I hadn’t known about his old newsletters and their cesspool of racism and homophobia. But I didn’t need to know about them to know that I wanted nothing to do with Ron Paul’s brand of libertarianism.
Here’s why. I’m a libertarian because I’m a liberal. In other words, I support small-government, free-market policies because I believe they provide the institutional framework best suited to advancing the liberal values of individual autonomy, tolerance, and open-mindedness. Liberalism is my bottom line; libertarianism is a means to promoting that end.
Ron Paul, by contrast, is no liberal. Just look at his xenophobia, his sovereignty-obsessed nationalism, his fondness for conspiracy theories, his religious fundamentalism — here is someone with a crudely authoritarian worldview. The snarling bigotry of his newsletters is just the underside of this rotten log.
In the twentieth century, alas, American liberalism was heavily influenced by the socialist dream of supplanting markets with central planning and top-down control. That confusion begat confusion in response — namely, an antistatist movement heavily influenced by authoritarian resentment of liberal cultural values. Paul’s illiberal libertarianism is a particularly unattractive variant of this kind of “fusionism.”
With the collapse of socialism, however, American liberals have begun rediscovering the value of market competition. By my lights, many of them still have a long, long way to go. But encouraging that process – making the case that economic liberalization is of a piece with overall social liberalization — is the only way forward for those of us concerned about overweening state power. In this project, people whose values and habits of mind are deeply hostile to liberal modernity are not our allies.