Re: My Rand Paul Problem

 

 In my recent Hoover column, entitled “My Rand Paul Problem,” I drew distinctions between hard-line libertarians and classical liberals over a broad range of issues dealing with taxation, eminent domain, copyright, and the like. Just today, I received a gracious handwritten note from Senator Paul noting that, in his view, his positions should not be associated with the hard-line stances of writers like Murray Rothbard and Karl Hess, whose work I focused on in the piece.   

As several Ricochet members pointed out, Senator Paul has said:

What I’ve promoted is a flat tax, 17 percent for individuals as well as corporations with about a $50,000 deduction for families, similar to what Steve Forbes promotes. 

That is certainly a far cry from a no-tax position, and very close to the uniform tax structure  that I propose (it should be noted that I have no preconceived notion of what the appropriate tax rate in such a system should be). It is also a vastly superior alternative to the current tax system, which engenders endless battles over the appropriate forms of taxation, the appropriate rates, and the appropriate exemptions. My apologies to Senator Paul for misstating his position.

As to the other issues I discussed, I make no further comment here. Senator Paul is certainly well able to fend for himself. I continue to think that grasping the basic distinctions between hard-line libertarians and classical liberals is essential to understanding our current political debates, and I hope readers study the piece on the merits of the message it attempts to convey.

Published in General
Like this post? Want to comment? Join Ricochet’s community of conservatives and be part of the conversation. Join Ricochet for Free.

There are 30 comments.

Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.
  1. Profile Photo Inactive
    @BrentB67

    I think that is the danger of writing an article about a Senator’s position(s) based on other’s opinions rather than real journalism and speaking to the gentleman.

    The retraction is most gracious and warranted. It also could’ve easily been avoided with a phone call or two before writing the original article.

    One of the challenges Rand Paul is going to have if he runs is that he is not a true libertarian.

    Much like George W Bush Rand Paul is going to have all of is father’s enemies and none of his friends.

    • #1
  2. Profile Photo Inactive
    @BrentB67

    Randy (his bachelor handle) and his younger Brother are both very well schooled in the Austrian school of economics. I don’t know how that fits into hard line libertarianism. Mostly because there isn’t a clear consensus of what is libertarian other than marijuana must be legal.

    • #2
  3. Profile Photo Inactive
    @Franco

    I can’t go too deep into the weeds here for two reasons. First I’m not qualified and second it’s unnecessary.

    It’s not necessary because if Rand Paul is elected POTUS the USA will move in the one right direction and away from the two wrong directions.  By electing him, a (feared) libertarian society will not emerge, nor will he be able to set in motion some future libertarian society that some fear. 

    In the stew that is America we need certain ingredients added and there’s no way Rand Paul can add too much libertarianism in two terms.

    Somehow we don’t parse the philosophies of the other candidates mainly because they really don’t have them. At best, they have an ad hoc cobbling of vague promises to the people which can be recinded at any time.

    • #3
  4. Profile Photo Member
    @
    BrentB67: I think that is the danger of writing an article about a Senator’s position(s) based on other’s opinions rather than real journalism and speaking to the gentleman.

    The retraction is most gracious and warranted. It also could’ve easily been avoided with a phone call or two before writing the original article.

    One of the challenges Rand Paul is going to have if he runs is that he is not a true libertarian.

    Much like George W Bush Rand Paul is going to have all of is father’s enemies and none of his friends. · 3 hours ago

    But are they likeable?

    • #4
  5. Profile Photo Contributor
    @tommeyer
    BrentB67: Randy (his bachelor handle) and his younger Brother are both very well schooled in the Austrian school of economics. I don’t know how that fits into hard line libertarianism.

    I think you’ll find that Austrian economics is very popular among libertarians; at least as much as it is among other factions of the right.  Here’s a 1975 Reason interview with Friedrich Hayek.  Here’s an interview they did with an Austrian school economist on the 2008 financial crisis.  Do a search on “Austrian School” on Cato’s website, and you get 587 pages of results.

    • #5
  6. Profile Photo Contributor
    @tommeyer
    BrentB67: Mostly because there isn’t a clear consensus of what is libertarian other than marijuana must be legal.

    Brent, this is like saying that “there isn’t a clear consensus of what is a SoCon other than opposing SSM.”

    Obviously, pot legalization is very popular among libertarians, just as preserving traditional marriage is among SoCons.  That said, these are hardly the only issues that concern either of these groups.  The reason why differences between the groups seem so stark on Ricochet is that these issues are where libertarians and SoCons have the loudest disagreements with each other and that intra-right disagreement is what makes this site interesting.

    That’s why a post on pot or SSM will get hundreds of comments within twelve hours, while one advocating the elimination of the Department of Education will get a handful, two of which will simply say “Great post.”

    • #6
  7. Profile Photo Contributor
    @tommeyer
    Richard Epstein:

    My apologies to Senator Paul for misstating his position.

    Kudos to the professor for posting this, but I’m still a little mystified by the original column itself.  It seemed to take for granted that Paul is the kind of “hard-core libertarian” Epstein objects to without providing any evidence to support that assumption.

    • #7
  8. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Yes, those Conservatives just keep going on and on about SSM, drug legalization, and now immigration. They need to concentrate on economic issues or shut up, and consider their political alliances…

    In terms of politics, Simon looks toward libertarianism as the ideology of the future. Not because it stops discussion over any issue, but because libertarianism removes many of those issues from politics and put them back in places better suited to hashing out differences. It’s a stark – and I think convincing – message to conservatives and one they should heed when considering political alliances.

    Read these articles and ask yourself who exactly is forming an alliance with the Left and bringing up those old fashioned issues plus fomenting anti-Conservative feelings. Is this helpful?

    Is Mr. Epstein telling the So-Left Libertarians to stick to economic issues? I haven’t had a chance to read and research his last article either (got them book marked), but I hope so.

    • #8
  9. Profile Photo Contributor
    @tommeyer
    PracticalMary: Yes, those Conservatives just keep going on and on about SSM, drug legalization, and now immigration.They need to concentrate on economic issues or shut up, and considertheir political alliances…

    If this is a response to #14, I’m utterly mystified as to how you took my comments to be hostile.

    • #9
  10. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Tom: No, stating what actually is- see linked article and others. As an aside, I don’t think Conservatives started a campaign to preserve traditional marriage but have been responding to the redefining of marriage by the Left.I do agree these issues show the major disagrreementswith Libertarians and that is why they have lots of comments. But the issue is they are the most vocal and hyped by the MSM (because they are leftists and agree) and obviously by really popular blog journalists who are probably Conservative economically but to the Left socially (whatever their stated movtivations).

    These issues are now defining Libertarians whether they like it or not. The reason is that the Left (who owns media) will highlight them (esp. anything derogatory to Conservatives) thus drowning economic issues. The Left is not a friend in any way to Libertarians.

    • #10
  11. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland

    Good for Rand Paul, getting in touch with you, and good for you, Prof. Epstein, in writing this gracious correction.

    • #11
  12. Profile Photo Inactive
    @EdwardSmith

    I find it difficult to dislike either Rand Paul or Richard Epstein.

    I do sometimes find it a challenge to unpack Richard Epstein’s sentences, which remind me a bit of William Faulkner and Henry James.

    And I do sometimes worry about Rand Paul pursuing and advocating wrong-headed and (less often) overly simplified ideas and policies.

    But I do find it exceedingly difficult to genuinely dislike either Rand Paul or Richard Epstein.

    And this gives me comfort.

    Now … if only Ted Cruz did not do such a good impression of a horse that breaks out of the gate and has run it’s best race in the first furlong of a mile-and-a-quarter race.

    • #12
  13. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidClayton
    It’s not necessary because if Rand Paul is elected POTUS the USA will move in the one right direction and away from the two wrong directions.  By electing him, a (feared) libertarian society will not emerge, nor will he be able to set in motion some future libertarian society that some fear.

    This is part of why I am not bothered by Rand Paul’s tendency toward the “wrong-headed and overly simplified.”

    The limitations of presidential power at home, the realities of world power thrust upon him from the world stage, and the need to gather majorities of the House and Senate would naturally moderate his supposedly pure libertarianism. And governing will always be a pursuit of the practical over the possible. Remember Otto Von Bismark’s quip about sausage-making. He can’t turn the country into the Reason Cruise because it’s not in his power. But for the pilot of the ship to have naturally libertarian impulses would be itself a HUGE improvement over the status quo. I think that’s something all conservatives who claim to want greater liberty and a less powerful state should be able to get behind.

    • #13
  14. Profile Photo Contributor
    @tommeyer
    PracticalMary:

    But the issue is [libertarians] are the most vocal and hyped by the MSM (because they are leftists and agree)…

    This doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

    Most libertarians argue that the state should get out of marriage entirely, largely from a desire to end the Left’s ability to impose it on those who object to it.  Whatever one’s thoughts about this position, it’s diametrically opposed to that of the Left.

    But even libertarians who think that marriage should remain statist and be extended to same-sex couples (i.e., me) are opposed to the tactics the Left has used to implement it, specifically to its judicial imposition.  The only methods I endorse for changing this are popular legislation or — preferably — state constitutional amendment.

    Both kinds of libertarians are opposed to the Left’s use of public accommodation laws against people who object to SSM.

    These are substantial differences.

    PracticalMary:

    The Left is not a friend in any way to Libertarians.

    As I said in our last go around on this, I don’t aspire to be the Left’s friend and they certainly don’t want to be a friend of mine.

    • #14
  15. Profile Photo Member
    @
    Reply to Tom: Edited 39 minutes ago

    Yes, it should be, but that’s not what is happening. I guess you’ve read all of the linked articles, plus the ones here on Ricochet, a little differently than I not to mention the fact the actual consequences have not been freedom oriented. Motivations don’t really matter if the outcome is the same as the Lefts’. The Left also believe they do, though.Rand Paul and Epstein are smart to distance themselves. I’ve been waiting to see if the So-Left Libertarians will attack him for it, but so far they’ve been pretty smart. I never thought ‘imperfect’ belief in Libertarian economics would be a factor in their backing him, however.
    • #15
  16. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DocJay

    I love Rand Paul for a few reasons. I agree with him on most issues and he’s calmer than I am. He also is an honorable physician. Most of all, he hasn’t sold his soul to crime which likely about 95% of the slime in Washington have. Maybe one day I’ll get over honesty and integrity being important.

    • #16
  17. Profile Photo Contributor
    @PeterRobinson

    Edward Smith, above, says it all:  “I find it difficult to dislike either Rand Paul or Richard Epstein.”

    • #17
  18. Profile Photo Contributor
    @tommeyer
    PracticalMary

    I guess you’ve read all of the linked articles, plus the ones here on Ricochet, a little differently than I not to mention the fact the actual consequences have not been freedom oriented.

    I don’t contest that SSM has been implemented in a way that violates the liberty of those who object to it.  I object to those violations and believe that they are serious.

    Our point of disagreement is whether these violations are intrinsic to SSM itself or whether they flow from other positions common to those on the Left who favor SSM; i.e., Leftist jurisprudence and attitudes toward public accommodation laws.

    You seem to be arguing that an expression of affinity for any narrow aim shared with the Left (e.g., that marriage should be extended to gays) implies a complete endorsement of all the tactics used to implement that aim.  It’s like saying one can’t endorse capital punishment under any circumstances — even for serial murderers — because some people would use it against jaywalkers.

    • #18
  19. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidWilliamson

    I like ’em both, but prefer Senator Cruz.

    • #19
  20. Profile Photo Inactive
    @BrentB67

    Tom, your feedback in 13 is appreciated and your criticism in 14 is sound.

    • #20
  21. Profile Photo Inactive
    @KevinF

    Super glad to read this from Epstein.

    • #21
  22. Profile Photo Contributor
    @tommeyer

    No problem, Brent.

    • #22
  23. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidClayton

    I just adore Epstein as a thinker. And the rigorous structure of his sentences–even as spoken extemporaneously, amazingly, during his podcasts–bowls me over. And Rand Paul is a man after my heart. But I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before he lets me down in some big way like all politicians inevitably do.

    In any case, did anyone go back and read the NYT profile Epstein was responding to? Very thin stuff being served up to connect Paul the younger to the hardcore brand of libertarianism. Almost entirely guilt by association with his old man, and then by extension the elder’s old-time campaigners, newsletter-writers and assorted other fellow travelers. The usual suspects: Lew Rockwell, etc. Several degrees of separation from Rand, who it seems to me has been pretty careful in his public pronouncements to condemn and distance himself from the extreme positions.

    Rand is–successfully for the most part, so far–walking a tightrope to appeal to mainstream Republicans while giving just enough of a whiff of “true belief” to the libertarian purists.

    • #23
  24. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidClayton
    And I do sometimes worry about Rand Paul pursuing and advocating wrong-headed and (less often) overly simplified ideas and policies.

    I hope I’m not wrongly optimistic in thinking when he sounds so overly simplified that it’s just a result of his need to get in quick and digestible soundbites. A curse of our politics, but not his fault entirely.

    His old man had a tendency to do this too. Hideously so during presidential primary debates, when he’d spout libertarian ideas in forms so simple and devoid of nuance it would make your head spin. Not since freshman year in the dorms amid clouds of billowing bong smoke had you heard such clumsy articulations of libertarian ideas. But then the funny thing was, you’d catch old Ron Paul at some godawful hour on C-SPAN when no one was watching, he’d be talking at length to some group, Young America’s Foundation or something, and you’d notice that once able to speak at length, he was much better and somewhat less crazy sounding than you were used to.

    • #24
  25. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    BrentB67: I think that is the danger of writing an article about a Senator’s position(s) based on other’s opinions rather than real journalism and speaking to the gentleman.

    The retraction is most gracious and warranted. It also could’ve easily been avoided…..

    One of the challenges Rand Paul is going to have if he runs is that he is not a true libertarian.

    Much like George W Bush Rand Paul is going to have all of is father’s enemies and none of his friends.

    This wasn’t a problem for Gary Johnson, one of the most aggressively big government governors in recent times, and deeply beloved by CATO. Libertarians are easily won over by tribalism, and Paul comes from the right blood.

    Tom Meyer

     

    ….. I’m still a little mystified by the original column itself.  It seemed to take for granted that Paul is the kind of “hard-core libertarian” Epstein objects to without providing any evidence to support that assumption.

    This is the flip side: everyone pretends that people who take the label “libertarian” think like Rothbard (except on marriage, where a novel position is frequently assumed.)

    • #25
  26. Profile Photo Member
    @

    Tom:

    Your interpretation of my argument is false and can be summed up by saying perhaps your real beef is with the most vocal Libertarians (I gave an example of the highly touted ‘compassion’ argument). Why are they the most vocal? Because they are in agreement with the Left and use their tactics. Also, just because you object to their views doesn’t negate the fact that loss of liberty actually has resulted because of who is actually in power right now and the resulting label for Libertarians, in general. That is the point.

    Also, it’s ‘funny’ how Libertarians don’t like the slippery slope or ‘wrong side of history’ argument because it always applies itself particularly well to the inalienable rights version of social debate- proving true, historically and right now. Meaning, theoretically a certain Libertarian stance is true even if doesn’t work out that way in real life . Utopian. Wouldn’t they predict adverse effects to market forces if a certain law is passed?

    I wish Libertarians would use the same criteria concerning social issues as economic. Something like: individuals over time forming societies in best service of self interest. But then they’d be Conservatives.

    • #26
  27. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidClayton
    Gary Johnson, one of the most aggressively big government governors in recent times

    James: I’m interested to know why you call him “aggressively big government.”

    • #27
  28. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    David Clayton

    Gary Johnson, one of the most aggressively big government governors in recent times

    James: I’m interested to know why you call him “aggressively big government.” · 5 hours ago

    He was a pioneer in the field of state subsidies for films and television (hence, amongst other things, Breaking Bad’s New Mexican setting). He was a pioneer in the field of state subsidies for his personal hobby, private sector space. He was a pioneer in state subsidies for all kinds of things he liked.

    As a result, one of Governor Martinez’ chief re-election talking points was the fact that KPMG noted that New Mexico had the biggest gap in the union between what favored and disfavored companies got in taxes; if Johnson didn’t like you, you paid more than in most states, while if he did, you got a significant negative tax bill (they were all tax credits so that Johnson could claim that the dramatic rise in spending under Johnson was less dramatic than his predecessor’s hikes). Bill Richardson is an ugly big government Democrat, but even he reined in Johnson’s excesses (and was better on guns, to boot).

    • #28
  29. Profile Photo Inactive
    @DavidClayton

    Interesting, James. I’ll need to look into that.  I too am an enemy of governing by tax code complexity. I don’t like governors playing the game that way to promote their own favored industries. Although truth be told, everyone does it. That is kind of a problem.

    Still to be fair, on a purely rhetorical level I think calling tax credits “subsidies” is a classic stolen base used by people on the left (who want to raise taxes on everyone). That’s of course unless the balance of tax breaks and tax credits actually does result in a negative tax bill, at which point it truly is a subsidy, and totally bullshit.

    • #29
  30. Profile Photo Moderator
    @JamesOfEngland
    David_Clayton: …… I don’t like governors playing the game that way to promote their own favored industries. Although truth be told, everyone does it. That is kind of a problem.

    Still to be fair, on a purely rhetorical level I think calling tax credits “subsidies” is a classic stolen base used by people on the left (who want to raise taxes on everyone). That’s of course unless the balance of tax breaks and tax credits actually does result in a negative tax bill, at which point it truly is a subsidy, and totally bullshit. · 

    You’re aware that TV and Film subsidies, of which Johnson was the chief pioneer, are the chief examples of the “refundable” “tax credit” that sees the state pay out?

    I agree that everyone uses state subsidies, but no one else alive today has expanded them as much, and the worst of those subsidies (the kind where the money is justified on the basis of prestige, so, again, particularly media-friendly things like space and entertainment) is still not universal, and was unique to NM when he introduced them. He was not a communist or otherwise outside the American mainstream, just on its left edge.

    • #30
Become a member to join the conversation. Or sign in if you're already a member.