Toleration, Libertarianism

We’re Back Here Again? Why Ron Paul’s Friends Matter

A little over 18 months ago, I made something of a splash, not to mention pissing lots of people off and generating lots of traffic here at BHL, by writing about the history of the Ron Paul newsletters and why they were such an embarrassment for 21st century libertarianism. I argued that they reflected a certain strain of libertarianism that needed to be thrown overboard if libertarianism is to be taken seriously this time around. I also argued that the racism therein was at odds with the historical tolerance and progressivism of classical liberalism.

Not surprisingly, Ron Paul and his followers didn’t listen. As a result, we’re back talking about Ron Paul and his odious friends, as the news last week was his planned appearance at a conference in Canada sponsored by Our Lady of Fatima, an organization of pre-Vatican II Catholics. What is troubling about this conference is the roster of other speakers, which includes people connected to anti-Semitic organizations, a man who has argued for geocentricism (yes, you read that right), an anti-vaccine organizer, the editor of the John Birch Society magazine, and an Italian politician known for his racist and anti-Semitic views, not to mention several other various and assorted New World Order, 9/11, and Federal Reserve conspiracy types. Feel free to Google a few of them. Paul is supposed to address foreign policy issues, which is certainly innocuous enough (and a set of issues I tend to agree with him on), so this is mostly about the company he keeps.

Like the donation and endorsement from the well-known racist group Stormfront, which Paul gladly took, this makes you wonder whether he cares at all about the perceptions he creates by the friends he keeps. And my first reaction on Facebook was to hammer on this point:

This is yet another example of Ron Paul being utterly tone-deaf or arrogant about who he chooses to associate with. It is exactly the kind of “libertarianism” that I want to toss into the dustbin of history and it’s why all the good that Ron Paul has done is frequently offset by errors in judgment like this one.

Ron Paul is not a racist or anti-Semite or complete whack job, but he really needs to stop taking money and breaking bread with folks who are. It is fair game to judge a man by the company he keeps and those of us who care about the future of libertarianism should continue to do so.

Although I still agree with what I wrote there, I no longer think that’s the most productive way to think about the problems raised by Ron Paul’s choice of friends. I think libertarians, especially ones who are more positive about Ron Paul than I am, should be asking a different question, and one I raised in my post 18 months ago. Several Facebook commenters tried to argue that it’s good that Ron Paul goes and “preaches to the enemy.” Maybe that would be a good thing to do, but it misreads the situation. Paul is not preaching to the enemy; the enemy thinks he’s a friend. That’s the problem.

The question is not “why does Ron Paul keep hanging out with these guys?” but rather “why do guys like this keep thinking Ron Paul’s views are congenial to their own?

For all the good Ron Paul has done in bringing people to the ideas of libertarianism (and it has been significant), it remains troubling that there seems to be something in the way he talks about libertarian ideas that makes people like Stormfront or the organizers of that conference think he is “one of them.” Equally troubling is the attempt by some Ron Paul supporters to shrug at this issue and just say “that’s Ron being Ron” or the equivalent. Or, as often happens to me, argue that people raising these criticisms are just trying to gain pats on the back in the faculty lounge. Why is it so hard for Ron Paul supporters to believe that there are libertarians who are genuinely troubled in a principled way by his hanging out with racists and anti-Semites and their support of him in return? Perhaps their inability to see our genuine concern as a principled libertarian position begins to answer the question I posed above. Perhaps they simply do not understand that those concerns were part and parcel of classical liberalism from its beginnings. And perhaps that is the beginning of the problem.

Classical liberalism was born in the fires of the Enlightenment. It was part of the general progressive movement of the 19th century, with famous classical liberals on the side of racial and gender equality. People like John Stuart Mill were the “politically correct” of their day. Those same thinkers, as well as their successors into the 20th century, were pro-science, pro-rationality, pro-equality, socially tolerant cosmopolitans, who saw the cause of liberty as part and parcel of the human struggle out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light of freedom and progress.

It is simply impossible to imagine a Mill or a Bastiat or a Mises or Hayek or Friedman thinking it was a good idea to hang out with or take money from the folks like Stormfront or many of the speakers at the September conference. Enlightened, knowledgeable, cosmopolitan figures like these would surely find it troubling that people who believed in geocentricism, or who thought conspiracies of Jewish bankers and Masons were constructing a world government, saw themselves as “kindred spirits” of their liberalism. It’s almost impossible to imagine what the conversation would be like.

More important: Even if we can imagine these folks thinking someone like Mises was an acceptable dinner speaker, can we imagine Mises accepting the invite? After all, Mises fled 1930s Germany because he was being chased by their predecessors! It would be abhorrent to Mises to find that an American politician who thinks of himself as a disciple of Mises’s ideas would take money from Stormfront, or dine with anti-Semites and believers in vast Jewish banking conspiracies. The Nazis and Fascists hated liberalism because they rightly saw the market as the enemy of both the socialism and the nationalism at the center of their beliefs. That the politician most associated with classical liberal ideas is now thought of as a friend of liberalism’s historic enemies suggests something has gone very wrong with classical liberalism.

I’m not a believer in “dog whistles,” but there’s clearly something about the way in which Ron Paul and those who share his views are communicating their ideas that make them sound attractive to people who I would prefer thought we were the “enemy.” One part of the explanation is that socialism has led many modern libertarians to think of themselves on the “right” because they oppose it and, therefore they think they should oppose the rest of the “left.” Once seeing themselves this way, it’s perhaps easier for some libertarians to adopt the rhetoric and pose of those who oppose all that the left stands for (including the good stuff, like such controversial positions such as heliocentricism and a belief in racial equality), even if those libertarians never say anything explicitly racist.

Once libertarians start to see themselves as “enemies of the left,” it’s also easy to excuse alliances with the unseemly end of the right wing, apparently on the belief that the enemies of their enemies are their friends. Such are the fruits of the seeds of what I’ve called “libertarian contrarianism:” the unfortunate tendency in some quarters of the libertarian world to think that if the “mainstream” believes it, it must be wrong. Co-blogger Roderick Long made a similar point in his “One Cheer for Political Correctness.” A libertarianism that saw itself more “of the left,” or at least as more clearly neither left or right, might be less likely to excuse Ron Paul’s decisions and to be less attractive to those audiences in the first place. And that’s where BHL comes in.

One key part of the BHL project for me is about rhetoric. The idea of “bleeding heart libertarianism” is a reminder that we should be foregrounding our concern for the least well-off among us as often as possible in how we present and defend libertarianism. Because “least well-off” should be inclusive of more than just “the poorest,” but include also those who are victims of public or private aggression or discrimination because of their race, gender, religious beliefs, etc., it would seem very difficult to imagine the BHL version of libertarianism attracting the interest of the racists, anti-Semites and other wingnuts that seem to find Ron Paul a kindred spirit.

In fact, I think that’s one way to define what I see as a suitable libertarianism for the 21st century: a libertarianism that the unsavory types who have gravitated toward Ron Paul would not for a second see as a set of ideas that shared much of anything with their own. To the degree that the nutty end of the right wing continues to see Ron Paul as “one of them,” modern libertarianism will have failed to live up to the best of its progressive, tolerant, and cosmopolitan Enlightenment heritage.

  • Aeon Skoble

    Excellent analysis, although I very much think it’s the latter of these: “A libertarianism that saw itself more “of the left,” or at least as more clearly neither left or right.” Just as you have correctly diagnosed why some anti-socialists define themselves as anti-left-even-the-good-parts, modern progressives seem to define themselves as anti-right-even-the-good-parts, e.g. refusing to differentiate free markets from crony-capitalism, refusing to acknowledge public choice, paternalism, etc. You’re right that we’re not right, but we’re not left either.

    • Anthony Gregory

      There are no good aspects of the right. The right is thoroughly evil—its militarism, its love of the police, its defense of the corporate status quo, its reactionary cultural views. The whole rightwing agenda should be rejected, perhaps starting first with its extreme statism on war, borders, and cops.

      • Aeon Skoble

        Anthony, I think you’ve missed my point. First of all, everything you mention after the word “evil” are now common stances for progressives. Second of all, I was making a specific parallel to Steve’s point: the right, defining itself as anti- left, throws out the baby with bathwater, e.g. racial equality; the left, defining itself as anti- right, throws out markets and voluntarism. My whole point is that a consistent commitment to liberty is alien to both the left and the right.

        • Anthony Gregory

          I agree with your point, basically. I only take issue with the idea that markets or voluntarism have anything to do with the right.

          • Aeon Skoble

            As always, depends on the definitions.

          • Stephan Kinsella

            Just like racial equality has nothing to do with the left. Aeon is correct: we are neither left nor right. Both left and right are unlibertarian and evil.

  • Boris Karpa

    The fact about Ron Paul is this. And both Ron Paul’s fans and enemies refuse to accept it. There is… I do not know if you can call it an underbelly, but there is an ‘alternate’ faction of libertarianism, the kind that meshes closely with the radicalpaleoconservatives and other groups. Not all of these people are stupid or bigoted (I think I am one of them, and certainly Rothbard was), but they’re all politically marginalized. Some of them are bad people. Others are not, but this faction exists, the sort with the camouflage jackets and subscriptions to shifty newsletters, and so forth. I do not know how to properly define this group, certainly I have nothing against it. Frankly I sympathize with this group more than any other libertarians. But Ron Paul certainly is a part of this segment of the movement, warts and all. He has spent most of his career marketing himself to these people, as had Lew Rockwell and some others. Many of his friends are among those people. He could not have been as successful as he was without their support, but their support also prevented him from being more successful.

    For a non-libertarian it is of course easy to reject Ron Paul based on this. Whether libertarians should is a different question. I don’t think they should, but I accept the reality that this is true.

  • Kevin Vallier

    Just a clarification and minor quibble: “Classical liberalism was born in the fires of the Enlightenment. It was part of the general progressive movement of the 19th century, with famous classical liberals on the side of racial and gender equality. People like John Stuart Mill were the “politically correct” of their day. Those same thinkers, as well as their successors into the 20th century, were pro-science, pro-rationality, pro-equality, socially tolerant cosmopolitans, who saw the cause of liberty as part and parcel of the human struggle out of the darkness of ignorance and into the light of freedom and progress.”

    That may be the origin of classical liberalism (though I’d trace it back to developments in Christian political theology), but people of a sufficiently Hayekian bent like myself (and Steve, to some extent, I thought) have far less confidence in reason than many Enlightenment liberals (including Mises), worry a lot about scientism and ideological naturalism, and think local organizations and groups may provide us with reasons for action that sometimes trump cosmopolitan impulses. We’re also considerably friendlier to people of faith, which the Enlightenment liberals (including Mises) thought of as caught up in “the darkness of ignorance.” I like to think we “post-Enlightenment liberals” also have good reason to worry about these associations.

    My first reason for quibbling is that I want to resist attempts to identify libertarianism with progressive comprehensive doctrines, like those including particular, controversial and reasonably contestable interpretations of the idea of social equality. That’d be counterproductive even if those interpretations of the idea of social equality are true.

    My second reason for quibbling is to resist attempts of many Ron Paul defenders castigate us as “cosmotarians” for identifying leftist social causes with libertarianism. Some on this blog are fine with that, but I have Rawlsian and Hayekian reasons for wanting to resist that label.

    So I’m agreeing with the conclusion but suggesting that we can get an overlapping consensus of libertarian factions resisting this stuff.

    • Steven Horwitz

      Yes, Kevin. I certainly meant a more Humean sort of rationality, rather than a more comprehensive sort.

    • nick mardero

      A really interesting post Kevin. Care to explain what you mean by “have far less confidence in reason”? Perhaps the answer lies in Steve’s reply regarding a Humean sort of rationality by which I think he means a skepticism about reason discovering timeless truths? Am I on the right path with that interpretation…

    • I would direct you to Murray Rothbard’s reviews of F. A. Hayek’s THE CONSTITUTION OF LIBERTY (which is in ROTHBARD VS. THE PHILOSOPHERS:, where he deals with some of this in more detail.

  • Steve_0

    Someone wake me up when Steve Horwitz specifically and publicly dis-invites the college students of these assorted ilks from attending IHS events.

    • Jeremy McLellan

      Why are you talking in your sleep.

    • Benkarkis

      What is IHS?

    • Steven Horwitz

      Young people who are trying to figure shit out are hardly analogous to those who have spent a lifetime and made a career out of this sort of hatred. Maybe you need a little more sleep to see that point more clearly.

  • efgd

    Ron Paul just wants votes and since most decent minded people see him as an oink he has to get into bed with the less intelligent and more obtuse and ignorant thinking folks. Bless them. But Ron should know better, but his ability to think past the votes and $ sign makes him what he is.

  • Sergio Méndez

    Althougt I agree with what professor Horowitz is trying to tell us in this column, I think a precision regarding Mises and its associates should be made. Profesor Horowitz claims:

    “It is simply impossible to imagine a Mill or a Bastiat or a Mises or
    Hayek or Friedman thinking it was a good idea to hang out with or take
    money from the folks like Stormfront or many of the speakers at the
    September conference.”

    But at least in the case of Mises, he was one of the closest econmic advisors of Engelbert Doolfuss, the fascist dictator of Austria, member of the local nazi party (which, at the same time, opposed German nazis). Of course that doesn´t make any of Mises economic theory wrong, but it certainly shows that Mises shouldn´t have a place in that list (another one I will think is open to debate is Friedman, but then that is a more complicated story – his relations with Pinochet-).

    • CT

      “member of the local nazi party ”
      Every source I’ve checked demonstrates the opposite.
      In any case, both men (Mises and Friedman) deserve to be on the list. Attempting to sway dictatorships toward more liberal ways is hardly a reason to condemn either men.

      • Anthony Gregory

        I think associating with bigoted dictators is at least as morally questionable as associating with bigots who have no power at all.

        • Les Kyle Nearhood

          So ANY sort of association? Even telling them they need to increase freedom? Even if it was just technical advice which made the lives of the people better? That is a pretty tough stance. It is a stance which would also condemn our own state department many times over.

          • Drew Stonebraker

            Couldn’t the same questions be asked of Horwitz’s argument?

          • CT

            They could. But it wouldn’t be quite the same thing. Mises and Friedman were giving advice to people in power. The type of people who could actually implement these policies and thus lead to the possible betterment of real lives. What possible good does Paul and his buddies think they are accomplishing by associating with marginalized racists?

          • Anthony Gregory

            You make a good point, but I am fine with condemning the State Department many times over, so that’s not a particularly compelling reductio.

        • CT

          And again, could anyone point to any sources that Dollfuss was associated with the Austrian Nazis? I haven’t found any evidence of it in my quick search yesterday. But that doesn’t mean he wasn’t …

          • Sergio Méndez

            CT: I rectify, Dolfuss didn´t belong to the Austrian Nazi party. In any case, he belonged to the Fatherland’s Front, which was a fascist party,, bad enought fdon´t you think? Regarding your argument that he tried to make better that goverment, I simply don´t buy it. How could he serve a goverment that was far away from the principles free market like a fascist one, but also that didn´t believ in any of the basic tenets of liberalism, that was opposed by principle to them?

          • CT

            Because he was essentially the last liberal left in Austria and had nowhere else to go? Because he was stubborn? Naïve? Because he liked being able to put food on the table? And don’t forget, he did work with a right-wing gov’t in the 20’s in order to kill hyperinflation. And it worked. Perhaps he was under the illusion that he could still be of service to his country.
            What you’re suggesting is that Mises really was a fascist despite everything he ever wrote … which would make him the most hypocritical closet fascist of all time. Why would a man expend all the energy defending liberalism if he really was a fascist? I don’t buy it.

          • sheldonrichman

            Because he saw Bolshevism as the greater, more immediate threat? He thought that with respect to Italy. (See Liberalism.)

          • CT

            Yeah, I agree … but I didn’t want to open that can of worms! Too many distortions and outright lies.

          • Sergio Méndez

            I never claimed Mises was a fascist. But I suspect he never had a problem working closely with that people, just for the sake of opposing comunists and even more moderate social democrats. And that seems misguided and not very liberal to me and is compatible with some other ugly conservative views he held (like for example his limited support for conscription).

  • michael4321

    I feel compelled to point out that libertarians are defined by their rather low sensitivity to disgust. Giving a fair hearing to repugnant views goes along with this psychological wiring, which can be mis-perceived as being friendly. Steve has certainly given the indefensible a fair hearing and tells us that some things go too far. Some people do need to be called out as dangerous and bad neighbors. That is a fair point. However, I am very very leery of libertarians buying their own bandwagon.

    For me, the radical skeptic who feels compelled to investigate the claims of vaccine caused neurological disorders is a friend. Who is not a friend is one who cannot distinguish science from hyperbole. Hopefully, as the libertarian perspective grows wider and more welcoming it becomes more than simply a permutation of right-wing ideology warmed over for a new generation who is reactionary to the exclusivity of past right wing movements. That would simply negate the tremendous good it has done up to this point.

  • DoubleTriple

    “Paul is not preaching to the enemy; the enemy thinks he’s a friend.”

    So he can preach to “the enemy”, so long as they take him as hostile combatant? Stop reading at this point.

    • Theresa Klein

      It would be great if Ron Paul stood up there and condemned racial bigotry to an audience full of Stormfront supporters. That would be courageous.
      As courageous as condemning the Iraq war before Congress in 2003.

      • Is there an event he’s speaking at in which the audience will be full of Stormfront supporters? Stormfront folks don’t like the Catholic Church because of its racial universalism.

    • Gerard

      Congratulations. I stopped reading after the first sentence.

  • Horowitz is right. If libertarianism doesn’t start making pariahs of its racist contingents, then it will have nowhere to go.

    • Rich

      If libertarians start making pariahs out of anybody, they will be travelling as a small pack.
      Only powerful and established ‘parties’ can get away with enforcing their orthodoxies, yet many libertarians I have known attempt to emulate that model.

      The point of Ron Paul speaking to social outcasts is clearly positive and affirmatively within the philosophy of ‘libertarianism’ – if there is any discernible philosophy of libertarianism at all. After all, many people consider all libertarians to be outcasts for their failure to worship the orthodoxy of state/police/empire.

      So where do ‘libertarians’ get the temerity to declare other outcasts as inferior to themselves? Is it because the vaccine investigators have made an error, and libertarianism never has?

  • Benkarkis

    I wish we could remove words like “enlightened’ “cosmopolitan” “wingnut”; from the conversation because it just makes the group sound like a bunch of elitists. Everybody has their own perceptions it doesn’t make them less than you. Am I opposed to blatantly racist and anti semite groups of course.

    • zjohn

      Yes. I made a similar comment in this thread. Very true.

      • Benkarkis

        Thanks, I always hate being the 1 against the machine, especially, the academic machine of rationalism and logic. All artificially created by the Ego.

  • Graham Shevlin

    One of the perpetually dumber ideas in politics and geopolitics can be summed up in the saying “my enemy’s enemy must be my friend”. A lot of bad really big decisions have been rationalized using that saying (think of the image of Donald Rumsfeld shaking hands with Saddam Hussein for starters).
    Ron Paul is merely the latest in a long line of people using that approach and engaging (when asked awkward questions) in post-hoc rationalizations.

  • Fritz

    There is another option between “We are trying to convert them” and “They think we are one of them”. Stormfront, et al, understand that they can survive in a libertarian society. And, because they believe their ideology is functional, they believe that if they are allowed to survive then they will thrive.
    Let’s face it — in a libertarian society there would be “No Jews Allowed” signs. There would be lunch counters that did not serve African Americans. There definitely would be florists who refused to provide flowers for same-sex weddings. We can argue (correctly) that a libertarian society would require the practitioners of segregation to pay for their choices — but many would, and that does have impacts on those who are discriminated against. We accept those impacts as part of the freedom of association (as we accept that freedom of speech results in unhappiness), but those impacts definitely exist.

    • Les Kyle Nearhood

      Everything you say is true, however, as a movement seeking some political solutions, it does no good to have those type of people in the forefront.

  • zjohn

    110% agreed. But while I am “cosmopolitan” in a manner of speaking as you intend it, I would leave out that “cosmopolitan” word you repeatedly throw in. Serves no good purpose while giving off a scent of urban/worldly/snobby superiority complex that many rustic types find off-putting. Trust me….I live in a non-cosmopolitan town. You lose people on style when you throw that word in there. Whatever you say after it will be taken with less opened arms.

    • Steven Horwitz

      I live in a town of 7000 an hour from anything resembling a decent sized city. I have no problem using that word, especially because, in its original meaning for our liberal ancestors, it perfectly captured the open, tolerant, and, well, liberal attitude that I think is the antithesis of the unsavory types attracted to RP.

    • Benkarkis

      It’s like saying Opera is “high brow”, sez who?

    • Sergio Méndez

      I don´t think cosmopolitanism has anything to do with where you live, but with your attitude toward the world. There are plenty of close minded bigots in big cities and plenty of cosmipolitan people libing in small towns or in the country.

      • Benkarkis

        not talking about a sense of place, the term itself gives off elitism. That’s all, I’m cosmopolitan therefore I know more than you. Therefore you are a dummy. I hate it.

        • Sergio Méndez

          I guess that is a problem of modesty, rather than of “elitism”. I consider cosmopolitanism a virtue, but then I will never describe myself as cosmpolitan. That is a judgment that others should make of me. On the other side, I suspect there is something of populism behind people who complain about “cosmopolitan”, a way to deride people that try to be open to the world as some sort of evil small minority of “snobs”, and so, a way to justify your own close minded behind the fact you are part of the “mayority” [of not snobish elitists].

  • Jameson Graber

    I like Ron Paul, I really do. I wanted him to do well in the Republican primary last year. But when I listen to him ramble sometimes, I get the sneaking feeling like he really *is* a bit wacky. Maybe you kind of have to be to be a good fundraiser.

    All that to say that I think Horowitz is right, especially the concluding paragraph.

    But then, here’s the problem: at what point do you really think BHL and the like will be able to produce someone who actually goes into politics?

    • Benkarkis

      Never as long as you maintain this Academic approach to politics. I said it before come down from the Ivory Tower and look at the real world. And reading more books then anybody else does not make you smarter or better than anybody else.

  • David Johnson

    I’m a libertarian, but was born and raised conservative in a very conservative part of the country, so I know how conservatives think. Like libertarians, there is more than one kind of conservative. The problem with the Rothbard/Rockwell fusionist strategy is that they targeted the wrong type of conservative. They went after the cultural conservatives and the paranoids. They would have done much better by wooing the Buckleys, Forbes, Goldwaters, and Kemps in the conservative camp.

    • Benkarkis

      I am not even sure what a Conservative is anymore. Is it a religious fanatic, a gun fanatic, an anti abortion fanatic; anti gay marriage. Is it simply a social conservative so where does fiscal conservative fit in?

      • David Johnson

        You keep using the word fanatic, as if the left/right spectrum were merely fanatic vs sane. While I’m sure that fits into the progressivist/obamanite world view, it’s hardly realistic.

        • Benkarkis

          ok, how about activist. Fanatic was my word of the day!

      • Les Kyle Nearhood

        How about someone who takes a conservative approach to all of those issues but does not want to legislate them? I am a libertarian but culturally I am pretty damn conservative. I just do not think that you can force people into doing things that you think they should do.

  • Sean II

    “Why is it so hard for Ron Paul supporters to believe that there are libertarians who are genuinely troubled in a principled way by his hanging out with racists and anti-Semites and their support of him in return?”

    I’m not much of a Paul supporter, but I can surely answer that question.

    1) Lack of proportion. This issue gets ways more play than it deserves. There are many things about Ron Paul worse than some creepy supporters. I’d start with abortion myself, because that’s an actual policy disagreement rather a weasel-worded laden charge of guilt by association. But that’s just me. Everyone has their own style.

    2) Lack of fairness. Not everyone agrees that racism is the one and only unpardonable thought-crime, to be answered in all cases by banishment. Why does it make sense to shun Ron Paul for supporting racism (a thing you don’t like), but not to shun your leftist friends for supporting massive government coercion in half the realms of life (another thing you don’t like)? Seriously, why? Why is racism a special kind of error, worse than all the others? Joke all you want about the faculty lounge, Steve, but the idea that racism is the intellectual sin of sins…that idea comes from the faculty lounge.

    • martinbrock

      Why does it make sense to take for granted that Paul supports racism?

      • Sean II

        It might not. I was just trying to conserve energy on that point.

        But since you brought it up: Horowitz’s torrent of weasel words – “it remains troubling that there seems to be something in the way he talks about libertarian ideas that makes people like Stormfront or the organizers of that conference think he is “one of them.” – is pretty heinous.

        Let’s review the steps we followed to get here.

        1) The Ron Paul Newsletters appear, containing some no-doubt-about-it racial provocations.
        2) Twenty years pass.
        3) The media and a few BHLers bring up the newsletters, and keep bringing them up.
        4) Ron Paul thus acquires the reputation of a racist.
        5) Steve Horowitz just can’t figure out why racists might be drawn to Ron Paul. Hmmm…it must be something about the way he talks.

        That is bullshit, certainly.

    • Benkarkis

      beautiful and thank you.

    • Well, for one thing, racism has a uniquely ugly history in the United States. For another thing, racism is so unquestionably disgusting that it doesn’t matter what other problems exist. It’s EASY to disavow racists. Why are so many “libertarians” reluctant to do something that is both costless and morally correct?

      • martinbrock

        When has Ron Paul refused to disavow racists? He gives a speech where a racist also gives a speech, and that’s refusing to disavow racism? Paul has had countless opportunities publicly to disavow racism, and he consistently disavows racism. What else do you expect? He must also advocate a state somehow outlawing racism? He must hold his nose in the presence of anyone more racist than thou?

        • Please try to maintain the context in which I wrote my comment. I was addressing Sean II’s idea that “not everyone agrees that racism is the one and only unpardonable thought-crime.” Sean II asked a question, and I answered it. Racism is special because it is especially despicable. Why court the favor of racists? Why would you even want to seek the company of racists? There is no good reason.

          As for Ron Paul, he could certainly avoid speaking to groups like Stormfront. It’s easy. It’s costless. It’s morally correct. There is no need to take it any further than that.

          I believe the Stormfront has a right to say despicable things, but I don’t associate with any of its members. This is a personal choice. I don’t associate with racists. This is how I lived my life long before I ever had the opportunity to declare it as a fact in a public blog comment. Doing the right thing is doing the right thing. It’s not about “thou,” it’s about me and the kind of life I want to lead.

          • martinbrock

            Has Paul actually spoken to Stormfront? Stormfront is not a group of pre-Vatican II Catholics.

            When you say “it’s about me” and I say “it’s about thou”, we’re saying the same thing.

          • Sean II


            “Racism is special because it is especially despicable.”

            That’s a pretty solid example of question-begging there. You’re even using the same root twice: “X is special because X is especially…”

            You still haven’t given any reason to think so. Is racism more harmful than collectivism or statism in general? Is racism without statism even harmful at all? Is racism an especially wrong or stupid idea compared, say, to other wrong or stupid ideas?

            By all means, make the case if you can. But don’t claim you’ve made it until you actually have.

          • I see your comparison as spurious. I don’t have to declare my opposition to theft in order to declare my opposition to assault, you know? Racism is just bad. This need not be “proven,” nor need anyone waste their time ranking evils, or drafting moral LaGrangian equations, or anything else. Racism sucks, that’s all. It’s easy to steer clear of racists, so why not do it? That’s all.

          • Sean II

            Ryan…listen to yourself. It’s “just bad”. It “need not be proven.” It “sucks, that’s all”.

            Those words are designed to stop thought, not express it.

          • Actually, what they’re designed to do is avoid getting bogged down in an absurd discussion of the philosophical foundation for the immorality of racism. Go have that conversation with someone other than me.

          • Sean II

            I see your policy of “no ill will” lasted about five minutes. Charming.

          • Benkarkis

            well said.

          • jdkolassa

            Sean II,

            Maybe you should read this:

          • Sean II

            Of course I know that passage well, back from my Randian days. The big problem with Rand’s comment is that she only addresses one kind of racism.

            What she says applies well to the racism of “Those Xs are always demonstrating trait Y, therefore every X has trait Y.” Clearly she is right to denounce that reasoning – but that’s just a point of logic, not unique to racism.

            What of the people who say “On average Xs tend to have trait Y, so over a large sample of Xs, you’ll see a lot of trait Y, though we hasten to add that this in no way guarantees the presence of trait Y in any individual case of X-ness.”

            The progressive left of today thinks both types of statement are equally worthy of being called “racist”. The right, lazily and with no conviction, mutters that this is absurd, since the second type of statement is often true or eve obvious, and frequently important, interesting, deserving of study, etc.

            The left anti-racists therefore have the truth on their side some of the time, while at other times they are furiously at war with the plain face of reality.

            The question remains…which kind of racism was Ryan talking about? Which kind of racism are we talking about? I’m pretty sure Stormfront practices the first type – “All Xs are always Ys”. So okay, it’s settled, let’s throw those assholes in a pit of screaming Ayn Rand. She hasn’t had a cigarette since 1981, so they better hold on to their fucking Kaiser helmets, ’cause it finna get ugly.

            On the other hand, it sure seems like Lewellyn Rockwell only practices racism type two – “Xs on average tend to be Ys”, which may be valid or not depending on the evidence in any particular case.

            We’re using the same term to capture both. We shouldn’t be doing that.

          • Where did you get the idea that Ron is speaking to Stormfront? Wow.

          • KW

            Horwitz can’t utter the name Ron Paul without also uttering the words Stormfront, racist, or newsletters. That’s where.

      • Anthony Gregory

        Maybe it’s because the vast majority of people in society hold bigoted views.

        • Sean II

          That’s an even bigger issue: if we define “racism” as any recognition of group differences (and many on the left do define it just that way), then everyone really is a bigot.

          If we define “racism” as the open advocacy of segregation, genocide, etc., then almost no one is racist, certainly not Ron Paul.

          If we define “racism” as some imprecise thing between those two, it becomes a meaningless equivocation and a nasty smear. And that’s about where we are: a guy who says “those people” in the wrong tone gets the same label as the actual webmaster of Stormfront. Our language does not permit us to distinguish between the truly hateful and the merely unhip or unwary. They’re both just called racists.

          • Benkarkis

            Exactly. It’s a Left Label like Fascist. Labeling is good for all sides.

      • Sean II

        Okay, but anti-market collectivism has a uniquely ugly history in the world, so why not treat that with outrage as well? Let’s consider the body count of the last century:

        1) Racism = tens of millions of murders
        2) Trying to live without prices = tens of millions of murders

        Hey, my own hands are pretty clean: I don’t associate with people from Stormfront (crude apologists for 1) OR Crooked Timber (polite apologists for 2). They’re all assholes to me.

        What I can’t understand is the bald hypocrisy of someone who makes nice with one type of asshole while clutching his pearls at the sight of the other. That looks like bullshit posturing to me.

        You haven’t come close to explaining it either.

        • ??

          I don’t understand why it’s so difficult to avoid racism. Nothing you’ve said really changes that.

          • Sean II

            On the contrary, I’ve covered that very point elsewhere in this thread.

            Because the definition of racism is unclear and arbitrarily applied, it is in fact very difficult to “avoid racism” with any degree of surety.

            Today Ron Paul is a racist and Steve Horowitz is not, but any reasonably well-trained resident advisor in a freshman dorm can concoct a case showing that Horowitz himself is a racist libertarian encased in a cocoon of white privilege, blah, blah, blah.

            There are plenty of people who, having never heard of Lew Rockwell, think all libertarians are racist…because only a racist would oppose Obamacare, etc.

            Tell me, Ryan, how are we supposed to “avoid” that?

          • Sergio Méndez

            Yeah…anti semites are not racists. Is just a confusing term…blah, blah, blah

          • Sean II

            You are a very strange commenter. This is not the first time I’ve found it nearly impossible to figure out what you’re trying to say.

            In this case, you seem to think I denied somewhere that anti-semitism is a type of racism. Is that what you think? Because nothing even close to that appears in any of my comments.

          • Sergio Méndez

            Sean II:

            I doubt for you there isn´t anything that can be considered racism. I sincerly suspect that for you racism is such a natural thing, that in the end it is a pointless term.

          • Sean II

            That’s what you’re resorting to now? In just one short day you’ve gone from incomprehensible muttering to fighting words.

            I must admit, it’s a big improvement! At least now I have some idea what the hell you’re talking about.

          • What we’re talking about here is steering clear of people who publicly espouse racist views. That’s easy. I have no idea about all this other stuff you’re going on about.

        • 7×7

          Hehe. Crooked Timber.

      • Les Kyle Nearhood

        The problem with your view is that it then becomes a mighty sword to use on someone if you can label them a racist. Whether there is any truth to the claim or not. And in case you have not noticed, the left have been trying to label ALL of their critics as racist, ant they do it constantly.

        • We’re not talking about just anyone, outside of any context. We’re talking about racists, whose association with Ron Paul has frequently come back to haunt him.

          • Sean II

            You’ve missed Kyle’s point. If the left labels all their critics as necessarily racist, then it doesn’t matter if Ron Paul ever associated with any actual racists.

            He was getting tarred with that feather, either way. Same as you, me, and all the rest of the libertarian movement.

      • Eduardo Maal

        Costless? How is it costless to have an inconsistent ideology?

        Wants to live in a free society.

        Wants to regulate people’s personal beliefs.

    • An excellent point. I would bet that if I examined the speaker roster from some of the leftist conferences some left-libertarians have been known to frequent, I would uncover some pretty horrifying specimens. But with left-libertarians as with the culture at large, the left is somehow not quite as bad as the right. Even when, as in this case, the people being complained of are not actually calling for coercion, but praying for peace.

  • martinbrock

    I was never a doting fanboy, but I liked Ron Paul in ’08 and ’12, and I still like him. When I saw him at a MI conference, I didn’t try to shake his hand or have my picture made with him or have a book signed, because I don’t think much of politics generally, but we have the political system we have in the U.S., and Paul was the only candidate in either party remotely advocating policies consistent with my preferences on issues that a POTUS actually has some business pontificating about.

    The POTUS is not commander in chief of race relations or the monetary system, but he is commander in chief of the armed forces. Obsessing over debatable statements in decades old newsletters, that Paul denies writing and explicitly repudiates, only accepts the ridiculous assumption, of much of the polity and many political candidates, that the POTUS really is a totalitarian ruler entitled to govern every human relationship.

    And the idea that Paul is not personally cosmopolitan enough, regardless of the groups he’ll address, doesn’t ring true either. I couldn’t care less that he gives a speech lambasting Lincoln before a lot of neo-confederates, as long as what he says about Lincoln is true. I never much expected him to get elected anyway, and I don’t much expect any libertarian, paleo or otherwise, ever to derail the United State. I don’t expect libertarians, the people who actually want a more liberal social organization, ever to get what they want this way.

  • John J. C. Anderson

    The “dog whistle” may come from the one issue that he seems to have in common with many of these groups: increased state and local power. He’s probably the most high-profile politician putting up a genuine fight on this issue, and perhaps (I really don’t know if this is correct) racist groups still see state’s rights as their ticket to creating their own little bigot’s paradise. Just thinking out loud, tough.

    • Sean II

      Good point. I would add this:

      We should all remember that, whether you like racists or not, it remains undeniably true that racists are victims of extensive state coercion. A racist in 2013 America cannot live as he wishes. He cannot freely choose to associate or not associate with certain groups.

      The only ideology that would change this, the only ideology that would dismantle public schools, end forced busing, forbid EEO torts, etc…is libertarianism. If you happen to be a racist, where the hell else are you going to go?

  • russnelson

    But Steve, isn’t libertarianism equally compatible with free-market racism as free-market environmentalism? With free-market anti-semitism (We don’t want to be forced to bail out those Jewish bankers!)? I think your biggest beef is not that right-wing nuts think Ron Paul is on their side as much as it is that left-wing wack jobs do NOT think that Ron Paul is on their side.

    If these folks are libertarians, we should tolerate them, just as we tolerate the anti-abortion libertarians or pro-choice libertarians (choose as appropriate). And if they’re NOT libertarians, and like Ron Paul anyway, then THAT is why we should call out Ron Paul as not-quite-our-kind-of-libertarian.

  • I am a bit perturbed that you group geocentricism with anti-semitism and other racist views. There are strong moral objections to racism; but geocentricism is just a currently unfavoured view about the working of the physical universe. We might think that people who hold a geocentric view are barking up the wrong tree; but even if we do, me might (I do) think that they should still be encouraged, or at least not discouraged, from defending and developing their view, since it is possible that even if their view is false they may turn up some novel insight. Indeed, J. S. Mill (of whom you approve) makes this point in his ‘On Liberty’ (though he does not, so far as I remember, give geocentricism as an example).

    • martinbrock

      Mostafa Abdelkader settled this question. We live on the interior surface of a sphere containing the Universe, and when we look up we’re looking toward the center of this sphere, so the Earth is not the center of the Universe, but the Universe is the center of the Earth … if you prefer.

      • Have you ever read Edgar Rice Burroughs’ “Pelucidar” series?

    • I have been expecting Sean II to query my comment, since almost as soon as I posted it I realised I had gone off the rail of my initial thought. Perhaps he has not read my comment. What I expected him to say was: surely, freedom of expression extends to anti-semites and other racists as well as to geocentricists. Of course it does. My first two sentences express the point I wanted to make; the rest is irrelevant.

      • Sean II

        Sorry, I only just got back. I’m perturbed by the comparison for a different reason:

        The taboo against geocentrism is generally taken to be a matter of science, i.e. “Don’t say the earth is the center of the universe because that’s false.”

        The taboo against “racism” (whatever the hell that big word takes in or doesn’t) is by contrast moral or aesthetic, i.e. “Don’t say Jews make lousy power forwards in the NBA because…you know, we’re just not supposed to say stuff like that anymore.”

        My objection is: as presently defined, many “racist” statements are in fact either true or strongly and widely suspected to be true.

        For example, if I say “Australian Aborigines are less intelligent on average than…” people don’t get upset because they think I’m wrong. They get upset because they think I’m stating a fact which should not be stated.

        That’s what makes the geocentrism analogy inapt for me.

        • As I would put it: some views which are labelled as ‘racism’ are not really racist and are not morally objectionable (even if they are false). But the boundary between racism and ‘racism’ is fuzzy (as boundaries generally are).

          • Sean II

            Yes, although it’s interesting that our hosts here at BHL generally tend to deny the fuzziness of this particular boundary.

            The way “racism” gets used here would pose no problem, and certainly no intellectual challenge, for any run-of-the-mill leftist.

            I enjoy this site, but when the subject of racism comes up you can be quite sure that nothing remotely interesting will be said above the Disqus line. The sentiments expressed by main authors on the matter are invariably dull, preachy, self-congratulatory, cautious, condescending, humorless, and trite.

            To hear them talk about race, you wouldn’t know there was any complexity to the issue at all. I can’t recall ever seeing a post here about the witch-hunts, the ham-fisted lies and propaganda, the thought-terminating cliches and taboos, and the outright statist coercion which have often gone along with the “fight against racism”. And yet, those are supposed to be the kind of things libertarians care about.

        • As I would put it: some views which are labelled as ‘racism’ are not really racist and are not morally objectionable (even if they are false). But the boundary between racism and ‘racism’ is fuzzy (as boundaries generally are).

  • Daniel J. Sanchez

    Steve Horwitz, so long as you continue to co-blog with Fernando Teson, a man who has defended the mass murder that was the Iraq War, you have zero moral standing to criticize anybody over their “associations.”

    • purple_platypus

      About every second time Teson writes anything, I wonder what he’s doing on this blog.

      At his best, he’s a Paul-like right-libertarian who happens to think libertarianism would be better for the currently worst-off than any of the other options on the table, and that this is a good thing. Unlike the other bloggers here, though, he doesn’t think this plays a justificatory role, or even that it’s a particularly important fact – he’d still be a libertarian if he became convinced libertarianism would be a disaster for the worst-off. That’s already enough to make be balk at calling him a “bleeding-heart” anything.

      At worst, well, he semiregularly writes things that make me wonder if he really believes the “and that this is a good thing” part, or for that matter, how consistent his libertarianism really is.

    • GTFOofNOLA


  • AuntMerryweather

    I find it telling that it has not occurred to anybody from the Ron Paul camp to pause and ask “Wait, why *ARE* these guys always inviting us to these events?”

    • Graham Shevlin

      They won’t expend any time on that question, because the most important thing is that somebody wants to hear them. Let’s face it, when a lot of self-identified progressives regard Libertarians as unpleasant “I got mine screw you” capitalists, and many authoritarian regressives regard Libertarians as pansy liberals by another name, it gets pretty lonely out there sometimes. So they say YES, and only later, when they find out that the group they went to speak to contains a bunch of authoritarian, regressive or anti-social yahoos, do they then have to start in with the long explanations, which roughly translated equate to “well, it seemed like a good idea at the time”.
      Libertarians have to choose their company a lot more carefully in order to avoid SNAFUs like this.

  • Boris Karpa

    I don’t care if Ron Paul is a racist. Ron Paul has never supported violating the rights of any African-Americans, and has consistently supported expanding everyone’s freedom on 95% of issues. Literally no other person in American politics (and absolutely none among the people Ron Paul actually ran against) took better positions on the actual issues. That’s what’s important, not what Ron Paul personally thinks of African Americans.

  • Anthony Gregory

    I don’t think you can fairly compare Birchers to Nazis.

  • Anthony Gregory

    “. . . modern libertarianism will have failed to live up
    to the best of its progressive, tolerant, and cosmopolitan
    Enlightenment heritage.”

    Sure, but this very publication runs articles defending mass murder. I’m OK with either standard: associate with people with awful views (like racism or militarism), or shun them. But I don’t see why the libertarian movement is divided into factions over which awful, illiberal views are more acceptable. If forced to play that game, I’d say warmongering is the worst of the illiberal views found in libertarian circles, but I don’t want to play that game anymore.

    • John Saxton

      Not to mention the US Government. If we’re going to criticize Ron Paul for association with any group, surely the fact that he’s been a member of a key governing body of the US Government for decades, while the US Government has done such awful things, must be one of the worst things he’s done. Is there any group he’s associated with that’s worse than congress?

  • Theresa Klein

    Well, the problem is obviously that when your philosophy is partially about defending the rights of disfavored minorities, all sorts of disfavored minorities are going to rally to your banner. Right now, racists are probably the world’s most disfavored minority.
    I think the obviously correct thing for libertarians to do is to go out of their way to condemn racists, especially when they go around masquerading as libertarians.
    And Ron Paul isn’t doing that, which is a shame.

    • Graham Shevlin

      There are a whole collection of authoritarian, regressive, weird nitwits who self-identify as Libertarians, who I don’t think the Libertarian Party should be touching with an extremely long barge pole. Those people are toxic, and will repell far more prospective members than their own numerical strength.
      If you are starting a political movement, you need to be careful to explain what you are not about as much as what you are about. The problem with the “big tent” theory of politics is that you soon run out of tent and supports and the whole tent collapses on you.

    • Exactly.

  • Les Kyle Nearhood

    If you ever have a conversation with those folks you might find it very disquieting. They will begin by making cogent arguments and making not a few good points about freedom and the state. Then quick as a wink they will be spinning a fantasy about zionists, Bildebergers, Masons, and sometimes even the Jesuits.

  • David Friedman

    “A libertarianism that saw itself more “of the left,” or at least as more
    clearly neither left or right, might be less likely to excuse Ron
    Paul’s decisions and to be less attractive to those audiences in the
    first place. ”

    Wouldn’t the same problem exist, in a different form, with a libertarianism that saw itself as “of the left?” Lots of antisemitism there too. It’s worth remembering that Chomsky, a star of the anarchist and, in its own view, libertarian left coauthored a book chapter of apologetics for the Khmer Rouge.

    • Sean II

      It’s also worth remembering that if we define racism as “promoting policies that harm actual black people” the left is at least as racist as the right, and arguably more so.

      The left is anti-racist only in the loud and lavish way it congratulates itself for being anti-racist. It is not so in deeds.


        Your first sentence sets forth what is arguably at least the most defensible and useful defintiion of “racism.” It seems to me at least as useful in any practical sense as some subjectivist version that tries to capture what a person feels “in their heart.”

        But this has an intersting implication, I think. What group has consistently and overwhelmingly voted for politicians that promote policies that objectively harm blacks? By which I mean, among many other things: denial of school choice, support for raising the minimum wage, licensure laws, the extreme green end of the environment vs. jobs trade-off, regulatory burdens, the anti-Wal-Mart crusade, promoting labor unions, etc. You know the answer, so does this make blacks racist?

    • All the more reason, in my view, to disavow racism wherever it is found.

      • Sean II

        Funny how all the people who start out with that motto end up denouncing racism in plenty of places where it is not found.

        The Oberlin College hoax is just one recent and obvious example. These days, it is often necessary to manufacture racism before one can fight gloriously against it.

        • Did you pick that up from Steve Sailer’s blog, Sean?

          • Sean II

            Oh no, I got it from that bastion of right-wing hate, The Atlantic.

            Perhaps you should take your gutsy struggle against racism there. The world needs men like you, Ryan. Apart from the academy, the media, the legal establishment, and just about everyone else, there is almost nobody willing to take the kind of stand you’re taking here.

          • I don’t really understand why you’re so upset. Look, I apologize if I offended you. There’s no reason we should harbor any ill will toward each other.

          • Sean II

            You’re right, there should be no ill will.

            Unfortunately this subject lends itself rather easily to that. Think about it:

            You’ve got one guy saying “We have the truth in hand, so let’s go forth and morally condemn those who don’t accept it.” That’s you.

            Meanwhile the other guy is saying “Ah, this racism is a big subject, lots of complexity, much to discuss, have you ever noticed that when people say racism…etc.” That’s me.

            It’s not hard to see how the conflict arises. Whether I’m talking to you, or Sergio, or Steve Horowitz, odds are we are talking at cross purposes. I’m on an intellectual stroll trying to investigate a question, you’re on a moral march trying to spread (and enforce) what you think is a settled answer.

            We’re bound to clash – hence your Steve Sailor comment, and hence my response. We don’t need to pretend. You can call me a crank, I can call you a crusader, without either of us suffering permanent damage.

  • Drew Stonebraker

    Should Ron Paul also have denounced and distanced himself from anarchists?

  • wrothbard

    Steve Horwitz is the kind of person who would spurn the whores and the lepers. Unclean! Unclean!

    • GTFOofNOLA

      Unless they were Israeli.

  • Though I am gay and an atheist, more or less, I think I have a slight reputation for being a “right wing” libertarian, even though I was a socialist before I read Rand. And my libertarianism came to me more from Rand/Mises/Rothbard/Hayek/Nozick than from Ron Paul, who was a baby Congressman when I became a libertarian.

    I wrote an apology of sorts for Ron Paul a few years ago ( ) arguing that he talked to these fringe groups in the 80s and 90s because the mainstream media hive had frozen him out of speaking anywhere else. And pointing out that when he talked to “kookie” people on the “left,” like the (fictional) gay celebrity journalist “Bruno” (or for that matter when he cosponsored bills with Barney Frank or Dennis Kucinich) no one tried to smear him for being a leftist or a flaming gay Viennese sex radical.

    But it does seem like the old dog should learn some new tricks, now that he is not denied a mainstream audience.

  • Matti Linnanvuori

    What is so wrong with the John Birch Society? They are not right on all counts but they are not racists or anti-Semites.

    • The John Birch Society is vastly superior to many of the people some holier-than-thou libertarians hang out with. When was the last time the Birchers supported a war? They are strictly limited government people, which is a good start. They think the trend toward centralized power is part of a conspiracy. Probably they are wrong, but good grief — is this what makes them radioactive? The view that one stupid policy after another is probably to be accounted for by deliberate design rather than extremely consistent stupidity?

  • Theresa Klein

    Having looked at the website of this conference, I think maybe the condemnation is a bit unfair. There’s no obvious connection between the conference itself and racism. It’s put on by a group of ultra-conservative Catholics, who are opposed to military interventions. It seems to be the clear connection is Paul’s opposition to military interventionism, not so much the fringe beliefs of other participants.
    So basically Paul got invited to a Peace Conference by a conservative Catholic organization, at which some other fringe-right figures were to appear, some of whom have anti-Semitic connections, and you take this as an implicit endorsement of the views of the other speakers.
    Now, I think you may have a point w.r.t. Paul not forcefully distancing himself from some other elements of the fringe right. On the other hand, Paul comes out of a libertarian movement that has for a long time, been on the fringe itself. So when you’re on the fringe, and you are offered a platform to talk about your views, you’re a lot less choosy about who you talk about your views TO, since you aren’t getting that many opportunities. The opportunity to speak before a collection of other fringe minority viewpoints seems less like an endorsement of their views when you yourself are just another wierdo.

    • I know many of these people, and they are obviously decent and harmless. The SPLC-style hysteria is really too much.

      • aintnodarnfool

        If I am not mistaken, the original John Birch Society was somewhat anti-Catholic. What might that mean? In reality, depending on the town or the region, it might have meant darn near zero. Well, the SPLC makes nearly every group branded as something that will ruin careers and destroy futures.

  • zak

    Ron Paul’s particular brand of radical right wing populism so angers mensheviks because it represents a total refutation of their doctrine which has enjoyed a measure of unanimity in recent decades but is so vital to our movement because it represents the most promising avenue through which change can be effected. You might eschew victory that comes from associating with those who the media have labelled as ‘undesirable’ such as the John Birch Society but I understand that our struggle is of such a vital importance that leaving any stone unturned in attempting to role back the size and scope of the state would be a serious mistake.

    Chomsky, talking about ‘thought control’ in democratic societies, argues that the way people are kept in line is by the media and the state only allowing a narrow band of debate between the establishment left and the establishment right but encouraging a lively debate within that relatively narrow spectrum. Anyone who dares to challenge the status quo is dismissed as a ‘kook’, a ‘lunatic’ and someone who is unworthy of anything aside from a curt dismissal. Ron Paul is outside of that spectrum and since traditional avenues of outreach are denied to him he seeks alternative venues. Far from crucifying him for daring to speak to non traditional audiences we should applaud his efforts to spread the message far and wide.

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  • Fallon

    The Koch bros have a history of being downright inhumane and criminal– from a libertarian perspective (which cuts out about 80% of leftist and government critics’ case)– when it comes to the family business. Shall we consider Horwitz by his own standard in light that he has taken Koch grants? Horwitz ain’t the only BHL on the Koch gravy train too. Maybe a deal could be struck: Ron Paul and Co. drop the haters, racialists and chem trailer/Bilderberger end of the conspiracy spectrum. But Cato, IHS, GMU, Reason, etc., drop the Koch bothers. Comedian Dave Chappelle could moderate the summit.

  • jtkennedy

    I don’t understand why bigotry is beyond the pale but statism is not, when it is only the latter that necessarily entails aggressive violence. I don’t see why libertarianism should criticize bigotry, per se. Individuals may, of course, but don’t pretend it’s libertarianism. I think there are obvious reasons why bigots should find a free society attractive – they’re rights are often being violated by the state.

    Friends aside, what do you think about Rand Paul simply telling the libertarian truth that all private discrimination should be legal? Obviously that truth won’t make you popular with many of the people you’re courting, so should your movement just throw the rights of unpopular people under the bus?

    • The problem with articulating the libertarian idea that private discrimination should be legal is twofold:1 that particular line was crossed a long long time ago, so to argue in favor of it seems to many self-identified progressive people to be arguing in favor of turning back the clock to a much less pleasant bygone age, 2. You need to be able to explain very coherently, logically and forcefully why allowing private discrimination is a good idea within the context of a libertarian society.
      If you cannot do (2), your political philosophy will be swiftly written off as a rationalization for racism and/or discrimination. One thing that I have noticed is that the accusation of racism is far more likely to be deployed against people who have trouble articulating their views cogently. This is not surprising when you observe that many racists long ago learned to disguise their racist views under layers of obfuscation and euphemism (call it coded language, doublespeak, dog whistling or what you will, I used to see it all the time in the UK and I see it over here a lot).

  • David

    I know this is an old article but I just wanted to give my 2c. I have a hard time making absolute statements like “its wrong to associate with racists” unless we also stop associating with statists. Is someone who doesn’t like black people really “worse” in an objective sense than someone who thinks it was OK to drop the atomic bomb on Hiroshima?

    Don’t get me wrong, based on the culture I was raised in, I’m more inclined to be less accepting of racism than wicked policy support but is this really objective or just gut feeling?

    • Personally, I don’t think it’s wrong to associate with racists as long as you are pointing out to those racists that their racism is bad for society, for the economy, and most importantly, for themselves. For example, using Gary Becker’s arguments.

      But this is not, as far as I can see, what the paleo-libertarians are doing.