The Corner

A Quick Thought on Rand Paul

Though I disagree with Senator Rand Paul (R., Ky.) on many issues, I admire his intellect and his willingness to address issues that most of his colleagues are inclined to neglect, like our overburdened, expensive, and ineffective criminal justice system. Moreover, I respect how he’s managed to become an influential voice on the American right despite often holding views at odds with the conservative mainstream. But of course he’s managed this in part by fudging on a number of important issues.

For example, David A. Fahrenthold of the Washington Post has reported on how Paul’s views had shifted on Medicare. Having originally called for replacing Medicare and Social Security root-and-branch, he now pledges to leave these programs intact for current beneficiaries. That’s not unreasonable in itself. Keep in mind, however, that Paul also favors a Balanced Budget Amendment and a tax overhaul that would reduce federal revenues by $700 billion per year. How exactly does Paul expect to balance the budget? Will he leave it to the courts? Is he serious? I assume he’s not planning on disbanding the U.S. Navy or selling it to Vladimir Putin in exchange for Sakhalin or Kamchatka. Given his support for the gold standard, I’m guessing Rand Paul doesn’t want to just inflate away the debt. It would be one thing if Paul explicitly said that his “EZ Tax” plan is merely aspirational. But if so, doesn’t he owe it to us to explain how he intends to reconcile the various commitments he plans to make on the stump?

The great libertarian contribution to modern thought is the simple insight that “there ain’t no so such thing as a free lunch.” Refusing to acknowledge that tradeoffs exist won’t actually make them go away. Rand Paul of all people should appreciate that.  

Reihan Salam — Reihan Salam is executive editor of National Review and a National Review Institute policy fellow.

Most Popular


My American Dream

This morning, at 8 a.m., I did something I’ve wanted to do for as long as I can remember: I became an American. I first applied for a visa in early 2011, and since then I have slowly worked my way through the system — first as a visa-holder, then as a permanent resident (green card), and, finally, as a ... Read More

The Gun-Control Debate Could Break America

Last night, the nation witnessed what looked a lot like an extended version of the famous “two minutes hate” from George Orwell’s novel 1984. During a CNN town hall on gun control, a furious crowd of Americans jeered at two conservatives, Marco Rubio and Dana Loesch, who stood in defense of the Second ... Read More

Billy Graham: Neither Prophet nor Theologian

Asked in 1972 if he believed in miracles, Billy Graham answered: Yes, Jesus performed some and there are many "miracles around us today, including television and airplanes." Graham was no theologian. Neither was he a prophet. Jesus said "a prophet hath no honor in his own country." Prophets take adversarial ... Read More
Film & TV

Why We Can’t Have Wakanda

SPOILERS AHEAD Black Panther is a really good movie that lives up to the hype in just about every way. Surely someone at Marvel Studios had an early doubt, reading the script and thinking: “Wait, we’re going to have hundreds of African warriors in brightly colored tribal garb, using ancient weapons, ... Read More
Law & the Courts

Obstruction Confusions

In his Lawfare critique of one of my several columns about the purported obstruction case against President Trump, Gabriel Schoenfeld loses me — as I suspect he will lose others — when he says of himself, “I do not think I am Trump-deranged.” Gabe graciously expresses fondness for me, and the feeling is ... Read More