Guest Column: Ron Paul’s Grand Shi Strategy

Profound long-term forces at play in campaign
by Mark Spitznagel

Shi Ron PaulThis great and insightful column by Mr. Spitznbagel in Forbes was referred to me by Ron Burcham, something Ayn Rand would refer to as ‘thinking and acting long-range.’ I’ve indicated such a foundation for the eventual success—certainly within the next decade—of the Freedom Philosophy so well articulated by Dr. Paul in this campaign. Problem is—if another fine columnist, Paul Craig Roberts, is correct— on the weiqi game board of life, America and the world may not have the time to recover if Ron Paul or another liberty candidate does not win the presidency this year.

As the Republican National Convention approaches, the shouts of victory resounding in the tents will easily conceal the broader political forces at work in the party beyond this fall’s hopeful decisive victory.

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The strategy of these forces are visible in the past Republican presidential campaign of Congressman Ron Paul. To some, Paul’s stubborn persistence in the campaign has been just that: a stubborn unwillingness to lie down and die despite evidence of sure defeat. But what they have missed is a common misperception of a subtle yet powerful age-old strategy at play.

The strategy of the Paul campaign, explicit or not, is the archetypal shi (pronounced “sure”) strategy expounded and employed by Chinese philosophers and military strategists for thousands of years.

Shi has no single, obvious translation, though the best seem to be strategic- or positional-advantage, or potential energy. We might call it cultivating the influence of the present on the future. Shi has been traced back as far as Laozi and the Daodejing, the fourth century BC political treatise attributed to him, with its counterintuitive processual and indirect approach to conflict. Over the centuries that followed, it gained more military-specific development starting with Sunzi….

Shi Board Game WeiqiThroughout history, perhaps the clearest and most pedagogical example of shi at work has been in the Chinese board game weiqi (pronounced “way-chee”). In this simple yet most complex and calculated of games, opponents (one with black stones and the other with white) each try to surround the most territory on a square grid. The obvious initial strategy is to dive for the corners (the easiest territory to surround) in pursuit of immediate points. The extreme example in this picture shows that li strategy’s allure yet great disadvantage.

White is far ahead in terms of tangible territory right now. But black has established a strategic advantage and intangible edge by moving into the center to command the rest of the board. Black, employing the indirect and circuitous shi strategy, seeks future opportunistic potential, rather than applying direct force like the chess player bent on annihilation. Although white has scored at least 13 points out of the gate, and black has scored nothing, black is well-positioned for an eventual, but patient victory….

We see the shi strategy of Ron Paul in the great patience and nonaggression that favors the slow buildup of influence and strategic advantage over the decisive all-or-nothing clash. First, in the evolving GOP economic platform, Paul’s promotion and teaching of the Austrian school of economics and its business cycle theory has made the destructiveness of Federal Reserve interventionism a constant point of discussion in the primary race, which perhaps has been far more significant than the number of delegates won….

More than anything else, we can see Paul’s greatest shi advantage in his outsized support among the young. What better representation of the weiqi image than the potential in these well-positioned “stones” on the areas of the board of so little current consequence? Although undesired by political opponents today, their development will provide tremendous influence and advantage to Paul’s cause later….

Romney wins the current decisive battle for delegates, and his fight with Obama will be critical, but a protracted campaign will continue to be waged. The ultimate war is against intrusive, burgeoning government, in the ongoing insurgencies of the battles yet to come—Ron Paul’s grand shi strategy.

Mark Spitznagel is the founder and Chief Investment Officer of California-based Universa Investments LP.

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