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.

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