What Can Rand Paul Do?

The Tea Party libertarian will likely prove a more effective figurehead than senator.

For all the furor the Tea Party movement generated this year, when it came to the mightiest deliberative body in human history, the U.S. Senate, the Tea Party won only one real prize: Rand Paul's election as Kentucky’s junior senator. On the surface he's a Republican, but Paul frames himself as a representative of a supposedly trans-partisan Tea Party, burning with an urge to cut spending and curb debt that he admits his GOP comrades have not shown.

In terms of passing laws or shifting the Senate in his direction, Paul is not going to get much done by trying to operate as a one-man Tea Party in a minority party. Though he may become a filibuster machine, which given his outlier status means the Senate will have lots of cloture votes to shut him up. (He is not likely to succeed in using the filibuster to cap the debt limit and thereby destroy the entire world economy, as has been wildly speculated in some quarters.)

While those frightened by Paul see in him the power and will to wreck the planet, his fans are unduly thrilled just to hear a senator-elect talking about raising the retirement age and means testing for Social Security; cutting federal employment and pay; plotting a two-year path to a balanced budget; pushing term limits and a balanced budget constitutional amendment; insisting that bills should point to their constitutional justification and that senators should have read them before signing on; and even, to the surprise of some who found him avoiding his father’s non-interventionism on the campaign trail, talking up military cuts and questioning the value of our Afghanistan mission.

I say "unduly thrilled" because in most of these attitudes, Rand Paul is a man alone in the Senate, with no power to make any of it happen. It’s a delight to know that other Republican senators are also talking defense cuts; but alas, most of them frame their defense budget hawkishness in terms of waste and trimming specific useless bits of machinery. What’s really needed to create an affordable and constitutional foreign policy is a complete rethink of America's world-straddling, quasi-imperial mission, as per Papa Paul.

As a legislator, it would be silly to expect much out of Rand Paul, either as a minority party freshman or even as the majority party freshman he may well become in 2012. As departing Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) sadly sums up, “I think [voters] probably do not understand how little influence one senator has…here, in order to get things done you have to have concurrence of at least 60 members in order to go forward on a piece of legislation.” University of Southern California political scientist Christian Grose says that Paul "could have some clout. It may not be clout in the legislative process, but clout in terms of raising issues not otherwise discussed” in both Washington and around the country. “Sometimes you have to get an idea in the public sphere [before it’s mainstream] to have policy change over the long term,” Grose says. And UC Berkeley political scientist Sean Gailmard says there’s a good news-bad news side to being a senator—it’s much easier to get ideas to the floor than in the more leadership-controlled House, but still “in the Senate basically nothing is going to happen without 60 percent approving of it,” and Paul has pretty much no positions that have that kind of support.

Among many progressives of my acquaintance, Paul has become a male Sarah Palin of sorts. Not because he seems dumb like her, per se, but simply because believing the libertarian things he believes makes him inherently a laughable-but-dangerous fanatic. That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause that are likely to outweigh his votes and the legislation he introduces.

Paul is a Republican who thinks of himself as a Tea Party man. But whether we like it or not, or certainly whether he likes it or not, he is linked in the public mind with libertarianism. While significant differences in style and emphasis exist between him and other libertarians, his general political vision is as radically libertarian as anything the modern Senate has seen.

Thus, any dumb thing Paul says or does, any deviation from small-government principle, will become a public brick against libertarianism. And in an MSNBC world, sticking to his principles will be a weapon used against libertarianism as well. Rand Paul, even given his almost certain inefficacy as senator qua senator, represents a simultaneous opportunity and danger for the small-government cause. With him in the Senate and his father in the House, libertarianism will face unprecedented amounts of harsh attention, including the sort that doesn't give libertarians the sideways complement of being curious cases of real principle in an ugly GOP swamp. These libertarians, outgunned as they are, could start being dangerous.

After 23 years defending libertarian ideas in public and private, this strikes me as both great and fearful news, even if Sen. Paul is unlikely to bring about any actual policy changes. When the nation as a whole is paying attention to a libertarian as hardcore as Rand Paul (and he's not even that extreme—he told ABC’s The Week that he’s OK with a $2.4 trillion dollar government as long as it doesn’t spend beyond its means trying to be a $4 trillion government), I fear that most Americans will find they do not like what they see. An inefficacious senator risks becoming an extremist laughingstock.

I’m afraid that, despite Paul's victory, it still marks a politician as insanely beyond the pale to believe, say, that the federal government could function by only burning through as much cash as it did a decade ago; that giving government appointees power to manipulate the currency at will can have some very predictably bad effects; that national defense should actually be about defending the nation and its people from attack; and that as a general principle, freedom of choice is to be preferred to planning and state action and bossing people around.

So if Rand Paul ends up getting nothing done and failing to win mainstream respect for the ideas he stands for, what good is he?

If he can use cable news and the Internet, and skillfully exploit the predictable crisis on the horizons arising from the out of control spendng, inflation, and debt he decries, Paul can become the Tea Party leader he wants to be. Thus he might influence and inspire future politicians who will seek, and perhaps win, congressional primaries, whether or not the powers that be in the media or the party hierarchy like it.

I’d love to see some Rand Paul-inspired candidates with a more robustly expressed love of non-interventionist foreign policy and of ending the drug war with extreme prejudice. But even a few Rand Paul clones would be good. "I have great confidence in the American system," Paul said in his acceptance speech. "We must believe in ourselves and not believe that somehow, some benevolent leader in a distant capital will take care of us, will save us from ourselves. We must once again believe in ourselves." That’s not the sound of a modern American politician. Paul’s greatest chance to change his country is managing his difficult public position with enough sense and panache to ensure that two, four, six years from now, more American politicians sound like that.

Senior Editor Brian Doherty is author of This is Burning Man (BenBella), Radicals for Capitalism (PublicAffairs) and Gun Control on Trial (Cato Institute).

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • ||

    Dude...that hair.

  • Hairy Potter||

    That is so profound. Thank you, "sage."

  • Mr. FIFY||

    I dig it. Reminds me of the lead singer for the B-52s.

  • Hairy Potter||

    Yes. Also Star Trek something. Yes, yes. Rand Paul as pop-culture reference. Are we not libertarians?

  • Mr. Spock||

    He apparently comes from Planet Claire, Captain.

  • Booji Boy||

    "Are we not libertarians?"

    We are DEVO!

  • Can't Get No||

  • James Tiberius Kirk||

    I... don't... knowaboutthisguyyyy. Spock! Set... phasers... on stun.

  • Fred Schneider||

    Set course for 53 miles west of Venus, baby!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Dude, I gave Paul a compliment (unless one is a stuffy, overly-serious type or not a fan of the B-52s). Lighten up.

  • Hairy Potter||

    "Dude", I am a fan, but saying Rand Paul looks like Fred Schneider? Take a look at the cover art for Wild Planet. I'm thinking John Holmes.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Well, okay. Sorry for the mixup.

  • phoenix||

    He looks like Dr. Strangelove.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    That works.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Or Eraserhead.

  • ||

    Definitely a better hair piece.

  • ||

    Nothing personal against Rand, I hardly even know the guy, but if history is any guide, I wouldn't hold my breath waiting for him to do great (libertarianish) things...

  • ||

    I actually find his hair kinda sexy...like white man's jerry curl

  • ||

    ""But will Americans at large like what they see?""

    I'm going with no.

  • ||

    Second.

  • El Duderino||

    Most Americans understand libertarian principals intuitively, they just didn't know it was libertarian principals they were understanding. Most of the disconnect has come from the social issues that divide the far right and the far left and we will never completely fix this divide, but that said, MOST Americans do not fall into the far left or right camps on these social issues. Most Americans land somewhere in the middle on social issues and are therefore more inclined to prefer a "leave us all alone" approach than a "impose something upon us" approach.

    Rand Paul now has a voice, he is one more libertarian voice in the US government than existed before. The loudmouths on the far left and right will get the most attention on TV, but the middle will ultimately be the ones coming out to vote in the greatest numbers.

  • ||

    Paul's general political vision is as radically libertarian as anything the modern Senate has seen.

    So the bronze age ended after Berry Goldwater left office in 1987?

  • Some Guy||

    23 years is a sufficient amount of time to call "modern" as far as I am concerned.

    Plus it says "seen" as in the whole thing, not one guy.

  • ||

    Being moderately libertarian isn't necessarily a bad thing.

    For instance, I highly doubt that a stalwart anti-war libertarian could win the Republican nomination.

    But Rand Paul is in that crossover territory where he has credibility on national security, and hasn't alienated social cons where he might actually stand a chance at a presidential run.

    No, he wouldn't be everything libertarians ever hoped for. But he would be by far superior to anyone either major party has elected in ... maybe ever?

  • Max||

    ARF Rand Pual is as ARF racist as his old man ARF isolationist ARF Republicunt warmonger ARF capitalist pig ARf stupid libertarians ARF

  • shrike||

    what Max said.

  • Tony||

    Couldn't have said it better myself.

  • Chad||

    Externalities!!!

  • Old Mexican||

    Roads!!

  • ||

    ARF Max ARF Tony AFT shirke AFT are white straight douches.

  • ||

    Here we go again.

    The Reasonoid leisure class vs the ascending House of Paul.

    I gotta go with Paul. Paul has not concretely contradicted Principal yet, as opposed to the Reasonoid leisure class and the Convenient Real ID &c.

  • SIV||

    Among many progressives of my acquaintance, Paul has become a male Sarah Palin of sorts. Not because he seems dumb like her, per se, but simply because believing the libertarian things he believes makes him inherently a laughable-but-dangerous fanatic. That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause that are likely to outweigh his votes and the legislation he introduces.

    Where to begin...
    Such a target-rich paragraph.

  • Some Guy||

    That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause that are likely to outweigh his votes and the legislation he introduces.

    By that standard, wouldn't all elected libertarians be bad for libertarianism?

    Not that I am convinced he actually is a libertarian. He's struck me as closer to Palin than his dad.

  • Some Guy||

    Of course, you don't have to actually be a libertarian to give libertarianism a bad image. Look at George W. Bush, "Champion of the free market."

  • cynical||

    No, it's simple -- if a public figure presents libertarian positions, and progressives find out about it, they might realize that other libertarians also believe in libertarianism. Then we'll never get progressives to implement libertarian policies through reverse psychology or whatever the plan was.

  • Fleeing Cali||

    Maybe we should re-label libertarian to "new progressive" ;)

  • ||

    I already call myself a "free progressive" and my whole philosophy is based about showing "progressives" how regressive their policies actually are in practice. I agree with the Left that there relative equality of opportunity is ideal, voluntary collectivism would be important in a free society and believe that corporate immunity allows corporate actors nearly free reign to profit off of activities that violate rights. Granting more power to a behemoth corporatist oppressor of rights to limit competition and opportunity, disincentivize justly-earned wealth and keep the poor satisfied enough with perpetual life support seems the very antithesis to a system of upwards mobility and progress.

  • JohnD||

    behemoth corporatist oppressor of rights?
    Are you sure your not a Marxist? You sound like one of those scruffy college kids seen at various protests.

  • ||

    Except for that part where he pretty much says the exact opposite..

  • ||

    No, but I know them well, and can both speak their lingo and beat them at their own game.

  • ||

    That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause that are likely to outweigh his votes and the legislation he introduces.

    "That."

    Baseless hatred from outright, avowed enemies of libertarianism. Straight-up assholes.

    Assholes whose approval, or non-disapproval, you so dearly covet, or so insecurely hold, that you have to get on record un-identifying with a rookie Senator who can't fucking do anything, because they—assholes—have added his to their list of infernal names, right up ther with the Dark Mama herself.
    Dumb, per se.

  • SIV||

    ^^^THIS^^^

  • Mr. FIFY||

    ^^^THOSE^^^

  • Demonstratives||

    ^^^THESE^^^

  • phoenix||

    This is what I came here to say. I'm supremely disappointed that the author of "Radicals for Capitalism" is so concerned with what "Progressives" think. What's wrong, Brian? Afraid you'll miss out on some cocktail parties?

  • ||

    What's wrong, Brian? Afraid you'll miss out on some cocktail parties?

    Sadly, that does seem to be the tenor of his article. Personally, I think I'd rather party with Paul, anyway. Bong hits and Aquabudha sounds a lot more appealing than Brie and Chardonnay.

  • ||

    Well, gawd knows, Beltway libertarians lurve themselves some brie and chardonnay.

  • ****||

    "but simply because believing the libertarian things he believes makes him inherently a laughable-but-dangerous fanatic. That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause that are likely to outweigh his votes and the legislation he introduces."

    Everything we believe, they treat this way. If you were about to win office they would treat you the same way, Brian. His value is precisely that he moves the Overton window for libertarian ideas into the realm of the "not crazy".

  • El Duderino||

    I agree. It's not as if progressives and some extremely socially "conservative" progressives dont already see libertarians of all stripes as Tin Hat nutjobs. Paul is helping make libertarianism more mainstream, you will never get rid of the ideologues who want libertarians to be seen as crazies, but their voices will now be more easily countered. When they call us crazy, we can now challenge them to explain why in the highly public forum of the US Senate. Also, Rand Paul articulates his arguments quite well so the message is in good hands.

  • Robert||

    You will never get rid of "the ideologues" in the aggregate, in that there'll always be someone who disagrees with you, but it doesn't have to continue to be the same persons. Individual ideologues can change their ideologies.

  • El Duderino||

    True.

  • ||

    If you are libertarian only on economic issues, but not social ones, you aren't libertarian, you're conservative. Rand Paul and Sarah Palin (and Ron Paul, for that matter) are conservatives. Maybe not completely conventional conservatives, but all three are perfectly happy to use the state to push social conservatism.

  • Some Guy||

    I'm with you on Rand & Palin, but what has Ron done to merit that?

  • Pan||

    This is partly true. The Pauls are staunchly against abortion but have never seriously disapproved of homos and atheists/agnostics.

  • ||

    And both want to end the drug war. Whats so conservative about that?

  • Fr. Spike||

    Wha? Being anti-abortion doesn't make the Pauls less libertarian unless they secretly believe that fetuses aren't human and are pushing abortion laws in order to keep women down. If it's a matter of protecting the rights of people who are being systematically oppressed, it's completely compatible with minarchy, just as much as abolitionism. It may disqualify them from True Libertarian club membership, but come on. This kind of term confusion work for Michelle Malkin, but it's very unbecoming of the political philosophy cool kids.

    Not that they get a pass on whether it's a good idea, any more than animal rights minarchists do, but that's a completely different discussion from whether or not they support liberty enough.

  • ||

    Who made you the decider on what is libertarianism or not? Ron Paul, is a libertarian minded republican. And Rand Paul so far, despite having hawkish views on defense, has run as a libertarian minded republican. If you think that a person must 100% conform to so called 'libertarian ideas' then your club will be very small.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Alas, the history of libertarianism is one filled with defections, schisms and purges of those that deviated a minute bit from The Way. We need to knock off the circular firing squad act long enough to elect some libertarian-minded folk.

  • Apogee||

    I agree but think you have this backwards. Libertarian minded folk will get elected regardless, especially since the left has added the evil libertarian ideas to their enemies list. That strategy will work just as well to limit exposure to libertarian thought as it did limiting exposure to Sarah Palin.

    The L-minded will gain in power and influence, and it will be the inflexible idealists that end up eventually purged.

  • LifeStrategies||

    The problem being The Way is not the same for everybody.

    I'm sympathetic to the notion that a libertarian is someone who believes in his right to do as he wishes providing it doesn't impinge on someone else right to do the same. And vice versa...

    So no shouting fire in a cinema because that impinges on your right to enjoy the film that you've paid for.

  • ||

    Whether a person migh be said to be libertarian or conservative matters little to me. At least in comparison to what principles they have shown a tendency towards putting into practice while in government.

    I have yet to see evidence of them using the state to push social conservatism. And given that Rand Paul has never held office there can be no such evidence for you to even make that specific charge.

    I've heard all the chicken little talk, but still haven't seen any evidence.

  • JoshINHB||

    Generic Reason Editor, Libertarian Poseur

    "Oh my god! My socialist friends think Paul is icky.

    I better write a slime piece quick before they less of me."

  • Hooha||

    Har! I like how you left out "think", because socialists don't do that! XD

  • ****||

    1. Also, getting things done as a senator is hardish, stopping them from getting done is much easier.

    2. The marginal effect is more important than the average.

  • ||

    No kidding. Saying no libertarian-leaning politician can be credible without the blessing of the lefty thought leaders is pretty much saying no libertarian-leaning politician can ever be credible.

  • The True Scotsman||

    Litmus test! Litmus test!

  • SIV||

    Acceptable "libertarian-leaning" politicians to lefties: Barney Frank, Russ Feingold, Alan Grayson.

    Reason's 2008 "Great Liberaltarian Hope" Bill Richardson is "wingnut " for them.

  • Max||

    At keast Rand isn't a fucking racist like his old man.

  • Max||

    ...which really isn't true, but it makes me feel better when I say it repeatedly.

  • Max||

    God, am I a pathetic cunt-boy, or what?

  • Ed Schultz||

    Max, you should be proud of your pathetic cunt-boyishness. Look where it got me... I have a show on MSNBC and a nationally-syndicated radio show. Thousands of people just like you make up my audience.

    On second thought...

  • Hobie Hanson||

    I would soooo lick your taint, Ed!

  • Keith Olbermann||

    Stand in line, Hobie.

  • Rachel Maddow||

    Eewww, gross!

  • Lawrence O'Donnell||

    More for me, then. Your loss, Rachel.

  • Barney Frank||

    Room for one more?

  • shrike||

    You tell 'em, Ed.

  • Progressive Guy||

    Are you kidding me? He wants to bring back segregation!

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Nice spoof.

  • Hugh Akston||

    So left-wing assholes like Jon Stewart think reason is part of the VRWC, while right-wing assholes like the commenters on this thread think that reason is trying to suck up to the beltway bobbleheads.

    muthafuckas can't catch a break.

  • robc||

    Its the libertarian assholes that think reason is sucking up to the bobbleheads.

  • El Duderino||

    I almost wish they were actually bobbleheads. Bobbleheads do nothing but bobble and doing nothing would have been better than anything they have done to date.

  • ||

    Rand Paul, even given his almost certain inefficacy as senator qua senator, represents a simultaneous opportunity and danger for the small-government cause. With him in the Senate and his father in the House, libertarianism will face unprecedented amounts of harsh attention, including the sort that doesn't give libertarians the sideways complement of being curious cases of real principle in an ugly GOP swamp. These libertarians, outgunned as they are, could start being dangerous.

    WTF?

  • ||

    Yeah, I am wondering why this article is even on reason.

  • Jason Barrick||

    '"We must once again believe in ourselves." That’s not the sound of a modern American politician.'

    Bingo.

  • Chony to the Max||

    Because modern American politics is superior to the politics of the past and the Old West days.

    The average person, especially the average American, lacks the proper judgment to adequately take care of him/herself. This is why we need government to make sure we take care of ourselves properly.

    8 years of Bush rule show what this whole take care of ourselves/libertarian mindset does to the country.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Spoof... right?

  • El Duderino||

    if so, I think the "him/herself" PC insert was a nice touch to create a convincing spoof.

  • Max||

    On the other hand, maybe Rand paul is a fucking racist like his old man.

  • Chony to the Max||

    Maybe? I challenge your progressive credentials if you express doubt to any of our talking points.

  • JohnD||

    I wasn't a racist until I started reading you and Tony's posts. Now I am beginning to understand why some people can feel that way.

  • Jeffersonian||

    Ditto, but since we don't know what race Max is, I play it safe and just hate the entire human race.

  • Apogee||

    That's some big tent hatred.

  • Chony to the Max||

    Since libertarians are exactly the same as conservatives in every way, and all conservatives endorse everything that Bush the Second did, and Rand Paul is a libertarian, that means that he supports growing the government and increasing spending.

    You 'tarditarians are hypocritical for supporting him.

    Just like all 'tarditarians support Palin.

    God, I'm so smart.

  • ||

    I'm sick and tired of hearing Rand Paul being called a Libertarian when he so shamelessly kisses the asses of the Christian Right.

  • Chony to the Max||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right. This is an objective fact, because they left repeats it over and over again.

  • Tony||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right.

  • Max||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right.

  • Chad||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right.

  • ||

    What about the externalities?

  • El Duderino||

    El Duderino is a Millionaire
    El Duderino is a Millionaire
    El Duderino is a Millionaire

    Shit... the left has to say it to make it true. Could someone on the left do a dude a favor...

  • Chony to the Max||

    If we progressives were able to make you a millionaire, we would also be able to make sure that 90% of it gets taxed away... so careful what you wish for.

  • Helicopter Ben||

    I'm gonna make everyone a millionaire!

  • Ben Bernanke||

    That's what the printing press is for. Look how rich everyone is post WWI Germany were, and how rich everyone in Zimbabwe is. I'll make all Americans millionaires.

  • El Duderino||

    Keep printing asshole, I'm running out of toilet paper.

  • El Duderino||

    I wish for an arcane and overly complicated tax code so I can shelter it in the tens of thousands of loopholes.

  • Choad||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right.

  • Chicago Tom||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right.

  • shrike||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right.

  • Mr. FIFY||

    Proof, shrike?

    *I* don't kiss anyone's ass. A hearty "fuck you, you're lying yet again" in your general direction.

  • frog in a pot||

    All libertarians and conservatives kiss the ass of the Christian right.

  • Barney The Frank||

    I'll kiss any guys ass. Right?

  • Robert||

    What's all this about the right of the Chistian ass?

  • ||

    All libertarians and conservatives and democrats who want to get elected kiss the ass of the Christ.

  • Conservatarian||

    Everyone who won't settle for less like me just wants to drink cocktails with pinko commies.

  • ||

    This is sick. So we were stupid to elect Rand Paul instead of his statist opponent? I voted for him gladly. Better to have someone that has 50% of the right ideas than someone with 1%. Was I supposed to vote for the "true" libertarian? Oh, that's right there wasn't one running. STFU and be glad we got what we did. Abstaining from voting or waiting for a perfect candidate just means you'll be a chump into perpetuity. My life isn't that long. It took many years to get us into this statist mess and it will take years of small victories to get us out (if we ever do). This IS a small victory for libertarians. I swear to god it seems that libertarians want to fail just to prove that they were right to be pessimistic.

  • mad libertarian guy||

    Where in Kentucky?

  • ||

    I'm in Campbellsville, KY where I've tried to block some of the local tax and power lust with limited success. I've subscribed to Reason and lurked this forum for years.

  • prolefeed||

    simply because believing the libertarian things he believes makes him inherently a laughable-but-dangerous fanatic. That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause that are likely to outweigh his votes and the legislation he introduces.

    Wait, so enunciating libertarian values that are currently unpopular makes one harm the libertarian cause?

    Seriously, Doherty?

    You're saying the best way to advance the libertarian cause is to push statist ideas because they are currently popular?

  • ||

    I think Doherty is saying that Paul could end up painting all of libertarianism as "like Rand Paul" and if Rand Paul doesn't actually govern as a libertarian he could end up confusing the electorate about libertarianism and allow the Left to call us hypocrites. If he does govern as a libertarian, equating Paul as a male Palin is convenient for the Left, as Palin is not very popular with moderate independents and vile amongst their own, whom they could risk losing to libertarianism on foreign policy and certain social policies like the war on Drugs. If Paul is characterized as being as "uncool" as Palin to the Left, the chances of members bucking their own party to work with him go down.

    Assuming Rand Paul actually follows through as a libertarian, he could be a very effective spokesperson by keeping the dialogue out there, even if his individual impact as one Senator on rolling back government doesn't actually accomplish very much. At minimum, it's far better to have someone in the Senate who is mostly libertarian than expecting to win with a purist agenda and forever loitering in obscurity.

  • ||

    Yeah I'm having a hard time following the logic of this article. Why did reason post this?

  • Robert||

    I think that sums it. The whole thing's pretty silly. Instead of "libertarian" you could put any adjective you want in there, and it'd be just as true and just as banal -- unless you think libertarians are some fragile endangered species that for unknown reasons requires special handling.

  • Chad||

    Most libertarians ARE hypocrites:

    If you support government-sponsored cops and courts, you are a hypocrite. You have to "initiate the use of force" to pay for them.

    If you support the existence of limited-liability corporations, you are a hypocrite. Libertarians should never have the *government* decide that someone shouldn't be held liable for the damage they cause to others.

  • Chad||

    The solution, of course, is to be just like me and demand that the government provide everything. The private sector is too unreliable, and anyone who profits from anything is a danger to our freedom.

  • shrike||

    Obama rules!

  • Old Mexican||

    Roads!!!

  • Jeffersonian||

    That "initiation of the use of force" is an LP fixation, not a small-"l" libertarian concept.

  • ||

    Exactly. Miniarchists argue the initiation of force by a strictly limited, uniform legal system is smaller net initiation of force than a system where private criminals are able to go unpunished, the most brutal mafia becomes the informal government and vigilante justice replaces the basic protection of rights and assumption of innocence until proven guilt. That doesn't make us hypocrites, it is merely a philosophical debate about which system of libertarianism is more truly free.

  • blubi||

    "Among many progressives of my acquaintance, Paul has become a male Sarah Palin of sorts. Not because he seems dumb like her, per se, but simply because believing the libertarian things he believes makes him inherently a laughable-but-dangerous fanatic. That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause that are likely to outweigh his votes and the legislation he introduces."

    So he should lie, or avoid talking about certain issues (Reason?) to be more palatable to public opinion?

    Is there an "Atlas Shrugged" banner over this site or am I dreaming? The irony.

  • ||

    He need not lie, only be careful. Most people who have lived their whole lives in a society where freedom is not the most important value are not quite ready to fathom some of the realities that freedom entails. The Civil Rights Act comments were impolitic if true, and I don't think anyone serious would advocate him to march out on the Senate floor his first day and demand the legalization of heroin vending machines in unregulated casino-whorehouses.

  • ||

    "demand the legalization of heroin vending machines in unregulated casino-whorehouses." HAHA!!! +100

  • blubi||

    Careful with the truth? The US is the society the least to have been bothered with the lack of freedom.
    I couldnt´ care less what other people think, I´m not running for office. If Rand Paul can run for office without biting his tongue or prostituting himself too much, then good for him. But he will be scorned by the left nevertheless, and it has nothing to with objectivism.

  • Chad||

    Paul has the same problem that all libertarians have, writ large: either defend absurd conclusions, or back down from your principles.

    Once you have surrendered your vaunted "do not initiate the use of force" maxim to utilitarianism, which you do if you believe the government should provide services such as the military, cops, and courts, you have lost the high ground and have to deal with the nitty-gritty down here on earth.

  • Chad||

    Which is a good time to remind people they should surrender the failed concept of free enterprise. We'd be a lot better off if we used a communitarian system. "Freedom" is overrated, anyway.

  • Chad||

    Stop spoofing me. This is too important for stupid jokes. The Earth is dying, and you fools are cracking wise.

  • Chad||

    I so want Obama's chocolate love pipe as an internality!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Chad,

    Paul has the same problem that all libertarians have, writ large: either defend absurd conclusions, or back down from your principles.

    Like for instance, defending the absurd conclusion that people should "give" a minimum of 33.33% of their income "back[?]" to "society," whatever YOU construe "society" to be or mean. Right, Chad??

  • blubi||

    Nothing to with utilitarism. It is still might is right, only might by brute force has been translated into a more equalitarian might by majority.

  • Max||

    Actually, I'm sure Rand Paul is a fucking racist just like his old man. Those newsletters--the whole fucking Paul family must have known about them. The wives and all the fucking Rand kids are fucking racist pigs. Fuck 'em.

  • Max||

    Because MY dictionary says a racist is "anyone I fucking WANT to call a racist".

    I'm a fluffer-boy for the left. I have to lie about the enemies of the movement.

  • Fluffer-Boy Union Rep||

    Max, we need to talk about your union dues.

  • Max||

    Sorry, my money's all stuck together!

  • ||

    Maxie, honey, have you been sneaking my purse into the bathroom again?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Max,

    Max, H&R's pet yorkie.

    Here boy! Here Max! Go fetch! That's a good boy! Yeah!

  • Bart||

    I can't believe I started my morning reading this worthless article.

    Brian, you have written your CYA article and you are now off the hook for whatever Rand Paul does. Goal accomplished.

    News Flash: Rand could not push a single libertarian idea during his entire tenure and the progressives will call him a "libertarian failure." Or Rand could become a beacon of libertarian ideas and change for the next 50 years and the progressives will call him a "libertarian failure."

    What does it matter? It's irrelevant.

    However, publishing an article on Reason that says to its readers,
    "Set your goals and expectations low libertarians, because the people at Reason are." does matter.

    It has an impact and not a good one.

  • Max||

    No it doesn't have a fucking impact, you self-important dimwit. The whole of right-wing libertarianism isn't worth a pimple on your fat right-wing ass. Aim low or aim high, the libertarian water psitol still spurts a bit of piss. Who cares?

  • Max||

    If everyone were a Stalinist like me, we'd be a lot better off.

  • Max||

    ARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARFARF!!!!!!!!!!

  • Jeffersonian||

    This last post made more sense than the one at 10:26. Well done, Maxie! Fetch!!

  • Max||

    The real difference between right-wing so-called libertarians and stalinists is the the stalinists actually managed to put their creepy ideology to the test. You morons coudln't organize a game of tiddlywinks.

  • Max||

    In other words, Stalin was cool.

  • Tiddlywinks Organizers' Union ||

    Not without OUR fuckin' say-so.

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Max,

    Max, H&R's pet yorkie.

    Here boy! Here Max! Go fetch! That's a good boy! Yeah!

  • MediaMatters||

    Anyone who invokes Stalin in comparison to anyone on the American left, is a right-wing racist.

  • Rep. Bernie Sanders||

    The only downside of Stalin was all the people he had to kill for the cause.

  • Kulaks||

    We're still waiting on that omelet. The service here sucks.

  • Ed Schultz||

    Anyone who isn't on the American left, is a right-wing racist.

  • DemocraticUnderground ||

    What MediaMatters said.

  • cpusa.org||

    Slackers.

  • Bill Ayers||

    I got wood.

    Bernadine!!

  • Thomas O.||

    At least they're not invoking Godwin and bringing up H****r.

  • ||

    Is it me, or does Doherty's article seem to come down to "We won't get invited to all the cool kids' parties"?

  • Max||

    Do you think Rand didn't know about his old man's racist newsletters?

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Max,

    Max, H&R's pet yorkie.

    Here boy! Here Max! Go fetch! That's a good boy! Yeah!

  • ||

    "in order to get things done you have to have concurrence of at least 60 members"
    But more importantly it takes only one person to STOP most of what gets done. One solitary Senator can prevent a bill coming to the floor that has not been through a committee hearing, that has not been posted online for people to read. One Senator can demand that a bill state its Constitutional authority. One Senator can stand in the way of a bad bill, i.e. almost all bills. Rand Paul can be extremely effective in stopping bad legislation, even if he can't pass good legislation.

  • Max||

    Except that he's probably stupid and a sellout.

  • Jeffersonian||

    You mean he's not a racist teabagger???

    Fuck!!

  • Old Mexican||

    Re: Max,

    Max, H&R's pet yorkie.

    Here boy! Here Max! Go fetch! That's a good boy! Yeah!

  • WHACKYSTUFF||

    If the moral evil of income is these notes that are Federal Reserve Notes why are the fines accepted when paid in said notes, the notes only exacerbate the problem.

  • Old Mexican||

    [...]believing the libertarian things he believes makes him inherently a laughable-but-dangerous fanatic. That raises questions about his value to the libertarian cause[...]

    Basically, Doherty is suggesting that appearing NOT to be a libertarian might advance the cause of libertarianism, lest one is made to be "a laughable-but-dangerous fanatic."

  • ||

    Social changes happen quickly and that is exactly what a dramatic reduction in the size and cost of government will require, a social change.
    Brian Doherty is making a 2 year old argument about a situation that doesn't exit any more.
    Mike Lee and a balanced budget amendment...
    The government will never be any bigger than it is right now. That's huge.

  • ||

    Gee what would Paul do without all that yummy federal money from medicare and medicaid?
    Cant you at least find one teabagger not dependent on government welfare and subsidies?

  • Alan K. Henderswon||

    Isn't the GOP the party of figureheads anyway? Didn't Senate Republicans cede control over the lower-court confirmation process to the Democrats when the former had the majority? Wasn't Republican spending policy crafted around pandering to the libs? Isn't this appeasenik crap why we have a Tea Party movement in the first place?

    Wars are not won in a single election cycle. Rand Paul's job is to be one less Senator who will break stuff. Our job is to get him reinforcements in 2012 - keep challenging the fiscal liberals of both parties.

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