Monday, July 14, 2014

If It Comes Down to Hillary Clinton vs. Rand Paul, Who Should a Libertarian Want to See Win the Election?

The above question was asked of me by Walter Block (via Michael Edelstein).

I do not believe the answer here is obvious.

If one believes as I do that the masses are far from close to embracing a libertarian society and that, therefore, any libertarian candidate, who truly desires to win an election, must move away from libertarian principle, then one must ask: Of what value will a current day "libertarian" president be for a true libertarian?

Such a candidate would, as I have pointed out here at EPJ many times, continue to move greater distances from libertarian principle over time---as Rand Paul has done.


He has recently said that he is not sure if Obamacare should be completely unraveled. SEE: OMG: Rand Paul Suddenly Unsure If Obamacare Should Be Completely Repealed.

Instead of taking a libertarian stance on foreign affairs and stating that the US should not meddle in the affairs of other nations affairs and not finance various foreign governments through foreign aid, Rand has taken a pro-Israel stance. SEE: Rand Paul Uses Neocon Rag to Flaunt His Pro-Israel Views. He has even introduced a bill that he calls "The Stand with Israel Act of 2014. SEE: BREAKING Rand Paul Introduces Stand with Israel Act of 2014.

Instead of taking a non-meddling position on Ukraine, Rand issued this statement:
We live in an interconnected world and the United States has a vital role in the stability of that world. The United States should make it abundantly clear to Russia that we expect them to honor the December 1994 Budapest Memorandum, in which the U.S., Russia, and the United Kingdom reaffirmed their commitment "to respect the independence and sovereignty and the existing borders of Ukraine." Russia should also be reminded that stability and territorial integrity go hand in hand with prosperity.-SEE: OUTRAGE Rand Paul Comes Down on the Side of Neocons on Ukraine
Rand also said that he was not in principle against the extension of unemployment benefits. SEE: Rand Paul Not Opposed to Extending Unemployment Benefits.

Things are only likely to get worse with regard to Rand's positions, the closer we get to the primaries.

One has to ask: Just what positions does Rand hold now that a libertarian should be excited about, never mind what his positions will be 18 months from now or if elected?

Some may argue that Rand is just taking non-libertarian positions now to get elected and will adopt libertarian positions once he is in office. But how realistic is this? Rand has met privately with neocon Rupert Murdoch twice (the second time for six hours), with Mark Zuckerberg and with the crony parts of Wall Street, including officials from Goldman Sachs and Carlyle Group.

None of these people play games. If they are going to back Rand, you can be sure they are very comfortable that he is going to advance their agendas. The get in office and say "Ha, ha, I am really a libertarian," doesn't work with these guys. They are thinking three steps ahead of Rand, and if they back him, it is only because they have figured out the leverage they will have on Rand to ensure what they want is front and center as part of policy in a Rand administration.

If one believes, as I do, the Gary North proposition that liberty will be advanced through individual secession, rather than revolution or action within the system (SEE: "The Secret of Liberty is Not Revolution"), then there is little to gain from the political process other than using a political platform for advancing the ideas of liberty and individual secession---the exact part of the political stage that Rand refuses to stand on. He wants to win and will throw principle to the winds. This is the exact opposite of how his father operated. (SEE:  How to Run for Office Like Ron Paul).

I would much rather see Murray Sabrin or Sean Haugh running for the presidency and getting 1% of the vote. I don't agree with all of the positions held by Sabrin and Haugh, but they are far more consistent in delivering a libertarian message than Rand.  For me, the political process should be used, if it is used at all, as a tool to get the libertarian message out, not to win. Except at a very local level, a libertarian advancing libertarian principles is not going to win. Rand has some chance of winning because he is willing to sell out on issue after issue and  muddles his message. As Roger Simon put it:
Let some candidates seek the middle. Rand Paul is comfortable in the muddle.

Some have said the junior senator from Kentucky is the most “intriguing” of the possible Republican presidential candidates for 2016.

But if he is the most intriguing, it is not because he is the most interesting. It is because it’s so hard to figure out just what he is saying.
Given the positions that Rand has taken so far that are anti-libertarian, I am not comfortable that Rand would absolutely take a libertarian position on any given issue that I can think of. Would Rand not launch a military attack somewhere "under the right circumstances"?  I do not think war under Rand presidency could be ruled out. Would Rand not institute price controls "under the right circumstances"? I do not think it can be ruled out. Remember, most of the economists under Richard Nixon did not believe in price controls, yet Nixon instituted them pretty much for show.

From the Nixon Library:
Although not a believer of mandatory government-imposed controls, [Nixon administration economist Herbert]Stein maintained that one should not allow ideological purity to stand in the way of administration objectives.
Stein wrote in his book, Presidential Economics:
[E]ven the more relaxed system [of price controls] was an embarrassment to President Nixon that he felt the need to explain that much as he disliked imposing the controls, if he didn't do it the Democrats would win the presidency and they would impose permanent controls. 
And so, if it comes down to Hillary vs. Rand, I do not believe that there is any extraordinary reason to cheer for a Rand victory. Yes, Hillary is an out and out statist, but it is far from clear that Rand, with the exception of a few marginal issues that the elite don't care about, is going to be much different. He will have to play ball with the elite and what they want. Bottom line: A Rand presidency is not going to mean an end to the Fed. In fact, I doubt Rand would go much beyond calling for an audit of the Fed, at this point. And, I see no indication that the expansive Empire would be significantly reduced under Rand, if at all.

But there is one more thing that keeps gnawing at me, when I think about a possible Rand presidency. It is what Murray Rothbard wrote about Ronald Reagan:
How did Reagan manage to pursue egregiously statist policies in the name of liberty and of "getting government off our backs?" How was he able to follow this course of deception and mendacity?...

There was no "Reagan Revolution." Any "revolution" in the direction of liberty (in Ronnie’s words "to get government off our backs") would reduce the total level of government spending. And that means reduce in absolute terms, not as proportion of the gross national product, or corrected for inflation, or anything else[...]

Creative semantics is the way in which Ronnie was able to keep his pledge never to raise taxes while raising them all the time[...]

The way Reagan-Greenspan saved Social Security is a superb paradigm of Reagan’s historical function in all areas of his realm; he acted to bail out statism and to co-opt and defuse any libertarian or quasi-libertarian opposition. The method worked brilliantly, for Social Security and other programs[...]

The Gipper deregulated nothing, abolished nothing. Instead of keeping his pledge to abolish the Departments of Energy and Education, he strengthened them, and even wound up his years in office adding a new Cabinet post, the Secretary of Veterans Affairs. Overall, the quantity and degree of government regulation of the economy was greatly increased and intensified during the Reagan years...

I am convinced that the historic function of Ronald Reagan was to co-opt, eviscerate and ultimately destroy the substantial wave of anti-governmental, and quasi-libertarian, sentiment that erupted in the U.S. during the 1970s. Did he perform this task consciously? Surely too difficult a feat for a man barely compos. No, Reagan was wheeled into performing this task by his Establishment handlers[...]
And so, my great fear is that Rand, in the mold of Reagan, will cozy up to his new Establishment handlers and at the same time suck the fire out of the anti-state, anti-big government movement, just like Reagan did. That's the last thing we want. And so, if there is going to be very limited reduction in government under a Rand administration, if any at all, then I would rather see Hillary in office. She will keep the libertarian hate for the government fueled, rather than a Rand presidency that will sucker the naive into thinking that Rand is some sort of torchbearer for liberty.

Hillary in 2016! Keep the hate going!

Let me make clear, if under some odd circumstances a true libertarian would gain the presidency and would successfully be able to significantly reduce the size of government, I would be in favor of such a presidency. However, I don't see anything like that happening anytime soon and certainly not under a Rand Paul presidency.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank.


  1. I'll play the 'I am more Rothbardian than you' card and end the debate.

    A serious Rothbard reader knows the explanation.

  2. Wouldn't it be better to have an antiwar anti-spending house majority with the Hilldebeast as president and then not pass any spending bills?

  3. Bob: Absolutely. We want gridlock.

  4. If you could abolish 50% of the income tax by pushing a button, would you push it? After all, the libertarian position is that ALL all taxation is theft. If you could eliminate 50% of EPA and OSHA regulations, but not the entire agencies, would you push the button? Or would that be a "sell out" of libertarian principle? If the odds of Hillary enacting price controls or going to war were, say, 65% but only 5% with Rand Paul, (but not zero) would you still support Hillary to "keep the hate going."? If Hillary would likely appoint Nancy Pelosi or Liz Warren to the Supreme Court (2 vacancies are coming up) and Rand would nominate Judge Napolatono, would you still go with Hillary? If Hillary would issue an executive order making the minimum wage rate $20 per hour, and Rand would issue an executive order abolishing (most) NSA data collections on Americans, would you still support Hillary? And do you really think that the great Murray Rothbard would agree with your logic and would support your positions? Think again.

  5. Bob Wenzel - I know this is all theoretical but do you actually vote and if so why?