Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Race, Ron Paul, and Libertarianism

For the better part of the summer, I was surrounded by rabid libertarians of all stripes: anarcho-capitalists, minimal statists, reformed and not-so-reformed Republicans, lefties with reasonable economic policies, Goldwaterites, etc.

One thing many of them had in common, aside from a predilection for binge-drinking and political argument, was an almost unquestioning support of Ron Paul, Republican congressman from Texas running for president -- ostensibly as a libertarian Republican.

I had my doubts of the grandfatherly man a year ago when I first heard of him. I learned more about him, and liked him less the more I did.

Well, thanks to a story in The New Republic, much of America will know what I found out...and to a greater extent than I found out about him.

Just a small excerpt:

Paul's alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race. Take, for instance, a special issue of the Ron Paul Political Report, published in June 1992, dedicated to explaining the Los Angeles riots of that year. "Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks three days after rioting began," read one typical passage. According to the newsletter, the looting was a natural byproduct of government indulging the black community with "'civil rights,' quotas, mandated hiring preferences, set-asides for government contracts, gerrymandered voting districts, black bureaucracies, black mayors, black curricula in schools, black tv shows, black tv anchors, hate crime laws, and public humiliation for anyone who dares question the black agenda." It also denounced "the media" for believing that "America's number one need is an unlimited white checking account for underclass blacks." To be fair, the newsletter did praise Asian merchants in Los Angeles, but only because they had the gumption to resist political correctness and fight back. Koreans were "the only people to act like real Americans," it explained, "mainly because they have not yet been assimilated into our rotten liberal culture, which admonishes whites faced by raging blacks to lie back and think of England."

This "Special Issue on Racial Terrorism" was hardly the first time one of Paul's publications had raised these topics. As early as December 1989, a section of his Investment Letter, titled "What To Expect for the 1990s," predicted that "Racial Violence Will Fill Our Cities" because "mostly black welfare recipients will feel justified in stealing from mostly white 'haves.'" Two months later, a newsletter warned of "The Coming Race War," and, in November 1990, an item advised readers, "If you live in a major city, and can leave, do so. If not, but you can have a rural retreat, for investment and refuge, buy it." In June 1991, an entry on racial disturbances in Washington, DC's Adams Morgan neighborhood was titled, "Animals Take Over the D.C. Zoo." "This is only the first skirmish in the race war of the 1990s," the newsletter predicted. In an October 1992 item about urban crime, the newsletter's author--presumably Paul--wrote, "I've urged everyone in my family to know how to use a gun in self defense. For the animals are coming." That same year, a newsletter described the aftermath of a basketball game in which "blacks poured into the streets of Chicago in celebration. How to celebrate? How else? They broke the windows of stores to loot." The newsletter inveighed against liberals who "want to keep white America from taking action against black crime and welfare," adding, "Jury verdicts, basketball games, and even music are enough to set off black rage, it seems."

The article was somewhat excusing of "libertarianism" as a principle, saying:

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.
One sentence, however, does not remove the stigma which will undoubtedly be placed firmly in many minds of people who already think libertarians are a bunch of nut-jobs -- if they even know what libertarianism is to begin with.

Everything Ron Paul has fought for in the past year has been unalterably tainted now. In a GOP field entirely made up of rich white men, the only one with the pronounced race problem is the only "libertarian" amongst them.

For my entire adult life, and much of my late adolescence, I have argued tirelessly against the stereotypically racist image of fiscal conservatism. It was always an uphill battle because the GOP undoubtedly makes some foolish mistakes that old white men are prone to make.

But this is worse.

Ron Paul isn't the mainstream GOP -- he is a libertarian federalist who became the face of our way of thinking, rightly or no. And now he -- and therefore we -- will be linked with racist, homophobic, paranoid, ignorant tripe and he will take our ideas down with him as he sinks. This article, a long time coming, undoes any good that Ron Paul may have done over the past year.

This isn't the end for libertarians -- but it is the end for Ron Paul.

Good riddance.


ellie said...

You were surrounded by a lot of people this summer who were not Ron Paul supporters. They were just not nearly as loud as the Ron Paul supporters.

JPB said...

I understand that. But I was saying there were "many of them."

It may be a technical difference, but I intentionally did not say "most."