Libertarianism, Left-libertarianism

How Did We Get Here? Or, Why Do 20 Year Old Newsletters Matter So Damn Much?

As some of you might know, I’ve been stirring up quite a bit of trouble on Facebook the last few days discussing the Ron Paul newsletters story.  Matt suggested I write up some of what I’ve been saying for the audience here at BHL, which I’m happy to do.   First let me note that the posts by Gary and Jacob below are right on the money in their own ways.  Some of what I will say below will echo Jacob in particular, but I want to explore the history of this whole thing a bit more and offer some more reasons why it should matter to bleeding heart libertarians.

To start, those of us who have been around the movement since the 1980s knew all about this stuff and knew that those newsletters would never go away.  As Jacob says, the attempt to court the right through appeals to the most unsavory sorts of arguments was a conscious part of the “paleolibertarian” strategy that Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard cooked up in the late 1980s.  What’s happening right now is that the chickens of that effort are coming home to roost with large external costs on all of us as libertarians.  In other words, we are experiencing “blowback,” and Ron Paul supporters of all people should understand that when you poke at sleeping dogs, you should not be surprised when they turn around and attack you, even if it takes a couple of decades.  Now Paul’s supporters understand viscerally what he’s rightly argued about US foreign policy.

So why does this matter for bleeding heart libertarians?  Indulge me some history for a bit while I offer an explanation.  Classical liberalism started as a movement of the left, with folks like J.S. Mill being our standard bearers against the forces of reaction and conservatism in England, especially over issues of race.  We were the “progressives” of that era, viewing the market as a force for progress for all, especially the least well-off, and as a great equalizer.  It was Mill who argued that it was a good thing that markets would lead to racial equality in opposition to people like Carlyle and Ruskin who rejected markets because they wanted to maintain racial hierarchy.  The liberal revolution was a revolution against privilege and the old order.  It was the radical progressivism of its day.

Unfortunately, classical liberalism never figured out how to respond to the development of socialism, and especially the state socialism of the Soviets and others in the early 20th century, in a way that maintained our progressive credentials.  By default, we moved from the “left” to the “right,” thrown in with the conservative opponents of the growing socialist wave.  From the Old Right of the 1940s through the Reagan era, libertarianism’s opposition to socialism, especially interferences in the market, led us to ally with the forces of reaction.  But even with the demise of really-existing socialism, we have been unable to completely break free of that connection to the right, though things are better than they used to be.

Even as this happened, though, the liberalism of libertarianism did not die.  Within that libertarianism on the right was a strong strain of leftism, particularly from the late 1960s into the early or mid 1980s, both in the broader movement and in the Libertarian Party in particular.  When I came into the movement in 1980, I can vividly recall meeting members of the Michigan LP and being surprised at how, for lack of a better word, hippie they were, right down to smoking dope during the breaks at the state convention.

By the mid-80s though, conservatism was hot, thanks to Reagan, and the internal strife of the movement pitted Murray Rothbard against the Koch Brothers, with the accusation by Rothbard that the liberal libertarians were undermining the movement’s ability to appeal to a broader audience thanks to their supposed libertinism.  Murray wanted the hippies out.  The irony here was that it was the Koch controlled parts that were (largely) the source of the left-deviation that pissed Rothbard off.  Today, of course, the sin of the Kochs is that they’re too conservative.  (Ever get the feeling that if the Kochs said the sky was blue….anyway, I digress.)

This led to the paleolibertarian strategy by the end of the decade after Rothbard broke with the Kochs and helped Lew Rockwell found the Mises Institute (originally located on Capitol Hill – right smack inside the hated beltway, it’s worth noting).  The paleo strategy, as laid out here by Rockwell, was clearly designed to create a libertarian-conservative fusion exactly along the lines Jacob lays out in his post.  It was about appealing to the worst instincts of working/middle class conservative whites by creating the only anti-left fusion possible with the demise of socialism:  one built on cultural issues.  With everyone broadly agreeing that the market had won, how could you hold together a coalition that opposed the left?  Oppose them on the culture.  If you read Rockwell’s manifesto through those eyes, you can see the “logic” of the strategy.  And it doesn’t take a PhD in Rhetoric to see how that strategy would lead to the racism and other ugliness of newsletters at the center of this week’s debates.

The paleo strategy was a horrific mistake, both strategically and theoretically, though it apparently made some folks (such as Rockwell and Paul) pretty rich selling newsletters predicting the collapse of Western civilization at the hands of the blacks, gays, and multiculturalists.  The explicit strategy was abandoned by around the turn of the century, but not after a lot of bad stuff had been written in all kinds of places.  There was way more than the Ron Paul newsletters.  There was the Rothbard-Rockwell Report, which was another major place publishing these sorts of views.  They could also be found in a whole bunch of Mises Institute publications of that era.  It was the latter that led me to ask to be taken off the Institute’s mailing list in the early 1990s, calling them “a fascist fist in a libertarian glove.”  I have never regretted that decision or that language.  What the media has in their hands is only the tip of the iceberg of the really unsavory garbage that the paleo turn produced back then.

Through it all though, Ron Paul was a constant.  He kept plugging away, first at the center of the paleo strategy as evidenced by the newsletters.  To be clear, I am quite certain he did not write them.  There is little doubt that they were written by Rockwell and Rothbard.  People I know who were on the inside at the time confirm it and the style matches pretty well to those two and does not match to Ron Paul.  Paul knows who wrote them too, but he’s protecting his long-time friend and advisor, unfortunately.  And even more sadly, Rockwell doesn’t have the guts to confess and end this whole megillah.  So although I don’t think Ron Paul is a racist, like Archie Bunker, he was willing to, metaphorically, toast a marshmallow on the cross others were burning.

Even after the paleo strategy was abandoned, Ron was still there walking the line between “mainstream” libertarianism and the winking appeal to the hard right courted by the paleo strategy.  Paul’s continued contact with the fringe groups of Truthers, racists, and the paranoid right are well documented.  Even in 2008, he refused to return a campaign contribution of $500 from the white supremacist group Stormfront.  You can still go to their site and see their love for Ron Paul in this campaign and you can find a picture of Ron with the owner of Stormfront’s website.  Even if Ron had never intentionally courted them, isn’t it a huge problem that they think he is a good candidate?  Doesn’t that say something really bad about the way Ron Paul is communicating his message?  Doesn’t it suggest that years of the paleo strategy of courting folks like that actually resonated with the worst of the right?  Paul also maintained his connection with the Mises Institute, which has itself had numerous connections with all kinds of unsavory folks: more racists, anti-Semites, Holocaust deniers, the whole nine yards.  Much of this stuff was ably documented in 2007 and 2008 by the Right Watch blog.  Hit that link for more.

Those of us who watched all of this happen over two decades knew it would come back to haunt us and so it has, unfortunately just as Ron Paul and libertarianism are on the cusp of something really amazing.  And that only goes to show what a mistake the paleo strategy was:  imagine if the newsletters were not an issue and Paul were to win Iowa.  Yeah, he might get ignored, but he would not be the easy media target he is now, nor would all of libertarianism pay a potential price.  The legions of young people supporting Paul did not come in via the paleo strategy; they came because libertarianism in general is on the rise in all kinds of venues (and yes, the Mises Institute’s post-paleo influence is important here, but it’s hardly the only institution that matters).  These young people, for the most part, are surprised by all of this dirty laundry.  That, in my view, is the real tragedy:  I think libertarianism could have got to this point just as fast, maybe faster, without the toxic baggage of the paleo strategy.

So why deal with this now, when libertarianism is so hot?  Because those newsletters are not what libertarianism is and the sooner and louder we make that clear, the better.  There are too many young people who don’t understand all of this and who we need to help see the alternative liberal vision of libertarianism – and to understand that “liberal libertarianism” is radical, principled, and humane and not “beltway selling out.”  To do that, we need to confront the past and explicitly reject it.  That doesn’t necessarily mean rejecting Ron Paul in electoral politics, but it does mean that we cannot pretend the past doesn’t exist and it means that Paul and the others involved need to do the right thing and take explicit responsibility for what they said two decades ago.  That has not happened yet.  Then we need a complete and utter rejection of the paleo world-view and we need to create a movement that will simply not be attractive to racists, homophobes, anti-Semites etc., by emphasizing, as we have done at this blog, libertarianism’s liberal roots.

What we need right now is Rothbard’s vision of a free society as sketched in For a New Liberty, but we need it defended better.  More carefully.  More richly.  More empirically.  More humanely. More progressively.  More tolerantly. With better scholarship.  And we have to do it in a way that’s immune to the charge that libertarians don’t care about making the world a better place, especially for the least well off and those historically victimized by the color of their skin, their gender, their sexual orientation, or anything else that’s irrelevant to their moral status as human actors.

The writings of the paleolibertarians will continue to stain that project unless and until the rest of the libertarian movement stops trying to apologize for them (“you don’t understand the context” or “it was a long time ago” or “Ron’s from a different generation”) or kicking the can down the road because Ron Paul might win (“why bring this up now when we’re winning?”  or “Libertarians just like the circular firing squad”) or just plain saying they don’t matter because it’s all media bias (“it’s just the liberal media trying to destroy the libertarian candidate”).

It’s time to face our ugly past head on and to explicitly reject it.  And it is the past of every libertarian.  It doesn’t matter if you weren’t there, or weren’t alive, or think it’s stupid:  if you call yourself a libertarian and especially if you support Ron Paul, it’s part of your past like it or not.  That’s how life works sometimes. We can’t make Ron Paul name the authors or make the authors step forward, either of which would help immensely.  We can, however, take pains to make clear that some of Ron Paul’s past and current associations are rejected by libertarians who understand the “liberal” in libertarian and whose vision of a free society is one that is so clearly in conflict with racism, homophobia, antisemitism and all the rest that people like Stormfront would never even consider sending us a donation and we would recoil at being photographed with them.

Until we can say that with confidence, there’s every reason in the world to keep talking about these newsletters and what they mean for the 21st century libertarian project, especially in its bleeding heart version.  It’s time to reclaim our progressive history from the hands of the right:  from the Old Right of the 40s, to the Reagan era LINOs, to the paleolibertarianism of the 1990s.  As many of us have argued from the start on this blog, the heritage of libertarianism is properly a progressive one.  Our roots are in the anti-racism and proto-feminism of J.S. Mill and others in the 19th century. We believe in peaceful exchange, voluntary cooperation, progress, enlightenment, tolerance and mutual respect, and openness to change. That is our heritage and that’s the libertarianism that I grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s, and that’s the progressive libertarianism I want to proudly enter into the debate over the future of human social organization.  If the newsletters fiasco serves to further prod us into reclaiming that heritage, we will have turned an ugly duckling into a beautiful swan.  I’m going to continue to do all I can to help make sure it happens.


  • Damien S.

    Interesting series of posts today.

    Anecdotally I note a positive correlation between libertarians and apologia for slavery or the Confederacy. Some of that goes back to Rothbard again, cf. Fernando’s post earlier about Rothbard calling the Slaver’s Rebellion (“War for Southern Independence” to him) one of the US’s just wars. With support for Rothbard and the South in the comments, e.g. furball4 and j_m_h. I think Bryan Caplan as well,something on slaves being better off than Africans, though I couldn’t find evidence quickly. Also Glenn Beck, who like it or not is a popular “libertarian”:
    And Fernando’s followup post, with more commenters:

    Not to imply that most libertarians are slavery apologists, but if I see someone online defending the South, I’m goingto bet they’re libertarian.  Which isn’t good for movement PR.

    “the heritage of libertarianism is properly a progressive one”

    That can be true simultaneously with libertarianism not being very progressive today.  Progressiveness is relative to contemporary and local circumstances, after all.  Classical liberalism was a radical blow for liberty, equality, and prosperity when the status quo was monarchy, aristocracy, arbitrary monopolies, formal class, and mercantilism; it can be regressive and reactionary today.  One of the most lyrical paeans to capitalism was written by Karl Marx, after all, who saw it as a huge step up from feudalism, even while he saw it as having its own dehumanizing and self-destructive aspects we had to eventually progress beyond.

    • Anonymous

      It might be bad for surface PR, but don’t we want there to be substance underneath? Isn’t that what sets us apart? In the referenced discussion what I specifically did was condemn the Union while exonerating John Brown. There is pretty obviously more behind that opinion than someone who thinks slavery is A-Okay. Are we not allowed to make even the single simplest division between the two most incontrovertibly obvious Southern – and Northern– motivations, and judge them separately? And most importantly: if not, what the hell do we expect to accomplish? Why are we even talking? What kind of people are going to make up our net gain in converts, under such rules of dialogue? Would that not merely be a new version of what Steve is lamenting above: dressing libertarianism up in a guise that doesn’t fit in order to appeal to people whose numbers or misplaced passion can keep us in the game?

      Similar to Em_pty Skin below, I don’t care whether StormFront loves me or hates me. I guess when I talk about the need to protect all speech short of that inciting immediate violence, and about the legitimacy of secession in states past, present and future, they’ll love me. When I talk about my reverence for a character like John Brown, and state that the North was justified to the extent, and only to the extent, that it possessed that very same character (which in fact it displayed only to a very disappointingly minimal degree), I imagine they’ll pretty much despise me. But they might still consider me the most acceptable candidate. You can’t use supporters as a moral compass – morality is far too complicated for that. And supporters are far too opportunistic.

      • Ethan Pooley (furball4)

        P.S., Since the discussions around here are pretty awesome, I’ve decided
        to come out of my shell and use my real name. Thank you all for making
        this a great place to share ideas.

    • S t.

      Southern apoligia and the apparent inability of principled libertarians to reject Calhounians outright is the only reason I cannot join the Lib-party.  I would love to be a republican if they were the party of Lincoln instead of a bunch of Whig-cons living off his legacy.  It has always seemed to me that the ill-fated strategy of libertarians was forming a 3rd party instead of infiltrating and transforming one of the 2 major parties.  It seems to me that this has been a successful strategy for the socialists and conservatives.  Waiting around for a major re-alignment in the electorate has worked exactly once, and coincided with civil war.  Libertarians have been far too stubborn about staying clean and principled instead of effective and practical.  Maybe that is admirable and helps attract some clear-sighted idealistic young people, but in light of the party’s and Paul’s paleo-associations, I’d say even this high-minded goal has been compromised.  Perhaps it’s too late now, but I think the libertarians have been trying to be even-handed and isolationist about the 2 parties for too long – it has only led to both of them becoming worse and libertarians becoming more isolated/impotent.  I am much more impressed by the Log-cabin faction and others who have tried to influence and claim the republican party as their own, on republican principles.  Maybe the democratic party is more ripe for this sort of takeover, but they seem more unified and adamant than ever to me.  Republicans can’t even agree on a nominee, and Paul’s success is at least a sign that the paleos were more shrewd in their strategies.  
      I just don’t see that much conflict between genuine republicanism and genuine libertarianism.  It is time to insist on the distinction between republicanism and the conservatives who have co-opted and soiled the brand.  It is time to get out of the wilderness and claim Lincoln progressivism as the only true progressivism, and liberty as the only viable and just means to the promises of equality.  This would require disclaiming the poison of confederacy and embracing unionism as the only road of progress.  Of course, this would include clearly and decisively rejecting the most popular libertarian once and for all.  Can they do it?  Are they serious?  I don’t know.Libertarian purity has gotten them little but articles and book sales at this point.  Libertarians have always tended to retreat into selfishness and isolation out of a principled disdain for patriotic calls to arms and saving their country, but they need to grow up and get their hands dirty, for the sake of their ideas and principles – no one else is going to promote them for you.  Sideline critiques have only strengthened the Left and the Right and their party control.  Libertarians continue to be our only hope.

    • Damien S.
  • You forgot the part where Murray Rothbard first saw the future of libertarianism in alliance with the New Left and, among other positions, cheered the fall of South Vietnam because it was the end of a state–as if anarchy had replaced the regime. His paleocon turn was just another version of his tactical Leninism.

    • Pochy

      That’s pretty much gone now. The last 6 years has proven the left does not want tolerance, they want mass acceptance. Which is good and bad. The right does not want tolerance, but conservatism.

  • I feel very conflicted.

    Steve Horwitz says:
    “Our roots are in the anti-racism and proto-feminism of J.S. Mill and others in the 19th century. We believe in peaceful exchange, voluntary cooperation, progress, enlightenment, tolerance and mutual respect, and openness to change. That is our heritage and that’s the libertarianism that I grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s, and that’s the progressive libertarianism I want to proudly enter into the debate over the future of human social organization. ”

    I don’t know, I’m reminded of Ayn Rand at the end of Anthem.

    For the word “We” must never be spoken, save by one’s choice and as a second thought. This word must never be placed first within man’s soul, else it becomes a monster, the root of all the evils on earth, the root of man’s torture by men, and of an unspeakable lie.
    The word “We” is as lime poured over men, which sets and hardens to stone, and crushes all beneath it, and that which is white and that which is black are lost equally in the grey of it. It is the word by which the depraved steal the virtue of the good, by which the weak steal the might of the strong, by which the fools steal the wisdom of the sages.

    Progressiveness? Enlightenment? Change? Whose I have to ask. Ours? Just give me *my* liberty, and I’ll give you *yours.*

    It’s hard to describe what got printed in Ron Paul’s newsletters as other than just plain out dumb. Even if Paul didn’t write it, yeah, it was a big, dumb, stupid mistake. You get into politics and sooner or later you get your hands dirty. What was Paul thinking by even running for congress? What in the world was he thinking by running for president under a Republican ticket?

    Condemn the newsletters, but give Paul as a fallible human being some slack, PLEASE. He really is trying hard and fighting for liberty, despite all his flaws.

    Yes, yes, condemn the newsletters, fine — but is fighting for Paul and condemning the newsletters mutually exclusive?

    I don’t think so. What happens in this election is up to each and everyone of us — and Ron Paul needs our help and support right now — not necessarily navel gazing. Libertarianism is not inevitable — and it’s foolish and naive to think so.

    People just need to find the right balance between condemning the newsletters but supporting Paul — at least in my opinion. But Paul is fighting for liberty and he needs as much support as he can get. You think you might get another shot at this — and that might be right — but no one really knows what tomorrow will bring. I say, condemn the newsletters all you want, but fight for Paul.

    • Michael J. Green

      but is fighting for Paul and condemning the newsletters mutually exclusive?

      No, and I think every author has made this clear. Though I am kind of shocked that Jacob Levy views the newsletters as grave enough to make him “ambivalent” about who wins in Iowa and beyond, every libertarian I’ve seen agrees that Paul’s policies would do a lot of good for the world and libertarianism. “Fighting” for Paul and criticizing his political strategy and his past actions are clearly not mutually exclusive, as evidenced by the very post you’re responding to.

      And these kinds of posts help us and Paul. It’s not as if libertarians are driving this conversation (though if you mostly frequent libertarian sites, it may look that way). The media is going to talk about this whether or not Steve and others write about it. And when I see leftists bring it up, I’m going to point them to Steve’s post here and Conor Friedersdorf’s post at the Atlantic. In which case we can go further: Fighting for Paul requires criticizing him and owning up to this ugly period of libertarianism. The sooner Paul himself realizes this, the better are his chances – and the chances of minorities in the US and non-whites abroad.

      • Anonymous

        Jacob Levy apparently is conflicted about how to treat people of color.

        He’s not sure if it is better to mass murder them, or to have a couple un-pc paragraphs written about them in some newsletters barely anyone remembers.

        Thankfully, I don’t have that moral quandary.

        The [sic] libertarian critics like to say they stand against Ron Paul because of some racist statements in the newsletters he sold under his name.

        Of course, they are also saying they stand against Ron Paul despite the fact he is for ending war, ending debt financing, and pardoning hundreds of thousands of blacks and hispanics for victimless crimes.

        To them, it is more important they distance themselves from the newsletters than tangibly improve the lot of people being discriminated against.

        That’s Steve Horowitz.  He’s more worried about what people will think about him as a libertarian, than actually doing the right thing.

        Nonsense like this reminds me just how courageous Ron Paul is to do this, and put himself out there to get attacked by so many worthless critics, to advance a cause he has very little personally to gain from.

        Also, hey MG.  It’s LS.

    • One must not be “given” his liberty, and it is far
      from one’s place to “give” liberty to another. The assumptions that
      man has inherent rites, is a fallacy stemming from the notion that there is
      some force tending the light at the end of our collective tunnel. Life is the
      cumulative absurdities weaved by our collective sewing. I am not of a
      collective mind or soul, but cannot deny the collective design, a constant
      weaving of genetics, and systems, organs, and organisms, which make up the so
      called civilized world. Yet our civility is made up of collective conditioning
      indigenous to our upbringing which was passed down by our ancestral selves. I
      am an extension of the collective ancestry, a mere fragment of those who came
      before me, and those whom from I shall descend. We, today, are no collection of
      consciousness however, as coined by Carl Jung, our unconscious is a collective
      of all that provided the genetics from which we stem. Somewhere in those dark
      recesses lies the animal from which we all descend. That primordial adaptation
      to a cruel world of eat or be eaten, lies deep inside our genetic structure,
      and is only combated by silly conscious notions that we are moral creatures
      with an inherent predisposition to goodness and godliness. If god were all knowing,
      why would he create a world he knew would be damned? If evil were so wrong, why
      would he allow it to be? If he truly were the creator of all, then only madness
      would have plagued him to create at all, with the contradictory moralities
      which we uphold. Man, no matter what morality or governance he lives under, is
      free to act as he will, the consequences for our actions existed long before
      the systems which predetermined what those consequences might be. A skilled
      thief must steal. A skilled murderer must murder. It is what we are, and only
      those who are conflicted by their nature must attempt to change. It is not by
      another that I shall obtain my liberty. It is only I who can provide that for
      me. I shall be as I will, and the consequences will be as well. If a child
      molester is murdered by the father, than the father is avenged, but not the
      child. If the child molests the pervert, then is the child avenged. The
      absurdities we weave, though melancholy and sanguine, are what they be, and
      nothing else. Do you see?

  • “It’s time to face our ugly past head on and to explicitly reject it.  And it is the past of every libertarian.”  That is a very disturbing thought.

    • I found that quote interesting as the mirror of Rockwell’s quote in the conclusion of his “Case for Paleolibertarianism”: “Together, we have a chance to attain victory. But first we must junk the libertarian image as repugnant, self-defeating, and unworthy of liberty.” Not to mention that Rockwell immediately follows with “Instead, we must adopt a new orientation. How nice that it is also the old one”, harking back to the “great anti-welfare state, anti-interventionist coalition” of past conservatives and libertarians; that statement is in turn echoed in Horwitz’s post by his comment that “It’s time to reclaim our progressive history from the hands of the right.” It’s like a battle for the soul of libertarianism, with those on both sides trying to portray themselves as the true heirs.

      I’m not that knowledgeable in the detailed history of the movement, so it’s been fascinating for me to follow this controversy. One thing I’m curious about is the extent to which the paleolibertarianism strategy was made possible by the Republican party’s “southern strategy”. It seems rather a delayed reaction though, given that the GOP’s conscious courting of disaffected whites started in the late 1960s and Rockwell’s manifesto wasn’t published until 1990.

      • Paul Tripp

        I think it had more to do with recognizing that courting disaffected whites had been working out for the GOP (at least as far as winning the Presidency), and, in deciding to swing to the right for a while, they decided to adopt the strategy that had worked for the GOP (albeit much more clumsily). 

        I’m still a bit baffled by the fact that a group of people who wanted to end the war on drugs and pardon literally hundreds of thousands of minorities, ending the single most significant instance of institutionalized racism in this country, thought that they could convince racist whites to specifically to vote for eliminating institutionalized racism. In some ways, it shows even less respect for the intelligence of racist whites than most people give them credit for (and the fact that the author of this article was able to find multiple notable racist supporters of a candidate who would pardon hundreds of thousands of blacks and hispanics who have been imprisoned for victimless, nonviolent crimes his first year in office shows that they haven’t gotten any smarter in the last 20 years).

  • But if explanations are not given and distance not taken from the comments in the newsletters, Matt, in the long run, libertarianism will suffer, or will continue to languish where it did in the minds for the past 2 decades… as just another ideology of the far-right Kulturkampf.  I was not brought to libertarianism by appeals to racist, sexist, xenophobic or gay-bashing rhetoric.  Rather it was libertarianism in its pure (and leftish) form that appealed to me.  Today, there are many young voters who find the campaign message that they are hearing, which is far from racist, very much appealling.  They will be in shock whenever they learn of the past newsletters that are being associated with libertarianism.

    I am a non-voter, always have been, always will be, but I do want to see the brand of liberty strong, and I think that the sooner that this issue is confronted head-on, and the real tough questions answered about this, the sooner we can get back to making the brand of liberty strong.  Living in denial or even excusing the way that the situation has been handled will hurt liberty’s message whenever it comes to trying to reach the anti-privilege left, who by and large are anti-racists, anti-bigots, and cosmopolitan in their worldview. 

  • On the other hand, I do love this:

    • Anonymous

      Please don’t post a black man who is unfazed by issues concerning bleeding heart libertarians.  The entire bleeding heart premise is about white people who are unaffected by particular issues, acting like hypochondriacs about those same social issues.

      Very few self-respecting minorities, MYSELF INCLUDED, give a shit about the newsletters.  On the contrary, Ron Paul has always been popular with minorities because he fights for THEIR issues.

      Which is why ultimately, posts like the above which purport to be able social justice, are only about the aggrandizement of the anxiety of white hypocrites.

  • John Kindley

    “Unfortunately, classical liberalism never figured out how to respond to
    the development of socialism, and especially the state socialism of the
    Soviets and others in the early 20th century, in a way that maintained our progressive credentials.”

    Yes, it missed its chance by allowing the ideas of Henry George, who wrote a book called Progress and Poverty, and whose admirers have ranged from Leo Tolstoy to Clarence Darrow to Milton Friedman to William F. Buckley Jr. to Winston Churchill to Henry Ford to Ralph Nader, and whose idea had antecedents in the French physiocrats and John Woolman and Thomas Paine, to slip into obscurity.

    “It’s time to reclaim our progressive history from the hands of the right:  from the Old Right of the 40s . . . .”

    When I think of the Old Right of the 40s, I think of Albert Jay Nock, its probably most well-known exemplar, who was also a great admirer of Henry George, and whose magnum opus “Our Enemy, the State” is infused with Georgism. By the way, I still like Karl Hess’ definition of the left-right spectrum. By this definition, Nock would be on the extreme left. Talk about fusion: Nock, despite describing himself in his memoirs as a superfluous man, is in my view the only necessary libertarian author besides Lysander Spooner. Nock, despite his Georgism, is already revered by the Mises Institute-types. He should be revered by bleeding heart libertarian types too. 

    • Anonymous

      It’s also worth mentioning that Nock as well as Chodorov came DIRECTLY out of the the Georgist movement, as did Spencer Heath who was, interestingly enough, a formative influence on Rothbard’s own anarchism.

      The “left” end of Classical Liberalism missed a crucial opportunity by failing to develop upon the better parts of Georgist philosophy (radical Cobdenite free trade + prescient understanding of political economy + intrinsic skepticism for the state’s ability to deliver) after George’s death. We still get George filtered through the names above, but they are better thought of as former followers who broke from “mainstream” Georgism. Unfortunately in rebelling against the admittedly and terribly problematic matter of his land theory, they also ceded George himself to an intellectually unimaginative and rigidly dogmatic “progressive left,” which later simply absorbed into the broader socialist-progressive tradition at the heart of the modern left.

      • John Kindley

        Nock did not rebel against George’s land theory, apart from which there was no Georgist philosophy at all. Rather, Nock thought George made a fatal mistake by lowering himself from philosopher to politician, and was turned off by the incipient collectivism and fanaticism characteristic of many of his most active followers. Here is Nock in “Our Enemy, the State” on George’s land theory:

        in mind that the State is the organization of the political means
        – that its primary intention is to enable the economic exploitation
        of one class by another – we see that it has always acted on
        the principle already cited, that expropriation must precede exploitation.
        There is no other way to make the political means effective. The
        first postulate of fundamental economics is that man is a land-animal,
        deriving his subsistence wholly from the land.2
        entire wealth is produced by the application of labour and capital
        to land; no form of wealth known to man can be produced in any other
        way. Hence, if his free access to land be shut off by legal preemption,
        he can apply his capital only with the landholder’s consent, and
        on the landholder’s terms; in other words, it is at this point,
        and at this point only, that exploitation becomes practicable.3
        Therefore the first concern of the State must be invariably, as
        we find it invariably is, with its policy of land-tenure.

        state these elementary matters as briefly as I can; the reader may
        easily find a full exposition of them elsewhere.4
        I am here concerned only to show why the State system of land-tenure
        came into being, and why its maintenance is necessary to the State’s
        existence. If this system were broken up, obviously the reason for
        the State’s existence would disappear, and the State itself would
        disappear with it.5
        With this in mind, it is interesting to observe that although all
        our public policies would seem to be in process of exhaustive review,
        no publicist has anything to say about the State system of land-tenure.
        This is no doubt the best evidence of its importance.6”

        And from footnote 5 above:

        “The French
        school of physiocrats, led by Quesnay, du Pont de Nemours, Turgot,
        Gournay and le Trosne – usually regarded as the founders
        of the science of political economy – broached the idea of
        destroying this system by the confiscation of economic rent; and
        this idea was worked out in detail some years ago in America by
        Henry George. None of these writers, however,
        seemed to be aware of the effect that their plan would produce
        upon the State itself. Collectivism, on the other hand, proposes
        immeasurably to strengthen and entrench the State by confiscation
        of the use-value as well as the rental-value of land, doing away
        with private proprietorship in either.”

  • Em_pty Skin

    I’m not exactly sure if Rothbard/Rockwell/Paul is even guilty of all of
    the inhumanity and “un-scholarly-ship” that this implies.

    Having read tons of Rothbard and Paul, largely not bothering with
    Rockwell, I can certainly see _why_ in “we” should be racing to leave
    the political framework that “courted” the “racists, anti-semites,
    homophobes”, etc., I think that it is inevitable that “the fringe
    minority” will gravitate towards libertarianism.  You cannot frame
    libertarianism around this outlying concept of individual sovereignty,
    then strike the ability of the worst of the worst to do what they do.

    It is one thing to promote freedom of thought and manner, then to turn
    around and call the LvMI racist and condemn a $500 endorsement from the
    white supremecists.  If leaving the roots of logic and consistency is to
    pander to the P.C. crowd is what _should_ be done to gain libertarian
    support in the general populace…I’m not sure I can or want to do that.

    I’m not even white, and I could care less that the KKK _agrees with me_
    on speech issues.  To me, the race issue is a distraction and the KKK is
    dead and over despite their existence.  Frankly, that sort of thing
    would just force them to look at the ridiculousness of their own
    perspective.   They aren’t gonna hate me for eating up welfare, after

    And reading the comments about libertarian “support ” for slavery in the
    CSA…I mean come on, this is just people who have not learned to
    discern what is relevant and what is “PR” to them.

    Rothbard never supported slavery in the South, I am not gonna explain
    why that is here, but nevertheless, his scholarly pursuit drove him to
    the concept of secession was the proper function of overreaching State
    power.  If calling out the Union was an example of that, then so be it.

    Part of what brought me to libertarianism was its logical consistency. 
    To dissolve that over “PR” issue is short sighted and cowardly.  If
    people are to be _truly_ brought to the ideology they will not have it
    done by cheap rhetoric and PC PR pandering.

  • Em_pty Skin

    Also, if the implication is that Rothbard should be “left behind”…I mean that is laughable.  Rockwell is not even that important in the long run.  Paul and Rothbard, however, are.

  • Anonymous

    Steve Horwitz has a bone to pick with Rothbard…always has. The “libertarian movement” does not belong to him or anyone. Horwitz is promoting a form of collectivism, which as Dr. Paul has said is racism. He believes because a person THINS a certain way about another individual we must “drive  them out.” Let he has not sinned cast the first stone. You would think someone who has studied Austrian Economics would understand subjective preferences but this seems more like Horwitz vendetta against Rothbard/Rockwell. But, sorry to say, there is no comparison between Rothbard, a GIANT in the libertarian movement and horwitz.  Rothbard’s legacy and Ron Paul’s will live on well after we are gone. Horwitz will be forgotten just like the newsletters that are of no consequence.

  • Tyler Mittan

    This is so immature. It’s immature for Rockwell to write the letters trying to appeal to others. Then it’s immature to write about it. Professor Horwitz, if, and I know you think he still is, but if Rockwell is still pushing that racist tone then you may have a point. However, right now, you’re just starting a fight between libertarians that may just end up pissing people off because it just shows how immature libertarians really are. Jesus Christ, am I in high school again? If there is only one person that is trying to do that shitty ass agenda through racism, don’t try to further divide libertarians. Let Lew keep failing while the rest of us keep on continuing being awesome. You’re appealing to these people who think they are god. Most libertarians, probably myself included, come off so damn arrogant. I thought you might be different but it seems like libertarians don’t shouldn’t get the respect we all feel we deserve. I am about to just swear off this movement in whole. I’ll just learn what I want to learn and unfortunately won’t have anyone who is mature enough to represent what I believe.

  • Anonymous

    No one cares about the letters.

    • Anonymous

      Steve’s bosses care.  It’s the only dirt they have to smear Ron Paul, and end to the oligarch gravy train which funds Steve, the mass murder overseas and the brutal drug war in America.

      There are high stakes for the establishment and tenured professors should Ron Paul catch on.

      • shorwitz

        Really?  The dean and president of SLU care about this stuff?  Really?  Wow, cuz they’re my “bosses” and they’ve never given me a marching order to go after Ron Paul.  Neither have the families of my SLU students who pay tuition and my salary, nor have the members of the Board and alums who donate to the school, nor did the guy who endowed my chair.  All of those people are worried about Ron Paul enough to “order” me to go after him to protect them and me?    Wow.  The paranoid style of libertarian politics is alive and well here.

        Imagine how bad it would be if I actually taught at a state school.

        • Anonymous

          Aah, but don’t you know Steve? George Mason is simply too close to Mordo… I mean DC to allow any who pass through to remain pure. You have submitted yourself to the rule of the two towers of Soros and Koch. You are now one of them. The banksters, the Bernank, the evil Hayek, the monstrous Friedman, the execrable Palmer, the recently betraying McElroy. You have been given your chance to redeem yourself by supporting the only hope that libertarians have, and you have failed. After all, the Cato Institute has always led the charge to more statism, and you have condemned Paul but not Cato? Clearly you are just another Beltwayite trying to get yourself a position in the next administration. 

          PRAISE HOPPE!

          • Anonymous

            This has nothing to do with Hoppe or others.  This doesn’t even concern Ron Paul.  This is about Horowitz running his mouth as a hypocrite and people not realizing how deeply embedded he is in the system.

            And before anyone says that doesn’t matter, I call bullshit.  Incentives matter, or libertarians can throw free market economics out the window.

            Do people realize that 50 years later, folks like Horowitz aren’t even as radical as Hayek, let alone Rothbard?  This is soft libertarianism, make you feel good about saying the right things, but doing what everyone else is doing anyway…

        • Anonymous

          Why wouldn’t they care Steve?  They are parasites, they are the establishment, yes?  They receive and manage taxpayer subsidy?  They participate in the debt enslavement of the undergraduate class,

          Where did your tenure come from?  How many other educators haven’t had a chance to teach because you have obtained monopoly privileges from the education complex, which is one of the key parts of the government complex?

          How do we know you’re the best at what you do?

          You’re a satrap for the state because you can’t exercise financial or professional independence from it.

          Yes, a Ron Paul presidency is bad for you financially.  It might even be bad for tenure, the the cartel racket that guarantees your ivory tower.

  • Adam Kamp

    Disclosure: I don’t really identify with libertarianism–I’m a pragmatic progressive with a federalist, communitarian streak–but maybe an outside perspective will help matters.

    Because it seems to me that the reason libertarianism doesn’t appeal to progressives–that it’s met with outright distrust half the time–is because of stuff like Paul’s newsletters. From a philosophical perspective, it’s easy to understand comments like Rand Paul saying the Civil Rights Act was an unconstitutional overreach of federal power, even if the goal was noble. But then we read something like the newsletters and think, “Well, here’s the REAL reason–all the noble talk about states’ rights is just an excuse for the opportunity to bring back segregation.”

    And once people have lost that trust, it becomes a real problem. Without that trust, progressives won’t think that libertarians really believe market-based social policies will lift all ships, but that it’s putting a pretty veneer on “Get me mine and hell with the rest of you people.” That’s what I hear from other progressives all the time. That’s what people think the Koch brothers are really all about. Part of that is simply the innate distrust of anyone on the other side, but nonetheless, it’s a major problem.

    If libertarians are interested in the trust of more than about 10-20% of the country, in progressives and community-minded independents, then they will have to address these issues of basic distrust.  And that means being able to disavow this sort of racism while at the same time staying true to libertarianism’s fundamental ideals. In many ways, I personally have some inclination to a leftist libertarianism (of course, or why would I read this blog?), especially the pragmatic kind that recognizes libertarian policies might not ALWAYS be the best for certain classes. But it’s hard to think of myself as a libertarian when the political movement is polluted with Rockwell types. And I’m not alone.

    • Anonymous

      Progressives are more inhumane and anti-social than the worst libertarian with racist goals. So really– libertarians shouldn’t bother trying to reach Progressives.

      • Paul Tripp

        Not only is that not true, but engaging in a group mentality of assuming all progressives are equally anathema to our movement is counterproductive to the principles of our movement. Pretty much all progressives are with us on civil liberties, and the war on terror has made them increasingly skeptical of excessive government power. Most of them are with us on corporate welfare being wrong, we just need to convince them that it’s wrong on principle (and Solyndra gave us one hell of an avenue to approach that from) rather than just in practice, and a lot of them are more comfortable with Ron Paul’s opposition to subsidies and bailouts than they are with Obama’s support for them. They certainly agree with us on the current wars, and while they may support “humanitarian efforts” which we recognize to be little more than misguided aggression, they at least recognize that fighting wars for our “national interests” amount to nothing more than taxing the general populace to support specific, narrow business interests, and I’d much rather see our foreign policy be decided by a debate over whether to support people fighting for freedom in their own countries or whether to leave those countries to decide their own fate than the foreign policy debates we have now.

        If we believe in Constitutional, representative/republican democracy, then we accept that we must convince a certain portion of the electorate that our positions are in line with their valued and interests if we expect to put enough people into government to prevent abuses by government. Progressives are one of the easiest groups we can pull from the left’s coalition, far moreso than trying to pull from the 48% of households relying on government assistance. We need to do a better job of explaining how our current economic problems are due to excess corporatism and a lack of capitalism, we need to do a better job of convincing them that libertarianism can deal effectively with environmental issues (and suggesting dealing with pollution by actively prosecuting it with fines that would go towards reimbursing and repairing damages, like we would any other form of property damage, rather than relying on property owners to take polluters to court themselves, would go a long way), but they’re very much a group that could be convinced to vote for us, not by selling out our principles (as Rockwell did with the newsletters), but by actively attempting to convince them that our principles do a better job of satisfying their ideals than the actions of most of their current standard bearers, and the fact that Paul’s current surge of support is drawing as many voters from the progressive left as it is convincing from the movement right is a testament to that fact.

        • Anonymous

          Convincing Progressives that the wars are wrong is not difficult. Most of ’em concentrate on domestic issues. Getting them to drop the notion of using totalitarian means to pursue ends:  impossible.  Try to convince a Progressive that public school should be abolished.

          • Ed

            Dear 3, I know plenty of progressives who are homeschooling their children. The reason for this is that those same progressives don’t want their children to be educated to be “corporate robots,” which they are increasingly seeing as the main reason for public (government) education. Rather than attacking public education, libertarians can educate progressives on proactive means to addressing their concerns. I have won over MANY progressives to a more libertarian ideal…especially since discovering the work of Henry George. George was not a “purist” libertarian, but David Nolan, founder of the Libertarian Party, was a follower who felt that George was enough of a libertarian. 

          • Anonymous

            Thanks Ed!  There are always exceptions. These progressive homeschoolers– they would return their children to a communal system, though, right?  In essence they reject corporatism, but not the corporative structure when it is of a political design of their liking. My main reference to “Progressives” are the neo-Deweyites and social democrats– like Deborah Meier and Diane Ravitch, respectively. As a free market guy I reserve even more scorn for the public-private partnership neocons and Friedmanites too, though.

    • Anonymous

      “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience.” C.S. Lewis

  • bill woolsey


    I think your analysis misses the key role of noninterventionism in the paleo turn.   Rothbard thought that with the end of the Cold war, the right could be weaned away from foreign interventionism–the U.S. Empire as he would call it.   Really, it is a bit scary that the foreign threat of world domination by the communists was so quickly replaced in the hearts and minds of the right by the much less plausible threat of  world domination by Muslims.   Notice that as this shift occurred, the Rothbardians became less interested in the paleo turn.   Still, the were, and to some degree, still are, in a struggle with the neo-conservatives.

    When we were young libertarians, the Rothbardians were proposing that most of the real estate in the old South should be turned over to African Americans.    You remember, the theory of justly acquired property.     Sometimes I wonder if it wasn’t the willingness of the Black Panther party to war with the police that excited Rothbard.

    Just recently, starting on DeLong’s blog, I found a 1963 essay by Rothbard on the Negro Revolution.   Someone had taken a long quote from it, and suggested that Rothbard (and the libertarians at the New Individualist Review) were proposing that the white working class be organized to suppress the civil rights movement.   The quote looked pretty bad, but in context, it was a kind of positive analysis–this might happen, but probably not.   While in the end, Rothbard says that the “Negro Revolution” would be a mixed bag from a libertarian point of view, he seemed especially facinated by the possibility of a “national libertarian” struggle.    What did Rothbard think of Martin Luther King?   I suspect he wanted a libertarian civil rights leader ready to pick up a gun to fight Bull Conner and seize the land homesteaded by the slaves.

    One reason why I bring this up is that the period of the paleo turn was also the period of the militia movement.   Explicitly, the paleo turn was about downplaying the libertarian perspective on personal liberty issues (particularly, the sex, drugs, and rock and roll) to wean the right away from Empire, but I find it very plausible that conspiracy-minded rightwingers running about in the woods with assault rifles especially interested Rothbard.   Could this be the core of libertarians who storm the barricades? 

    Another factor is the development of political parties in Europe that combined libertarian rhetoric with an anti-immigrant focus.   Here in the U.S., we were hearing positive things about (I think) the “progress party.”   Rolling back the welfare state and cutting their horribly high payroll taxes was part of it.   But it was sadly combined with worries about Turkish immigrants.   And then, leaders of these parties began to show up in SS uniforms.   Certainly, we are all familiar with the claim that ethnically homogenous societies have more political support for an extensive welfare state.    Well, if much of the anti-welfare state constiuency are mostly worried about having their tax dollars benefit people somehow different, why not use this and serve them up some invective?   The anti-welfare parties in Europe were sure doing better than the Libertarian Party.     What is, exactly, the story on Hoppe?

    Anyway, most American libertarians refused to buy into any part of the plan.   Let’s keep in mind that Reason used to represent the dominant neo-objectivist tendency of libertarianism.   Rand had many flaws, but she didn’t like racial prejudice.   Reason never was willing to be a Rothbardian propoganda vessel, and while it long ago stopped being a “movement magazine” for a neo objectivist libertarianism, it has never been acceptable to Rothbard, even when he, along with a variety of libertarian voices were being published.   

    For a time, Cato, Libertarian Review, and Inquiry were Rothbardian propaganda organs.    I don’t think the real problem with the Koch’s and Cato was their “liberalism.”   The problem was that they made the same move as Reason.   In particular, they opened up to economic writing that deviated from Rothbard’s line.   While they never provided a venue for libertarian hawks, like Reason, they did provide a venue for “monetarists” and “supply-siders.”   But really, it came down to Rothbard losing control.   They were not willing to limit discussion to the limits set down by Rothbard.

    After the break with Cato, Rothbard was able to lead the Libertarian Party (and perhaps many libertarians, who knows?,) away.    Sure, the Clark campaigns “low tax liberalism,” was the stick he used, but was there really any hint in 1984 that “sex, drugs, and rock and roll” were problems?   It was all about holding high the banner of principle and being hard core on all issues.

    No, that break occured when Rothbard’s allies in the LP, for example, 1980 VP candidate and 1984 Presidential candiate, David Bergland, refused to turn the LP over to Ron Paul’s team.   The direct issue was abortion rights, but Rothbard stormed away with massive invective against libertarians over the sex, drugs, and rock and roll. 

    Perhaps they were all let in on Rothbard’s grand plan to turn the right against Empire by downplaying social issues, but the reality is that most libertarians just couldn’t stomach it.   The previous line about holding high the banner of principle just doesn’t jive with downplaying the personal liberty issue.   

    The “Nolan Chart” is probably plays a more important role in the thinking of most libertarians than Rothbard’s essay from the sixties, “Left and Right:   The Prospects for Liberty.”    Like Horwitz, that old essay was influential to me, and I am not likely to ever be confortable claiming that I am a “real conservative.”   But at this point, like most libertarians, I am more inclined to see myself as neither left nor right.  

    Ron Paul has stayed above the fray.   Obviously, he was close to Rothbard after 1988, and has been very close to Rockwell.   He certainly tolerated their viscious invective against other libertarians.    He must have known about the strategy behind the paleo turn and agreed to be the figurehead/frontman.   I think he is genuinely unhappy about some of the things in the newsletters.   

    Did Rothbard and Rockwell really write them?   Perhaps, but it is also possible that they were written by some other libertarian writer working under their direction.    Perhaps Rothbard and Rockwell both writing it allows enough wiggle-room for Paul to claim not to know who wrote each specific offensive thing.    But farming out bits and pieces to other Rothbardians, who may have been promised anonymity for writing over-the-top propaganda and invective meant to appeal to the militia movement makes trying to figure out who wrote what more difficult as well as making it pointless to blame those particular writers.  

    Anyway, now that Gary Johnson is switching to the LP, I am going to vote for Ron Paul in the SC Republican primary.    If  I really thought he would be elected President, then I couldn’t support him.      I don’t want Rockwell as chief of staff of the White House or Secretary of the Treasury.      Like every other libertarian campaign, this is all about spreading a libertarian message.     So, Paul in the primary and Johnson in the general.

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  • shorwitz

    Let me add a few quick comments after re-reading what I wrote and the comments:

    1.  Funny how for a guy who hates Rothbard so much I point to HIS book as containing the vision we should gravitate to today.  Funny that a guy who hates Rothbard so much teaches from two of his books in my courses.  Funny that a guy who hates Rothbard so much would *always* credit Murray for bringing me to my own radical libertarianism through FANL and other writings I encountered as a high school student.  Murray Rothbard was, in many ways, a genius.  There would be no modern libertarianism without him.  He was also a tremendously flawed genius – mostly as a strategist (as Virginia Postrel rightly notes above) but also as an economic and political theorist.  We need to take what was right from both and reshape it for the 21st century.  Treating ANY of libertarianism’s “giants” hagiographically is an intellectual and strategic error. 

    2.  If there’s one point I wish I could have expressed better, it was the “it’s your past too” point.  What I was trying to say is NOT that we today are morally responsible for what was written by others 20 years ago.  That would be stupid.  What I was trying to say is that we are all connected to it *in the eyes of others, especially our critics* and we have to deal with that fact.  Just saying “I wasn’t there” is NOT enough.  Those newsletters and other publications were written under Ron Paul’s name and the broad banner of libertarianism.  If you call yourself a supporter of either, you better damn well have an answer when you’re asked about them, e.g. “Why should I believe libertarianism isn’t racist given what was written back then?”  That’s a legitimate question for a critic to ask and simply saying “don’t ask me, I didn’t write it” is not, in my view, sufficient.

    3.  Folks should read Bill Woolsey’s comment carefully.  It makes a terrific supplement to my own as he and I were both “there” around the same time.

    • Anonymous

      Teaching from Rothbard texts does not exonerate you. Harvard Divinity School is over-represented by atheists and skeptics they say.  Just kidding, said the Cynic.

      I am really interested on where and how you break with Rothbard on economics. I know this isn’t the main topic today… 

  • Anonymous

    Hermeneutical Libertarians Resemble Neocons.

    Steve Horwitz instantly shows his colors when
    he connects classical liberalism to J. S. Mills in the third
    paragraph. He is either a poor historian or he is deliberately trying
    to derail classical liberalism by attempting to take it down another track that
    allows for empirical hermeneutics. The truth is that Horwitz may call himself a
    libertarian and he may even be a libertarian but it is an outright lie that he
    is a classical liberal. His ‘classical liberalism’ lineage stems from J.S. Mills
    which makes him a ‘liberal’ with the likes of Keynes (whose fallacious economics
    stems from Mills). Is Horwitz a Keynesian? No. Is Horwitz a classical
    liberal? No. Is Horwitz a hermeneutic libertarian? Yes. Would hermeneutic
    libertarians try to distort the message of true classical liberalism? Yes. Does
    true classical liberalism represent a ‘danger’ to the ego-driven interpretations
    of the hermeneutic libertarians? Yes. Is it now clear why Horwitz is acting like
    a neocon?

    • Anonymous

      Is that you, Bruce Koerber? Lol

    • Damien S.

       man what

      Poor Steve.

    • oldoddjobs


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  • pravin varma

    to be fair to ron’s donation from the stormfront fellow -ron always said this: i dont espouse their views.wouldnt it be nice that he had the 500 dollars rather than the people with the bad ideas?ron would use it to fight those very hateful ideas.

  • shorwitz

    One more thought:

    I am not calling for a “purge” of anyone.  The point is not to somehow “kick people out” of the libertarian movement, as if that were even possible and as if I had any power to do so.

    Instead, I’m arguing that we should build a movement whose ideas and rhetoric will hold no attraction to people with those noxious views and will slowly cause those left in the movement to realize this is not a congenial home for those views.  I’m not interested in show trials and naming names etc..  I simply want us to build a better libertarianism whose progressive values would be so clear that we wouldn’t have to worry about being attractive to Stormfront et. al..

    • Anonymous

      Libertarianism is not a cultural statement or particular mode of living, though is it? Rather– it is still in the best interest of humanity to open the door to all comers, haters too.  It is libertarian structure, negative freedom and property, that is most equipped to deal with hatred. Isn’t that the key Rothbard message? 

      • Anonymous

        There is a particular mode of libertarian living.

        There is libertarianism where Steve gets tenure and can talk about markets while enjoying monopoly privileges.  Then unlike the rest of us who have to fight for a living and our libertarian values, he can tell us how it should be done and how embarrassing we are to the sweet little racket he has setup.

        I’d rather be lectured by Kevin Carson.  As misguided as I think he is, at least he is real.  He’s a peasant like me fighting in the trenches, not some oligarch funded ivory tower intellectual with nothing on the line.

        Seriously, Kevin could have made a Ron Paul newsletter post and it would have had credibility because again, Kevin despite my reservations, is what he says he is.

        • Anonymous

          Kevin Carson. Jury is still out. I am not convinced he has resurrected the labor theory of value at all, since he never addresses- hence never attempts to overcome–Mises’ theory of value.  Rather, mention Mises at all and Carson resorts to Marxist style insults:  ‘Mises is just a shill for big business oligarchs’  yada yada yada.

          Carson is strong in identifying much injustice in historical transfers of property and the injustice of corporatist unionism.  But his case for worker take-over is rather perverted— a natural outcome of trying to ignore the old man Mises.  Anyway, that’s just my current take.

          • oldoddjobs

            No, he has not resurrected the labour theory of value.

            His main hobby horse is shouting “more free market than thou” at the mises institute, which he respects

    • Anonymous

      And thank you for bringing these issues up. I inquired directly at Mises Blog a few years ago and received scorn and condescension. I tried to make it clear that I was only after the truth without judgment….

    • John Kindley

      When I think of “progressive values” I think of it primarily if not exclusively economically, as being against the economic inequality caused by the sword of politics, and not as necessarily entailing a “a movement that will simply not be attractive to racists, homophobes, anti-Semites etc..” I have to agree with what commenter Em_pty Skin wrote above: “I think that it is inevitable that ‘the fringe
      minority’ will gravitate towards libertarianism. You cannot frame  libertarianism around this outlying concept of individual sovereignty, then strike the ability of the worst of the worst to do what they do. ” I have a “wall of fame” on my blog that includes people like Harriet Tubman, John Brown and Sitting Bull. Nevertheless, although I don’t agree with it, I can’t say that the idea of those who would preserve by voluntary and non-coercive means “peoples” and “cultures” is necessarily the most irrational (or anti-liberty, or anti-progressive) thing I’ve ever heard. Re-read Nietzsche’s “coldest of all cold monsters” diatribe against the State. His lament for the “death of peoples” with their “laws and customs” has the ring of truth. One of the most inspiring historical examples of a libertarian society was the Iroquois Confederacy and their Great Law of Peace. They were a “people” and a “culture” whose liberty was preserved by their “laws and customs.” Nevertheless, to their great credit, they welcomed into their society the many European colonists who found their way of life so much better and freer than their own that they left behind everything they knew to join the Iroquois, in spite of laws in the colonies designed to deter and punish such “defections.”      

  • shorwitz

    Oh look Bruce Koerber’s here after I blocked him on Facebook.  Hi Bruce.  What’s wrong with your real name?

    You’d have much more credibility in complaining about what I supposedly believe if you could spell J.S. Mill’s name correctly.   Nice try though.

    And I’m acting like a neo-con?!   That might be the absolute most hilarious thing that’s been said in a week of addressing this issue.  Thanks Bruce, you just made my day.

    • Anonymous

      Blocked on Facebook because you do not want your Facebook friends to see that you are not what you claim to be!

  • mike seebeck

    Interesting post and comments.

    However, there is a fatal flaw in the reasoning.  That flaw destroys the entire position.

    As one who entered the movement long after 1980, and have had zero to do with the paleolibertarian movement (I am an individualist anachro-cap), I am NOT responsible for the original sin of the paleolibertarians, and I REFUSE to be held accountable for something that is not my own actions.  (That is the soul of libertarianism, is it not?–that we are each responsible for our won actions and we reject guilt-by-association?)

    Therefore, Mr. Horwtiz, if you want to lay the blame for the newsletters at the feet of all libertarians, claiming “it’s part of our heritage” or similar schlock, then you, sir, are lacking understanding of the true individualistic nature of libertarianism.

    You want to blame Paul for being negligent in oversight? That’s fine.  He admitted as much on Cavuto yesterday.  You want to blame Rockwell for not fessing up?  That’s fine, too.

    But don’t try to foist blame on those of use in the movement who have had nothing to do with it.

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  • shorwitz

    Again, I’m not blaming “the movement” for the newsletters. What I’m saying is that OTHERS will hold us responsible and *if we call ourselves libertarians or Ron Paul supporters we have to have a better answer than “I wasn’t there and didn’t write them.* 

    “He’s a libertarian, you’re a libertarian.  Racist stuff was published under his name and made to be part of his political worldview, why should I believe you therefore aren’t a racist if you’re a libertarian like he is?”

    I think that is a totally legitimate argument to throw at “us” and “we” need an answer.  And then we need to create a libertarianism where that dialogue could never be imagined to be necessary.

    So you are not morally responsible for the newsletters because you are now a libertarian.  But you do have an obligation to answer the question why those newsletters are incompatible with libertarianism.  And Ron Paul has not only THAT obligation, which he has indeed dispatched, but an obligation to give a much better explanation for how this all happened and it would sure help if he would name names so we know who IS morally responsible.

    • John Kindley

      Sorry, but those newsletters, as odious as they are, ARE compatible with libertarianism, just as prostitution, as odious as it is, is compatible with libertarianism. I guess from your point of view then I’m part of the problem and not part of the solution, because I don’t think I have the obligation you suggest I have. As other commenters have suggested, I prefer the bigger tent, within which the haters might be led to moderate their hatred by the ultimate tolerance which IS a sine qua non of libertarianism.

    • Anonymous

      Here’s a thought question: Suppose the material in the Ron Paul newsletters had appeared – word for word – under the name of another candidate. Going hypothetical, let’s just say it was in something called the “Santorum Report.”

      Most libertarians would be justifiably critical of it and cite it as evidence of everything else we know to be problematic with Rick Santorum. In fact, it’d even be more offensive to us precisely BECAUSE we know many of Santorum’s public statements are perfectly consistent with what appears in the newsletters, whereas the opposite is largely true of Paul. (Think of all the objectionable passages about gay people and AIDS – does anyone doubt that Rick Santorum holds those views not 20 years ago, but today in his campaign right now?).

      But what would be the reaction of Fox News, Hannity, Limbaugh or any of the other pundits on the right? I submit that not one of them would have even the slightest problem with the newsletter content if its namesake was one of their own – a Santorum on gays, a Bachmann on muslims, a Gingrich on everything – and in fact they’d be defending him for it, certainly making excuses for the content, and perhaps even embracing it outright.

      That permits one crucial observation about the newsletters as they continue to play out in the public sphere. To the majority of Paul’s current critics from elsewhere in the Republican Party and the media, it is not the newsletter content that they find so objectionable. They object to Paul himself for other reasons, and the newsletters are simply an easy bat with which to take swings at him. To that end, newsletter critics from within the libertarian movement (and even their libertarian defenders) DO have a distinct message from “the rest” and should not hesitate to call out the Fox crowd for it.

    • Anonymous

      I’ve had a friend who asked this exact question.  “Your Libertarian, Ron Paul is Libertarian, Ron Paul is a racist, are you a racist?”  This article is 100% correct that we need to be prepared to answer these questions, not with flaming individualism (clearly others disagree), but with an explanation about how Libertarianism is the most race friendly ideology, about how all people are flawed and make mistakes, etc.  On an interpersonal level, this is a great opportunity for dialog.  Thanks for the info Shawn.  I can now speak with confidence on the subject.  

      • Anonymous

        You can tell your friend that that’s a fallacy.  Adolf Hitler was a vegetarian. That doesn’t mean all nazi’s are vegetarians nor that all vegetarians are nazi’s.

        Libertarianism has nothing to do with race or racism.

        But libertarians, (conservatives, socialist, liberals) can be racists, or mysoginists. Or vegetarians.  Looking at this ideology from a practical day-to-day point of view, you could say that political resistance to tax, coercion of affirmative action, redistribution of wealth by the state, a mandate/subsidy for healthinsurance, public funded education, public funded planned parenthood, could easily be racially motivated by  (or codewords disguising) underlying racism or misogynism. 

        Not so long ago Rand Paul defended the right of a shop/restaurant owner not to serve African Americans and he considered it to be a coercion to oblige the owner to do so and a violation of his individual freedom, which is considered the basic moral principle of libertarianism.

        Of course this is not the case when it comes to abortion. 

        • Anonymous

          Julian – I like your examples.  I’ve explained it a dozen times over to him.  Libertarian = political philosophy, not moral philosophy, not theology, not sociology, etc.  Like most people, I think he struggles to see that separation of moral from civil is such a fundamental liberal value (separation of church and state is a shallower version.)  Very few progressives or conservatives today appreciate this.  Maybe Zwolinksi should add that to his “things libertarians can teach progressives” list.    
          I’ll forgive Ron for ignoring some of those explosive issues like private discrimination.  Trying to explain that nuanced concept during a campaign is quick-form hari kari.    If his goal is to get libertarian ideas out there, that one should be ignored in my opinion.

    • Anonymous

      Steve, no offense, but who is “we”?  No one knows who you are outside of libertarian blog circles.  I mean, you’re almost as big of a nobody as I am.

      There is no us and we, and your attempt to claim victimhood for something done years ago is very lame.  It makes you look like a big, tenured, Koch funded baby.

    • “And Ron Paul has not only THAT obligation, which he has indeed
      dispatched, but an obligation to give a much better explanation for how
      this all happened and it would sure help if he would name names so we
      know who IS morally responsible.”

      Obviously Paul IS morally responsible for publishing the newsletters, something he has never denied. He IS responsible for putting the editorial team in place, presumably Rockwell, etc.

      If Paul  identifies Rockwell then the media game becomes digging up every offensive article Rockwell ever published and waving it in front of Paul for comment. And of course the media will call on Paul to throw Rockwell under the bus as a show of good faith. And that’s not happening because Rockwell is a good friend who has done more than anyone to get Paul to this dance. But I think this part of what you want, isn’t it? You’d like to see Rockwell verbally horsewhipped in the glare of tha national media and then  pushed into the outer darkness beyond the political pale – a  Reverend Wright moment.

      Well, we all have our preferences I suppose but that’s not happening because Rockwell isn’t Wright and Paul isn’t Obama.

      I’m not a movement guy but it seems to me that Ron Paul has done an awful lot for the libertarian movement such as it is and it doesn’t seem to me he owes the movement the outing of his friends for biases he doesn’t share.

  • Anonymous

    Steve Horwitz has directly and indirectly taken funds from the Koch brothers and should list all of these for public viewing. He has a background that is connected to hermeneutics and he should list those for public viewing. And maybe he has some affiliation with the Republican Jewish Coalition over the years and he should be sure to list those for public viewing. After he explains each of them he should repeatedly defend himself regarding these to people who are not interested in hearing those explanations.

    • shorwitz

      Yeah Bruce, because you know I’m such a private guy, avoiding putting my entire life on display for the world to see.  And first I’m a neo-con, now you played the JOOOOO card.  Nice.  Really nice.  You are one nasty piece of work.

      • Anonymous

        You couldn’t face the scrutiny that is being applied to Ron
        Paul and if you say you could you are lying and everyone will know that
        immediately. Your lack of consistency and unwillingness and inability to serve
        nobly as an unparalleled statesman for 30 years or for any length of time in
        the cesspool of the political system cannot in any way be compared to the
        rigors and determination and principled service of Ron Paul. From that small
        and weak perch, in a academic position made plush by the Koch brothers, you
        whisper slander and promulgate the agenda of your overlords and then proclaim
        to do it in the name of libertarianism. Cowardly, hypocritcally and pompously
        you pretend that you are a leader of thought and have fooled many.

        • Anonymous

          Hey Steve is a free market guy.  Don’t diss his tenure bro.  He’s all about competition…

  • Anonymous

    Bla bla bla.

    The Ron Paul Newsletters are just a symptom of the wacko he is, regardless if he wrote them or not. (If you ever meet him just ask him about the civil war, he believes it was Lincoln’s fault and all that was required to avoid the war was to buy the slaves.) The only reason he became sexy in 2008 was that he was the only Republican candidate against the war in Iraq. That is why those newsletters matter, they cast a light on the kind of crap he is willing to put out to get traction.

    More generally, as long as American Libertarians don’t acknowledge that, contrary to the Ayn Rand Gospel,  there is such a thing as the “common good” as the British Liberal-Democrats have done, the movement is doomed to just be a collection of selfish interests.

    Contrary to what you seem to think Libertarianism isn’t “hot” since hardly anybody knows what it is.

    • Anonymous

      One of the tenant of this site, if I may be so presumptuous as to speak for it, is that libertarian values are in fact in the “common good.”  Your critique is precisely what they’re attempting to address.  Though I don’t see that axiom really focused on in this particular post.  

    • Anonymous

      I think it’s quite unfair to say Paul is a wacko simply because you don’t agree Lincoln triggered the Civil War (if you aren’t aware, you should read up on the wrangling around how to ensure Fort Sumter would be forced to fire on the blockade) or that buying up slaves might have worked (though re this latter point I quite agree, it was never that simple; but disagreement doesn’t make someone “wacko”). 

      Even saying Lincoln/the federal government triggered the Civil War isn’t the same as excusing slavery.  Not by even a very long shot.  Many of us, rather, are and remain concerned with the unprecedented tactics and powers Lincoln and his administration used that both triggered the war and led to a massive shift in how this country conducted itself following.  Just study the scope of the federal government and particularly, as it strongly reflects this, the trajectory of the national debt following the war – it’s amazing, and amazingly consistent ever since, whereas prior there’s a very clear difference as the debt bobbled up and down but never on a particularly clear trajectory (or perhaps a very tiny creeping upward). 

      Further, the fact is the southern secession was never resolved on a legal level satisfactorily.  We still don’t really know whether a state has a right to secede.  And while, by all means, I’d argue it was unacceptable from a nation-state perspective for the north/the remaining US to abide a neighboring nation-state as the Confederacy, that’s not the same question (I’ll get to that momentarily), that’s quite a different question than the “right to secede.”  To put that into some perspective, while I think 90%+ of Americans now would revile and simply knee-jerk call the southern secession wrong (on a legal level, “they couldn’t just quit the union”), I bet dollars to donuts there’d be a wholly different response if, say, Vermont seceded.  I’m not suggesting that some majority of Americans might not disagree, but do you believe we’d quickly go to war with Vermont, killing their people, bombing their countryside?  Probably not, I offer.  Rather, we’d agonize over whether Vermont has such a right and even if we saw it as wrong we’d acknowledge the state’s arguments and not just start attacking – or even putting their military into a state where they felt compelled to fight a severe blockade or such.  So this reveals that the issue is more around the repugnant issue of slavery, quite understandably through our modern (and better, yes, at least in this regard) lens.

      Now, a secession of a bloc of states and one that threatens the nation geopolitically is serious.  Some libertarians would argue that should not be the concern on a military level; I’m more open to the notion of protecting the nation-state with force (though I’m also not a ‘real” libertarian).  I don’t see how a north/south split wouldn’t come to blows, and from a much more pragmatic perspective it’s understandable how it went down.  Still, I’d argue that it should have first wound through the Supreme Court in some fashion from the outset.  (I’d even go so far as to say there really is a valid argument that states cannot secede, that upon formation the nation-state is fixed)  And the north/US should have waited for a real reason to attack the south/Confederacy.

      By the way, last but not least, I’m not anti-Lincoln.  I’m against a lot of what he did, how he abused his powers, and his ushering in a too-active federal government.  But I appreciate his compassion and statesmanship, and as a president of the US I’m not so sure he had so many real choices, and his Obama-esque combination of pragmatism and idealism is as admirable as it is disastrous. 

      • Damien S.

         ” it’s amazing, and amazingly consistent ever since”

        Or is it?

        As for secession, one obvious to me legal means would be a Constitutional amendment of secession.  If state and Congress and enough other states agree, no problem.  Consensual divorce.

        • Anonymous

          I wouldn’t pick from 1830 on.  q.v. 


          Then adjust out big event (pre-FDR war mostly) Smoothing the curve shows a fundamental shift

          • Damien S.

            I don’t think you can legitimately adjust out such events or curves.  What I see is a pre-Reagan tendency for debt ratio to decline, but a higher frequency of big events that caused it to increase. 

            Revolution: high debt
            Long decline to 1860.
            Civil War: high debt.
            Long decline to 1916, to levels lower than in the 1850s.
            WWI: high debt
            Decline to  1930s.
            Depression/New Deal: high debt
            WWII: really high debt
            Decline to 1970s, tiny spike, decline again
            Reagan/Bush/Bush: climbing debt

            There were 80 years from the Revolution to the Civil War, and another 50 years until our entry into WWI.  The next 30 years contained WWI, the Depression, and WWII.    But it’s always spike and gradual decline, spike and gradual decline, with a brief plateau during the Depression.  If the level seems higher, that’s plausibly because of there having been more big events in rapid succession. 

            The “fundamental shift” is only apparent with the election of Reagan and the triumph of modern conservatism and tax-cutting, briefly interrupted by Clinton’s surpluses.  Only with Reagan do we see an extended peacetime rise in debt.

  • Anonymous

    From someone who associates with the intellectual traditions of Mill (and by extension many lesser known classical liberals who would be considered “left-libertarian” today – including a number of my favorite American abolitionists, who ran in the same circles as Mill though it’s hardly even recognized in the “mainstream” historiography today), this is a welcome reminder of the “left” libertarian past. It thoroughly grates me every time I’m in one of those libertarian/conservative mixed venues and a speaker who firmly aligns with the latter group starts speaking of Mill, Spencer, WG Sumner, Henry George, the “Darwinians” etc. with the same contempt they reserve for the early 20th century “progressives” or Marx and Engels. The ideological cut, unfortunately, is not so neat as “right vs. left,” which is also why I can embrace a presidency such as Grover Cleveland (for the most part) but find much tension in, say, the more proto-Reaganesque Calvin Coolidge.

    I do have to nitpick one point though – that it “would help immensely” to name the authors of the Paul newsletters, or for them to step forward. If one was indeed Rothbard, well, he’s dead. So I don’t see him volunteering his name anytime soon, or what posthumously flogging him for it even accomplishes. If the other was Rockwell as has been speculated, then I suppose naming names would settle a few deep-seated points in those late 20th century libertarian internecine divisions described above. But I don’t see that as particularly useful either beyond persons who are already thoroughly invested in the topic and wish only to satisfy an intellectual curiosity that is far too obscure to have any electoral significance.

    I’ll make one final observation of the latest Paul newsletter flap though – it has firmly highlighted the hypocrisy of the neoconservative right on anything involving race and culture. It is difficult to understate the pure absurdity of hearing a Fox News talking head in apoplectic frenzy over the “racism” of Ron Paul, or reading a haughty blog pundit from National Review feigning all manner of moral outrage and offense at content published 20 years ago that would (AND HAS) passed for normal, accepted, and even celebrated points discourse on their own respective venues in the present day. Regardless of where one falls on the present left/right libertarian divide or its antecedents,we should all be loudly pointing out the glass house from which Paul’s neoconservative attackers lob their own bombs at newsletter content they would undoubtedly defend if it had come from a Gingrich, Perry, Bachmann, or Palin, and indeed they have done just that many times over.

  • Anonymous

    Steve Horwitz, you couldn’t face the scrutiny that is being applied to Ron Paul and if you say that you could you are lying and everyone will know that immediately. Your lack of consistency and unwillingness and inability to serve nobly as an unparalleled statesman for 30 years or for any length of time in the cesspool of the political system cannot in any way be compared to the rigors and determination and principled service of Ron Paul. From your small and weak perch, in a academic position made plush by the Koch brothers, you whisper slander and promulgate the agenda of your overlords and then proclaim to do it in the name of libertarianism. Cowardly, hypocritcally, and pompously you pretend that you are a leader of thought and have fooled many.

  • Its hard to dismiss the content of the newsletters or the “paleo” strategy as a political miscalculation or merely a tactical move that had some momentary advantage but proved problematic in the long run. 
    In 2008 both candidates had some associations that folks made a big deal about. Obama probably went to the United Church of Christ because it helped legitimize him in communities that looked at him somewhat suspiciously; this was probably very important after his loss to Bobby Rush. McCain had been on record condemning some of the more incendiary televangelists  that tend to galvanize the evangelical wing of the republican base but courted their favor in the election. Of course, both men distanced themselves from these associations but they probably were paid a hefty political dividend at the time. The newsletters strike me as another matter entirely. Its one thing to form associations to curry favor among certain aspects of the base to which you do not directly appeal. Its quite another to parrot the worst elements of that base to gain their favor and become a spokesman for their cause. The first approach suggests an implicit acknowledgement but not full-on endorsement of their position. I mean, its not as if Paul did an interview with American Renaissance or happened to be at the same dinner party as some white supremacist a-hole. Those are forgivable errors. Its not like he made some joke in poor taste or used some now antiquated term like “colored”. Again, those are forgivable at least to a point. But the newsletters are an entirely different matter. Its tuff to chalk up years of  carefully written racism to bad poor judgement, bad taste or lack of research. We all misspeak, say things we wish we could take back, etc. But this isn’t a Ross Perot “you people” moment. Its not even a “macaca” moment. Its much much worse. Its purposeful and deliberate. And its essentially the opposite of what he now says.  It should also be pointed out that the rhetoric of the newsletters helps legitimize the most brutal domestic apparatus of government- the carceral state.  Racial fears, of the kind articulated in many of the newsletters, helped fuel our prison boom. Granted, the newsletters never say “we should lock up black people en masse” but this type of racial fear is a key driver of the US’s enormous incarceration rates.  Its difficult to imagine that a person could buy into one of the key notions legitimizing mass incarceration while simultaneously wanting to roll back the carceral state.  In the long run, I’m not entirely sure that this really hurts Paul’s brand equity too much. His hardcore supporters will remain that way. Its not as if he had a lot of support from non-whites or gay people anyway.  As a political entrepreneur, he will continue to be successful and make a lot of money. His son will probably continue to be a superstar and also sell a lot of books. If somehow he becomes the nominee than it could hurt him in the general election, but in the long run Paul will be okay. As a business strategy, it makes sense for him to attempt to straddle the “paleo” and  the “libertarian” markets even if its not the best thing politically.  

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  • Anonymous

    Some correct me if I’m wrong but Rockwell and Rothbard were not actually but rather trying to exploit racial tension within the old right? Not that I’m defending either of them, it still just as bad. I’m just wondering b/c  So much of what I’ve read of Rothbard’s suggest otherwise. Its amazing to me that someone as intelligent as Rothbard could come up with something so stupid.

    • Anonymous

      Racism is not inconsistent with libertarianism.

      • Anonymous

        Yes, it is. Not sure how you define racism or libertarianism.

        • Anonymous

          I define libertarianism the way libertarians define libertarianism.  The non-aggression principle.

          Tell me how racism violates the non-aggression principle.

          • Paul Tripp

            There’s more to libertarianism than simply the non-aggression principle. Any philosophy that judges people by the groups they belong to, rather than by their own actions, is a form of collectivism and in direct opposition to libertarian principle. 

            That said, while racism  and libertarianism are necessarily in opposition to each other, that does not mean that libertarianism is in direct opposition to racists any more than it is in direct opposition to the individual members of any group, so long as they do not actively initiate or incite force or fraud against individuals of any other group. Saying racist things should not be illegal in a libertarian society, but engaging in violence or destruction of property against people of other races, preventing them from exercising the full extent of their property rights, attempting to reap the benefits of their labor without fairly agreed upon compensation for the benefits of their labor, etc. should all be illegal under a libertarian society. 

          • Anonymous

            I think you just expanded what Dixie10 was saying in rapid style.

          • Racism: “The disparagement of an ethnic groups genetic or cultural
            (real or imagined) for the purpose of legal
            discrimination”.     Thus both libertarianism and “those racists newsletters” are not racist at all.  Not one tiny bit.  The Political Correctness police and vague and wide definitions of anyone taking “offense” was and is the poison pill that Reason and Cato accepted and the RP newsletters rejected.  Thanks to “friends” like Reason,  libertarian’s greatest “gateway libertarian” gets “outed” the week before the NH primaries in 2008.  Yea, with friends like these, who needs enemies?  That was an opportunistic political stab in the back.  And now here.  With friends like “bleeding heart libertarians” who cannot dissect any supposed offensive statement to see if indeed it is, and instead just do what all others do, assume that they are “racist”, “antiSemitic”, “sexist”, “homophobic”  do nobody who loves libertarianism a favor.   Clear Definitions and NON PC Multiculturally “sensistive” ones is what libertarianism STILL NEEDS.   Until it rejects the PC MC vague and wide definitions, liberty will continue  to be attacked by the liberal PC police and we will get things like “hate crimes” which are clearly “thought crimes”.   There is more evils to come against Liberty as long as its libertarian defenders, even its bleeding heart ones, cannot and will not call a spade a spade.  As a long time reader of those INVESTMENT newsletters, they were lots of fresh air from the PCness that swept America in 1990’s.  The fact that CATO and REASON did not defend “those racist newsletters” back then and today, and took the side of the liberal rag The New Republic, makes CATO and REASON apart of a dead movement, if not the enemy.  The new movement, the R3VOLution and the Campaign for Liberty is all about RESPECTing individual rights, but it is not down with the PC MC police.  Just like most right wing conservatives who supported Herman Cain, they are done with that.  Hence the wrath they gave those 2 Reason Pukes, Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez, for “outing” without discussion Ron Paul in 2008.   Today, Ron Paul disavows & apologies for the rude offense it may have had  and Lew Rockwell bites his lip, for the near universal ascendancy of the PC MC crowds and their loose, vague and wide definitions reign king.  But soon all libertarians including Reason and Cato will realize that for libertarianism to survive, it must explicitly reject PC definitions and go on the offensive against the The New Republic and others who sell such poison.  If libertarians, bleeding heart ones too, realy care about free speech, they will take a vacation out of the USA for several months, then come back and listen to the silence in America, the fear, the tongue tied twisting that goes on all in the name of not wanting to cause “offense” and be labeled with the dreaded “R” on the sweater from the puritanical liberal pilgrims.  Not only does this kill vibrant free speech, its thought control.  Today only comedians like Carlos Mencia, Dave Chappell, and Chris Rock and ’90’s shows like “In Living Color” can make generalities that noone else can make.  Go back and place all 23 sentences that the TNR has pulled from years of investment  newsletters and put them all back into context and use that definition for racism above.  You will see that nothing is so “vile” so “odious” so “appalling” about them.  Such comments should SHOULD be applied to real racism that use the N word, disparages ethnic characteristics (real or imagined) and attempts to use that to justify LEGAL discrimination.  Under the PCness that we live in today, with its wide and vague definitions and the fact that (as ron and rand paul have pointed out about the 64 civil rights act) a businessman’s property rights are so run over that all is nearly lost to fascism.  As Chris Rock I believe said, “They hated smokers so dam much they got slammed back in the corner of the restaurant,… then that wasn’t enough, “that second hand smoke offends me”!  So they got the chilly cold spot outside the restaurant.  And New York just passed another law and now they can’t go anywhere and smoke !  Dam I scared cause I eat red meat!  That’s right, I know whats’s comin’. Before long I will be cuttin my steak and vegan white bitch will be sittin’ at the next table over and she’ll get up screamin’ “I am so offended, I’m so offend!”   Next thing I know I will be cuttin’ my steak outside in the cold!”  

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  • Josh Jeppson

    Most of Horwitz’s writing is unobjectionable, but he’s wrong in asserting all actors in a “free society” must recoil at unpopular forms of discrimination.  Freedom is freedom.  Horwitz can exercise a progressive-minded ethics in said free society, but prejudiced, non-aggressive actors are just as much a part of that system.  You will never be able to define a principled belief in freedom without allowing for such deviance.  Finally, you should be extremely careful in attempting to make J.S. Mill the brainchild of this “free society.”  Mill had many issues that are in contrast to true Liberalism; Locke would be a better role model for you, and even then I still prefer the anarcho-capitalist tradition.

    • Anonymous

      Horowitz asserts only one set of values are consistent with liberty, and coincidentally, those are his values.


  • Josh Jeppson

    If you follow much of Rothbard’s career, he hopped around frequently.  Part of his problems was he was a very combative, provocative, and egotistical person.  But, part of it, I believe, was him experimenting with different ways of organizing society around his ideas.  I agree with you though in admiring him more for the ideas he soberly wrote in his books than his personal behavior.

  • dylan waco

    This is a side question, but as someone who has actually voted for Bill Woolsey before I have to ask what it is about Gov. Johnson that he finds to be superior to Congressman Paul.  If you don’t want to derail this thread with your answer feel free to email me at

  • Levi Russell

    all this “we” and “us” crap sounds like a lot of collectivism… no thanks

    • Yep, voluntary collectivism! The future of the liberty movement!

  • Anonymous

    Great post!  I knew about some of this history, but only in bits & pieces.  Compelling story telling, strong conclusions.  Love it. 

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  • As a young Ron Paul supporter just finding out about all this back-story this was definitely an eye-opening read and the most sensible explanation for the newsletters I’ve seen yet. However I think this explanation is very dangerous to the campaign, much more so than the allegations that Paul himself wrote the newsletters. When that was the case (and it still is the case in the public eye right now) the question is “Is Ron Paul a closet racist”? Most reasonable people will say no judging off of the fact that he has never said anything or vouched for anything in the past remotely related to racism. So they’ll write off the newsletters as media and opponents trying to smear him and forget to ask the deeper question as to why the newsletters are there in the first place. The story will just blow over and people will forget about it. I think this is what the Paul campaign is banking on and it shows in the way he’s been addressing the subject in recent interviews.

    but what if this becomes the new focus of the media and the public debate? what if the newsletter controversy shifts from “is Paul a racist” to “did Paul play a role in manipulating support to his movement with the newsletters?”. The answer to this is unclear but I suspect he had at least a minimal role in this sort of tactic. Now, unlike what Adam said, I can forgive Paul for this, especially when you consider that record of the other candidates are far worse. I think a lot of people will, though, be very turned off to Paul if this specific argument gets full blown media scrutiny. A lot of intense supporters will realize he’s not this flawless guy who has zero baggage, and I think their intensity for him will at least drop a bit if he gets exposed for playing these same kind of political games everyone else out there plays.

    now to me, honestly I don’t really care if he was involved in these games of political manipulation. I like his stance on most of the issues, especially the ones a president has the most power over, and so I’ll vote for him regardless. But I don’t think everyone will see it like this. I think we should be cautious about this. It feels like we’re on the verge of this whole newsletter controversy blowing over in the media and the last thing we as libertarians want to do is shoot ourselves in the foot on the verge of a huge victory. Like someone earlier said, we don’t know how long it’s gonna be until another Ron Paul comes along and no matter who it is they aren’t going to be exactly like Paul.

    As for Horwitz’s assertion that we as Libertarians and Ron Paul supporters need to have an answer for this…well we do. But honestly I don’t think the masses of people are going to care and won’t ask us about it. This information is good to know, but I’d be very cautious about spreading it around. Most people are seeing this newsletter scandal in black and white…”is he a racist or isn’t he?” and that’s it. If we just let everything be and try not to raise the point this blog post makes, it will hopefully blow over soon enough and Paul’s campaign and the libertarian movement will be stronger because it did. Though the unfortunate reality is, since all this information and speculation is available freely on the internet, it probably will get blown up in the media soon enough. If that happens, then that’s when we answer for what happened in the past, but the last thing we should be doing right now is spreading information that ultimately hurts the Paul campaign and our libertarian movement.

    I’m even kind of hesitant to post this comment because doing so ironically goes against my whole premise.

    • Paul Tripp

      To an extent I agree, and I think the best response we can give at this point is to turn the conversation back to the issues. My responses to most of the mainstream media articles about this, and the couple people who’ve actually brought them up, is that 60% of people who spend time in prison for drug crimes are black, while less than 15% of drug users are black, and Paul would eliminate the laws that are being enforced unequally on different races and pardon literally hundreds of thousands of blacks and hispanics whose only crimes are victimless, nonviolent drug crimes. Would you be able to face one of the many unjustly imprisoned people in this country, or their families who’ve lost a family member to our criminal justice system, and tell them that there was a candidate for President who would pardon them and let them return to their families and start rebuilding their lives, but you weren’t going to vote for him because you thought he might be racist or might have associated with racists? And which do you think they’d care more about, their freedom, or 20 year old racist rants? 

      One of Paul’s strengths is that he tends to bring any discussion back towards policy whenever he gets the chance, and I think the best response we can give is to explain that his Presidency would do more to help minority communities rebuild than a handful of pseudo-racist followers could ever hope to stop.

      • Paul Rain

        Given drug overdose death rates for blacks have stayed higher than for whites, though the disparity has been decreasing in magnitude, I really don’t see how one can say that unequal enforcement of laws by race has been driven by racial prejudice rather than a differences between the races in their use of illegal drugs. That said, the war on drugs ought to end- though I personally would support the retention of anti-drug laws as a book to throw at criminals. Maybe they could be disposed of, after all zoning laws are repealed.

  • John Kindley

    When you think about it, it’s a sign of how far this country has fallen when “libertarianism” is seen as so small that its adherents must be careful who they associate with lest they make the whole little movement or club look bad, when in fact “we” speak for and embrace the whole society, including “minorities” and “fringe groups” alike, as this passage from Chapter 12 of Spooner’s Essay on the Trial by Jury that I came across the other day shows:

    The theory of free government is that it is formed by the
    voluntary contract of the people individually with each other. This is
    the theory, (although it is not, as it ought to be, the fact,) in all
    the governments in the United States, as also in the government of
    England. The theory assumes that each man, who is a party to the
    government, and contributes to its support, has individually and freely
    consented to it. Otherwise the government would have no right to tax him
    for its support, ‑‑‑ for taxation without consent is robbery. This
    theory, then, necessarily supposes that this government, which is formed
    by the free consent of all, has no powers except such as all the
    parties to it have individually agreed that it shall have: and
    especially that it has no power to pass any laws, except such as all the
    parties have agreed that it may pass.

    This theory supposes that there may be certain laws that will
    be beneficial to all, ‑‑‑ so beneficial that all consent to be taxed
    for their maintenance. For the maintenance of these specific laws, in
    which all are interested, all associate. And they associate for the
    maintenance of those laws only, in which all are interested. It would be
    absurd to suppose that all would associate, and consent to be taxed,
    for purposes which were beneficial only to a part; and especially for
    purposes that were injurious to any. A government of the whole,
    therefore, can have no powers except such as all the parties consent
    that it may have. It can do nothing except what all have con- [*217]
    sented that it may do. And if any portion of the people, ‑‑‑ no matter
    how large their number, if it be less than the whole, ‑‑‑ desire a
    government for any purposes other than those that are common to all, and
    desired by all, they must form a separate association for those
    purposes. They have no right, ‑‑‑ by perverting this government of the
    whole, to the accomplishment of purposes desired only by a part, ‑‑‑
    to compel any one to contribute to purposes that are either useless or
    injurious to himself.

  • Thank you, Dr. Horwitz…

  • Damien S.

    Fun thing about the newsletters is that they catch him out either way. If he wrote them or was aware of them, then it’s “is he racist or just pandering to racists?”  If he was as unaware as he claims, then he was letting people publish under his name without keeping track of what was being said, which is not exactly a sign of good judgement.  (Also, echoes of Iran-Contra’s “plausible deniability” with Reagan.)

    And it’s not just some concern manufactured by the neocon machine; if he becomes the nominee, the mainstream and liberals will happily pounce as well.

    That said, all the other dwarfs are evil and/or incompetent too, and it would be interesting to have an anti-war anti-drug-war candidate.  Of course, that assumes he’d talk more about such things than about abolishing Medicare and going back to gold.

  • bill woolsey

    Thank you for your vote Mr. Waco.

    Are you from James Island, or was this the 2000 Congressional race?

    On my own blog, Monetary Freedom, I had endorsed Johnson for the
    Republican primary.   I have been meaning to write something about
    Johnson now trying to get the Libertarian nomination and that I am
    supporting my second choice for the Republican primary, Ron Paul.

    Ron Paul visited The Citadel some years ago and met with our small
    libertarian student group.   I like him.   I think he is a genuinely nice guy.

    Gary Johnson spoke before the Bastiat Society in Charleston about a year ago,
    I think.  I liked him as well.

    They each have strengths and weaknesses as libertarian candidates for

    I will write more about those on my blog in the next few days.  If you
    still have questions after that, email me at

    Bill Woolsey
    Free James Island

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  • Anonymous

    It’s painfully obvious what is going on here. Anyone who has
    followed the libertarian movement, with a sharp eye, for any period
    of time, will understand immediately.

    This is yet another attempt by the Koch-backed beltway (big L)
    Libertarian crowd to try and dilute the philosophical groundings of

    Gillespie, Horwitz, and the rest of the Kochtopus-Reason-Cato Institute nursery,
    are all aiming to co-opt libertarianism to the Establishment ideal
    and do away with with its philosophical underpinnings.  Horwitz, for
    example, had the gall to suggest that it was time to put the
    “liberal” back into libertarianism.  Only minions of the big-L
    Libertarian crew would ever suggest such a thing is remotely
    compatible with libertarianism.  The name itself was a play on
    ‘liberty’.  Modern-day liberalism is a noxious gas that attacks
    morality and tries to replace it with the ‘Government-as-Family’

    It’s not all that dissimilar to what happened with the Tea Party
    movement being co-opted by the Neocon establishment.  Although, the
    subterfuge is far better cloaked from the undiscerning eye.

    • Anonymous

      Thank you eyeamfree! This is exactly my point. Too bad many newcomers will be so blindsided by these ancient scuffles that they’ll probably turn away in disgust once they realize how terrible the infighting has been (continues to be) within the “liberty movement”. You old folks are a shame! Clearly, you continue to demonstrate that it’s pride over principles with you lot.

  • Anonymous

    A homosexual observer has another take:

    from the last campaign, though the points are still valid.

    • Paul Rain

      Well the fact that it’s a little old doesn’t really matter- the accusations are exactly the same. In much the same way that the Republican party will always be the party that smeared poor Willie Horton.

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  • Anonymous

    You know what else I find hilarious?  That Mr. Horwitz could dare attempt to label the Mises Institute as a place that harbors anti-semitism.

    The institute that bears the name of a proud Jewish man who escape Europe to avoid being rounded up by Hitler…  Yeah, that’s exactly where I’d go if I were an anti-semite.  Really, how does one even stumble in to such a logical disconnect?  Mr. Horwitz has either been horribly misled in forming his views or is beholden to some other interests that want to demonize (small l) libertarianism for their own ends.

    • This is a tough piece for me to read. I think and have literally been quoted as saying things like “Professor Steve Horwitz is one of the best champions of liberty alive today.” And I have no intention of retracting that statement.

      It’s really tough for me to comment on the paleo-liberty stuff, quite simply because I was not around then and have zero first hand knowledge on it. Having said that, I tend to believe Steve in his account of it. I think he is a standup guy and was genuinely disgusted at what sounds like was some pretty terrible stuff.

      I think that makes it a bit more difficult for him to see that the millions of Ron Paul created libertarians, like myself, whom came to Dr. Paul and the LvMI circa 2008, do not have anything to apologize for or come clean about.

      The philosophy of liberty is what we believe in. We support Dr. Paul because he can spread that message to a wider audience than anyone else alive. Dr. Paul himself has stated he is not perfect, it is the message that matters.

      I support the LvMI because of its effective methods of teaching the philosophy of liberty. I believe Steve when he says that in the 80s and 90s their message was a different one. I cannot follow him when he says those who have been taught liberty, today, are liable for the sins of the past. I imagine we all would agree it is absurd to suggest that one who learns Euclidean geometry is somehow supportive of the slave trade that was prevalent in ancient Greece and now must publicly denounce it!

      It is the ideas that matter, not the imperfections and even downright evils of some of those whom have been known to promote them. When Dr. Paul begins to promote anti-liberty ideas, you will see the millions of libertarian supporters he has created, rightfully chastise him for it. (Not that I expect he ever will.)

      He has apologized for the mistakes of his past, and I have no interest in assigning those past mistakes more weight than the actions, words, and deeds he lives by today.

      Ideas are not beholden to the individuals whom carry them; they stand on their own and should be judged as such.

      My initial reaction to the relentless smearing of Dr. Paul that has perfected better than anyone else, is here:

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  • Eric Dondero

    The problem with all this is the assumption that Paleos and the Beltway/Reason libertarians are opposites.  They are not. They are all non-interventionists, and thus all left-libertarians. 

    Those of us on the rightside of the libertarian movement, Anti-Jihadist libertarians, see only a matter of degrees of difference between Rockwell/Raimondo/Paul and Boaz/Crane/Gillespie.  They’re all Islamist appeasors (Gillespie at least recognizes the threat of Islamism).  They are all left-libertarians, as opposed to the Pamela Gellers, Mark Steyns, Ayaan Hirsi Alli, Dennis Millers, Neal Boortz of the world.

    • Damien S.

      This place just keeps getting more entertaining!

    • Anonymous


  • shorwitz

    I can’t help but bust out laughing every time one of you guys throws the “Koch-funded” or “beltway libertarian” or “Blue state elitist” stuff at me.  I live in rural Northern New York in one of the poorest counties in the state, 550 miles from the beltway. Face it folks, I LIVE in “flyover country.”  I’ve taught at SLU for 22 years, and the only Koch money they receive is a small grant I’ve administered for the last three years that pays for a guest speaker series.  Not one cent of it goes into my pocket.  You can complain all you want about the tenure system and I’d agree with you – I’d get rid of it if I could too – but my academic salary contains not one cent of Koch money.

    Yes, I lecture and write for Koch-funded organizations on the side, but I also write and lecture for places like FEE.  And you know what, I won’t apologize for one penny of it even as I am at a loss to understand how I’ve been “bought” by organizations that account for a small fraction of my annual income.  The “Koch” label as a form of rhetoric is just utterly pathetic and the last refuge of those without a substantive argument.

    But I especially love the implication that somewhere there’s a Master Koch Plan and a Weekly Briefing that critics of Ron Paul attend so that we know what the Official Party Line is this week.  If there’s one, no one’s told me about it up here in the wilds of the North Country.  It’s exactly that sort of paranoid style of libertarianism that’s the problem here, and it’s one of the sad legacies of the often brilliant but strategically misguided Murray Rothbard.  The Leninism of that wing of the libertarian movement is part of the newsletter problem too.

    Why is it so hard to believe that some libertarians think that Ron Paul isn’t the greatest thing ever for libertarianism, even as we agree he’s better than all the other candidates out there (with the possible exception of Gary Johnson)?  Why must any criticism of Ron Paul and the organizations he’s connected with be read not as an genuine attempt to make libertarianism better, but as some sort of internecine turf battle of “us” against “them?”   I don’t even know which team I’m supposed to be on because no one gave me a uniform or a game plan.  What do I stand to gain in some personal/narrow sense from “tearing down” Ron Paul?  If there’s a big Koch pot o’ gold out there, no one’s told me about it. 

    Maybe, just maybe, I and others think Ron Paul and his brand of libertarianism isn’t the best we can do, not because someone supposedly gave us marching orders and a bag of silver, but because we really, deeply care about freedom and want to see it achieved in our lifetimes and simply disagree in good faith about the best way to accomplish that.  Why is that so difficult to believe?

    • I believe that completely and would hope most others do as well, despite our differences of opinion on Ron Paul.

      • You have to remember that those who engage on forums or blog with comments such as the “bought and paid for” lines etc. are an unbelievably small minority of the libertarian community.

        The nature of internet exchanges is that it is enormously disproportionally skewed in its representation of a community.  And that skewing tends to be towards highlighting the more obnoxious members and downplaying the many, many polite and thoughtful people who value your work and simply don’t engage in an Internet presence to the degree others do.

        No sensible person believes you are a “koch funded spokesperson” anymore than they believe that Ron Paul works for the John Birch Society just because they donated to his campaign.

        • Anonymous

           Come on now, Robert.  He just admitted to taking Koch money, however small it may be.  Do you honestly think they’re paying him to give speeches that they disagree with?

      • shorwitz

        Thanks Robert. You were NOT one of the critics I had in mind.   Thank you for laying out your views in a way that took mine on good faith.  I appreciate that.

    • Anonymous

      This all depends on your definite of “better”.  Surely, if that means
      putting ‘liberal’ back into libertarianism, as you said, then hardly
      anyone but those Koch-funded babies will agree.

      And, hey, a little bit of Koch money is still Koch money.  However small it
      may be, I somehow doubt you’ll be getting on stage and denouncing them
      and their principles/practices.  I mean, none other than the immortal
      Herman Cain got up on a stage at AEI, screaming loudly and proudly, that
      the Koch’s were his “brothers from another mother”, for crying out loud. 
      That’s the sort of mind the source of your allowance welcomes/nurtures/produces. 

      Is that who you are?

      ’cause trust me, they sure as hell aren’t beating down Ron Paul’s door. 
      They tried that long ago and didn’t like being told “no”.  You can try to convince
      yourself it’s a noble endeavor all you want, but that money does not come from
      good people.  Not even remotely.

    • Paul Rain

      If the Koch Foundation gave SLU ‘x’; the equivalent of your entire salary each year, then there would be no real difference between that and David Koch meeting you in a dive bar and handing you ‘x’ in crisp hundred dollar bills. It hardly dissuades the university from continuing to employ you, or more pertinently from increasing your compensation in proportion to their increased take.

      For any amount of money, whether it’s x, 1/2x, or a couple hundred bucks, the argument that “Not one cent of it goes into my pocket.” is irrelevant.

  • Anonymous

    It seems to me that Horwitz agrees with most of the Libertarian principles of Murray, Rockwell, et. al. with the exception of their “culture”, which he accuses, is the basis of their racist beliefs. A few thoughts:

    1) It’s ironic for a self-professed libertarian like the author to proclaim that his “liberal” and “progressive” cultural values are superior to the “conservative” (and supposedly racist) cultural values of other libertarians. 

    2) I’ve read through many of the links to the works of Murray and Rockwell and, as a member of the minority, I do not find anything “racist” in their actual writings. The sense one gets reading Horwitz is that racism is a key plank to Murray’s and Rockwell’s outreach to Paleo-conservatives. This is very misleading and I think Horwitz is guilty of making associations and conclusions that are not supported by objective evidence. This is adding unnecessary fuel to the fire.

    3) The comments that the media has highlighted in Ron Paul’s old newsletters are clearly racist and disconcerting. My strong belief is that Dr. Paul is not a racist and that he should vigorously defend himself. As much as it pains him to do this, I hope he will speak out for himself with much greater force and conviction, no matter how many times he gets asked the same question. He has dedicated his entire career fighting for the rights of all individuals – and he needs to emphasize his record. If the public gets to weighs his lifetime of actions vs. the few articles that were released under his name, I think they will come to the right conclusion.

    • shorwitz

      There’s nothing in libertarianism that says I can’t criticize the values of others, or even argue mine are superior.  That, of course, is what the paleos have done from the start with respect to the supposed libertinism of the libertarians in the 1980s.  There’s no irony there at all, only a misunderstanding by you of what libertarianism is about.  The whole point of liberalism is to find a way for people with different values to live together peacefully.  That only requires that we leave the state out of it, at least from a libertarian perspective.  It doesn’t require that we can’t criticize others.

      And yeah, there’s nothing in Rothbard’s books and scholarly articles that is racist, but if it’s true (and the evidence is abundant) that he and Rockwell wrote the very newsletters you call “clearly racist” in point 3, then your point 2 looks a lot weaker.  The newsletters WERE one of R&R’s “outreaches” to paleo-conservatives.  If they contain racism, then R&R’s outreach was indeed racist.  I don’t think that was the “key plank” but it appealing to racial animus was certainly one plank.

      • Anonymous

        No offense Steve, but might all of this have something to do with the fact that Paul’s brand of libertarianism has shown itself to me much more successful in reaching a much wider audience (and hence has been much more successful, period) than your brand, which you admit, you consider being (or at least you admit to arguing that you should be able to debate the issue, which implies you believe your brand to be) superior? In this sense, I take your “going out on a limb” to opine on these controversies, at such an inopportune time (for those of us who could care less about what we consider to be trivial differences between “libertarians”) as being myopic, and hurtful to the greater cause of libertarianism, as it is understood in contrast to more dominant ideologies. I understand that you’ve spent a career promoting your brand of libertarianism (through your scholarly work, which even though you probably dislike me by now, I’ve often found to be very valuable), but from my perspective, it seems to me that you are showing knives, in a jealous fit, most likely attributable to the fact that Ron Paul’s brand of libertarianism has, in our lifetimes, gained more ground where it counts, than yours has. Truth is (and sadly often), we live in a tacit, practical, often pragmatic world, and your theoretical work, though valuable has proven not to be as dominant and influential where it counts most: policy. Ron’s has succeeded via different means. So he’s not a serious academic. So what. Good luck trying to change the world with theoretical articles only, and read only (mostly I should say, since I read them as well) by intellectuals. Of course you have your influence, and I’m not saying that it’s been null. It just hasn’t been as effective as Paul’s, and I sense that you resent him for it. Like I said, that’s sad. I have no ulterior motives, I’m just a concerned friend of liberty who is distressed by the infighting amongst supposed friends of liberty. I actually know the differences between your brand and Rothbard’s, and I pick and choose what I like from both camps. Maybe Rothbard was responsible for the division. Who cares?! Look how close libertarianism (in one form if I must continue to see through paleo-goggles) is to taking center stage, and the spotlight away from neo-cons, socialists, et al. Think of how much easier it might be to gain influence for your brand in a country that accepts ANY brand of libertarianism, and how difficult (and time consuming) it would be to try and gain the kind of influence Ron Paul is achieving, via your tried, and until now, not so successful methods.

        Mises and Rothbards were Jewish btw, and I doubt they were self-hating. Just my opinion of course.

        p.p.s the evidence is not abundant. That is being disingenuous. The evidene may appear to be abundant and dambing to searching eyes, but to more sober observers, the evidence is nothing more than innuendo, lackng substance, woudn’t hold in a court of law, and conspiritorial. Now that’s ironic!

        • Hey, this is fun.  Why engage with the substance of what Steve said?  Instead, let’s speculate wildly about his psychology and what might or might not have led him to say those things.

          I wonder how this game would play out applied to you?  Which inadequacies are you trying to compensate for, trolling around in our comment thread?

      • Anonymous

        Steve, I appreciate you taking the time to respond to a new reader. I think I understand liberty well enough to know that you can be critical of others. The irony that I point out is that you would use the banner of libertarianism to advance your personal preference for a progressive agenda, which seems to focus on the rights of minorities in particular. As a member of the minority, I’m attracted to libertarianism precisely because the rights of individuals have nothing to do with race. I think undue focus on race issues are inherently divisive and counter-productive to spreading the message of liberty. I hope we can agree that furthering the libertarian cause is more important than “reclaiming it’s progressive history.”

        As you noted, it is still unproven that Rothbard/Rockwell wrote those newsletters. Regardless of who actually wrote them, I believe Dr. Paul has to tackle them head on as it will not go away on its own.

      • “And yeah, there’s nothing in Rothbard’s books and scholarly articles that is racist”

        Also nothing in the _Liberty_ article by Rockwell that you linked to as “about appealing to the worst instincts of working/middle class conservative whites.”

         I’m not a fan of Rockwell, or for that matter of Rothbard, but that article seems to me to make a legitimate argument, and one with no elements of racism. It’s true that arguing that whites ought to be free to choose to associate with other whites, just as blacks should be free to associate with other blacks, is a position that will appeal to some racists–but it’s also a libertarian position. Arguing for abolishing the war on drugs is a position that will appeal to some drug users, but that isn’t a reason not to make the argument–not even for those who regard the use of recreational drugs as a mistake.

        I wasn’t paying enough attention to that particular stage of Rothbard’s tactics to say whether or not he was trying to appeal to racists, but I don’t think it’s legitimate to identify appealing to cultural conservatives, which is what that Rockwell piece is arguing for, with appealing to racists–or, for that matter, to the “worst instincts” of anyone.

        • This comment prompted me to read the Liberty article by Rockwell in its entirety for the first time.

          I agree with Professor Friedman’s comments, there was nothing in there that was even remotely racist.

  • shorwitz

    One last thought for the night:

    Asking the author(s) of the newsletters to step forward and accept responsibility is not my way of dragging them down but GETTING RON PAUL OFF THE HOOK.  I do NOT believe Ron Paul is a racist.  I do NOT believe he wrote those newsletters.  I DO believe he made some bad choices about his friends and failed to keep an eye on what they were doing, but that’s a different problem.  And I DO believe he’s naive about the signals he sends through the choices he makes about where to raise money and who to be seen with.  And I believe appealing to those folks is really bad for libertarianism.  But I also don’t want Ron Paul to be unfairly accused of writing those newsletters when I know he didn’t.

    The best way for Ron to get the monkey of the racism of the newsletters off his back once and for all is for the authors of those newsletters to step forward and take responsibility and tell the world that Ron had nothing to do with writing them. 

    THAT is why I want the truth to come out.  I have my disagreements with Ron Paul, but I’m not out to destroy him (as if I have that power…).  I want the truth of what happened 20 years ago to come out so that the libertarian movement can learn from it and not repeat those mistakes.

  • Anonymous

    Horwitz is disgusted and terrified that Ron Paul becomes a serious contender for the president. The left-wing libertarians are usually very critical of “purism” and” ideological extremism” of the right wing libertarians. Now, it turns out that the newsletters from 20 years ago which even Horwitz thinks were not written by Paul are more important topic than the peaceful foreign policy, uncompromising free market philosophy, a very strong integrity of Ron Paul. So, the internal quarrel in the libertarian circles which does not have anything directly to do with Ron Paul is above general principles and “public interest”. We have a strong libertarian candidate on the verge of winning Iowa and possibly even NH, but no, no, the more important thing is to press him to confess that Lew Rockwell wrote the newsletters. That’s the dirty secret: Horwitz hates Mises Institute and Rockwell because they kicked his ass repeatedly in the matters of economics (Salerno, de Soto, Hulsman, Klein, Hoppe etc). Those guys are real giants as compared to Horwitz (who has some conflicting and unclear ambition to counted as an “Austrian” economist, but not too much, only in so far as that does not alienate him from the Beltway libertarian complex and the arbiters of fashionable opinion and political correctness). He does not want to help Ron Paul, but to bring down Mises I. and Lew Rockwell.  That’s everything.

    Further, Horwitz pathologically hates Rothbard, Rockwell and the hard-right libertarians because hey reveal his own leftism and phoniness (look at all this moronic babbling about “progress”, “making a world better place” and so on, to see what I mean. We have a “libertarian” thinker here (Horwitz, ha ha ha) who doesn’t think that having a strong free market philosophy and a peaceful non-interventionist foreign policy is enough to be credible as a fighter for “better world”! No citizen! You have at least to pay a lip service to PC-tarian Orwell-speak of “tolerance”, “progress” and yes, “making a world better place”  in order to be certified as someone fighting for the “better world”).

  • Anonymous

    P.S. And it is more than revealing that Horwitz founds John S. Mill to be a proper father figure of libertarianism; the classical liberal turned radical socialist and militant nationalist and imperialist. Not Lord Acton, or B

    • Anonymous

      Agreed. Sorry Steve, but Mill was a sellout. I’d much rather go with Acton, or even Burke. It’s not like Mill didn’t have a lot of good things to say, but he did turncoat to the socialists.

      Besides, wasn’t Russell a big fan of Mill? Yeesh!

  • Anonymous

    Hi Steve:
    I fully support your stance on the Ron Paul newsletters. And, judging by the immaturity and poor reasoning on display by your critics, I would say that most of them have never accomplished anything significant in their life, never had a girlfriend, and still live at home with their mommies–but they nevertheless consider themselves intellectual giants.

    While we are on the subject of statements by prominent libertarians that should perhaps be repudiated, how about this one by Rothbard: “There seems to be a sickness deep in the American soul that causes it to identify with aggression and mass murder–the swifter and more brutal the better.” This is from p. 28 of his “War Guilt in the Middle East,” in his publication Left and Right,  Vol. 3/3, (Autumn 1967), pp. 20-30. It might be a little hard to ask the American people for their votes if we think this of them, right? Are you familiar with this editorial?

    It is an amazing piece, but not in an admirable way. He lays the blame for both the 1948 and 1967 Wars entirely on Israel, which in his view was born in sin, i.e. it never should have been created. He spends many pages disussing the origins of this state but never once mentions any connection between the Jewish people and the land of Israel prior to the 20th century or the post-Holocaust conditions facing the survivors. It is as if the Jews simply parachutted in, with absolutely no historical connection to the land. So, after discussing the various (completely impractical) modern schemes to provide a homeland for the Jews in other places, he says this (p.23): “The one Jewish movement that made no sense was Zionism.”

    I do not say this lightly, but anyone who discusses in detail the origins of the modern state of Israel and says nothing of either the moral imperative of finding a homeland for the Jewish people in the immediate aftermath of the Holocaust or the deep, unbreakable attachment of the Jews to the land of Israel is either an imbecile or an anti-Semite.

    • Damien S.

      As a state formed within living memory, with 2000 year old claims of divine title, the formation of Israel would be interesting to see discussed from a libertarian perspective.

      Are Germans collectively responsible to Jews for the Holocaust?
      Do Palestinians or anyone else owe Jews anything for the Holocaust?
      Can one have, in libertarian terms,  a “deep unbreakable attachment” to land for religious reasons and over 2000 years?

      • Anonymous

        I never said anything like “claims of divine title.” These are purely your words. Please do not put words in my mouth–I have quite enough of my own. The connection of the Jewish people to the land of Israel goes back at least 3000 years, by the way. Did you really think that Jesus, his disciples, and the entire cast of characters and the community depicted in the Gospels were the FIRST Jews in that part of the world? The Jewish connection I refer to is entirely historical, although it is also true that the land of Israel and Jerusalem play an absolutely central role in our theology.

        This is why Rothbard’s statement that I quoted about Zionism being the only “Jewish movement” that made no sense is quite bizarre. A community of secular, completely assimilated Jews could theoretically live anywhere, but a Jewish movement, i.e. one that has at least something to do with Judaism, could only have the land of Israel as its goal.  

        • Anonymous

          I get it. You’re like the Daniel Kuehn of this blog.

    • Anonymous

      “most of them have never accomplished anything significant in their life, never had a girlfriend, and still live at home with their mommies” …you lost.

      Sorry, but when you start going for the ad-hominem’s you lose. The irony.

      • Anonymous

        OK, let’s use you as a test case. What is your real name and what publicly verifiable things have you accomplished? Books, articles published? Professional achievements? Patents granted to you? Graduate degrees obtained? Do you, by chance, still live at home with your mommy? Prove me wrong, tell me of the great things you have done–I am all ears.

        By the way, I did not make an ad hominem attack, since I said “most” of Steve’s critic, and based my criticism on the lack of logic and immaturity shown in their comments. So, I am actually making an inference: stupid comments + immaturity = lack of accomplishments, no girlfriend and lives with mommy. But thanks for proving my point.

        • Anonymous

          You’ll believe whatever your sick mind wants to believe. I can spout off all of my accomplishments but I’d only be trying to impress you, and that wouldn’t be worth my time. So, sorry Mark (prove to me that’s your real name, no wait, don’t, I really don’t care). Prove to me that there’s no big-foot, or Santa Clause lol. Get real. I can imagine, what you’ve accomplished with your life, and where you might live, but I’ll be more discreet with my opinions than you. I wouldn’t want to give anyone the impression that I’m coming off as needlessly smug and pretentious.

          But if you’d like to provide me with a list of your acolades, go ahead. I might read it, but I can’t promise you that I’ll believe it. Mark, right?

          • Anonymous

            Well, the interesting comparison is between what you (and the other critics) have accomplished versus what Steve has, and I think we now know how that would turn out. But, you can also check me out at by clicking the “About Your Host” link. Enjoy.

          • Anonymous

            “We” don’t. It’s just a guess. Just like the guess that Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard might be responsible for writing those newsletters, or that God does, or doesn’t exist. But when you really want to believe in something, you’ve gotta have some faith.

            It’s great that you can work somewhere where you can be open with your opinions.

          • Anonymous

            I suspect Mark was asking you to present some verifiable credential — though given you don’t use your name (I use initials) that might be hard to accomplish. Still, since  you’ve been one of the one’s making ad hominem arguments it’s not unreasonable for others to inquire about your personal qualifications. You might actually think about that as well — if you were actually saying anything of merit or worth pondering upon readers would be thinking and considering the message and ignoring the messenger.

          • Anonymous


            This should give you a clue about the field that I work in, and how I feel about the value of the usual accolades. Besides, they never give you any real clue about value of one’s work. Take Paul Krugman, or any grant-hungry newcomer looking to throw aside method in order to gain prestige. Such a focus seems entirely superficial to me, but hey, that’s just my opinion.

            And I don’t reveal my true identity for the same reason that countless others don’t: we don’t want those who pay us to know our politics.

          • “You’re a shameless, cynical idiot” – “btw I don’t use ad hominems” – giggling. I know it’s two years later but that’s the thing about the web, your comments are there forever. And in your case, you seem to lose track of your own narrative in the space between a few comments.

            I am actually a bit sympathetic to you in the sense that you are trying to not be absolutist and to look at the entire political landscape when making your choices. What I think you miss is that Horowitz is basing his view on something more than a couple of newsletter quotes.

            Put another way, it’s just not a coincidence that so many rabid conspiracy theorists, racial separatists and Christian Dominionists support Ron Paul. He winks at them and doesn’t shun them. Just a month or so ago, Ron Paul mentioned Gary North very favorably in an interview he did with Tom Woods – it’s on Tom Woods Youtube channel, go check. Anyone who believes that libertarianism is compatible with the Dominionist, Christian Nationalist hatefest of Gary North and the rest is out of their mind or does not understand the liberal roots of libertarian ideas.

            Fyi, I’m not a Progressive libertarian like many here are. I actually find their obscurantist semantic word games to be a desperate attempt to make classical liberalism support state imposed collectivism for some bizarre reason. I think they are stuck in an intellectual conflict that can’t be resolved. They seem to want to take the “good” bits of authoritarianism and paternalism without the bad bits, and of course that is a well known path to fascism and totalitarianism.

            I’d be interested in hearing whether the passage of two years has effected your views on Ron Paul at all.

    • Anonymous

      “I fully support your stance on the Ron Paul newsletters. And, judging by the immaturity and poor reasoning on display by your critics…”

       I would say that most of them have never accomplished anything significant in their life, never had a girlfriend, and still live at home with their mommies…”


    • But of course Israel did start both wars in ’48 and ’67. And Zionism is defacto religious supremacist. So what was your point again?


        I know there is short term pain, but there is long-term gain if you will endure it. Back on your meds! Really, back on your meds!

        • “Back on my meds” – that’s your response? Hasbara much? “Short term pain” = ethnic cleansing. Sucks to be an Arab living in Palestine, but since Zionists think Jews are superior to Arab Muslims that’s just a nuisance.

          Bad move though. Eventually the hundreds of millions of Muslims in the region will pay back the 6 million Jews. And then you’ll cry anti-semitism, lol. My only beef with it at all is that the U.S. backs it up and has spent so much treasure and blood defending the bloodsoaked Zionist occupation.

          Benny Morris agrees with me, fyi…

  • Has it been noted that Ron Paul perpetrated a fraud by selling a newsletter misrepresented as his own work product? Quite a few libertarians participate in the fraud of selling ghosted writings as their own, and some do the ghosting. James Bovard’s ghosting of Bob Barr’s 2008 campaign book comes to mind. (Bovard removed my post from his blog asking if he thought his Barr ghosting was ethical.) Who has written Ron Paul’s books since his rise to prominence? I would be surprised if he wrote much of them himself. The ghosting fraud is, I suspect, so common among libertarian eminentos that they prefer that it not be mentioned.

    Libertarians active today who were involved with Rothbard include Walter Block (LvMI), Justin Raimondo (Rothbard biographer), and Eric Garris ( Block has called the mere mention of the newsletters a “smear” and the other two have been less than voluble. Someone should put them on the spot about what they knew and approved of during the Paleo years. Paul and Rockwell are not the only ones who know who wrote the bigoted tripe and are keeping the identity or identities secret.

    Ron Paul is full of baloney when he asserts that libertarianism is incompatible with racism. As an abstraction it is, but in fact there are quite pure libertarians who are racists. One whom I have known, never mentioned in the newsletter brouhaha, was employed by Ron Paul. I agree with Timothy Lee when he writes that, “Even if we assume Paul himself doesn’t have a racist bone in his body, the fact remains that he doesn’t seem too upset about racists working for him.”

    My angle? I gave about a grand to Paul’s 2008 campaign and then stopped giving when I learned of the newsletters. I don’t know if Paul is a racist, but his handling of the controversy has been remarkably inept and he can’t seem to muster real emotion in denouncing bigotry.

    I have been a libertarian since discovering Inquiry magazine and the writings of Rothbard and Tom Szasz in the late 1970s.

    • Anonymous

      You’re just a cynic. I’m not name-calling, I’m merely giving you my honest interpretation on your take. You sound like you have an axe to grind. Not sure using ghostwriters counts as fraud. If so, most business people nowadays should qualify. I don’t think they should. Usually when someone is a racist, it oozes out of them in every breath and every syllable. I challenge you to find any footage, audio or video, of Ron making any kind of discriminatory remark in his long public career. Good luck!

      • 1. You provided no evidence that my motive is cynicism. My self-interest is having a libertarian president. If I claimed to author a newsletter but didn’t, and couldn’t even be bothered to read what others were selling as my work while profiting from it, then you could justly call me a cynic.

        2. My motivating concern is that racism is evil. 

        3. Because “most business people nowadays” commit a fraud would not make it morally acceptable. Do you need to have someone else work through for you whether it is a fraud? Do you expect the people whose names are listed as authors of the books you read to have written those books? Is a painting sold as a Rembrandt just as valuable as if it were painted by Pete Johnson?

        4. I didn’t say that Ron Paul was a racist, but we know that he either countenanced racism appearing under his name or profited from selling the work of others as his own.

        5. We know that Paul either knows who wrote the bilge he now disavows or could easily find out, but is unwilling to share the source.

        6. You demand “footage” of Ron Paul making the very sorts of comments that he was selling as his own written work.

        • Anonymous

          You, and most cynics (I call you cynics, because like racists, it seems to ooze from your style and words), seem only too happy to exaggerate the amount of “racism” that is linked to Paul in an attempt to either smear him, or confirm some self-serving, preconceived bias. Paul is human. I’ve brought this up numerous times already, but for whatever reason, both his fans and his detractors want to hold him up to some impossible, higher standard. He made a mistake. Let’s not blow up that mistake to mean more than it does, which if we could quantify would consist of less than a fraction of 1% of the total content ever published in those newsletters. To insinuate that “he made money off them, ergo he’s ‘just as bad'” (or any variation on that theme) is foolish, given how small a proportion the negative content was, how impossible it would be to quantify how much said negative content contributed to his bottom line, how small (and nebulous) that monetary gain must have been. You, and those who are too willing to believe your own narratives (for pride or whatever self-righteous motives) disingenuously paint a skewed picture of ridiculous profits gained at the expense of the minorities. Not that this should mean anything, but as a Mexican-American, I can see through this kind of witch-hunt. Maybe it’s because I do watch so much South & Central American politics and know how corrupt their politics can be, and how blind the people are. Given all that I know (and I know as much as anyone who has dug into Ron’s life can know) Ron isn’t a racist, he’s not God, he’s not a robot, he’s a human being, with all the flaws and positive attributes that befit a human being. I’ve decided that having him in the white house is more important that allowing the current dysfunctional system run its course into a canyon, merely because I can’t get over the fact that Ron Paul is human. As if none of us have ever made a mistake, particularly the politicians. In my book, his positives outweigh his neglectfulness.

  • I’m rather new to following the current happenings and the history of the libertarian movement.  I’ve been a great admirer of Rothbard, but it hasn’t taken much for me to see that he was a Pragmatist, or Leninist as some have said, in his political tact.  He tried to ally with the New Left, but that brought in a lot of hippies and radicals who at their best were very egalitarian instead of libertarian.  One of my favorite papers by Rothbard is “Egalitarianism As A Revolt Against Nature”.  I find it better to read what he wrote than to observe what he did.

    I wasn’t aware of this Rockwell-Rothbard campaign of seducing the old guards of conservatism by reactionary and perhaps even racist rhetoric by using Paul’s newsletter as a proxy, but I am not all too surprised.  I’ve always suspected this of Rockwell and have maintained little respect for him.
    My problem with Paul, even when we agree, has always been this willingness to attach himself to the ugliest and most anti-intellectual aspects of the liberty movement.  I have many other disagreements with Paul, but this one is what bugs me the most.   When he dropped out in 2008, he supported the party that was the practical conclusion of this supposed paleoconservative agenda, the Constitutionalist Party, made up of Christian fundamentalists, nationalists, conspiracy loons and misfits of the Right of all stripes.

    Ron Paul works.  There is a reason he works.  But that reason taints him and leads to what is now a blight on many of our intellectual lives.  He is Mr. Libertarian, so when I tell someone I support free markets and open society, then they ask for a tag and I tell them “You probably know it better as libertarianism”, what will pop in their heads is this poster child who has at least allowed hateful remarks in letters with his name on it to further his political ends.  

    I want to strive for a libertarianism worth promoting, instead of giving them the best we could offer in 2012.    I think there are better men that support Paul, more intelligent and more considerate men (and women).  We don’t have to settle for second best.  We know that people can accept that society should not be run by the threat and use of force.  That message resonates well with benevolent people everywhere.  We don’t need Ron Paul to further our ends.  I fear too many think he is our greatest hope.

    • Anonymous

      The only reason these newsletters don’t go away (and seem to cause you so much embarrassment with your friends) is because a) the mainstream and establishment elitists (not those who run this blog) feel threatened and are desperate, and b) apparently certain kinds of libertarians (those who run this blog) still hold ancient grudges, and think it more important to settle those old scores than to see “libertarianism” of a different variety take center stage. They would rather sabotage “greater libertarianism’s” best chance of achieving real influence than to let old battles die. Somehow they’ve convinced a number of “libertarians” that this really is more important than allowing the current warfare, well-fare, pro-wrestling duopoly continue us on the path off the cliff. Because it’s somehow unbelievable that Ron Paul may in fact be human, and has made some mistakes. News for you, none of us is God (or whatever ideal of perfection you may imagine). He apologized, and disavowed the statements, which comprised less than a fraction of 1% of the total content in the newsletters, numerous times. Get over it. Get real. Or lose, very likely, the only chance to see at least one form of libertarianism have real influence within your lifetime. I’ve made up my mind. No they’re not as evil as some in the media, GOP, DP, and libertarian offshoots would like for us to believe. They’re just human. They sometimes make mistakes. Less than 1% out of millions of words is all they have on more than 30+ years of, probably, the most pristine record ever in congress. Throw that away, for what? Get real.

    • Anonymous

      It’s always been interesting to me that to encounter Rothbard’s “Egalitarianism is a revolt against nature” essay you have to READ it, and reading itself is a revolt against nature: there is nothing natural about reading. If it were natural it would not have to be taught, and people would not have spent millennia in illiteracy. Culture itself–reading, writing, and arithmetic–is a “revolt against nature.”

      And here we are discussing it on the internet.

      This is why libertarianism is founded on misguided notions–the constant need to imagine a “natural” set of rights and properties, untainted by culture

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  • The problem I’m having with this history lesson, enlightening as it is, Dr. Horwitz, is that you have sought to identify the root of Paul’s newsletters in a context that at once exonerates Dr. Paul, roots out the real culprits, and tries to disentangle libertarian thought, and Paul’s true feelings, from the racist, misogynist, and anti-internationalist paranoia that we find in the newsletters. But you are focused on the careers of a couple of intellectual gadflies whose thought, no doubt, evolved, but evolved the way Gingrich’s does, that whatever he’s trying out on the spot must be right.

    Paul’s true believers somehow think that this old news from twenty years ago is somehow excusable because it was in the old days, but the newsletters appear under Dr. Paul’s name, and the promo for them on his stationary and above his signature, twenty-five years after the Voting Rights Act, and thirty plus years after Brown vs. Topeka. Already earlier in the 1980s “politically correct” speech was being attacked and parodied because it sought to ask people to have some sensitivity to women, minorities, the disabled, the most marginalized in our society, and while Reagan had made the “Southern Strategy” pay off, he was sending troops around the world, decrying “welfare queens,” and supporting Apartheid as best he could.

    I don’t have to wonder if Dr. Paul’s inner heart is really racist or not. His deeds speak louder than this, doubtless, sincerely felt words. When he went back to Congress, he didn’t try to make common cause with anti-militarist liberals or fiscal conservatives to reduce American troop deployments in Europe after the fall of Soviet Communism. He didn’t try making common cause with liberals and small government conservatives to avert, reduce, or otherwise obviate the Patriot Act, passed in the paranoid wake of 9/11. He hasn’t tried to audit the Federal Reserve, the Paul fanboy mantra I heard all 2008. I don’t recall hearing him on the truly outrageous invasions of privacy when it was revealed that the federal government in fact had a massive electronic communications invasion into the privacy of American citizens.

    But he did publish, absentmindedly, foolishly, or perhaps cynically, racist, paranoid, conspiracy newsletters.

    What he has done is vote for smaller government by voting for all the tax cuts that were supposed to lead to smaller government, but never have.

    I have not explored this website thoroughly, but when I run into libertarians who want liberty, they specify the desire to be protected from Big Government. But despite the erosion of civil liberties in the United States in the past decade, it isn’t the federal government who tracks my daily use of financial instruments, who decide if I qualify to buy a home or car, who decide if I’m a good enough citizen to start a business. My liberties are much more proscribed by private corporations than Big Government.

    Liberals have a care for liberty, even for private libertine vices, as you point out. But if Dr. Paul is supposed to be the consistent libertarian, I don’t see any pragmatic evidence of it. Between him, Bob Barr, and now the former governor of New Mexico, I’m not seeing evidence that libertarian ideas are more than just an academic exercise, or for the anti-academic types, a personal knee-jerk response to any and all problems, the way some say, “There ought to be a law!” and academics say, “There ought to be a class!” and the paranoid say, The Government is plotting with aliens to control the world hand have one world currency.

    • Anonymous

      Sorry, but you’re a shameless, cynical idiot. Your mind was made up a long time ago, and now you pretend that these revelations somehow confirm your predisposed bias. The truth is so much more clear to see than what you paint in such an absurd conspiratorial fashion. Paul’s long-standing public record shows him to have stood for more minority rights (via individual rights) than any other political player in the history of this country, and now you want to confuse that narrative (the honest one) with your revisionist drivel.

      here’s just a small example of the kinds of things Paul has stood for (it’d be impossible to compile a thorough list of all the clippings available), appropriately titled for someone like you:

      Find me any explicit video or audio footage having Paul speaking the kinds of garbage you are now only too willing to smear him with, in a form of witch-hunt (it’s obvious), and I’ll go ahead and vote for whoever you’re working for.

  • shorwitz

    Ah yes, how lovely to awake to more ad hominems and more psychologizing of my motives.  Thanks for making my points better than I ever could.  You know you’re right when your critics have to turn the economics discipline into a playground ass-kicking game.  Thanks guys, saves me from a day’s worth of responding to you all.

  • The most disturbing aspect of the recent Paul campaigns is their attraction to white supremacists and neo-Nazis, and that Ron Paul will not boldly denounce bigotry. 

    One of Paul’s supporters recently organized a pro-gun event in Indianapolis. Nothing wrong with that, but a little work found this man’s many posts to Stormfront, and the following repugnant manifestations of his views: (“White Power!!!!!,” “Facism (sic) is here to stay. Heil Hitler!”) (“We made this noose for a Mexican or a nagger.”)

    And his support for Ron Paul:

    Not just Paul, but his confreres at the LvMI are reluctant to forthrightly denounce such bigotry. I have never read a Mises Daily article or one at that attacked racism. (Rockwell gives plenty of space, though, to the promotion of unproven “alternative” health treatments.)

    Readers should be aware that the racists are often very active posters, and that they frequently do not reveal their bigoted sentiments except to fellow cretins.

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  • I could see one such newsletter getting out w/o RP’s knowledge. But beyond any reasonable doubt he had to see or hear of what was in that first offensive one, and then the question becomes why did he not intervene?  I certainly would not let any such nonsense be circulated with my name attached to it, and I know of no libertarian nor anyone else of good will who would either.  Until RP address this simple concept, he should be dead in the water to libertarians.

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  • shorwitz

    If you think I’m making this stuff up, here’s some of Ron Paul’s “friends” these days, complete with gay-bash, “Israel controls US foreign policy to make money for Wall Street” and 9/11 Truther ads.  Seriously, do we want a libertarian movement where people like this think we’re their natural home?

    • Anonymous

      If the question is all or nothing, ceteris paribus, Ron Paul’s “friends” v. Jamie Kirchuk’s “friends”– then it is a no brainer. I will take Paul’s kooks, homophobes and racists over the murderous, fascist, opportunist, neocon, democrat, corporatist, statist, bankster, parasite, totalitarian, elitist, war worshippers any day. 

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  • Michael Zigismund

    Thank you, Dr. Horwitz. I’m one of the young people “surprised by all of this dirty laundry.”

  • Anonymous

    Thanks for the article, Steve.  I think it provides useful context for understanding the history of the liberty movement – something I only encountered around ’05-’06.  Since then, I’ve been reading Coordination Problem, material and have posted on  I’ve read much of Mises, Rothbard, Hayek, de Soto, Hazlitt among others.  I look forward to getting at “Microfoundations and Macroeconomics” soon. 

    For myself, I see the disconnect between the various branches of libertarianism to be pretty irrelevant.  I have failed to see any major inconsistencies that would force me to take a “side.”  And if I find it irrelevant, it is much more so for the average GOP voter trying to make a decision between Paul and Romney or Gingrich.  Moreover, I feel the discourse over which “father figure” of libertarianism is the “true” one to be just mental masturbation.  As if anyone from the 18th or 19th century had a perfect understanding of what we now call libertarianism.  We take bits and pieces of insight from numerous people – many of whom had inconsistent views on other issues.  Views that were taken as parts of what are now competing ideologies. 

    You make a valid point in saying that while the letters are a mere microcosm for the direction libertarianism “in general” was taken in the 70’s – needing to revive itself, but also needing to oppose Soviet communism.  Small “c” conservatives could argue the same in needing to unite with the rising neoconservatives.  I really don’t think it is all that much more damaging than those associations always have been for the GOP. 

    Ron’s associations with Lew and Murray and some of the others that they associated with (ie of the third degree) will probably be brought up numerous times if he gets closer to the GOP nomination.  But this kind of thing is almost always going to be raised for a Republican.  The press and Democrats assume them to be racist regardless of evidence. 

    I think Paul’s stated policies on ending the drug war, judicial discrimination against minorities, bringing troops home and more will be able to overcome any damage from the above.  Already we hear of Paul doing the best with minorities among GOP contenders.

    Thanks again for the history.  Don’t worry about the haters.  They’re almost religious in their love for Ron.  For them, constructive criticism is akin to opposition.  A very simplistic assumption. 

    But that’s what an economics professor gets for straying into politics! 

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  • Anonymous

    Stupendous article! It’s kind of scary when I have nothing to add or disagree with.  🙂

  • Anonymous

    “The writings of the paleolibertarians will continue to stain that project unless and until the rest of the libertarian movement stops trying to apologize for them (“you don’t understand the context”…)”

    Mr Horwitz, 

    As most people attacking Paul or Rothbard/Rockwell on this, you seem to start with the implicit premise that there is no need to be precise and careful about your accusations. This is settled (by whom? the authors of the TNR pieces?) So we don’t know what is objectionable from your point of view in these as well as in the other publications you mention, except that it’s supposed to be particularly ugly and racist (in which sense by the way? Because in nowadays PC language, belief in racial differences, apology for differential treatment under the law based on race, or almost any criticism of a person who happens to be part of a racial minority can be put under this same label). 

    I have to tell you. If you want to engage in character assassination, you’d better be fair in your assessment if you consider yourself as “tolerant”, “bleeding heart”, etc. Because accusing someone of saying something he did not say to ruin his reputation is not a sign of tolerance and empathy or whatever nice sounding word you want people to describe you with. You probably do not ignore that in the TNR pieces there is a lot of misquoting or accusations which are to be responded “so what?” by any honest person. But you do not explain what you would consider genuinely problematic in the referred articles or any other we are supposed to have in mind while reading yours with proper quoting or any rigorous method. A fair assessment necessarily means you get the context and the quoting right. And by the way, “understanding the context” does not necessarily equate “apologizing” or pretending in advance that there is nothing wrong with the texts. Again, it means being fair in your assessment.

    Here you act as if it’s clear that the saying about the newsletters story is correct, the only question being who’s to blame. You act as if the burden of proof was not on the accusation. In addition, as the buzz succeeds in shifting the burden of proof on defendants, you are even saying the defendants should just shut up now. How tolerant and humane of you. I am not buying it sir.

    With my own reading of the newsletters linked in the latest TNR piece, I was able to detect some obvious insensitivity for sure, some tasteless or ambiguous comments that could appeal to racist type guys here and there but it also shows some explicit anti-racist claims and other comments which simply do not fit the narrative (and that the author of the TNR piece did not quote obviously except one which as a supposed proof of racism reads “MLK replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration”). When one reads your piece or most other papers attacking Paul and/or his associates, one would not think it would be possible to find in these newsletters an explicit condemnation of forced segregation but here it is, forced segregation being unambiguously called “evil”. I found quite a few examples of these things through a quick read which suggest in addition to Justin Raimondo’s debunking of some of the quotes in the initial TNR piece suggests the received story you are pushing is a largely distorted version of the truth.

  • Anonymous

    “The writings of the paleolibertarians will continue to stain that project unless and until the rest of the libertarian movement stops trying to apologize for them (“you don’t understand the context”…)”

    Mr Horwitz, 

    As most people attacking Paul or Rothbard/Rockwell on this, you seem to start with the implicit premise that there is no need to be precise and careful about your accusations. This is settled (by whom? the authors of the TNR pieces?) So we don’t know what is objectionable from your point of view in these as well as in the other publications you mention, except that it’s vaguely supposed to be particularly ugly and racist (in which sense by the way? Because in nowadays PC language, belief in racial differences, apology for differential treatment under the law based on race, or almost any criticism of a person who happens to be part of a racial minority can be put under this same label). 

    I have to tell you. If you want to engage in character assassination, you’d better be fair in your assessment if you consider yourself as “tolerant”, “bleeding heart”, etc. Because accusing someone of saying something he did not say to ruin his reputation is not a sign of tolerance and empathy or whatever nice sounding word you want people to describe you with. You probably do not ignore that in the TNR pieces there is a lot of misquoting or accusations which are to be responded “so what?” by any honest person. But you do not explain what you would consider genuinely problematic in the referred articles or any other we are supposed to have in mind while reading yours with proper quoting or any rigorous method. A fair assessment necessarily means you get the context and the quoting right. And by the way, “understanding the context” does not necessarily equate “apologizing” or pretending in advance that there is nothing wrong with the texts. Again, it means being fair in your assessment.

    Here you act as if it’s clear that the saying about the newsletters story is correct, the only question being who’s to blame. You act as if the burden of proof was not on the accusation. In addition, as the buzz succeeds in shifting the burden of proof on defendants, you are even saying the defendants should just shut up now. How tolerant and humane of you. I am not buying it sir.

    With my own reading of the newsletters linked in the latest TNR piece, I was able to detect some obvious insensitivity for sure, some tasteless or ambiguous comments that could appeal to racist type guys here and there but it also shows some explicit anti-racist claims and other comments which simply do not fit the narrative (and that the author of the TNR piece did not quote obviously except one which as a supposed proof of racism reads “MLK replaced the evil of forced segregation with the evil of forced integration”). When one reads your piece or most other paper attacking Paul and/or his associates, one would not think it would be possible to find in these newsletters an explicit condemnation of forced segregation in these newsletters but here it is, forced segregation being unambiguously called “evil”. I found quite a few examples of these things through a quick read which suggest in addition to Raimondo’s debunking of some of the quotes in the initial TNR piece that the received story you are pushing is a largely distorted version of the truth. 

  • Ken S

    I have similar concerns as Zaephyr3.

    I am a person for which ‘left-libertarian’ and ‘race realist’ blogs have been on the reading list for quite some time now (maybe this is unusual?), so it didn’t take long for me to Google ‘ron paul race realism’ when this newsletter issue came up to see if there was an ‘alternative context’ which would make these quotations seem less bigoted (I don’t think there is any context that would make them not mean spirited)

    I have no verdict yet because fully untangling this issue might require digging up some history (and I have not read the full newsletters either), but I feel at least *some* sympathy with a rant like this , even if I’m mostly opposed to the political philosophy that the article represents…

    That said, the following comment may not be relevant to this issue, but I will bring it up anyways…

    To me it is clear that race realism and a bad attitude/political philosophy does not NECESSARILY equal racism, even if these three things seem suspiciously correlated. Anti-racism can never be ‘anti-race realism with a bad attitude’ either, and sooner or later anti-race realism may just be anti-established science.

    • Anonymous

      Everybody can read the scans of the newsletters published in the latest TNR article. Even if the one on Duke is cut so that we miss the end which gives the whole context, one can check most of the controversial stuff denounced in the TNR piece. And one can see the interesting material I was talking about which does not fit the story and which is not quoted in TNR (except for the comment on the “EVIL forced segregation” that they reproduced probably thinking that would be considered as racist because it criticizes MLK -did anyone notice that any criticism of MLK in the TNR article is considered as a sign of racism, which is pure PC BS?). I’m considering making a list of quotes when I have some more time.

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  • Anonymous

    Thank you very much for this piece. I’m very far from a libertarian, very much one of the dreaded egalitarians, but this is a very thoughtful and reasoned attempt to come to terms with the hideous legacy of paleolibertarianism. The work of Rothbard and Rockwell is the thing that killed libertarianism for me. It just looked like a dressed up way to preserve white supremacy. As much as I sympathize with the libertarian project–the defense of civil liberties, the enthusiasm for free exchange, the hostility to the military industrial complex and the endless war on terror, the unease about collectivity–the creepy swamp reveled in the newsletters just hopelessly taints the whole project.

    I admire the attempt to wrest libertarianism back to the progressive left. But years ago I had a conversation with the late Don Lavoie, a GMU economist and a colleague, about Foucault. Like a lot of libertarians, he liked Foucault’s distrust of “progressive” liberalism humanism and his exposure of social control masquerading as therapeutic reform. I asked him how he reconciled Foucault’s critique of the very idea of freedom, and the self imagined by “the enlightenment,” with the heroic individualism at the core of most libertarianism. He replied that this was the big challenge facing libertarian thought: how to reconcile the insights of postmodernism to a libertarian notion of individual freedom.

    It probably can’t be done. Rothbard doesn’t just strategically turn to racism, like a cynical Leninist: it’s not just strategy. The insistance on naturalized inequality was central to his project. Famously he argued that egalitarianism was a “revolt against nature.” But a “foucaultian libertarian” might reply that the act of reading and writing themselves were both revolts against nature: there’s nothing natural about either. Founding your claims in human nature logically makes Rothbard’s racism inevitable; hence his enthusiasm for the Bell Curve. The racism in the newletters is a feature, not a bug.

    “Postmodernism” made me an egalitarian. Egalitarianims is just as hostile to collectivieties as libertarianims, but from a different base. It’d be great to see a real dialogue between libertarianism and postmodernism, one unpolluted by paleolibertarianism.

    • Ken S

      “the creepy swamp revealed in the newsletters just hopelessly taints the whole project.”

      As a reader of race realist blogs I am all too familiar with the modern-day ‘creepy swamp’ and would not want to be affiliated with most of the political/social views that are often expressed in both the main posts and comments of a few of these blogs.

      “Founding your claims in human nature logically makes Rothbard’s racism inevitable; hence his enthusiasm for the Bell Curve. The racism in the newsletters is a feature, not a bug.”

      This I disagree with, and I did find an article by Rothbard that saves his reputation quite a bit in my eyes: .

      There is certainly quite a bit of hyperbole in there but there is at least a core of truth in his writings. I am not endorsing anything political in there, I lean towards the egalitarian left that Rothbard derides. It is true that the beliefs of certain egalitarians are at odds with science, but this does not in any way send a “bullet through the heart of the egalitarian-socialist project”. I am hopeful that shedding incorrect beliefs can only make it more sound, but this will require a bit of extra work.

      One of the biggest cracks in the foundation (besides the straightforward possibility of falsity, if that matters) come from the accusations of reverse-discrimination that are increasingly leveraged against programs designed to assist racial minorities. Many people that believe in racial equality as a *biological fact* may be inclined to gauge any program as having a positive effect in so far it brings equality of outcome. Yet, if racial equality in a biological/social sense is false, it is a much more difficult project to gauge how much these programs actually ameliorate true occurrences of discrimination based on race. I believe eventually these questions can be answered without any ideological pretense muddying the waters, but the answers are likely complex and difficult to find. In the meantime it may be valid to fall back on personal preferences, but personal preferences need not be an excuse for laziness in the correct administration of these programs and hesitation in espousing accurate views on race, because this can only give fuel to egalitarianism’s opponents.

      Also an interesting tidbit from Rothbard’s article:

      “It is truly fascinating that, while liberals and neocons have been deriding paleos for years as notorious “racists,” “fascists,” “sexists,” and all the rest, that actually we, as libertarians, are the last group who deserve such a label: that, in fact, liberals and neocons, as people who all stand with the power elite over the ordinary Americans, are far more deserving of the statist-racist-fascist label.”

      Rothbard may have just as much of a case for this statement as those calling Rothbard a racist have against him. Ultimately it is just silly name calling that obscures empirical issues that are still very much undecided, to take an example from the article linked by Horowitz:

      “John Stuart Mill, who argued that it was institutions, not race, that explained why some nations were rich and others poor”

      J. S. Mill may be too outdated to look at for resolving these problems, particularly if there is a limit to the quality of institutions depending on the racial makeup of a society. The main point now is that J. S. Mill didn’t know then and we really don’t know for sure now, but the evidence may be mounting on the side of those who political views we happen to find distasteful.

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  • It is the systemic removal of God from the hearts and minds of the American people that has created a vacuum for the golden calves of government to fill (many entities behind this systemic erosion).  We must focus on God and Family, get our own house in order, and encourage others to do the same.  No amount of libertarian treatises or newsletters will accomplish this for us.

     Liberty is a result of righteous living, not righteous writing.

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  • Anonymous

    All this is very interesting from a historical perspective, but it sounds like a libertarian problem to me, not something even remotely affecting what are generally considered issues of concern to traditional, Party of Lincoln Republicans like me. A suspicious sort might come to the conclusion that you and yours aren’t Republicans at all, and that you piggy-back onto the GOP in order to give your supposedly super-duper libertarian beliefs greater mainstream credibility. Hey, here’s a thought: why don’t you libertarians form your own party. You could call it, oh I don’t know, the Libertarian Party maybe. Then you could fairly compete in that great marketplace of ideas and wouldn’t be reduced to calling yourselves something you aren’t, or stuffing ballot boxes, or packing online polls. 
    And take your Stormfront friends with you.

  • Becky Hargrove

    I will break my new rule this time about posting online ( I have been attacked too many times all over the political spectrum, as a female libertarian) as these two things are important:
    1) I grew up in the county Ron Paul came from.  Since then I have been many places around the country and the white/black relationship in this county was about the most benign I have ever experienced.
    2) Libertarianism probably never would have gone so far to the right and conservative, had it been willing to reach out to the female gender to find new economic structures for the future outside of government solutions.  As it is women are still pretty much excluded from this conversation altogether and so will have to find libertarian solutions offline.  No one is going to find solutions that work if gender issues continue to be separated out as they are now.

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  • Anonymous

    It’s not as if Ron Paul appealed to the worst in people for purely strategic reasons.  He possesses a conspiratorial-whackjob mindset himself, which makes him sympathetic to these people.

    Here’s Paul expressing support for a Congressional investigation to see if the USA physically executed (not just “inspired”) the 9-11 attack of the World Trade Center:

    Here’s Ron Paul expressing his admiration for Bradley Manning, calling him a “true patriot”:

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  • Ruskin and co were SOCIALISTS not Conservatives.

    And many conservatives (both conservative minded Whigs – and, later, Conservative Party people) in Britain were active in the anti slavery movement. Although, yes, the 19th century Conservative Party contained many statists – Disraeli and his friends (with the false docrtine they took from German thought – that the state was there to “serve the people” especially “the poor” without any clear limits to its powers).

    As for the United States – the anti slavery movement was dominated by what “Progressives” today would call “religous extremists” (not people they like or idenify with). Indeed the Confederate apologists (such as George Fitzhugh) denounced the anti slavery movement as part religious fanatics, and part “greedy capitalists” out to get people for their “wage slavery” (which,  in the absurd opinion of such apologists, was worse than real slavery).

    However, there is a more serious point that mistating history.

    The whole point of this site is the destruction of libertarianism.

    Let me explain what I mean.

    In the late 19th century American liberalism still existed as a free market force – for example the “Nation” magazine denouced the collectivism (and the anti rich propaganda) of Richard Ely (the mentor of both T. Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson).

    Liberals stood for justice – to each his own. And if one person was vastly richer than another person – SO BE IT, this is NOT injustice.

    Yet in the 1920s everything changed – the Nation magazine (and so on) went from being a supporter of justice to a supporter of SOCIAL justice.

    Social Justice is (of course) the belief that income and wealth should be “distributed” according to some (normally egalitarian or semi egalitarian) political rule.

    Writers such as M.J. Oakeshott, F.A. Hayek and Antony Flew (to name just the moderates –  libertarians would take an even hasher view of  “social justice”) have explained the evil of  “social justice” and how it must lead to collectivism.

    And, sure enough,  the “Nation” (and so on) ended up, de facto,  supporting the Soviet Union.

    So American liberalism (as a pro private property anti “social justice” movement) died. And the name “liberal” was taken by the enemy.

    I will fight with every ounce of my being (with the last breath of in my body) against anyone who seeks to destroy libertarianism as liberalism was destroyed.

    “Social Justice” is EVIL – it is the root of everything a libertarian is AGAINST.

    A person must choose.

    Either they are in favour of JUSTICE or of  SOCIAL JUSTICE.

    For they are not just different – they are inevitably at war.

    • Anonymous

      Modern Progressives  have much in common with George Fitzhugh.

    • Mark Brady

      I suggest it’s misleading to call John Ruskin a socialist.  Yes, he was one of the most virulent opponents of nineteenth-century industrial capitalism but he was also personally hostile to socialism.  That’s not to say, of course, that many socialists haven’t welcomed his attacks on the market system.

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  • Ru Paul is a communist

  • Whoa this is a heavily commented thread! 
    Reading through the comments a few thoughts spring to mind:

    1) Libertarians (broadly defined) need to think more clearly and comprehensively about strategy. The de facto libertarian strategy seems to be to take political power through certain candidates in the hopes that libertarian politicians will destroy the power they have been given.   

    2) It seems to me that there could be multiple strategies that are not necessarily mutually exclusive. With the exception of SEK III and a few of the new left-libertarians strategic alternatives are rarely talked about. I mean, imagine if all the money poured into Ron Paul books, newsletters, and campaign contributions coupled with all the volunteer hours his libertarians supporters have given him was put to another use. 

    3) Therefore I would like to submit that the de facto strategy is perhaps not the most efficient use of time and money. It has allowed a few political entrepreneurs like Paul to get rich and famous but perhaps there is a better way. 

    4) The “new social movements” , which are generally seen as left-oriented, have at times completely eschewed targeting the state and directed their grievances directly at large corporations. Think of anti-sweatshop campaigns and the like. Perhaps similar tactics could be used by libertarians.

    5) Libertarians seem to employ a dated model of action in which electoral politics are central to achieving movement goals. Indeed, electoral politics seem to be the ONLY goal. Again, there is nothing wrong with choosing to vote for one person or another, but perhaps applying lots of resources to efforts at seizing state power is not optimal.

    6) I say this because on many fronts libertarianism has been largely unsuccessful. Conterminous with the rise of the libertarian movement the US carceral state radically expanded. By many measures the frequency and intensity of state-sponsored violence has declined since the 1970s but US policy continues in another direction both domestically and internationally. This is odd, of course, because few other countries have an active libertarian movement. As far as I can tell, it seems to be a largely anglophone phenomenon.  The country with the largest libertarian movement is also the country that makes the most war and incarcerates the most people. 

    7) I therefore advise libertarians to carefully reconsider strategy and think of alternatives to electoral politics 

    Not sure if anyone wants my advice though…..

    I really like this blog and I would love to read some things that the regular contributors might have to say about alternative strategies.  


  • Don M

    One reason I’m not a libertarian: it glorifies an intellectual purity that has no place in the real world.

    It’s easy to see the logic of the libertarian position, but it requires, at bottom, a group of people who will abide by the simple rule of nonaggression, accept the results of the market, and choose principle over power.  Such people don’t exist.  We have a relatively libertarian Constitution in the United States, and it did not produce a libertarian state because there were too many reasons to suspend the rules: racism, war, depressions, poverty, combating racism, etc.  If a Constitution with an independent judiciary won’t secure a libertarian government, nothing will.  If the movement made a deal with the devil in the 80s over petty cultural issues and the desire to appeal to a larger base, what deals will the movement make if it ever senses it is truly close to attaining power?

  • Anonymous

    There can be no righteous living without liberty. Unless you think righteousness does not depend on individuals making an uncoerced choice to do right.

  •  Notably, Paul is still a climate denier and so is much libertarian propaganda. So they’ve set aside race as the cultural wedge issue and turned to environmentalists-who-want-you-to-try-tofu (and will probably get the UN/NWO to force you to do it), but the same intellectually corrosive strategy is in place, no?

    • Mark Brady

      Do you mean he denies there is climate change?  Or that he denies there is anthropogenic climate change?  Or that he denies the case for anthropogenic climate change is proven?  I doubt he denies there is a climate!

      • Eli Rabett

        Wanna bet?

  • Whooosh.  I really wanted to read this, but you just kept writing and writing and writing and writing.  Less is more.  Get to the point.  It’s the internet.

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  • Ken Lanterman

    First of all, this has to be the best libertarian blog out there. I haven’t seen this much deep thinking about the movement since the early days of Liberty magazine.
    Second, if you happened to skim over the comments, go back and read Woolsey’s overview of the debate. It along with Horwitz’s are good bits of movement history.
    Finally, to my two main points about Steve’s post.
    1. To me libertarianism is a political philosophy, one that tries to answer what is the best form of government. That’s totally separate from a social/private philosophy of how I should live my life or how I should veiw my fellow man. Therefore, I agree with one of the posters that racism (or ugly prejudice if you want to define racism as those in power conferring privilege on the basis of race) is compatible with libertarianism. It just so happens that my social/private philosophy puts me in the bleeding heart camp with many of the founders of this blog. I also happen to believe that libertarianism is the best form of government for me, a bleeding heart.
    2. I strongly agree with Steve that those who call ourselves libertarians/voluntarists like myself/etc., do have to have an answer to the Paul newsletter issue. I’m sorry but I’m human and I do want people to like the people I like. And it pains me to see someone like Paul whose views on government I support be attacked for being a racist by those who think if you adhere to his political philosophy you must also adhere to his social philosophy. So, yes, I want to know if he is a racist ( I don’t think he is, but I want him to forecfully argue the point.). My answer to those who say libertarians, at base, are racist homophobes is that some are, most are not, but no matter what a person’s private philosophy may be, that is no reflection on his or her politicial philosophy.

  • Mark Brady

    If we really want to be “cosmopolitan” libertarians, we should be careful to avoid identifying too closely with John Stuart Mill.  For starters read Joe Stromberg on John Stuart Mill and Liberal Imperialism:

    • Thanks, Mark. I always learn something when I read Stromberg, and this essay was no exception. 

      Still, there’s a lot to be admired in Mill’s thought, I think, Rothbard’s qualms notwithstanding. On Liberty is a masterpiece that, I suspect, has had and will have a far greater positive influence for liberty than anything Rothbard ever wrote.

      • Anonymous

        If history smiles on JS Mill more than Rothbard it will be a victory for reactionary forces. Until political science overcomes Hobbes and quits defending the State as means to justice– it will go nowhere. Others, like George Sabine and David Osterfeld, have also remarked like Stromberg on how Mill backtracked on whatever might be considered libertarian in his writing.  Mill believed in state provided education, state intervention into markets, state control of deciding who can marry who, state promotion of culture, science and whatnot….   What exactly is libertarian about Mill again? 

        • First, do we really want to write off as unlibertarian anyone who believed in state education and the state promotion of science, regardless of the other doctrines they held and regardless of the contributions their ideas made to the advance of liberty in their historical context? Rothbard seems very inconsistent on this. On the one hand, he’s willing to give the label “libertarian” to people who clearly aren’t, like Locke. On the other hand, he displays an almost inexplicable hatred toward other people who are clearly key figures in the libertarian intellectual tradition like Mill and Smith. My suspicion is that there’s a heavy dose of contrarianism motivating these moves – a desire to unearth “buried” figures like Cantillon and to bury the popular ones like Smith.
          Second, I worry that a lot of contemporary libertarians know Mill only through the rather perversely colored lens of Rothbard and his disciples. Mill’s original work is well worth reading, and I suspect most libertarians without an axe to grind will find a lot to admire in On Liberty, in his writings on women’s rights, and yes, even in his political economy. The serious scholarly literature is worth consulting too. In particular, Dale Miller’s piece on Mill’s Socialism is instructive:

          • Anonymous

            Thanks Matt. This blog is something special when the principals jump right in!

            It is true, one should not throw the baby out with the bath water.  Isn’t it common for the pendulum to swing too far to the opposite side when intellectuals dislodge Establishment ideas?  (I just read Jung Chang’s Hollywood demolishment of Mao. Even I took issue with some her stretches in inference. But maybe it is necessary to be so obnoxious: e.g.  since Mao is still held in an untouchable regard not unlike FDR is here, or Stalin/Lenin is in Russia.   “His heart was in the right place” is a common remark heard in these places.) 

            Historical context matters greatly, I agree. Rothbard is indeed inconsistent with how he uses the term libertarian. How consistent would I be with any word if I wrote so voluminously?  In add, isn’t there much truth and honorable purpose in Rothbard’s contrarianism? 

            In JS Mill’s case, one has to wonder why he has been the OK libertarian thinker in every freshmen poli-sci class in the country. Is it because he was so state friendly?  The modern Mill example is Hayek, social-democrat friendly.  Mises, on the other hand, held the market supreme over democracy, hence he is does not exist in college texts. 

            Context does matter. Mill ought to be considered a moderate liberal for the 19th century. His dad was more free-market friendly. And how about juxtaposing Mill with Bastiat or Spooner?  It is one thing to see context and discard the unlibertarian ideas when shaping the future. It is a whole ‘nother thing when importing the past means perpetuating the flaws– whether on purpose or not.

            I will read Dale Miller!

      • Mark Brady

        Yes, On Liberty is a masterpiece, and I think it’s fair to say that it’s had a far greater positive influence for liberty than anything Rothbard ever wrote.  But then it was published in 1859 so perhaps we should revisit the last part of your statement in, oh, 2059?  🙂

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  • Anonymous

    Wonderful commentary by all.

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  • Becky Hargrove

    Adam, thanks for your thoughts.  My parents are part of an unconscious libertarianism, the kind that means in their old age they depend on no one (to their detriment).  Plus, because my Dad never signed on for Medicare he now gets fleeced if he needs medical care.  I look to libertarianism out of pure necessity in that government is not going to be able to provide many of the services we take for granted, much longer.  I believe that the local community level has to recreate wealth in terms of human capital if we are going to be recognizable as a civilization much longer.

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  • I checked Horowitz’s link on Rockwell’s Paleo Conservative article and fail to find any shameful “plot” to ally with knuckle-dragging racists or other unsavory types.  Further, Kirchick’s smears were thoroughly debunked by Justin Raimondo long ago.  I understand enemies of peace and freedom slinging mud at anyone who stands against the Empire.  I do not understand people supposedly in sync with libertarian ideas to so grovel in fear that they are willing to betray giants of libertarian thought with further smears and infighting.   

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  • Anonymous
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  • Anonymous

    Very interesting and thoughtful, thanks.  Raises a great question.  I think Paul has sufficiently rejected that he sees no place for these views, period, and I don’t see what more he can do.  And while libertarians absolutely should, IMHO, echo that, the issue is now one for the GOP, not for libertarians.  I don’t see what more we can do than reject what was said.  Simply exploring it in greater detail and saying it was consciously done to court the right at the expense of courting the left, I don’t believe, accomplishes much except for a rarefied breed of American citizen, and even at that won’t make a difference for that rare breed which anyway will get this by now.  While I agree with not pandering to the basest instincts, and I believe voters aren’t idiots (or at least no more than all humans are kind of an idiot at times), I don’t see what conducting an extensive history class “warts and all” is going to do for us.  Let’s put it this way:  what has that approach gotten liberal movements that have taken it?  I’d argue nothing but self-defeat.  WJ Bryan and such as T. Roosevelt did not rely on extensive history-teaching to fuel their progressive movements.

    But we should fully reject and not apologize for that it was a bad thing for Paul not to have stopped it, and as the newsletters bore his name he was responsible.  I well grant he had not been entirely forthcoming, early on, but by now he also has said he was wrong and it was bad.

    BTW, in interest of full disclosure, I’m not (as posted above) a “real” libertarian in that I’m a libertarian (perhaps better put a strict constructionist) re the federal government and its role and what policies it enacts, generally.  At the state level I’m not so libertarian at all; I tend to believe that smaller-sized communities can and should have more active governments, though I do also believe in as much as possible restraints on those governments, as well.   But I do believe in local police and local food and other safety laws, all by a government.  So many of you understandably totally disagree with my particular ideology. 

  • Damien S.

    As for it being “clear” that he did not write them, what about his taking full credit for them in 1996?

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  • ducky

    To Em_pty Skin The phrase is “I couldn’t care less,” and not, “I could care less.” The latter implies that you do care some but that you could care less. The former (couldn’t care less) means that you could not care any less than you do, which is, of course, not at all. Sorry, this is a thing for me, and I think my uncle was person zero who started that misstatement. He typically gets truisms backwards and theorems upside down.

    I simply had to get that off my chest, but as to the discussion, and as an aside, isn’t a genuine libertarian an anarchist? And doesn’t that beg the question of whether there is even a need for a President given that anarchists don’t want any kind of government, much less a supreme leader? Just sayin’.

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  • glennd1

    I know this has been here a while but I just found it. I have to commend Horwitz for his honest stand here. I want to emphasize a point he made.

    People who back Paul unquestioningly have marginalized the libertarian movement. By refusing to acknowledge his insufficient response to the ugliness of Rockwell (who I’m much less charitable to than Horwitz) and Rothbard, and his ongoing close association with them, Ron Paul simply cannot escape being painted with the same brush as them. And I think it’s completely fair to do so. In fact, I think it reveals an ugly opportunism on Paul’s part as he was all too happy to benefit from the following Rockwell and Rothbard generated, as is clear by his comments. His failure to be honest about the nature of PaleoLibertarianism and taking responsibility for his role in it is a further insult.

    The worst part? Just imagine an alternate 2012 election cycle in which Paul didn’t step up, but instead threw his support behind Gary Johnson? We could have pulled votes from both sides, not enough to win but easily 5-10x what Paul drew. We would be a real political force and by now would be positioning for the 2014 and 16 elections with real candidates and some money to spend. But no, we are nowhere. Worst? These same Paul-bots are rallying for him to run in 16 – and the result will be no different.

    90% of Paul’s supporters are:
    1. Anarchists
    2. New Confederacy types
    3. Conspiracy theorists

    Or some mix of the above. I suggest such people go form a separate political movement and stop dragging classically liberal libertarians down the tubes with them. I doubt it will happen but it’s the only way for us to move forward.

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  • Mark Rothschild

    I read the Horwitz article because of a (quite negative) reference
    to him by Justin Raimondo on Twitter. I wanted to find out more, so I did, and
    that is why I’m writing this.

    I’ve been a reader of Justin Raimondo’s for many years and I also regularly read a broad range of other libertarian media, among which Cato, Mises, and this site (Bleeding Hearts).

    I’ve read pretty extensively about the beginnings of libertarian
    ideas and the people who developed those ideas; the “founders” if you will. When I look at the core of the founders ideas a few themes really stand out.

    One idea that can be inferred from the founders is that when society is dysfunctional, chaotic, or full of strife that the State will move into that space and create its version of order from society’s dysfunction, disorder, and strife.

    We all know what such a state of affairs looks like – it looks like us (unfortunately).

    What the paleo-libertarians are saying is that a voluntary orderly society that is supportive of middle class norms occupies social space that crowds out the State.

    Now, it is true that libertarianism also appeals to marginalized groups such as LGBT people, recreational drug users, survivalists, and racial supremacists. But, is it necessary to anathematize everyone is this movement as (pick one) a smug philistine, stoner, gay, racist, conspiracy theorist? Where does the
    spiral of denunciation end? Isn’t there something very sectarian and Trotskyite about all this?

    In public life racism has become a kind of mortal sin, a defilement of the political soul that only can be expiated by the ritual purification of denunciation and contrition. (I am not now nor have I ever been a racist – I repudiate so and so (and I’m so, so sorry that I had my picture taken with him). This mania is not only ridiculous; it is destructive to our movement.

    Racism is not a part of libertarianism, but racists are. What are we to do about this? The splitters say “through the bums out”, but I say “through the ideas out” and let the P.H.D. economists, knuckle dragging racists, indolent pot heads, gays, Jews, blacks, and smug philistines stay. We need them all.

    Movements sometimes have “splitters”. People who for self-interested reasons like to make a fuss, often using guilt by association as a way of marginalizing people with a view of pushing them out of the movement altogether. If alive today these splitters would want to push out the very founders of libertarianism.

    What the current crop of splitters want is a politically correct welfare state with maximal civil liberties allowing, inter alia, complete marriage and drug use freedom. Theirs is bedroom libertarianism.

    Their dream is of a libertarian welfare state. It is as oxymoronic as the dreams of the 19th century anarcho-syndicalists that went nowhere.

    The Horwitz agenda is reveled when he says that he opposes the “Old Right of the 40s”. Presumably he is talking about the anti-war small government
    right that was vitiated by FDR and never really recovered after the New Deal.

    The Old Right he opposes forms a link across the decades between the Founders of our country to the founders of our modern libertarianism movement. We should cherish our history and learn about it.

    There is plenty of room under the libertarian tent for everyone, but there should be no room for splitters.

    • I find it stunning that you lump pot smokers and gay people in with racists. Racists are morally defective haters who cause harm to others whereas gay people and pot smokers don’t harm a soul. How can you want to make common cause with racists?

      • Mark Rothschild

        If Libertarianism is to become more than just a pipe dream
        of some alternative future, then Libertarians must learn to stretch their comfort zone to include some people they don’t really like.

        This does not mean that we should paper over important differences, but we need to make common cause with any libertarians, even those we disapprove of.

        Some libertarians may not appear to you to be nice people. So
        what? You don’t have to indorse all their ideas, but if they are libertarians then let them in the tent.

        If you don’t want political power then stay as pure as the
        driven snow. When you go up to heaven you can tell St. Peter that you never compromised or hung out with any un-pure libertarians.

        For me, I will cooperate with anyone who accepts the basic premises of libertarianism, and can work together toward the same future.

        • Giggling. I don’t want to make common cause with racists under any circumstances. You do – that makes me question your morality. Moving along now, this is not interesting.

  • Akal Singh Krau

    I agree with those goals, but this one is problematic: “And we have to do it in a way that’s immune to the charge that libertarians don’t care about making the world a better place, especially for the least well off…” That is a good goal, and one that I share; but it concedes too much to the naysayers. Ad hominem attacks or charges of lack of compassion and bias are not arguments belonging to rational discourse.

    To quote from “Theory and History” by Mises: “But if no tenable objections can be raised against a theory, it is immaterial what kind of motives inspired its author… Reference to a thinker’s bias is no substitute for a refutation of his doctrines by tenable arguments. Those who charge the economists with bias merely show that they are at a loss to refute their teachings by critical analysis.”

    Rational rebuttals of lack-of-care charges risk accomplishing nothing but to validate the charge! To quote from Oliver Wendell Holmes: “Controversy equalizes fools and wise men – and the fools know it.” Let alone that fact that there’s no “immunity” to SOMEONE’s inevitable dislike or doubting of your character. But I guess the blog wouldn’t be BLEEDING HEART libertarians if it didn’t assert at least one romantic goal. 🙂

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  • Ellen Young


  • I’m a conservative libertarian, who is against libertinism and hedonism. I literally want hippies like you not to represent all libertarians.

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  • ahmed omar
  • ahmed omar


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  • ahmed omar

    xXxx Actually, sIx funy the Trevyon Martin xIxx case WAS nothing more than a local crime story until the ‘social media’ picked up on it and got the big money race baiters involved.
    Then the liberal xXxx sex fun x vidoe media got involved and tried to manufacture a false ‘news’ story to fit their agenda, which, as we have come to find out, was a massive pack of lies about how poor ol’ Trevyon was a ‘good boy’ and a victim,
    sIx funy and Zimmerman was a racist looking for any excuse to kill someone.
    The reality xxxx is that the liberal xnxx media has no desire to merely report the facts, but to force society to fall in line with their ideological views, and the ones who don’t are marginalized, or attacked as racists, bigots, mysoginists, and every other name in the book you can think of.


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  • roknnagd

    its very good post

  • roknnagd

    … voluntary cooperation, progress, enlightenment, tolerance and mutual respect, and openness to change. That is our heritage and that’s the libertarianism that I grew up with in the 1970s and 1980s, and that’s the progressive libertarianism I want to proudly enter into the debate over the future of human social organization. …

  • aksawy

    Avery good post you add ….. thanks

  • Kennon Gilson

    Meh. At the same time the Libertarians were making nice with the Communists bringing down the entire Communist empire, and are now at work in the entire Islamic Conference. Forest for the trees, people. For more on the world movement, see

  • Mike Shipley

    Great post!! This is important backstory for recent converts.

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  • HimuKuro

    Hi Steve, some of the posts are no longer active on this post. The link to liberty magazine is no longer on the Mises site, most likely due to technical issues, and the link to the Right Watch blog either is the wrong link or doesn’t exist anymore. I did a cursory search and I didn’t come across anything detailing what you were talking about with the Right Watch blog, but I did find a new link to the January edition of Liberty Magazine:

    I hope that an alternative to the Right Watch blog can be found as I’m extremely interested in reading about it.

    Thanks for your time.