinions and degrading others. Instead opinions exist in a free market of ideas. While anyone can publish and promote opinions on Blogger and Digg, these opinions must battle for net supremacy and ultimately only the cream rises to the top. In short, the internet is the most pure meritocracy ever crated.
3) Technophiles have faith in and facilitate spontaneous order
Unlike technocrats who think that progress and order only arise when the energies of society are directed by centralized goals, libertarians know that order springs spontaneously out of the free choices of millions of individuals interacting upon a sound institutionalized foundation of contractual law and property rights. Technophiles also embrace spontaneous order, and the internet is home to some of the most visible example of this phenomenon. There is no centralized authority setting the price of Spongebob Squarepants underwear on eBay.There is no centralized authority setting the price of Spongebob Squarepants underwear on eBay. No central body could ever hope to collect enough information to set such a price so that demand equals supply. That information can only be transmitted by allowing prices to fluctuated in a free market. The Ron Paul campaign could never have organized the vast internet following it enjoys, even if they had $30 million to spend on such an endeavor (Hilary and Obama have not been able to do so). This support sprang spontaneously out of the ether(net), facilitated of course by internet technology that technophiles created and enjoy such as Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube.
Ron Paul, the internet, and the remnant
Libertarian lore speaks of the remnant, that at any given historical period freedom and liberty are waining but a select few are tasked with keeping the flame alive to wait for the day when the social climate is rip for liberty to shine again. The remnant are likely to be widely dispersed and may not even know that others share their philosophy. . . . the internet is in many ways the embodiment of freedom and liberty in our time.This is no longer the case. In our time, the internet allows defenders of liberty to find each other, communicate, coalesce, and cheaply and efficiently spread the message of liberty. In fact, the internet is in many ways the physical embodiment of freedom and liberty in our time. But internet technophiles must use their nascent strength to jealously defend the freedom of the net or those who fear its power to create new and better things (while destroying the old and decadent) in a fashion that is largely undirected and spontaneous will be able to shackle it. In Ron Paul we find a kindred spirit. This is why we have affinity for Paul, and his unadulterated message of liberty.
Update: August 31, 2007
This article was submitted to digg.com by a reader this morning, but just as it was taking off some malicious individuals buried the post. Thus, the post no longer appears in upcoming stories on digg but can still be dugg from here. If we get enough diggs maybe it will be “un-buried”. If you feel the ability of a few individuals to silence people on digg.com is as stupid as I do, then email firstname.lastname@example.org and let them know.
Ron Paul on the Net
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