Rand Paul

Rand Paul vs. the Libertarians

Is libertarian-ish good enough?


James Hohmann at Politico last week quotes me and some other people publicly associated with libertarianism to discuss where Rand Paul the presidential candidate stands in libertarian terms. His central thesis is that Paul is, in his own self-framing, declaring himself at best (in libertarian terms) merely libertarian-ish.

Hohmann sums up where Rand differs from the more steadfastly libertarian Ron Paul well:

here's no talk from the Kentuckian about ending the Federal Reserve, no quoting Friedrich Hayek and no laments about how the U.S. deserves a share of blame for terrorism – all hallmarks of Ron Paul presidential campaign rallies. Doom-and-gloom has been replaced by sunny optimism; the language of revolution has been supplanted by something that sounds a lot more incremental and a lot less edgy.

The Federal Reserve reads less vital as an issue in a time a few years past what legitimately read as an economic crisis to which they could be convincingly blamed. Talking of Austrian economists and American foreign policy crimes just doesn't sell to a mass audience, Rand Paul's campaign doubtless believes.

Daily Beast

Libertarian Party politicians quoted in Hohmann's article understandably push back against this GOP guy edging on their turf, like Gary Johnson the L.P.'s 2012 and could-be 2016 candidate for president, or in the case of 2008 L.P. presidential candidate and former Republican congressman Bob Barr, recognize that libertarian ideas might do a lot better in politics not weighed down with a third party label.

My quotes Hohmann used, which I'll present without further comment:

"The balanced budget stuff goes back to the '80s, and the term limits stuff was big in the '90s," said Brian Doherty, a senior editor at the libertarian magazine Reason. "None of that's fresh. None of that's a new vision … It's not really distinctly libertarian."

Doherty, author of the book "Ron Paul's Revolution," said Rand is determined to avoid a repeat of his problematic 2010 appearance on Rachel Maddow's show, during which he suggested that portions of the Civil Rights Act might be unconstitutional because they restricted the freedom of segregationist business owners.

Doherty said Rand, unlike his father, does not want to get burdened with theoretical debates about what happens when his philosophy is applied in full. "He doesn't want moments like that," the editor said. "I think that's the root of the prickliness…If you're a typical party hack of whatever sort, everyone understands you're just a politician … No one expects intellectual coherence from you."

I'll expand a bit on that last point, which might not be fully coherent as quoted: I believe that Rand Paul is just libertarian-ish enough, and came up from the movement as Son of Paul enough, that he has the libertarian's frustration with a world in which nearly everyone he meets rejects some of his core guiding principles and beliefs about important political matters, a frustration that comes out especially when challenged in a way a "normal politician" never is about the roots or implications of the philosophy that people dimly note you have. No one expects a normal politician to have principles that have implications or roots. They just have a set of attitudes that are roughly associated with their party coalition.

Libertarian-ish can feel great to a libertarian not used to seeing any respect or regard for his or her ideas in national politics. But it can also be aggravating—especially to the extent that a major candidate is saddled with the label and any given libertarian is asked/expected to justify or explain his every pronouncement. But that's a petty cavil about social and conversational awkwardness, while what a libertarian-ish politician could accomplish as president could be something actually important.

Nick Gillespie has recently written here about Paul's superiority compared to major party alternatives both on criminal justice and the drug war and overall.

NEXT: Chris Christie: I'd Crack Down on Legal Weed in Colorado, Washington as President

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  1. I’m gonna bet that if RP wants the GOP nomination, he’s going to thread a path back and forth to do so. It’s an odds-on bet that a libertarian acceptable to the H&R commenters would never get nominated by either party.
    Assuming he gets the nomination, would he get my vote? Who cares? I live in CA; I’d have to be able to vote 50 times or more to even hope my vote counted. The rest of you can take your choices. I’ll vote tax issues and register the vote for libertarians where I can find them and hope the less statist candidate wins the office.

  2. declaring himself at best (in libertarian terms) merely libertarian-ish.

    And Barack Hussein Obama II ran as being socialist-ish?

    Ya gotta get elected. I assume the things he said years ago were actually much closer to his true beliefs than anything he says from here on out.

  3. “Libertarian-ish can feel great to a libertarian not used to seeing any respect or regard for his or her ideas in national politics.”

    And that’s even assuming he’s not lying. In fact, I think the better bet is that he’s VERY libertarian, a highly intelligent son widely read of libertarianism and trained from an early age at his father’s side… more libertarian than he will EVER admit publicly. If elected, he’ll simply use conservative rhetoric to accomplish libertarian things.

  4. Rand is short and has a soft voice. These are fatal handicaps in a presidential race. It’s nice to dream dreams, though.

    1. You know who else ran for office despite being short and having a soft voice?

      1. Gary Coleman?


      2. Napoleon?

      3. Tyrion Lannister?

      4. Martin van Buren?

    2. Hillary is old, frumpy, brutal to look at, and about as honest as a stripper wotking a fat 50 year old traveling sales man. Rand will beat her uglier than she already is.

  5. Is libertarian-ish good enough?


    See Betteridge’s law of headlines

    But really, what would I know about being Libertarian?

  6. Rand Paul isn’t running for the Libertarian nomination; he’s running for the Republican nomination.

    I don’t need Rand Paul to explain himself, but the fact is that if the voters were libertarian, Rand Paul could be as publicly libertarian as he wants to be.

    The fact is that Rand Paul is more than libertarianish, but the voters aren’t.

    So, if the voters won’t go all the way, then we have to take what we can get from them.

    And the fact is that if they vote Rand Paul into the White House, it’ll be the best thing that’s happened to libertarianism since the fall of communism.

    …regardless of whether Rand Paul is more than just libertarianish.

    P.S. Which of his positions is indefensible from a small state, libertarian perspective?

    1. His vote yesterday for the doc fix?

      1. I will probably still vote for him, but if I run into him here in town, he is gonna hear about it from me.

  7. I think you are right, Ken, most voters not libertarian, they are too comfortable in their team cocoons.

    I grew up in a blue collar household in the 60’s when team blue actually gave a fuck about the middle class and team red was the enemy. I was fascinated by Buckley as I got older, out of he box ideas. Went through my leftoid college phase, bought my leftoid gf in college the appropriate tomes.

    As life went I dealt with government hacks in the Forest Service (to be fair I dealt with some great FS people as well, but they left in droves in the 90’s when the greens took the agency over) and other incompetents in government. Also watched team blue turn into the party of “free shit”. I was ok with the first Clinton because he was smart enough to do shit like welfare reform. I realized by then that handouts had left the underclass with very little hope of bettering themselves.

    My many (6) siblings have done pretty well but cling to the 40 year old values and still think team blue gives a shit about actual taxpayers and the debt we have. Things are ok so don’t ask questions.

    I left that plantation around 10 years ago and found this place which helped explain my misgivings. I’m not an optomist that this will change in my lifetime (I’m 59), I am hopeful that younger kids will realize how they are fucked and try to point it out when I interact with them. They don’t get it yet, but if Rand Paul can bring this issue to the front burner it’s a win for freedom.

  8. So I hope Rand Paul can at least get the debate going, with all the statist fucks o..ut there, that’s a good thing to me.

  9. Rand Paul vs. the Libertarians.

    I really hope Rand kicks the libertarians in the nuts and eventually issue an executive order criminalizing weed.

    “Without your precious drugs…….. you are NOTHING”

    In all seriousness though, I would love to see Rand debate the fringe Ron Paul crowd (like that pizza delivery man), if only to separate himself from the more “confederate” wing of the libertarian side and highlight libertarian agendas that the public could also support.

  10. Isn’t it just about getting the votes?
    Having an ideology is nice and stuff, but if the majority of the country doesn’t share it, you’re out in the cold.
    I think RP is simply lying to get the votes. Which, in fact, all of the candidates are doing. I think RP is very Libertarian, but for the sake of getting the votes chooses to be libertarian-ish.
    Just simple strategy.

    1. I think RP is simply lying to get the votes.

      You seem remarkably confident that he’s lying to others, not lying to you.

      1. Maybe he is but given that his actual record, you know the thing that actually matters, while in the Senate is far, far better than most GOPers or Dems…he’s got my vote.

  11. It’s one thing to oppose unpopular positions like legalizing prostitution or ending the FDA. It’s another thing to oppose the issues we’re finally winning on, like gay marriage. If we don’t get ahead of things, then social democrats will, and gays will receive special treatment rather than equality.

    Anyway, the way we can figure out what a Rand presidency will be like, all you have to do is look at who his advisers are and who his appointees will be for cabinet and other important posts.

  12. Here’s the thing. Rand Paul is libertarianish. He’s not a full hard-core libertarian. And full hard-core libertarians should pray to their personal God he gets elected.


    Well, it’s actually quite simple. Libertarianism works. Even libertarianishism works. If Rand Paul gets elected and governs in a libertarianish manner, we’re going to see terrific economic growth, relative peace, and a significant improvement in the tranquility and civility of our domestic affairs.

    Guess what, for huge swaths of the country, that’s going to change the way they think about libertarianism. All of a sudden, libertarianism isn’t going to be The Road Warrior with Monocles, but that nice period when everyone was doing well and minded their own business.

    What world do you think your One True Libertarian Hope is going to get elected in? That one or the one we have now?

  13. Rand Paul’s “libertarian-ish” persona is nothing more than a carefully executed political strategy designed to fool neocons and evangelicals into voting for somebody who once in office is going to utterly torpedo their entire idiotic and destructive agenda. Considering how many times they have put up candidates intended to fool the rest of us, it’s about time that we returned the favor. I have no remorse, regret, or shame about it at all. Let’s destroy the b-tards.

    1. ^This

      In other news:
      Beer and BBQ at my place!

  14. The answer is an obvious yes. For one thing Rand is saying what he needs to say to get elected. It is like when Obama talks about being a big fan of the markets. People who are paying attention know he isn’t a supporter of free markets. Same thing with Rand. He will say the right things so he doesn’t get raked over the coals for his beliefs. Remember his gaffe the night he won the Republican senatorial primary in KY. He explained a very reasonable, libertarian position concerning the Civil Rights Act, property rights, and freedom of association, and got nailed by that disgusting Stalinist Maddow. He also spent a lot of time watching his father waste his efforts defending reasonable positions and being sidetracked with that. We have all thought wouldn’t it be nice to have a candidate who agreed with us, but who was also savvy enough to avoid such minefields. Here he is folks. Get behind the guy. He is a libertarian plain and simple, but he also knows how to say what needs to be said to gain support with a broader audience. This is how you win. Do you want to win? I do.

    1. +1 Libertarians need to come to terms that there will be no John Galt Speech moment.

  15. I fail to see how Rand isn’t libertarian. Looking at his positions I see a lot of small government/mind your business ideas.

    Abortion? Lots of libertarians are pro life. Foreign policy? He never claimed to be a strict non interventionist. He claimed to be a realist, which is also a view shared by many libertarians. Gay marriage? Immigration? Look at the arguments libertarians have on this very site about those issues. Fuck this purity test bullshit.

    1. “Fuck this purity test bullshit.”


  16. Rand Paul, like his dad, is a perfect infiltrator to have voting within the Republican party as member of the Upper House of Congress. Other than wanting men with guns to so coerce doctors as to force pregnant women to reproduce against their will, the Pauls’ voting records stand comparatively impeccable. When lynch mobs attacked nuclear power, Ron Paul disarmed them somewhat. And now that the much larger Prohibition and Ku Klux wings of the GOP are running a militarized shooting war on African-Americans and hippies, Rand Paul can block them in the Senate instead of embarrassing our own candidates by any “right-wing” association with his political party.
    By making the GOP lose–rather than supporting their outliers–we leave them no choice other than to quit jailing and murdering Americans for no good reason. The LP also sets a good example for Democrats to learn from.

  17. People who think he is a closet libertarian are going to be disappointed. There is almost no doubt that he is tacking* into the conservative primary winds and that he is more libertarian (or less conservative, at least) than he sounds right now, but we are probably talking about the margins of his philosophy.

    Having said that, libertarians who don’t want to actively support him should at least avoid sabotaging him. He’s more than just the lesser of two evils, he is actually tolerable (at worst) from a libertarian perspective on nearly ever issue I’ve heard him speak about. At best, he is, practically speaking (i.e., what can be realistically accomplished), nearly indistinguishable from libertarians on some key areas that we might actually be able to make real progress on within the next 5 years.

    Or, to be more concise: fuck off Michael Hihn.

    * Not actually a sailor.

  18. In the GOP primary I’ll promote the candidate I feel is most likely to pursue limits on government growth. In the general election I’ll vote for no presidential candidate unless I can defend them by my principles.

    That means Rand cannot get my general election vote for two main reasons.
    Personhood, and pro war. Of course there are other reasons but these two are each, individually, show stoppers.

  19. Politics. How does it it work?

  20. while what a libertarian-ish politician could accomplish as president could be something actually important.

    You mean, disappoint the fuck out of us by doing a bunch of stuff that a real libertarian wouldn’t do, leading more libertarians to become anarchists?

    Sounds at least somewhat important, though probably not what you meant.

  21. In fact, I think the better bet is that he’s VERY libertarian, a highly intelligent son widely read of libertarianism and trained from an early age at his father’s side… more libertarian than he will EVER admit publicly. If elected, he’ll simply use conservative rhetoric to accomplish libertarian things.

    You sound like all the progs who had high hopes for Obama, and then found out they had elected a warmongering neocon who doesn’t respect civil rights.

    Politicians disappoint. That is what they do.

    1. He has advanced there agenda in other areas. We’re tgat mu h closer to single payer which was a top 5 for progs. Do you think if the progs could go back in time and vote for someone else they would? Hell, he was reelected? No one ever voted for a politician except maybe their moms, they vote against the one they hate the most.

      1. Even if it is just bullshit rhetoric, if libertarian rhetoric can win an election, that is to me at least preferable to every candidate trying to out neocon each other to get elected. I hate politicians pretty much without exception but I’ll be at the polls and will flip the lever for someone and it ain’t gonna be Hillary.

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    ————- http://www.work-cash.com

  23. Paul is certainly better than what we have been getting. He may well just be taking what he thinks he can actually get rather than what he really wants.

  24. Rand Paul is libertarian-ish-ish, at best. Can we get over this obsession and maybe spend some energy getting Gary Johnson into an actual Presidential debate, or something/

  25. Rand Paul is libertarian-ish-ish, at best. Can we get over this obsession and maybe spend some energy getting Gary Johnson into an actual Presidential debate, or something/

  26. Google pay 97$ per hour my last pay check was $8500 working 1o hours a week online. My younger brother friend has been averaging 12k for months now and he works about 22 hours a week. I cant believe how easy it was once I tried it out.
    This is wha- I do…… ?????? http://www.netjob80.com

  27. rand paul is trying to move the republican party towards libertarian principles which in turn will open more voters minds to becoming more libertarian. unfortunately this change is slow by nature so only so much can be done at a time, especially with all the misinformation and lies pushed by the media and the democrat/republican party. the good thing is that the libertarian party is growing while the democrat/republican party is shrinking. libertarian principles are also gaining i popularity while democrat/republican/conservative principles are shrinking.

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