Monday, January 27, 2014

Rand Paul’s Paleolibertarian Patrimony

Dave Swindle used to repeatedly warn against backing Rand Paul, arguing that he was a carbon copy of his father Ron. See, for example, "The One Question Conservative Rand Paul Supporters Need to Answer," and "Was Sarah Palin Snookered Into Endorsing a Stealth Anti-Israel Candidate?"

But I thought he gave a great speech to the Heritage Foundation last year, and I've mentioned my possible support for a Rand Paul presidential bid in 2016. As always, the proof will be how genuine his views turn out to be. That being said, you know hard-left outlets like the New York Times would love to destroy him, so take this exegesis of Paul's ideological "patrimony" with the usual grain of salt.

See, "Rand Paul’s Mixed Inheritance":
As Rand Paul test-markets a presidential candidacy and tries to broaden his appeal, he is also trying to take libertarianism, an ideology long on the fringes of American politics, into the mainstream. Midway through his freshman term, he has become a prominent voice in Washington’s biggest debates — on government surveillance, spending and Middle East policy.

In the months since he commanded national attention and bipartisan praise for his 13-hour filibuster against the Obama administration’s drone strike program, Mr. Paul has impressed Republican leaders with his staying power, in part because of the stumbles of potential rivals and despite some of his own.

“Senator Paul is a credible national candidate,” said Mitt Romney, who ran for president as the consummate insider in 2012. “He has tapped into the growing sentiment that government has become too large and too intrusive.” In an email, Mr. Romney added that the votes and dollars Mr. Paul would attract from his father’s supporters could help make him “a serious contender for the Republican nomination.”

But if Mr. Paul reaps the benefits of his father’s name and history, he also must contend with the burdens of that patrimony. And as he has become a politician in his own right and now tours the circuit of early primary states, Mr. Paul has been calibrating how fully he embraces some libertarian precepts.

“I want to be judged by who I am, not by a relationship,” Mr. Paul, a self-described libertarian Republican, said in an interview last week. “I have wanted to develop my own way, and my own, I guess, connections to other intellectual movements myself when I came to Washington.”

Coming of age in America’s first family of libertarianism — he calls his father, a three-time presidential aspirant, “my hero” — Rand Paul was steeped in a narrow, rightward strain of the ideology, according to interviews, documents, and a review of speeches, articles and books.

Some of its adherents have formulated provocative theories on race, class and American history, and routinely voice beliefs that go far beyond the antiwar, anti-big-government, pro-civil-liberties message of the broader movement that has attracted legions of college students, Silicon Valley entrepreneurs and Tea Party activists.

That worldview, often called “paleolibertarianism,” emerges from the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Alabama, started with money raised by the senior Mr. Paul. It is named for the Austrian émigré who became an intellectual godfather of modern libertarian economic thinking, devoted to an unrestricted free market.

Some scholars affiliated with the Mises Institute have combined dark biblical prophecy with apocalyptic warnings that the nation is plunging toward economic collapse and cultural ruin. Others have championed the Confederacy. One economist, while faulting slavery because it was involuntary, suggested in an interview that the daily life of the enslaved was “not so bad — you pick cotton and sing songs.”

Mr. Paul says he abhors racism, has never visited the institute and should not have to answer for the more extreme views of all of those in the libertarian orbit.

“If you were to say to someone, ‘Well, you’re a conservative Republican or you are a Christian conservative Republican, does that mean that you think when the earthquake happened in Haiti that was God’s punishment for homosexuality?’ Well, no,” he said in an earlier interview. “It loses its sense of proportion if you have to go through and defend every single person about whom someone says is associated with you.”

Still, his 2011 book, “The Tea Party Goes to Washington,” praises some institute scholars, recommending their work and the institute website.

And he has sometimes touched on themes far from the mainstream. He has cautioned in the past of a plan to create a North American Union with a single currency for the United States, Mexico and Canada, and a stealth United Nations campaign to confiscate civilian handguns. He has repeatedly referred to the “tyranny” of the federal government.

Since becoming a national figure, Mr. Paul has generally stayed on safer ground. His denunciations of government intrusion on Americans’ privacy have been joined by lawmakers in both parties and have resonated with the public — though no other member of Congress as yet has joined him in his planned class-action suit against the National Security Agency.

He has renounced many of the isolationist tenets central to libertarianism, backed away from his longstanding objections to parts of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and teamed with members of the Congressional Black Caucus in calling for an easing of drug-sentencing laws. He recently unveiled a plan for investment in distressed inner cities.

Much of that is in keeping with the left-right alliance Mr. Paul promotes, an alternative to what he dismisses as a “mushy middle.” Such partnerships, he says, “include people who firmly do believe in the same things, that happen to serve in different parties.”

In recent months, potential rivals for leadership of the Republican Party have depicted him as an extremist. Before the recent investigations into political abuses by his administration, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey said Mr. Paul’s “strain of libertarianism” was “very dangerous.” And Senator Ted Cruz of Texas told donors in New York that in a national campaign Mr. Paul could not escape Ron Paul’s ideological history.

Mr. Paul is not the first political son encumbered by a father’s legacy, but his mantle is unusually heavy. He has been his father’s apprentice, aide, surrogate and, finally, successor. Side-by-side portraits of father and son adorn one wall in his Senate conference room...
Still more at the link. The piece goes into some detail on the "fringe" paleos like Lew Rockwell (who had a thing for Cindy Sheehan sometime back) and Murray Rothbard. And it mentions how Rand, right before announcing his run for office in 2009, he appeared on nutjob Alex Jones' radio program. There's a lot of unsavory conspiracists and racists in those swamps, and frankly, just being Rand Paul he may never fully escape them.