January 11, 2008
ILYA SOMIN: The opportunity cost of Ron Paul: "One of the main points cited by Ron Paul's libertarian defenders is his fundraising prowess. And it is indeed true that Paul has succeeded in raising far more money than most political observers would have expected. As of October 29, the Paul campaign had raised some 8.3 million dollars, and no doubt it has taken in more since then. However, now that it's clear that his candidacy is both a flop politically and likely to damage the image of libertarianism, this fundraising success turns out to be a double-edged sword. The millions of dollars spent on Paul's candidacy could surely have instead been spent in other ways that do far more to promote libertarian causes."
This may or may not be true in practice -- would the money have actually gone to the Institute for Justice, or just been spent on beer and skittles? But Ron Paul wasn't a very attractive face for libertarianism. As I've said before, that in some senses was a good thing, since it illustrated the power of the message over the messenger. I fear, however, that he'll wind up doing more harm than good to the image of libertariansm. But perhaps not. To some degree the Big Media folks seem to be giving him a pass on the racism issue, perhaps on the theory that no one who's anti-Bush can really count as racist . . . .