This is a guest blog by Phillip Smyth that logically follows the series of recent blogs of mine that describe, in broad strokes, populist demagoguery and its role in the current campaign for President. (See http://clarespark.com/2012/09/10/index-to-blogs-on-populist-demagoguery/.) I have been interested for years in the overlap between anarchism of the Left and Right, for both had a strong presence at KPFK-FM in Los Angeles, the local Pacifica Foundation radio station. Perhaps the most salient characteristic of the radio station and Pacifica stations in general, was the overwhelming “rage against the machine”. By this, I refer not only to an aversion to technocratic society and to scientific expertise, but to the very notion of equality before the law. Lawlessness (anti-statism, anti-Americanism, anticapitalism) was the very air we breathed, and that I, as Program Director, could only weakly resist, given the composition of our programmers and the counter-culture audience.
An Anarchist By Any Other Name
Ron Paul has had a number of titles attached to his name and his campaigns for president; “true conservative”, “libertarian maverick”, and according to the Week Magazine he is a, “self-described ‘strict constitutionalist’”. Rarely, is the term “anarchist” applied to the ideology and philosophical base of the Paul campaign.
In 2007, Dean Barnett called Paul the “crank-in-chief” and wrote that, “he’s as close to an anarchist as we’re likely to see in presidential politics.” Barnett was correct, actual anarchist philosophy runs deep in the Paul movement. Though, Paul’s anarchists are not just a motley crew of naïve kids wearing black T-shirts with red “circle-A” symbols. Often broadly referred to as anarcho-capitalists, these anarchists are part of a small and radical wing in the libertarian movement and their influence on Ron Paul has been monumental.
Unlike most anarchists of the left, the anarcho-capitalists utilize a number of different methods to win recruits and are willing to accept slowly phasing their radicalism into the mainstream. Just because anarcho-capitalists aren’t lobbing Molotov cocktails into a Banana Republic, that doesn’t mean their views are any less insidious or radical than their more violent leftist cohorts. This minor yet extremely vocal faction of libertarianism embraces a near pathological hatred of any form of the state, even in the most minimal form; abounding in all varieties of anti-Constitutional, anti-limited government, and anti-conservative manner of thought.
Enter “Austrian-school” economist Murray Rothbard, founder of modern “anarcho-capitalist” theory. Paul’s connection to anarchy begins with the late Rothbard. Rothbard was no fan of even the most limited government, noting in his book, “The Ethics of Liberty” that there were, “fatal flaws and inconsistencies in the concept of limited, laissez-faire government”.
Paul called Rothbard a “down-to-earth genius” and in an action of hero worship reminiscent of Maoist China or Stalin’s Russia, hung a portrait of Murray Rothbard in his congressional office. Following his 1995 death, Rothbard was described by Ron Paul in an obituary as one of America’s “greatest men”. Paul recounted that, “[Rothbard] told me he enjoyed meeting a Congressman who had not only read his books, but used them as a guide in his votes and legislation … he urged me to run for office again … he said, our side [my emphasis] needs an uncompromising anti-statist voice in Washington, D.C.” By “anti-statist”, Rothbard meant the term to convey complete sense of an anarchist.
In keeping with the anarchist narrative, traditional and extremely influential conservative economists have been written-out by the Rothbard-influenced Paul. The Economist wrote that Milton Friedman was “a revered figure in right-of-centre circles”—Not so for Ron Paul. Frum Forum’s J.D. Hamel took issue with Paul’s removal of Milton Friedman from Paul’s new narrative of conservatism, in favor of the anarcho-capitalist views of the marginal Murray Rothbard. For Paul, Rothbard is to his ideology, what Mao is to Maoism.
Penetrating the Fringe
Rothbard’s methods for achieving his “libertarian” anarchist utopia were broadly outlined in one confidential memo, where he praised Leninist methods of spreading their ideals. Rothbard wrote: “[w]e are, in this sense, revolutionaries–for we are offering the public a radical change in their doctrinal views…Our objective is, of course, to advance our principles—to spread libertarian-individualist [anarchist] thought (from now on to be called “libertarian” for short) among the people and to spread its policies in the political arena.” (P.20)
Rothbard continued, saying that a hardcore of anarchists needed to be groomed and infiltrated into slightly similar groups: “For one of the reasons behind the idea of ‘infiltration’ is that we can probably never hope to have everyone a hardcore man, just as we can never hope to have everyone an intellectual. Since the hard core will always be relatively small, its influence must be maximized by giving it ‘leverage’ through allied, less libertarian ‘united fronts’ with less libertarian thinkers and doers.”
Thus, Rothbard was making an argument similar to the proverbial, “Throwing as much muck against the wall to see what sticks”. This method was combined with infiltration of quasi-like-minded groups. Whatever stuck could be used by the vanguards of anarcho-capitalism in an effort to further their ideology—Slowly changing the ideological make-up of the groups they had influenced. In an effort to spread the anarcho-capitalist gospel, Rothbard also endorsed and supported a litany of candidates. For Rothbardians, pragmatism is a primary tactic to push their brand of radicalism.
In July 1992, Rothbard, the founding father of anarcho-capitalism endorsed George H.W. Bush. Ron Paul’s official blogger, Jack Hunter wrote, “does anyone think that because Murray Rothbard endorsed President George H.W. Bush in ’92, that everything else Rothbard stood for, wrote and believed simply evaporated? Does anyone think Rothbard endorsing Bush represents the be-all-end-all of his political legacy?” And Rothbard did not.
Rothbard and Paul have also reached out to white supremacists, who needless to say, are hardly libertarian. Earlier in January 1992, Rothbard backed white-supremacist, neo-Nazi, and anti-Semite, David Duke. Duke ran as a Republican for governor of Louisiana in 1991, leading to President George H.W. Bush to say he would vote for the Democratic candidate. When Duke tried to run for president on the Republican ticket in 1992, party officials tried to block him out. Rothbard claimed his backing of Duke rattled “the Establishment” and that “Right wing populism” should be supported: “for the entire Establishment”, said Rothbard, “the ruling elite, was at stake, and in that sort of battle, all supposedly clashing wings of the Establishment weld together as one unit and fight with any weapons that might be at hand… [T]he proper strategy of libertarians and paleos [paleoconservatives] is a strategy of ‘right-wing populism,’ that is: to expose and denounce this unholy alliance, and to call for getting this preppie-underclass-liberal media alliance off the backs of the rest of us: the middle and working classes.”
As with David Duke, Paul and the anarcho-capitalists continued to back fringe players and establish more links. As an extension of Rothbard’s support for “Right wing populists”, Paul also did work for Pat Buchanan. In 1992 he served as the chairman for Buchanan’s Economic Advisory Committee. Buchanan is/was well-known for his anti-Semitic views. William F. Buckley addressed Buchanan’s anti-Jewish demagoguery in a seminal essay (which later became a book) in 1991.
Salon’s Steve Kornacki mentioned the Buchanan-Paul connection: “When Buchanan ran in ’92, he embraced a Paul-like platform — vehemently anti-tax and heavy on warnings about unsustainable empire and encroaching world government — although the two men differed (and continue to differ) in some policy areas. ‘It was the ‘Come home, America,’ message,’ Buchanan recalled in an interview this week. ‘George McGovern was out there saying it in 1972, but it was the right thing to do in ’92.’”
The connection to the white-supremacist fringe has been a constant in Ron Paul’s clique. In fact, a major split in libertarianism—One which led to the Cato Institute to disassociate itself from Paul—was caused due to Paul and his supporters courting of white nationalist and neo-Nazi organizations. Speaking to the New York Times, the founder of the Cato Institute said, “It was just something that we found abhorrent, and so there was a huge divide”.
Paul’s infamous newsletters were replete with praise for David Duke, placed blame for the 1993 Islamist bombing of the World Trade Center on Israel, and racist statements about blacks. Additionally, some Paul associates told the Washington Post that Paul actively signed off on the documents. Paul also took donations from white supremacists and was unwilling to reject the money. While Ron Paul attempted to publically distance himself from appearing to kowtow to white-supremacist interests, it was later revealed that his connections to these types ran deep. In February, 2012, the hacker-group Anonymous released E-mails showing extensive connections between the white-nationalist American Third Position and Paul’s campaign.
Paul’s connection to the Constitution Party (CP), a firmly paleoconservative entity, is another vestige of Rothbard’s “Right Wing Populism” path (note: the CP absorbed the segregationist American Independent Party). After Paul dropped out of his 2008 race for the Republican Party’s nomination, he endorsed Chuck Baldwin, who became the CP’s 2008 Presidential candidate. Baldwin, a New World Order conspiracy-theory promoter, was also a former staffer for Ron Paul, and had originally endorsed Paul in 2007.
When held up to Nazi-types, Paul’s connections to the Libertarian Party (LP), and general definition as a “Libertarian” stand in stark contrast. Paul was the 1988 LP candidate for president and still maintains a very loyal following inside the party. After the 2012 Republican National Convention, Paul’s supporters, ignoring the fact that the LP had already held their convention, selected Gary Johnson as their nominee, and that such a move would go against the bylaws, attempted to get the LP to make Paul their presidential or vice presidential candidate . When asked about Johnson’s campaign, Paul stated he, “can’t imagine endorsing anyone else.” Though, Paul’s campaign staff later announced that he, “[W]ill not endorse Gary Johnson”.
Paul has also reached out to the conspiracists at the John Birch Society (JBS), maintaining close links to the group. In 2011, Paul spoke at the 50th Anniversary for the JBS and also appeared in a 1990 JBS “documentary” about a UN plot to take over the U.S.
Beyond the paleoconservative, racist, and right-wing conspiratorial, Paul has reached out to other third parties. In 2008, Paul called together Cynthia Mckinney, Ralph Nader, and Chuck Baldwin to issue statements critical of the two-party system. Paul had the trio agree to a neo-isolationist foreign policy, a push to audit the Federal Reserve, and a number of other widely held views Paul had been pushing for years. It is important to note that McKinney and Nader can hardly be described as conservative—Both espoused far-left ideologies.
Infiltration of the G.O.P.
The theme of infiltrating and transforming the Republican Party was a regular occurrence with Ron Paul’s campaign and among his supporters. Before ceasing his 2012 run for president, Paul held a rally in Florida announcing, “We are the future [of the Republican Party]”. Paul’s attempt to become the GOP’s nominee shined a light on how deeply his members had burrowed into the Republican apparatus and how they felt their convictions needed to become those of the big-tent Republican Party.
Take the case of Virginia state Republican delegates who were slated to vote during the Republican National Convention. Many of those delegates were Ron Paul supporters and refused to vote for Mitt Romney despite Paul’s clear loss, state party rules, and a pledge they signed. Adam Cassandra, Chairman of the Fauquier County (Virginia) Republicans rejected the Paul-supporters underhanded disavowal of the rules, stating they, “did a disservice to the Republican Party of Virginia (RPV) and have betrayed the members of their districts who elected them.” For diehard Paul supporters, their leader’s ideology was more important than an electorate or the rules.
Paul supporters didn’t stop there when it came to promoting their particular candidate. Three Ron Paul-backing Republican electors for the Electoral College (the body which states send to Washington, D.C. in order to formally elect the President and Vice President) announced they would refuse to vote for Romney, even if he won the states they represent. On September 14, 2012 one Paul supporting elector resigned her position in protest. The Associated Press (AP) noted, “The defection of multiple electors would be unprecedented in the last 116 years of U.S. politics.” The AP added, “In Nevada, for example, Paul’s forces seized control of the state convention and won a majority of delegates. They also placed four Paul supporters among the state’s six electors.”
Bedecked In Confederate Grey
Another unusual connection for Paul and the anarcho-capitalists has been their links to neo-Confederates. Neo-Confederates often push apologetics for the short-lived Confederate States of America (CSA), bash the presidency of Abraham Lincoln, and some have even called for a revival of the CSA. Ron Paul and his ideological cohorts have hardly masked their admiration for the Confederacy. Paul even gave a speech offering revisionist history regarding the Civil War while standing in front of a Confederate battle flag—also mentioning Lysander Spooner (see the “History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective” section below).
If connections to quasi-fascistic entities, racist groups, paleoconservatives, libertarians, and far-leftists was not enough to demonstrate the anarcho-capitalist’s odd alliances, why would a collective of people who identify with the semi-libertarian, individualist-anarchism, back the side which fought for the preservation of slavery? Moreover, would the backing of the CSA not amount to encouraging the formation of another government entity?
For some, the Paul/anarcho-capitalist love of southern secessionism and hatred of Lincoln demonstrated a deep-seeded racism within Paul’s ranks. Of course, this would be logical with the connections Paul shared with numerous racist figures and publication of offensive newsletters. In their report on Ron Paul’s invitation of Thomas DiLorenzo—a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist writer—to testify on Capitol Hill, the Southern Poverty Law Center highlighted DiLorenzo’s publications and his membership in certain organizations to demonstrate his “[E]xtremist connections”. The Daily Kos pinned most criticism on Paul’s, “long history of wacky, racist views.” Writing for The New Republic, James Kirchick assessed that, “Paul’s alliance with neo-Confederates helps explain the views his newsletters have long espoused on race.”
However, the base analysis that racist-links were the main reason for Paul and his fellow ideologues had for embracing the Confederacy, misses the very anarcho-capitalist philosophy Paul has embraced. For the anarcho-capitalist, secessionism is key for the completion of their goals. Hans-Herman Hoppe, an anarcho-capitalist heavyweight, pushed for a second American revolution through secession. Hoppe notes that the experience of the CSA is a negative example in terms of achieving eventual anarchic goals noting,
“[I]t appears strategically advisable not to attempt again what in 1861 failed so painfully — for contiguous states or even the entire South trying to break away from the tyranny of Washington, D.C. …Rather, a modern liberal-libertarian strategy of secession should take its cues from the European Middle Ages…Europe was characterized by the existence of hundreds of free and independent cities…By choosing this model and striving to create an America punctuated by a large and increasing number of territorially disconnected free cities — a multitude of Hong Kongs, Singapores, Monacos, and Liechtensteins strewn out over the entire continent — two otherwise unattainable but central objectives can be accomplished. First, besides recognizing the fact that the liberal-libertarian potential is distributed highly unevenly across the country, such a strategy of piecemeal withdrawal renders secession less threatening politically, socially, and economically. Second, by pursuing this strategy simultaneously at a great number of locations all over the country, it becomes exceedingly difficult for the central state to create the unified opposition in public opinion to the secessionists that would secure the level of popular support and voluntary cooperation necessary for a successful crackdown.”
Thus, a more positive memory of the CSA would be required in order to establish a historical precedent to encourage further secessionist actions. The ideological thinking behind this process, was that when completed, the smallest entity would be the individual, “self-governing” him or herself—anarchy. Hoppe wasn’t alone in his support for an anarchist future via secessionism. Writing for Ludwig Von Mises Institute, Clifford Thies proclaimed in a 2009 piece entitled, “Secession Is in Our Future”, “[T]here no longer is any pretense of federalism in which domestic policy is left to the states of the Union.”
Murray Rothbard also explained this belief in his piece, “Nations By Consent: Decomposing the Nation State”: “A common response to a world of proliferating nations is to worry about the multitude of trade barriers that might be erected. But, other things being equal, the greater the number of new nations, and the smaller the size of each, the better.” (P.6)
The Ludwig Von Mises Institute, the most prominent anarcho-capitalist think-tank, has its webpage littered with numerous articles both backing the Confederacy and pushing for secessionism. The search-term “Secession” provides 1,430,000 results. Included is a collection of essays, “Secession, State & Liberty”. In a way to obfuscate from the clear pro-slavery of the South during the Civil War, the narrative of abolitionists backing the Confederacy is promoted.
In this clip we see Ron Paul backing the right of secession (linked to the Wilsonian idea of “self-determination”): http://youtu.be/2_NP7ikl7Ps
Rothbard’s anarchism also extended to his trashing of the Constitution, stating it “has been a hollow shell and mockery for many decades.” In another piece, where Rothbard came out in support of the “direct democracy” the Founding Fathers abhorred, he described the Constitution as “quaint and obsolete”. Despite Rothbard’s 1995 death, his microscopic movement did not end. The anarchic ideological base he helped create is the core of many Paul-affiliated groups. This core mainly finds its intellectual home among those of the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Founder of the Ludwig von Mises Institute, Ron Paul’s chief of staff from 1978-1982, editor (and possible author) of the racist Ron Paul newsletters, and maintainer of the eclectic LewRockwell.com, Llewellyn “Lew” Rockwell, has been called a close friend and has served as an adviser to Ron Paul for decades. It should come as no surprise that Rockwell is an avid supporter of Paul’s bid for the presidency. This is despite the fact that this proud anarchist once penned:
“[t]he presidency must be destroyed. It is the primary evil we face, and the cause of nearly all our woes… The presidency — by which I mean the executive state — is the sum total of American tyranny. The other branches of government… are mere adjuncts.”
During his twenty minute speech at the 2008 Ron Paul sponsored “Rally For the Republic”, Rockwell stated, “there comes a time in the life in every believer in freedom when he must declare without any hesitation to have no attachment to the idea of conservatism”.
Paul can claim many appearances on Rockwell’s radio show and his innumerable amount of articles on Rockwell’s website. In addition to being an anarchist, Rockwell is an anti-Constitutionalist. He once noted in a piece praising fellow anarchist Hans-Hermann Hoppe, “what was the effect of the Constitution? To restrain government? No. It was precisely the opposite”. Statements such as this are nothing new in the Paul campaign; they’ve just been overlooked or obscured in the interconnected web of Paul supporting websites and articles.
In the view of mass media, Paul shrugged off his anarchist supporters. During a 2007 ABC News interview, the then 2008 presidential candidate indicated that his, “typical supporter is non-descriptive…I liked to kid that we get a few anarchists that come to our rallies”. Nevertheless, around his diehard clique, Paul allowed his true base-anarchistic ideals to be known. In a 2009 interview with the anarcho-capitalist/libertarian Motorhome Diaries, Paul was asked by an interviewer, “I know you stand for the Constitution, but what do you say to people who stand for self-government [another term for individualist-anarchism] rather than a return to the Constitution?” Paul followed-up with, “I think that’s really what my goal is…If you have a government, they will want us all to be socialistic.” Ron Paul has also described himself on Russia Today’s pro-Paul “Adam vs. the Man” program as a voluntaryist. “One of the most significant signs to the Anarchist is the steady growth of the principle of voluntaryism” noted the early 20th century anarchist publication, Free Society. To the voluntraryist, taxes, voting, laws, and even the Constitution aren’t voluntary because individuals didn’t agree to them.
Pushing the Agenda
There have been a number of spinoff groups created via Paul’s largess. One of these groups includes a youth-wing called the Young Americans for Liberty (YAL), formerly known as Students for Ron Paul. Additionally, the Campaign for Liberty (often referred to as C4L) was also founded in the wake of Paul’s 2008 run for president.
Anthony Gregory, a noted anarchist from the Independent Institute serves as the Editor-in-Chief for the C4L. The C4L claims that neither major political party, “treats the Constitution with anything but contempt”. However, the C4L’s hypocrisy regarding the Constitution is evident by the featuring of articles and speeches from anti-Constitutionalist anarchists such as Hans-Hermann Hoppe and Gary North. and wrote that the Constitution, “rather than being a legitimate source of pride” was instead a, “a fateful error”. North claimed in his book, that the framers of the Constitution were simply out to centralize government and take power from the people, noting, “what they did was illegal”.
The YAL claims in their mission statement, they “welcome limited government conservatives, classical liberals, and libertarians.” Yet they also concede their anarchic ideological purpose by stating in the same document that, “government is the negation of liberty”. Taking this statement to its logical extreme automatically opens the door for anarchist thought.
Despite the claim of being a conservative open-tent, the YAL is full of pro-anarchist commentary critical of the Constitution. Instead of being a haven for conservatism, classical liberalism, or even limited-government libertarians, YAL hosted speakers such as anarchist economist Robert Murphy and Thomas E. Woods, a neo-Confederate and anarcho-capitalist from the Ludwig von Mises Institute.
Woods authored a June 15 article on Rockwell’s site entitled, “Why Even An Anarchist Should Vote for Ron Paul”. In the YAL official magazine, the Young American Revolution, anarchists such as David Gordon find space for their views. In one article anarcho-capitalist Walter Block is referred to as a “titan of the freedom movement”. Matt Cockreill, the host of the official YAL internet based radio show, the “Matt Cockerill Show”, has stated that, “the only practical libertarian system—is anarcho-capitalism.” The vast majority of the figures the show has played host to are fellow anarchists including, Walter Block, David Henderson, Stephan Kinsella, Mary Ruwart, Justin Raimando, and even the ultra-leftist anarchist Noam Chomsky. Chomsky was described in the show as a, “world renowned academic and social activist”.
Ironically, in 2009 the YAL claimed that “Constitution Day was our largest national event to date!” In October of that same year the YAL interviewed (and continues to laud) Stephan Kinsella, the same man who asked people to dawn black armbands for Constitution Day and proclaimed “Down with the Constitution.”
There’s also an almost never ending stream of pro-anarchy posts found on the official YAL blog. Even Bonnie Kristian, a self-proclaimed minarchist and YAL communications director, “also identif[ies] with Christian anarchy.”
History & Politics From An Anarchist’s Perspective
In Paul’s books, The Case for Gold: A minority report of the U.S. Gold Commission, Liberty Defined, Freedom Under Siege, and even on Fox News he has paid homage to a little known 19th century abolitionist, anarchist, and member of the Karl Marx led First International, Lysander Spooner. One of Spooner’s most famous writings was entitled “No Treason” where he attempted to make the case (in a post-Civil War environment) that Confederate soldiers had not committed treason. Like modern-day anarchists Spooner didn’t just disregard the Constitution, he threw it away. Spooner wrote that, “The Constitution has no inherent authority or obligation … And it does not so much as even purport to be a contract between persons now existing. It purports, at most, to be only a contract between persons living eighty years ago.”
In Liberty Defined, Paul writes that Lysander Spooner’s argument (interestingly quoting from the Mises Institute’s compilation on Spooner, Let’s Abolish Government) about the nullity of the Constitution as, “an interesting argument, but it’s not likely to make much headway at this stage in our history. Enforcing the Tenth Amendment is a big enough challenge to us now.” For a so-called Constitutionalist to write positively and bestow legitimacy on such an argument’s goals is rather odd. It’s not hard to interpret Paul’s implication he accepts Spooner’s arguments and is instead arguing for a more incremental approach to an anarcho-capitalist Shangri-La.
Conclusion: Sly Indoctrination
John Samples of the Cato Institute told the Houston Chronicle that, “In his two presidential campaigns, Ron Paul ran to educate”. This new education is attempting to alter the meaning for traditional terms such as “libertarian”, “conservative”, “liberty”, and “constitutionalist”. If “education” is the goal and the lessons potential new conservatives and libertarians are receiving is actually one in anarchism. That outcome doesn’t look positive. While it is [highly] unlikely that the Rothbardian utopia will be reached, its legitimization by mixing it with classical concepts in American governance and conservative philosophy will result in more misinformed, highly ideological followers, whom have no concept of the “ordered liberty” of the Founders, extol radical anti-state values, and praise nihilistic concepts of amorphous liberty. It may be hard to contemplate that a septuagenarian with a Texas drawl might be a chameleon launching a radical crusade, but it is imperative for mainstream libertarians and the broader conservative movement to put Paul with other anarchists: In a distant dustbin of history. [Clare: for a video demonstrating the confusion of a Paulbot who thinks that Tom Morello sponsors his faction, see http://www.dailypaul.com/213503/tom-morello-gives-ron-paul-a-thumbs-up-video. I find this video alarming.]