Wednesday, January 9, 2008

My Obligatory Ron Paul Post...


By now, most of the free world has probably heard what some of us already knew about Ron Paul courtesy of Jamie Kirchick's "Angry White Man": that there are publications, points of view and perhaps speeches in the man's past, directly or indirectly, that are obscene, racist, homophobic and downright despicable. That anyone would want to associate with some of the kooks, cranks, nutjobs and outright assholes that have written in some of the publications that have gone out under his name is beyond my comprehension. Furthermore, the fact that his campaign seems to think this is not such a big deal is inexcusable.

Perception is reality, and my perception is (and has been) of a man that has, at best, poor judgment in the type of company he chooses to keep. That alone makes him unqualified to be the President of the United States. Aside from my disagreements on some of his positions, it is his lack of judgment that has completely turned me off. In any event, the hell with it. I never supported him, and to me, he was more Robert Bork than James Madison when it came to individual liberty, preferring an open-ended police power to one which places rightful limitations on what states can and can not do.

I sympathize and agree with Tony here but I wonder what kind of damage can be done:

I don't think the problem has been libertarians supporting Rep. Paul. We all make compromises at some point. But we must be honest about them. We should talk about ideas, and something makes them more possible to discuss in public forums, we should seek to use that opportunity. Still, labels matter. With even a cursory look at his positions, it was always clear that Rep. Paul is not a libertarian.

So now the careless have hitched our principles to an unstable vehicle of political expediency. Why? We knew that we weren't getting a libertarian president in November, even if Rep. Paul was a libertarian. We're often accused of being too rigid in adhering to how little government should do. There is no justification for abandoning that rigidity at the first whiff of minor success in the public consciousness. First impressions.

Now I'm angry at being forced into guilt-by-association. Thanks.

I don't know how much guilt-by-association is really here though. Although I wasn't particularly impressed with Kirchick piece, if he did one good deed, it was this distinction (albeit imperfect)*:

To understand Paul's philosophy, the best place to start is probably the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Auburn, Alabama. The institute is named for a libertarian Austrian economist, but it was founded by a man named Lew Rockwell, who also served as Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982. Paul has had a long and prominent association with the institute, teaching at its seminars and serving as a "distinguished counselor." The institute has also published his books.

The politics of the organization are complicated--its philosophy derives largely from the work of the late Murray Rothbard, a Bronx-born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and a self-described "anarcho-capitalist" who viewed the state as nothing more than "a criminal gang"--but one aspect of the institute's worldview stands out as particularly disturbing: its attachment to the Confederacy. Thomas E. Woods Jr., a member of the institute's senior faculty, is a founder of the League of the South, a secessionist group, and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, a pro-Confederate, revisionist tract published in 2004. Paul enthusiastically blurbed Woods's book, saying that it "heroically rescues real history from the politically correct memory hole." Thomas DiLorenzo, another senior faculty member and author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, refers to the Civil War as the "War for Southern Independence" and attacks "Lincoln cultists"; Paul endorsed the book on MSNBC last month in a debate over whether the Civil War was necessary (Paul thinks it was not). In April 1995, the institute hosted a conference on secession at which Paul spoke; previewing the event, Rockwell wrote to supporters, "We'll explore what causes [secession] and how to promote it." Paul's newsletters have themselves repeatedly expressed sympathy for the general concept of secession.

In 1992, for instance, the Survival Report argued that "the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society" and that "there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it."

The people surrounding the von Mises Institute--including Paul--may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine.

Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history--the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent Washington libertarian told me, "There are too many libertarians in this country ... who, because they are attracted to the great books of Mises, ... find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought."

If there was any basis for a guilt-by-association, it existed long before any Ron Paul Revolution. Though I am relatively new to the philosophy (2-3 years) and have known about paleolibertarianism's past, seeing these so-called libertarians cozying up with the populist, nationalist, racist, homophobic and anti-Semitic elements that are an affront to both liberty and individualism made me sick and upset. I know others who feel the same way. Perhaps a bit of a mea culpa is in order here since I suppose I could uncovered this sooner if I wanted to look harder.

There are numerous places for additional Ron Paul commentary that are worth checking out: Freespace, Althouse, Andrew Sullivan, Volokh Conspiracy, Vodkapundit, Rolling Doughnut, Fusionist Libertarian, and of course Reason (see the link in the first paragraph). The Memeorandum link for more is here.

Update: Paleolibertarian Karen Decoster responds to the Kirchick article here and rants about a blog called Right Watch which, like Tom Palmer's blog, presents the views of certain libertarians in a rather, ahem, harsh light.

Not surprisingly, she takes the anonymous author of Right Watch to task for a lack of evidence yet spends the better part of a long paragraph speculating that Tom Palmer is behind the attacks on Lew Rockwell with, again not surprisingly, no evidence. Pot? Kettle? I suppose it would do no good to say that Palmer himself claimed that he had nothing to do with it but as he's a Washington-insider-neocon-warmonger-statist-[FILL IN THE BLANK HERE], that will probably earn me neocon status, although I don't think the neoconservatives would want me in their ranks.

Lastly, just out of curiousity, what do my libertarian readers think of this rather passionate defense of Lew Rockwell:

His success is hated by those who can't gain the same ground. After all, he has been a one-man show and has done far more for the libertarian philosophy - over the last 9 years - than a whole staff at Cato.

One man, folks. One man has made a huge difference and has brought many Internet wanderers to the libertarian way. And you think they don't envy Rockwell for his highly-successful, decentralized operation?

I didn't reach libertarianism through Rockwell and I am grateful for that (although I am grateful to the exposure to Rothbard and Mises). I'll think I'll stick with David Boaz on this one:

But of course Ron Paul isn’t running for president. He’s not going to be president, he’s not going to be the Republican nominee for president, and he never hoped to be. He got into the race to advance ideas—the ideas of peace, constitutional government, and freedom. Succeeding beyond his wildest dreams, he became the most visible so-called “libertarian” in America. And now he and his associates have slimed the noble cause of liberty and limited government.

Mutterings about the past mistakes of the New Republic or the ideological agenda of author James Kirchick are beside the point. Maybe Bob Woodward didn’t like Quakers; the corruption he uncovered in the Nixon administration was still a fact, and that’s all that mattered. Ron Paul’s most visible defenders have denounced Kirchick as a “pimply-faced youth”—so much for their previous enthusiasm about all the young people sleeping on floors for the Paul campaign—and a neoconservative. But they have not denied the facts he reported. Those words appeared in newsletters under his name. And, notably, they have not dared to defend or even quote the actual words that Kirchick reported. Even those who vociferously defend Ron Paul and viciously denounce Kirchick, perhaps even those who wrote the words originally, are apparently unwilling to quote and defend the actual words that appeared over Ron Paul’s signature.

Those words are not libertarian words. Maybe they reflect “paleoconservative” ideas, though they’re not the language of Burke or even Kirk. But libertarianism is a philosophy of individualism, tolerance, and liberty. As Ayn Rand wrote, “Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.” Making sweeping, bigoted claims about all blacks, all homosexuals, or any other group is indeed a crudely primitive collectivism.

And these are the people who claim to be about freedom and liberty? What do you think?

1 comment:

Tony said...

If there was any basis for a guilt-by-association, it existed long before any Ron Paul Revolution.

After exploring the story a little more, I think this is the correct view, encompassing a much larger historical time frame. I'm not new to thinking like a libertarian, but I am still relatively new to libertarian history. I'm amazed as I learn more how many strange individuals flock to a philosophy that has no intellectual foundation in their fringe, crackpot ideas.