Back in November I discussed how libertarians were beginning to dissociate themselves from Ron Paul, and even half jokingly suggested that Reason would eventually do so on its cover to differentiate themselves from Paul’s markedly non-libertarian views. For a while many libertarians hid their heads in the sand, ignoring what long time libertarians know about Paul, and deceived themselves into thinking they had a true libertarian candidate achieving national attention. The recent article in The New Republic was the last straw, with even many of the writers at Reason realizing that it was time to drop the pretense. I’ve noted some of the responses to the quotations from Paul’s newsletter from libertarians here and here.
Reason is now trying hard to redeem themselves. Paul’s defense has been that he wasn’t the author of the racist articles in the newsletter published under his name, and tried to write off the controversy as old news. Slavery, Jim Crow laws, and the Holocaust are also “old news” but it doesn’t result in us ignoring those whose beliefs remind us of these policies. The obvious question if this is “old news” is whether Paul has ever condemned the articles in the past or denied having written them. Reason has reviewed public statements from Paul over the years. The reports are quite incriminating. At times Paul defended the writings, and the context of the news reports suggests Paul wrote the articles. For example, the May 22, 1996 Dallas Morning News contains this (emphasis mine): “Dr. Paul denied suggestions that he was a racist and said he was not evoking stereotypes when he wrote the columns. He said they should be read and quoted in their entirety to avoid misrepresentation.” This hardly sounds like someone who is either denying that he wrote the articles or that he agrees with them.
I don’t doubt that Paul sometimes had ghost writers, but question how much he disagreed with their views. Even if he didn’t personally agree, he never had any qualms about associating himself with those who hold the expressed views. As The Economist notes, Lew Rockwell is widely believed to have written some of the material. While Paul now tries to dissociate himself from the articles, he has shown no willingness to disassociate himself from Rockwell and other associates with similar ideas.
Without the benefit of a Vulcan mind meld I cannot say for certain what Paul personally believes. What matters is that he has tolerated the promotion of racism in his newsletter for years. Megan McArdle summed up the issue well (before the report from Reason):
It kind of doesn’t matter what he actually believes. A number of libertarians have argued that Dr. Paul is obviously not a racist because he has so many other crazy ideas that if he did hold repulsive racial views, he would have aired those too. I find this pretty unconvincing. Since my blog brought me out of the closet, pretty much everyone I know is aware that I think we should privatize Social Security, eliminate most forms of government spending, get rid of the corporate income tax, legalize heroin, etc. etc. Almost all of them think I am crazy. But they still associate with me. I myself am friends with at least one person who claims to be an actual communist, and doesn’t suffer socially for it. However, if either of us started saying “You know, the real problem with America is race-mixing” that would clearly put us in an entirely different category of crazy loon: the kind you shun. Ron Paul doesn’t have Tourette’s syndrome; I presume he is able to discern these find distinctions as well.
But regardless of whether he believes the things he wrote, we punish people (socially) for enabling racism. Dr. Paul should be abandoned because that is how American society, and the libertarian movement, says: “Helping racists publish their nastygrams is totally legal, but it’s not ok.”
The same sentiments apply to those libertarians who continue to find ways to rationalize Paul’s actions. It is not ok.