In 2007, the Ron Paul presidential campaign commissioned a short position piece from me concerning the congressman and Israel. In discussion with Dr. Paul's then-campaign managers, I had ventured that to forge ahead as a viable candidate, Rep. Paul would need to convince the enormously powerful Christian right that he was not hostile to Israel. For America's evangelicals – and not the puny AIPAC (American-Israeli Public Affairs Committee) often invoked derisively by libertarians – are Israel's most powerful political lobbyists.
The truth is that libertarians consider Israel a bit of a vexation. As a principled libertarian and an unapologetic Zionist, I have strived to navigate these shoals without resorting to special pleading.
Fast forward four years. Rep. Ron Paul is now the GOP’s best bet against Obama in 2012. (Preliminary polls show the congressman from Texas trailing the president "by only seven points.") And the good doctor has been making waves – good vibrations, really – with the following declaration: "I think Israel has to do what's in its best interest. It shouldn't have to ask us for permission." The occasion was the first Republican presidential debate. Juan Williams of Fox News asked the can-opening question. Williams wanted to know what President Paul would do if Israel struck Iran. I was pleased, if not surprised, to hear Dr. Paul voice his concern for the Jewish state's sovereignty. Israel was beholden to the U.S. and its conflicting interests. Due to its dependence on American military aid, posited Paul, Israel was not always able to act independently and self-interestedly.
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The time is ripe, then, to publish "Unshackling Israel," the piece I penned for Dr. Paul back in December of 2007. (In the spirit of full disclosure, his campaign compensated me for the following effort):
Conservatives once had choice words for foreign aid. It was "money down a rathole" (Jesse Helms), and it amounted to "putting Ghana over Grandma" (Tom DeLay). Duly, Dr. Ron Paul opposes all foreign aid because it's unauthorized by the Constitution. The American Founding Fathers believed, as does Dr. Paul, that politicians have no right to be benevolent with funds belonging to the people.
So while it is true that the Israeli government will be (annually) $2.58 billion the poorer under a Paul administration, neighboring Muslim governments, most of which are ill-disposed toward Israel, will be deprived of much more than that. More material, the Israeli people will be the richer. Why so? Because, as any economist worth his salt knows, foreign aid, being a government-to-government transfer, grows the public sector in the recipient country at the expense of the private, productive economy. Warren Buffet, after all, recently chose to invest $4 billion in Israeli industry, not in the Israeli government. Like Mr. Buffet, Dr. Paul believes the Israeli people possess in abundance what economist Lord Peter Bauer called "the faculties, attitudes and institutions favorable to material progress."
The American people are generous to a fault. Private foreign aid in the U.S. greatly exceeds U.S. government aid. Naturally, under a low- or no-tax Paul administration, Jews, evangelicals, and Israel's other benefactors will continue to give privately – and, in fact, will have more disposable income to part with.
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HE WHO PAYS THE PIPER CALLS THE TUNE. For foreign aid, Israeli leaders have been forced to subordinate their country's national interests to Washington's whims. This is bad for both allies. Those of us who want the U.S. to stay solvent – and out of the affairs of others – recognize that sovereign nation-states that resist, not enable, our imperial impulses are the best hindrance to hegemonic overreach. Patriots for a sane U.S. foreign policy ought to encourage all America's friends, especially Israel, to push back and do what is in their national interest, not ours.
The American founders had a deep affinity for – and knowledge of – the Mosaic faith and morals. In the Israelites they saw a people that had set up a political order that was unique in the ancient world for the "existence of a partial check upon civil authority," to quote Russell Kirk. As a devout Christian steeped in American history, Dr. Paul values and appreciates this unique bond.