2011-03-21

A conservative libertarian silver lining

Rand Paul has been a popular character in recent political discourse, if not for his outspokenness then for his views, which are most often described as "conservative" and "libertarian". He recently appeared on The Daily Show to discuss his views with Jon Stewart. If the national news reports weren't enough, I grew up and lived most of my life only a short drive from the state in which Paul now holds a senatorial seat, and so even more news about him has floated across the Ohio river and indirectly into my eyes and ears. I rarely liked what I saw and heard, until now.

Before any liberals write me off as being as "crazy" as they call Rand Paul himself, let me justify my partial change in opinion. On March 8th, 2011, I wrote on twitter.com, "Rand Paul @thedailyshow is who I thought all Republicans were 10 years ago, when I generally favored them. I was wrong on two accounts." In 140 characters or less, I was forced to be somewhat cryptic, and I'm sure this could easily be misconstrued. Here's what I meant:

I was wrong, first of all, to favor the Republicans ten years ago. I was young and stupid, and I based my political decisions on economic policy because that was the only political topic with which I felt comfortable. Even then, I favored the economic goals as spoken by the Republicans over those of the Democrats with no regard to whether and how they could achieve those goals. Not that I'm a Democrat or even a liberal now---I don't like labels, as I don't usually fit neatly into them---but I now see that the Republicans' case for lower government spending and unregulated markets was extremely weak, particularly in the face of escalating expenditures of government money and time for national defense and socially conservative values such as "pro-life" and anti-gay-marriage legislation. The dangers of poorly-regulated markets---not to say over- or under-regulated---should have already been obvious, and would soon provide the best reason in 80 years for the government to prevent lying, cheating, and stealing by those in privileged financial, economic, and political positions. Even more, they refuse to prohibit dishonest practices as they pocket some of the dirty money themselves---though admittedly Republicans aren't the only ones. It's one thing to take an unfair advantage lawfully, and another thing to use political power to create more opportunities to do so. Regardless of the efficiency of free markets, it lies squarely within the duties of governments to try to prevent lying, cheating, and stealing, and any politician who participates in or even allows it on a broad and obvious scale is not doing his or her job.

My second mistake was to, in these past few months, count Rand Paul amongst the other conservatives, Republicans, or even Tea Party members. Many liberals have called him "crazy", in talking with Jon Stewart, Rand Paul provided a clear, rational, and logical stance on the nation's politics. Sure, Paul wants to cut taxes and spending in any way possible, and de-regulate just about everything, but he's open and honest about that. Other conservatives want to cut spending, but not the military, or they want to de-regulate the markets but regulate who can get married and who can have an abortion. I don't see much dishonesty in Rand Paul; I think he's an intelligent and honest politician, if I may be permitted this seeming oxymoron, who has definitely tap-danced his way around a few topics and minced his words, but who generally says what he means and does what he promises. He's a million times more respectable and easier to watch than that train wreck, Sarah Palin. It's too bad that Rand Paul is an asshole with absolutely no sympathy for underprivileged people, because the country sorely needs more politicians who govern for their voters instead of themselves.

It's funny for me to think that I have so much respect now for someone who holds almost diametrically opposite views in so many cases. Financial regulation, food regulation, energy regulation, taxes, and [child] labor laws are just a few. Even though it's hard for me to imagine the circumstance that would induce me to vote for the guy, Rand Paul does make me think hard about choosing between an honest enemy and a dishonest ally.

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