April 7, 2015

Not Quite Ready to Stand with Rand

By In Blogs, C.Jay Engel

The following is my personal opinion and doesn’t necessarily reflect the opinion of the other contributors. 

“Never let the perfect be the enemy of the good,” saith the pro-Ron Paul, libertarian Rand supporters.  I agree. There is no one on this planet with whom I would agree with on every little thing. Ideologies are made up of millions of beliefs.  And no man is identical.

Thing is, I’m not quite ready to “stand with Rand.”  I don’t expect him to be perfect. But I need to be convinced that he is “the good” option here.  The “good,” of course, does not mean “righteous in the eyes of the Lord.” For there is no one good, except Christ, in that sense.  Rather, the good, in the political sense (work with me here), has certain features that I would need to see in order to support.  That is, anyone that I support has to take things in the right direction. Let me give an analogy, a common one, but a helpful one.

If we were in a car hauling toward the edge of a cliff, I have some ideas about the ideal driver.  This ideal driver would no doubt drop a brick on the brake pedal and begin to turn the wheel as soon as he could without completely spinning out.  Considering the fact that American Democracy pleads with me to cast a vote, and then presents me with two fashionable drivers, both of which are well sponsored and creepily well dressed, but altogether incapable of pointing out where the brake pedal is, I can honestly say that on voting day, I’m not going to be the first one at the poll to grab my “I Voted” sticker.

Besides the candidates who are very clearly going to keep the brick hard pressed on the gas pedal, there are those who are going to replace the brick with their foot.  That way, instead of plunging off the cliff at 100 miles per hour, they can do so at, if the masses in all their collective genius demand, 95 miles per hour. We The People should be at the wheel!  But have you seen “the people?” Yikes.

Is the candidate that is going to continue the direction of the car “the good” that should not be made the enemy of the perfect?  I don’t think so, not one bit.

The good is the one who will actually stop the car.  Even if he won’t turn it around, which would be ideal. At least he will stop it. He will refuse to continue toward the edge. Even if he doesn’t know where to go after he stops, at least the car will not, you know, be in a lake. A totalitarian lake at that.

That is “the good” that I can support.

Now here then is the great question: Will Rand work to stop the car?  The question is not whether he will be successful.  Success isn’t up to one man. The question is whether he knows how to stop it and will actually work toward that end. Slowing the car is a fool’s errand.

Today Rand announced his presidency. I watched his speech.  I was ready to support the good, even though it has long been known that he is not his father.  Most people know that he isn’t a libertarian and doesn’t even call himself one (although the media needs him to be one for their narrative). But at the very least, he is a self-described Constitutionalist, even though time and again he betrays it.  I had a positive outlook.  Which I suppose is odd for me. I’m no optimist.

I ended up surprisingly and sorely disappointed.

Most of his “ideas” about “restoring freedom” took us back to the early 1990s with a whole list of sham fake libertarian political “reforms.”  Most of which Murray Rothbard had waged war on during his time writing in the Rothbard-Rockwell Report.  Never trust a reform. A reform is a means by which the government will strengthen its programs, all of which are unconstitutional and should be abolished as swiftly as possible. We hear it all the time: “social security reform.”  That is what Reagan did. He took a program that, delightfully, was withering away under its own bureaucratic weight, and “made it stronger.” Two decades later, and we still have it. This is what reform hath wrought.

In the 1990s, the Federal government-friendly “think tanks,” which pretended to promote free markets came up with a plan to address the public school issue.  Instead of abolishing the Department of Education and letting states handle it (in the hopes that they too would close up shop), they came up with a “Voucher Plan” that was intended to promote “school choice.”  “Choice” however, was still taxpayer funded and within the guidelines of the wise Educational bureaucrats. Here is what Ron Paul once wrote about vouchers:

The basic reason supporters of parental control of education should view Federal voucher programs with a high degree of skepticism is that vouchers are a creation of the government, not the market. Vouchers are a taxpayer-funded program benefiting a particular group of children selected by politicians and bureaucrats. Therefore, the Federal voucher program supported by many conservatives is little more than another tax-funded welfare program establishing an entitlement to a private school education. Vouchers thus raise the same constitutional and moral questions as other transfer programs. Yet, voucher supporters wonder why middle-class taxpayers, who have to sacrifice to provide a private school education to their children, balk at being forced to pay more taxes to provide a free private education for another child.

It may be argued that vouchers are at least a more efficient welfare program than continuing to throw taxpayer money at public schools. However, the likely effect of a voucher program is to increase spending on new programs for private schools while continuing to increase spending on programs for public schools. For example, Mr. Speaker, during the debate on the DC voucher program, voucher proponents vehemently denied that any public schools would lose any Federal funding. Some even promised to support increased Federal spending on DC’s public and charter schools. Instead of reducing funding for failed programs, Congress simply added another 10 million dollars (from taxes or debt) to the bill to pay for the vouchers without making any offsetting cuts. In a true free market, failing competitors are not guaranteed a continued revenue stream.

Vouchers are welfare. And, I couldn’t believe my ears, Rand Paul was standing up there advocating it!  This is 1990s Heritage Foundation type “market solutions” that have nothing to do with markets.  Remember it was this same “think tank” that came up with the “brilliant” and “conservative” alternative to socialized medicine in the 1980s by suggesting mandated individual health insurance.  The structure of Obamacare was created by so-called “conservatives” as the conservative solution to the single payer system.  My point is this: beware “market policy solutions” that are pushed by politicians, because they are never about the free market at all!  The push for vouchers is an abandonment of Ron Paul’s educational efforts to re-introduce people to capitalism.

Then there was the talk of the balanced budget amendment, which as Ron Paul always pointed out, meant very little for two reasons: 1) it actually gave legislators a legal reason to not cut spending because the only thing that mattered was that tax revenues were at the same level as government expenditures. In other words, it gives great fodder for future increases in the tax rate. 2) it fails to even consider the humungous amount of spending that is entirely off budget! In fact, most of the spending that is most detrimental to the economy comes from an area of accounting that would not even be subject to such an amendment. This too is another sham “reform” that has nothing to do with actual substance of limited government efforts.

It was, as expected, in the realm of foreign policy that Rand was quite literally cringeworthy.  There was nothing in his comments to show that he actually understood the root of our foreign policy woes.  He referred to “radical Islam” as our number one enemy and promoted the neocon idea that we are engaged in a “long war against evil,” without giving any mention about the root of Middle Eastern anguish.  He did mention “nation building,” as a bad idea, which ironically, is precisely the language and talking point utilized by George W. Bush in the 2000 elections.  But besides that there was an awkward narrative that was being portrayed as if he was trying hard to please both the neoconservative party bosses of the GOP and at the same time trying to rope in the support of the antiwar conservative base that backed Ron Paul. It was difficult to tell whether he really did not understand the events in Iran, or he simply was playing the political game; neither of which is praiseworthy.  On the issue of the Iran sanctions, Daniel Larison observed:

He had to offer a torturous explanation for why he supports Corker’s Iran bill [this is an extremely important and serious issue, especially for Rand. Justine Raimondo called it “Rand Paul’s Munich.“] despite the fact that it jeopardizes diplomacy with Iran. He stated his preference to negotiate “from a position of strength,” but failed to explain how backing a bill that imposes deal-killing conditions puts the U.S. in a stronger negotiating position. Paul’s position on the nuclear deal is vague enough that it doesn’t tell us much of anything. He said he won’t support any deal that doesn’t “end” Iran’s “nuclear ambitions.” That doesn’t tell us what he thinks those “ambitions” are or how we would ever know that they have been brought to an “end.”

Compare Rand’s view on Iran with Ron’s.

I could go on for a while, and this shouldn’t have been such a rant. But, in short, I am not ready to stand with Rand. I want to keep an open mind, but there is just too much baggage here. Ron Paul’s two most important positions were foreign policy and the Federal Reserve.  Rand Paul doesn’t understand the foreign policy background of our current problem and there is no doubt that he does not understand the Fed-caused Business Cycle which is the root of our economic calamity.  Rand has obviously not familiarized himself with the economic and political theory that Ron Paul paved the way for.  There was not one mention of something that Ron Paul brought up in nearly every speech, the foundation of liberty itself; namely, private property rights.  The speech itself was full of media-driven narrative and talking points; from “racism” to “diversity” to “inequality” to “rich vs. poor” and beyond. I suppose that is simply just talking to a constituency that is certainly drowning from such talk on their nightly television.

But wasn’t refusing to be led by the media’s 3X5 card of approved talking points the highlight of the Ron Paul movement?

In the end, I need to be convinced that Rand is going to stop the car. I need to know three things, that I do not yet see in him, compared to his Dad: 1) that he has a robust political theory (or standard) on which to operate politically; 2) that he has adequate knowledge of what is going on in international relations (instead of just kowtowing to the neocon paradigm) and economic cycles (instead of just “auditing the Fed,” work to end it or eliminate some of its powers); 3) He will not compromise, that is, he will never for any reason vote to expand or strengthen a given government agency or set of activities.

Until then, I’m still sitting.  Or, as RL contributor Brian Jacobson tweeted:

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