21 May The Undiscerning and Dangerous Appreciation of Ron Paul
Let me start this article by saying this: I confess from the start that this is a very, very passionate issue for me. I am not a fan of Ron Paul, and I respond with passion and sometimes vitriol at times when I am confronted with Paulites (my term for those who are devout Ron Paul supporters). I freely admit that I have an axe to grind here, but I deny that my agenda is a result of irrational or unhealthy dislike. In fact, I am going to argue that it is all that I like about Ron Paul that has made me so passionately opposed to him.
I am writing this article for one of two categories of Ron Paul supporters: The well-meaning folks who appreciate Ron Paul’s rhetoric regarding freedom and limited government. The other category of Ron Paul supporters, those who are consciously self-aware in their belief that America is a bad guy military bully, and needs to sit idly by in an isolationist sense as a matter of foreign policy, are not the target of this article. I disagree with them with every ounce of of breath in my body, but I have no hope that I might be able to persuade them. The latter group is aware of the things I am going to say in this article, and they do not care. I am hopeful that the former group will feel that the facts I present in this piece are new information, and warrant a change in their perspective.
I am an advocate of the freedom movement in this country. I believe, with Ron Paul, that the United States federal government has morphed into an eggregious behemoth, violating their own Constitutional jurisdiction on a daily basis. I believe that the federal government was created by the people, for the people, and that if we do not reign in their size and jurisdiction, it will one day represent the end of the Republic (fortunately, I have every confidence that we will be successful in that endeavor, incrementally). I have spent the last fifteen years studying economics and finance, and believe that Ron Paul has some wise things to say on the subject of a strong U.S. dollar. I am not a pure Austrian economist, as Paul is, but I was heavily influenced by many of their leaders when I first became obsessed with the subject, and believe there is a lot to be learned from Von Mises and some of the early Austrian economists.
But my love of freedom economics and my desire for a limited, Constitutionally constrained federal government has not caused me to jump on the Ron Paul bandwagon. In fact, and this is the most important line I will write in this article, it is my deep appreciation for where Ron Paul is right that has caused me to so emphatically reject him where he is wrong. Put differently, Ron Paul is his own worst enemy, and because I care so much for the freedom movement, I believe Ron Paul and his more extremist followers are doing irreparable harm to that very cause in our country. How could I possibly jump on that bandwagon?
I want to start my indictment of Ron Paul where I will surely end it: With the linking of Ron Paul to the American fanatical lunatic, Lew Rockwell. It is dangerous ground when one seeks to take down a person by simply associating him with someone else. As we all know, it is actually a logical fallacy of the first order. But Ron Paul is not merely “associated” with Lew Rockwell; he is Lew Rockwell. And he makes no attempt to deny this or cover it up.
I encourage those of you who are wondering what I am talking about to go spend some time at http://www.LewRockwell.com. It is one of the most insidious properties in the entire web universe. I believe that those of you who are in that camp of Ron Paul followers I am trying to reach may conclude that Ron Paul does not deserve to be linked to Lew, but I do not believe you will attempt to defend this man and his extremist and vile views. My challenge is this: Go spend ten minutes on Lew’s website every day for one month, and then decide if you have the stomach to support Ron Paul. In that month you are likely to hear that Winston Churchill was a worse war criminal than Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler. You will hear celebration that Tony Snow died of cancer (because he did, after all, support the Iraq war). You will find out that Lew believes the Constitution is a statist document. You will read that the men and women serving our military are despicable little immoral creatures, trained to kill innocent parties. I do not need to rhetorically beat up on Lew; he will be his own best accuser. The man is insane, and the only possible justification for someone supporting Ron Paul after becoming familiar with Lew Rockwell is that one just does not believe that the two are one and the same. But this is an irrefutable fact. Allow me to continue …
I became familiar with Lew Rockwell and Ron Paul in the mid-1990’s after being introduced to Murray Rothbard, the now deceased Austrian economist. Rothbard and my dad died around the same time, and I became fascinated with the intersection of Austrian economics and the freedom movement. I attended every Von Mises Institute conference I could find, and read every book their movement ever published. Ron Paul spoke at every one of these events, and when I wasn’t listening to John Denton say that America had no business getting into World War II, or Bob Barr saying that the federal government (not Tim McVeigh) blew up the building in Oklahoma City, I was intrigued by much of what their movement had to say. As I got older and wiser, I began to realize that the heir of Friedrich Hayek was Milton Friedman, not Murray Rothbard, and that this “Austrian economics movement” was a front for an extremist form of anti-war zealotry. Every single conference break was filled with the most radical of conspiracy theorists you have ever heard, and the political intentions of the major brains behind their operation were not hidden: Utter anarchy. If I had a nickel for every time someone suggested that insurance companies could come replace the federal government in a given task, I would have a lot more nickels than these people have. But it was an educational experience for me, and my transition out of it began before 9/11. It was 9/11 that completed my paradigm shift away from all these people stood for.
I spent several hours speaking with Ron Paul shortly after 9/11. He informed me that the Islamicist threat was a made up one, just as the Communist threat of the 1950’s and 1960’s was. He told me, to my face, in his own words, that Lew Rockwell and his people were the only ones calling a spade a spade: America did deserve what the Islamicists were trying to do to us, and if we simply learned to leave them alone, they would in turn leave us alone. It was among the most despicable and disappointing conversations I have ever had with another adult. (I think the conversation I had with Lew Rockwell where I asked him why they never have Thomas Sowell speak at their conferences was another one; he informed me that Sowell was an American propogandist who was a puppet for the war machine and an economic ignoramus; Austrian or bust for this lunatic).
Any cursory glance at Lew’s website shows that Ron Paul has written hundreds of articles for Lew. Rockwell was Paul’s chief of staff from 1978 to 1982, a period of time where some have told me that Lew still had some degree of sanity. Lew has published Ron’s books. He has Paul speak at nearly every one of his conferences (to this day). And he accompanies Paul frequently in campaign travels. Lew Rockwell is widely known to be the man who ghost-wrote for Ron Paul throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s. I don’t really need to elaborate on the connection between the two – neither one of them will make any attempt to deny it. The two are joined at the hip politically, financially, and ideologically (Ron Paul’s newsletter claimed income of $940,000 in 1993). Lew was the vice-chair of Paul’s Presidential exploratory committee. The two are close friends, and while Lew Rockwell does not have the name recognition that Ron Paul does, their careers and missions have been completely over-lapped for three decades.
So what is so bad about all this? No reader is going to be able to plausibly deny that Ron Paul and Lew Rockwell are joined at the hip. The question is, “what is such a big deal?” Lew Rockwell ghost-writing some of the most vile and racist garbage you have ever seen for Ron Paul is one thing, but it is not the subject of my critique here. I would suggest to my readers who are fond of the Congressman, that he is indeed responsible for his associations. One can not spend thirty years connected to holocaust-deniers, anti-semites, and explicit anarchists without red flags going up. For what it is worth, I do not believe Ron Paul is a holocast denier or an anti-semite. I think he is worse. I think he is a coward. Ron Paul knows full well that his closest connections are a mixed bag of the most extremist sort of anarcho-capitalists you have ever seen. He refuses to engage these subjects. He does not publicly dispute their claims. He sits on the sideline, collecting $30 million in campaign contributions as a candidate who has never ever ever won a single state primary (in what seems like a million attempts), but is never asked to separate himself from his lunatic friends. It is appalling.
I am happy to focus my article about Ron Paul on his extraordinary errors in matters of foreign policy, but the sad reality is that Ron Paul is entitled to believe that America is the source of the world’s woes (which he does believe), that America has provoked the Islamicist butchers (which he does believe), and that America can function just fine by simply ignoring everybody all over the world. The analogy I have used is this: If I had a roommate, and an intruder came into our apartment with a weapon, and my roommate informed me that he did not believe the intruder was really a threat, I would not focus my efforts on persuading my roommate that the man was a threat. I would focus my efforts on the intruder. I do not care if Ron Paul and his followers do not believe that the Jihadists are a threat to the United States of America. Delusions abound. I care that the people who lead our country at least believe that the jihadists are a threat, and as long as Ron Paul continues to lose every single primary he ever enters, I have no fears that the United States will ever adopt a foreign policy that says “you have to wait until the intruder is at your borders to respond” (the explicit foreign policy of Ron Paul). In 2008 this man stood on the stage at a Republican candidate debate and said that “the 9/11 hijackers were just a few thugs with box-cutters”. His foreign policy worldview is not merely one of opposing U.S. intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan; he believes that America is the provocateur in global activity. His worldview would never allow America to properly defend herself. Now, reasonable people can disagree about this subject (and many know I was once dangerously influenced by the perspective of the isolationists as well). My concern is not Ron Paul’s errors on this subject. My concern is that he has used the freedom movement to generate name recognition and fame, and then through sleight of hand converted the popularity over his limited government rhetoric to promote an agenda of anti-Americanism and military isolationism.
I believe America is spending itself into oblivion. I believe that the Fed has embarked on a Keynesian mission that is going to result in dramatic monetary price inflation and currency depreciation. I believe the federal government has over-stepped its boundaries in nearly every single category one could imagine. But I do not see Ron Paul making a dent in any of these causes. Besides accusing Ben Bernanke in a Congressional panel a couple years ago of the Fed being involved in Watergate and secretly funneling money to Saddam Hussein, Ron Paul’s role in advancing the cause of limited government and a monetary policy of common sense is, shall we say, minimal. He uses every opportunity when in front of a microphone to advance the cause of military isolationism. It is a tragedy. Some how, some way, this guy has an audience, and he really does have an opportunity to impact the cause of freedom. But the tragedy of Ron Paul is that he has chosen to be more of a puppet for Lew Rockwell and the modern-day John Birchers of our society than he has for a sensible kind of freedom economics. I suppose it is somewhat explainable that many evangelicals have been lured in by his rhetoric. But if I told you a few years ago that one of the most popular names in evangelical politics was going to be the only guy in the race who supported gay marriage and the legalization of prostitution, would you have believed me? Paul has a prima facie case for both (though he is also wrong on both), but how many evangelicals do you think even know of Paul’s views on these subjects? I don’t think very many do, and the reason why is because Ron Paul rarely discusses these matters. His platform to promote a “blame America first” foreign policy is so important to him, that he will not jeopardize his credibility by publicly saying in the national media that he believes “Abraham Lincoln was a warmonger”, or that “the cold war was a figment of our imaginations”. He believes that America is a malignant “dictatorship”, yet somehow has been accepted into the mainstream of American politics.
American citizens have fallen for a handful of creepy characters over the years in one way or another (Ralph Nader, Lyndon Larouche, etc.), but this is different. Ron Paul’s core audience is people who should know better. If we need to have a fair conversation about American foreign policy, let’s have it. But associating with the most ghastly of characters in Libertarianism is unforgivable, and we must do better. One does not receive a hall pass to be a lunatic, or to support lunacy, just because they get a few things right. Ironically, one of the defining selling points for Ron Paul is his alleged commitment to the Constitution. But this is what Paul’s chief-of-staff and ghostwriter, Lew Rockwell, has to say about the Constitution:
He argued that [the Constitution] represented a vast increase in government power and that this was its true purpose. It created a powerful central government, with the cover of liberty as an excuse. He used it as a case in point, and went further to argue that all constitutions are of the same type. In the name of limiting government — which they purportedly do — they invariably appear in periods of history when the elites are regrouping to emerge from what they consider to be near anarchy. The Constitution, then, represents the assertion of power.
When he finished, you could hear a pin drop. I’m not sure that anyone was instantly persuaded. He had challenged everything we thought we knew about ourselves. The applause was polite, but not enthusiastic. Yet his points stuck. Over time, I think all of us there travelled some intellectual distance. The Constitution was preceded by the Articles of Confederation, which Rothbard had described as near anarchist in effect. Who were these guys who cobbled together this Constitution? They were the leftovers from the war: military leaders, financiers, and other mucky mucks — a very different crew from the people who signed the Declaration of Independence. Jefferson was out of the country when the Constitution was passed.
And what was the effect of the Constitution? To restrain government? No. It was precisely the opposite, just as Hoppe said. It created a new and more powerful government that not only failed to restrain itself (what government has ever done that?), but grew and grew into the monstrosity we have today. It required a wholesale rethinking of the history, but what Hoppe had said that shocked everyone turns out to be precisely right — and this is only one example among many.
I’m speaking for multitudes when I say that he helped me understand democracy as a form of nationalization of the citizenry. We all became the government: or, we all became public property. And what happens to public property? It is overutilized and wasted because it is unowned by any one person or group of people in particular. Thus did the citizens become war fodder. We are taxed without limit. We have no way to restrain the state since no one in particular is made responsible for our plight. Our leaders are mere managers — not owners, like the monarchs — who are encouraged to loot and leave. They are there as covers for the real state, which is a faceless apparatus that is permanent and cares nothing for the value of the commonwealth.”
My challenge to Ron Paul and his benign followers is this: Come out and tell us if you agree with Lew Rockwell that the Constitution is a flawed document which invites statism. Tell us if you believe that the Winston Churchill statue at Hillsdale College is a travesty. Tell us if Abe Lincoln, FDR, Ronald Reagan, and George Bush are warmongers. I already know you believe all of this. And I am ready to engage that discussion.
But before we have that discussion, you have to tell your fans who you are. You told me face to face who you are: An anti-war zealot who believes America is an imperialistic dictatorship. Are your fans really cut from the same cloth?
I don’t believe the bulk of them are. But we can not begin separating this all out until someone is willing to put their cards on the table. As someone who loves freedom, and believes that a more intelligent kind of conservatism must be presented to our citizenry, I am tired of the rhetoric of freedom and fiscal responsibility that comes from Ron Paul being tainted by his extremist views and lunatic friends. Let’s find a new national spokesman – someone who does not belittle the events of 9/11 as “just a few thugs with box-cutters”. There is a lot of work to be done. I encourage my friends who share a love for the freedom movement to rally behind the efforts of someone who is serious about getting it done.
Fundamentally, even people who are appalled at the Ron Paul connection to Lew Rockwell may still have a beef with me over the issue of foreign policy: There is a sort of trendiness to the idea that “America is not the policement of the world”, and I have seen more people quote President Eisenhower on the dangers of the “military industrial complex” in the last two years than I ever thought possible. I will live with my differences between the Paulites and myself over foreign policy. America is the leader of the free world, and that is a descriptive fact, not really worthy of being haggled over. Our responsibility to defend ourselves and our way of life is totally and completely incompatible with Ron Paul’s view of foreign policy. America’s moral responsibility in preventing genocide is indisputable. If at the end of the day, a group of folks attracted to the rhetoric of freedom ideology believe that their objectives can be obtained without a strong and muscular foreign policy, they will find out the hard way that they are wrong. The ability of the United States to deter Jihadists, and better yet, to kill them before they kill us, will be the foundational condition on which a future “freedom at home” may be built. We are at war. We did not start the war. I hope and pray Ron Paul’s followers will come around on this. I know what will change their minds, and I do not like it.