Back in the old days when Jerry Taylor was at the Cato Institute, he used to bust my chops regularly and mercilessly for the slightest tergiversation from free market orthodoxy. But as he’s a really smart guy, and because his boisterously astringent style is so much fun, I never minded being on the receiving end. Nowadays Jerry has become some kind of low grade climatista, and is plumping for a carbon tax, though I secretly wonder if he isn’t punking all of us as there is zero chance a carbon tax will ever pass. What better way to trip up the climatistas than to get them all jumped up about how Republicans will go for a carbon tax bargain. Yeah—it will be a rider to the gun control bill they’re going to vote for any day now.
Today the old acerbic Jerry returns to form with a great piece at Fox News about why Rand Paul’s campaign has collapsed, and moreover what it says about the severe limitations of libertarian politics. As he says in the lede, “The libertarian moment in American politics—foretold just last year in the New York Times magazine—is like the horizon; always retreating as we advance upon it.”
Jerry thinks that Trump accelerated the inevitable. Here are the money graphs that get down to business:
The secret of Trump’s appeal to Paul’s base is that a large segment of the “Ron Paul Revolution” leavened its libertarianism with a pony keg of crazy. Birthers, 9/11 Truthers, a wide assortment of conspiracy theorists (many of whom believe the Federal Reserve to be a modern manifestation of the Illuminati), and naked racists rivaled the number of reasonably sober libertarian-ish voters among the faithful.
Trump won their hearts by throwing even more crazy into the mix and stirring up a white, working class populism last given political life by George Wallace.
Paul let these voters down because he was disinclined to offer the distasteful dog whistles that his father traded for extremist support, much less the louder, baser appeals that are Trump’s stock-in-trade.
A “pony keg of crazy” wins the phrase of the day prize. I could add to his critique, but this is enough to provoke our readers. To be fair to Trump, though, in one place he differs sharply from the constituency that liked the Pauls: there is no hint anywhere that Trump is anti-Semitic or anti-Israel, and the elder Paul certainly is.
PAUL (Mirengoff, not Rand) adds: Taylor’s piece is well worth reading. There’s more to be said about this subject, and I may try to say some of it. Meanwhile, here is a useful piece by Benjamin Wallace-Wells called “Rand Paul and the Fizzling of America’s Libertarian Moment.”