David Boaz is the Executive Vice President of the Cato Institute, a libertarian think-tank in DC. In his latest post at the blog “Cato @ Liberty”, Boaz discusses the racist remarks found in old newsletters published under Ron Paul’s name, and the implications this has for the libertarian movement. Says Boaz:
We had never seen the newsletters that have recently come to light, and I for one was surprised at just how vile they turned out to be. But we knew the company Ron Paul had been keeping, and we feared that they would have tied him to some reprehensible ideas far from the principles we hold.
Ron Paul says he didn’t write these newsletters, and I take him at his word. They don’t sound like him. In my infrequent personal encounters and in his public appearances, I’ve never heard him say anything racist or homophobic (halting and uncomfortable on gay issues, like a lot of 72-year-old conservatives, but not hateful). But he selected the people who did write those things, and he put his name on the otherwise unsigned newsletters, and he raised campaign funds from the mailing list that those newsletters created.
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.
Word. I agree, and I might add that I “heart” David Boaz. 🙂 He is a wonderful writer, and absolutely brilliant when it comes to understanding and communicating libertarian philosophy.
I have a lot of views in common with Ron Paul, which is why it has been so fun for me to follow this latest election cycle. I certainly don’t agree with him on every issue, but was surprised to hear a politician discussing the importance of a constitutionally-limited government and personal liberties, who had a record that supports the rhetoric. But these newsletters have been tough to swallow. I understand they’re decades old, and not explicitly attributed to him, but they were still published under his name. It leaves supporters with a tough dichotomy – either Ron Paul supported (or at the least did not condemn) those views published, or he failed to show any oversight or executive power when it came to reviewing what was to be published under his name. In short, was he bigoted or inept? I don’t know.
Paul was interviewed on CNN yesterday by Wolf Blitzer, in which he tries to distance himself from the newsletters and point out how he is one of the few candidates discussing repeals of federal drug laws which unfairly target minorities. Indeed, I am unaware of anything within his voting record that would indicate he holds or acts upon racial or homophobic views. Regardless, as a libertarian I will follow Boaz’s advice and explicitly state that I condemn the views published in those newsletters. I know of no self-identified libertarians who hold such opinions – in fact, many of us believe in the importance of civil liberties in part because we personally identify with an oppressed minority group (whether it be racial, sexual-orientation, religious, etc). I hope these newsletters are not attributed to the libertarian movement, because they are as anti-libertarian as it gets.
David Boaz – “Ron Paul’s Ugly Newsletters”
James Kirchick of “The New Republic” – “Angry White Man”