Several Paul supporters have pointed me to the Paul campaign's official statement on racism, which they say makes it clear that Paul is against racism, and doesn't want the support of racists. Color me unimpressed and unpersuaded, at least on the latter point. Here is the statement, with my comments in bold:
A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities.In short, at best this statement reveals a naive faith in the idea that government is the root of all problems, as in the old joke, "How many libertarians does it take to screw in a light bulb? None, the market will take care of it!" Don't like racism? Reduce the federal government and it will go away!
Just recently? No obsession with "racial group identities" in the Jim Crow South? Was African slavery "rugged individualism?" Whites, in general, are actually much less interested in their "racial group identities" these days, aren't they?
The collectivist mindset is at the heart of racism.
Okay, I'll buy that.
Government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry. Bigotry at its essence is a problem of the heart, and we cannot change people's hearts by passing more laws and regulations.
The primary issue for public policy isn't whether "bigotry" can or should be stopped by government, it's whether "discrimination" (acting on bigotry with regard to employment, housing, etc.) can and should be stopped by government.
It is the federal government that most divides us by race, class, religion, and gender. Through its taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, government plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails. Government "benevolence" crowds out genuine goodwill by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. This leads to resentment and hostility among us. (emphasis added)
Wait, I thought "we cannot change people's hearts by passing more laws and regulations!" So the government can only create bigotry, but never combat it?
And come on, the idea that the federal government "most divides us" is absurd. I don't know how to measure the precise effect of government on harmony among Americans, but I do know that historically there is a positive correlation between a small federal government and high levels of bigotry in society. I don't think that this is a causal correlation, but it's also true that, historically, small federal government hardly prevented racism and other forms of bigotry, and that large and growing federal government has been consistent with a decline in such bigotry.
Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than as 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.
So far, Paul has condemned racism in general, but the only specific categories of racialist thinking he has criticized are racial set-asides, and advocates of "so-called 'diversity.'"
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.
This wording technically would apply to claims of white European males making "group claims" against the government, but given that in practice it's only non white European males who are currently the beneficiaries of group claims, Paul is continuing to attack only left-wing racialists, and not more traditional manifestations of racism.
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. Racism will endure until we stop thinking in terms of groups and begin thinking in terms of individual liberty.
At worst, by completely ignoring the historical role of racism in American society, and the diminished but not insubstantial role racism by whites continues to play in our society, and focusing criticism only on advocates of "diversity," (even, apparently, when they advocate only voluntary, non-governmental action to achieve diversity), the Paul campaign is appealing to the Pat Buchanan (and beyond) wing of the "Old Right", while trying to preserve some plausible deniability on race to its more tolerant libertarian constituency.
That's not to say that personally Paul isn't really against racism; in the absence of evidence to the contrary, I assume that he is. Rather, the point is that his campaign seems to be taking the same unfortunate position that Goldwater did in 1964; condemning racism in general on principled libertarian grounds, but providing winks and nods that support from racists for racist reasons would be welcome.
And now, back to my hiatus.
UPDATE: Here's a transcript of Paul condemning the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Interestingly, Paul doesn't manage to slip in any kind words for the Act's prohibition on discrimination by the states, a prohibition all principled libertarians should support, and, for that matter, that even Goldwater, with his strong suspicion of federal power, supported. Paul's condemnation of "forced integration" under the act is rather ambiguous; is he talking only about government imposition on private parties, or about the federal government's role in prohibiting state and local government discrimination, too?
FURTHER UPDATE: A similar, somewhat more detailed critique by Dale Franks.
And, from Alabama history professor, David Beito, here are clips of Ron Paul speaking in a debate before a primarily minority audience. As David points out, Paul deserves praise for pointing out the destructive effects of the drug war on inner-city communities.
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