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Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Rand Paul Is A Neocon

Rand Paul, self-proclaimed libertarian and slayer of all things neocon, has come out in full force as a dyed-in-the-wool neoconservative. Stranger things have happened. Or have they?


This morning I started reading Rand Paul's new book The Case Against Socialism.

I have had a lot of respect for Senator Paul in the past. Not anymore. In this book Paul comes out as the neoconservative he always criticizes others for being. He is an Irving Kristol, a Daniel Bell, a John Podhoretz. 

He claims to be a libertarian. He talks like a neoconservative. He praises democratic socialism. 

I hate to say it, but this book was written by a raving ideological schizophrenic.

In one chapter the good senator from Kentucky rightly points to the terrible consequences of socialism as practiced in Venezuela. In another chapter he raves about Sweden, holding up the country as some sort of role model where they practice something he calls - what is that? - "welfarism". 

It has been a while since I read something so nonsensical, but more on that in my own book about socialism, which will be out this spring. For now, let us note that Rand Paul carefully avoids telling his readers that Sweden practices the very same brand of "democratic" socialism as Venezuela does. The difference between the two countries is not a difference in ideology; it is a difference in the management of "democratic" socialism.

Sweden built its welfare state already in the 1930s through the 1950s, without much fanfare at the time (except widespread bragging by leading Swedish socialists). At that time, the devastating consequences of socialism were not as widely known as they were later in the 20th century, nor did those consequences emerge until the 1970s. It was at that time that the Swedish welfare state had begun depressing the Swedish economy to the point where it took a toll on economic growth. 

The tax base began eroding and Sweden entered the era of selective welfare-state retrenchment. It did not unravel its welfare state - the country only raised taxes and rationed its entitlement systems. 

This point is very important. Rand Paul, namely, claims that socialism begins with government making promises it can't keep, then goes on to suggest that Sweden is not socialism. 

Outside of an openly totalitarian state, there is no better example of a government that can't deliver on its promises. 

Who did Rand Paul consult for fact checking when he wrote this book?

That question is rhetorical. The point here is that Rand Paul's affinity for the Swedish welfare state helps us understand why he is a neoconservative. We will get back to it in a moment. 

First, though: Venezuela. They, too, built a welfare state. Just like in Sweden, the Venezuelan government made promises it could not keep, only in their case the path from promising to over-promising was shorter, more condensed and more violent. 

Venezuela began its descent into open totalitarianism not because its government promises were different in kind from those made by the Swedish government - but because they were implemented faster, more arrogantly and in a shorter period of time. Another important aspect is that the Venezuelan people had gotten used to a constitution that purportedly protected individual freedom and was designed to keep government accountable. They tried to fight back, forcing the socialist government to turn up the heat much faster than would otherwise have been necessary.

The Swedish government met very little political resistance. Its center-right opposition lost election after election, in part because the roll out of the welfare state added perks and benefits that bought votes. Social democrats at the time - the mid-20th century - bragged about this strategy and how it would force the non-socialist opposition to learn to love the welfare state. 

They did. By the time they won their first election in the welfare-state era, in 1976, they had degenerated into hapless stewards of democratically prefixed socialism. That has been their role ever since, although their expertise in being good managers of the socialist project has improved over time. 

Today, it is almost impossible to tell the difference between Swedish social democrats and the center-right alternative. They all want high taxes, single-payer health care, government-paid family, sick leave, retirement and child care. 

They all want economic redistribution.

At the end of the day, this is precisely what socialism is all about. Amazingly, Rand Paul does not get this. He believes, somehow, that there is a difference in kind, in species, between democratic socialism in Sweden and in Venezuela. Yet outside political tyranny, it is the very same project: economic redistribution. 

You do not build a welfare state for any other purpose than to redistribute income, consumption and wealth between private citizens. You do not take away 40, 50 percent or more of people's money, then give it back to those deemed entitled, unless you have a distinct ideological purpose behind it. 

There is only one such purpose: economic redistribution. You want to reduce the economic differences between citizens. 

With the caveat that I haven't finished Paul's book yet - only the chapters referred here - I cannot see how he motivates the Swedish welfare state in any way that sets it apart from Venezuela. He calls the Swedish version "welfarism", which is a nonsensical term he seems to have invented when he realized his story was not following the chain of logic. At no point does he explain exactly why the Swedish welfare state is not socialist.

On the contrary, he raves about how Sweden allegedly has combined capitalism with a welfare state. This narrative, of course, is patently false, as I have explained in my three-part series on socialism. There is nothing virtuous about the Swedish system, where you have widespread health care rationing, a mockery of a "school choice" program, a starved retirement system with a botched joke of "private accounts", government-run child care that is both rationed and rife with indoctrination, and the world's highest taxes to pay for it all.

Democratic socialism in practice. This is the system Rand Paul wants. It also happens to be the very same system that America's neoconservatives advocated - and fervently so. 

To make Senator Paul's infatuation with Sweden even more humorous, it also happens to be the system that the senator's colleague from Vermont is so fond of.

Perhaps Rand Paul would be so kind to explain what the differences are between his welfare-state vision and the ideas that Bernie Sanders have. I doubt that Rand Paul could do that, though. He has gone all bonkers over Sweden. This past summer he hosted an event in honor of Swedish democratic socialism

I cannot help but wondering where this Swedophilia comes from. I mean, Rand Paul has of course written his book himself. He has not hired a ghost writer. But if he had, it would have been Swedish pop-tart libertarian Johan Norberg. 

Whatever has brought Rand Paul to this point, it is a sad day for America's libertarians when their foremost champion on Capitol Hill is ideologically almost indistinguishable from the most popular socialist in Congress...

1 comment:

  1. I like your style Sven, I have always liked Rand Paul, sort of like his father but still in training, but when a anyone goes off the rails for any reason, I would never deny that they deserve to be taken to the woodshed and given a proper verbal beating.