June 9, 2014

A Rand Paul Presidency Might Not Be Healthy for the Liberty Movement

By In Articles, Politics

Note: I changed the title of this post because the original seemed too confident in a thesis that is meant as a consideration.

With Ron Paul no longer in a government position, there is no longer a libertarian voice in Congress.  He has, however, spurred several “limited government” voices including Justin Amash, Thomas Massie, and Rand Paul.  These folks, while better than all other politicians in DC, are not consistent libertarians.  That is to say, they do not carry forth the libertarian philosophy without deviation.  They have all, at one time or another, made important mistakes that stem from an unwillingness to apply a robustly anti-state perspective to their efforts.  From support of awful budgets (like Paul Ryan’s), to willingness to increase taxes, to advocacy of foreign interventionism, these three conservatives need to be understood as being relatively good, rather than purists.  More than just their policy efforts, there also exists a complete lack of systematic opposition to the very existence of Federal health care, education, income tax, the Federal Reserve, and the like.  [Update: I roughly agree with Doherty when he states that libertarian purism is not necessarily required in order for there to be a libertarian moment.]

Now, of these three, the individual who I think could poses, in a certain sense, the most threat to the future of liberty is Rand Paul, chiefly because of the huge media push of his name.  Because of his background, it is clear that Rand Paul is more familiar (or should be) with the Austrian School of Economics and the libertarian political theory than the other two.  One would expect as much given the academic and educational aspect of his father.  But as he himself has admitted and as often seems obvious, Rand is not a consistent libertarian.  Not only in his political actions, but also in his philosophy.

However, typical of the media, he is being painted as the new face of libertarianism.  Libertarianism as a label has been fundamentally destroyed in the last decade or so.  I mean, people like Glenn Beck and Bill Maher use it! It is a hot-button label that, devoid of its meaning, is being used to derail the liberty-movement. Socialists like to use it, social libertines who have never read an economic book in their lives use it as well.  And it is being applied to Rand Paul, despite his rejecting it.

(Before I move on, I want to emphasize that I like Rand Paul. I think he is a great guy, with a great family, and does well at articulating the anti-Obama and anti-fascistic message.  I think he is a good conservative, although perhaps not as consistent as he should be.  I wish, more than anything about him, that he would distance himself completely from the Establishment GOP foreign policy and vocalize the paleo-conservative view of places like The American Conservative.  Like, I said, Rand is relatively good, but look who is being compared to. And in any case, the rest of the article here will show why relatively good can be bad.)

Now, let’s step back for a moment.  The American world –and the entire Western world– is experiencing a massive economic downward spiral.  There is no recovery as long as the current political structure remains.  The only path to recovery is to start over, under a different, preferably libertarian, structure.  As Mises and Hayek showed, every artificial boom created by monetary manipulation, was bound to result in a crash.  The entire Western World is a Central Bank-induced bubble.  Pop!

Obama and Romney cannot stop it.

Neither can Ron Paul.

Such is the nature of the economic bubble.  Obama and Romney are both Keynesian central planners, or advocates of the central planners, while Paul is the opposite.  He wants zero central planning, understanding that money and interest rates should both be developed on the free market, according to the voluntary interactions of the economic actors.  Despite the opposing outlook of both groups, neither one can stop the crash.  The difference is that Paul wants to face the crash, and get it out of the way, immediately.  Obama, Romney, and the entire current political class and their proponents, want to prop up the bubble as long as possible.  That is, they want to continue to expand the bubble and fuel the false prosperity.

So then, what if Ron “Mr. Free Market” Paul had won the 2012 elections?  And the bubble popped.  Who and what would be blamed for such an astounding economic crises?  And don’t doubt that the coming crash will be intense –the current bubble is bigger than the one preceding the Great Depression.  Well, obviously libertarianism, free market capitalism, and Ron Paul would be the object of blame.  Such a development would be devastating for the future of the liberty movement.

Let’s switch gears again.  I want to mention something that I don’t often mention on this blog: the existence of what has been termed “the Power Elite.”  The Power Elite is a term that originated, I think (someone can correct me), with C. Wright Mills who wrote a book by this name.  At any rate, Murray Rothbard employed the concept in several of his works, most interestingly, in his “Wall Street, Banks, and American Foreign Policy.”  For anyone reading through that essay, they might be shocked at the inter-connected power groups and individuals and politically-affixed corporations.  I highly recommend it.

One other important work in this genre is Carroll Quigley’s (Bill Clinton’s Professor) Tragedy and Hope.

The Power Elite simply refers to the groups of people who are behind the scenes, internationally connected, and have ulterior motives for political posturing and economic manipulations, through the use of the State.  And importantly, these people have a prolonged systematic control and power.

One Austro-libertarian blogger that subscribes to a Rothbardian analysis of the Power Elite goes by “Bionic Misquito” (BM) and I suggest those interested in libertarian read him.  He is often published at the Lew Rockwell Column as well.  Today, under the title “The Purposeful Demise of Empire,” BM writes:

An acquaintance recently asked me who I thought would be a better president for the US – Putin or Obama.  I suggested that if one wanted to dismantle the empire or cause it to take a few steps back (while maintaining the faith of regulatory democracy) Obama would be the perfect choice.

These things don’t happen by accident; Obama didn’t come out of nowhere to overrun Hillary in 2008 because a few college kids got excited about him.  The mainstream media didn’t all jump on the bandwagon because Obama wrote an audacious book about hope.

Had Hillary or McCain been elected six years ago, is there any doubt what would have become of the situation in Syria and the Ukraine today?

He then continues to say:

Another clue [of the desires of the Power Elite] will be offered by the next US presidential election; will a war hawk be chosen (there are many candidates) after the relative respite of Obama, or will it be one with a slightly more passive, yet acceptable tone?

I suggest it will be the latter.

His linked suggestion is that Rand Paul is “being groomed as the next Reagan.”  Reagan, as most libertarians understand, was a man of great libertarian rhetoric and awful state-expansion policies.  As Murray Rothbard once put it:

There was no “Reagan Revolution.” Any “revolution” in the direction of liberty (in Ronnie’s words “to get government off our backs”) would reduce the total level of government spending. And that means reduce in absolute terms, not as proportion of the gross national product, or corrected for inflation, or anything else. There is no divine commandment that the federal government must always be at least as great a proportion of the national product as it was in 1980. If the government was a monstrous swollen Leviathan in 1980, as libertarians were surely convinced, as the inchoate American masses were apparently convinced and as Reagan and his cadre claimed to believe, then cutting government spending was in order. At the very least, federal government spending should have been frozen, in absolute terms, so that the rest of the economy would be allowed to grow in contrast. Instead, Ronald Reagan cut nothing, even in the heady first year, 1981.

At first, the only “cut” was in Carter’s last-minute loony-tunes estimates for the future. But in a few short years, Reagan’s spending surpassed even Carter’s irresponsible estimates. Instead, Reagan not only increased government spending by an enormous amount – so enormous that it would take a 40 percent cut to bring us back to Carter’s wild spending totals of 1980 – he even substantially increased the percentage of government spending to GNP. That’s a “revolution”?

Besides, Reagan’s dismal record, he also an important impact on the liberty movement that we should not forget as Rand Paul gears up for 2016.  Rothbard sets the background:

And to top it off, the Watergate crisis (my particular favorite) destroyed the trust of the American masses in the Presidency. For the first time in over a hundred years, the concept of impeachment of the President became, first thinkable, and then a living and glorious process. For a while, I feared that Jimmy Carter, with his lovable cardigan sweater, would restore Americans’ faith in their president, but soon that fear proved groundless.

Surely, it is no accident that it was precisely in this glorious and sudden anti-government surge that libertarian ideas and libertarian scholarship began to spread rapidly in the United States. And it was in 1971 that the tiny Libertarian Party emerged, in 1972 that its first, embryonic presidential candidacy was launched, and 1973 when its first important race was run, for mayor of New York City. The Libertarian Party continued to grow rapidly, almost exponentially, during the 1970s, reaching a climax with the Clark campaign for governor of California during the Prop 13 year of 1978, and with the Clark campaign for the Presidency in 1980. The morning my first article on libertarianism appeared in the New YorkTimes in 1971, a very bright editor at Macmillan, Tom Mandel, called me and asked me to write a book on the subject (it was to become For a New Liberty). Not a libertarian himself, Mandel told me that he believed that libertarianism would become a very important ideology in a few years – and he turned out to be right.

So libertarianism was on a roll in the 1970s. And then Something Happened.

What happened? Reagan happened.  He used the correct rhetoric during a time when libertarian sentiments were growing.  The libertarians were duped.  Reagan was not a man of liberty, but actually was happily supported by, and in turn did support, the Power Elite.  Even beyond “Power Elite analysis” it should not be controversial to state the fact that Reagan restored hope in the US Presidency at a time when the masses were becoming disillusioned with the central government of the United States.  The people were fed up.  Unfortunately, like in all other areas of life, the people want their ears to be tickled.  They prefer political feel-goodism over reality, over acceptance of the true nature of the authoritarian State.

The Reagan years made everyone proud to be American again.  Which of course is not a terrible sentiment in itself.  But there was no change in Washington!  There was nothing new to be proud of! There was no return to liberty.  There was the same-old power-hungry state-complex with fresh marketing.

Now, Rand Paul: put forth as the heir of his father.  “The libertarian of the future.”  This is not to say that Rand is going to purposefully aim to grow the State.  But can he help it?  Can Presidents really control such things?

The crash is coming. Rand Paul is not a libertarian, but he is being promoted as such.  Thus, libertarianism and free-market capitalism will be seen as failures.

The United States is becoming, indeed has already become, a police state.  Now is the time when people must see clearly.  We must not be deceived about the true nature of DC!  We must not be convinced that our savior comes clothed in political power!

Remember what happened last time?

So libertarianism was on a roll in the 1970s. And then Something Happened.

It is now the 2010s. Is Rand the next Reagan?

Written by C.Jay Engel

Editor and creator of The Reformed Libertarian. Living in Northern California with his wife, he writes on everything from politics to theology and from culture to economic theory. You can send an email to reformedlibertarian@gmail.com