The Irony of the Ron Paul Newsletters

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:

Regardless of whether his opposition to the war on drugs has anything to do with race, this would be great for all black Americans. As reports:

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 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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  • The following is David Boaz’s take (executive vice president of the Cato Institute) when the newsletter was raised publicly in 2008:

    Those words are not libertarian words. Maybe they reflect ‘paleoconservative’ ideas, though they’re not the language of Burke or even Kirk. But libertarianism is a philosophy of individualism, tolerance, and liberty. As Ayn Rand wrote, ‘Racism is the lowest, most crudely primitive form of collectivism.’ Making sweeping, bigoted claims about all blacks, all homosexuals, or any other group is indeed a crudely primitive collectivism. Libertarians should make it clear that the people who wrote those things are not our comrades, not part of our movement, not part of the tradition of John Locke, Adam Smith, John Stuart Mill, William Lloyd Garrison, Frederick Douglass, Ludwig von Mises, F. A. Hayek, Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, and Robert Nozick. Shame on them.

    The biggest reason the newsletter doesn’t deter me from supporting Ron Paul is that I’ve never heard anything come out of Ron Paul’s mouth that would suggest he is a bigoted racist. Quite the opposite. A support for dynamic market capitalism (as opposed to crony capitalism), social tolerance, and as Andrew points out, an end to the War on Drugs which disproportionately effects minorities, makes him the best president for minorities. He’s also stated many times that MLK Jr. and Rosa Parks are heroes of his.

    I also believe Paul is an honest man (which his record over 25 years in office supports) and deserves the benefit of the doubt when he says those are not his words or something he believes. I wish he would have identified the source of these words and outed him or her since 2008. It would be a shame if he was “protecting” a friend, whether it’s Lew Rockwell or anyone else. However, Ron Paul is largely a force for good. This is not a reason to abandon libertarian principles for the likes of Barack Obama, Mitt Romney, or Newt Gingrich.

  • Cody

    Hey Guys, I really enjoy the website. I actually you wished you post more often. Here’s my two cents whether you’d like it or not.

    My problem with these newsletters are that they’re attacking Ron Paul for one thing and labeling it another. I for one cannot believe Ronnie wrote those lines. I’ve never heard him come close to a racist comment. He called a kid fat once back in the ’80′s but he kind of deserved it. So let’s say someone else wrote them, and heck, for the sake of argument Ronald knew about those comments. In no way does that make him a racist. It makes him a crappy newsletter editor. But instead of attacking him for poorly managing a newsletter, people say he is racist.

    It’s amazing that people get away with arguments like these. Like people who are pro-abortion call it pro-choice and if you’re against abortion, you’re against women’s rights to choose. They’re misnaming the argument again. Pro-lifers have no problem with women’s rights, that’s not what they’re talking about. They have a problem with killing unborn children. Smoke and mirrors man. Smoke and mirrors.

    Anyways, sorry about bringing up the abortion conversation, but it was the first one I thought of. All I wanted to say was this would be a more appropriate newspaper article title. “Racist comments in newsletters proves Ron Paul sucks at managing newsletters.”

    Thanks for your time.

  • Ed

    People are giving too much weight to those newsletters. If Ron Paul really were “an angry, bigoted racist,” he would be, IMHO, the weirdest one in the history of the US. I mean, what kind of angry bigoted racist gives his medical expertise, for free, to a so-called “interracial” couple (the worst kind of “sin” for racists of “black” and “white” varieties), when everyone in the hospital were treating them coldly at best:

    Not saying the man’s perfect, but those unfortunate newsletters feel too out of character for him. Unless he’s suffering from some kind of multiple personality disorder :) j/k

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