Recently Rand has said that he’s not going to end the war on drugs. This has caused a barrage of Paul bashing by libertarians. I want to try and sway libertarians back into Paul’s camp.
Before libertarians unfollow me or bash me, let me explain what I am NOT saying: I am not saying that Rand Paul is a libertarian. I am not saying that I don’t disagree with him on ending the war on drugs. Hell, I am not even saying that I like him. When he first came onto the scene of politics, I didn’t like him. I still don’t particularly like him. However, Rand Paul doesn’t need to be a libertarian to have some decent beliefs. Nor should your entire focus be on him ending the war on drugs. Nor do you even need to LIKE him.
I want whomever is reading this to do a little thought experiment.. I want you to imagine if India had acted like many libertarians have before 1991 when economic liberalization occurred. What if Indians refused to vote for Narasimha Rao because he didn’t fully support capitalism. After all, India is still far from a capitalistic country. Rather, they are a mixed economy. They still have many regulations in place. Now make that comparison with how libertarians are acting today. Rand Paul doesn’t want to end the war on drugs, and libertarians don’t like that. That’s fine because I agree with libertarians on that. The war on drugs SHOULD be ended, but libertarians are not interested in making small steps forward. This is the mistake that libertarians make. Rather than take the incremental steps like India took for making a more liberal economy, libertarians want all or nothing. They refuse a MORE libertarian society because they want a PURE libertarian society. This is a mistake because it’s not going to happen immediately. It is a mistake because incremental steps must be taken in order to get a libertarian society. Evolution happens slowly. Ideas change slowly.
Now the libertarian might say, “well, how is Rand Paul any different from any other Republican?” That’s a good question, and is something that libertarians should ask about any Republican. Luckily, in the same piece that Reason put out to cause all of this unnecessary controversy, Reason writes that Paul wants to reduce sentences for people caught with drugs, especially the mandatory minimums which expands the criminal code to include more crimes and does away with federal parole (funny enough it’s the same author that wrote Paul wants to reform mandatory minimums that wrote the article that got everyone upset about Paul). Paul teamed up with Pat Leahy, a well known Democrat, to try and pass this bill. This wasn’t 2 or 3 years before he’s making his presidential bid. This was in March of 2013. I don’t know of many, if any, other Republican Senators are doing this.
Another thing to remember, though, is that, according to the same author that caused all of this controversy, only 214k, out of the 6.98 million people locked up overall, are in a federal prison. Out of the 214k people, roughly 100k of them are drug offenders (not necessarily nonviolent drug offenders, simply just drug offenders). If he is correct about this, that leaves more than 6.5 million people are in state jails. According to the ACLU, half of the people in state jails are nonviolent drug offenders. This is important because we see that drug reform needs to happen at a state level rather than federal level.
There is some good news. For the first time in a long time, marijuana is legal in a few states. What if libertarians had used the same kind of reasoning as they are with Paul against Massachusetts whom only legalized medicinal marijuana? Hardly any libertarian would say that it was not a step in the right direction or that it should never have even happened. The point is public opinion on many of these social issues are becoming more libertarian. Social issues and freedom are just as important as economic freedom. There is absolutely no doubt about that, but because social issues are becoming more liberalized, it may be time to pay more attention to economic issues. Paul is still fine on economic freedom. So what is the last remaining argument against Paul?
“Paul is not a libertarian!” Well, that’s a terrible argument. In that same manner, neither is Ron Paul or Gary Johnson. Libertarianism does not coincide well with politics because it is the anti-politic.
The war on drugs needs to be ended. There is no doubt about that. It wastes too much money, it causes cartels which in turn causes violence in other countries, and the mindset it creates for people who depend on government to tell them what is good and what is evil in turn creates laws that hurt innocent people. The war on drugs is a terrible, evil thing. However, if we cannot end it, we should at least take a step in the right direction. Much like India did with their liberalization policy in 1991. I don’t think any libertarian would argue that India should never have become a mixed economy simply because it wasn’t purely capitalistic. Furthermore, the drug reform on a state level is certainly just as, if not more, important than the federal level.
Paul is not perfect. However, there is no perfect libertarian. There is also no perfect politician. Libertarianism will only take hold if we make incremental steps. As catchy as a phrase might be like, “we run before we walk,” there is an even truer catch phrase that libertarians might think about adopting, “lead by example.” Libertarians like theory. This is good because so do I. However, instead of trying to hypothesize of what a libertarian society coud look like, perhaps it would be more effective in winning the hearts over of other people if we actually began to implement incremental steps to a MORE libertarian society. That way we can point to the successes of freedom and win the hearts over of all the naysayers.