OCALA, Fla., June 25, 2014 — Rand Paul is still making headlines as a possible contender for the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.
The first-term U.S. Senator from Kentucky isn’t famous so much for his legislative accomplishments as he is as a libertarian icon. A voice for rigid constitutionalism which does not scare the masses, Paul is an oddity among movement activists. He is also the son of small government godfather Ron Paul, who represented an East Texas congressional district until early last year.
Rand is the first heir to a libertarian political machine with national teeth.
This comes at an opportune time. Many political forecasters are saying that the future of the American center-right belongs to libertarians; specifically those of the Ron Paul variety.
Is this the case? Regardless, would the U.S. economy fare well under strong libertarian influence?
“Libertarians are a noisy minority in the Republican party but not even close to numerous enough to take it over,” said Ian Fletcher, former senior economist at the Coalition for a Prosperous America, in 2012. Fletcher is a stalwart opponent of free trade, something that is verboten in mainstream libertarian politics.
“Love of liberty is very much in the American grain, but libertarianism is something else: a philosophical cult that is superficially attractive on first glance but ends up disappointing most people when they realize all its weird implications, from crank economics to sexual libertinism to this odd ‘we’re not racists but people should be free to discriminate’ position that Ron Paul has come under fire for,” Fletcher continued. “Libertarianism is like socialism: it attracts precocious teenagers but most people grow out of it as they get experience in real politics and see that you can’t reduce it all to one thing, not even freedom.”
Fletcher is far from alone in his skepticism.
Mark Krikorian, Executive Director of the Center for Immigration Studies, has said that the CIS “has no involvement in electoral politics,” adding, “personally, I think libertarianism is an infantile disorder, an ‘ideology’ in the worst, anti-Burkean sense of the word. That is not to say that many Americans who call themselves ‘libertarians’ share that disorder — I think the appeal of the label comes from the Republican Party’s pathetic big-government record over the past couple of decades.
“Despite the many patriotic Americans who call themselves ‘libertarians’ as a kind of protest, the ideology of libertarianISM is a post-American creed that rejects national borders and nationhood itself. Obviously, this has immigration consequences, namely that libertarianISM is inseparable from open borders.”
Jan C. Ting teaches law at Temple University, but his career has followed a path which few academics choose to tread. A former Republican U.S. Senate candidate from Delaware and a senior fellow at CIS, he served as Assistant Commissioner of the Immigration and Naturalization Service under George H.W. Bush.
In 2013, Ting said that “Rand Paul … made a clear statement of libertarian policy on March 19 before the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce when he said, ‘If you want to come to the U.S. to live and work, we will find a place for you.’
“While I don’t support that view, I do believe it is an intellectually coherent and defensible position, much preferable to President Obama’s ‘third way’ of keeping immigration limits on the books, but not enforcing them, and then giving amnesty to all the immigration violators whenever they reach critical mass, while still paying for immigration enforcement. Libertarian immigration policy would be an experiment in which I don’t think we should participate. We should not bet the republic that the results will be good. I suspect the results would be a disaster and the end of the American experiment.”