Rand Paul isn't a libertarian, he just plays one on TV.
The spat Kentucky's junior U.S. senator had with the TSA last week ignited a flurry of news coverage on his supposed refusal of a full pat-down and subsequent confrontation with law enforcement. Paul's spokesperson said he was "detained." The TSA said he was escorted out by law enforcement. In any case, Paul booked another flight and got through security without incident.
The response has been an opportunity for libertarians to score political points, cheerleading Sen. Paul for standing up to that big bad federal government for intruding on his privacy. And the whole debacle will undoubtedly make good stump speech fodder for Ron Paul's campaign against big government regulation.
The most ironic part of this whole story? The fact that Rand Paul was actually on his way to the March For Life, where he was scheduled to speak in favor of big government regulation of women's bodies.
For two men who claim to love personal freedom and libertarian values, it's incredibly hypocritical for those same two men to oppose a woman's right to do what she wants to with her own uterus. Especially for two men who campaigned on getting government out of the lives of private citizens.
Like most others on the left, I admire Ron Paul for his advocacy of tightly regulating the fed, ending the wars and foreign occupations overseas, and ending the war on drugs in America. And on those three issues, Ron Paul is the best candidate, by far.
But as a president, whose only real power is to sign and veto legislation put on his desk by Congress, Ron Paul wouldn't be able to accomplish any of those goals. However, the current Congress would undoubtedly approve of the rest of his platform, including privatization of education, the enabling of state-level extremism, cutting Social Security and Medicare, cutting food and drug inspection, rolling back workers' safety and wage protections, and repealing clean air and water regulations.
Ron and Rand Paul dislike big government regulation that forbids logging companies from destroying national forests, laws that forbid oil companies from drilling in the habitats of protected wildlife, or statutes that keep coal companies from dumping waste in a community drinking water supply. The small government the Paul family fantasizes about is one small enough to be incapable of regulating the private sector when it intrudes in the lives of private citizens. It's a government so small that any corporate accountability would be left up to the people, in the courtrooms. And anyone suing for pollution of drinking water, deadly prescription drugs, tainted food, unsafe working conditions, wage theft or any other wrongdoing would lose every time against corporate giants in battles of attrition, using lawyers paid for with bottomless profits.
Ron and Rand Paul won the hearts of voters with rhetoric about hearkening back to the days of the founding fathers who were guided by the Constitution they had written. But the Paul family and their right-libertarian following would do well to remember that the Constitution written by founding fathers also viewed people as property and didn't allow women the right to vote.
Politicians who claim the libertarian mantle should not only oppose government intervention in Americans' lives, but should also push for policies that protect Americans from private sector oppression. And they should be equipped with enough common sense to know that throwing out the rulebook won't make a habitual rule-breaker suddenly start playing fair.