Monday, April 20, 2015

On Rand Paul and the Liberty Movement

By James Ostrowski

I have posted here and there about Rand Paul and his campaign and the Liberty Movement.  This is an important topic and it’s difficult to present one’s views through isolated comments on the web.

I do not support Rand Paul for President, however, I don’t support anyone else either.  I am not a philosophical non-voter or philosophical abstainer from electoral politics.  I am a pragmatist on strategy and tactics.  My problem with electoral politics is that it has rarely if ever advanced liberty in modern times.  One of the few clear examples of an election advancing liberty was Jefferson’s election in 1800 which led to a reduction in the size of the federal government in his first term.  There are hardly any clear examples after that time.

I did actively support Ron Paul’s campaigns.  His campaigns served an important educational purpose and helped grow the movement and increase the number of activists.  I was one of an extreme minority that believed that his campaigns, particularly the second one, did have a small chance of actually winning.  However, in my opinion, based on observations in real time and information that I have learned since then, it has become apparent that the campaign staff wasn’t really trying to win the second campaign!

The reason I point this out is that some of Ron’s staff will be running Rand’s campaign as well so that’s another reason I will pass on Rand’s campaign.  I am not going to attempt to prove that here but will merely present two factoids.  First, immediately prior to the New York primary, Ron Paul did not campaign in Buffalo or Rochester where he had a lot of support but rather campaigned in Ithaca, a small Democratic stronghold that contains Cornell University (Dems can’t vote in the GOP primary in NY).  Second, there appeared to be an opportunity to gain ground in Virginia where only Romney and Paul were on the ballot, however, no major effort was made to contest that critical state.  I could give other examples but that’s not the point of this article.  Feel free to prove me wrong. Nevertheless, there was still very good reason to support his campaign as he was presenting a hardcore pro-liberty message.  And I did, for example, by driving to Cornell to support his rally there.

I can’t support Rand on educational grounds because his support for libertarian ideas is mixed and he described himself as a “constitutional conservative.”  In my new book, I make a detailed argument against both conservatism and constitutionalism, so you can imagine how thrilled I would be about backing a constitutional conservative.  I am not opposed to policy changes that partially move us toward liberty but an educational campaign that has a watered-down liberty message is useless as it would involve extolling the virtues of liberty and its opposite, progressivism, as well.  What will the pupils think?

Rand has denied being a libertarian and worse yet, has described the term as an “albatross” they tried to throw around his neck.  Yikes!  As I argue in my book, I prefer the term “liberal” to “libertarian,” but Rand wasn’t playing a word game.  He was distancing himself from the concept of liberty as the highest political value, a good working definition of libertarian.  That being the case, my concern is that Rand will become an albatross around the neck of the Liberty Movement.

I pointed out recently that there are no prominent or long-time libertarians on Rand’s staff.  Yet, the media will lazily or nefariously deem him the libertarian candidate.  Thus, the message of liberty will be tainted by being presented in a half-hearted manner by GOP conservative operatives fixated on winning the next election.

None of this is meant to deny that Rand has done some good work proposing budget cuts and criticizing the national security state.  If he is elected, I will certainly support any efforts he musters in the direction of greater liberty.

That said, the biggest reason not to get involved or tangibly support his campaign is that such efforts crowd out better ideas and approaches to increasing liberty.  I have now written three books that propose detailed and workable direct action strategies to achieve liberty.  Every dollar, every hour, every calorie of energy we spend on electoral politics--which all the evidence shows is almost certainly a waste of resources--is time, money and energy that, by the law of opportunity cost, cannot be spent on direct action approaches.

Those are some of my thoughts on Rand in a summary manner.  I will continue to comment on his campaign in the coming months and will, of course, revise my views if I become aware of facts that justify such revision.  “A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.”

James Ostrowski is a trial and appellate lawyer and author from Buffalo, New York.

He is the author of Political Class Dismissed (2004), Government Schools Are Bad for Your Kids (2009) and Direct Citizen Action (2010). Presently, he is an adjunct scholar at the Ludwig von Mises Institute.

The above originally appeared at


  1. I disagree with James on avoiding political action. Education, direct action, and political action should all be part of the strategy. Rand just isn't a good candidate.

  2. I cut off all contact with every libertarian I knew from August 2011 to April 2013 because of my complete disgust with Ron Paul's decision to run as a Republican while having a campaign staff that was loaded with neocons like Trygve Olson, Mike Rothfeld and Doug Weed. In all honesty I could not listen to anything concerning the Paul family because after having followed every campaign since 1960 I saw nothing in Ron's campaigns that spoke to me of effectively running a successful campaign. What I saw and heard was a campaign that was divided against itself, and an air of cognitive dissonance.

    An honest assessment of Ron Paul's campaigns can not avoid the fact that his money bomb funding was poorly utilized, his campaign materials were amateurish, his office was loaded with neocons, he failed to use campaign stops effectively, and he flat out folded his tent in a completely dishonest manner. His last two presidential campaigns in my opinion were complete and utter frauds that were solely conducted with the aim of creating a list of willing dupes who were incapable of seeing the Paul family for it has always been. The Paul's are nothing more than a low level family that lives off the scrapes of the wealthier families in the Republican Mafia. This is one family business that knows better than to ever run a libertarian focused campaign that would upset the fascist infrastructure and soul of the well-oiled Republican syndicate.

    Rand Paul is, in my estimation, nothing more than a low level mafia don who inherited his father's list of willing dupes, and is playing the electorate for fools as long as he can profit from it. Rand's vanity will be crushed because he is seen as a weak, and vacillating princocks in a sea of vipers.

    1. "His last two presidential campaigns in my opinion were complete and utter frauds that were solely conducted with the aim of creating a list of willing dupes"

      Exactly correct. I lost so many libertarian "friends" after his '08 run for pointing out the obvious fact that his campaign was deliberately thrown, that I really began to feel like an outcast. Libertarians, as a group, are as apt to succumb to a cult of personality for their perceived leaders as are progressives or conservatives.
      It doesn't help that the premier libertarian daily commentary website, LRC, is so unabashedly devoted to that cult of personality. I'm not a fan of either of the Pauls. To me, they're both career GOP politicians, though the younger one may not end up with much of a career, due to his own immaturity and eagerness to overreach.

  3. "Every dollar, every hour, every calorie of energy we spend on electoral politics--which all the evidence shows is almost certainly a waste of resources--is time, money and energy that, by the law of opportunity cost, cannot be spent on direct action approaches."

    I agree completely. Nothing can be accomplished through electoral politics, given the absolute corruption of the process. It seems entirely possible that the American political system is in the process of collapse, and that collapse is accelerating.

  4. Bravo! It is good to read such a spirited critique of the misguided. I hope that EdD is correct about the American political system. Only time will tell.