Rand Paul Is Right: Social Conservatives Should Embrace Libertarianism

Article excerpt

These days, to even suggest the possibility that a fiscally conservative economic outlook is compatible with faith is a matter of hypocrisy.

"I am afraid that (Rep. Paul) Ryan's budget reflects the values of his favorite philosopher, Ayn Rand, rather than the gospel of Jesus Christ," the Rev. Thomas Reese of Georgetown University told The Huffington Post in April 2012. "Survival of the fittest may be OK for social Darwinists, but not for followers of the gospel of compassion and love."

Surely, you recall this Bible passage: "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Smite the supply-sider. I will utterly blot out the memory of all who back block grants from under heaven.'"

So it's refreshing, then, to hear would-be fusionist Rand Paul point out the distinction libertarian critics will not. At Robert P. George's American Principles Project last week, Paul argued that a dose of libertarianism not only would help the GOP broaden its base but also would be philosophically compatible with socially conservative values.

"Libertarian and liberty doesn't mean libertine," he explained. Paul might have added that libertarianism isn't synonymous with "being uncharitable" or "selfishness" or "social Darwinism," either. He might have argued that libertarianism would do a lot more than just help orthodox Christians politically. It may even be the most conducive political philosophy for their thriving.

Obviously, for those who measure the nation's virtue by the size of the Department of Health and Human Services budget, Rand's proposition must seem absurd. Take Elizabeth Stoker, who believes that "Rand Paul's audacious new sham" is "a phony religious epiphany." She wrote in Salon:

"If what Paul intends to say here is that Christianity and libertarianism are amenable to one another because Christianity provides the moral compass libertarianism doesn't have ... the question is: Why would someone with such a commitment to Christianity ever commit themselves to a political philosophy without a similar commitment?"

Why? Because these are two distinct and often nonconflicting ideas. Though votes are often informed by a person's faith, for many Americans, a political philosophy isn't a religion. I'm no theological scholar, but I tend to believe that one can do good works without supporting a top marginal tax rate increase. Christians commit themselves to God, which, as far as I can tell, doesn't prohibit them from supporting a political philosophy that emphasizes free will over a state-ordained "morality. …