Earlier this month I profiled Dr. Rand Paul. Now let us consider his political philosophy. Rand Paul has not been shy about flashing his libertarian credentials wherever he goes.
Libertarianism is a movement that is growing in influence in the United States as people's unease with federal debt and proposals for vigorous federal programs bring out the worst of the anti-government element in this country. A very loud minority is calling not just for budget cuts and lower taxes, but the utter emasculation of the government. These feelings have crescendoed to utter hatred for any of the activities or agents of the federal government. The discovery of the body of a census worker hanged by the neck in eastern Kentucky with the word 'FED' scrawled across his chest is a culmination of this anti-government sentiment.
These ideas and the passion with which they are progressed are not at all new. During the revolutionary period through the ratification of the Constitution in this country, a minority contingent of our founding fathers made the same arguments, fighting against the U.S. Constitution because they feared a federal government with the power to tax, spend, raise a military and regulate congress. Men like Patrick Henry claimed the new government was tyrannical: that it would curtail individual liberties and usurp power from the states. Their opponents, men like James Madison, George Washington, John Marshall, John Jay, and Thomas Jefferson successfully argued that the Constitutional government electorally derived its power from the populace and therefore could never be a tyranny. Libertarians ultimately lost their battle against the majority that saw the need of a vigorous government to defend and unify the several states.
The war between these ideologies still rages on today. Though most of the anti-government conservative view point have moderated their views in public and have found a home in the Republican Party, there is a very strong anti-Constitutional point of view within that party led by the likes of Ron and Rand Paul.
However, more influential and mainstream elements in the GOP clearly hold this point of view as well. Grover Norquist, an influential GOP activist, once stated that he wanted to shrink the government down to the point where one could "drown it in the bathtub." Now the TEA Party movement, which argues that the government has overstepped its expressed power of direct taxation, enjoys the support of Rep. Michelle Bachman, Rep. Peter King, and the Fox News Network. A related contingent, often labeled the 'Tenthers', marches behind the banner of the 10th Amendment which delegates to the states powers that are not directed to the federal government.
These folks ignore not only the express powers of congress and the federal government, but also the important implied powers of the government. Notes from the debates following the constitutional convention in 1787 make it clear that the framers of that document did not intend for the powers of congress to be simply limited to those directly expressed within. The whole constitutional argument for libertarianism fails when one realizes the context that the framers were operating in: one government, based upon a small national government wholly reliant on the states for revenue and defense, was facing total collapse and a new, stronger central government was needed.
The libertarian element in the Republican Party wants to go back to that failed, flaccid central government that this country suffered under before the Constitution was written. They have forgotten the lessons of the Constitution and the very reason it was written.
Libertarians and their allies often point to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Fannie Mae, Freddie Mac, the Post Office, and Amtrak as modern day examples of why we don't want government running programs at all. They never mention that each of these programs has had trouble due to modern pressures their organizers could not have imagined. They never mention that Amtrak was designed to fail by a libertarian element within the Nixon administration. They never mention the success of the National Park System. They never mention our public schools which provide every student in our land with education more precious than the portion of our incomes spent on taxes. They neglect to mention the student aid programs that give middle to lower income students access to higher levels of education, allowing them social mobility. They ignore the need for centralized planning for infrastructure and defense. There are myriad federal agencies like NASA and the EPA that are paragons of success.
Limiting government is a good thing that ultimately does protect 'we the people' from tyranny. There are limits to where the argument can be taken. It is clear that protecting individuals from government led attempts to restrict civil liberties is a good thing. People should have physical freedom over their own bodies and intellectual freedom over their conscience and voice. I think even the most vigorous defenders of a strong central government stop far short of endowing that government with absolute power to control the economy or determine the destinies of the governed.
Electing libertarians to hold office is like putting atheists in the pulpit. It is like letting John Wayne Gacy and Michael Jackson open up a preschool. When it comes to operating in a modern world full of threat and famine, ecological disaster and ideological extremism, first world countries can ill-afford to have folks who don't believe in governance or who want to destroy the federal government to electoral positions within the federal government. For this reason, I believe Kentucky should reject Rand Paul's bid for the U.S. Senate.