Peace and Free Enterprise

by Jerry O’Driscoll  

Initially, the headlines about the Iowa straw poll said Bachmann won. That was literally true, but hardly interesting. Libertarian Ron Paul basically tied her. The two candidates blew out the rest of the field with 57% of the vote. Under pressure from rapid blog postings, the established media have caught up with the facts.

All candidates spoke of the need for smaller government. Reasonable voters might have suspected, however, that not all candidates were as seriously committed to that as Bachmann and Paul. Both have unassailable Tea party credentials. The Tea Party in part grew out of Ron Paul’s 2008 presidential campaign. Bachmann jumped on the bandwagon early, before it was popular.

Paul finished fifth in Iowa in 2007. He surged this year on two other issues: end the wars and end the Fed. His call to bring home the troops and end the wars resonated with Iowa Republican voters. We’ll see how it plays out in other contests.

(Ending the Fed was actually his most popular issue in 2008. I thinking ending the wars mattered more this time.)

The linkage between peace and free markets was central to classical liberalism in 19th century Britain, right up through the Gladstone Liberal victory in 1906. Nineteenth-century economist James Mill summed it up when he said that war was the worst calamity that can befall a country. Randolph Bourne summed it up in 20th century when he described war as the health of the state. That is a favorite Ron Paul quote.

What won in Iowa is liberty.