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Thoughts on Ron Paul and All That

Although I like a lot of its articles, I have to say I got irritated with some of the intellectual flabbiness of Reason magazine a few months ago and my subscription lapsed. I am also trying to save a bit of money and realise that I have rather lot of subscriptions as it is. The magazine spends too much of its time desperately trying to make libertarianism cool and funky by devoting so much stuff to drugs etc, for my liking; but I do check out its website and I enjoy reading its writers such as Brian Doherty. But something of its old hard edge has gone. Maybe I am just becoming an old git (I am sure readers will agree).

It appears one of its former editors, Virginia Postrel, is none too impressed by the judgement of some the magazine’s writers. This has to hurt:

I do fault my friends at Reason, who are much cooler than I’ll ever be and who, scornful of the earnestness that takes politics seriously, apparently didn’t do their homework before embracing Paul as the latest indicator of libertarian cachet. For starters, they might have asked my old boss Bob Poole about Ron Paul; I remember a board member complaining about Paul’s newsletters back in the early ’90s. Besides, people as cosmopolitan as Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch should be able to detect something awry in Paul’s populist appeals. (Note that by “cosmopolitan” I do not mean “Jewish.” I mean cosmopolitan.) I suspect they did but decided it was more useful to spin things their way than to take Paul’s record and ideas seriously. As for Andrew Sullivan, his political infatuations are not his strong point as a commentator.

The line right at the end about Sullivan is a devastating put-down for being so polite.

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32 comments to Thoughts on Ron Paul and All That

  • Its sad to see this whole fall from grace. Ron Paul does not seem to have a good filter for who he takes on as friends and advisors. I agree Postrel has really laid it down to Reason.

  • Episiarch

    Reason did not go all googly for Paul. They were more focused on what his popularity meant for libertarianism. Postrel’s comment, to me (I have read all the stuff Reason has posted about Paul) sounds like…someone who has not read much that Reason has posted about Paul.

  • Reason has deteriorated terribly since Virginia Postrel left. I too let my subscription expire.
    Johnathan’s comment is correct about making Reason at least “cool and funky”. Lightweight.

  • What should be given more weight – the actual words of Ron Paul on the stump, or some newsletters, written by someone else, over ten years ago?

  • RAB

    Well quite frankly both.
    Considering that Paul is running for President.
    You can be damn sure that anything bearing my name would have had at least been read and vetted by me.
    Can we leave the poor old guy alone now please folks?
    He didn’t have a hope in hell back when damn near all of us(especially in the UK) had never heard of him.
    He has even less now.

  • Britt

    Well JezB I tend to like what a politician says to their friends. The mask slips when one is talking to one’s allies, and you get what they really believe.

    Ron Paul really believes that almost all black men in DC are criminals, that the federal government has chemical tags in your money, and that the evil evil Jews (sorry, “international bankers”) control your money.

  • I remember Reason being a good magazine about 7 years ago or so when I first picked it up. Now it’s devolved into a left-libertarian rag with articles that explain why “illegal immigration is good for women’s rights.” In general, I think they’ve just become a snarky publication that doesn’t reflect at all on their positions, nor even consider dissent from other liberty-minded people.

    For me, the real kiss of death was their love affair with illegal immigration. The cosmopolitan, DC-based writers that dominate Reason would have you believe, based on what they see around them in places like Northern Virginia that illegal immigrants cannot possibly displace normal American workers. I happen to regularly travel between Northern and rural Virginia, and routinely see that competition when I visit my family’s hometown.

    Most of all, Hit and Run’s comment section has, in my opinion, devolved to the sort of crass conversation that you’d see on FreeRepublic. It may not be so quite in-your-face at times, but just try quoting Milton Friedman, when he said that it’s insane to have a welfare state AND an open border policy.

  • Pa Annoyed

    It’s odd. Various people are pulling up quotes from some of the articles that appear to match the specific details of Ron Paul’s personal life. If so, it would appear Ron wrote at least some parts of the newsletters – or someone was impersonating him to make it look like he was writing it – but of course the bits that are most specific are in different paragraphs to the controversial bits.

    Do we have anyone’s independent word for it that it wasn’t Ron who wrote this stuff? Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but that’s a slightly different thing from being proven innocent, as some people seem to be claiming is the case.

    Not that it matters. One agrees with the Paul policies one agrees with, and disagrees with the ones one disagrees with. Supporting a candidate rarely, if ever, means supporting everything they stand for. I don’t support Paul and never have, but if anyone I did support did something similar, that’s what I’d say. The road to hell is paved with compromises made for the sake of getting something.

  • Ron Paul really believes that almost all black men in DC are criminals, that the federal government has chemical tags in your money, and that the evil evil Jews (sorry, “international bankers”) control your money.

    Really? You’ve chatted to him about this I suppose.

    Well us plebs without such a good network have to go on what he actually says publicly. Or, at least, we should, but clearly others in this forum think not.

  • Keith

    Yep, I let my Reason subscription lapse over a year ago. I found myself wondering how I had come to enjoy The New Republic and The New Yorker so much more than Reason. It wasn’t the political slant, just the much higher quality of writing and analysis.

  • Do we have anyone’s independent word for it that it wasn’t Ron who wrote this stuff?

    No, not as far as I know. It’s quite plausible that a lot of it was ghostwritten, though. Paul has always maintained a busy schedule, driving as much as 300 miles in a day campaigning, for example, and working at his practice delivering babies two days a week even when he was in office. That said, it seems implausible that NONE of it is his own (or that he read none of it prior to publication) as a lot of it comes from a time in his life when he was out of office and presumably had time to at least do some overseeing.

    Innocent until proven guilty, of course, but that’s a slightly different thing from being proven innocent, as some people seem to be claiming is the case.

    I agree. It’s hard to imagine that all of this escaped his notice as it was being written, even if you believe in the “fired staffer.”

    I still don’t consider this all that relevant to either (a) his current campaign or (b) the future of the libertarian movement, as many are suggesting.

    Regarding (a): I do not see why newsletters that he may or may not have written 15 years ago are meant to be more relevant to deciding what kind of candidate he is than his actual voting record. This latter speaks for itself, is a matter of public record, and verifies beyond any reasonable doubt that Paul is a straight-talker who keeps his election promises. We know exactly what we’re getting when we vote for Paul. I don’t know any other candidate whose record matches his campaign rhetoric as closely.

    Regarding (b): there is some worry that Paul has now forever tarnished the libertarian movement. Poppycock. If libertarianism cannot grow beyond a single politician, it was doomed from the start anyway. More to the point, libertarianism is the ONLY completely non-racist political position I know (as it is the only position that unambiguously shuns identity politics and regards all people as individuals deserving of equal rights before the law first, middle and last, completely independent of their circumstances, inherited genetic characteristics, or cultural background). No doubt libertarians will get stereotyped as racists in the coming months, and no doubt a lot of us who self-identify as libertarians will be asked to explain Ron Paul’s unfortunate newsletter. If we cannot look people in the eye and explain to them why we are less racist than either the Democrats or the Republicans, then the fault is ours and not Ron Paul’s. It is not a movement about Ron Paul.

    One of the things that keeps us on the fringe is that we have never been honest with ourselves what being on the fringe means. It means that people laugh at, misrepresent, lie about and are generally uncomfortable with our positions not, in many cases, because they have substantive disagreements with them, but just because these positions are unfamiliar. That is unfortunate, but it is the way of the world. People don’t grill Republicans and Democrats on what they stand for because these are familiar and generally accepted banners to fly. Being libertarian means we don’t get the luxury of avoiding questions, fair or otherwise.

    In the wake of Kirchick’s article, clearly questions about libertarian positions on race from people who don’t know much about us are fair. But they are questions that don’t seem too difficult to answer.

    Whether or not libertarians should continue to support Paul is obviously a more difficult matter. I myself will continue to support him to the degree that I always have, which is more as a method for convincing the Republicans that they need to pay more attention to their small-government constituency in the future than as an actual viable candidate for the presidency. I can find nothing in Paul’s stated positions or in his voting record to indicate that he is a racist. Quite the contrary, he seems to me the candidate most likely to remove the race question from public life altogether. I will therefore lose no sleep over my vote – at least not as it pertains to the race issue.

  • Postrel’s comment, to me (I have read all the stuff Reason has posted about Paul) sounds like…someone who has not read much that Reason has posted about Paul.

    Agree completely. Reason was never solid in the Paul camp. Some of their writers liked him better than others, but I don’t recall reading anything like a ringing endorsement from them.

    Also agree with the general sentiment on this thread that Reason hasn’t been too serious in the last five years. I was never a subscriber, but I read it online regularly and nothing there convinces me it’s worth my money (though I generally agree with what Jacob Sullum has to say).

  • Andrew Roocroft

    Ron Paul really believes that almost all black men in DC are criminals,

    Wrong. See In fact it is the federal government more than anything else that divides us along race, class, religion, and gender lines this, where he calls racism “an ugly form of collectivism” and condemns the “collectivist mindset that is at the heart of racism.”

    that the federal government has chemical tags in your money,

    No idea what you’re on about here.

    and that the evil evil Jews (sorry, “international bankers”) control your money.

    Again, wrong. Paul opposes the corporatist-fascist links between the state, banks and industry which cause the federal reserve to print money according as it is politically necessary, as opposed to maintaining the integrity of currency. He opposes, naturally, the lobbying of the US governnment by representatives of other governments – because US taxpayer dollars shouldn’t be spent defending Tel Aviv or Islamabad.

    And to this idea that he’s an anti-Semite, it’s laughable. His favourite economists? Von Mises – Jew. Hayek – Jew. Rothbard – Jew. Only a few weeks ago, he was castigated on Samizdata for having a photo of Rothbard in his office.

    Quality of attempted smear; D. Must try harder.

    [editors note: fixed your broken link with what I *think* you had in mind]

  • Cynic

    So criticism of the central banks, the IMF, World Bank etc is now tantamount to anti-semitism?

    God bless political correctness! The statists now how to cover their backs.

  • Andrew Roocroft –

    I can’t get your link to where Ron Paul calls racism “an ugly form of collectivism” to work.

    I am fairly sure, however, that this is the article you had in mind.

    Excellent rebuttal of Britt’s comment, by the way.

  • Cynic

    I’m a subscriber to Reason, but I know what you mean. Can be full of fluff at times. I’ve never thought much of Virginia Postrel either to be honest.

  • formerbeltwaywonk

    How can one not think of conspiracy theories having just observed an improbably simultaneous media attack on Ron Paul the day of the New Hampshire campaign? A remarkably successful attack that made him plunge from 14% in the polls to an 8% actual vote? After weeks where we heard very little about Paul from the mass media and beltway “libertarian” bloggers? TNR from the left, Fox News and talk radio from the right, and piling on from beltway “libertarians” who made a point of loudly repeating the TNR smears and dumping Ron Paul on the day of the primary. Your eyes did not deceive you, all this happened. It is not the result of a criminal conspiracy, but if one uses “conspiracy” as a metaphor for social networks of vast complexity, there is a strong sense in which conspiracy theories accurately, if metaphorically, explain what happened.

    The reality behind the conspiratorial metaphor is the social networking between denizens of the Beltway (the Washington, D.C. area) who sport a wide variety of political labels but are, relative to the rest of the country, a monoculture. These denizens range from the journalists who report the mass media news to various think tank and university scholars at the Cato Institute, George Mason University, and so on. Vast amounts of federal money, that stuff that is taken out of your paycheck with such automatic ease, flow into the Beltway area. Directly and indirectly, almost every person who lives in or near the Beltway depends on the very income tax that Ron Paul declared he would abolish — with no replacement!

    Many of these paycheck vampires call themselves “libertarians” and inspire us with their libertarian rhetoric to support them with our attention, our blog hits, and our tuition money as well as the tax money that already funds them or their friends. But at the first sign of political incorrectness, all these below-the-Beltway “libertarians” have dumped Ron Paul like yesterday’s garbage. Now they can rest easy that they will still be invited to the parties thrown by their lobbyist and government employee and contractor friends, who for a second or two got worried by all those Google searches that Ron Paul might have some influence, resulting in some of them losing their jobs (end the income tax with no replacement?! The guy is obvioiusly a kook, and we don’t invite the supporters of kooks to our parties!). Now everybody around the Beltway can go back to partying at the taxpayer’s expense. All the money will keep flowing in, hooray!

    The lesson millions of young libertarians have now learned from our beltway “libertarians”? Libertarian electioneering is futile. Voting is futile. Democracy is futile. Anybody who actually wants liberty is a kook, as can be proven by their association with kooks. Beltway wonks posing as “libertarians” are happy to write things to inflame your hopes for liberty that they don’t really mean. Then they make sure that we elect the politicians their friends want — the ones that will enslave your future to pay for full social security for Baby Boomers. The ones that will send you off to foreign lands to kill and die. Our Beltway “libertarians” are happy to sell a whole new generation of libertarians down the tubes in order to keep their Beltway friends happy.

  • lucklucky

    Well if Ron Paul cant survive a legitimate a attack like this one, how can he be US President? The newsletter was his own.
    If you dont know: Media=Lobbies… . They are like bloggers they have a bias the show their viewpoint and that is legitimate. Just dont believe when they say they are here to inform(neutral word) you.

  • Johnathan Pearce

    “It is not a movement about Ron Paul,” writes Joshua.

    Thanks goodness for that.

    formerbeltwaywonk writes:

    Many of these paycheck vampires call themselves “libertarians” and inspire us with their libertarian rhetoric to support them with our attention, our blog hits, and our tuition money as well as the tax money that already funds them or their friends. But at the first sign of political incorrectness, all these below-the-Beltway “libertarians” have dumped Ron Paul like yesterday’s garbage.

    Well I suppose there is some truth in your annoyance; there is no doubt that some, if not all, people are “fairweather” libertarians. The trouble is, this issue over the newsletters cannot be just brushed aside. If Paul had had an ounce of common sense – which seems not to be the case – he should have known that having a newsletter produced under his name, carrying such vile comments, was stupid. Not necessarily a sign that he personally is bad, but a bad reflection on his judgement. If he cannot run an office properly, how can we be sure he would be up to the job of cutting the state back to size and managing his job as POTUS? All the bloviating from Ron Paul supporters does not answer that rather important question.

    Fortunately, the libertarian movement does not rely on any single individual.

  • If Paul had had an ounce of common sense – which seems not to be the case – he should have known that having a newsletter produced under his name, carrying such vile comments, was stupid. Not necessarily a sign that he personally is bad, but a bad reflection on his judgement. If he cannot run an office properly, how can we be sure he would be up to the job of cutting the state back to size and managing his job as POTUS?

    All of these things were true 15 years ago, yes. Have they been true in the 15 years since? Surely this is the relevant question. When you interview a job applicant, you are typically more interested in his recent performance than how well he may or may not have done more than a decade ago. In most of the time since, he has held public office in the House of Representatives, and I don’t see any evidence from this tenure that he “cannot run an office properly.” Quite the contrary, he has been honest, consistent and efficient throughout. He’s done quite a good job.

  • I think what many libertarians, including myself, object to is having their values questioned entirely on the basis of whether or not they support Ron Paul for President.

    It is possible to be a libertarian and feel that RP is not the right person to represent those values. And it is quite clearly a rational position to believe that Ron Paul has no chance of securing the nomination or beating whatever Democrat wins.

    I worry about RP’s judgement if he surrounds himself with people like Lew Rockwell who is clearly dubious in his beliefs. He is someone I do not want to have any associations with in any way.

  • “Most of all, Hit and Run’s comment section has, in my opinion, devolved to the sort of crass conversation that you’d see on FreeRepublic. It may not be so quite in-your-face at times, but just try quoting Milton Friedman, when he said that it’s insane to have a welfare state AND an open border policy.”

    That blog is bloody disgraceful.

  • It may not be so quite in-your-face at times, but just try quoting Milton Friedman, when he said that it’s insane to have a welfare state AND an open border policy.

    And that is (one of) the reasons why I want to see the end of the welfare state… I like open borders… but Milton Friedman was quite correct, so I know which one I was to see go.

  • And just for the record, I am not nearly as down on Reason as some folks here. I have an abundance of real enemies to vent my spleen on, as a result people who are certainly fellow travellers (from my perspective) on most issues have to misbehave pretty badly for me to be moved to give them a serious kicking. Nick Gillespie is not one of the Bad Guys.

  • “Nick Gillespie is not one of the Bad Guys.”

    No, he’s not, Perry. You’re right about that.

    But he’s a bloody twit, and I don’t need him.

  • Ted Schuerzinger

    formerbeltwaywonk wrote:

    How can one not think of conspiracy theories having just observed an improbably simultaneous media attack on Ron Paul the day of the New Hampshire campaign? A remarkably successful attack that made him plunge from 14% in the polls to an 8% actual vote?

    What was the conspiracy theory that caused Obama to lose the NH primary when everybody “knew” from the polls that he was going to win going away?

  • Andrew Roocroft

    @ Jacob – Thanks for fixing the link. That was the article, published after the Don Imus incident, whence I took the quote.

    Johnathon Pearce:

    If he cannot run an office properly, how can we be sure he would be up to the job of cutting the state back to size and managing his job as POTUS?

    This is clearly a straw man – Paul wasn’t running the newsletter when the majority of these comments were published, since he’d returned to medicine. That he should have taken a closer interest in the things published under his name is indisputable, and he should now seek to ensure that these claims are repudiated publicly – as he did quite spectacularly with Wolf Blitzer, here. (Incidentally, Paul seems to appear with surprising frequency on The Situation Room, as well as on Tucker. At American visitors, is there any reason for this?) The best part is at 7 minutes – “Guess when our next fun raising day? $4 million on one day, $6 million on the next. The next one is on Martin Luther King holiday.”

    Andrew Ian Dodge:

    It is possible to be a libertarian and feel that RP is not the right person to represent those values. And it is quite clearly a rational position to believe that Ron Paul has no chance of securing the nomination or beating whatever Democrat wins.

    I worry about RP’s judgement if he surrounds himself with people like Lew Rockwell who is clearly dubious in his beliefs. He is someone I do not want to have any associations with in any way.

    On the point re electability, you’re right. The Republicans will never nominate Ron Paul because, post-Goldwater, the defence of liberty has been in terminal decline amongst Republicans in favour of ‘national security’ from Communism and terrorism. The question, as pointed out in Andrew Napolitano’s new book, is whether “protecting the homeland – Teutonic as that sounds – [is] just a matter of protecting human beings from physical harm… If you read the oath that every president has taken, you will quickly see what the Founding Fathers established as the president’s principle job: to uphold, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution.” The mainstream Republican party only pays lip service to the Constitution – see the Patriot Act, FISA, Gitmo &c – since it contradicts their ideology.

    I’d like to enquire, though, about the “dubious… beliefs” of Lew Rockwell. I frequently read Lew Rockwell’s blog and mises.org, and, far from dubious beliefs masquerading behind natural law theory (such as Hoppe’s anti-immigration stance), I can find little but unwavering application of Rothbard’s libertarianism. Free-markets, gold standard, private property, non-intervention and right of secession (an immediate implication of absolute property rights). Seems pretty standard anarcho-capitalist/Austrian stuff to me.

    I did, however, find on your blog this posting, which asks, “Can we now say that Ron Paul, who hangs around with jew-haters like Lew Rockwell, is an anti-semite?” Seems that question has already been answered, by Jose Cohen, Walter Block (twice) and Shmuel Ben-Gad. Added to that is endorsement from several prominent Jewish libertarians, over at Jews4RonPaul, including the late Aaron Russo, Paul Gottfried and Burton Blumert – the publisher of Rockwell’s blog! Added to that is the fact of Paul’s uncompromising espousal of Austrian economics, the discipline, as I pointed out earlier, honed by Mises, Rothbard and Hayek – all Jews. And finally, there’s Paul’s outspoken hatred of the “collectivist mindset that is at the heart of racism.”

    Of course, if you want to insist that they’re anti-Semites, neither Rockwell nor Paul will force you to stop – after all, “the federal government has no business regulating speech in any way…. and we can’t change people’s hearts by passing more laws and regulations.” Only by convincing of the overwhelming falsity of their first impression by argument and – Austrian heresy – empirical evidence to the contrary.

  • Andrew, a side note, if I may: the fact that some Jews support something (and I, as a Jew and an Israeli do support RP on this point, albeit very reluctantly) has no bearing on anything, really, and should not be brought up as an argument for or against in this case. Some Jews also support the view that Israel has no right to exist – so what? We are individuals too, you know, and as such we have individual opinions on all kinds of issues:-)

  • Rich Paul

    The thing that amazes me is that people actually think that Ron Paul thinks these things and doesn’t say them. If there is one thing which I think all observers of Ron Paul should agree upon, whether they love him, hate him, or cannot figure him out, is that If Ron Paul thinks a thing to be true, Ron Paul will say that thing, loud, long, and clear, whenever and wherever he can find a microphone, regardless of how unpopular it may be and the devil with those who don’t like it.

    How does that square with publishing a comment in a newsletter 15 years ago, saying nothing before or after, but really believing it all that time? It doesn’t sound like the Ron Paul I’ve watched.

  • lucklucky

    Matt Welch goes after Ron Paul in… Reason

  • Not very well, lucklucky. I would have expected better of Matt Welch.

  • CATO has broken cover and responded to this whole row. Its a must read for every libertarian.