Rand Paul is NOT a Libertarian

Rand Paul represents the return of the Old Right.

Although the blogosphere (including all of us) has had a good time discussing libertarianism and Rand Paul, in my view it has been misplaced, because Paul’s pedigree is not libertarian.

Instead, it makes more sense to put Paul together with the Old Right.  Paul’s foreign policy views are not about prudentialism, but rather are about Robert Taft (pictured), “Mr. Republican,” who fought the Truman Doctrine and NATO, and resisted the New Deal until he died in 1953.  Ike’s triumph at the 1952 Republican Convention theoretically killed Taft’s conservatism off within the GOP, but it’s back in a big way with Paul.

Rand Paul wants to keep Guantanamo open.  He supports military commissions.  He opposes gay marriage and as far as I know, has never said anything about gay rights in other contexts.  Although he has a lot of trouble with Title II of the Civil Rights Act, he has never complained about things like parking requirements and other local land use regulations that represent perhaps the most over-regulated portion of the economy.  His father’s newsletters were shot through with racist invective.  His immigration plans include an “underground electronic fence” and helicopters monitoring the border. 

This is not a libertarian profile.  Now, maybe Paul is just a hypocrite, but it makes more sense just to make it clear where he comes from.

Author: Jonathan Zasloff

Jonathan Zasloff teaches Torts, Land Use, Environmental Law, Comparative Urban Planning Law, Legal History, and Public Policy Clinic - Land Use, the Environment and Local Government. He grew up and still lives in the San Fernando Valley, about which he remains immensely proud (to the mystification of his friends and colleagues). After graduating from Yale Law School, and while clerking for a federal appeals court judge in Boston, he decided to return to Los Angeles shortly after the January 1994 Northridge earthquake, reasoning that he would gladly risk tremors in order to avoid the average New England wind chill temperature of negative 55 degrees. Professor Zasloff has a keen interest in world politics; he holds a PhD in the history of American foreign policy from Harvard and an M.Phil. in International Relations from Cambridge University. Much of his recent work concerns the influence of lawyers and legalism in US external relations, and has published articles on these subjects in the New York University Law Review and the Yale Law Journal. More generally, his recent interests focus on the response of public institutions to social problems, and the role of ideology in framing policy responses. Professor Zasloff has long been active in state and local politics and policy. He recently co-authored an article discussing the relationship of Proposition 13 (California's landmark tax limitation initiative) and school finance reform, and served for several years as a senior policy advisor to the Speaker of California Assembly. His practice background reflects these interests: for two years, he represented welfare recipients attempting to obtain child care benefits and microbusinesses in low income areas. He then practiced for two more years at one of Los Angeles' leading public interest environmental and land use firms, challenging poorly planned development and working to expand the network of the city's urban park system. He currently serves as a member of the boards of the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (a state agency charged with purchasing and protecting open space), the Los Angeles Center for Law and Justice (the leading legal service firm for low-income clients in east Los Angeles), and Friends of Israel's Environment. Professor Zasloff's other major activity consists in explaining the Triangle Offense to his very patient wife, Kathy.

4 thoughts on “Rand Paul is NOT a Libertarian”

  1. Very interesting post!

    Before everyone piles on, I would just note that it's not Rand's fault if his dad writes racist newsletters. Who knows, maybe the son miraculously escaped it, and would be just as upset about the border if it were blondes sneaking in. Benefit of the doubt and all that? (Sure, it's a stretch, but he's new, maybe he'll surprise me.)

    As for local zoning, maybe he just hasn't had time to get around to whining about it yet. But where in the world did anyone get the idea that local zoning is too highly regulated? In LA it seems to me as if it's practically the Wild West – if you're a rich developer, that is. If you're a regular schmoe, well, then yes, you will be more likely to get stepped on. Speaking of which — everyone remember to vote for Prop. 15!!!

  2. "But where in the world did anyone get the idea that local zoning is too highly regulated? In LA it seems to me as if it’s practically the Wild West – if you’re a rich developer, that is. If you’re a regular schmoe, well, then yes, you will be more likely to get stepped on."

    That IS a description of "too highly regulated"; The mistake you're making is thinking that excessively high levels of regulation are about cracking down on everybody. No, they're about providing an opportunity for profitable selective enforcement. Sure, the well off don't get impacted so much as the regular schmoes, but they pay for that privilege.

  3. The first rule of discussions of libertarianism is that anyone under discussion will be dismissed as not really being libertarian. When someone tells me he is a libertarian, I infer from this only that he thinks his taxes should be lower. No other inference is possible from the self-identification.

  4. So, Brett, you're going to vote for Prop. 15 (public campaign financing), right? Don't forget, people! It will help Republican candidates too! Don't be afraid of it.

    Because your argument would only be fair if rich developers' money went into the general funds, rather than to campaign contributions. (And it would still be a bad idea most of the time to let them buy their way out of zoning, even if there may at times be bad regulation.)

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