Ron Paul, Racism, and War

Ron Paul, Racism, and WarFirst things first, I’d like to apologize to mistermix for the rudeness of my last piece on the matter. Mainly I was feeling jaded over various Twitter exchanges that occurred prior to my reading his post, and it simply opened whatever petty wound I’d been smarting over. It was an uncharitable response, and not really meant to be directed at him.

In his follow-up, mistermix writes:

[T]he difference between endorsing someone for President and endorsing that person’s positions is the difference between trusting his character and agreeing with his ideas. This is an elementary and common-sense distinction: there are a lot of untrustworthy people who have good ideas. Even if you agree with some of Paul’s positions, it’s clear that he’s one of those people. He showed poor judgment by hiring some racist yahoo to edit his newsletter, and just saying “it wasn’t me writing it” doesn’t work when he made money from its publication.

I’m no expert on the history of the Ron Paul political machine, but from what I can tell, this isn’t the only time Paul has trusted a shady character. But even if it is, if you’re going to endorse Paul, you need to explain how his presidency won’t be co-opted by a racist at the DOJ, or a goldbug at Treasury, when he can’t even control what goes out in his name in a goddam penny-ante newsletter. Where does the buck stop in Ron Paul land? When you endorse someone for Presidency, if you’re serious, you need to address that head-on.

This, along with a great deal of pushback from others whose ideas and values I respect, has certainly given me pause. Timothy Lee, Adam Ozemik, and other libertarians I admire have been quite convincing that the Ron Paul baggage – whether or not Paul is himself racist – is a big deal and could create seriously damning guilt by association for civil libertarian causes. Alex Knapp has pressed home a similar point.

Hell, I’ve argued that line myself or something like it when arguing that we would do well not to place too much faith in a super-hero president. Which, of course, Ron Paul is most certainly not. But he has been pretty awesome in the debates lately on issues of foreign affairs, and those issues, along with the war on drugs (etc.) make Paul an important figure in this race, even if I disagree with much of Paul’s policy platform and seriously condemn the newsletters.

On that point, Matt Welch has a very good round-up of past writings and the current dust-up over at reason. I admit that I never read, until now, Julian Sanchez and Dave Wiegel on the matter, and it’s an illuminating report. For one thing, it’s much more difficult to look at a report written by those who share many of Paul’s better ideas as a hit piece. It’s quite easy to view a piece out of TNR as such, for obvious reasons.

Matt writes:

I don’t begrudge anyone’s reasons for voting against anyone, especially if you think he’s the type of guy to consciously lunge for power by whipping up race hatred against the descendants of former American slaves. I don’t think Ron Paul is that type of guy. I don’t (and Reason doesn’t) do endorsements, and I would have been happy to see a better GOP primary season from Gary Johnson, whose pragmatic, less hyperbolic, and less socially conservative case for libertarianism I have more natural affinity with.

But I’m rooting for Paul to do well in Iowa and New Hampshire and beyond, because his candidacy offers the only sharp course corrective to the pressing national issues of runaway government spending, bailout economics, entitlement time-bombs, foreign policy overreach, civil liberties intrusions, and the Drug War. These are not small issues, for me or for the country, and 99 percent of politicians are terrible on them. Yet that platform (along with fighting the Federal Reserve) is what Ron Paul is actually running on, in stark contrast to the frightening anti-libertarian candidacy of Newt Gingrich, the I-will-cut-everything-but-spending campaign of Mitt Romney, and the incessant foreign policy chest-thumping and quien-es-mas-deporty promises that pass for discourse in the modern GOP.

There is a small but growing number of politicians out there who share Paul’s values without this godawful racist baggage, and I sincerely look forward to more of them getting into the ring. But until then–God help me–for one of the first times in memory, I’m eagerly awaiting the next few weeks of American presidential politics. And that is because of, not in spite of, Ron Paul.

This is largely how I feel about this whole mess. I wish Ron Paul didn’t have the newsletter baggage, because it does raise questions about his leadership and integrity. Nor do I see Ron Paul as himself a racist, but rather a participant in what was likely a very dodgy experiment in paleo-libertarianism by Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard. Paul may or may not have been aware of what was going out under his byline, but it’s certainly still his byline and his responsibility. And yet…

…I simply can’t shrug off these other issues. I’m not sure what to do (again) at this point, because the simple quantity of pushback I’ve gotten on this issue from people I respect has me seriously questioning – not my motives – but my wisdom.

And Gary Johnson, a candidate whose socially liberal views are far, far more palatable to me, has just announced he’ll seek the Libertarian Party nomination. Now the LP is a third party, and I’ve said before that I don’t do third parties, but Johnson represents all the good things that Paul does without the bad past. The thing I couldn’t do with a clean conscience is vote for Johnson and help ensure the election of say Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney over Obama. I can’t be sure about Obama, honestly. What would he do in an Iranian crisis? Would he go to war? I suppose he’d think deeply on the matter and he’d at least use some judgment before sending in the troops. I cannot say the same for Romney or Gingrich or any other GOP hawk (I like Huntsman and think he’s a thoughtful, restrained guy generally on foreign policy with some good ideas, but I still don’t see him winning this thing.)

Long story short, y’all have me thinking hard on this one. Like Matt, I look forward to the coming months too. I hope that Paul can keep pushing these issues front and center in the debates and in the race ahead. But I can’t ignore the newsletters or other signs of affiliation with racists which, admittedly, appear to go much deeper than I realized. I was too quick to dismiss mistermix last time around. This is a serious issue and I will need more time to think about it before I can say whether or not I was wrong to endorse the candidate who I view as the most likely to prevent future war and to end or at least curtail the war on drugs and terror.

I don’t think Ron Paul himself is racist. I’m not sure why he would be so cavalier and consistent on so many unpopular issues, but never toss a bone to that crowd in any public appearance. But he has certainly been a poor judge of character.

P.S. See also Ta-Nehisi Coates.

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96 thoughts on “Ron Paul, Racism, and War

  1. I think any endorsement of Paul has to recognize the problems posed by these newsletters, and I think you do recognize those problems, even in your other post, which I did not find particularly rude.  At the same time, the probability that Paul will win the nomination and the general election seems exceedingly thin.  Therefore, I think it’s possible to endorse Paul, with clearly-stated reservations, and leave it at that.  As someone said in the other thread, Paul’s is essentially a third party candidacy.

    Another point:  you suggest that a vote for the LP would help ensure a Romney or Gingrich victory.  I suspect such a vote might actually help Obama more than his opponents.

     

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  2. A  small thing, but living in West Virginia, we still occasionally get the neighborhood yahoo who decides to distribute racist literature in the middle of the night.  In 2007, I woke up to discover that somebody had left a racist publication on the hood of my car in the dead of night, and on page two, there was a column from Ron Paul. I don’t know why, but I called his Congressional Offices to say something to the effect of, “Hey guys, some racist newspaper is stealing your guys stuff and publishing it.” And their immediate was response was, “Whatever.”

    It didn’t even remotely concern whomever it was that I was talking to. It was jaw-dropping to me that a Congressional Office wouldn’t at least want to know more. That though was a small thing.

    However, when you start to look at the newsletters themselves – and they’re now getting a very thorough going over –  an ugly scenario is created.

    Meanwhile, Gary Johnson, who could have made all of Paul’s arguments without the racist baggage, can’t even get into a debate.

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  3. I think you’re moving towards a better attitude on Ron Paul, which is that he moves the conversation on some important topics (especially war) to a better place, but personally he just isn’t qualified to be President.

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  4. Here’s my question… Do you think there is a candidate on earth whom we couldn’t link to something viruntly racist or sexist or homphobic or bigoted towards a certain faith or some other terrible thing? I find it interesting that Paul seems to be unique in the criticism he is generating, especially that coming from people on the left, like the Sean Hannitys of the worl with their closets full of racist skeletons. I’m not saying all criticsm of Paul on this issue is disingenous in nature, but I do feel a lot is. This is not meant o defend or excuse Paul but rather a question as to why this has become a referundum on his candidacy in ways that Perry’s ranch or other racist issues have not for other candidates.

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    • I think the issue is that some of Paul’s supporters have higher standards for their candidates. Perry’s supporters aren’t going to care about the name of his ranch because they don’t care about racial issues in the slightest. Paul pulls support from people who do care about racial issues, which makes the newsletter a much bigger issue for him, primarily because Paul draws support from two very distinct groups of voters: paleocon libertarians and youth(ful) voters. I don’t think their backgrounds and issues intersect much.

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      • Interesting point which I had not thought of. It doesn’t really address the likes of his opponents, but I suppose that has become par for course for many major meadia rightwing pundits, who’ll defend their own racism and that of their friends but are quick to jump on that of their opponents as if they are the Reverend himself. Nwhich probably isn’t all that different from media pundits of all leanings, but (to me at least) there is something particularly insidious when itinvolves racism.

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          • But if they genuinely believe themselves to be the leading defenders of equity and equality among the races, they are even more delusional than I thought. If Paul was Hannity’s candidate-of-choice, you know he wouldn’t be going on day after day about how racist Paul cleary is. Obviously this is more about Hannity than Paul (though I agree with the general sentiment regarding Paul’s past is righttongive hissupporters pause), it is just a persnalpet peeveof mine I suppose.

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        • Nice link. And I like your post farther down the thread as well. One piece of advise I would give to Paul is to avoid using the term “blacks” as a noun. It is just a generally antiquated phrase that doesn’t sit well with most people, especially when coming from an old white guy. This is more, or perhaps entirely, style than substance, but style does matter.

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    • Yup, absolutely. Pull something on Bernie Sanders. There are people too little to be bought and sold. And a few people too wise to get caught up in stuff.

      (Now Al Franken’s probably Said Enough Himself to get him in a boatload of trouble with people…)

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  5. I find it a good thing to search honestly with-in oneself, the truth. Good article on the reflection of your search for this issue of racism and Ron Paul.

    I have resolved it by comparing with what is written in those articles and everything I have heard him say and what he has done.

    I feel Ron Paul is and will steer America politically in the direction of a less centralized government , which I lean towards.

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  6. On a more general note, this has given me pause as well E.D.  I was only days ago arguing strongly in favor of Paul to my family.  I’m now forced to re-evaluate that allegiance with the nagging sense of inevitability one has when re-evaluating whether to get up for work in the morning.

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  7. I’ve long ago given up on searching for perfection in politics. “Good enough” is the threshold for excellence, and “least bad” is the threshold for acceptability. Ron Paul looks like the least bad choice right now, at least to you.

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  8. You really shouldn’t back down on this.

    First, considering our government is actively racist and no one with a big stage in this government is really confronting it, even to the point that our democratic “liberal” president is exacerbating some of the problems, blasting someone for 20 year old racist newsletters is a little shallow.  When you then consider that the racist in question is the biggest figure to actually call out our justice system for the disproportionate harm it causes the black community (to GOP primary voters, nonetheless) its seems doubly so.

    Assuming the worst of Ron Paul (he wrote and believed wholeheartedly in the newsletters), they pale in comparison to Byrd’s founding of a KKK chapter, devoted support of Jim Crow laws, and treatment of Thurgood Marshall.  Byrd’s views changed with the times, however, and he merited, if not forgiveness, appreciation of his personal progression and recognition of what is right.

    Taking a particular example, Ron Paul certainly contributed to a newsletter being released saying that 95% of blacks are criminals, or something of that nature 20 years ago.  Now, it is quite evident that he believes that blacks are overwhelmingly victimized by our criminal law and justice system.

    And furthermore, it is very hard to be too rude when defending oneself from unfounded charges of bigotry.

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    • I think the worst one might assume of Ron Paul is that he still believes, at least half-heartedly, in what was written in the newsletters.  Again, that’s probably the worst one might assume, and I don’t know if it is accurate or if he has denounced the wording as opposed to simply dodging responsibility for them.  (To repeat, I really don’t know what else he has done beside saying someone else wrote them.)

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    • “Our government is actively racist”

      Interesting claim. Any chance of some evidence?

      “blasting someone for 20 year old racist newsletters is a little shallow”

      Racism does not improve with age, nor is there any evidence that Ron Paul has come to a more enlightened view of his fellow citizens who happen to be black. Not so long ago, Ron Paul was telling the nation that he would have voted against the Civil Rights legislation of 1964:

      http://www.theatlanticwire.com/politics/2011/05/ron-paul-would-have-opposed-civil-rights-act-1964/37726/

      “Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul told Chris Mathews on MSNBC Friday that he would not have voted in favor of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, if he were a member of congress at the time. Though Paul said that while he thought Jim Crow laws were illegal, he would have opposed the Civil Rights Act “because of the property rights element, not because they got rid of the Jim Crow laws.” Video of the interview is below.

      When Matthews appeared surprised, Paul accused him of being a demagogue on the issue. “He said that talk of the segregated South that the Civil Rights Act aimed to reform is too old to be relevant, because “Whites Only” signs are “ancient history.” Like many who opposed the civil rights reforms at their time, Paul said, in true libertarian form, that Jim Crow laws would have ended anyways, because of the free market.”

      The sharpest question in all of this, one which I have never heard a libertarian answer clearly, is why libertarians should be so endlessly patient with the denial of rights to a section of the populace distinguished from their contemporaries ONLY by the color of their skins.  Why should black people have to wait for the “free market” to bring their rights to parity with those of white people?

      This, to me, is the clearest evidence that Ron Paul is, functionally, a racist – his willingness to allow a section of the American people to be denied equal rights solely and simply because of their skin color.  His dangerous ignorance of historical and social realities, revealed in the ludicrous idea that the injustices of Jim Crow would be magically rectified by the free market (how long did Jim Crow last? what put an end to it?), ought to be more than enough evidence that Ron Paul is not qualified to be president either in terms of character, intellectual capacity or knowledge of American history.

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      • Interesting claim. Any chance of some evidence?

        The Drug War and drug sentencing, immigration policy, foreign policy.

        I don’t think US policy on any of those issues would be what they are were it not systematically racist.

        Racism does not improve with age, nor is there any evidence that Ron Paul has come to a more enlightened view of his fellow citizens who happen to be black

        I posted evidence in the comment you responded to.  At least publicly, he has made the rather extraordinary shift from releasing newsletters saying 95% of blacks are criminals to making the argument that many blacks are unfairly imprisoned and executed.

        Not so long ago, Ron Paul was telling the nation that he would have voted against the Civil Rights legislation of 1964.

        This is exactly why its frustrating that Kain backed down on this.  The difference between liberal treatment of Paul and Byrd is the constant conflation that liberals make towards libertarians: opposition to state solutions=support of the problem. Its the same stupid conflation that constant greets opponents of the War on Terror.

        This, to me, is the clearest evidence that Ron Paul is, functionally, a racist – his willingness to allow a section of the American people to be denied equal rights solely and simply because of their skin color. 

        You should revisit your notion of which of Paul’s policy preferences are most likely to effect black communities:  opposition to the drug war or opposition to forcing racist business owners from serving minorities.  Which policy might he be able to actually change?

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        • As a liberal, any conservative with Boots On The Ground, helping out, gets cred with me. You da man who shows up to counsel gang members, even though you’re a lawyer makin’ rich-man pay? You got cred. You da guy runs a free loan society? Man, I’d vote for ya — you doin’ good, you know the community, you Met The People. And you ain’t one of those people what comes up with stupid solutions that do jack.

          Paul’s got a pie in the sky idea with the drug war. He doesn’t have boots on the ground trying to stop the drugwar. If he was even running a city-by-city campaign to reduce arrests… I’d listen to him. But he’s not.

          Do most blacks even want this?

          Or would they rather be like the bloke on calculated risk, who’s just sick of not being able to see his friends out of harlem, or needing to dress up to drive anywhere?

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        • BradP, I can’t help noticing that you aren’t even trying to address the arguments I made.  I realize that Ron Paul hasn’t given you much to work with, but your response is so vague that it amounts to: see all the good things that Ron Paul wants to do!  He loves kittens, so he can’t be a racist.  All that you need now is the claim that Ron Paul has friends who are black, and the full set of excuses and evasions will be yours.  I am just wondering when you’ll actually address an argument with some substance, rather than desperately avoiding the facts.  Nor, by the way, is your argument based on any evidence that Ron Paul wants to do these things to help the black community, much less that his proposed policies would do so.   You need facts, evidence.. you know, reality-based materials, rather than pie-in-the-sky claims about the future.   Can you defend Ron Paul’s newsletters, his rejection of the civil rights legislation, his willingness to publicly associate with the owner of Stormfront – and show that he isn’t functionally a racist?  Or are you just going to waffle about all Ron Paul’s good intentions and assumed motivations?

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          • Morzar, I’m gonna find through the irony of that comment and point out two things:

            1)  It is you who is taking his opposition the CRA of 1964, ignoring the justification he provides and surmises that he must really just be racist without any sort of factual basis.

            2)  The egregious parts of the Ron Paul Report newsletter in 1992:

            “Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the `criminal justice system,’ I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

            “We don’t think a child of 13 should be held responsible as a man of 23. That’s true for most people, but black males age 13 who have been raised on the streets and who have joined criminal gangs are as big, strong, tough, scary and culpable as any adult and should be treated as such.”

            Now Ron Paul in 2007:

            “A system designed to protect individual liberty will have no punishments for any group and no privileges. Today, I think inner-city folks and minorities are punished unfairly in the war on drugs. For instance, Blacks make up 14% of those who use drugs, yet 36 percent of those arrested are Blacks and it ends up that 63% of those who finally end up in prison are Blacks. This has to change. We don’t have to have more courts and more prisons. We need to repeal the whole war on drugs. It isn’t working.”

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            • BrettP, as you well know, Ron Paul said a good number of other egregious things in those newsletters, and has never adequately explained his various racist advocacies and positions.  Remember, in 1996 he was perfectly happy to stand behind the substance of said newsletters. In 2007 he was willing to pose with the owner of Stormfront and his son and sign autographs for them. In 2011 he said that he would not have voted for the Civil Rights legislation and gave priority to white people’s property rights over the civil rights of black people. How many times  do we need to connect the dots before you can see what is perfectly obvious?  There’s no irony in declining to take special pleading like yours seriously.  Nor is there a shred of evidence that Ron Paul has actually done anything – not one solitary thing – to benefit black people or redress the shameful legacy of the South and white racism.  If you want to follow the old fraud down the libertarian/Confederate rabbit-hole, go ahead.  Just don’t kid yourself about the white supremacist rabbit you are following.

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  9. There are a lot of little dynamics going on with the Ron Paul thing.

    Ron Paul’s newsletters made Ron Paul a lot of money… and part of the reason they made Ron Paul a lot of money is because they contained unsigned essays like the ones you’ve seen excerpted.

    As a blogger, the idea that he didn’t know what was being published under his name is absolutely alien to me. I check my blog fifty billion times a day. Are you telling me that he didn’t read his paper blog? (Hey, ED! You read all of the posts on the LoOG, right?)

    As a Libertarian, however, I can easily see not wanting to edit the contributions of my friends. (Then again, they’re all unsigned!)

    At best, they indicate a massive amount of bad judgment clouded by money. That’s the *BEST* case. It’s all downhill from there.

    There are other dynamics, however. Ron Paul represents a lot of things to a fairly vocal group of folks and this “lot of things” definitely does not include the racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, etc that are being highlighted in the Ron Paul Report. It feels like an attempt to discredit these “a lot of things” by making them co-extensive with racism, homophobia, anti-semitism, etc.

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    • Are you telling me that he didn’t read his paper blog? (Hey, ED! You read all of the posts on the LoOG, right?)

      If someone posted on LoOG the type of stuff on that newsletter, especially if they did it repeatedly, I’m sure it would come to E.D.’s attention somehow.  At which point, he would probably have to decide how to act:  accept it as a fact of life, disinvite the person, publish a post distancing himself from and dissociating himself from the other person’s views, or something else.

      Of course, I can’t speak for E.D.  But if someone published such inarguably bigoted stuff repeatedly here, I’d probably stop reading.

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  10. Part of the reason why I’m hoping Ron Paul goes as far as possible in this race is because, despite  his recent success, I view the probability of his going all the way as virtually nil. And by ‘all the way’ I mean to winning the Republican nomination, not even the presidency itself. This is cynical, but it takes quite a bit of the edge off supporting him (or merely rooting for him to do well). So there isn’t much downside beyond the risk that libertarianism will (continue to) be associated with racism.

    So maybe all this hand-wringing isn’t worth the effort. But I’m really enjoying the discussion among libertarians and fellow travelers about all this. I think the quality speaks well us.

    I haven’t taken the LP seriously since high school, but if they put up Gary Johnson as their nominee, I will vote for him in the general election.

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  11. I don’t care if someone once upon a time had something racist written in his newspaper or he once upon a time slept with a crack whore and got her pregnant, or if they once upon a time smoked pot.  What I do care about is a clear and consistent goal and the determination to get it done!  Someone who’s ideas are solid.  I don’t want to vote for a president who will sit in office thinking and compromising key issues.  I want a president that’s going to spend his well paid time doing what he said he’d do because he believed in what he said.  No one is perfect, but Ron Paul is perfect for America.  So once upon a time a racist comment slipped into his newspaper, he didn’t write it and there has not been an issue since.

    Another thing, George Washington was a Mason, so all the propaganda saying Ron Paul is a Mason should only help secure his votes.  All the idiots claiming they will take America back to it’s Christian foundation are full of crap because this nation was founded with Masonic principles which are not even religious.  Now if they had said they wanted to take America back to the situations during it’s founding…I’d say Obama is doing fine, executing American citizens without trial sounds like the Salem witch trials and slaughtering civilians in other countries for control sounds like what we were doing to the Native Americans, so congrats we are still good ol’ America as it was, control and conquer.

    I’m voting for a change.

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    •  I don’t want to vote for a president who will sit in office thinking and compromising key issues. 

      Then, with all respect, you are wishing to vote for a president who would get nothing done.  Ron Paul would be the first to recognize that the executive is only one of three branches of government.  A president who is not thoughtful and is unable to negotiate with Congress is unlikely to achieve his goals.

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    • “What I do care about is a clear and consistent goal and the determination to get it done!  Someone who’s ideas are solid.  I don’t want to vote for a president who will sit in office thinking and compromising key issues.  I want a president that’s going to spend his well paid time doing what he said he’d do because he believed in what he said. “

      I do not understand why this position is so attractive.  How are you ever going to get this done in a country that is based on representation and includes more than yourself and your like minded friends?

      As to RP, the fact that he hasn’t deviated from a particular course of action doesn’t necessarily make his ideas “solid”.  It simply means he’s willing to continue to support/espouse positions despite evidence to the contrary, ignore inconsistencies and fail to address the foreseeable consequences.  Its a nice sales pitch to say “I’ve been saying the same thing for 30 years”, but shouldn’t that also make you pause?

       

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  12. It’s almost enough to make a person repudiate politics and its disgusting “back this horse, its shit stinks the least” framework. There are so many more effective ways to spend one’s time and energy to effect change in the world.

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    • True enough. Of course, as president he wouldn’t be able to end the war on drugs unless he somehow got a Congress that wanted to end the war on drugs, and I think we both know that wouldn’t happen. And though, as commander in chief, he’d have more of a say on our actual war-making, the same goes for that: if Congress wants war with Iran or Syria, and they drum up enough popular support (and 2003 showed us that’s not difficult — make up some mobile weapons factories whole cloth, and we’re all gung ho!), there’s little he could do to stop it.

      Ron Paul is a charade, even if he doesn’t realize it (and why would he care? it’s by saying what he says that he gets access to power in the first place). He’s a charade that serves to insure that certain people remain in the fold, without ever having the ability to do anything to influence the actual direction of the party. In a sense, his own loopy economic views, and his social conservatism, make this clear. What’s worse, by focusing on Paul, we lose any chance of actually influencing his party in the direction of the views that make him popular. The same was the case for Kucinich. I don’t know if you watched his debates in ’08, but his answer to everything was, “War on drugs.” Yay, this is how we keep the hippies voting Democrat, but look, the dude believes in alien abduction or some such bullshit, so vote for Obama or Clinton instead, because they’re in the same party but they’re not crazy.

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        • Oh, sure, until Congress passes a specific law. Which they would. And I guarantee you it would be veto-proof.

          Plus, it’s 4 years. And one thing I can guarantee you is that it wouldn’t be more than 4 years (it might not even make it to 4 years). The reaction would probably be worse.

          I think Paul would do nominal things, as president, but these things are deeply institutionalized: both the war on drugs and actual war. Even as president, Paul’s ability to stop runaway trains would be next to nil.

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          • I don’t know that it would necessarily be veto-proof.

            MMJ is fairly popular… and I gauge this based upon the fact that it tends to pass in places where it’s put up for popular ballot.

            If it starts a debate on everything, that’d be a good thing.

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      • As the head of the executive branch, wouldn’t he have considerable ability to restrain the DEA’s enforcement of federal drug laws? I actually don’t know how this works. Can Congress sue the president and get the court to compel him to enforce their laws?

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      • Congress hasn’t declared war in seventy years. In fact, every war since WWII has been instigated by a President.

        Paul could, as executive, choose to enforce only earmarked items and use discretionary spending – which there is a lot of – for tax rebates or even making butterflies out of construction paper and passing them out to children if he likes.

        70% of Americans did not support the bailouts, and we’d have had no bailouts with a President Paul. There’re a whole lot of other things we wouldn’t have as well. There’s a reason the guy’s nicknamed “Dr. No”.

        For someone like me, who thinks government has gone way beyond producing positive marginal returns and now does more harm than good, I’d love it if there was a President who’d veto nearly everything. If something gets through his veto, then that something is probably popular enough that it should go into law, but, just looking at the garbage produced over the past ten years, how many of that wouldn’t have ever come into existence if we’d had a President Paul instead of the two-headed, runaway executive abuse monster of Bush and Obama>

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        • Under President Paul, we would also return to the Bronze Age.   Never was more evil done than with the best of intentions.   Americans don’t like the bailouts, well, perhaps.   They do appreciate what few semblances of civilization remain and the fact that their debit cards still work.

          Let the latter years of the presidency of Calvin Coolidge stand as evidence of what a Ron Paul presidency would resemble.

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          • I thought Herbert Hoover was the standard laissez-faire straw man? Didn’t Calvin Coolidge do nothing but sleep all day?

            Also, BlaiseP, by “gold standard” Paul doesn’t actually mean that we’ll return to paying for goods and service with gold buillon, just that our currency will be backed by gold and not just the reputation of the Fed.

            At least acknowledge the existence of a trade-off.

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            • Ecch, Hoover gets the blame.   Blame is the argument of the weak, the stick used by losers to beat winners.  Most presidents get the praise and/or the blame for what came of the policies of their predecessors.

              The Great Depression was the logical conclusion to the laissez-faire policies, going back to Coolidge and Harding.   Harding was a reaction to the progressivist policies of Teddy Roosevelt, but Coolidge was even more so, the perfect analogy to Ron Paul at many different levels.   Coolidge was a limited-government man who stuck to his Constitutional guns.

              Harding and Coolidge are seldom-explored presidencies.   We sorta forget they were there, embodying the comfy do-nothing-ness of those times.  The Great Depression was America waking up from a bad nightmare after a long and pleasant wet dream.

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                • Well, that much is true, but we don’t get a clear picture of Coolidge without the context of Harding and America’s reaction to the progressivism of Theodore Roosevelt.    TR stepped on many important toes and Harding was seen as a return to the laissez-faire era of McKinley, another prophet of prosperity, much-beloved of the plutocrats.

                  It’s quite a story.   I wrote a paper on Coolidge and Harding many years back and I’m still fascinated by how things worked out.   I’m convinced we must understand Coolidge to get a grip on the Great Depression, not that Coolidge can be “blamed” for it, but to see just how the system could spin out of control, so quickly.

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              • I more-or-less agree with this actually. If only control of the economy had been decentralized throughout the 1920s, lax lending policies would have never resulted in corporate interests predictably doing what corporate interests predictably do and predictably running wild predictably throughout the 1920’s leading predictably to a correction such that many Austrian economists predicted would happen again as a result of the Greenspan-Bush mayhem.

                We’re arguing two sides of the same coin, just like Hayek and Keynes did. You say the problem was a lack of regulation. I say the problem was a lack of regulation. What we each mean by “regulation” is completely different. I see corporations as being extremely predictable and government should be a counter-balance to the negative externalities produced by some corporate activity. But to call an era marked by government champions and privatization orgies “laissez-faire” is off. Just like saying that the recent economic crisis is the result of too-free markets is also off. There’s nothing free about awarding government contracts to Halliburton. There’s nothing free about selected bail-outs. There’s nothing free about legislative hand-outs to banks and drug companies.

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                • We must agree to disagree: there are too many economic axioms we don’t share in common.   The Austrians were dead wrong about everything, beginning with their assumptions about human nature and macroeconomics, a subject upon which they remain, willfully and stupidly, as blankly ignorant as Flat-Earthers.

                  Those who wish to be disabused of their Austrian-ism should immediately purchase a copy of TradeStation, put one hundred thousand dollars into a trading account and learn the fundamentals of markets as they are.   It will take about twenty minutes and all those cobwebs will be blown away and the refreshingly capitalist odor of money will fill the room.   I have yet to meet an Austrian who actually has a trading account, please be the first to tell me you have one.  Oh, and learn to read a 10K and 10Q, your illusions about Corporate Predictability will become a subject for hilarious self-deprecation in a few years and those are always the best sort of stories to tell amongst friends.

                  Free markets have always required regulation:  as varies risk so varies the need for regulation.   I made a great whopping pile of money on HAL stock options, entering those positions when I saw Katrina about 100 miles off shore.    I made another killing shorting HAL as I watched Congress harrumph about those no-bid contracts.   This story has a happy ending:   I gave all those profits to the Salvation Army for actual relief work.   Halliburton might be a beast, Bechtel too, but it’s a big beast with plenty of experience dealing with large-scale disaster and construction projects.

                  This recent economic crisis was ultimately the result of trillions of dollars in over-the-counter trading backed by stupid insurance companies.   If there is one sovereign Silver Bullet to put through the brains of the Free Marketeers, it is this:   had those trades been conducted on legitimate, regulated markets such as Eurex, no such collapse and concomitant government bailout would have been necessary.

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                  • Use TradeKing, folks. I think they’re still giving you a free $100 for your first $1000 in. Take your test, become a broker, and have fun playing at something you know, or learn about.

                    I find it striking that it’s the financial guys who are the liberals — they know how evil “for profit” can turn into. These are the jobs that scar people — glad to hear that you’re putting a bit of money into something good. Knew someone who ran a currency exchange company… as a “charity” (siphon off profits, toss ’em at something worthy).

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                  • “The Austrians were dead wrong about everything, beginning with their assumptions about human nature and macroeconomics.”

                    That’s an empirical claim, right? Despite the fact that you seem to have rejected empiricism in the comments to my previous post, I’m going to point out that many Austrians – Peter Schiff and Jim Rogers, for instance – called the real estate bubble. Jim Rogers did it as early as 2003 (He was a trader. Have you ever heard of him?). Austrian economics. Empirically verified.

                    Now, usually the standard retort to the fact that the real-estate bubble and stock market problems were widely predicted by “Austrian” economists is that the Austrians have been calling recessions and bubbles like Cassandra since Leopold of Babenberg. And this is a fair retort, since – IMHO – the Austrians seem to be a bit pessimistic, but you’ve actually opted here to simply double down on your aggressive assertion that the Austrians are just wrong and continue to fail to provide any examples of falsified claims. This leads me to believe, as I wrote earlier, that you’ve never read any Austrian economists

                    Your list of stock market categories doesn’t apply. All of those categories are legal categories or categories created by some dude in some office somewhere and given the blessing of the SEC, or the central bank, or the Congress. Financial classes like derivatives and mutual funds are legal or otherwise arbitrarily-created categories. In other words, you’re making a category error and confusing financial accounting categories with emergent economic categories. This is like conflating computer programs with DNA, or, to get even more basic, it’s like conflating boats with ducks.

                    I’m not an Austrian (I’m too much of an empiricist to take their a priori reasoning that seriously), although I sympathize with the view of the economy as an emergent system shared by both Marxists and Austrians. I know my economic history, so I know that where those two groups split is with the theory of prices, that prices should remain undistorted, since they convey valuable information about the relative scarcity of goods and the value of services. When the government steps in and starts interfering with prices, that’s when our natural propensity to screw things up really gets amplified. If we’re going to interfere, we better make sure it’s for a good reason, and we better be prepared to deal with the unintended consequences, because there will be unintended consequences so long as our models remain mere crude stereotypes of the way things actually work.

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                    • The collapse of the real estate bubble in Japan had led most intelligent people to a fuller understanding of the mechanics of real estate speculation:  neither Peter Schiff nor Jim Rogers told us anything new.   Furthermore, the Japanese reaction to that collapse, to wit its failure to force the bad debts out of its banks, led everyone who understood the Asian markets to doubt the sincerity of Japan’s claims of reform.

                      C’mon now.  In markets such as Eurex or CME, swaps are regulated.  Over the counter swaps aren’t.   That ought to be illegal, like the sale of fly-by-night insurance policies, for that’s exactly what they are.  For someone who isn’t an Austrian, you seem to find government “interference” as intolerable as they do.   Now allow me to point out OTC derivates are scamulent in extremis, well worth a few government bureaucrats shutting that sort of crap down on the spot.  Our natural propensity to screw things up is only exceeded by the propensity of a gang of Free Market morons screwing us over, with the Austrians egging them on.

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                    • BlaiseP, I’ll repeat that you’re making a category error. I agree that financial markets need regulation in the sense that the word “regulate” means “to keep regular”. No special treatment for anyone.

                      As for the “free market” people, answer me this: why are “free trade agreements” always 20,000 pages long?

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                    • I will continue to genially refute the charge of Category Error.   The Free Market is anything but free:  the OTC derivative is an end-run around market regulation.  There is no category error I can see.   The OTC derivative was prima facie evidence for a “too-free” market and there is absolutely no escaping that conclusion.

                      Why so long?  Free trade agreements aren’t really “free trade” agreements, they’re frameworks for trade.   They’re long because they need to be long, they detail many aspects of trade and dispute resolution, taxation, definitions, customs procedures, certificates of origin — policy set forth for the purpose of eliminating the arbitrary and establishing norms and boundaries.

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                    • Oh I understand the Austrians well enough.   See, here’s the problem with the Austrians:  they’re faith-based economists.   Oh it’s so exciting to read Mises and Rothbard, I did as a young man, thrilling stuff.   Then I started to participate in markets, coming to terms with the world as it is.   Rothbard and Mises’ conclusions about neoclassical economists were completely off base.

                      Let’s take Rothbard’s attacks on utility functions.  That’s where I came to believe Mises was mistaken but Rothbard was a barking idiot and my position hasn’t changed over the years.

                      Just you start right there.   My list is very long, just settle that one up for me.

                       

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                    • I haven’t read Rothbard, and to be honest he’s not very high up on my list; but I generally agree with Mises up until where he asserts that because central control of the money supply creates distortions and malinvestments and because money was originally delineated in gold and financial exchange co-evolved with a gold standard it should return to gold.

                      I’ve said before that I don’t favor a gold standard but that I sympathize with the Austrian critique of government since it is government that should be flexible and that it is government that should change in response to predictable corporate behavior. Instead it is government that’s ossified and parasitized by the corporations.

                      I also strongly agree with the Austrians’s anti-positivism, which is really what all this boils down to anyways. The economy is a fluid: it defies our attempts to expand or compress it.

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        • Are you familiar with the Coburn Omnibus? I don’t think having one stick in the mud changes a goddamn thing.

          99% of Americans didn’t see the “run on the banks” signs that were printed in our last major crisis.

          99.9% of American’s don’t know what serious shit got pulled to pull us back from the brink.

          99.99% of Americans do not want us to turn into Argentina.

           

          Being against bailouts is NOT the same as being pro DOOMSDAY.

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  13. If I lived in the US, I’d be considering supporting Ron Paul over Obama, and I’m certainly rooting for him in the Republican primary.  Ta-Nehisi is right, and I can see perfectly well why the rising support for Ron Paul among some more liberal folks disturbs him…and yet, when the alternatives are candidates who want to invade Iran and a President who’s about to enshrine indefinite detention without trial in American law, what better options are there?

    I wouldn’t want to see Ron Paul become president.  Not just because of the newsletters and previous racist statements (see TNC’s post for the latter), but because, on most issues other than foreign policy and civil liberties, he is a nut.  And I believe that, if he won the Republican primary, he would have no chance of winning the general election.

    But he would attack Obama on issues like foreign interventionism, civil liberties, the drug war and crony capitalism.  And that would be immensely valuable to American political debate, both in terms of bringing up those perspectives at all, and in showing that they can be supported from the right as well as from the left and thus opening up the possibility of a different path for the Republican party.  I would absolutely love to see a debate between Obama and Ron Paul, and for that reason I think endorsing him in the Republican primary is a good choice, despite all the other issues.

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    • I like this reasoning. Paul-Obama debates would offer a sharp contrast to the perennial charges of Democrats as “slaves to the ACLU” (to paraphrase Bachmann). Maybe this would push Obama to call off federal raids on medical marijuana dispensaries and make a renewed push to try terror suspects in civilian courts, much like how catcalls from the neocons led to the 30,000 troop surge in Afghanistan. Yet, the fact that this seems to lead to the best of both worlds for liberals is probably the reason the GOP would never allow Ron to win the nomination in the first place. Unfortunate.

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  14. What I think a lot of people are overlooking is that pandering to stupid people is pretty much essential to electoral success under mass democracy. And just because you’re pandering to them doesn’t mean that you’re actually going to give them what they want.

    If Lew Rockwell, or Murray Rothbard, or whoever it was, thought that pandering to racists would allow him to transmute their racial anger into anger against the government, resulting in a freer country, I’m not sure that I can really condemn him for that, because frankly, I don’t have any better ideas. I mean, Rothbard pandered to communists, supposedly for similar strategic reasons. It seems pretty bogus to me that he gets a pass on that, but not on pandering to racists.

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  15. There’s another thing that is going to pop up in the days to come.

    Years back, Ron Paul had a picture taken with the guy who is behind one of the biggest White Supremacy sites out there. I’m not going to come out and name it and I’m not going to link to it but if you know the name of the first Harry Dresden book, you pretty much know the name of the site.

    Anyway, the guy got his picture with Ron Paul (as did his son).

    Expect to hear more about these pictures in the coming days.

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    • I made this point back in the earlier thread, but there was a marked lack of libertarians explaining Ron Paul’s posing for pics with and signing autographs for the owner of Stormfront and his son  – in the far-off days of 2007.  Presumably Ron Paul didn’t know which entity was signing his autograph for him either.

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      • Do you want me to explain it? Sure.

        It was at one of those “Values Voters” kinda meet and greets. Ron Paul had his picture taken approximately ten kabillion times that day. People run up and say “I’m your number one fan! Can we get a picture? How about an autograph!” and get their picture taken and grab an autograph.

        I’m sure that William Shatner has pictures taken with axe murderers, Miss America has pictures taken with mad bombers, and Michelle Malkin has a picture of her with that guy who was stalking her.

        And they were both smiling at the camera.

        My issue was more with the fact that when the whole “these bad people donated money to you!” issue came up, he didn’t handle it better. A simple “I can’t police who gives me money but since (bad person) gave me $500, I’m going to donate $500 to the Anti-Defamation League” (or similar).

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  16. What troubles me the most about this issue is that Ron Paul initially defended some of these statements when presented with quotes from them. He was read a few of the quotes in an interview and he responded with a tepid defense of their substance. That implies, at the very least, that Paul was once willing to openly pander to racists to gain their support for his campaign. That’s very disconcerting.

    In terms of the risks for such a president, I would be particularly concerned about what a Ron Paul president with this kind of streak wouldn’t do. When issues come up that effect a minority of Americans, the president can set the tone on how they are addressed (e.g. Reagan and AIDS). A president who is comfortable with pandering to racists is much less likely to treat these kinds of issues with seriousness.

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  17. Really encouraging to watch a serious individual like yourself engage in discussion as a means of challenging your beliefs, rather than using it as a way to prove your superiority to others. Many other writers could learn from you. I think Ron Paul as a serious contender in the GOP primary is a wonderful thing; there’s no comparable ideology-challenger in the Democratic party. And while I could never support him for President, I welcome the presence of a non-politician’s politician in the face of the “NewtRomney blur” (via Andrew Sullivan.) It will be most interesting to see how long it is, though, until the others start playing hardball against Ron–and if Ron chooses to respond in the dignified way he has this campaign, or if he goes the Washington way in order to make a run for the trophy.

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  18. I haven’t really chimed in because ultimately I think Ron Paul’s suitability is a subjective question (plus I’m under the influence of the end-of-year malaise that is pretty common down here).  Whether the good a Paul presidency (or even GOP nomination) would do is balanced by the harm is something we will all have different views on, and my own are conflicted.

    There is one thing I’d like to pick on though:

    And Gary Johnson, a candidate whose socially liberal views are far, far more palatable to me, has just announced he’ll seek the Libertarian Party nomination. Now the LP is a third party, and I’ve said before that I don’t do third parties, but Johnson represents all the good things that Paul does without the bad past. The thing I couldn’t do with a clean conscience is vote for Johnson and help ensure the election of say Newt Gingrich or Mitt Romney over Obama.

    If you are voting to change the outcome of the election, you are doing it wrong.  Even if you live in a swing state your odds of changing the election result are negligible.  If you live in a dedicated blue or red state I suggest you are more likely to be struck by a meteorite on the way to the polling station than you are to change the outcome of the election.

    Voting for someone is an act of support, it connects you to the candidate in a fundamental way (even if your are the only person why knows it).  For me, the question of who to vote for comes down to a question of who do I most want to associate myself with?

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  19. EDK,

    Thanks for your thoughtfulness and your basic decency and common sense.   Ron Paul is  a person to admire for some reasons, and considering him is a great exercise in civics.  And you once again demonstrated that you are well worth reading.

    Dolllared

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  20. E.D. –

    One reason this country is screwed up is the stupid notion that third parties are not worth supporting. I’m definitely a Gary Johnson supporter and I am likely to volunteer to help him in my state.

    When people such as yourself say they don’t do third parties, you limit options. Ever wonder why the LWV stopped sponsoring debates? It was around the time that the main 2 parties insisted on having too much control over the presidential debates, and they did NOT want competition from third party candidates.

    The sooner principled people STOP pre-deciding that they will never ever ever support a third party, the sooner we will get better candidates that we won’t be ashamed to vote for !

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    • As long as we’re in a FPTP system, yes, third parties aren’t worth supporting. You want a more libertarian/liberal/conservative/socialist poltiical system? Elect more socialist/conservative/liberal/libertarian congresspeople through primaries and such.

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