It’s no secret that Swift Economics has strong libertarian leanings. One would think this would mean both Ryan and I support Ron Paul wholeheartedly. Well, I can’t speak for Ryan, but while I respect Ron Paul and will probably vote for him, I do so with reservations.
The reservations are many fold. For one, to quickly cut spending one trillion dollars will throw the economy back into recession. I think, in the long run, we need that, but I doubt the American people have the stomach for it and I’d hate to see libertarianism blamed for a state-created recession.
A more pressing concern are those pesky, racist newsletters from the 1980′s and 90′s that carry his name. When the story first broke in 2007 I ceased supporting Paul and voted (in protest) for Bob Barr. Anyways, the story has once again emerged, leading the guy who broke the story, James Kirchick, to ask “why don’t libertarians care about Ron Paul’s bigoted newsletters?”
Well, libertarians have their answers. Ron Paul claims he didn’t write them and didn’t even read them. He almost certainly didn’t write them, but it’s a bigger step to say he didn’t know about them (Reason magazine did an investigation and claimed, in all likelihood, Lew Rockwell—Ron Paul’s friend and former staffer—wrote them, though Rockwell too denies it.)
Still, Paul has some points going for him. As his conspiracy theorist supporters note, newsletters were like the blogs of the pre-Internet era and thus had little editorial supervision. Furthermore, he was a full-time doctor, which means it’s plausible he wasn’t paying attention. He’s also never said anything remotely like this and even voted to recognize Martin Luther King day as a national holiday (one of the few times he’s voted for something not explicitly authorized by the Constitution) and said consistently that King and Rosa Parks were heroes of his. He also at least claimed he changed his mind on the death penalty partially because it was enforced in a discriminatory manner. Furthermore, a former publisher of the newsletters noted:
Ron Paul didn’t know about those comments, or know they were written under his name until much later when they were brought to his attention. There were several issues that went out with comments that he would not ordinarily make. He was angry when he saw them.
Furthermore, Kirchick is wrong that Paul supporters don’t care (other than the white nationalists who’ve tried to leach onto his campaign despite Paul’s relatively open-border stance). Paul’s campaign fell apart after the newsletters came out in 2007. He got 10% in Iowa, then after the newsletters, then just 7.8% in the libertarian leaning state of New Hampshire. His next “money bomb” which was set on Martin Luther King day prior to the story breaking, raised barely $2 million compared to the almost $7 million pull he had before. The momentum of his campaign vanished after that story.
In my judgement, Paul almost certainly didn’t write them. They sound nothing like him and he’s never said anything like that before or since. But as Reason noted, his allies—namely Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard—openly pushed for a strategy of aligning with discontented Southern paleoconservatives and there’s no better way to appeal to that segment than racially charged, inflammatory rhetoric. Paul is very much culpable in this. Which is why I dropped my support for him in 2008.
The irony is, that even if Paul believes these things and is really a David Duke lite in disguise, he’d probably be the best President for minorities, at least among the current field.
I say this because there are two things Paul can do Constitutionally without the permission of Congress. Namely, end the wars abroad and effectively end the War on Drugs. In his interview with Wolf Blitzer (and many times since) right after the story broke he claimed he would “pardon every nonviolent drug crime.” Here’s the interview:
The U.S. incarcerates nearly 2.4 million people… No other country in the world incarcerates as many people as the United States. China, a country of 1.3 billion people—about four times as many people as the U.S.15—is second, incarcerating 1.6 million people.
Black men had an incarceration rate of 4,618 per 100,000 U.S. residents at midyear 2007, down from 4,777 at midyear 2000. For white men, the midyear 2007 incarceration rate was 773 per 100,000 U.S. residents, up from 683 at midyear 2000. The ratio of the incarceration rates of black men to white men declined from 7 to 6 during this period.
A large chunk of these are nonviolent drug crimes. As the legalization effort in Portugal has shown, crime and even drug use went down significantly and there wasn’t a need to set the world record for incarcerations. As DrugWarFacts.org also mentions, “Among African American children, 1.2 million, or about 11 percent, had a parent incarcerated by 2008.” This has hastened the deterioration of the black family even further.
In addition, obviously a war in which thousands of people are killed, many of whom are minorities, can’t be good for black Americans. So ending the wars would also help. I would argue that inflation is a regressive tax and welfare instutionalizes poverty and weakens the family, but we’ll leave those arguments aside for the time being.
It would certainly be nice if Ron Paul could give a more decisive answer about the newsletters and actually name their authors. But given he’s the only one running who would actually end the madness of all these “wars” I think it’s still worth supporting him.
So ironically, even if Ron Paul wrote those newsletters and still believes every word of them, even if he is an angry, bigoted racist, he would still be the best president for black Americans and all other minorities. Constitutionally, he has the power to end the wars abroad and effectively end the war on drugs himself. But good luck if he tried to touch the 1964 Civil Rights Act or the 1965 Voting Rights Act or anything like that. So assuming he’ll do what he says he’ll do, which his record lends no reason to doubt, he’s still the best in the field, even on racial matters.
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