After my article yesterday regarding Rand Paul’s recent statements regarding drug legalization, I received some criticism particularly over at the Daily Paul for coming down too hard on Rand. “After all”, the argument goes,”he is just taking the Constitutional position and leaving it up to the states to decide. Rand is on our side”.
To be clear, in the specific statements Paul made regarding drug legalization, there was no distinction between “federal” and “state” legalization of drugs. He simply stated that he “wasn’t for that (legalizing heroin).” And yes, I am well aware that this is a more politically palatable position, as I’ve been reminded over and over, because Rand needs to do what he has to do to “win”. This attitude implies that it’s not ideas that are important, but political victory itself.
I believe this is the opposite of how politics should be viewed as a tool for advancing liberty. Political victory should come as a result of expressing the correct ideas about liberty. If liberty positions must be “muddled” and “filtered”, what is gained by any victory? This is an example of the problem, as I’ve discussed before, with simply using Constitutional arguments when developing positions. If one simply relies on the Constitution for framing all of their arguments, one can quickly lose moral high ground in debate over an issue.
This is how libertarians get into trouble when they say things like “well, drug laws should be left to the states…that is what is Constitutional”. But this is a backwards way to make an effective argument. Rather, it should be explained that it is wrong to use force on someone simply for putting a substance into their body. It should be argued that federal drug laws should be repealed for this reason.
It can then be argued that the Constitution was written in a way as to not give the federal government the kind of power to make such sweeping laws over the individual by giving most powers to the states. This should no way imply that it is “ok” for a state to make laws against drug use. The argument is being made that Rand Paul is not for federal legalization of drugs, but if that’s the case than logically he must be for keeping them illegal.
While Paul tries to back away from drug legalization to appease evangelicals, even lead evangelics like Pat Robertson are coming out in favor of marijuana legalization. Would it not make more sense to continue to take the principled stand and push other evangelicals to the correct position, as opposed to just telling them what they want to hear, as Rand’s supporters are arguing he is doing?
Rand is certainly becoming a very skilled politician, but as he does so he also becomes a less skilled messenger of liberty. We’ve seen that messenger before from the pre-political Rand, so we know it’s lingering in there somewhere. But political victories gained through an unclear and unprincipled message are no victories at all.
Leave the politics to politicians; libertarians should learn to make principled arguments first and foremost.