Tuesday, September 8, 2015

A Response to Walter Block: On Rand Paul

Dear Walter,

I continue to be extraordinarily confused with regard to our debate over Rand Paul.

I have read many of your books (I have not read all of them only because you write them faster than I can read them). In your books, while mostly, but not always agreeing with you, I have noted that you have taken great care in explaining your positions. You have clearly given your positions considerable thought before putting words on paper (or on an electronic screen). And you back them up with facts and logical proofs.

But it seems when you debate about Rand, none of this careful thought exists. It is as if you have a mental block when it comes to Rand.

In your most recent comment, you write:
Evidently, neither of us wishes to go through the hard slog of comparing Rand to his 16 GOP competitors on, oh, 10-15 different issues. You asked me to do so, I returned the favor and asked you to do this. 
But, I never did such a thing.

In my initial letter to you on Rand, I wrote:
 As far as I can tell, the only position that Rand holds that is libertarian is on net neutrality, and a number of other candidates hold the same position.
Just what positions does Rand hold that you would consider so libertarian that he stands head and shoulders above the other candidates? Am I missing something?
If you could have named  ONE significant issue where Rand was head and shoulders above the other candidates, I would have been satisfied.

And then, in your response to me, you wrote:
Please allow me to turn the question around, and put the ball back on your side of the net. Please specify policies on which other GOP candidates are more libertarian than Rand. Do any of them want to audit the fed? Are any of them better than Rand on foreign policy, taxes, minimum wages, drug legalization, government spying, victimless crimes, economic regulation, free trade, environmentalism? If so, please specify which one(s) and on which issues.
There was nothing about 10-15 different issues. You asked me to specify which of the other GOP candidates are more libertarian than Rand. I responded, directly to this question:
 [I]t must be made clear, in my initial question, at no point did I state that Rand was worse than the other candidates. I just wanted to know where he was better. It seems that his positions in most cases are in line with the other candidates, except on taxes, where Rand's position is far worse than most since he has called for a value added tax.
So there, you have it. My view on Rand's positions are that he is pretty much the same as the others on most positions and worse on a very important position: taxes.  Do you believe I am wrong in holding this position. if so why?

I hasten to add that you have written that you have ranked Rand at 60 on your "own personal libertarian-o-meter," and that "no other Republican candidate gets more than a 30,"

You have also written:
I support him now, even though he is a sell out, because he’s better, way better, than the alternatives.
These are statements you have made. My question from the start has been how have you reached these opinions? If you did not compare him on issue after issue against the other GOP candidates, just what has caused you to make the supportive statements in favor of Rand.  And, btw, as far as support, you have made clear that it is serious stuff:
“Support” to me, means anything from voting for him, to rooting for him to donating money to his campaign, to writing defenses of him, etc.. Support includes all three. If I weren’t so lazy, I would do all of the above. As it is, I only do everything except the first. I regard him as the most libertarian of all the Republican candidates.
I think I have made my stand clear, Rand is worse on taxes than the other GOP candidates, and on all other issues, except net neutrality, Rand is just one man in the pack. with no differentiating libertarian positions.  Far from not being willing to compare Rand to the other candidates, I think I have made a very bold statement, he is not different. And I reject the idea that his co-sponsorship of an "Audit the Fed"  in any way qualifies Rand as having a special libertarian position. Remember, he stated that he would like to see Milton "Steady Eddie Money Printer"Friedman as head of the Federal Reserve.

And, it should be further noted that presidential candidates Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were co-sponsors of the "Audit the Fed" bill. So at best, and I am not personally a fan of the bill, Rand is, surprise, just one of the pack.

Walter, you are one of the most significant and influential leaders in the libertarian movement today. When you claim that your "own personal libertarian-o-meter" ranks Rand far above the rest of the GOP candidates, it is just terrible when you refuse to tell us why. It is a terrible example to teach young people on how to debate those that challenge us. Should we really be just fluffing off questions, without giving thoughtful answers? I know this is out of character for you. since I have published here many, many questions you have answered by those who have sent you emails.

But I just don't get your block on Rand.

Perhaps, it is as Bionic Mosquito states, that you think so magnificently of Ron Paul, as all libertarians should, that it is difficult to challenge Rand the son. This is understandable, if it is the case, though personally my support is with Ron and not Rand.

You have suggested that we "agree to disagree" on the Rand issue and that is fine with me, however, I do want to make a point with regard to your suggestion that Target Liberty readers spend their time carefully studying the positions of the candidates to see who is "most libertarian." I think it is a waste of time. They are all seeking to run the great interventionist state, rather than shut it down in any meaningful way. If there is indeed a minuscule amount of difference between these seekers of the 8 year throne, so what? We are much better off studying about liberty and how to achieve it on a personal level than waste time trying to calculate if one of the current candidates will actually come down on some minute point in a libertarian fashion. It is much better to promote the truth that these men want power, they want to rule our lives and that we shouldn't sanction their actions, much less support them--any of them.

Then newcomers to liberty can be doing important things, such as reading your books.




  1. The minuscule amount of difference can am out to hundreds of thousands of dead civilians.
    That is the strongest argument for supporting the least bad candidate.
    But maybe giving money to antiwar.com is a better way to stop mass murder by the state.

    Another reason to support a candidate would be if all the other candidates wanted to make homeschooling illegal, like in some European countries.
    You really have to thank the Christian right for that, without them indoctrination camps would be mandatory.

    1. I would agree with your statement in theory. In practice, all future actions are uncertain. So, even though candidate X advocates a certain policy, doesn't mean that it wouldn't have secondary or tertiary consequences that result in equal or greater carnage or death.

      From my standpoint, this is the limiting factor. Unless there is a GOOD candidate (not just a lesser evil one), then there is no reason to support them. Time and money should be spent on spreading the message of liberty, not supporting some politician.

      On your point about homeschooling: I suppose this would be a legitimate reason, if all other factors are equal. Since all factors are never equal, the support for homeschooling would need to be weighted against negative factors to determine the better candidate overall.

    2. I do accept the opportunity cost argument ( that's why I brought up antiwar.com).
      In my opinion I'd vote for someone who is good on homeschooling even if he is bad on a lot of other things, bc it's hard to spread libertarian ideas when the state has a monopoly on education.

  2. I supported Ron Paul not because I thought he was electable (I never thought he was) but because he was a visible ambassador of libertarianism. Rand clearly is not.

    I frankly don't understand why any libertarian would voluntarily participate in a political process that is so hostile to libertarian values. The argument that "libertarians should support the most libertarian candidate" as Block does is still legitimizing a system I despise. Why give it the facade of legitimacy it craves? Take away the theater of voting and reveal the USA for what it is... a banana republic. I'm tempted to call a libertarian who votes an "Uncle Tom libertarian"... And every member of the Libertarian Party as well (which I'm embarrassed to say I was once many years ago).

    I pay my taxes. I obey the law. I do these things because I don't consider martyrdom particularly useful. But no one is forcing me to vote (yet) and we know that voting is the single most legitimizing act the state and political class must continue to maintain its grip on power... this "democracy" so-called that never was (the defining characteristic of democracy is selecting public officials by lottery from the citizenry not by election).

    We see a continuing trend of fewer and fewer people voting to the point that Obama suggested voting should be mandatory. I believe that when voting participation falls below 50% (in 2012 it was 58% and only 54% in 2000), the Establishment will be faced with a crisis of political illegitimacy for all to see which is fine by me.

  3. If Walter makes the claim that Rand is more libertarian than the other candidates, it is up to him to meet the burden of proof to demonstrate the truth of the claim. It is a shifting of the burden of proof to ask that Bob provide evidence that the other candidates are more libertarian than Rand.

    1. Bob claimed Rand is the worst candidate.
      Walter claimed Rand is the best candidate.
      Neither of them backed their claim up with evidence.

  4. A charlatan is dangerous to us. Rothbard could root for the least bad candidate, but it was never an actual endorsement as if that tyrant represented his views. Furthermore, none were actually phonies like Rand.

  5. Wenzel (5), Block (0). Game over.