Rand Paul

An Empty Response

“We will begin to thrive again when we begin to believe in ourselves again.” The statement sounds like the opening line to a bad self-help book. Not bad because it is targeted at a small demographic struggling with self-esteem, but bad because it is generalized and marketed to a broad audience whose only real problem is that they already believe in themselves a little too much. But confirming what people want to hear is a lucrative business, which is probably why Rand Paul used the above statement in his State of the Union Response.

Paul’s response mirrors the errors of contemporary “conservatism” by confusing the end and means. The way the Senator talks, it seems that the free market and economic growth are the end, and anyone or anything that stands in their way is expendable.

Senator Paul says that he wants you to “have something infinitely more valuable than a free phone.” Instead, he wants “you to have a job.” But for what cause? Is a job the end goal? We used to speak of creating jobs as a means to support your family, to provide, to give for your children. Now, however, family is less important, and it is less important because it less common. Without the family we are reduced to creating jobs for the sake of jobs. Most would rather have the phone.

The free market is a means to an end. Because the end is fading away, contemporary “conservatives” have responded by trying to preserve the means. Most rank and file, and to his credit, probably Senator Paul, don’t realize what they are doing. That doesn’t change the fact that they are taking us down the road of materialism, which we will soon discover is just a detour on the road to serfdom.

Senator Paul claimed that, “Our party is the party of growth, jobs and prosperity, and we will boldly lead on these issues.” Indeed we should lead on these issues, but those ideals need clarification. What are we growing towards? What are we working towards? What is prosperity? If the answer to these questions is merely material then we have already lost.

Paul further shows the lapse of “conservative” thinking when he talks about immigrants as “assets.” Thankfully, we are no longer like our ignorant ancestors who limited immigration in the name preserving national values. Now, in our progressive state of mind, we make those decisions in the name of how it will affect our material well-being. Paul declares that,  “We must be the party that says, ‘If you want to work, if you want to be an American, we welcome you.” Paul may not be conscious of it, but no doubt his intellectual and political heirs will be all to willing to erase the lines “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses, yearning to be free” and substitute lines more appropriate for their brave new world: “Give me your educated, your able, yearning to produce.”

Senator Rubio’s response made some of the same errors, including on immigration, but at least Rubio’s speech still had some shadow of the old ideals. Rubio spoke of the moral breakdown that can only be solved by our families and our faiths, and that we want to grow our economy in the name of our children, so that they may live in a better world.

brianmillerThe Republican Party has lost its soul, and that fact is not easy for this unrepentant old Whig to admit. Conservatism used to be grounded in the belief that men are imperfect. Now, we think that we just have to “believe in ourselves.” Now we believe that man is basically good, and that we can solve all his problems and make him better by just getting government out of the way. However, as the Libertarians are always so quick to point out, it is frightening the lengths that men will go to if they believe they can make men better. They will make bare the state in the name of growth, they will tear down the family in the name of jobs, and when they have lost sight of all the old ideals they will sacrifice anything at the alter of the market. That is the only logical conclusion of a platform based solely on material ends. Our only hope is to stop believing in ourselves, and realize there is no hope for man in man.

Put the feel-good, best-selling, self-help book back on the shelf. Much better books have been written.

Brian Miller | George Mason University College of Law | @BrianKenMiller

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5 Responses

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  1. B. Will
    Feb 25, 2013 - 07:04 PM

    Very good piece. Most sobering and thoughtful. And even Rushlau made good points! Miracles never cease (though the rifle anecdote was a bit corny but so what?).

  2. Tionico
    Feb 25, 2013 - 04:35 PM

    Mr. Miller, it is indeed good to see some of the coming generation weighing such matters. I appreciate your concern,nand the attempt to get down to some usable roots. But I fear you are wide of the mark. Yes, a return to induvudual responsibility, and “our faiths”, as you put it, would be a good direction. Having watched Sen Paul fairly closely as he has come on, and functioned in, the public scene, I ahve seen two linked, and very encouraging root values, ones he is always pressing. First, is to push back on a runaway government, and second, is to champion individual liberty TOGETHER WITH individual responsibility. He understands that someone excited about her free phone from the government is a part of what brings us all down. a freeloader. He further, and more importanly understands that until individuals rise up and shoulder their own responsibility to care for themselves and those with them, we will never climb out of the fiscal or nanny state political holes in which we find ourselves. The goal one has in view to motivate him toward responsibility does not matter, and is not his job. I’d like you to consider the possibility that the reason family is so rare these days might just be because of our present financial hole… HOW is a man to feed his family if he should desire to start one? I am in this dimella myself, and know many families wracked by uncertainty in the turndown. We, as a nation, waste so much of our substance on fluff, corruption, useless and obnoxious nannying (there’s that word again) there is little capital left for growth. Its al being dead ended into government boondoggles and expansion. (WHY oh why do we need to spend billions to build a huge facility and maintain thousands of overpaid public trough sloppers to listen to and record our every scrap of communication? or maintain an army of obnoxious, corrupt, goons that poke, prod, inspect, and molest us as we go about our business in getting from hence to thence, under the guise of “transportation security”? You get my drift.. Paul is at war against such insanity. Never mind what YOU or HE might do when the fetters come off and we are once again at liberty, the ones identified and guaranteed for us in our COnstitution. Throw off the fetters and walk free again.. when each rise up and take upon their own shoulders their personal responsibility, and refuse to allow others to “care for” him when he should care for himself and his, we will crawl up out of this hole. Once out, each of us will easily be able to figure out what we should be about. The War of Independence was fought on the principle that “we always were able to decide how to live for ourselves, they had a mind that we wouldn’t”. The collective, or central planning, have no more place deciding WHY I should be free than deciding WHETHER I should be. Each of us will find our own motivation once there is hope we can identify a goal, and actually move toward it with some measure of liberty, a measure now, in the main, severely limited. Why bother building an empire when Uncle Stupid will end up with it? FedGov now appears to be maneouvring to coopt the personal retirement accounts of millions. Doesn’t that make you want to go out and open your own new personal IRA? Not me.. I’ll keep buying silver.. and copper, and brass, and lead…… I remember what Luther Blanchard, a 16 year old member of the militia, heard early the morning of Lexington and Concord. His mother entered his bedroom and shook him awake, saying “the Regulars are coming, and something must be done”. I’d change that a tad for today, and say it to all of us: the regulators are coming, and something must be done”. Never mind what we’ll do when they’re run off or “eliminated”. Something must be done. Paul sees that clearly, as does Rubio, and yourself. This is good. Let us band together into the same “militia” if ideas and cooperation, and run them off. THEN we’ll see about tomorrow. They’re coming today, and is “something” is not “done”, tomorrow will be very bleak indeed.

  3. Sarge
    Feb 25, 2013 - 02:53 PM

    I doubt that they told you that you are “smarter than that rifle”. Most likely they told you they were going to “make you” smarter than that rifle.

  4. Christopher Rushlau
    Feb 21, 2013 - 07:20 PM

    I would interject, before I go back to reading, that the road to serfdom via materialism also gets there via willing self-deception, idolatry, which is what materialism amounts to. As they told us in Army basic training once, “You’re smarter than that rifle.”
    Now, then. Your definition of conservatism finally distinguishes it from Liberalism, although I’m afraid Whigs, and not Tories, were the first Liberals, back around 1800 or so. Who wants to call herself an old Tory these days? I don’t even know where that word comes from.
    But you can’t escape into piety, full stop. You have to explain how a belief that, to quote my crusty old uncle once upon a time, “there is something bigger” (Jesuits: deus semper maior: “God is always greater”; Muslims: allahu akbar: “God is greater”) relates to social existence. I would say–speaking of horror-shows–there can be no concept of law without such a belief. When law itself becomes an idol, the judge is always right, even when she contradicts herself within one sentence.
    I would press the resolution in the social experience itself. When we talk well with each other, we meet these problems and solve them.
    But you’re right, the start and finish of it, the alpha and omega, is in the personal encounter with the ultimate. Denial of that is the root of all self-deception and social disorder.

  5. Rick LaPlante
    Feb 21, 2013 - 05:17 PM

    Whether man is good OR evil, we can make him better (aka allow him to grow and improve) by not so rigorously immunizing him from any consequences of his own actions. And that is the main thing that this current mutation of our federated repubic is doing.


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