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“Parents Own The Children”: Libertarians Have A History Of Horrifying Views On Parenting

In a recent CNBC interview, Senator Rand Paul tempered some of his recent remarks about the alleged horrors of vaccination by claiming that he only opposes vaccine mandates because they infringe upon parents’ freedom. When confronted with the question of whether or not discouraging vaccination is a threat to children’s health, Paul launched into a meandering consideration of public health and liberty that concluded with the assertion that “the state doesn’t own your children, parents own the children.”

Paul’s bizarre rendering of the parent-child relationship as unilateral ownership is not the most unhinged thing a well-regarded libertarian has ever said about children. In fact, libertarians exhibit a historical inability to adequately explain how parents should relate to their children, why parents are obligated (if at all) to care for their children, and whether or not moral nations should require that parents feed, clothe, and shelter their children within a libertarian frame.

Consider Lew Rockwell, former congressional chief of staff for Rand’s father, Ron. Rockwell, who may or may not have had a hand in composing the now infamously racist and homophobic slew of newsletters sent out to Ron Paul fans between the late ’70s and early ’90s, is a professed fan of child labor. Complaining of laws that prevent, among other things, second-graders from operating forklifts, Rockwell opines that “we are still saddled with anti-work laws that stunt young people’s lives.” Like Rand Paul on vaccine mandates, Rockwell sees child labor laws as government overreach. “In a free and decent society, decisions about these matters are for parents, not bureaucrats,” Rockwell writes, referring to whether or not schoolchildren should be breadwinners. The type of society Rockwell envisions here hardly seems “decent,” but it would certainly be “free” in the way Paul imagines, and in that sense it is perfectly libertarian.

Rockwell’s mentor, Murray Rothbard, one of the twentieth century’s more famous libertarians, was similarly fond of kids in the workplace. Rothbard imagined that laws against child labor were passed in order to artificially inflate the wages of adults, who viewed children as competition capable of underbidding them. “Supposedly ‘humanitarian’ child labor laws,” Rothbard remarks in his book The Ethics of Liberty, “have systematically forcibly prevented children from entering the labor force, thereby privileging their adult competitors.” While the real impetus behind child labor laws was child welfare, it is telling that Rothbard tended to look upon kids with a suspicious eye, and his ethics bear out this cold approach. Later in The Ethics of Liberty, Rothbard, in keeping with the libertarian exaltation of personal freedom, argues that “no man can therefore have a ‘right’ to compel someone to do a positive act”that is, because all people are free, by his account, your rights cannot impose positive actions on others. This means, Rothbard goes on, that a parent “may not murder or mutilate his child, and the law properly outlaws a parent from doing so. But the parent should have the legal right not to feed the child, i.e., to allow it to die.” He concludes that “the law, therefore, may not properly compel the parent to feed a child or to keep it alive.” To do so, for Rothbard, would be pure government overreach.

Such dark fantasies are not restricted to the weird world of libertarian academia. Williamson “Bill” Evers, formerly a libertarian candidate for congress and advisor to the McCain 2008 campaign, also argues that there should be no laws preventing a parent from, say, starving an infant to death. In an article published in the Journal of Libertarian Studies, Evers concludes, “We have considered the hypothesis that there should be an enforced legal duty of parents to support their minor children. Having found the various reasons advanced in support of this duty inadequate, we can only conclude that no such duty exists … one has to regard the notion of a legal duty of parents to support their children as without merit.” Evers allows that parents might be morally obligated to do something for their children, but also that morals should not be legally enforced. Therefore, vaccination, labor, and finally whether or not to give one’s children the necessities of life ultimately comes down, for these classic libertarian thinkers, to the free will of the parents.

Libertarianism rests on the whimsical notion that all people are isolated, entirely free agents with no claims on others except those that they can negotiate through consensual contracts. The very existence of children flatly disproves this; any moral intuition indicates that children come into the world with claims on their parents at the very least, and their entire societies considered broadly. To avoid a hellish death spiral of infectious disease and neglect, we would all do well to reject Paul and his cohort on the subject of child rearing.

 

By: Elizabeth Stoker Bruenig, The New Republic, February 4, 2015

February 6, 2015 Posted by | Libertarians, Public Health, Rand Paul | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Libertarianism’s Achilles’ Heel”: Circular Hypocritical Logic That Avoids The Messy Choices

In politics, we often skip past the simple questions. This is why inquiries about the fundamentals can sometimes catch everyone short.

Michael Lind, the independent-minded scholar, posed one such question last week about libertarianism that I hope will shake up the political world. It’s important because many in the new generation of conservative politicians declare libertarianism as their core political philosophy.

It’s true that since nearly all Americans favor limits on government, most of us have found libertarians to be helpful allies at one point or another. Libertarians have the virtue, in principle at least, of a very clear creed: They believe in the smallest government possible, longing for what the late philosopher Robert Nozick, in his classic book “Anarchy, State, and Utopia,” called “the night-watchman state.” Anything government does beyond protecting people from violence or theft and enforcing contracts is seen as illegitimate.

If you start there, taking a stand on the issues of the day is easy. All efforts to cut back on government functions — public schools, Medicare, environmental regulation, food stamps — should be supported. Anything that increases government activity (Obamacare, for example) should be opposed.

In his bracing 1970s libertarian manifesto “For a New Liberty,” the economist Murray Rothbard promised a nation that would be characterized by “individual liberty, a peaceful foreign policy, minimal government and a free-market economy.”

Rothbard’s book concludes with boldness: “Liberty has never been fully tried in the modern world; libertarians now propose to fulfill the American dream and the world dream of liberty and prosperity for all mankind.”

This is where Lind’s question comes in. Note that Rothbard freely acknowledges that “liberty has never been fully tried,” at least by the libertarians’ exacting definition. In an essay in Salon, Lind asks:

“If libertarians are correct in claiming that they understand how best to organize a modern society, how is it that not a single country in the world in the early 21st century is organized along libertarian lines?”

In other words, “Why are there no libertarian countries?”

The ideas of the center-left — based on welfare states conjoined with market economies — have been deployed all over the democratic world, most extensively in the social democratic Scandinavian countries. We also have had deadly experiments with communism, a.k.a Marxism-Leninism.

From this, Lind asks another question: “If socialism is discredited by the failure of communist regimes in the real world, why isn’t libertarianism discredited by the absence of any libertarian regimes in the real world?”

The answer lies in a kind of circular logic: Libertarians can keep holding up their dream of perfection because, as a practical matter, it will never be tried in full. Even many who say they are libertarians reject the idea when it gets too close to home.

The strongest political support for a broad anti-statist libertarianism now comes from the tea party. Yet tea party members, as the polls show, are older than the country as a whole. They say they want to shrink government in a big way but are uneasy about embracing this concept when reducing Social Security and Medicare comes up. Thus do the proposals to cut these programs being pushed by Republicans in Congress exempt the current generation of recipients. There’s no way Republicans are going to attack their own base.

But this inconsistency (or hypocrisy) contains a truth: We had something close to a small-government libertarian utopia in the late 19th century and we decided it didn’t work. We realized that many Americans would never be able to save enough for retirement and, later, that most of them would be unable to afford health insurance when they were old. Smaller government meant that too many people were poor and that monopolies were formed too easily.

And when the Great Depression engulfed us, government was helpless, largely handcuffed by this anti-government ideology until Franklin D. Roosevelt came along.

In fact, as Lind points out, most countries that we typically see as “free” and prosperous have governments that consume around 40 percent of their gross domestic product. They are better off for it. “Libertarians,” he writes, “seem to have persuaded themselves that there is no significant trade-off between less government and more national insecurity, more crime, more illiteracy and more infant and maternal mortality . . . .”

This matters to our current politics because too many politicians are making decisions on the basis of a grand, utopian theory that they never can — or will — put into practice. They then use this theory to avoid a candid conversation about the messy choices governance requires. And this is why we have gridlock.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, June 9, 2013

June 10, 2013 Posted by | Libertarians | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Ron Paul And Extremism: Discover It Again, For The First Time

The New York Times finally does a big take-out on Ron Paul‘s ties to the seamier sides of the conservative movement. No disrespect intended, but… well, what took so long? Here’s one of the key points in the story, explaining why Ron Paul’s allies thought they should go after racists and convert them to the cause.

As the Libertarian standard bearer, Mr. Paul won less than 1 percent of the vote. After the election, as libertarians searched for ways to broaden the appeal of their ideology, Mr. Rockwell and Mr. Rothbard advocated a coalition of libertarians and so-called paleoconservatives, who unlike hawkish “neocons” were socially conservative, noninterventionist and opposed to what they viewed as state-enforced multiculturalism.

In the Rothbard-Rockwell Report they started in 1990, Mr. Rothbard called for a “Right Wing Populism,” suggesting that the campaign for governor of Louisiana by David Duke, the founder of the National Association for the Advancement of White People, was a model for “paleolibertarianism.”

“It is fascinating that there was nothing in Duke’s current program or campaign that could not also be embraced by paleoconservatives or paleolibertarians,” he wrote.

Arguing that too many libertarians were embracing a misplaced egalitarianism, Mr. Rockwell wrote in Liberty magazine: “There is nothing wrong with blacks preferring the ‘black thing.’ But paleolibertarians would say the same about whites preferring the ‘white thing’ or Asians the ‘Asian thing.’ ”

This is new to the Paper of Record, but Julian Sanchez and I wrote about this — these two exact essays — nearly four years ago.

Rockwell explained the thrust of the idea in a 1990 Liberty essay entitled “The Case for Paleo-Libertarianism.” To Rockwell, the LP was a “party of the stoned,” a halfway house for libertines that had to be “de-loused.” To grow, the movement had to embrace older conservative values. “State-enforced segregation,” Rockwell wrote, “was wrong, but so is State-enforced integration. State-enforced segregation was not wrong because separateness is wrong, however. Wishing to associate with members of one’s own race, nationality, religion, class, sex, or even political party is a natural and normal human impulse.”

The most detailed description of the strategy came in an essay Rothbard wrote for the January 1992 Rothbard-Rockwell Report, titled “Right-Wing Populism: A Strategy for the Paleo Movement.” Lamenting that mainstream intellectuals and opinion leaders were too invested in the status quo to be brought around to a libertarian view, Rothbard pointed to David Duke and Joseph McCarthy as models for an “Outreach to the Rednecks,” which would fashion a broad libertarian/paleoconservative coalition by targeting the disaffected working and middle classes. (Duke, a former Klansman, was discussed in strikingly similar terms in a 1990 Ron Paul Political Report.) These groups could be mobilized to oppose an expansive state, Rothbard posited, by exposing an “unholy alliance of ‘corporate liberal’ Big Business and media elites, who, through big government, have privileged and caused to rise up a parasitic Underclass, who, among them all, are looting and oppressing the bulk of the middle and working classes in America.”

Why has it taken four years for these public domain facts to become “news”? How did Paul slide through a year of televised debates, where his rivals were asked about their opinions of “submission” in marriage and accusations of affairs, and never get a question about this stuff? Paul’s associations haven’t changed in four years. His explanations haven’t changed. You can see why Paul’s fans might get annoyed or paranoid about this. They thought they’d litigated this stuff already, and earned a pass.

 

By: David Weigel, Slate, December 26, 2011

 

December 27, 2011 Posted by | GOP Presidential Candidates, Libertarians, Right Wing | , , , , | 1 Comment

The Story Behind Ron Paul’s Racist Newsletters

The documents, which include harsh, prejudice attacks against the black community, are evidence of a libertarian movement trying to find an audience.

So as Ron Paul is on track to win the Iowa caucuses, he is getting a new dose of press scrutiny.

And the press is focusing on the newsletters that went out under his name in the late 1980s and early 1990s. They were called the Ron Paul’s Political Report, Ron Paul’s Freedom Report, the Ron Paul Survival Report and the Ron Paul Investment Letter.

There is no doubt that the newsletters contained utterly racist statements.

Some choice quotes:

“Given the inefficiencies of what DC laughingly calls the criminal justice system, I think we can safely assume that 95 percent of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

“We are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational.”

After the Los Angeles riots, one article in a newsletter claimed, “Order was only restored in L.A. when it came time for the blacks to pick up their welfare checks.”

One referred to Martin Luther King Jr. as “the world-class philanderer who beat up his paramours” and who “seduced underage girls and boys.”

Another referred to Barbara Jordan, a civil rights activist and congresswoman as “Barbara Morondon,” the “archetypical half-educated victimologist.”

Other newslettersother referred had strange conspiracy theories about homosexuals, the CIA, and AIDS.

In 1996 when the Texas Monthly investigated the newsletters, Paul took responsibility for them and said that certain things were taken out of context. (It’s hard to imagine a context that would make the above quotes defensible.)

When the newsletter controversy came up again during the 2008 campaign, Paul explained that he didn’t actually write the newsletters but because they carried his name he was morally responsible for their content. Further, he didn’t know exactly who wrote the offensive things and they didn’t represent his views.

But it is still a serious issue. Jamie Kirchick reported in The New Republic that Paul made nearly one million dollars in just one year from publishing the newsletters. Could Paul really not understand the working of such a profitable operation? Reporters at the libertarian-leaning Reason magazine wrote that the author was likely longtime Paul-friend and combative polemicist Lew Rockwell.

Even though many of the newsletters are written in a first person, conversational style, many observers don’t believe that Ron Paul actually wrote them.

There aren’t any videos on YouTube with Paul speaking in incendiary terms about minorities. The newsletters don’t “sound” like Ron Paul — he doesn’t do wordplay like “Morondon” or use prefixes like “semi-criminal” or “half-educated” in his speech or his recent writings. Further, most newsletter and direct-mail operations in politics employ ghostwriters.

So why were Ron Paul or his ghostwriters engaged in racism and conspiracy theories? And why did Ron Paul allow this?

The first answer is simply that marginal causes attract marginal people.

The Gold Standard and non-interventionism have long been pushed to the fringe of our politics, and ambitious people tend to dive into the mainstream. That means that some of the ‘talent’ that marginalized ideas attract will be odd and unstable.

There are two strategies for dealing with this problem. You purge your movement of cranks to preserve credibility and risk alienating a chunk of supporters. Or you let everyone in your movement fly their freak flag and live with the consequences. Ron Paul, being a libertarian, has always done the latter.

The second answer to this question: These newsletters were published before a decade of war that has exhausted many Americans, before the financial crisis, and before the Tea Party.

All three made Ron Paul’s ideas seem more relevant to our politics. They made anti-government libertarianism seem (to some) like a sensible corrective.

But in the 1990s and 1980s, anti-government sentiment was much less mainstream. It seemed contained to the racist right-wing, people who supported militia movements, who obsessed over political correctness, who were suspicious of free-trade deals like NAFTA.

At that time a libertarian theorist, Murray Rothbard argued that libertarians ought to engage in “Outreach to the Rednecks” in order to insert their libertarian theories into the middle of the nation’s political passions.

Rothbard had tremendous influence on Lew Rockwell, and the whole slice of the libertarian movement that adored Ron Paul.

But Rothbard and Rockwell never stuck with their alliances with angry white men on the far right. They have been willing to shift alliances from left to right and back again. Before this “outreach” to racists, Rothbard aligned himself with anti-Vietnam war protestors in the 1960s. In the 2000s, after the “outreach” had failed, Rockwell complained bitterly about “Red-State fascists” who supported George Bush and his war. So much for the “Rednecks.” The anti-government theories stay the same, the political strategy shifts in odd and extreme directions.

As crazy as it sounds, Ron Paul’s newsletter writers may not have been sincerely racist at all. They actually thought appearing to be racist was a good political strategy in the 1990s. After that strategy yielded almost nothing — it was abandoned by Paul’s admirers.

You can attribute their “redneck strategy” to the most malignant kind of cynicism or to a political desperation that made them insane. Neither is particularly flattering. Phil Klein of the Washington Examiner is correct when he writes:

Rick Perry and Mitt Romney have both attacked each other for what was written in their respective books. If either of those books had included a number of overtly racist statements, their candidacies would be over before they started.

This is undoubtedly true. The media seems to simply accept that Ron Paul has some oddities in his past and in his inner circle. They take his grandfatherly demeanor at face-value. In part this is because they believe he is not a serious candidate.

Winning the Iowa caucuses would change all that instantly. Undoubtedly the movement that Paul inspired has moved far beyond the race-baiting it engaged in two decades ago. Young people from college campuses aren’t lining up to hear him speak because of what appeared in those newsletter about the 1992 L.A. riots. Rand Paul tried his hardest to place Paul-style libertarianism into the context of the Tea Party. And he will likely carry on the movement without this 1990s baggage.

But the questions remain. If Ron Paul is so libertarian that he won’t even police people who use his name, if his movement is filled with incompetents and opportunists, then what kind of a president would he make? Would he even check in to see if his ideas are being implemented? Who would he appoint to Cabinet positions?

These are all legitimate questions. And the media is going to start asking them now. If there isn’t already a “ceiling” on Ron Paul’s support, widespread knowledge of the newsletters could build one quickly.

 

By: Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Atlantic, December 21, 2011. This article originally appeared at Business Insider, an Atlanticpartner site

December 22, 2011 Posted by | Election 2012, Right Wing | , , , , , , | 5 Comments

   

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