Ron Paul Must Repudiate Lew Rockwell
Ron Paul needs to ditch Lew Rockwell.
As he climbs in the polls and gets within striking distance of winning the Iowa caucuses, it is inevitable that his newsletters would come up. You know the ones: written in the late Eighties, that contain racist material, that are really, really stupid, and that Paul swears he didn’t actually write. At least, that’s his line, and in an investigative piece by reason magazine writers Dave Weigel and Julian Sanchez back in 2008, it looks like the source is Ludwig von Mises Institute founder Lew Rockwell:
Financial records from 1985 and 2001 show that Rockwell, Paul’s congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982, was a vice president of Ron Paul & Associates, the corporation that published the Ron Paul Political Report and the Ron Paul Survival Report. The company was dissolved in 2001. During the period when the most incendiary items appeared—roughly 1989 to 1994—Rockwell and the prominent libertarian theorist Murray Rothbard championed an open strategy of exploiting racial and class resentment to build a coalition with populist “paleoconservatives,” producing a flurry of articles and manifestos whose racially charged talking points and vocabulary mirrored the controversial Paul newsletters recently unearthed by The New Republic. To this day Rockwell remains a friend and advisor to Paul—accompanying him to major media appearances; promoting his candidacy on theLewRockwell.com blog; publishing his books; and peddling an array of the avuncular Texas congressman’s recent writings and audio recordings.
One of Ron Paul’s former chiefs of staff, John Robbins, demanded that Rockwell step forward and admit what he wrote back in 2008. I agree with Mr. Robbins, but I would also like to say something different:
Ron Paul should publicly repudiate Lew Rockwell.
Some libertarians swear that Lew Rockwell is the real deal, and a great many people read his website every day. He’s what you call a “paleolibertarian,” and his ideas strike a chord with many out there. And he’s at least on the ball when it comes to Austrian economics. However, the evidence surrounding the newsletter case paints a pretty clear picture, that he has some clear issues with those of different races, ethnicities, and cultures, and these are not issues that Paul should suffer for. If Rockwell well and truly believes that African-Americans are beneath him, then Paul needs to recognize him for the man he is and distance himself as much as possible. This isn’t just good politics, mind you, this is being a good person. Someone who writes in a widely disseminated newsletter such idiotic and hateful material is not someone you should associate with, period, unless you’re taking it upon yourself to try and help the person change.
Then there is the politics behind it. Mentioned in Weigel and Sanchez’s piece was another libertarian giant, Murray Rothbard, who was mostly an advocate of what is known as “anarcho-capitalism.” This is what libertarians are typically branded with by those on the right and left, that we want to create a world where there is no government, where everything is handled by private companies (including courts, fire departments, police, highways, you name it, it’s private.) While I feel that anarcho-capitalism does get a bum rap, most libertarians do not espouse this position. Most of us instead believe a minimal government is ideal, even some of us (myself included) may be “philosophical anarchists,” that it would be nice to have anarchy, that it would be a great ideal, but it’s just that—an ideal, something that will not work in the real world.
This is going to start the whole “crazy radical vs. coward pragmatist” debate, which nearly sundered the Libertarian Party during the Reagan era, but I don’t care, for this needs to be said: anarcho-capitalism is a great theory, but when actually trying to advocate for greater liberty in the current system, it just doesn’t work, and I think it actually turns a lot of people off and sends them away, which is the exact opposite of what we need to be doing right now. It’s the whole “Overton Window” concept, and anarcho-capitalism is so far outside the window it might as well be orbiting the Moon. At best, it can make more “mainstream” libertarianism seem sensible to the rest of the country, but that’s about as far as I see it going.
Ron Paul has nothing to gain from palling around with these guys. If he truly finds Rockwell to be a friend, then okay, but he needs to get Rockwell to stop being involved with his campaigns, to take a step back, and them he himself needs to say that he disagrees completely with what Rockwell wrote and is ashamed that he went in under his watch. Paul, as much as I like him, does deserve a bit of a tongue-lashing for not carefully vetting the material that went in under his own name. It’s a mistake, not one that should cost him the Presidency, but a mistake nonetheless.
Only by doing this can Paul get it behind him. Right now, this baggage is his biggest foe, but interestingly, it’s the one foe he could stop with just one action.