Julian Sanchez and David Weigel have an interesting article in Reason compiling evidence suggesting that Llewellyn Rockwell of the Ludwig Von Mises Institute was the author of the notorious racist and anti-Semitic material published in Ron Paul's political reports in late 1980s and early 90s.
To me, the most important part of the article is not the possiblity that Rockwell wrote the newsletters but the fact (mentioned only in passing) that Paul apparently supported Rockwell and Murray Rothbard's political strategy of appealing to white racial resentment as a strategy for gaining support for what they called "paleolibertarianism" (a combination of libertarianism and paleoconservatism). According to Sanchez and Weigel, Paul even went so far as to abandon his planned 1992 presidential bid in order to support Pat Buchanan's candidacy, which Rothbard and Rockwell had endorsed. It is difficult to imagine an American political platform much more inimical to libertarianism than Buchanan's combination of protectionism, support for economic regulation, nativism, racial resentment, thinly veiled anti-Semitism, and extreme social conservatism. Unlike the newsletters, Paul's apparent embrace of Buchanan's candidacy and the Rothbard-Rockwell racialist political strategy can't be blamed on the misdeeds of ghostwriters whose work Paul was supposedly unaware of.
Finally, it's worth mentioning that the Sanchez-Weigel article represents a welcome break from Reason's previous overly enthusiastic approach to Paul's presidential candidacy, a policy that was rightly criticized by former Reason editor in chief Virginia Postrel. Even in this article, however, I have a few minor nits to pick. For example, I think that Sanchez and Weigel are too quick to conclude that Rockwell and his "paleolibertarian" associates have abandoned their previous racial rhetoric "since 2001." As libertarian writer Tom Palmer shows in a long series of posts, they continue to indulge in racist and homophobic appeals - now mixed in with praise of terrorists and anti-American dictators (and I do mean praise of these groups, as distinct from simply criticisms of US policy towards them).
CONFLICT OF INTEREST WATCH: I suppose I should mention that I myself have written articles for Reason on unrelated issues. I think it's generally an excellent publication. But they did for a time miss the boat on Paul's shortcomings. However, I can't quarrel much with Sanchez and Weigel's current bottom line on Paul:
Ron Paul may not be a racist, but he became complicit in a strategy of pandering to racists—and taking "moral responsibility" for that now means more than just uttering the phrase. It means openly grappling with his own past—acknowledging who said what, and why. Otherwise he risks damaging not only his own reputation, but that of the philosophy to which he has committed his life.
UPDATE: The broken link to the Reason piece has been fixed. Thanks to commenters for alerting me to the problem.
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