January 8, 2008


Angry White Man: The bigoted past of Ron Paul (James Kirchick, January 08, 2008, New Republic)

To understand Paul's philosophy, the best place to start is probably the Ludwig von Mises Institute, a libertarian think tank based in Auburn, Alabama. The institute is named for a libertarian Austrian economist, but it was founded by a man named Lew Rockwell, who also served as Paul's congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982. Paul has had a long and prominent association with the institute, teaching at its seminars and serving as a "distinguished counselor." The institute has also published his books.

The politics of the organization are complicated--its philosophy derives largely from the work of the late Murray Rothbard, a Bronx-born son of Jewish immigrants from Poland and a self-described "anarcho-capitalist" who viewed the state as nothing more than "a criminal gang"--but one aspect of the institute's worldview stands out as particularly disturbing: its attachment to the Confederacy. Thomas E. Woods Jr., a member of the institute's senior faculty, is a founder of the League of the South, a secessionist group, and the author of The Politically Incorrect Guide to American History, a pro-Confederate, revisionist tract published in 2004. Paul enthusiastically blurbed Woods's book, saying that it "heroically rescues real history from the politically correct memory hole." Thomas DiLorenzo, another senior faculty member and author of The Real Lincoln: A New Look at Abraham Lincoln, His Agenda, and an Unnecessary War, refers to the Civil War as the "War for Southern Independence" and attacks "Lincoln cultists"; Paul endorsed the book on MSNBC last month in a debate over whether the Civil War was necessary (Paul thinks it was not). In April 1995, the institute hosted a conference on secession at which Paul spoke; previewing the event, Rockwell wrote to supporters, "We'll explore what causes [secession] and how to promote it." Paul's newsletters have themselves repeatedly expressed sympathy for the general concept of secession. In 1992, for instance, the Survival Report argued that "the right of secession should be ingrained in a free society" and that "there is nothing wrong with loosely banding together small units of government. With the disintegration of the Soviet Union, we too should consider it."

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. Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history--the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent Washington libertarian told me, "There are too many libertarians in this country ... who, because they are attracted to the great books of Mises, ... find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought."

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."

Such views on race also inflected the newsletters' commentary on foreign affairs. South Africa's transition to multiracial democracy was portrayed as a "destruction of civilization" that was "the most tragic [to] ever occur on that continent, at least below the Sahara"; and, in March 1994, a month before Nelson Mandela was elected president, one item warned of an impending "South African Holocaust."

Martin Luther King Jr. earned special ire from Paul's newsletters, which attacked the civil rights leader frequently, often to justify opposition to the federal holiday named after him. ("What an infamy Ronald Reagan approved it!" one newsletter complained in 1990. "We can thank him for our annual Hate Whitey Day.") In the early 1990s, a newsletter attacked the "X-Rated Martin Luther King" as a "world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours," "seduced underage girls and boys," and "made a pass at" fellow civil rights leader Ralph Abernathy. One newsletter ridiculed black activists who wanted to rename New York City after King, suggesting that "Welfaria," "Zooville," "Rapetown," "Dirtburg," and "Lazyopolis" were better alternatives. The same year, King was described as "a comsymp, if not an actual party member, and the man who replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration."

While bashing King, the newsletters had kind words for the former Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke. In a passage titled "The Duke's Victory," a newsletter celebrated Duke's 44 percent showing in the 1990 Louisiana Republican Senate primary. "Duke lost the election," it said, "but he scared the blazes out of the Establishment." In 1991, a newsletter asked, "Is David Duke's new prominence, despite his losing the gubernatorial election, good for anti-big government forces?" The conclusion was that "our priority should be to take the anti-government, anti-tax, anti-crime, anti-welfare loafers, anti-race privilege, anti-foreign meddling message of Duke, and enclose it in a more consistent package of freedom." Duke is now returning the favor, telling me that, while he will not formally endorse any candidate, he has made information about Ron Paul available on his website.

A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other.

Posted by Orrin Judd at January 8, 2008 3:20 PM

While I don't doubt that Paul is one of those Libertarians who'd rather his past be ignored, this is The New Republic, a publication not known for the accuracy of its reporting.

Posted by: Raoul Ortega at January 8, 2008 7:29 PM

"A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other"

I find that offensive. The actions of one man do not condemn an entire philosophy. Self reliance, independence and love of self are vital to freedom. Love of your neighbor, compassion and empathy are vital to society. Government is required for neither.

Posted by: danb at January 8, 2008 7:30 PM

A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other.

This is facile and unfair, and I think you know it.

Posted by: dr_dog at January 8, 2008 8:00 PM

A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other.

In formal language, this is what we call "a cheap shot."

Back in Dirty Jersey, we call it "a non-sequiter."

Stay classy, Orin Judd.

Posted by: chuck.chillout at January 8, 2008 9:32 PM

Libertarians believe in freedom. America is premised on liberty, which libertarians oppose.

Posted by: oj at January 8, 2008 9:37 PM

It would be a cheap shot if the best known recent proponents of "libertarianism" were not fringe characters with nutty streaks. The 1950s libertarians are no more, because their views were founded on economics (in reaction to FDR). Today's 'prominent' libertarians are focused on hating government, and therefore hate the people who are most reliant (for good or ill) on government.

It may be that people in general have become so accepting of the reach and scope of government that the America we love is doomed. It may be that an activist foreign policy means the government is more likely to sweep aside personal freedoms at home. It may be that the populace is so dumbed down that nobody will notice when the government assumes total control. It may be that very few care anymore, as long as they have food and entertainment (bread and circuses).

But hating the government is not the same thing as loving freedom.

Posted by: jim hamlen at January 8, 2008 10:04 PM

I find many of the quotes attributed to Ron Paul's website to be bigoted and offensive.

Oh, and this one, too:

"A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other."

The main difference is I don't expect Ron Paul to apologize for that one. Someone else should.

Posted by: Walter in Denver at January 8, 2008 10:26 PM

I read some bigoted and offensive comments allegedly penned by Ron Paul. He should apologize. Then there's this one:

"A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other."

Someone else should apologize for that one.

Posted by: Walter in Denver at January 8, 2008 10:34 PM

I read some bigoted and offensive comments allegedly penned by Ron Paul. He should apologize. Then there's this one:

"A philosophy that is so entirely dependent on love of the self can't help but be plagued by hatred of the other."

Someone else should apologize for that one.

Posted by: Walter in Denver at January 8, 2008 11:15 PM

The philosophy is cheap. It deserves the shots it gets.

Posted by: oj at January 9, 2008 12:53 AM

In what sense is libertarianism based on self-love? And why would loving yourself require hating someone else?

I happen to think that libertarian policies would lead to better outcomes for more people. I don't expect to convince you that my position is true, but please believe that it is sincere -- my libertarianism is based on love of myself *and* love of the other.

Posted by: nathan at January 9, 2008 10:55 AM

You'll grow out of it. It's just a phase young white men go through.


Posted by: oj at January 9, 2008 4:53 PM

Philosophy based on love of the self? Is it not self love that drives people to assuage their guilt by forcing others to assume responsibility for strangers? If I don't have enough money to help the world's poor, is it not love of my own pity that drives me to force others to give up what they produce (and which they may choose to distribute charitably in other ways if given a choice) to ease my conscious?

It's not libertarian self-love, it's liberal misanthropy that leads to leviathan state and the forced redistribution from those that produce to those that do not.

Posted by: BHK at January 12, 2008 1:41 PM

No, it is love of the other, as commanded by God. Yes, that's why we distribute wealth. It's a Judeo-Christian country.

Posted by: oj at January 12, 2008 2:09 PM