In the twentieth century, alas, American liberalism was heavily influenced by the socialist dream of supplanting markets with central planning and top-down control. That confusion begat confusion in response — namely, an antistatist movement heavily influenced by authoritarian resentment of liberal cultural values. Paul’s illiberal libertarianism is a particularly unattractive variant of this kind of “fusionism.”
With the collapse of socialism, however, American liberals have begun rediscovering the value of market competition. By my lights, many of them still have a long, long way to go. But encouraging that process – making the case that economic liberalization is of a piece with overall social liberalization — is the only way forward for those of us concerned about overweening state power. In this project, people whose values and habits of mind are deeply hostile to liberal modernity are not our allies.
Rockwell and his associates have been known to lionize dictators, belittling Rosa Parks (”While Jim Crow was abominable, I find the staged events of modern American ‘history’ [i.e. Parks’ sit-in] even more disturbing.”), endorse bigotry (”Most “bigotry” is the act of noticing the truth. Blacks are genetically intellectually inferior, always have been, always will be.”), celebrate the death of American soldiers, and endorse the stoning of homosexuals. In short, they are libertarians only in the narrowest sense of the term, and non-hateful libertarians rightfully want nothing to do with them.
One of the telling things about the Lew Rockwell crowd is that when their outrageous views are criticized, they almost never respond with a substantive defense of those views, much less an apology. No, instead we get charming responses like “Most of Palmer’s problem is that he is homosexual. He’s certainly not gay, a preposterous word to use for such a disease-ridden lifestyle.” We see the same pattern with Paul’s newsletters. They have no interest in either apologizing for or distancing themselves from the ugly sentiments in those newsletters, which no one disputes were genuine. Instead, they viciously attack the people who unearthed them as smear artists, as though it’s somehow a smear to reprint and quote from articles that were originally sent out under your own name.
While I knew that the Rockwellians were big Paul boosters, I did not realize the depth of the ties between Paul and the Mises Institute. If I had, I think I would have been more cautious about supporting the guy. They’re a blight on the libertarian movement, and anything that raises their profile is bound to be a long-term negative for liberty.
[Update: Also, Jacob Levy.]