Friday, April 12, 2013

Rand Paul's Speech at Howard University Was No Defense of Liberty

By Michael McThrow

I am an African-American and have been a libertarian for nearly eight years. Regarding Rand Paul's response to the student's statement about favoring "helpful" government, Rand Paul had the golden opportunity to articulate why "helpful" government is actually harmful and how "helpful" government can lead to the loss of liberties. For extra credit, he could have even explained how "helpful" government is often even immoral per the non-aggression principle. Somebody like Ron Paul, Walter Block, or Walter Williams would have clearly done this.

But Rand Paul blows this opportunity. His reply is in politican-speak instead of in plain English. The only harmful effects of big government programs that he mentioned in his reply is the harm to government budgets. The problem with this answer is that a non-fiscal conservative could always retort with the need for higher taxes or for deficit spending. But what about the problems of taxation to pay for such programs in the first place? Does the federal government have the constitutional authority to run these programs? (The answer is "No".) And even if it did, is it the proper role of government, anyway? What about the actual effects of these programs? Consider the combined effects of the student loan crisis and degree inflation. Consider how easy government funding contributes to rising tuition costs that make it difficult, if not impossible, for college students to work through their college careers like students in previous generations did.

And, as a libertarian, it's very disappointing to hear a "libertarian" politician say things like "it's not like I believe in having no government", or "it's not like I'm against student loans", or "I believe in a government that spends what it takes in". Now, while I don't believe that libertarians have to be anarcho-capitalists, I believe that libertarians should be at least sympathetic to the sentiments expressed by Murray Rothbard and other libertarian and anarcho-capitalist thinkers about the state being a great evil. Rand Paul doesn't seem to think this way at all. Also, just to favor balanced budgets is not enough to be a libertarian. A government that takes in $2.7 trillion and spends more than that is not small government. If the government takes in $2.7 trillion from tax revenues, that's $2.7 trillion that's forcibly extracted out of the economy and diverted to the government sector. Imagine what millions of businesses and 300 million individuals could do with that $2.7 trillion. Compare that to what the feds do with it XD. It's not enough to just favor balanced budgets; small, constitutional government and no income tax should be absolute minimums. And no libertarian politician should defend a federal role in education, period.

All and all, this entire speech not just this question-answer video, seemed more like an advertisement for the Republican Party, complete with politician-speak, and less like an explanation and a defense of libertarianism or even small-government conservatism. While Rand Paul does some good things from time to time, he is turning into a disappointment.

The above was taken from the comments.


  1. That was quite a rant over the work "helpful".
    I think Michael's idea of the work helpful is a lot different than most peoples.

  2. Black Libertarian here also. Yeah, Ron Paul would have had a better answer to the student who wanted the government to be involved. Yeah, it was an opportunity missed. But it also was the first of hopefully many engagements between Rand Paul and Black Americans. He'll have a better chance to unpack things going forward if he takes the opportunity. But for the time being, just showing up is a big step in the right direction. I'll take it.