The Ron Paul newsletters, in the news — again!

The following appeared on Wirkman Netizen, on September 1, 2008:

The now-infamous Ron Paul newsletters surprised a lot of people I didn’t think would be surprised. I knew (or at least “had heard” and accepted as likely) that Ron Paul had close relations with Burt BlumertLew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard from the early ’80s, and I knew what Rockwell and Rothbard believed regarding strategy. They believed in hate. Rothbard famously believed that you had to stir up hate against the state. He came to believe that you should stir up hatred against the underclass. That’s how you had to appeal to the middle-class Christians would turn on the old conservatism.

Rockwell wrote his polemic on Paleolibertarianism in Liberty magazine in 1990. I was appalled by his manifesto, and wrote a polemic in response, entitled “The Libertarian as Authoritarian.” It is the obvious product of youth, though there is little I disagree with in it to this day.

This is all relevant because it was apparent then that the authors of Ron Paul’s newsletters were really the Paleo crowd (which ones exactly, I do not know for sure, though I have a lot of remembered gossip echoing in the dark areas of my brain), and that the Ron Paul newsletters amounted to Paleolibertarianism Beta. (Of course, the fact that I was told that these were the authors of the newsletters in question helped make them seem “apparent,” eh? Bill Bradford, who at several points was trying to get me to ghost his gold newsletter — the most I ever did was edit it — told me that So-and-So made good money ghosting for Blumert’s forays, which memory tells me was referenced especially to the Ron Paul efforts.)

Paleolibertarianism 1.0 was a last gasp effort to try class hatred after the miserable showing of Ron Paul’s 1988 presidential effort.

I believe that Rothbard and Rockwell were very, very wrong in pushing this agenda. They had historical excuses, sure. But they placed too much emphasis on their experience with Taft Republicanism, a movement that long ago died, and probably cannot be revived. And they thought, incredibly, that heaping abuse onto black welfare-and-drug addicts and hippie weirdos would somehow translate into state hatred. Fat chance.

I think Rockwell has repented to some degree. Surely and the Mises Institute have done some good work, especially bringing old books back into print.

The best thing that this brouhaha about the racism in the Ron Paul newsletters can do is apply the final nail to the coffin of paleolibertarianism. Hatred does not work in promoting liberty. At least, hatred towards certain groups (blacks, hippies, Jews) will not get you far.

Not towards liberty, mind you. Great stuff for a pogrom. But not a program for individual freedom and general civility.

UPDATE: I have not previously linked to the Kirkchick article, “Angry White Man,” and should have. A response, “The Kirchicking of Ron Paul,” on Gays and Lesbians for Ron Paul website, is interesting, if not exactly convincing. This argument is worth thinking about, another “Two Libertarianisms” analysis:

For some at Cato (though certainly not all) and perhaps for Kirchick, libertarianism is simply about maximizing personal autonomy for the individual on any and every issue. This “libertarianism of autonomy” (if you will) holds a natural and powerful appeal for those who, like gays and lesbians, have been victimized (however recently) by the state and by private actors. Thus, someone like Kirchick might genuinely believe that Giuliani would be a “libertarian” president because of his record as mayor on “gay issues” like marriage or adoption. (Never mind his recent pandering to social traditionalists.) It also becomes easy to marry such a focus on social policy issues with a foreign policy that attempts to promote personal autonomy by invading countries like Iraq and “teaching them to elect good men,” as President Wilson put it. One can even see how those who question heavy U.S. subsidies for Israel–a bastion of personal autonomy surrounded by people who probably don’t like the Jews, gays, blacks or the Baltic states–could only seem like anti-semites “speaking in code.”

The libertarianism of Ron Paul and the Mises Institute is different. While Ron has always been outspoken in defense of personal autonomy (see, for example, this terrific 1988 clip of him defending drug legalization), he is as concerned about the liberties of the individual as he is about the institutional structure that protects liberty. When he describes himself as a “constitutionalist,” he is not “speaking in code” to express some kind of bigotry, but to defend the liberalism for which the American Revolution was fought: the restraint and diffusion of power through constitutionally limited government.

Yes, yes. But when we read newsletters filled with racially insensitive remarks, impolite sneers at gays, and such, we don’t even need to talk about “code words”; the hatred is pretty obvious.

And the issue is not that Ron wrote these things, but that he let them go out under his name for years. What does that say about his sense of justice, rhetoric, or even self-image?

Ron Paul is morally compromised. On an issue that makes him look especially bad, by standards of decency. This is unfortunate.

Still, were he on a ballot for president in my state, against any of the current contenders, I would still vote for him. For whereas he is morally compromised, his opponents should be so lucky — their main points of ideology are morally compromised in far more dangerous ways.

After all, Paul does have an important central message, as relayed here by Bruce Ramsey: “Paul’s stubborn consistency on Iraq deserves respect.”