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.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Greatest. Headline. Ever.

Big Problems Mount For Small Beaver County Town With No Mail Service

Via fark.

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.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Why I Miss Bill Clinton...

Oh, don't be alarmed. The statement in my headline is purely a self-serving one.

I first became interested in journalism in high school when Bill Clinton was president. In a very (and I do not say this proudly) Limbaugh-ean way, I spent my first years in print taking him to task for Haiti, Yugoslavia, Somalia and other foreign policy debacles (Monica happened in my college years). It was so easy and I never ran out of material.

Now Bill is thrusting himself back into the spotlight to save Clinton '08, which is looking like the H.M.S. Titanic of political campaigns.

A couple weeks ago, as if channeling John Kerry -- a politician not half the talent or intellect of our former molester-in-chief -- he said he was against the Iraq war from the outset...which was apparently after he supported the president publicly.

But I'll forgive him that. I think a large number of people today can look back at the events after 9/11 with at least of tinge of regret on what we said/did/supported - myself included.

That said, this fatuous absurdity takes the cake as the most ridiculous thing Bill Clinton has ever -- and I mean ever -- said:
Just a few days ago, in Sergeant Bluff, Iowa, the former president said, "I have been blessed in my life to know some of the greatest figures of the last hundred years. Because of what you did. You, you gave me the chance to be president. You voted for me twice here, and I'm very grateful.

"I go to Nelson Mandela's birthday party every year and we're still very close. I believe if Yitzhak Rabin had not been murdered in 1995 we would have peace in the Middle East. I loved him as much as anyone I've ever known.
"But if you said to me today, 'I'm gonna give you one last job for your country -- go and do this -- but it's hazardous and you may not get out with life and limb intact and you have to do it alone except I'll let you take one other person,' and I had to pick one person whom I knew who would never blink, who would never turn back, who would make great decisions under pressure and would never forget what the purpose of being there was, I would pick Hillary of the people I've known and I would never even think about it. It would be an easy choice."

On behalf of all anti-left journalists everywhere, may I say welcome back to the fore, Bill. We've missed you.

Via Daily Dish.