The New York Times is now admitting that Virginia Heffernan’s article about Ron Paul, which I blogged about yesterday, “contained several errors.” The Times also says, “The original post should not have been published with these unverified assertions and without any response from Paul.” See the Times’ retraction here.
The problem is not just that the article “contains errors” or that Paul should have been given a chance to respond before it was posted. The problem is that the article should never have been published in the first place. It was nothing more than a false, misleading, vicious smear of a man who has done nothing worse than trying to move his country in a better, freer direction by running for president on libertarian principles. Why should that cause him to be subjected to nasty, vicious, misleading smears, especially by one of the leading newspapers in the country?
I don’t know the extent of Heffernan’s understanding of libertarianism or even her understanding of economics. But my hunch is that like many others, it is extremely limited. I’ll bet that Heffernan, like so many other people, honestly believes that America today is based on the principles of free enterprise and limited government. So, along comes a candidate with libertarian principles who criticizes our nation’s welfare-state programs, which causes people like Heffernan to reason, “Wow! If he’s criticizing such welfare-state programs as Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, then that must mean that he’s against free enterprise. Wow! That must mean that he’s a Nazi. Wow! Why, I’ll bet that that’s why there have been reports that Nazis have been donating to his campaign and attending his lectures. Wow! So, that’s it — libertarians are Nazis! I’d better report this ASAP to the American people in my new blog post in the New York Times! Wow! I’ll be hailed as an American heroine!”
What Heffernan most likely fails to understand is that while the United States once embraced free-market, limited-government principles, long ago the American people rejected those principles in favor of the socialistic welfare state and the highly regulated society. But the problem is that in doing so, they clung to the myth and delusion that America’s free-enterprise philosophy was continuing unabated albeit in a welfare, regulated manner.
What Americans once celebrated as freedom was a society in which there was little or no income tax, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, welfare, public schooling, trade restrictions, economic regulations, drug war, and other such things.
Today, all of those things are embraced by Americans, perhaps even by Heffernan. (The irony is that they were also embraced by the Nazis.) But the problem is such programs are also viewed by many Americans as “freedom,” even though they are opposite to the freedom experienced by earlier Americans who rejected them. The result is the phenomenon described by Goethe: None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.
People sometimes suggest to me that public schooling (and government-licensed private schooling) isn’t so bad because it has “educated” so many people. What they fail to understand is that one big price that is paid for such “education” is the false and delusional political indoctrination that young people receive for 12 long years.
What else can explain the fact that so many Americans honestly believe that the socialistic welfare state and the regulated economy, which their American ancestors rejected, constitute “freedom and free enterprise”? What they can’t understand is that the reason they have such a mindset is that the state had 12 long years to get their minds straight, on pain of Ritalin and other disciplinary methods for resistance and recalcitrance.
What distinguishes libertarians from others is that we have been able to free our minds from the indoctrination with which the state clouded our minds. What’s “dangerous” about the Ron Paul campaign is the possibility that it might cause large numbers of Americans to achieve the same breakthrough to truth and reality that we libertarians have achieved. That’s why it’s preferable in the minds of some people to smear people like Ron Paul rather than address their libertarian arguments directly.
There is only one proper thing for Virginia Heffernan and the New York Times to do: Retract their entire smear of Ron Paul and apologize for their disgraceful conduct.
Don’t hold your breath.