Over at Reason’s Hit & Run blog, editor Brian Doherty takes exception to my case against Rand Paul. My real motivation for opposing Mr. Paul’s candidacy, he says, has less to do with his wild conspiracy theories and a lot more with my supposed aversion toward limited government.
It is assumed, without a hint of skepticism, that, because I support the war in Afghanistan, I must necessarily also be opposed to his libertarian aims of small government, reducing the deficit, and returning to constitutional originalism. We diverge on a single point, so I’m pocketed into a narrow, affixed category that he can comfortably dismiss.
This is exactly the kind of ideological rigidity that the likes of Mises, Hayek, and Sowell warn against. Despite the thoughtless caricatures that emerge of David Frum and those who choose to ally with him, Olympia Snowe is not my style. When it comes to governance, men like Chris Christie represent what I’m looking for. He’s the kind of man who would stomp out the door if someone like Alex Jones or Lew Rockwell tried to hijack the bureaucracy-slashing mission he’s on. But the truth about the Pauls, unfortunately, is that what Alex Jones is doing does not represent a hijacking: the Pauls are more than happy to sit back, crack a bottle, and chat about tax policy with 9/11 Truthers.
The assertion that I believe that anyone who conspicuously supports Constitutional originalism should be lumped in with Jones is a strange conflation of two different objections that I take to Rand Paul’s candidacy. The first is his aversion toward pragmatism; the second, his alliance with 9/11 Truthers. When blended together, they amount to crude invective: ‘Knepper thinks Constitutionalists are like 9/11 Truthers!’ As an admirer of the judicial philosophies of Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., and Robert Bork, I find this an odd assertion. But I call the Pauls conspiracy theorists not because they support the Constitution, but, well, because they’re conspiracy theorists. (Doherty doesn’t say a word about the Pauls’ belief in the coming of the North American Union.)
Finally, the qualms I express against those who oppose our current wars are not so rigid as Doherty would make it out to be. Those who opposed the war for respectable, prudent reasons — such as William F. Buckley, for instance — retain my respect. The Pauls are motivated not by prudence, but by ideology. They firmly hold onto the notion that America is an oppressive global empire whose influence harms the world, and seem to have forgotten that we have a very good reason to be in Afghanistan — so good, in fact, that Ron Paul himself voted to go to war! The breathless assertion that I — and Frum — are drunk on some notion of “endless war” is pejorative masquerading as analysis. I, like Mr. Doherty, one would imagine, support wars that I feel are necessary. Let’s argue over that. (To preempt the logically-worthless ‘chicken-hawk’ attack, I should note that I also support the notion of firefighters putting out fires: am I obligated too to volunteer at my local station?)
The Pauls are doing libertarians no favors. They’ve spent their time on the national stage doing little but reinforcing every negative stereotype about libertarian thought. Doherty himself, in his wonderful history of the movement, Radicals for Capitalism, has proven that it need not be this way. I haven’t the faintest idea why he wants to grant so much legitimacy to the worst factions of his ideology.