Should Libertarians Support Rand Paul?


Paul Supports Liberty

By Nick Hankoff

Only under some delusion would a libertarian not support Rand Paul for president. To what end and by what means a libertarian supports the Republican Senator from Kentucky is up to the individual. But to ignore Paul or support another candidate is going to be pretty difficult even for determined contrarian libertarians.

Libertarians are supposed to be happy warriors, remember? So, why are any libertarians pouting about Rand Paul’s presidential candidacy? It could also be a matter of opportunism. Ironically, success for the 2008 and 2012 Ron Paul campaigns made this possible. The movement grew to such a size that now for one to take a position against Rand Paul is inconsequential.

The most common arguments against supporting Rand Paul actually reveal how easy of a decision it is to support him.

First, we have to throw out the anti-voting sentiment. It’s fair enough that you have the right to not vote, and, indeed, it’s fair enough to exercise that right. But the fact is a libertarian can support Rand Paul in near-infinite ways which don’t include voting for him.

All other objections comes down to Rand Paul not being libertarian enough: Rand isn’t Ron, etc. This line falls flat once it’s pointed out that Ron is endorsing Rand. We no longer live in the days of muttering to each other at Denny’s once a month until November arrives for us to mark down a third-party protest vote.

The presidential election is the time when even the most removed, apathetic US Americans glance at what the heck is going on in the world. This is our chance to reach new people on the crucial issues of our time.

The top issues are foreign policy and, by consequence, civil liberties in a police state. Wouldn’t it make sense to speak to those most impacted by the worst acts of the state? This is what Rand Paul is opening up for libertarians in his outreach to blacks and the poor.

Rand’s rhetorical style makes libertarians wince at times. Take, for example, his remark about putting NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in the same prison cell. Imagine the possibility that Rand Paul’s equivocation is actually a clever bait for reestablishing the premise of the entire question. That is much more likely his aim. It’s healthy to doubt a politicians’ sincerity, but not to the point of daftness.

Too often, libertarians care more about being right than negating state power. Liberty is not about winning an argument. It’s about the absence of the state.

Only Rand Paul will rein in the bellicose US empire, bring home troops from Iraq and Afghanistan, end undeclared wars on Syria, Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia, engage with Iran, and prevent a war outbreak with Asia and Africa.

Only Rand Paul will facilitate an orderly, decentralized shutdown of the War on Drugs. Only Rand Paul will effectively abolish tethering bureaucracy and squelch crony capitalism when he doesn’t appoint any secretaries of Energy, Education, Commerce, and Housing. Only Rand Paul will veto budgets that add more crippling debt.

This doesn’t mean real libertarians must fall into lockstep with Rand Paul’s campaign. Far from it. A simple recognition of Paul for president as a valid segue to talking about liberty would suffice. Paul’s support of liberty should be enough to earn ours.

Nick Hankoff works as the news editor of He lives in Los Angeles, where he chairs the local chapter of the Republican Liberty Caucus and supports Liberty on the Rocks Los Angeles. Follow @nickpropaganda.

Don’t Vote for Rand, or Anyone Else

By James Ostrowski

EspañolWhile I admire Rand Paul’s fight against illegal NSA spying and his occasional proposal for spending cuts, I do not support Rand Paul for president. However, I don’t support anyone else either. I am not a philosophical non-voter or philosophical abstainer from electoral politics. I am a pragmatist on strategy and tactics.

My problem with electoral politics is that it has rarely, if ever, advanced liberty in modern times. One of the few clear examples of an election advancing liberty was Jefferson’s election in 1800, which led to a reduction in the size of the federal government in his first term. There are hardly any clear examples after that time.

I did actively support Ron Paul’s campaigns. His runs for president served an important educational purpose, and helped grow the movement and increase the number of activists. I can’t support Rand on educational grounds, because his support for libertarian ideas is mixed, and he has described himself as a “constitutional conservative.” In my new book, I make a detailed argument against both conservatism and constitutionalism, so you can imagine how thrilled I would be about backing a constitutional conservative.

Rand has denied being a libertarian. Worse yet, he has described the term as an “albatross” around his neck. Yikes! As I argue in my book, I prefer the term “liberal” to “libertarian,” but Rand wasn’t playing a word game.

He was distancing himself from the concept of liberty as the highest political value, a good working definition of libertarian. That being the case, my concern is that Rand will become an albatross around the neck of the Liberty Movement.

The biggest reason not to get involved, or tangibly support his campaign, is that such efforts crowd out better ideas and approaches to increasing liberty. I have now written three books that propose detailed and workable direct-action strategies to achieve liberty. Every dollar, every hour, every calorie of energy we spend on electoral politics — which all evidence shows is almost certainly a waste of resources — is time, money, and energy that by the law of opportunity cost cannot be spent on direct-action approaches.

If the Liberty Movement is to prevail, our immediate focus must be a massive “jail break” from the K-12 government schools that manufacture good little progressives much faster than we can convert them to the cause of liberty. If you are serious about liberty in your lifetime, do something about this huge problem.

Start with your own kids or grandchildren, or nieces and nephews. If you do not have children, find a good private school or homeschool group and make a small donation, so they can draw more students away from the government’s daytime juvenile detention and propaganda centers.

There are numerous other examples of effective direct citizen action in my books. Or, if you just want to have fun and accomplish nothing, go to the next Rand Paul rally.

James Ostrowski is a trial and appellate lawyer and author from Buffalo, New York. He has written a number of scholarly articles on the law and subjects ranging from drug policy to the commerce clause of the US Constitution. He is the author of Political Class Dismissed (2004), Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids (2009), and Direct Citizen Action (2010). At present, he is an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute and a columnist for Follow @JimOstrowski.

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