Wednesday, January 09, 2008
It was with no small measure of amusement yesterday that I learned that Ron Paul, the Republican presidential hopeful (and winner of the Gus Van Horn Dumpster Queen contest), is in hot water for allegedly racist comments he made (or allowed to be made in his name) in his old newsletter (PDF), The Ron Paul Political Report. Reactions among libertarians and other Ron Paul supporters -- being a radical for capitalism, I am neither -- has ranged from a shifting of support away from Paul, through claims that Paul's lapse has "nothing to do with the 'Paul Revolution'", all the way to attempts at a defense.
One reaction I looked at yesterday leads to the proper perspective:
I'll accept for the sake of argument the notion that he didn't know that this stuff was in the newsletter. But I can't imagine a responsible person permitting a publication under his name without reviewing it occasionally. I also can't imagine a responsible person permitting a publication under his name without vetting the editor/publisher sufficiently to keep out the sort of whackjobs who would publish stuff like this. How can you expect anyone so careless with his own "brand" to be any more careful with the country's "brand"? [bold added]Except that the problem lies far deeper than mere "branding".
Libertarianism, as Peter Schwartz so ably showed in Libertarianism: The Perversion of Liberty, is a political movement based on the incorrect idea (and it is an idea) that philosophical ideas are irrelevant to the cause of freedom -- that there are many equally valid paths to laissez-faire capitalism.
On this score, a couple of quotes from the Schwartz piece are germane. First, he quotes none other than Murray Rothbard holding out the absence of intellectual standards inherent in the movement as a virtue:
... Libertarianism is a coalition of adherents from all manner of philosophic (or nonphilosophic) positions, including emotivism, hedonism, Kantian a priorism, and many others. My own position grounds Libertarianism on a natural rights theory embedded in a wider system of Aristotelian-Lockean natural law and a realist ontology and metaphysics. But although those of us taking that position believe that only it provides a satisfactory groundwork as a basis for individual liberty, this is an argument within the libertarian camp about the proper basis and grounding of Libertarianism rather than about the doctrine itself. [Schwartz's emphasis]With such a lack of standards, the motley collection of nut cases -- again, described by a libertarian (and long before the Paul campaign) -- who are attracted to the movement should surprise no one:
[Libertarianism] allows for an amazing diversity.... We've seen priests, monogamists, family men as the fellow-Libertarians of the gays, the sado-masochists, the leather-freaks, and those into what they call "rational bestiality".... Only Libertarians could gather together the homosexual motorcycle gang, the acid-dropper fascinated by the price of silver, and the Puerto Rican nationalist immersed in the Austrian school of economics.Far from having "nothing to do with" the blind rebellion called the "Ron Paul Revolution", these kooky newsletters are a direct result of Paul's own contempt for the need to possess and spread into the culture a coherent political philosophy before attempting to halt our nation's headlong decent into anarchy or tyranny.
If fundamental ideas are not important, why bother putting out a quality newsletter? And why bother to take responsibility for something so inconsequential as a discussion of political ideas?
If Ron Paul weren't so busy distorting what capitalism means, my enjoyment of this scandal would be unblemished!
Today: Corrected a typo.