This originally appeared on May 24, 2010, months BEFORE the “Tea Party” election. Let’s all see how prophetic* it was, or wasn’t, shall we?
[* Certainly it was for NPR, which started a three part series on the Renaissance of Medievalist Ayn today. I had reprinted it on MY blog Sunday. ]
No. He wasn’t named after Ayn Rand, although he ought to have been. Suddenly, the media seems to “get” that powerful quasi-libertarian and libertarian forces are at work.
What they DON’T seem to get is the part about the Richie Riches believing that they can finally take over a dispirited and disunified Republican Party. Maybe, if I blog for another several years, they will. But they DO begin to “get” that radical libertarianism is, for most Americans, left and right, a “bridge too far” in its application.
Ross Douthat — usually a reliably conservative (i.e. apologist for greedism) — makes an excellent observation on the so-called “racism” scandal of Dr. Rand Paul. The scandal that broke on a Nashville newspaper’s YouTube video, then on National Public Radio, then in a live interview with Dr. Paul on The Rachel Maddow Show [emphasis added]:
By ROSS DOUTHAT
Published: May 23, 2010
New York Times
No ideology survives the collision with real-world politics perfectly intact. General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous intellectual consistency.
This was all that Rand Paul needed to admit, after his victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, when NPR and Rachel Maddow asked about his views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
Paul is a libertarian, certainly, but more importantly he’s a particular kind of a libertarian. He’s culturally conservative (opposing both abortion and illegal immigration), radically noninterventionist (he’s against the Iraq war and the United Nations), and so stringently constitutionalist that he views nearly everything today’s federal government does as a violation of the founding fathers’ vision.
This worldview goes by many names, including “paleoconservatism,” “the old right” and “paleolibertarianism.” But its adherents — Paul and his father, Ron, included — view themselves as America’s only true conservatives, arguing that the modern conservative movement has sold out to both big government and the military-industrial complex.
Instead of celebrating the usual Republican pantheon, paleoconservatives identify with the “beautiful losers” of American history
In an age of lockstep partisanship, there’s a lot to admire about this unusual constellation of ideas, and its sweeping critique of American politics as usual. There’s a reason that both Rand and Ron Paul have inspired so much visceral enthusiasm, especially among younger voters, while attracting an eclectic cross-section of supporters — hipsters and N.R.A. members, civil libertarians and Christian conservatives, and stranger bedfellows still.
The problem is that paleoconservatives are self-marginalizing, and self-destructive.
Like many groups that find themselves in intellectually uncharted territory, they have trouble distinguishing between ideas that deserve a wider hearing and ideas that are crankish or worse. (Hence Ron Paul’s obsession with the gold standard and his son’s weakness for conspiracy theories.)
Like many outside-the-box thinkers, they’re good at applying their principles more consistently than your average partisan, but lousy at knowing when to stop. (Hence the tendency to see civil rights legislation as just another unjustified expansion of federal power.)
And like many self-conscious iconoclasts, they tend to drift in ever-more extreme directions, reveling in political incorrectness even as they leave common sense and common decency behind.
And it shouldn’t come as a shock that his son found himself publicly undone, in what should have been his moment of triumph, because he was too proud to acknowledge the limits of ideology, and to admit that a principle can be pushed too far.
Only problem is, they’re NOT paleoconservatives, who are and have been for some long time at WAR with the paleolibertarian/libertarians. Well, Douthat isn’t a DEEP thinker. He was merely the only young “conservative” thinker capable of writing a complete column that doesn’t entirely rely on ad hominem, false equivalency or “I’m rubber, you’re glue” as its raison d’être.
But “paleoconservatives”? Surely Mr. Douthat jests. Ron Paul, Rand’s father, RAN as the Libertarian candidate for president in 1988. He’s only changed venues, not beliefs. Mostly because the Libertarian Party had its “big” year in 1980, but Reagan stole their thunder and invited them inside his “tent” of evangelicals, social conservatives and reconstructed Dixiecrats (bad pun intended).
Jeebus, Douthat: the Libertarian Party’s TAG LINE is, “The Party of Principle.”
If the “golden boy” of the New York Times’ op-ed page is too stoopid to check so much as Wikipedia, then I suppose there’s no hope for him:
Paleolibertarianism is a school of thought within American libertarianism formerly associated with Lew Rockwell, the late economist Murray Rothbard, and the Ludwig von Mises Institute. It is based on a combination of radical libertarianism in politics and cultural conservatism in social thought.
Meet Rand Paul. And, Douthat, try to figure out that paleoconservatives and paleolibertarians are ideologically AT WAR, in some ways:
The Commonwealth of Kentucky’s Junior Senator
does not believe in the notion of a commonwealth,
or, in fact, “common wealth.”
Paleolibertarianism is commonly distinguished by:
- Disaffilation from the Vietnam War-era alliance between libertarians and the New Left
- Intellectual and political alliances with paleoconservatism
- Sharp opposition to war and interventionist foreign policy
- Radical decentralization in politics (most paleolibertarians subscribe to some form of anarcho-capitalism)
- Commitment to a Natural Law approach to libertarian theory, and intense opposition towards utilitarian approaches
It is doubtful, however, that the alliance between the two groups will create a new power on the right. The two groups share a distaste for the neocons’ interventionist foreign policy and for neoconservative support of government welfare or arts funding. But the paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives have fundamentally different social ideals. Paleolibertarians like Rothbard are urban anarchists who favor eliminating the public sector entirely, including public police, while many of the paleocons are Southern agrarians who yearn for the ordered plantation life of the old South. Russell Kirk once declared that he felt closer politically to the socialist Norman Thomas than to Rothbard. (NOTE, HW: And so it came to pass)
Joe Conason, at Salon, does a nice dissection of the crypto-racism underlying the Rand Paul ideology and campaign (sort of blatantly ripping off David Weigel and Julian Sanchez, as I’m doing to Conason):
… The last time that anyone examined the details of the Paul family’s gamy history was back in 2008, when the New Republic dug up copies of newsletters sent out under Ron’s name to raise money, and found that they were replete with ugly references to blacks, Martin Luther King, homosexuals and other targets of the racist far right. At the time, Reason magazine, a libertarian magazine that opposed the “paleo” deviation, gave the most revealing account of its movement’s degenerate element in a long article by Julian Sanchez and David Weigel.
Following Ron Paul’s dismal performance in the 1988 presidential campaign as the Libertarian Party candidate, Rockwell and 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” uncovered by the New Republic. Rothbard died in 1995, but in 2008 Rockwell was still at Paul’s side as a top advisor, “accompanying him to major media appearances; promoting his candidacy on the LewRockwell.com blog; publishing his books; and peddling an array of the avuncular Texas congressman’s recent writings and audio recordings.”
According to Sanchez and Weigel, the tone of Paul’s newsletters shifted to reflect his political circumstances. Between his first presidential campaign and his return to Congress in 1996 as a Republican, they were filled with slurs against blacks generally and Martin Luther King Jr. in particular, including the accusation that the civil rights leader “seduced underage girls and boys.” Rothbard hated King deeply, describing him in November 1994 as “a socialist, egalitarian, coercive integrationist, and vicious opponent of private-property rights … who was long under close Communist Party control,” and concluding that “there is one excellent litmus test which can set up a clear dividing line between genuine conservatives and neoconservatives, and between paleolibertarians and what we can now call ‘left-libertarians.’ And that test is where one stands on ‘Doctor’ King.” (Then again, he hated Lincoln too, whom he disparaged in the same essay as “one of the major despots of American history.”)
The problem, friends, is that “principled” ideology leads to racist conclusions* and actions that we in the mainstream — and even confused Ross Douthat — believe that we understand, even though the thought process that brought them there is a process which we DO NOT understand.
[* 2011 NOTE See:
- They’ve Thrown Lincoln out of the Party of Lincoln 24 April 2010
- Video spotlights Koch brothers’ role in N.C. school segregation fight 15 August 2011
- Welcome Back to the Civil War 12 April 2011 (containing this pithy 2000 quote from a pillar of the Libertarian Party from the start):
Let’s get this straight once and for all, shall we? The War between the States had no more to do with black chattel slavery than the War of Jenkins’ Ear. The very fact that Frederick Douglass and his fellow abolitionists had to work so hard trying to make it be about slavery — well after the shooting had already started — is more than enough evidence of that. Abraham Lincoln thought black people were subhuman….]
And I like to think that, you know, even though I was a year old at the time, that I would have marched with Martin Luther King because I believed in what he was doing.*
(* Thus, winning the Historico-Fantasy Race Champion Hallucination crown from Mitt Romney’s astonishing performance of channeling via clairvoyance his father’s marching with Martin Luther King in Grosse Point, Michigan … that never happened.)
We Americans are so used to viewing everything through a racial lens (and, in the East, through an exclusively Black and White lens — although the haters are beginning to pick up Hispanics on their radar as the “Ni**ers of the Twenty First Century” replete with the slurs, the insistence that they “speak English,” the attempt to redline the entire USA via, evidently, a fence — and, thus, we only see Rand Paul as a “racist.”
(Even though StormFront, the neo-Nazi, White Supremacist site that also loves them some Pat Buchanan, is staunchly in the Rand Paul camp, it’s not entirely fair to tar a ‘leader’ with his followers, else Jesus should be viewed through the lens of Tomas de Torquemada.)
No. He’s a nut job who ends up with racist CONCLUSIONS.
I want you to read Ayn Rand’s take on the American Indians, and apply, instead, Black or Hispanic stereotypes. You can now hate ALL of them for “principled” reasons. Was Ayn a racist?
No. She was a nutcase. (from “Ayn and the Indians,” 11 Jan 2010):
… it’s instructive to listen to Ayn Rand talking about the practical application of her philosophy on the Native American populations in North and South America. (Or, to use Russell Means’ preferred term, “American Indian” or, to use author Russell Bates‘ preferred term, “Novamundian” [from latin “novus” = new, and “mundus” = world])
She’s speaking to the cadets at West Point, on March 6, 1974:
I don’t care to discuss the alleged complaints American Indians have against this country.
I believe, with good reason, the most unsympathetic Hollywood portrayal of Indians and what they did to the white man. They had no right to a country merely because they were born here and then acted like savages. The white man did not conquer this country. And you are a racist if you object, because it means you believe that certain men are entitled to something because of their race. You believe that if someone is born in a magnificent country and doesn’t know what to do with it, he still has a property right to it. He does not.
Since the Indians did not have the concept of property or property rights – they didn’t have a settled society, they had predominantly nomadic tribal ‘cultures’ – they didn’t have rights to the land, and there was no reason for anyone to grant them rights that they had not conceived of and were not using. It’s wrong to attack a country that respects (or even tries to respect) individual rights. If you do, you’re an aggressor and are morally wrong. But if a ‘country’ does not protect rights – if a group of tribesmen are the slaves of their tribal chief – why should you respect the ‘rights’ that they don’t have or respect?
The same is true for a dictatorship. The citizens in it have individual rights, but the country has no rights and so anyone has the right to invade it, because rights are not recognized in that country; and no individual or country can have its cake and eat it too – that is, you can’t claim one should respect the ‘rights’ of Indians, when they had no concept of rights and no respect for rights.
But let’s suppose they were all beautifully innocent savages – which they certainly were not. What were they fighting for, in opposing the white man on this continent? For their wish to continue a primitive existence; for their ‘right’ to keep a part of the earth untouched – to keep everybody out so they could live like animals or cavemen?
Any European who brought with him an element of civilization had the right to take over this continent, and it’s great that some of them did.
As a principle, one should respect the sanctity of a contract among individuals. But I oppose applying contract law to American Indians. When a group of people or a nation does not respect individual rights, it cannot claim any rights whatsoever. The Indians were savages, with ghastly tribal rules and rituals, including the famous “Indian Torture.” Such tribes have no rights. Anyone had the right to come here and take whatever they could, because they would be dealing with savages as Indians dealt with each other – that is, by force. We owe nothing to Indians, except the memory of monstrous evils done by them. (pp. 103-104)
~ Q & A after a speech given to the Corps of Cadets March 6, 1974, United States Military Academy, West Point, NY
(The question Ayn was answering was, “When you consider the cultural genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of blacks, and the relocation of Japanese Americans during World War Two, how can you have such a positive view of America?”)
There’s your practical application of those “free market” principles being extolled without ever being QUESTIONED from every phosphor dot head stippling the pixels of our land.
Or, formerly, THEIR land.
(English ONLY! Make it the OFFICIAL language. It’s the only language spoken here, you doggoned furriners!)
Yep. Now, just imagine a “principled” ideologue saying that we had every right to enslave Blacks, because, hey, THEIR OWN PEOPLE sold them into slavery, and besides, they weren’t using their “skills” and the “enlightened” Europeans had every right to “instruct” and “uplift” them.
Those were the arguments made BEFORE the Civil War (and long after).
Or, the “illegal immigrants” (ALWAYS meaning Messicans, which means Latino, since it comprises anyone South of the US border with darker skin who speaks Spanish or Portuguese): to the extent that they’re here ILLEGALLY (note how “illegal” is only bad when it’s not a mega corporation like, say, Bank of America, Goldman Sachs, BP, Exxon, Halliburton, et al), it’s perfectly LEGITIMATE to exploit them, since their cheap labor at least keeps strawberries affordable to the AMERICANS they’re stealing jobs from.
Do not mistake the conclusions for the process, and do not misdiagnose the disease.
These are paleolibertarians (they believe in freedom, but only for businesses, not for personal life) and not paleoconservatives (like Pat Buchanan, with whom they once made common cause).
Not ALL, certainly, but, just as certainly, SOME.
They are not racists per se. They just end up with racist conclusions. And you are not going to eradicate those conclusions by misunderstanding and mischaracterizing their thought processes.
It’s easy to fall mindlessly into the “racism” epithet tossing. No: it’s bigotry, but a bigotry of ideology in which the hate and the groups hated are secondary to the reasons for hating their stereotypes. They are truly color-blind; they just HAPPEN to end up hating various groups: Blacks, Women, Hispanics, Liberals, Muslims, Arabs, etc. etc. etc.
Understand the mindlessness of the thought process, not of the hatespeak. Otherwise, they will play the “reverse racism” card, and that ever-popular card of the fringies in American politics: the evergreen “martyr” card, along with the “I can channel the Founding Fathers better than you” card that forms the basis of their nuttiness.
Just reread Ayn’s comments about the Indians to understand the inhuman, unhuman basis for such monstrous statements. The idea of Indians as “human beings” with those “inalienable” rights never enters her consciousness. You, says Ayn, are in the way of PROGRESS.
And ANYone can end up in those cross-hairs.
Some further reading:
- “Something for the Eloi” (30 Dec 2009)
- “Not All Mad Dogs Get Licensed” (27 August, 2009)
- “Dangerous Koch-heads Tooting Furiously” (9 March 2009)
- “The Invisible Empire – to a Blind Media, that is” (10 April 2010)
- “Sheer Galt: Randroid Update” (15 March 2010)
- “Going Galt? Ayn Kampf, Revisited” 12 March 2010)
And the neoclassic paleoputdown:
- “Ayn Kampf” (30 October 2006)
ADDENDUM 8:00 PM PDT; 24 MAY 2010:
The Democratic Daily, viewed this exchange of comments on the original 2010 post:
The author is confused, and completely out of touch as to who we Libertarians are, and of Rand Paul’s beliefs.
He’s actually a Pro-Defense Libertarian, unlike his father. Rand fiercely opposes Gitmo prisoners being moved to the US mainland. He’s also tough on the War on Islamic Terrorism. He even recently stated that he’d favor a more agressive approach in dealing with Iran. Finally, his radio ads in Kentucky talked of his strong support for Israel.
Rand’s so Pro-Defense that he’s earned the animosity of leftwing libertarians. Today, in fact, Justin Raimondo, notorious leftwing libertarian is blasting him at his site AntiWar.com
Do your research next time before you start posting.
To which I responded:
Thanks for showing up, Mr. Dondero. As former chief of staff for Congressman Ron Paul, AND a Howard Rich petition gatherer in Oklahoma and Montana, you neatly tie together the disparate wings of Libertarianism and crypto-libertarianism, and provide an example of how rapid the response to any critical article.
I mean it sincerely, with no guile. Thanks for commenting.
Although I will note, as a point of debate, that you have seized on the juxtaposition of Rand Paul’s picture and the paleolibertarian generic stance on National Defense, as quoted.
I was noting the difference between so-called paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives, with which the New York Times‘ resident Junior Conservative columnist, Mr. Ross Douthat, seemed to be having a hard time.
Let me put your mind at ease: I accept that Mr. Paul is as bloodthirsty as you say. But that was a very minor point in the essay, which I happily correct.
2011: No further response from Mr. Dondero was ever recorded.
A writer, published author, novelist, literary critic and political observer for a quarter of a quarter-century more than a quarter-century, Hart Williams has lived in the American West for his entire life. Having grown up in Wyoming, Kansas and New Mexico, a survivor of Texas and a veteran of Hollywood, Mr. Williams currently lives in Oregon, along with an astonishing amount of pollen. He has a lively blog His Vorpal Sword. This is cross-posted from his blog.