Right Hooks

Rand Paul: Of Libertarians and Republicans

Both parties would benefit from deeper libertarian instincts.

Nate Jackson · Feb. 4, 2016

With Kentucky Senator Rand Paul’s exit from the GOP presidential race, the field loses its lone libertarian. That brings up some interesting questions: How libertarian will the Republican Party ever be? And just how libertarian is Rand Paul? The answers to both questions are very much tied together. Libertarianism, at its core, is concerned with maximum individual liberty. Reason’s Nick Gillespie and Matt Welch define the supposed “libertarian moment” (which seems to have passed, if it ever came) as “comfort with and demand for increasingly individualized and personalized options and experiences in every aspect of our lives.” But that can manifest itself across the spectrum. Some libertarians, like Paul, are pro-life and pro-traditional marriage. But others are just as adamantly the opposite. Where they agree is that there should be no coercion one way or the other. Paul’s candidacy foundered in part because other candidates agreed with his more popular positions, and libertarians should view that as at least a partial success.

Indeed, Veronique de Rugy argues, “I don’t care particularly about getting libertarian candidates elected. I do, however, care about Americans with libertarian instincts electing more pro-freedom and pro-market lawmakers like Senators Mike Lee and Rand Paul or Representatives Thomas Massie and Justin Amash. They may not consistently call themselves libertarians but they are clearly putting pressure on their Republican colleagues and pushing them to be more pro-freedom, to adopt more free-market policies, and to be embarrassed by their overspending and big-government tendencies.” Most of the conflict in the political arena happens because, for example, people who support same-sex marriage tend to think everyone should be made to agree. De Rugy is exactly right that both parties — not to mention the American people — would benefit greatly from deeper libertarian instincts.

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