The Tea Party Goes to Washington, Sending Rand Paul There as Well

The Tea Party Goes to Washington

By Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY)

Published by Center Street (February 22, 2011)

Review by Tom Bowler

In The Tea Party Goes to Washington, Rand Paul celebrates the unexpected libertarian uprising that exploded onto the American political scene as a force to be reckoned with. There is a sense of giddiness. Libertarians are unaccustomed to life in the majority. In fact, it's not certain that they’ve ever been a particularly large political minority.

But now libertarians have something that they’ve never had before: a working alliance with conservatives. The foundation is a shared belief in the importance of individual liberty and the crucial role of the U.S. Constitution as the framework for securing it. With libertarians dropping their insistence on philosophical purity and conservatives lightening up on social issues, together they are a significant political force.

Modern libertarian philosophy draws on the Austrian school of economics and the writings of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek. They studied individual decision-making in matters of economics. The focus on economics made it possible for them to measure the impact of incentives on economic decision-making.

Based on their observations, they concluded that government based on liberty, free markets, and the rule of law had unintended consequences. Those consequences were the creation and distribution of the greatest amount of wealth to the largest number of people. No other system that came before could compete.

It is that lesson that fires libertarian faith in the beneficial power of free markets -- a faith that is often attacked for its purported naivete. In The Tea Party Goes to Washington, Rand Paul describes how he got a first-hand demonstration courtesy of the The Rachel Maddow Show.

He had just won the Kentucky primary for U.S. Senate and he was in big demand for media appearances. In his telling, he was sandbagged, foolish to expect fair treatment on a left-wing show. In reality, he'd already made his blunder earlier in the day on NPR when he wouldn't answer Bob Siegel, who asked if he would have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. His refusal to answer that question was astonishing, particularly in light of the media's extraordinary efforts to smear the Tea Party as racist.

Rand Paul is no racist, but he left himself wide open to the charge. His performance was not confidence inspiring, neither in his abilities as a politician nor in his readiness for prime time. He said that he abhorred racism, but that he was leery of encroachments on private property rights. It's fine, he said, to prohibit discrimination in public facilities, but he thought maybe private businesses should be free to serve people, or not, as they chose, and free to suffer the consequences of such decisions. He himself would never do business in an establishment that would deny anyone service because of their race. He expected similar decisions by millions of like-minded people would have a profoundly negative impact on businesses that discriminate.

That made him out as the very image of libertarian delusion, naively believing that market forces would have been an adequate substitute for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. It was, fortunately, not a costly mistake, since Dr. Rand Paul went on to become Senator Rand Paul in the 2010 general election. Left-wing accusations of racism didn't stick, on Senator Paul or on the Tea Party that backed him.