The Pragmatism of Rand Paul

Nothing quite sets Congressman Rand Paul off like being told what kind of light bulb he can use. (Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)Senator Rand Paul took advantage of a great opportunity yesterday. At a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing, the freshman senator from Kentucky let loose an impassioned tirade against overreaching government regulation, directing his complaints at a deputy assistant at the Energy Department named Kathleen Hogan.

Senator Paul’s speech was perfect- supremely sensible, to the point, and biting. Although the hearing was on light bulb regulation, he zeroed in on EPA legislations limiting the amount of water in toilet tanks, announcing, “Frankly, my toilets don’t work in my house, and I blame you and people like you who want to tell me what I can install in my house, what I can do. You restrict my choices.”

While the senator’s example was comical, his steadfast, libertarian point was deadly serious and he really drove his message home: over-extensive regulation of goods in the name of conservation is an affront to the consumer and freedom of choice.

The crux of Paul’s argument, and where he shows himself to be the ultimate pragmatist, can be seen in two parts of his speech:

There is hypocrisy that goes on when people claim who believe in some choices but don’t want to let the consumer decide what they can buy and put in their houses. I find it insulting. I find it insulting that a lot of these products that you’re going to make us buy and you won’t let us buy what we want to buy and you take away our choices.

[…]

I find it really an affront to the sensibility of the idea and notion of the free marketplace, of capitalism, of freedom of choice. Now, it’s not that I’m against conservation. I’m all for energy conservation. But I wish you would come here to extol me, to cajole me, to encourage, to try to convince me to conserve energy. But you come instead with fines, threats of jail, you put people out of business who want to make products you don’t like. This is what your energy efficiency standards are. Call it what it is. You prevent people from making things that consumers want.

It’s fantastic that Rand Paul is bringing libertarianism to the national stage with instances such as this and his recent appearance on the Daily Show, where he was lauded by Jon Stewart despite their obvious disagreements on policy. Check out the video of his speech at the hearing below.

–Adam I. W. Schwartzman