RonPaul.com is reporting that Ron Paul, or his staff, has filed a complaint with World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), which is the regulatory arm of the United Nations to seize ownership of RonPaul.com and RonPaul.org and turn them over to him. To the casual observer this just appears like run of the mill hypocrisy, which is standard fare from most politicians, but to the ardent Ron Paul fan this action is utterly incomprehensible, to the point of being suspicious. Something very strange is going on here.
The documents that were released appear authentic, so this isn’t a hoax. Or at least if it is at least one of the parties involved is the hoaxer. But even though they appear authentic, they are still completely incomprehensible. Ron Paul, the leading public advocate for small government, is appealing to an institution he regularly advocates withdrawing from, to settle what is a minor matter that could easily be solved without any state involvement. It is inconceivable that he would not recognize how devastating this is to his reputation in the liberty movement. And to add irony to injury, part of the legal basis in the complaint is that Ron Paul “enjoys a national reputation in the United States.”
So, something else is going on here. I don’t know what it is. I’m not seeing a lot of speculation going on. But I have some crazy ideas.
Theory 1: Character Assassination
Like any good conspiracy theorist I’m going jump to the most nefarious explanation first. What if the staff attornies who drafted this complaint are enemies of liberty who have embedded themselves in his organization specifically to discredit him? Is it so far fetched? We know that the entrenched powers in the State work tirelessly to co-opt every threat to their power structure. They hijacked both the Tea Party and the Occupy Movement. They’ve just about taken over the Libertarian Party and transformed it into another wing of the Republican Party. Why wouldn’t they attempt to plant confederates in Ron Paul’s staff?
This is also the perfect issue to use as a wedge in the liberty movement. The validity of intellectual property is a hotly contested issue among libertarian thinkers. One can easily see how a silly little conflict like this could result in a rally on each side of the IP issue and a fracture, or at the very least an unnecessary distraction among libertarian activists.
I fully acknowledge that blaming Ron Paul’s staff is a tired excuse, especially after the fiasco over his old newsletters, but isn’t it a possibility?
Theory 2: Character Suicide
Could it be that Ron Paul is intentionally destroying his own reputation? If he’s filing this complaint in earnest he must be aware how it makes him look, and how it harms his cred as an economist. The complaint specifically accuses the owners of the two domains of “seeking too much profit” by selling stickers and tshirts, which it calls an illegitimate use of the site. A principled Austrian economists could not utter those words in seriousness. Further, the complaint asks the UN to override the owners asking price for the domain. The owners apparently offered him RonPaul.org for free in order to keep RonPaul.com, but offered RonPaul.com along with all the email lists and site content they had produced over the years for $250,000. But the complaint takes issue with this asking price, because the cost of registering a domain name is between $10 and $30. It is equally bewildering to imagine a principled Austrian economist making this argument, because one of the central tenants of the Austrian theory is that all value is subjective. The fair market price of a thing is whatever price the seller and the buyer negotiate., not the price the buyer paid for it.
Could it be that Ron Paul is intentionally sabotaging his reputation so as to avoid becoming a central figure in the movement in his retirement? Could it be that Ron Paul is consciously shucking his own cult of personality, confident that the activists disenchanted by this disappointment will find more productive roles elsewhere in the liberty movement? Could he be putting the “Ron Paul Revolution” to death so the Revolution can go on without him?
Theory 3: Could Ron Paul be a “Sovereign Citizen”
The fringe radicals of the liberty movement have long speculated about in which camp Ron Paul’s heart truly lies. In his political career he was careful to appeal to every camp, so many of us have been patiently waiting for the real Ron Paul to emerge now that he’s free from the constraints of political compromise. I’ve been hoping he would come out a Voluntaryist, but maybe this action is more consistent with the Sovereign Citizen movement.
What’s overlooked in the coverage, and frankly quite strange, is that Ron Paul is not claiming the right to the domains based on his name. The complaint builds it’s legal argument based on the fact that “Ron Paul is the owner of the RON PAUL U.S. trademark.” When I see distinctions being made between names and the same name in all capital letters I suspect the Sovereign Citizen movement is lurking around. They regard the name in capital letters to be separate legal entity, a corporation or a straw-man bearing the same name, and acquiring legal ownership of their straw-man is a huge part of how they imagine liberty is achieved. The Sovereign Citizens don’t necessarily share the philosophical formulations of other libertarians. They imagine instead that a vast and complex lattice structure of misleading legal contracts exists, and if they can untie those legal bindings by filing the right forms or speaking the right words that the State will release them.
Could it be that this is part of Ron Paul’s attempt to acquire ownership of his straw-man?
Why Ron Paul is doing this is confusing to anyone who has followed his career. If I were the owners of RonPaul.com or RonPaul.org I think I might just hand them over. After being abused in this way by the man I once revered I simply wouldn’t have any use for them. But whatever is going on, it must be more that what’s being presented, because the facts as they’re being reported make absolutely no sense.