Jeffrey Lord makes an unusual claim:
Ron Paul is what might be called a “Neo-Liberal.”
This is a silly argument in many, many ways, and by the end Lord’s article has devolved into the most baseless and despicable smearing. That’s not surprising. This is what Lord does: he imputes vicious attitudes to those he criticizes, and he never has the evidence to support it. It is best just to stop reading after the first two pages.
Let’s start with the term neoliberal itself. The word neoliberal means a few different things, and there is only one definition that could conceivably apply in any way to Ron Paul. In the domestic political context, American neoliberals have been those on the left or center-left concerned to criticize and change the existing agenda of the 1980s Democratic Party on crime, welfare, trade, and foreign policy. Neoliberalism was a main part of the American “third way” represented by the Clinton administration, which entailed a more activist foreign policy, support for expanded free trade, and the adoption of relatively pro-business and pro-finance positions compared to where the party had been in the past. Because there was some overlap between neoliberals and Democratic “centrist” hawks, progressive critics of the Iraq war began using neoliberal as something of a curse word to refer to liberal interventionists specifically and pro-war Democrats in general.
Finally, neoliberal can refer more broadly to policies designed to promote economic globalization and the word can also fairly be used to describe supporters of multilateral trade talks and organizations. Properly speaking, none of these definitions fits Paul, and it is only in his support for free trade that he has anything in common with neoliberals, and that similarity is not all that meaningful. While Paul favors commerce and trade, he is also wary of any agreement or multilateral organization that infringes U.S. sovereignty, and he has typically opposed most privileged trade agreements as barriers to free trade (which, in fact, they are).
Lord’s only real evidence in support of this incorrect label involves complaints that many progressives in both parties have sometimes also endorsed a foreign policy of neutrality and non-intervention. By the same token, many progressives from both parties favored overseas expansion and entry into European wars. Lord forgets to mention this second part.
Lord conveniently ignores the long history that links the pre-FDR Democratic Party and the Democratic-Republicans before them to the Anglo-American Country political tradition that opposed centralized power and rejected foreign wars. If there was any clear tradition of conservative political instincts in the United States, it must be the Country tradition that was mostly represented up until 1912 by members of the Democratic Party. Between 1869 and 1921, there was probably no more politically conservative President than Grover Cleveland, and Cleveland happened to be one of the most outspoken anti-imperialists of his age. Cleveland was for sound money, opposed the annexation of Hawaii, and fiercely opposed the Spanish War and the annexations that followed it. That Lord thinks William Jennings Bryan was “left-wing” tells us more about the uselessness of such labels than it does about Bryan or his support for neutrality.
Geoffrey Wheatcroft reminds us that one of the early examples of antiwar argument in the English-speaking world came from one of the writers most closely associated with the Country tradition of Bolingbroke and the Tory Opposition of the early eighteenth century:
In the first years of the eighteenth century, the War of the Spanish Succession saw Jonathan Swift publish The Conduct of the Allies, denouncing the conflict, the way it was waged by the government in London….
Isaac Kramnick explained Tory opposition to the war in Bolingbroke & His Circle:
Tory opposition to the war became a political outlet for their grievances against what the Tory writers called the “modern Whigs.” The modern Whig with his war and his new financial order was undermining the country. Land taxes, national debt, the Bank, the moneyed corporation, stockjobbers, the Dutch-Emperor alliance, redcoats trudging through foreign lands–all were sponsored and defended by the “modern Whig.”
Many of Ron Paul’s arguments have strong precedents in the Country tradition. This is an Anglo-American conservative tradition of which Lord seems quite unaware. The idea that Ron Paul is a neoliberal is simply nonsense, as is the rest of Lord’s article.
Update: Lord attempts to defend his terrible article to Jack Hunter by pretending that non-interventionists do not accept wars of self-defense. This is absurdly and painfully wrong.