Rand Paul will be the Republican candidate for president in 2016. He is well-known, partly because of his father's notoriety. People have a generally good opinion of him. His public statements are frequently rational and appeal to libertarians on the right and the left. Most importantly, the Koch Brothers, billionaire backers of regressive candidates and causes, claim to be libertarians and will be eager to back a candidate who also claims to be libertarian.
Libertarian politics are not a new idea. Nearly 300 years ago, philosophers and politicians in Europe began preaching that the government oppresses the individual. In order to be truly free, they argued, an individual must be free from any governmental coercion whatsoever. Libertarians of that time advocated freedom from the church as well as the state, since in Europe church and state were often one and the same.
Above all, these early libertarians advocated freedom from oppression by an aristocracy. The aristocracy in Europe held hereditary positions and wealth. The common people could not get those things in the ordinary course of events. Therefore, libertarians like Thomas Paine argued for the abolition of aristocracy and a government that would be responsive to the people.
Times change. We do have a hereditary aristocracy now in this country. The children of the rich eat better food, wear better clothes, go to better schools, and live a better life than the children of the poor. This aristocratic system is far from the one that patriots like Paine sought to install when they called for a rebellion against England. The Americans abolished hereditary titles, but they did not establish a system that guaranteed equal access to wealth for all.
Libertarians like Thomas Paine rebelled not only against the government, but also against church and the wealthy. Libertarians like Paul would like us to forget that. They consider the government alone to be the enemy of the individual, not the social structure that supports the government. In recent years, the government has become the strongest support for the poor and elderly. Cutting government programs frequently means taking bread away from poor children and comfort away from the elderly and infirm.
Rand Paul advocates freedom, but only in a general sense. He never explains what freedoms he endorses and what may be the end result of these freedoms. He has said that a private business should have the freedom to refuse service to a minority member. The end result of this freedom would be a restitution of the segregation laws that kept black Americans from enjoying their constitutional rights for more than a century.
Paul says he is proud to be a Republican because Republicans in Kentucky abolished the Jim Crow system there. Those Republicans may have done so, but starting in 1964 the Democrats in the South began changing allegiance to the Republican party. The map of the electoral votes shows that the states that were solidly Democratic in the 1950s are solidly Republican now.
Paul and his fellow Republicans would like the rest of us to forget that the federal government provides solace to millions and prevents the wealthy from riding rough-shod over the disadvantaged. Paul will likely be the Republican candidate for president in 2016. His presidency will further deepen the divisions that beset the country. Paul has no solutions to offer for healing these divisions. Instead, he offers slogans, half-truths, and an inflexible philosophy.