Thursday, September 25, 2014

The Problem with Rand Paul

By Robert Wenzel

The great economist and libertarian, Murray Rothbard, in July 1977 wrote an important essay, Do You Hate the State?

In the essay, he said:
There runs through [my book] For a New Liberty (and most of the rest of my work as well) a deep and pervasive hatred of the State and all of its works, based on the conviction that the State is the enemy of mankind.
The Noble laureate economist Friedrich Hayek, before Rothbard's essay, warned us about the state in his book, The Road to Serfdom, especially Chapter 10, which he appropriately titled, "Why the Worst Get on Top."

And I urge anyone, who is not convinced that government can become the ultimate in evil, to read R.J. Rummel's  Death By Government.  I consider this book to be the most important book ever written, for the person who wants to understand historical examples of how evil  governments can become.There is quite simply no force on earth as evil as government can be. Rummel's book drives home this point in a manner that will never, ever leave you. The book will change you.

That the United States has not, yet, become a source of widespread domestic killing may be nothing but historical accident. As the state grows in power, and it is growing rapidly in the United States, the trip wire, that could trigger great domestic evil, is moved ever closer. And before we get to that dangerous trip wire, other freedoms are slowly being taken away from us, one by one--now almost on a daily basis.

And that is why it is important to shrink the power and capabilities of government, always and in every manner.

It is because government, by definition, always suffocates freedom and creativity, and may ultimately turn into a great killer. This is why government is so dangerous.

As Rothbard put it:
 To the radical libertarian, we must take any and every opportunity to chop away at the State, whether it's to reduce or abolish a tax, a budget appropriation, or a regulatory power. And the radical libertarian is insatiable in this appetite until the State has been abolished, or – for minarchists – dwindled down to a tiny, laissez-faire role.
But Rothbard also warned:
[T]he radical libertarian is not only an abolitionist, but also refuses to think in such terms as a Four Year Plan for some sort of stately and measured procedure for reducing the State. The radical – whether he be anarchist or laissez-faire – cannot think in such terms as, e.g.: Well, the first year, we'll cut the income tax by 2%, abolish the ICC, and cut the minimum wage; the second year we'll abolish the minimum wage, cut the income tax by another 2%, and reduce welfare payments by 3%, etc. The radical cannot think in such terms, because the radical regards the State as our mortal enemy, which must be hacked away at wherever and whenever we can. 
And it is now that we turn to Rand Paul and his place in the libertarian movement. Rand is not against the state as much as he is a glorifier of the state apparatus. For example, he is not against US government adventures in the Middle East, but rather wants to see such interventions blessed by the governmental arm known as Congress.

In a Time op-ed, he wrote:
If I had been in President Obama’s shoes, I would have acted more decisively and strongly against ISIS I would have called Congress back into session—even during recess.
And, he is not really against the use of drones by government, but rather wants more government oversight of drone use. He has written:
 Surveillance drones should only be used with warrants and specific targets.
During a 2012 interview with CNN's Erin Burnett, Rand said he wants only "revenue neutral" tax changes by eliminating most tax deductions, This, of course, means only shuffling the type of taxes paid-not shrinking tax revenue.

In 2013, he told  BusinessWeek:
My budget is similar to the Penny Plan, which cuts 1 percent a year for five or six years. 
This is not a man who hates the state. He is not, as Rothbard describes the true enemy of the state, a
 Radical in the sense of being in total, root-and-branch opposition to the existing political system and to the State itself. Radical in the sense of having integrated intellectual opposition to the State with a gut hatred of its pervasive and organized system of crime and injustice. Radical in the sense of a deep commitment to the spirit of liberty and anti-statism that integrates reason and emotion, heart and soul... the radical libertarian is not only an abolitionist, but also refuses to think in such terms as a Four Year Plan for some sort of stately and measured procedure for reducing the State.
Indeed, I am not even convinced, that if pressed in the framework of political expediency, that there is any libertarian principle that Rand wouldn't sell out on. Rand is not his father, speaking truth to power. Rand is about seeking power. He can not gain power without forming very dangerous alliances with the very evil power brokers. There will not be any "Ha Ha moment,"if Rand gets elected to the presidency, where he will be able to say to the evil power elements behind the curtain, "Ha ha, I fooled you. I hate the state and I am going to strip you of your power." It is absurd to think so.

And therein lies the problem. Rand takes focus away from the hate of the state. Those who do not understand the nature of the state may see Rand as some sort of savior. He will not be. The only way the state dwindles is by more and more people, on at least a gut level, not trusting the state, and more and more people losing hope in the state. Rand, like Ronald Reagan did, drives an opposite point home. He brings false hope that somehow he will be the great state tamer, a kind of snake tamer that will tame the evil ones behind the curtains while allowing the state apparatus to be used and remain in tact. What he really does, in fact, is tame the radical revolutionary fires of individuals and redirect them toward falling in line with state procedures and policies: Warrants for drones, instead of absolute outrage over government drones. Congressional approval for overseas wars, instead of outrage over US military meddling, of any kind, overseas. Hocus pocus revenue neutral tax plans, instead of dramatic tax cuts.

Call me radical, but I don't bow before Aqua Buddha or the state. My focus will remain where Rothbard suggested it should be, on hating the state, and not on cheering on some politician who wants to douse that hate the state flame in me.

Robert Wenzel is Editor & Publisher of and author of The Fed Flunks: My Speech at the New York Federal Reserve Bank. Follow him on twitter:@wenzeleconomics


  1. Murray Rothbard enthusiastically supported Pat Buchanan. Rand Paul is not Ron Paul but he is much better than Pat Buchanan.

    1. True but is Pat really much better for liberty than Rand? I dont consider a economic nationalist drug warrior to be the friend of real liberty than Rand is. If anything is the death of libertarian anarcho-capitalism it would be pragmatism. The state and it's minions try to get a trojan horse to those who expose them for their wrongdoing. Currently that trojan horse is Rand and thankfully people like Wenzel, Kokesh see Rand for the statist that he is and expose it to as many people as they can reach.

      This is what made Ron so popular he never backed down from his positions, in the face of the attacks of both conservatives and liberals he kept chugging along. Rand is just blowing in the wind of the poll numbers

  2. In Rothbard's collection of essays, "Egalitarianism as a Revolt Against Nature", he tells the story (I'm blanking on exact details) of someone speaking to him about the button test. If you could press a button to get rid of the state immediately, would you do it? Continuing on, a true radical would get a sore finger from pressing the button over and over again.

    1. Duh, I just realized that button pressing reference is from the "Do You Hate the State Essay" which RW references above.

      One question related to this for RW and other readers - There is a state ballot question coming up in November in my state which will force employers to do something related to giving more sick time to employees or something like that. I definitely DO NOT want that bill to pass- but what is your opinion on voting on it? I generally don't vote as I don't buy into the whole system, but in this case, I don't want that bill to become law. Thoughts?

    2. Alec, You are more likely to be killed in a traffic accident driving to or from the polls than to cast a deciding vote.

  3. All true libertarians would push that button but, alas, there is no such button. Now as Robert says, we can wait until more and more people lose hope and trust in the State (then what?) but that might take two or three more lifetimes. Anyone out there have that kind of high time preference? Or, even as Rothbard acknowledged in his support of Pat B., we can support someone with good political genes who might, just might, be able to make a difference NOW. Rand or Romney or Hillary? Would Murray sit this one out? I doubt it.

  4. The sadly pathetic thing for Rand is that his neocon flip-flopping will be counterproductive. He is losing support of liberty-lovers, and there are better neocon choices out there for the neocons. He's playing a lose-lose game.

  5. The U.S. Govt hasn't mass murdered domestically? What about native Americans? What about southerners during the war over secession? Should we mention incinerating non-combatants in two japanese cities by exploiting a "scientific technological elite"? I am amazed that this claim could be said by someone who actually knows better. The U.S. Government is perhaps more psychopathic than the average. And on top of the psychopathy we must also endure the self-righteousness.

    1. My reference is to modern day America and what could likely occur. Some will grant your point about American Indians and the civil war but willargue that it couldn't happen now. My emphasis is on the fact that although it hasn't happened in the modern era (to any significant degree) doesn't me that it is not going to happen in the future.

      If you attempt to warn people that there is a danger in present day America because the US killed American Indians, you will be laughed off the reservation. And, I don't understand your point about Japan, since I am am discussing domestic state murder and regularly point out the killing done overseas by the Empire.