Rand Paul Hearts the Russianized Libertarian Version of the Laissez-Faire System
The reality is that Rand Paul’s beloved libertarianism can only be realized in an authoritarian oligarchy where average people lack the resources or political power to have a real say, like in Russia
Americans of all political persuasions were somewhere between horrified and mystified yesterday when Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul argued that the US shouldn’t help Ukraine gain NATO membership because, as Putin said when he started the war, Ukraine was “part of the Soviet Union.”
Seriously — check it out:
It’s easy to bash Rand Paul for being a toady for Putin:
His grandson-in-law, who was convicted of campaign fraud for crimes he committed running Paul’s campaign (and who Trump then pardoned), was just last month again charged with campaign fraud, this time for funneling massive sums of Russian money into the 2016 campaign.
Three weeks after Trump groveled before Putin in Helsinki while attacking US intelligence agencies, Rand Paul secretly flew to Moscow on Trump’s behalf and hand-delivered a private note to Putin which remains undisclosed to this day.
Just a few weeks after eight Republican lawmakers, (Shelby, Daines, Hoeven, Johnson, Kennedy, Moran, Thune, and Granger) spent the 4th of July in Moscow, Senator Paul made his own separate trip to Moscow to meet with Russian lawmakers to discuss “foreign relations.”
At that meeting, a Russian lawmaker told him he could become a real man “with a capital M” if he were to arrange some help for Russian spy Maria Butina, who’d had an affair with a wealthy associate of Paul’s.
Even the late Republican Senator John McCain thought Paul’s affection for Putin’s positions was suspicious.
When Montenegro wanted to join NATO (which requires agreement from all NATO countries including the US) Paul blocked the unanimous consent motion in the Senate.
As you can see below, McCain came right out and said, “I’ll say it again, the senator from Kentucky is now working for Vladamir Putin.”
But the political disease Rand Paul carries goes far deeper than just his affection for all things Putin and Russia. Paul is a devotee of the crackpot “libertarian” and “objectivist” theories promoted by Ayn Rand (his parents were also big fans) and others.
Libertarians don’t believe in democracy. Which may be why it’s such a popular political philosophy among nouveau riche American billionaires.
While they’ll give lip service to elections, they’ll also be the first to tell you that even representative democracy is “mob rule” and therefore should be subordinated to the “magic of the marketplace.”
Republican Senator Mike Lee also describes himself as a libertarian and actively pushed fake Trump electors from states Biden won. With total consistency, he famously tweeted:
Their argument goes something like this:
If the people can choose what they want, through referendums or elected representatives, they will always bankrupt a nation.
They’ll do this by voting to give themselves lots of free stuff, even if it means destroying the nation’s economic health.
Therefore nations must have guardrails to prevent the “rabble” from voting themselves all that free stuff.
The best of these guardrails is to allow morbidly rich people — those who have proven their brilliance, competence and wisdom by getting or inheriting riches — to control political parties and politicians through unlimited campaign financing (see: Citizens United).
If the people still demand free stuff and go around collecting signatures to raise the minimum wage, ban cruise ships from ecologically sensitive areas, or let ex-felons vote, do like Ron DeSantis did last July and sign a law banning citizen initiatives or referendums.
Libertarians think they have it all figured out. But they’re totally wrong.
As proof, just try to name even one country in the history of the entire world that has ever successfully run along libertarian lines. There are none, and never will be.
There are also no countries that have failed because of “too much democracy.”
In fact, no country in the world has ever had to dissolve itself because its citizens voted themselves “too much free stuff.”
It turns out people are practical: even the most democratic countries in the world, like the Scandinavian nations, stick to basic “freebies” that have been considered appropriate government functions since the days of ancient Greece.
These typically include healthcare, education, and publicly owned infrastructure like roads, public buildings, and fire departments.
They may raise taxes on the morbidly rich to pay for some of these things, but the result of that is a less severely unequal — and thus happier — society.
And the rich people in those countries can still accumulate more money than they could ever spend in a normal person’s lifetime.
Which brings us back to Rand Paul’s affection for Russia.
As I lay out in The Hidden History of Neoliberalism: How Reaganism Gutted America, when Milton Friedman’s “Chicago Boys” went to Russia in the early 1990s to privatize that nation’s economy, they largely hewed to libertarian ideology.
They privatized most Russian government functions, producing a bumper crop of oligarchs who run or supply everything from Moscow’s infrastructure to their social welfare programs to their military. (We’re seeing the results of that experiment in Ukraine, with Russian soldiers wearing cardboard “bulletproof vests” so the oligarchs could skim off the profits.)
The simple reality is that Rand Paul’s beloved libertarianism can only be truly realized in an authoritarian oligarchy where average people lack the resources or political power to have a meaningful say in how the state is run.
So it’s entirely possible — probable, even — that Rand Paul’s apparent love for Vladimir Putin is neither admiring nor romantic: it’s fraternal. Putin, running a semi-libertarian nation, is his brother.
In other words, Rand Paul mostly loves the Russianized libertarian version of the laissez-faire system.
And has, like his father, spent a career working to impose something like it on America.
The Hartmann Report is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.