The billionaire brothers David and Charles Koch are often painted by the left as anti-worker elites working in the shadows to undermine labor unions, the middle class, and the New Deal. This is only partly true. They are also major philanthropists whose political ideology hardly reflects on their good works, whether or not it’s your cup of tea.
Besides, that political philosophy contains many good things outside of workers’ rights issues. The brothers have bankrolled anti-war and anti-war-on-drugs writing and research. Publications like reason are a mixed bag for sure, but reason-style libertarians tend to be socially liberal and represent, at least in the mainstream, a more liberal-ish version of libertarianism than is found elsewhere. And some of the work at that magazine – namely the investigative work of Radley Balko – has been extremely important. It’s even saved lives.
In 2008, as the Ron Paul revolution was gaining serious momentum, reason writers Julian Sanchez and Dave Wiegel dug into the Ron Paul newsletters in an attempt to discover who had penned the various racist and bigoted screeds back in the early nineties.
This was interesting for a couple of reasons. For one thing, the willingness of the libertarian magazine to go after the one candidate in the entire race with any libertarian credentials to speak of was, in some ways, remarkable.
At the same time, the article and the ensuing debate over Ron Paul’s credibility underscored a divide between libertarians that extends back to the days when the Ron Paul newsletter first started publishing paranoid race-baiting and conspiracy theories.
Back then, the libertarian movement was nowhere near as vibrant as it is today. Some of the leading thinkers in the movement were the same men that reason later hypothesized were behind the newsletters: Lew Rockwell and Murray Rothbard. At the time, Rockwell and Rothbard were championing what they termed “paleo-libertarianism” – an attempt to spread libertarian ideas by promoting a socially conservative, and at times downright nativist, narrative about government and society.