Medicare covers older, retired Americans. Although Paul and Tea-Partiers support Medicare, they bitterly oppose universal health insurance. They are willing to accept Medicare’s assault on the liberty of senior citizens as long as the government doesn’t inflict socialized medicine on the rest of Americans.
On his website, Paul summed up the message voters had sent through his victory in the Kentucky primary: “liberty and limited government.” After all, government has the power to coerce people. This power is a threat to liberty. So the best government is the least government. That’s why he prefers “personal or free-market solutions to problems.”
This libertarian argument is very attractive in its simplicity. It appeals to something we all value: freedom. Many adolescents and twenty-somethings love its anti-authoritarian quality.
Its appeal often is heightened by a sweet-sounding idealism. As Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal said in response to President Obama’s inaugural address of 2009, “The strength of America is not found in our government. It is found in the compassionate hearts and the enterprising spirit of our citizens.”
This is an odd statement. If America’s citizens are “compassionate” and “enterprising,” why can’t these strengths be manifest in our elected government, if it really is “our” government?
Who is he worried about?
If our government has been taken over by alien forces such as huge investment banks or oil companies, then it is a threat to us and we must take it back. But the threat posed by corrupt and dysfunctional government is not evidence that government is bad or that it should be drastically reduced.
Gov. Jindal has lately come to appreciate the importance of a national government good enough and BIG enough to handle a national disaster. British Petroleum has inflicted on the shores of Louisiana (and other Gulf states) the greatest environmental catastrophe in American history.
In his response to this emergency, Jindal has become a government action hero, pressuring the Obama administration to overcome its inertia and provide massive amounts of aid. It would be interesting to hear from Rand Paul how there could be “personal or free-market solutions” for the Gulf disaster.
Instead, what we get from Paul is the dimwitted complaint that President Obama is “really un-American” in his criticism of the giant British corporation (the fourth largest company in the world). Paul wants him to stop the “blame game” and remember that “maybe sometimes accidents happen.”
Poor BP! In fact, as Scott West, former special agent-in-charge at the EPA’s Criminal Investigation Division, put it: BP is a “convicted serial environmental criminal.”
Here is just one example of BP’s criminal record. According to ABC News, after a 2005 BP refinery explosion in Texas City, Texas, that killed 15 people and injured 180, BP paid $50 million in criminal fines. “Just last October, OSHA fined the company $87 million (more) because it has failed to correct the safety problems at the rebuilt Texas City plant.”
In the latest issue of Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson provides a thorough and disturbing account of BP’s reckless safety violations in managing the Deepwater Horizon rig and the fraud it committed in its application for a drilling permit.
The agency in charge of granting such permits was the notoriously corrupt Minerals Management Service, a branch of the oil friendly Interior Department. On April 6 of last year, MMS gave BP the go-ahead to drill in the Gulf without a comprehensive environmental review, in violation of its own rules.
What Rand Paul doesn’t seem to grasp is that it takes a large and incorrupt government to regulate the behavior of private corporations with revenues greater than those of many European countries.
Money is power. Corporations such as BP are immensely powerful artificial persons. Compared to human persons like the shrimpers of the Gulf coast, their power is overwhelming.
Whose liberty is Rand Paul more worried about?
Brian Cooney is emeritus professor of philosophy at Centre College.