Wednesday, April 24, 2013

A message to my libertarian peers regarding Rand Paul



We just got done with a huge gun control debate in which many of you repeated the mantra that "guns don't kill people - people kill people." You rightly recognized that there is nothing inherently evil about any technology or any weapon - what matters is the purpose for which it is used.

So I'm frustrated when some of you fail to apply that same standard to drones. Those who felt betrayed by Rand Paul's recent repetition of his long-held stance that drone use may be okay in rare situations should re-watch his Senate filibuster; in it, they'll notice he used the exact same example to make the exact same point he did yesterday. The problem he was protesting in that filibuster was not the existence of drone technology, because technology itself is morally neutral. Rather, it was the lack of a transparent legal standard determining when that technology can and cannot be used, leaving the door open to future abuses. He was insisting that these standards be formed through a system of checks and balances in accordance with our constitutional rights, rather than being left to the unchecked discretion of one man. Even if you disagree that drones are ever okay, the point is that he's saying the exact same thing now that he was saying then. Put away the pitchforks.

Furthermore, should Rand or any other prolific libertarian say something else that could be interpreted as contradictory to our message in the future, perhaps it's better we give them a day to clarify before rushing to the conclusion that they're a villainous traitor. With the amount of flip-flopping that goes on in Washington, I understand suspicion about any politician, and appreciate the vigilance with which we try to keep them honest. And as marginalized as we've been for so long, I can even understand the temptation to just oppose everyone all the time - it's always easier to be a critic than it is to be criticized. But if we truly want the larger population to embrace our ideology, we'll need to support (and occasionally defend) the people trying their darnedest to bring it to them. If anyone deserves the benefit of the doubt and the opportunity to clarify their remarks, it's the members of the Paul family. Rand has been taking the Republican party by storm for months, saying everything right, and attracting a massive independent fan base. He is the best hope our party has ever had for actual political improvements. By all means keep him honest - but please treat him fairly too.

2 comments:

  1. "Furthermore, should Rand or any other prolific libertarian say something else that could be interpreted as contradictory to our message in the future, perhaps it's better we give them a day to clarify before rushing to the conclusion that they're a villainous traitor."

    Good advice. Do you think you followed it in your reaction to Steve Landsburg's post, which we've been arguing about?

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    1. It's a very fair comparison, and I've already admitted I may have been too harsh on Landsburg (in my first response to your first comment on that entry). I particularly recant the final paragraph of that post. With that said, there are also some relevant differences between the two cases.

      Firstly, I said "give them a day to clarify." Rand Paul had his interview on Monday, and he was skewered by libertarians on Tuesday. Landsburg wrote his blog entry on March 20th, and I wrote my reaction on April 5th. Landsburg had had two weeks to clarify it by the time I read it, but at the time I wrote my post, he hadn't yet done so (coincidentally, he did do so later that day). Because of the media attention I'd already seen from weeks before, I thought this was old news I was catching up on, rather than a breaking story on which the dust was waiting to settle.

      Secondly, as it relates to political strategy, Rand Paul is more strategically important for the libertarian movement than is the lesser known Steven Landsburg. Obviously, just because Landsburg is not famous among the electorate and not running for office does not mean his reputation can be slandered. However, it does mean that public perception of him as an individual is less important for the libertarian movement than it is to remove any and all doubt that libertarians are opposed to rape of any kind. Since he hadn't done that by the time I read his blog, I felt compelled to do it myself.

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