Rand Paul: Action Hero, Or Political Performance Artist?

Ilana Mercer, March 1, 2013


Rand Paul is front-and-center in mainstream media, showing what some call “leadership.” Not a week goes by when the son of Ron Paul—the legendary libertarian legislator from Texas—is not introducing one act or another, ostensibly to lighten the incubus of government.

This week it’s the REINS Act (“Regulations from the Executive in Need of Scrutiny Act of 2013”). Last week it was the “Sequester Alternative Plan.” I like the Senator from Kentucky’s energy. The question is: Is this political Brownian motion—the case of activity substituting for achievement—or real Randian energy in furtherance of liberty?

Rand’s “Sequester Without Layoffs” suggestions trump most debt theatrics out there—except that they display the kind of philosophical compromises that attached to the senator’s Tea Party State of the Union 2013 rebuttal. For one—and from the libertarian stand—the goal is to reduce the malign effects of government, scope and size, not only its costs. Why exclude layoffs?

True enough, Rand Paul’s rebuttal was the only speech worth listening to on that day. Still, why, for example, would a smart man like the senator deploy “official” unemployment figures, rather than real joblessness, referred to by the Bureau of Labor Statistics as U-6? Even the U-6—which includes the unemployed, those who would like to work but who have not looked for a job recently, as well as those involuntarily working part-time—is inadequate. According to economist John Williams, total unemployment is nearing 23 percent, not the 7.8 percent (12.1 million people) to which Obama and Paul cop.

Another bum note Rand sounded was on the “Balanced Budget Amendment.” “To begin with, we absolutely must pass a Balanced Budget Amendment to the Constitution,” he roared. It’s the sort of compromise his father would not have made. Ron Paul would have demanded that entire departments be shuttered—not that the bums merely bring into balance what was stolen (taxes) with what is squandered (spending).

Besides, what a balanced-budget requirement implies is that government has the constitutional right to spend as much as it takes in—that government is permitted to waste however much revenue it can extract from wealth producers. Not so.

Paul misstepped again by demanding an “end to all foreign aid to countries that are burning our flag and chanting death to America.” Better to end foreign aid, period. Yes to private US aid, no to USAID (United States Agency for International Development).

As for Rand’s expressed dread of “another downgrade in America’s credit rating”: why? A well-deserved downgrade is a good thing—a must. The US government is insolvent, and no spending cuts have been forthcoming.

Oy! And Rand Paul supports charter schools. Educational vouchers and charter schools are not part of a free-market order; they are part of the state-run system. Tweaking a government-managed pedagogic gulag will only prolong the torture it inflicts.

Rand Paul’s latest political song and dance saw the senator return $600,000 in savings, accrued in the course of running a cost-efficient office, to the US Treasury, where it does not belong. The savings belong to taxpayers. Stolen goods stuffed down the maw of the federal beast will disappear without trace. For all we know, and given the fact of fungibility, these savings could be diverted into the domestic drone program.

Yes, Sen. Paul followed legal protocol in returning taxpayer property to the Treasury. However, the positive manmade law is not a libertarian loadstar. From the son of Ron more is expected.

But should this be the case? Perhaps Rand Paul deserves a break. All too familiar is the libertarian type that has nothing to say about policy and politics for fear of compromising theoretical purity. Suspended as he is in the arid arena of pure thought, this specimen has opted to live in perpetual sin: the sin of abstraction.

The “ideal of liberty,” philosopher-pundit Jack Kerwick has urged, must be “brought down from the clouds to the nit and the grit of the history and culture from which it emerged.”

But should the command to lead an earthbound existence push us into political compromises?

Like most Americans, I like an action hero. I am just incapable of telling whether Rand Paul is such a hero, or whether he is no more than a political performance artist.

It is a smart libertarian who retains a healthy contempt for politicians, even the libertarian ones. Ultimately, they’re all empire builders, who see nothing wrong in using fame and the public dime to peddle their influence and their products.

The people—at least those who’ve never fed at the “public” trough, unlike every single politician and his aide—are always morally superior to the politicians.

In all, some politicians are less sickening than others, but all fit somewhere along a sick-making scale.


March 1

CATEGORIES: Ethics, Labor, Libertarianism, Morality, Paleolibertarianism, Political Philosophy, Republicans, Taxation