That a man Paul’s age can have such a simplistic view of the universe surely disqualifies him from being president. That he has the audacity to boast of having learned almost nothing in his many decades on this planet is breathtaking. It clearly tells us that he does not have the flexibility to deal with chief executive level uncertainties.
Nonetheless Paul may not really want to be president. As others have suggested, his real goal may be to spark a social movement. He may be satisfied if he can make libertarianism more respectable. If so, he may serve an important political purpose.
Libertarianism is much too simple-minded for my tastes. It purports to explain most of the problems confronting us with a few timeless propositions. Whatever the difficulty, it deduces the answers from a limited set of axioms.
Mind you, I agree with the libertarians about the pivotal importance of freedom and the need to defend the integrity of the marketplace and the constitution. I, however, believe in learning from experience—which sometimes indicates that theory must be modified by reality.
This said, I am beginning to understand that Paul’s crusade may have long-term benefits. His adolescent posturing turns off most people my age, but adolescents, and those only shortly removed from adolescence, are inspired by it. For them, he is a pied piper who is playing an irresistible tune.
Obviously, the young have little experience with the real world. Perhaps, less obviously, most experience a reasonable anxiety when they contemplate their futures. If one does not know why many things happen as they do, an uncertainty regarding what constitutes the best choices is sensible.
As a result, the young are attracted to answers they can get their minds around. Simplified ideologies of the sort Paul peddles provide this kind of certitude. They are easily understood and purport to explain everything one might want to know. This is dangerous for those who must make responsible decisions, but it is a useful starting point for those who have the time to learn.
If this is true, then Paul’s campaign may prove a valuable entry point to a conservative perspective. Young people are idealistic. They crave a sense of being able to reform the world. Fervent ideologies give them a feeling of doing good. Libertarianism may be over-blown, but it provides the passion the young desire.
Fortunately, life furnishes the lessons needed to become more realistic. Most of us become disillusioned as our ideals collide with the hard facts of everyday living. For some this leads to bitterness, whereas for others it is a portal to more competent decision-making.
Therefore, under the best of circumstances, many of today’s young may become tomorrow’s well-grounded conservatives. If so, Paul, in increasing the number of the young who experiment with libertarianism, may be recruiting the core of those who eventually protect our democratic institutions from destruction.
In other words, let’s hope Paul energizes enough right wing idealists to counteract Obama’s left wing idealists.