THE BLOG
09/24/2013 02:11 pm ET Updated Nov 24, 2013

Senator Rand Paul's Quixotic Quest

Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., will never be president of the United States, and his performance at a recent congressional hearing demonstrates why.

Paul asserted that since women are free to choose to have an abortion, surely all Americans should be able to decide how they utilize water, electricity, and other commonly held indispensable resources in their homes.

Paul was specifically objecting to regulations restricting the types of toilets and light bulbs to be sold to the public. That these regulations were introduced to strengthen conservation was of little consequence to Paul. He found it "insulting" to be required by government to utilize a particular type of toilet and light bulb.

Comparing abortion to conservation illustrates Paul's fatal political flaw. Abortion impacts the individual, whereas water and energy are part of the commons. Their treatment thus effects all society, creating in individuals a shared responsibility to manage the resources with prudence.

From the senator's perspective, if the government wants to promote conservation and pollution cleanup, let it do so through "verbal persuasion".

Anyone with even a smidgeon of insight into human nature knows that widespread voluntary temperance in a consumption-oriented society is not going to happen, short of some sudden calamity. To protect current and future generations from themselves, regulation of resource use to keep the availability and price at favorable sustainable levels is in order. Under threats of potential societal hardship, most Americans have always accepted that common cause trumps self-interest, even if Paul does not.

Indeed, the senator caries his libertarian ideology to such an extreme that it often approaches anarchy. He seems unable on a consistent basis to strike the necessary balance between personal freedom and an individual's collective responsibility to the greater good of society. Both of these moral imperatives have long been ingrained in the American psyche, and it's not going to change for the overwhelming majority of the country at the voting booth, despite Senator Paul's libertarian siren song. He may rail against mandated low flush toilets, but the human race cannot afford to indulge waste. Only one percent of all the water on earth is drinkable for mankind's burgeoning population, and that supply in many places has not been effectively administered.

Personal freedom is sacrosanct in our democracy, but so is one's obligation to his or her fellow citizens. It is a philosophical hurdle Senator Paul cannot overcome on his quixotic quest for higher office.

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