Politician Loves The Free Market Until It Affects His Constituents

Like many libertarians before him, Rand Paul is obsessed with the concept of liberty. When Paul Constant and I went to hear him speak at Town Hall last year, we heard the then-presidential candidate refer to his supporters multiple times as “lovers of liberty.” (Note: if he was being honest, he’d admit that they were actually lovers of negative liberty which is concerned with freedom from interference, but that’s not quite as catchy or alliterative).

Therefore, it comes as no surprise that a darling of non-interference like Rand Paul also worships The Free Market. A man who believes that there is no such thing as a free lunch unironically believes in an economic theory which allows one to just lie back and let an invisible hand sort out everything. From solving health care to setting interest rates, Paul has ceaselessly called upon the market to heal America’s societal ills. It is not only a great remedy to all of societies problems, it is the only one. All hail.

A perfect example of Paul’s lazy reliance on the market came when Greta Van Susteren asked him “What happens if Republicans are successful in repealing Obamacare?” Paul smugly replied, “We could try freedom for a while.” Brilliant. I guess promulgating a detailed position like that is all it takes to be identified as a “rising star” in the modern Republican Party. Why didn’t he do well in the presidential primary again?

Snark aside, you’d expect that a disciple of the free market would be utterly devoted to its forces. Predictably, however, that is not the case for Dr. Rand. Check out his recent rant about Kentucky’s dying coal industry.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the fact that he is lying. Blatantly. The coal industry is not in decline because of Obama and Clinton’s malicious quest to “kill more coal jobs” but because coal is “getting hammered by competition from natural gas made cheap by fracking, as well as the exploding solar and wind industries.

“What’s killing the coal industry is not federal regulation — it’s market forces,” claims energy analyst Richard Martin.

Oh, the irony. Very quickly, you can see the glaring problem with Paul’s position: he’s all for the market until its outcomes don’t please him — or more specifically, its effects hurt his chances of winning reelection.

His pick-and-choose attitude towards the glories of the free market show that he is nothing more than a crony ideologue who likes to wear jeans at Koch retreats. And his sins against economic freedom extend beyond the energy sector. In 2013 he voted against an amendment that would end subsidized crop “insurance” for tobacco farmers. This appeared to be a peculiar move by Paul, considering he is on record saying that in order to “unleash American agriculture” we need to “tear down the Washington machine.” His anti-free market vote becomes clearer when you realize that Senator Paul’s home state of Kentucky is the second largest producer of tobacco in the US.

Frankly, the market is an easy political prescription for conservatives to offer. It removes complexity from difficult issues and replaces it with a veneer of simplicity and credibility. But it’s a faulty prescription, a flawed attempt at solving complications. That’s why you get Rand Paul promising ridiculous and unworkable ideas—like a return to coal— rather than genuine and honest solutions. He’s promoting economic ignorance, which only makes ailing communities even sicker.

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Nick Cassella
Nick Cassella graduated from the University of St Andrews in Scotland in 2014. After graduating, he worked on the Initiative 594 campaign before joining Civic Ventures, where he now manages Civic Skunk Works' social media presence.