July 7th, 2007


Is Ron Paul racist?

myrch cites Ron Paul’s writings on race and his vote against the Voting Rights Act as causes for concern that Paul is a racist. I think Paul generalized too broadly from the data regarding black crime rates, and in doing so I think he exhibited some racist thought processes. However, I don’t think he is at heart a racist, and I think that many of his policies would do a great deal of good for the black community.

First off, Paul explicitly denounces racism:

“Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans only as members of groups and never as individuals. Racists believe that all individual 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. Their intense focus on race is inherently racist, because it views individuals only as members of racial groups.”

Both of the quotes myrch cites come from a copy of the Ron Paul Report entitled Los Angeles Racial Terrorism. It was published shortly after the Rodney King riots.

The quote regarding black crime rates:

“… we are constantly told that it is evil to be afraid of black men, it is hardly irrational… Black men commit murders, rapes, robberies, muggings and burglaries all out of proportion to their numbers.”

…is backed up by the following citation:

“Of black males in Washington, D.C, between the ages of 18 and 35, 42% are charged with a crime or are serving a sentence, reports the National Center on Institutions and Alternatives. The Center also reports that 70% of all black men in Washington are arrested before they reach the age of 35, and 85% are arrested at some point in their lives. Given the inefficiencies of what D.C. laughingly calls the “criminal justice system,” I think we can safely assume that 95% of the black males in that city are semi-criminal or entirely criminal.”

His assertion that 95% of the black males in D.C. are semi-criminal or entirely criminal is not justified by the stats he cites. Getting arrested does not mean you’ve committed a crime. Going beyond the data to make assertions about the population as a whole is a characteristic of racist thinking, and I think Ron Paul was wrong in doing so.

However, I don’t think his broader point — that black males commit crimes at much higher percentages than males of other ethnic groups — is in any doubt. Nationwide, according to The Sentencing Project, one out of three black men will go to prison at some point in their lifetimes, vs 17% for hispanic males, and 6% for white males.

And it’s not like Paul is not the only one pointing out the problems with black culture. In a 2004 speech to the NAACP on the 50th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education, Bill Cosby took blacks to task for blaming their problems on racism rather than on failings within their own culture.

So I would say that Paul made a mistake in making overly broad claims about the criminality of black males in D.C. But I think his main point is true.

“Paul voted against the Voting Rights Act last year, a law that is intended to prevent discrimination on the basis of race and, more topically in Texas these days, first language, at the polls. Not sure how you square his opposition to the law with his supposed libertarianism; the law limits what government workers may do to citizens. In other words, it is a law that forbids government from harming its own citizens.”

Many so-called “civil rights” bills contain a mixture of provisions, some of which may support liberty, some of which restrict it. For example, here’s how Paul explains opposition to the “Civl Rights Act of 1964″ in his essay The Trouble with Forced Integration:

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties. The rights of all private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society.

This expansion of federal power was based on an erroneous interpretation of the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. The framers of the Constitution intended the interstate commerce clause to create a free trade zone among the states, not to give the federal government regulatory power over every business that has any connection with interstate commerce.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business’s workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge’s defined body of potential employees. Thus, bureaucrats began forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color-blind society. Instead, these quotas encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.”

As for his vote against the renewal of the “Voting Rights Act of 1965″, I haven’t yet been able to find his rationale for opposing it. However, I would guess that he regards it as an unconstitutional imposition on the rights of the states to administer their voting requirements. Paul often votes against bills that he believes are worthwhile in themselves, but should be decided at the state level, not the federal level.

If you’re concerned about how a Paul presidency would affect the black community, consider this:

  1. Paul is the only candidate who would end the federal War on Drugs. This would be a huge boon to the black community (as well as the rest of us). Those incarcerated for the first time accounted for two-thirds of the growth in prison population between 1974 and 2001. This is largely the result of the war on drugs and mandatory minimum sentencing: one in four inmates in federal and state prisons is in for drug-related offences, most non-violent. No longer would a black man need fear that he will go to prison, ruining his future chances for a good job, because he did some coke or pot. Drug gangs would disappear as addicts could buy their drugs legally from pharmacies. Crime rates would go down as drugs would be less expensive due to the elimination of the risk premium.
  2. The military is disproportionately made up of blacks and hispanics, who therefore bear a higher burden of the risk and cost of the war. Paul is the only Republican candidate who opposed the War on Iraq from the beginning, and who proposes to end it soon.
  3. Paul opposes gun control regulations which prevent law-abiding blacks in crime-ridden areas like D.C. from obtaining the means to defend themselves.
  4. Paul opposes the minimum wage laws which prevent low-skill, high-risk blacks from getting their first foothold out of poverty.
  5. Paul would eliminate many of the regulations that hinder entrepreneurs from starting and running new businesses, which would increase the demand for workers.
  6. Paul would eliminate racist “affirmative action” laws, which forever taint achievements by blacks, and breed resentment among those not favored by ‘affirmative action’.

Is Ron Paul perfect? No way. I disagree strongly with his views on immigration and abortion. Is he perfectly consistent? No, he’s not. But is he light years better than any other of the Republican candidates? Yes, most definitely.

Original: craschworks - comments