My previous entry was something I’ve been meaning to write for a while (sorry, not all of us have the luxury of being full time pundits), and was written when I could dismiss the Mises Caucus as a group of people that attracted some assholes and said some things I disagreed with, but were generally moving in the same direction as me.
And then it hit that Tom Woods met his first wife when he was 26 and she was 15. The details, including significant corroboration from his ex-wife’s sister, are spelled out here.
Mr. Woods is already a controversial figure in the libertarian movement, being dogged by allegations of racism given his founding of an organization called League Of The South 30 or so years ago. Personally I thought he did a pretty good job of setting that all to rest here, with receipts. Moreso since almost every libertarian starts off in one of the big two camps and migrates to a vision of a freer world, and therefore allowances should probably be made for what we believed then if we can prove, by our actions, that we believe different and better now.
I don’t know that I’d describe him as a personal hero, but I do think he’s done a lot of important scholarship and helped advance the intellectual case for liberty. Contra Krugman was great work, consistently refuting one of the dumbest people to ever get a PhD. Without him I wouldn’t know about the Depression of 1920-21, which is one of the clearest historical refutations of Keynsian economic interventionism in modern history. The man has done the work.
Which makes the revelation here very disappointing.
Let us be clear: as of right now, Woods is being accused of grooming, which is a crime in the court of public opinion, not in a court of law. No one has come forward with any evidence that the relationship was consummated before she was 18. But Wood’s response was…bizarre at best, arrogant and dismissive at worst. Especially troubling to me was his claim that “traditional Catholics marry young”. Well fine, yes, more conservative religious folk often do get married young…to other young people, not people eleven years their senior. If he had responded in pretty much any other way-the timeline is wrong, we were acquaintances and our relationship only deepened after she became an adult, or even something along the lines of “you know what? This does look bad and it wasn’t my shining hour, but it worked out ok”-it might be grounds for a different conversation. Instead the whole response basically boils down to “@#^! you, nothing to see here, it’s all ok because I’m a traditional Catholic”.
That’s just gross.
Let’s open the whole can of worms here. What children are, in a legal sense, is something that can give libertarians, which like nice and neat answers carefully derived from first principles, absolute fits. Two of the three major answers-that children are the legal property of their parents or that children are immediately completely sovereign individuals from birth-have really awful implications very quickly if carried to any kind of logical conclusion. The third-that children are in the custody of their parents until they obtain majority, unless the parents screw things up-leads to all sorts of questions about who decides what’s appropriate and when majority happens. And I’ll even acknowledge (in what I’m sure will please libertarian critics everywhere) that situations like the 17 and 364/18 and 1 make things very messy, and probably indicate a need for some kind of reform. But regardless, everyone with a modicum of human decency agrees that there is a very strong dividing line before which one cannot consent to sexual relations (or most other adult responsibilities), and after which one can. Moreover, it’s not anything unreasonable to point out that while age gaps do get smaller and less important as people get older, 15 and 26 is a giant eleven years that pretty much guarantees a huge imbalance of power in the relationship. You know, the perfect circumstances for grooming, especially if the older person was in a position of trust with the younger person’s family.
If Woods had acknowledged any of that and shown any kind of humility, as long as his ex-wife wasn’t alleging any kind of abuse, this probably would have been a non issue. Instead his response, again, was basically “@#^& you, I’m Catholic. Also buy my homeschool course”.
Which brings me to the most galling part of all of this: the absolute hypocrisy of Woods’ defenders, usually fellow Mises Caucus people. Since I got back into things during the Jorgensen campaign, I’ve heard all manner of jokes about how pedophiles need to go straight into the woodchipper. At least in spirit I agree-child abuse is horrific and disgusting, and the only addendum I’d make is “after due process of law”. I’ve also seen conservatarian after conservatarian attack LGBTQ folk as “groomers” and “child molesters” for daring to say that Johnny might have two moms, and they’re cool, or that Uncle Steve might show up next Thanksgiving as Aunt Barbara, and that’s ok too. This is, of course, fully ignoring that libertarianism is a whole philosophy based on the sanctity of the individual, that celebrates the individual defining their individuality in their quest of life, and that the LP itself has been pro-LGBTQ since 1972 and ran a gay man as its first presidential candidate.
What, then, have the responses been? Well how about this from Dave “getting a woman drunk to sleep with her isn’t so bad” Smith? Or Eric July getting the article yanked from Being Libertarian? Or the counter accusations of grooming I’ve seen. Two years of yelling about pedos (sure) and grooming (against people that aren’t groomers, using accusations almost as old and debunked as the Protocols Of The Elders Of Zion), and then when presented with an unrepentant groomer in their own midst, the responses are nothing but deflect or excuse.
As libertarians, we claim the moral high ground. And we usually come to libertarianism because we find ourselves disgusted by the either the inability of the major parties to do good for people, or the shameless power and bloodlust usually on display by their highest standard bearers. We say, with great regularity, “this is what I believe. My ideas derive from clear first principles and are not only the best for practical reasons, but because they are morally right. My ideology, and the people and policies I support are consistent because of this.”
In my very first real essay here, I made the point that if you claim membership in a group, such as a fandom, or a political movement, you also claim responsibility for the baggage of that group unless you acknowledge it and qualify your loyalty. Well, Mises Caucus folks, here we are. You have an actual, unrepentant groomer in your midst, and most of you have either shut up or said “NO U”, because he happens to be from your camp. If you’ve got credible evidence of other groomers and abusers in our movement, let’s drag them all into the light. I’m sure Cliff Maloney wasn’t the only garbage lurking in the bowels of #YALtoo, and there’s a reason why this group exists. But your response to the one that belongs to you is disgusting, galling in its hypocrisy, and absolutely unworthy of people who try to claim the moral high ground.
And speaking of calling out garbage in one’s own camp, to give a final addendum to this horror show, the national Libertarian Party voted down a motion to disinvite Woods to this year’s convention. Meaning that’s who my party chooses to have on their stage.
“Party of principle” my ass.
If the LP gets its collective shit together and repudiates this garbage I’ll be happy to start working for party causes again. I’ll support individual candidates as I see fit. And it’s still better and less scandal ridden than either of the majors. But this is a bridge too far for me. I will not donate to LP National, and I will not support any candidate or local affiliate that does not clearly repudiate Woods and his actions.
This is foul, and all of you know it.