Like many of my thoughtful libertarian friends, I am dismayed at the popularity of Ron Paul among the kooks. (Of course, that’s a tough subject, because it’s not really the fault of the candidate when lunatics support him. Paul, however, seems to have gone out of his way to court lunatics, by appearing on conspiracy-theory radio shows, for example.) But it’s even more distressing to see otherwise respectable libertarians showing support for Paul, who is simply not an acceptable spokesman for libertarianism.
I’ve already noted his flirtations with the Di Lorenzo-style neo-confederates, which is distressing enough. But what about his absolutely consistent anti-abortion stand? Paul is almost as bad on the issue of abortion as Jerry Falwell. He himself introduced legislation to strip federal courts of jurisdiction over cases involving “any claim based upon the right of privacy”! And what about his racial views? Paul is (apparently reliably) quoted as saying that ninety-five percent of blacks in Washington D.C. ought to be presumed to be criminals, and that “our country is being destroyed by a group of actual and potential terrorists—and they can be identified by the color of their skin.” (It makes no difference if he wrote these words or if someone else did on his behalf. Note that he has not apologized for them.) He is bad on free trade, a basic libertarian value. One of his close aides is Daniel McAdams, who is outspoken in his hostility to the freedom movement in Russia and to global free trade. And his views on the separation of church and state are awful: he has said that there is “no historical or constitutional basis” for the separation of church and state—when the separation principle is, quite simply, the foundation stone of libertarianism.* His position on gay marriage? He supported the Defense of Marriage Act, and co-sponsored the Marriage Protection Act, to bar federal court jurisdiction to interpret the Defense of Marriage Act, while referring to decisions that uphold gay marriage as “act[s] of social engineering profoundly hostile to liberty.”
In all of these cases, his tactic appears to be the same: use legitimate arguments about state’s rights to cloak a hostility to civil rights for homosexuals, the right to an abortion, religious freedom and other essential liberties. This is typical Doughface Libertarianism of the Lew Rockwell variety: the view that the federal government should leave states free to deprive us of our freedom. What Tom Palmer calls “the Fever Swamp” is to Ron Paul what the briar patch was to Brer Rabbit. Serious libertarians should blush at the mention of his name.
*—Note Paul’s mindboggling reference to “Fisher Ames and Elbridge Gerry” as “the authors of the First Amendment.” This is classic paleo-libertarian pseudo-sophistication. James Madison was the author of the First Amendment, Dr. Paul. You may have heard of him? Little guy? From Virginia?
Update: B. Misc. is right that “Paul will not likely have to deal with [these matters] at length anytime in the near future. Libertarians and independents are too excited that there is someone different than the status quo to actually investigate Paul’s stances in an in depth manner.” True. This is typical of the team-think that is part of all political parties, but it seems particularly true of the LP, which has often looked the other way with regard to its candidates. In this respect it’s not unlike its predecessor, the abolitionist Liberty Party, which nominated, of all people, Martin Van Buren as its candidate in 1844. Why nominate a man whose pro-slavery record was so strong, at the head of an anti-slavery ticket? Name recognition; the chance at publicity trumped their commitment to principle. Plus ça change, plus c’est la meme chose.