Friday, January 11, 2008

Ron Paul talks MLK on CNN

and I'm not impressed.

I think it was a good thing for him to repudiate what was written in the Ron Paul Newsletters, although I think he got caught being disingenuous when Blitzer asked him if he ever read his newsletters. But, no matter.

Paul's invocation of the be-all-end-all of Civil Rights Movement name-dropping annoyed me. Martin Luther King, Jr., was a brave and remarkable man. And yes, there were specific attacks against MLK in the newsletters, so his mentioning was probably a necessity on some level. However, using the name so much and calling MLK a "libertarian" is just plain wrong.

In Letter From a Birmingham Jail,** King proposed a "G.I. Bill" for blacks -- a subsidization of black people by the federal government. In some ways, it was one of the earliest calls for reparations in black American history. (Furthermore, MLK's strict adherence to non-violence that Paul applauded is, when applied while under attack, an abandonment of self-defense and self-ownership.)

What is lost on so many people who do not understand the length and breadth of the Civil Rights movement is that MLK, particularly toward the end of his life, was indeed becoming more radical in his thinking -- and more socialist. For all his good intent, the path MLK would have taken the nation was toward further black enslavement, at least economically speaking. (This was evidenced and played out in part by LBJ's 'War on Poverty').

Malcolm X, on the other hand, was very much in favor of self-empowerment for blacks. I will grant, fully, that during his time at NOI, his rhetoric was disparaging toward whites, conspiratorial to a very paranoid degree, and arguably flat-out racist. (But then again, he wasn't running for president, now was he?)

But upon even passive analysis, his ideas toward the end of his life -- and the positive ideas leftover from his NOI days -- would be much closer to "libertarian" than anything King ever suggested:

-development of business skills and entrepreneurship
-gun rights/self-defense
-mistrust of the government and political parties
-personal responsibility
-the importance of liberty (which I blogged about here, with video)

I would not go so far to say that Malcolm was a libertarian, but his libertarian credentials outshine MLK's by a long shot.

Thus, Paul could have as easily said "Some of my best friends are black" and it would have meant just as much to me -- and would perhaps be closer to the truth than "MLK was a libertarian."

I do believe Paul did the right thing by finally addressing this personally.

I just wish he had been better at it.

ADDENDUM: My former colleagues at reason take issue with Paul's statement here.

UPDATE: And David Boaz breaks Cato's silence on the rEVOLution here. Long list of RP under-bus-tossing here.

**UPDATE II (2014): I just happened upon this post again. I stand by it, but at some point  in the years since I wrote it realized King's endorsement of an expansion of the GI Bill wasn't part of the Letter from a Birmingham Jail, which I had believed for some time. I can't remember where I read it, but I'm 99% sure he publicly advocated for it in print. Even if I'm wrong, the point holds that he was, among other things, a vocal proponent of more Progressive government aid and while in favor of liberty in the broad sense, not in a libertarian one vis-a-vis the proper role of government in the economic sphere.

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