Tuesday, 25 May 2010

Paul the Younger

Even Radio NZ is now starting to discuss the victory of Tea Party candidate Randal Paul in the Kentucky Republican primary (perhaps the first time a winning candidate in a minor Republican primary has been mentioned on Radio NZ at all).  Clearly, there’s more than just the Tea Party connection that got Radio NZ interested enough to comment.

Just for the record, despite the popular contraction of his first name to “Rand,” Randal wasn’t named after novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand, but he does enjoy her novels. It just Ayn’t true.

But what of his politics?  Is a man surfing the Tea Party wave like Paul good simply because he’s successfully surfed that wave? Well, maybe not. The intellectual banner of the Tea Party itself is mixed, and so too it is Paul the Younger. “Rand Paul, like his libertarian father Ron Paul, is a Christian-influenced ‘isolationist,’” argues Objectivist Scott Holleran, which is troubling news. 

It’s often said that, speaking in traditional pol-sci terms, libertarians are “fiscal conservative and social liberals”; in those terms, Randal’s father Ron is both a fiscal conservative and a social conservative—meaning he hardly deserves the freedom-loving applause he gets. So if Paul the Younger is cut from similar cloth then, Houston, we do have a problem.

We have a problem because both Paul Senior and Paul the Younger are not just another pair of faceless politicians.  Despite policies which frankly contradict the claims, Paul Senior achieved “growing public prominence as a self-proclaimed spokesman for the ideas of liberty,” and Paul the Younger has certainly capitalised on that widespread national prominence, even as he’s chanted the anti-concept of so-called state’s rights (an invitation, as Rand the Original once pointed out, simply to replace federal tyranny with local tyranny), and sought the backing of social conservatives like the far-Right theocratic group Concerned Women for America (allowing Paul the Younger to boast on his website that his "socially conservative views have earned the respect and trust of church leaders across Kentucky."

Not exactly exciting news for freedom-lovers, is it—nor for those eager to make the connection with Rand the Original, who would have been appalled.

    “Consider how Rand saw Reagan and his friendly relations with the Moral Majority:

            ‘The appalling disgrace of his administration [said Rand the Original] is his
        connection with the so-called ‘Moral Majority’ and sundry other TV religionists,
        who are struggling—apparently with his approval—to take us back to the Middle Ages,
        via the unconstitutional union of religion and politics.’

    “Rand said Reagan was trying to ‘arouse the country by some sort of inspirational appeal. He is right in thinking that the country needs an inspirational element. But he will not find it in the God-Family-Tradition swamp.’ So while Randal Paul was sucking up to the social conservative religionists, Ayn Rand had called their ideology a ‘swamp’ and wanted nothing to do with them.”

Vodka Pundit Steve Green’s expressed early concern about Paul Senior, about “the impact that his representations of those ideas are having [and will have] on a national audience.”  Given Paul the Younger’s name and his Tea Party associations, those concerns are even more relevant about Paul the Younger since his own performance has the potential to damage the former and derail the second.

It’s nothing personal. The concern is about the fate of those ideas, and not for Paul’s fate as a candidate for higher office—particularly since his choice to exploit the “Rand” name makes his mis-identification with Rand’s ideas so much the easier for the ill-informed.

The first week after Randal’s victory already offers further cause for concern.  It was a week mired for him in the hash he made of an ill-advised appearance on Rachel Maddow’s TV show, a week in which he went first one way on civil rights and property rights, and then another, until at the end of it no-one could be quite sure what his position was on race, on civil rights, on the rights of employers and property-owners—and even on Rachel Maddow. (Although his own confusion doesn’t justify the abject confusion of some commentators on almost everything).

So in summary,  until I see something both more principled and more substantial from Ron Paul’s son, I can only wish to see in reality the sentiment once expressed in the title of the Shayne Carter & Peter Jefferies song: “Rand(olph)’s Going Home.”


  1. Tom Hunter says....

    Even Radio NZ?

    Of course they won't be busting their gut to cover the dingbat nature of one Alan Grayson (D)

  2. "Randal’s father Ron is both a fiscal conservative and a fiscal conservative..."

    That is too clever for me.

  3. @Lindsay: And it was too sloppy even for me. Thanks for the correction.

  4. Paul should be a little more selective in choosing where and with whom he does interviews.

  5. Point 1: This is silly, just as some trace of actual freedom becomes electable by some miraculous luck, it it trashed for not being pure enough. The pressing issue here is the impending collapse of the economy. I would vote for a muslim creationist if he were going to abolish the federal reserve and the department of education.

    Point 2: The more local the tyranny the better, when jurisdictions are small and have open borders between them taxpayers become customers to be competed for and I don't have to explain how good that is for liberty. It is a classical liberal first principle that legislators should be as close as possible to the people they legislate against. I don't understand the objection with that.

  6. @Peter,
    Well said.

    I commented earlier on one of the budget posts that the Libertarinaz aren't resonating with the electorate despite what I consider to be laudable policy goals.

    One feels that to undergo the sort of change outlined in their manifesto, it first needs to show how it would implement these changes over time. I wonder if the party would limit itself to making reform in one area in an attempt to convince the general public that the world won't end.

  7. "Libertarinaz"

    Unintentional gold!


  8. Rand got himself in a tricky situation on the Rachel Madow interview. My impression from the interview was that he supports civil rights; clearly not a racist like the left leaning contingency would like to make out. He has spoken in the past on this. Anyone with a microscopic drop of common sense would know the media are after just a 30 second sound bite which they can use. This is why he had to cautiously respond to the questions. I agree that his own Christian view and his more fundamentalist Christian supporters are a concern. In comparison his father Ron although a Southern Baptist proudly wears his separation of church and state on his sleeve and does not mind what people believe or disbelieve, has no issue with gay rights and gay marriage and has said what people do in their homes is their business and not the government or societies. Not so sure if Rand shares his fathers more Libertarian views. I disagree with the 'Christian - influenced isolationist' view made in the article. Though both are, Isolationist ideology comes from the views of the founding fathers who felt it was not a nations business to interfere with another countries interests. I do agree with the authors view in being sceptical of Rand Paul, but you have to admit he is a breathe of fresh air compared to what is usually dished up. If there is any chance to Audit the Federal Reserve and put and end to the ‘Too Big To Fail’ debacle, he might just be the man. - Nev Messent.


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