Jason Zengerle: The Roots of Rand Paul’s Radicalism

Roundup: Media's Take

[Jason Zengerle is a senior editor of The New Republic.]

In 1984, Ron Paul ran for the United States Senate. It was an audacious gamble. Paul, who represented Texas’s twenty-second congressional district, had to give up his safe House seat to compete in the state’s Republican Senate primary. What’s more, his chief opponent was Phil Gramm who, despite having recently switched from being a Democrat, had the support of Texas’s GOP establishment. And, while Paul’s unusual brand of far–right-wing politics—he was for returning to the gold standard and against a federal holiday for Martin Luther King Jr.—was a good fit for his congressional district near Houston, it was a tougher sell elsewhere, even in Texas. “It wasn’t often that Phil could portray himself as part of the mainstream,” recalls political consultant John Weaver, who worked on Gramm’s campaign, “but, thanks to Dr. Paul he was able to do that.” In the end, Paul’s gamble backfired. He lost the Senate primary, receiving only 17 percent of the vote, and went off into the political wilderness, not returning to the U.S. House for another 13 years.

But Paul’s disastrous Senate campaign did achieve one thing: It served as the political coming-out party for his son Rand. The third of Paul’s five children, Rand had been an avid student of his father’s political teachings. “As a young lad, he sat at his father’s knee and learned all he could,” says longtime Ron Paul campaign aide Jean McIver. By the time he got to Baylor University, Rand was a font of small-government dogma, conversant on the evils of the Federal Reserve and a floating currency. “Rand was pretty much a carboncopy of his dad,” recalls John Green, who belonged to a Baylor secret society called the NoZe Brotherhood with Rand. “He started drinking the Kool-Aid at an early age.” So, in 1984, when Ron Paul was called back to Washington for a House vote and had to miss a scheduled joint appearance with Gramm, he turned to his 21-year-old son to fill in for him. In front of 300 people, Rand Paul gave hisfirst political speech. “I listened to him pretty closely,” says Gramm, “and I remember the young man did quite well.”...

Ron and Rand Paul are often described as libertarians, but their politics represent a distinct—and peculiar—strand of libertarianism known as paleolibertarianism. While libertarians and paleolibertarians both start from the same limitedgovernment premise, paleolibertarians take that ideology in a decidedly populist, right-wing direction. Paleolibertarians’ enemyis not just big government, as the leading paleolib thinker Murray Rothbard explained in a 1992 essay (unearthed by Reason reporters Julian Sanchez and David Weigel in 2008), but rather, the “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.”

Paleolibertarianism’s intellectual hub is an Alabama-based think tank called the Ludwig von Mises Institute, which Rothbard helped found in 1982. (Rothbard had studied under its namesake, a famous Austrian libertarian economist.) Another one of the von Mises Institute’s founders, and its current chairman, is Lew Rockwell, who served as Ron Paul’s congressional chief of staff from 1978 to 1982 and remained one of his top advisers for years afterward. Rockwell, who has frequently brought the von Mises Institute into alliance with neo-Confederate groups such as the League of the South, has written in favor of racial separatism; and, in 2008, after The New Republic’s James Kirchick discovered numerous racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic passages in Ron Paul’s old newsletters, Reason’s Sanchez and Weigelreported that Rockwell was their likely author. (Rockwell has denied this.)...

Their influence on Rand Paul is readily apparent today. From his (now retracted) opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act to his claim that passage of cap-and-trade legislation will lead to the creation of “an army of armed EPAagents, thousands of them,” Paul, like his father, exhibits all the hallmarks of a paleolibertarian—including an affection for conspiracy theories. In 2008, for instance, while campaigning in Montana for his father’s presidential bid, Paul gave voice to a loony idea—shared by his father—about the construction of a nafta superhighway and the creation of a single currency, the Amero, for a North American Union. “It’s gonna go up through Texas, I guess, all the way to Montana,” Paul said of the superhighway. “So, it’s a real thing, and, when you talk about it, the thing you just have to be aware of is that, if you talk about it like it’s a conspiracy, they’ll paint you as a nut. It’s not a conspiracy. They’re out in the open about it. I saw the YouTube of Vicente Fox talking about the Amero. . . . I guarantee you it’s one of their long-term goals to have one sort of borderless, mass continent....
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Marcello Donato - 6/10/2010

Pretty well researched for a run of the mill attack. The author even figured out who Murray Rothbard and Lew Rockwell are... must have at least spent 10 minutes on wikipedia for that. Too bad the author wasn't able to figure out anything about this paleo-libertarianism other than it is intrinsically racist and caught up in conspiracy theories.

Demonizations like this one appear exceptionally desparate. I guess the tea parties really are having an effect.

Brad Evans - 6/10/2010

The author is apparently not paying attention to current events.

The Amero was being discussed, and still is in one form or another. The Most Recent Publicity begins in March 2009; => search "world currency dollar replacement"; many hits.

Stuff is going sideways at an alarming rate and authors with less understanding are dismissing VERY DIRE THINGS out of hand.

How about the UN calling for World Taxes ??? Central Banks Buying Government Debt ???

Rand and Ron Paul have more awareness than most.

Anyone Advocating A Return Toward Constitutional Limits On Federal Government Is An Ally.

The Snide Tone Of The Article IS Petty.

Rafer Janders - 6/10/2010

When reading this, I see so manny of these hit jobs, I could sit here and de bunk all of this, Ron Paul is not Anti Semtic, or a Racist in anyway shape or form, Rand did not say in anyway he wanted to repeal the Civil Rights act or the National disabilities act, I can see someone that does not understand the agrument of Government over reaching it's power with the issue of Property Rights might come to a flawed conclusion in there thinking! With that said, He should not have taken Meadow's bait! Knowing full well it was nothing more than a Partisian Attack on Paul. This guilt by association did not work when the Neo Con Barbie was shouting that Obama palls around with terriost! Did that work? I mean come on, I saw a guy with a Che Guevera shirt voting for Obama, So by your logic, Obama most be a Communist Revolutionary! Right? NonSence! Nothing more that a hachett job! All of you Neo Cons and Obama supporter have one thing in common, The Blood of all those being killed in the Middle East! This whole "New American Centuray" Stratgey to grab up the Natrual Reasources off the Middle East before China and India make there move is Crimnal! Do you really believe that we are in Afganistian to 1. Keep us safe from Terroist, and exact revenge for 9/11, Or that Our troops are protecting Democracy for the Afgans? Yeah Right or is it that Afganistian is the Door from the East that leads to the Middle Eastern Oil Fields, Not to mention the Tons of Dough being made in the Herion Trade, When the Taliban was in Charge, Herion production was a 3% and Growing Poppies was a Crime, Flash forward, Afganistian is responsible for 90% of the Worlds Herion, Oh sure and that money goes to terriost? Yeah sure they are the ones shipping to LA! Come on! This whole thing reeks of Iran Contra! Or America's first War for Oil, Vietnam, a War started based on a Lie, Why? We had to stablize the South vietnam Government so Brown and Root could keep drilling in the South China Sea! Thats why we paid 85% of the French's war expensise in there war against the Viets! Under the Guise of the That Domino theory Lie! Oil that is what is about! If Ron Paul would have been Elected in 2008 The troops would have came home! and alot of the Dead would be alive today! Yeah you fell under the Guise of "Change" Ha, all I see is "Staying the Course"
But I expect more of these Attacks on the only honest men in Government the closer we get to the 2012 Elections, Corpratist don't want peace! There is no money in it!
But hey I know, Your site needed some hits, that whole Add thing I get it! Money! But riddle me this, If a fisher man throws a ton of power bait in the water and catchs a ton of Fish, Does that make him a good fisherman? Nope, Kinda like this artical it gets a ton of hits of good people of all race's and religions defending Dr. Paul, Does that make you a good writer? Nope!
So ends the Lesson!

Dan Druck - 6/10/2010

I guess Rand Paul (and his father as well) has all you Establishment Neocons shaking in your boots or you wouldn't resort to using Saul Alinsky's tactics.

Actually, your article violates your own rules against ad hominem attacks in that it uses unfounded allegations like "radicalism, racist, homophobic, and anti-Semitic". But I guess if you own it, the ruled don't apply.

You conveniently left out the rest of the story behind the unacceptable assertions made in Ron Paul's newsletters a few decades ago (when a man is as clean as Ron Paul, I guess you really have to be a paleontologist to find anything to even skew). Those assertions were made (without Ron Paul's knowledge) by someone else writing for his newsletter. That person was fired and Ron Paul admirably took full responsibility for them and, even though he disagreed with the assertions, apologized for them.

I'll give you credit, though, for your accurate description of paleolibertarianism. I'm am amazed that you think that most Americans (especially those who look beyond the Main Stream Media propaganda) do not whole-heartedly agree with it.

In their desperation to hold on to the Republican Party and the Establishment status quo stranglehold on the American political system, the Establishment puppet Neocons have written many articles such as yours - they all attempt to smear the individual and their ideology but actually only serve to expose your true agenda. Desperate, indeed.