Rand Paul recently sat with me to share some of his views. The insights on his worldview left me persuaded that he deserves to be considered the most important public intellectual serving in the United States Senate. Time Magazine calls him "the most interesting man in American politics."
The Senate's public intellectual chair has been vacant since the departure of Daniel Patrick Moynihan. As an M.D. rather than a Ph.D. Paul is less academic than was Moynihan. Yet Paul demonstrates a comparable wit, keen intelligence, and coherent worldview.
Sen. Paul works from the premise that people are more competent at solving our own (and each other’s) problems than is the government. The (sometimes) well-intended denizens of the nation’s capital have only one tool: government. Humanistic psychologist Abraham Maslow wrote in The Psychology of Science (1966) something that has been paraphrased into lore: “if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”
Little wonder, then, that Americans are feeling rather hammered by the Governmentarians. Little wonder that Governmentarians find Rand Paul baffling.
Attention DC. Here is the secret decoder ring for Rand Paul. He has a deeply held view that people are the ultimate resource. Tellingly, Paul explicitly mentioned Dr. Julian Simon, who characterized people as The Ultimate Resource, the title of a book whose second edition is described at Amazon:
Arguing that the ultimate resource is the human imagination coupled to the human spirit, Julian Simon led a vigorous challenge to conventional beliefs….
The best shorthand for Paul’s worldview might be one coined by the late Nobel Prize and Presidential Medal of Freedom winner Gary Becker: “human capital.” Calling Rand Paul a “Human Capitalist” captures him better than does “conservative” or “libertarian.”
Paul also holds that the services provided by the government consistently are mediocre. Rand Paul in his own words:
The government can’t even do a good job of something as simple as running the Post Office. How can it be expected to do a good job with something really important like educating our children?
The realization is dawning that government doesn’t work. In Silicon Valley they already get this. And they are bright enough to be asking what we can do to solve problems.
The Department of Education can’t fix our mediocre education system. But we can. Technology is making it possible for students now to access virtuoso teachers, online, wherever they may be.
The ability of people to connect with each other now is unprecedented. There might be someone on a lost tribe somewhere on an island in the Pacific Ocean with a solution to one of our big problems. We never were able to access that person before. Now, thanks to human ingenuity, we can.
The defeat of Obamacare will come from the realization that the very idea of a government-administered health care system is absurd … and by people opting out of the system and developing workarounds. For instance, there’s a surgeon in Oklahoma City who won’t take insurance and who posts his prices.
That means the patient can shop around and by doing so the competition will bring prices down. Under Obamacare, it virtually is impossible to find out the price of anything. That’s not the way to make health care affordable.
People now are unleashing themselves to go around government. Capitalism works, as communism did not, because it unleashes human creativity and capability. I am committed to bringing down the obstacles that government puts up that impair people’s ability to solve their own problems.
Eric Holder did the right thing in pushing back on civil asset forfeiture, although more needs to be done. Civil forfeiture — confiscating grandma’s house because her grandchild was caught there with $40 worth of marijuana. That is just wrong.
Julian Simon was right. People are the ultimate resource.
Paul emphasizes unleashing people’s creativity. This is gives a more optimistic emphasis than the hostility to government that many consider the primary libertarian theme. Rand Paul is more righteously indignant about than hostile to big government. This matters.
Paul’s consistent concern for the hardship the government inflicts on the marginalized is reminiscent of author Anatole France’s observation that “The law, in its majestic equality, forbids the rich as well as the poor to sleep under bridges, to beg in the streets, and to steal bread.” France, also, in The White Stone, anticipated Julian Simon and Gary Becker: “The great human asset is man himself.”
Paul, as Human Capitalist, has emerged as a major voice in the national conversation. He twice has graced the cover of Time Magazine. The first time he was presented as one of the most important 100 people in the world. Then Senate minority leader (now majority leader) Mitch McConnell wrote of him:
Spend five minutes with Rand and it’s clear he doesn’t care what you look like or where you’re from. He’s beating the bushes for anyone who prizes liberty, and he’s forcing people to rethink the Republican Party. … He’s having fun too. And that’s contagious.
The second time on the cover of Time was as “the most interesting man in American politics” wherein it was noted:
The freaks, the geeks, the oddballs–they mattered too, even here. “I tell people the Bill of Rights isn’t for the high school quarterback or the prom queen,” he said, pacing with a microphone, in blue jeans and cowboy boots he’d borrowed from his brother. “The Bill of Rights is for those who are unpopular.”
He spoke to the crowd … with the enthusiasm of a graduate student in the early rapture of ideas.
The “rapture of ideas” well captures one of Rand Paul’s defining qualities. I have interacted with hundreds of officials and political figures over 30 years. There is only one other major politician I have encountered with a similar intensity of intellectual curiosity: the late Jack Kemp. And Kemp, famously, went on to transform the world.
Rand Paul, unlike Jack Kemp, arrived in Washington with a strong intellectual foundation already in place. As recently reported in the New York Times,
Once, when Chase [Koch] introduced Mr. Paul at an event, he began by talking about how he, too, could empathize with the pressures of growing up the son of a prominent libertarian and having to read Hegel and Ludwig von Mises.
Taking the microphone, Mr. Paul joked, “But did you get to read it in English?”
Read it in English? The opaqueness of Mises is captured in the Wikipedia description of his magnum opus,Human Action,
based on praxeology, or rational investigation of human decision-making. It rejects positivism withineconomics. It defends an a priori epistemology and underpins praxeology with a foundation of methodological individualism and speculative laws of apodictic certainty.
Praxeologically or otherwise Rand Paul follows a governing principle that serves humanity well: “the ultimate resource is the human imagination coupled to the human spirit.”
Meet Rand Paul: Human Capitalist.