I’ve been speaking up against Ron Paul privately amongst my libertarian friends in DC, and now I’m mad at myself that I wasn’t doing so more publicly before the “revelations” of the open secret.
After all, the success of the November fund-raising demonstrated that Paul was going to be picking up more than a percent of the vote in the early primaries, which, unfortunately, has made Paul the most prominent libertarian since the death of Milton Friedman. At this point, Jacob Levy has said (or linked to) just about everything I was going to—right down to the same naive youthful New England flirtation he and I both had with the first national Paul campaign in (1987 for me, 1988 for Levy) and quick alienation when each of us realized the man and a good chunk of the associated movement was creepy-nuts. (I don’t think Levy and I ever met, however.)
Two more points, however:
- It’s fascinating how agrarian populism has turned around 180 degrees from William Jennings Bryan’s Cross-of-Gold speech to know-nothingism demand for a gold standard. (But the irrational scapegoating of Jewish bankers is consistent across the centuries.)
- It’s extraordinarily disappointing to see Reason, once the magazine of Virginia Postrel and Walter Olson, turn into a defender of the worst elements of paleo-libertarianism. There were hints of this in a largely celebratory 2004 piece on tax protesters that ignored the fact that many of the leaders of that fringe movement were simply scamming the gullible for personal gain by selling fantastic literature on magical incantations to absolve one from tax liability. But in the last few months Reason senior editors went whole hog on Ron Paul, knowing that it could only blow up in the face of the libertarian movement, and (together with the too-public silence from the libertarians like me who knew better) have set back the cause years. Levy’s point on sample sizes is precisely correct, and I’m even more pessimistic than Radley Balko: now it’s going to be a long time before I can say that I’m a libertarian in mixed company without having to issue a disclaimer.
Update: Tim Sandefur, an early critic of Paul, is blogging up a storm, including a comprehensive list of links to other blog discussions.