Rand Paul

Rand Paul Getting Attacked Is What's Wrong with Libertarianism. Wait, What? (UPDATED)

Unprovoked physical assault normally invites sympathy, unless your politics are too weird.


The premise, admittedly, sounds like a Will Ferrell comedy: Politically outspoken middle-aged neighbor physician attacks actual politician middle-aged neighbor physician, but not over politics (reportedly)—over a "landscaping dispute." Though even one cracked rib can hurt like hell, and Sen. Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) reportedly has five six, sometimes you have to laugh a little:

But if you think a seemingly non-political man-fight would escape the relentless Politicization of Everything, you haven't been paying attention. By dint of his unusual ideology, Rand Paul suffers from the Weird Man's Burden, which means sustaining an unprovoked assault is a splendid occasion to call him an asshole.

"Rand Paul is an asshole neighbor," GQ's Jack Moore asserts, for example, in a post titled "Rand Paul Sounds Like the Worst Guy to Have as a Neighbor." Just how short is that ideological skirt?

He bought a house in a neighborhood that has certain rules with regard to lawns, and he decided that he doesn't need to follow those rules because of his belief in "property rights" that don't actually exist. This is, at its core, the problem with libertarianism. Libertarians don't want to follow the rules that we as a society have agreed upon, because they feel those rules step on their freedoms. And sometimes they might even be right, but that doesn't mean that they are above those rules and can do whatever they want.

Moore hastens to add, "Now, I don't want to excuse the other side of this," so it's totally fine that his takeaway from a senator getting his ribs cracked is that libertarians suck. But really, who doesn't want to punch a libertarian, amirite?

The attack has prompted impressively in-depth reporting on Paul's irritable views toward his local Home Owner Association rules, with asking-for-it newspaper headlines such as, "Rand Paul is not a perfect neighbor, says community developer." But extra credit goes to Detroit Free Press columnist Brian Dickerson, who wrings an entire piece out of the question: What kind of politician mows his own lawn? Sample:

[C]ynicism inclines me toward another explanation, which is that Paul is the sort of fellow who wants to be known as a self-mower, and to be seen driving a John Deere around his own yard.

Mowing one's own lawn is a time-honored way for a well-educated politician to establish his "just folks" bona fides. Former Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis had a Harvard Law School degree, but preferred to be known as a guy who pushed a hand mower around the yard of his modest Brookline home. (That might have been the image that stuck in voters' minds if Dukakis had not carelessly allowed himself to be photographed in a ridiculous tank helmet.)

Piloting a riding mower around a big yard combines the virile self-reliance of mowing with the aspirational elements of horsepower and real estate acquisition.

Some conservative outlets are also criticizing Hamilton Nolan's Splinter piece "Drink More Milk Rand Paul," but I'm a big defender of news-surrealism. Also this, from Trevor Noah, is pretty funny:

Though arguably not as funny as Shepard Smith's aggressive eye-rolling here (with Judge Andrew Napolitano as the straight man):

We will hopefully understand more about this puzzling incident soon. In the meantime, a pledge: If and when Bernie Sanders gets curb-stomped by an irate Burlingtonian, I won't use that as an excuse to talk about the inherently off-putting personal traits of democratic socialists. Besides, he was already kicked out of the commune….

UPDATE: Over at Above the Law, Elie Mystal writes a piece with the subhed: "Rand Paul received the kind of justice that makes libertarianism unworkable." Come again?

The thing everybody knows about Rand Paul is that he's a libertarian and "libertarian" always sounds like a fine legal and political theory to people who haven't thought deeply about how to live with others.

"You can do what you want and I can do what I want and, so long as we're not hurting anybody, the government can do nothing." It's… cute, as theories of social interactions go. It's not a workable basis for law and governance.

Rand Paul's broken ribs prove the weakness of libertarianism. According to reports, Rand Paul likes to grow pumpkins on his property. You might like pumpkins, but to some people, pumpkins are kind of big and ugly and, stinky. A slightly past harvest pumpkin patch smells the worst. […]

Reports also indicate that Paul makes his own compost (also stinky) and "has little interest for neighborhood regulations." This, my friends, is what libertarianism looks like in practice. I'll grow what I want, put trash where I want, and maintain my space however I want, and you can't do anything about it. FREEDOM!

Of course, the neighbors, who in the instant case had to live next to Rand Paul's pumpkin spiced compost heap for 17 years, are left with little recourse. In Libertarian Land, all of the legal regulations that might restrain Paul's behavior do not exist. They don't believe in "zoning." They don't care about your sightlines. Libertarians expect an easement in gross over your entire freaking property so long as their behavior is technically limited to their parcel of land. […]

Yes, I'm victim-blaming. Yes, I'm saying Rand Paul was "asking for it," over these past 17 years. Yes, I'm talking from a position of strength, and privilege, with a dollop of hypocrisy — as I am confident that none of my white neighbors are going to come at my 300 lbs black ass over the nasty ginko fruits my beautiful tree liberally spreads around the neighborhood.

But Rand Paul's broken ribs are a goddamn case study in why we need regulations.