At the beginning of the campaign for the Republican nomination, many thought that it was a libertarian moment in which even Rand Paul might well emerge victorious. But with tonight’s results from Indiana, the Republican Party seems poised to nominate the most illiberal candidate in its history—someone who wants to restrict trade and civil liberties and has no interest in taming the growth of the state.
The “Audit the Fed” proposal of Senator Rand Paul (R-Ky.) elicits a surprising amount of emotion, from opponents and supporters alike. Why should this be?
“Monetary policy” purposefully sounds technical and dull—you like it that way if you want to keep it the domain of supposedly objective experts who don’t want any mere politicians interfering in their elite central banking club. But money affects everybody and is an emotional topic, especially if the Fed is on purpose crushing you, as it currently is doing to savers, in order to benefit borrowers and speculators.
It is remarkable that four of the leading likely candidates to become the next President of the United States have had close relatives who were Presidents or were serious candidates for President. The dominant Democrat, Hillary Clinton, is married to Bill Clinton. On the Republican side, Jeb Bush who is perhaps a slight frontrunner, counts both his father and brother among former Presidents. Mitt Romney, the Republican nominee for President in 2012, is also the son of George Romney, a prominent candidate himself. And Rand Paul is the son of Ron Paul, a perennial candidate for President.
In a relatively meritocratic nation, how can our candidates for President have such a hereditary cast? Perhaps it just happens that, of the 200 million adults in the United States, four of the best qualified candidates are close relatives of other Presidents or presidential candidates? But there is a less happy answer: our campaign finance system provides advantages to the politically well connected and hardly anyone is as well connected as the close relatives of those who have been Presidents or have run substantial campaigns.
John McCain has pronounced on the Paul-Perry-Paul war of foreign-policy op-eds that are available here, here, and here, so let us review the bidding. To believe there are things that exceed U.S. control is to accede to an “absence of American leadership” to which all global ills are traceable. To believe other things, controllable or not, fall outside of U.S. interests is to advocate “a withdrawal to a fortress America” such as preceded World War I. Say what one will about Senator McCain, he knows how to spice up a Sunday show with stark simplicities.
Editor’s Note: This is the first of two posts that will offer contrasting opinions on the NSA electronic surveillance programs. Angelo Codevilla’s essay will appear tomorrow.
On July 24th, 2013, the United States House of Representatives defeated an amendment to the Defense Department’s Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2014 that called for greater restrictions on the National Security Agency’s ability to gather electronic information, including phone records of American citizens. Ninety-four Republicans and 111 House Democrats voted in favor of the amendment, while 134 Republicans and 83 Democrats voted against it. The amendment’s sponsors shared very little in common, other than the fact that they are both from Michigan. Republican Justin Amash, a devotee of free markets and limited government, joined forces with John Conyers, a perennial opponent of American foreign and defense policy since he was first elected to Congress in 1964.
1. The collection of citizen’s phone records is a violation of the natural rights of every man and woman in the United States, and a clear violation of the explicit language of the highest law of the land.
2. The Fourth Amendment to the Constitution shall not be construed to allow any agency of the United States Government to search the phone records of Americans without a warrant based on probable cause.
McCarthy first questions sarcastically whether people have natural rights to privacy as to their phone records (“A citizen’s “natural right” to telephone-usage records that are actually the property of third-party service providers? I wonder what Saint Augustine would have made of that.”) I am skeptical of natural rights, but putting that to the side I think McCarthy is on weak ground here. There is no reason to believe that natural rights would not apply to modern technology. That the records are the property of third party service providers is a better point. But in a world where it mattered who owned the records, perhaps people would insist on a contractual right to privacy in their records, which might change things.
There is no dictum more central to Burkean prudence than the idea that one does not establish rules for the ordinary case based on the extreme one. So why is Rand Paul, of all people, on television speculating on what the Boston marathon case might mean for a policy on the domestic use of drones?
His answer, apparently leaning more toward his presidential ambitions than his 13-hour filibuster on the topic, was that he would not have objected to the use of a drone against Dzhokhar Tsarnaev during the manhunt for the alleged Boston marathon bomber. This is being interpreted as abandoning Paul’s general objection to the use of drones against U.S. citizens on U.S. soil.