A periodic blog dedicated to providing commentary and encouraging debate on topics in Economics and Finance.

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Age: 26 Occupation: Private Equity

Friday, November 16, 2007

A discussion of Ron Paul

I have recently become aware that there are allegations on the internet that Ron Paul is a racist. After examining the facts, I must say that most of the things used to support the allegations were "snippets" compiled by a Democrat running against him in a congressional election in 15 years ago in 1992. As I can't examine the context of the statement or the validity of the claims, I cannot pass judgment, though it would be very easy to. While I generally like "easy," it has become painfully apparent to me in cases of character attacks that easy is often unfair. What I can tell you definitively is that Senator Paul has written several essays on racism in the 15 years since then , including the one below. I'll also take a moment to comment on how certain factions in the media and academia use such "branding" to the general detriment of intelligent dialog.

Government and Racism

by Ron Paul
by Ron Paul

The controversy surrounding remarks by talk show host Don Imus shows that the nation remains incredibly sensitive about matters of race, despite the outward progress of the last 40 years. A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities.

The young women on the basketball team Mr. Imus insulted are over 18 and can speak for themselves. It’s disconcerting to see third parties become involved and presume to speak collectively for minority groups. It is precisely this collectivist mindset that is at the heart of racism.

It’s also disconcerting to hear the subtle or not-so-subtle threats against free speech. Since the FCC regulates airwaves and grants broadcast licenses, we’re told it’s proper for government to forbid certain kinds of insulting or offensive speech in the name of racial and social tolerance. Never mind the 1st Amendment, which states unequivocally that, “Congress shall make NO law.”

Let’s be perfectly clear: the federal government has no business regulating speech in any way. Furthermore, government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combating bigotry in our society. Bigotry at its essence is a sin of the heart, and we can’t change people’s hearts by passing more laws and regulations.

In fact it is the federal government more than anything else that divides us along race, class, religion, and gender lines. Government, through its taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails in our society. This government "benevolence" crowds out genuine goodwill between men by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. This leads to resentment and hostility between us.

The political left argues that stringent federal laws are needed to combat racism, even as they advocate incredibly divisive collectivist policies.

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism. Their obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist.

The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.

More importantly, in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct our sins, we should understand that racism will endure until we stop thinking in terms of groups and begin thinking in terms of individual liberty.

I do believe that his argument is too simplistic, namely that the "holy grail" solution to racism is "liberty." On the other hand, I don't see anything in the above indicating that Ron Paul is a racist... just that his views on the issue are different that we are used to seeing.

That being said, would it not be easy for someone to turn the above into the sensational headline RON PAUL SUPPORTS DON IMUS? Eventually, Ron Paul could even come to equal Don Imus (just like Finkel and Einhorn... name that movie for 10 points) after enough spin, even though his essay was only in defense of Imus' right to free speech, however unseemly. I support his right to free speech as well. If we don't want to hear it , which I don't(I believe Imus was way, way, way out of line), I can simply switch the station.

Unfortunately, I believe his willingness to broach topics such as those above works against him (as it did with Larry Summers' infamous "genderalization" speech, which resulted in his ouster from Harvard's presidency). The primarily liberal academic elite have worked very hard at making certain stances on topics "off limits" without any further examination required (this is curious for a group whose ideals celebrate diversity and open-mindedness). As a graduate of a very liberal academic institution, I am well aware as to how someone can become "branded" (as a nut, a sexist, basically insert something you wouldn't want to be called in here) in such a way, and how "the establishment," for lack of a better term, can discredit a person a priori, regardless of the logical coherence and intrinsic merit of her views at even the slightest hint that it conflicts with "the rules," as decreed by the liberal elite. In this way we attack the person, and not the argument. Such ad hominem methods, while intellectually dishonest and logically fallacious, seem to work marvelously with the general populace, don't they? An argument is doesn't seem to matter much in the realm of popular opinion after you successfully characterize its author as Hitler.

Examples of how this happens can be found in any discussions on differing aptitudes between ethnic groups, or between the sexes. Despite all of the evidence that some differences exist(I can think of at least one ethnic group that is disproportionately represented in elite levels of athletic competition, for instance), discussions of the sort are quickly dismissed as racist or sexist or otherwise out of line without any further examination. Doing such hinders much academic progress in the world today.

Why should we find out if the arguments have merit when we can storm out of the room in a fit of rage, or simply shut down or switch the topic? Such responses are based on emotion, and not logic. We often hear things that are inconsistent with our beliefs. When faced with such cognitive dissonance, we often choose to discredit the opposing viewpoint even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Stifling progressive debate that we simply "don't like" is an example of this. All of this is an attempt to make it easier for us to sleep at night, assured that our beliefs about the world are correct. Facts be damned.

All of this is not to say that some of us are not truly deserving of the brands that we receive. I find, however, that such brands often are put in place for self-serving reasons... to knock someone down in a furtherance of whatever cause we champion. It is easy to imagine how things that Ron Paul might or might not have said 15 years ago may have ruffled somebody's feathers, giving someone cause to brand him as a racist and allowing us to categorically dismiss his views that are outside of the box, the boundaries of which are determined by the liberal elite. Because I know all too well how this happens, I cannot pass judgment on Ron Paul based on sensationalized snippets that were amassed for political gain. Doing so would be intellectually lazy, and completely unfair to the Senator. However, I would like to hear a credible explanation from him before I resume supporting his candidacy.


For what it's worth, I find it hard to believe that anyone as intelligent as he is can hold any sort of truly racist view. We know that the belief that one person is superior to another based solely on the way he or she appears can not hold up when confronted with reality.


__k said...

I had spent some time looking around for information regarding this matter. The only possible defense that I found for Paul is a claim that his aides published the racist quotes in his 8-page newsletter without his knowledge. Of course, I was very skeptical of this, to say the least. Also, it's worth noting that this denial didn't occur until several years after he was initially confronted by a political opponent about the quotes. At that time, as opposed to denying the quotes, he said that the comments were in the context of "current events and statistical reports of the time."

I think that all Paul would need to do to provide himself an at least credible defense, if he indeed never said those things, is to explain how and why they were published in his own newsletter, and why he didn't explain the matter properly at the time he was confronted with it. Instead, he seems to be trying to evade the matter completely.

eternitus said...

I have to agree that we need clarification on the matter. I'm going to take back my stance that I will continue to support him.

I will support him if he provides some sort of credible defense / explanation for the allegations. While I support a lot of his platform points, I really can't say that I'd like to have a president who may have made comments in such poor taste.

dxm113 said...

A lot of people claim that article in question was ghost-written by a former staffer - but I've only come across hearsay



Anyway - people are lemmings. I have so little faith in most people's ability to reason. Of course the first reaction any human has to stimulus is emotional - that's how we are wired. If you don't believe me, go read up on how the brain works.

However, as an educated society I feel that it is our responsibility to recognize that emotional response and put it into perspective. Why do people suddenly forget that politicians, authors, economists, (insert anything here) often have agendas?

Eternitus - I think that you are exactly correct in you response to

dxm113 said...

(continued from above - I accidentally hit the Publish button)

...Eternitus - I think that you are exactly correct in you response to Ron Paul's statements. People do not want to make decisions based on facts. It's so much easier to base your opinions and reactions on your emotional response. Forming an educated opinion / response would require thinking....and it seems that in this information age, thinking is old fashioned - people would rather read "the facts" or snippets on the internet and take it for gospel.

One cannot interrupt their busy schedule of texting, email, IM, tivo, online social networking, blogging....thinking is such an inconvenience these days...

I have seen the snippets from Ron Paul's article in other places on the internet that make him seem like a member of the KKK...But I'm sure that someone could make Martin Luther King seem racist if they took snippets of quotes out of context.

Anyway...should Ron Paul better explain his comments?... methinks yes

And furthermore, if you are watching the media coverage of the campaigns so far, you know that that major media outlets are already telling the rest of the lemmings that the presidential race is between Hillary and Obama. So why are we wasting time talking about Ron Paul? ;) (please note appropriate sarcasm here...)

Anonymous said...

I highly doubt he is a racist considering he mentioned in a washington post interview he would consider Walter Williams for VP.