The Libertarian Turnip Truck, Cont'd
In response to my post below about Ron Paul, reader Bill Sullivan writes:
My wife and I were big Ron Paul supporters (until yesterday, in fact). We're also 29 and 30 years old, which means we weren't paying attention to Ron Paul in the 90's. We donated money to the campaign, and I suppose we failed to do the due diligence on Paul, as we didn't dig through archives of his old newsletters. We feel terrifically betrayed, not only by Ron Paul, but by older libertarians like yourself for not publicly warning us about him. If you knew he was such bad news and that he was becoming one of the biggest mainstream representatives of libertarian thought, why didn't you warn us? I've been reading your work for about ten years, and I consider you a very fair and smart writer and if you had given a public warning about Ron Paul, I, for one, would have listened. But now my wife and I and probably thousands of other young libertarians and libertarian sympathizers have been tricked into supporting something that sickens me. Even your colleague at the Atlantic, Andrew Sullivan, was taken in among lots of other public people. I'm stunned by what Ron Paul turned out to be, but I'm also stunned that waited to mention him until it was too late to do any good.
Bill makes a good point. Someone should have told him. There are plenty of people who get paid to do that sort of thing. I did not mean to criticize the essentially apolitical people like him and his wife who heard some good things from Paul and decided to support him.
As I told Bill in an email, I was never particularly interested in the Paul campaign, which I considered a fringe effort in both its chances (nil) and much of its rhetoric (too many conspiracies). Rightly or wrongly, I didn't consider Paul "one of the biggest mainstream representatives of libertarian thought." I'm not sure whether I would have written about him if I had. Life is short, I don't make my living as a professional libertarian any more, and I don't feel responsible for commenting on every libertarian-related development that comes along. These days, I am more interested in understanding culture and economics than focusing on policy, much less policing the libertarian movement. Plus, as the Paulites will be quick to note, I disagree with Paul on his sexiest issue, the Iraq war (and on his second sexiest issue, opposition to immigration).
I do fault my friends at Reason, who are much cooler than I'll ever be and who, scornful of the earnestness that takes politics seriously, apparently didn't do their homework before embracing Paul as the latest indicator of libertarian cachet. For starters, they might have asked my old boss Bob Poole about Ron Paul; I remember a board member complaining about Paul's newsletters back in the early '90s. Besides, people as cosmopolitan as Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch should be able to detect something awry in Paul's populist appeals. (Note that by "cosmopolitan" I do not mean "Jewish." I mean cosmopolitan.) I suspect they did but decided it was more useful to spin things their way than to take Paul's record and ideas seriously. As for Andrew Sullivan, his political infatuations are not his strong point as a commentator.
UPDATE: I've found the Texas Monthly Ron Paul profile, alluded to in the earlier post.