Sat 12 Jan 2008
David Boaz’s take on the Ron Paul scandal is even harsher than the other reactions we’ve mentioned here:
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.
Libertarians should make it clear that the people who wrote those things are not our comrades, not part of our movement, not part of the tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick. Shame on them.
Boaz was obliquely referring to Lew Rockwell’s response to the story. (As an aside, Rockwell absurdly claims that the New Republic has long been “close to Beltway libertarians, for whom its politically correct left-neoconism is fine and dandy.” I guess that’s why Ed Crane gives speeches attacking neoconservatives at every opportunity.) The Rockwellians fired back:
Have you noticed that the only people who seem to really care about the newsletter story (apart from a handful of disgruntled former allies) are beltway libertarians? Apparently they’re more interested in acting indignant and attacking Ron Paul’s friends than in seeing an end to deadly big government at home and abroad. And that tells you all you need to know about them.
Of course, even as they feigned qualified support for Ron Paul over the past months, they eagerly anticipated (and collaborated in) this story. Indeed, they’ve been waiting for this moment for a long time, working day and night to attack Lew Rockwell and writers for this website, not only with frivolous blog posts, but even through efforts to disrupt our work and personal lives. Too bad for them that more serious-minded people can see right through them and put substance over political correctness and petty internecine squabbles.
I imagine this is a reference to Tom Palmer’s excellent series of blog posts documenting the ugliness of the “libertarians” at the Mises Institute. Rockwell and his associates have been known to lionize dictators, belittling Rosa Parks (“While Jim Crow was abominable, I find the staged events of modern American ‘history’ [i.e. Parks' sit-in] even more disturbing.”), endorse bigotry (“Most “bigotry” is the act of noticing the truth. Blacks are genetically intellectually inferior, always have been, always will be.”), celebrate the death of American soldiers, and endorse the stoning of homosexuals. In short, they are libertarians only in the narrowest sense of the term, and non-hateful libertarians rightfully want nothing to do with them.
One of the telling things about the Lew Rockwell crowd is that when their outrageous views are criticized, they almost never respond with a substantive defense of those views, much less an apology. No, instead we get charming responses like “Most of Palmer’s problem is that he is homosexual. He’s certainly not gay, a preposterous word to use for such a disease-ridden lifestyle.” We see the same pattern with Paul’s newsletters. They have no interest in either apologizing for or distancing themselves from the ugly sentiments in those newsletters, which no one disputes were genuine. Instead, they viciously attack the people who unearthed them as smear artists, as though it’s somehow a smear to reprint and quote from articles that were originally sent out under your own name.
While I knew that the Rockwellians were big Paul boosters, I did not realize the depth of the ties between Paul and the Mises Institute. If I had, I think I would have been more cautious about supporting the guy. They’re a blight on the libertarian movement, and anything that raises their profile is bound to be a long-term negative for liberty.