Rand Paul Speaks on Culture of Dependency, Hemp and the Farm Bill, the Racial Aspect of Drug War, and the Burdens of Being a Libertarian Poster Boy

I chatted with Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) this morning via phone
about his
State of the Union response
, the farm bill, and
bearing the burden
of presumed political spokesman for all

speech last night
, released independently via the Internet
rather than being an official Republican or even “Tea Party”
branded response, stressed a theme that hasn’t been a particularly
big deal in American politics since the Reagan years–and indeed
Paul summoned Reagan’s spirit right at the start.

That’s the dangers of a culture of dependency, how government
efforts to supposedly help can trap the poor while ignoring the
real, free-market ways of lifting people up the economic ladder.
(And it is worth noting, and you’ll read more about this from
Ronald Bailey in the forthcoming April issue of Reason
[subscribe now!]
that American economic mobility has
not actually been particularly worse lately

“People feel trapped and it’s not their fault, the government
doesn’t provide them an exit,” Paul said. “They don’t have an easy
way to get out of dependency and if we are trying to fight long
term dependency or long term unemployment we have to figure a way
out. And that has to be the creation of a vast numbers of

Paul believes that government attempts to target its (really,
our) money to the places where jobs can or should be
created will tend to be ill-aimed. “The marketplace sorts through
 who are the good job creators,” Paul says, through a process
of creative destruction that weeds out many, many failures.

So it’s better, Paul says, to “give money back in the form of
tax reductions” since “the marketplace, consumers have already
voted who are the good job creators” rather than funnelling money
to Washington to take its skim and than back to local communities
in the hopes good things happen. That generally just leads to
cronyism and government trying to shape outcomes it, rather than
consumers and citizens, choose.

Paul in his SOTU response sounded very Reaganesque when he told
the story of Star Parker, a former welfare user–welfare abuser, in
her own telling–who decided to eschew dependency on government and
became a successful writer, pundit, and even congressional
candidate. She is black, and Paul has talked in the past of the
importance of the Republicans
reaching out to black constituencies
. Does he think talking
“culture of dependence” can help with that?

“I think the message has to be there is a way out,” Paul says.
“People who have been on welfare are not bad people, they are not
wanting to be there” so Republicans need to promote “a way to get
out from under that and into the middle class. It is a message you
haven’t necessarily heard from Republicans,” Paul says. “It’s not
that anyone is condemning anyone for being poor, but we have to
have a debate” about the best ways to lift people from poverty,
rather than “saying ‘Hey, we are Democrats and we are against
poverty, we are the Party to go for if you want alleviation of

“They had a chance in Detroit and Detroit is a disaster,” Paul
says. “For many years [Democratic policies] have run many cities”
and those policies “aren’t good for cities and aren’t good for the

Given that he said in his SOTU response that “I believe in an
America with a strong safety net,” what are more specifics about
the sort of government aid programs that need to be changed,
curtailed, or killed?

“There needs to be a gateway back into the job market,” Paul
says. “Things that are permanent need to be made temporary, things
that are duplicative need to be gotten rid of.” And his vision of a
basic safety net from government, Paul says, “should be closer to
home, state vs. federal” and should be “transitional to getting
into the work force, not lifelong or even, many times,

Thus, Paul along with Sen. Mitch McConnell last month introduced
his “Economic
Freedom Zones” Act
which would lower tax and regulatory burdens
in areas that are particularly economically troubled,
with Detroit
as his leading example of an area that could use
it. How’s that going politically?

“It’s tough,” Paul says. His colleagues from Michigan, Paul
says, even though his plan would likely leave $1.3 billion in the
Detroit economy, aren’t showing much interest in the plan. “We are
at odds. Democrats tend to believe midnight basketball or
afterschool programs or education grants” will be enough to ensure
that “jobs will be better, and they tend not to understand money
needs to get back in the hands of people in private marketplace,”
especially “those already voted upon by consumers as succeeding in

The farm bill up for consideration this week has a provision to
limited experimentation with hemp
, a cause
dear to Paul’s heart
. What’s he think of that?

“It’s a step in the right direction,” Paul says. His own state
of Kentucky has “tried to normalize and regulate hemp, let farmers
do it. But people are still worried about getting prosecuted by the
federal government,” so he’s “afraid we have not as ambitious a
program” as he’d like. “l have
to completely legalize [industrial] hemp across
America” and he’s asked the attorney general’s office to issue a
letter saying that they officially will not federally prosecute
people on state level farming industrial hemp.

As for the farm bill as a whole, “it’s hard to vote for a bill
with $800 billion of food stamps, even with belief in some safety
net, it’s not a belief in a safety net that goes on and on and is
not paid for by corresponding cuts somewhere else.”

Obama avoided the drug issue in his SOTU, though he’s publicly
mellowed considerably on the issue. Do the changing politics of the
issue allow Paul to openly advocate things like full legalization
or targeting the DEA as a government agency we could do without for
fiscal sanity reasons?

He didn’t address that issue specifically–perhaps as part of
his general lack of desire to be the public spokesman for radical
libertarianism that some want him to be, more on which below–but
did say that we need to “acknowledge the war on drugs had a racial
outcome, it may be inadvertent but it’s hard to argue there hasn’t
been a racial outcome with three out of four in jail for
non-violent drug crimes being black or brown.”

“My goal,” Paul says, has been “to figure out a way to get rid
of that racial outcome” and stress that “penalties have been too
harsh for nonviolent crimes.” He’s trying to “do everything I can
to lessen mandatory minimums and allow people to have rights
restored” if imprisoned for non violent drug crimes, so he’s chosen
to stress “the criminal justice angle rather than the legalization

Many reporters try to press Paul to publicly speak up for purist
libertarian stances, as I did, as CNN tried about the minimum wage
last night
, or to link everything any libertarian has ever said
about anything to Paul, as the New York Times tried in its

big profile on him Sunday

“I’ve got half the libertarians on the Internet beating up on me
for not being pure enough,” Paul says, “and the rest of the
mainstream beating up on me for being too libertarian. It’s a box
they put me in.”

“But I’m in the business of trying to advance a philosophy and
advance an economic program that’s better for the country. And I’m
also in the business of winning elections and trying to convince
people to come in the direction of smaller government and more
individual liberty,” Paul says. “I sometimes wish for a little more
forebearance among the purists, but I’m trying to do the best I can
to advance a philosophy and program that is more individual liberty
for everyone and is pulling in the direction of what some of the
purists might want” even if they “might not see it as pure as
they’d like.”

from Hit & Run http://ift.tt/1b62PWM

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