October 27, 2016

Earth to Bill Weld: Trump’s foreign policy is more libertarian than Clinton’s

william_weld_by_gage_skidmoreLibertarian Vice-Presidential Nominee Bill Weld has a legitimate beef with the media. On Tuesday, the Boston Globe reported Weld “plans to focus exclusively on blasting Donald Trump over the next five weeks.” Weld denied that claim in an interview with Reason, adding, “No, somebody’s making that up,” in reference to a further claim by the Globe that Weld would henceforth be focusing exclusively on red states.

But libertarian talk show host Kennedy wasn’t entirely satisfied with Weld’s explanations, and with good reason. For while the Boston Globe and other media may have exaggerated or even distorted Weld’s statements, they didn’t just make all of this up out of thin air. Weld himself admits he has been less antagonistic towards the campaign of Hillary Clinton, a personal friend, since accepting the nomination.

Weld says he does not want to see Trump gain the White House because his “proposals in the foreign policy area are so wrongheaded that they’re in a class by themselves.” Bill Kristol and other neoconservatives may agree with him, but virtually no libertarians would. On the contrary, many libertarians ignore Trump’s many odious positions and support him precisely because his foreign policy is so much less hawkish than Clinton’s.

Even Weld’s running mate recognizes this. He’s said on numerous occasions, including during an interview with this writer, that he considers Clinton “a major architect of the conflict going on around the world.” He also said during that interview he agrees with Trump that the next U.S. president should sit down and negotiate with Russia, and went as far as to say he is willing to go “all the way down that road” regarding withdrawing troops from Europe, Japan, and Korea.

Weld has on occasion muddied the water on what “foreign policy proposals” consist of, lumping trade policy in with military intervention, possibly to justify his preference for Clinton. But that dog won’t hunt, either, as Clinton is as protectionist as Trump at the end of the day, with only superficial differences in emphasis and rhetoric. The real difference in foreign policy between Clinton and Trump is on military intervention and Trump’s stance most closely aligns with Johnson/Weld’s. If foreign policy is the chief measuring stick, Clinton is the worse of two bad choices for libertarians, not Trump.

To say Libertarians were skeptical of Weld at the party’s convention in May would be an understatement. Presidential runner-up Austin Petersen endorsed Gary Johnson during his concession speech, but refused to endorse Weld, who failed to gain the nomination on the first ballot. Kennedy’s openly hostile interview of Weld crystalized the accumulated frustration with Weld’s many disappointing statements (from a libertarian perspective) since then. Her charge that Weld was merely using the Libertarian Party for personal advancement may have been unfair. To his credit, Weld handled it well.

What is more concerning for libertarians is that Weld may truly believe his positions are libertarian, rather than merely “centrist” or “moderate Republican.” Contrary to Johnson/Weld rhetoric, libertarianism is not merely “fiscally conservative and socially accepting.” It certainly is not a combination of the “best from both sides” of the Democrat/Republican divide. It is a self-contained political philosophy with its own first principles, most of which depart completely from conservatism and progressive liberalism.

Neither Johnson nor Weld have demonstrated a firm grasp of those principles during the course of their campaign, leading them to positions most libertarians outright oppose. And while there is still a strong case for libertarians to support the ticket, Weld needs to come up with a more believable argument on why he’s #NeverTrump, rather than #NeverHillary. His foreign policy argument for Clinton makes no sense at all.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

What Gary Johnson Should Have Said About Legalizing Heroin

maureen-morella-cnnIn one of the more predictable moments from last night’s CNN Libertarian Town Hall, Gary Johnson was confronted by the mother of a young man who ingested a single line of heroin and was disabled for life. Jacob Sullum has already weighed in on what Johnson should have said from a libertarian perspective, but his thoughtful and informed piece is still too verbose for a political campaign.

Libertarians like to make fun of “sound bites” and slogans, but if they ever want to win an election for dog catcher, much less President of the United States, they need to face the reality that people stop listening and stop reading when the answer is long and developed. Here is how Gary Johnson should have answered:

“Ms. Morella, I am very sorry to hear about what happened to your son. It’s a tragedy. But I have to tell you the truth, even though it’s not what you came here to hear. What happened to your son may not have happened if heroin were legal. Here’s why:

When drugs are illegal, they’re sold by criminals who have no business address. You can’t sue them if they’re negligent or prosecute them when they willfully defraud you.

Reactions like your son’s usually occur with what’s called a “hot load,” meaning there was another substance mixed with the heroin. If the heroin he ingested were sold by a legitimate business in the light of day, there would be an immediate investigation. If the product had dangerous ingredients in it or otherwise wasn’t what the package said it was, the owner would be sued. If it were discovered he did it intentionally, he’d be prosecuted.

Ms. Morella, no one in America is concerned that when they buy a bottle of gin, there is going to be foreign substances in it that are going to kill them. But they used to be. Know when that was? When alcohol was prohibited. They called it “bath tub gin” and tragedies like your son’s occurred all the time when only criminals could sell alcohol.

There is absolutely no difference between alcohol prohibition then and drug prohibition today. Your son’s tragedy is the 2016 equivalent of what happened to people drinking bath tub gin.

Prohibiting alcohol also led to the rise of heavily armed, violent gangs like Al Capone’s. You don’t see sellers of alcohol today behaving like Capone. Do you know why? Because that’s not how business is conducted in the absence of prohibition.

You said, “Can you people in positions of power please get rid of the drugs?” I’m the only politician who is going to tell you the truth. No. We’ve had a war on drugs for decades and there are more drugs now than ever. It’s a little like the government war on terrorism. Is there less terrorism today than fifteen years ago or more?

What we can do is stop subsidizing criminal drug dealers by taking away their legitimate competition. If you want someone to tell you what you want to hear about drugs, I’m sure Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton will be happy to do so. Their parties have told you they’ll get rid of drugs for fifty years. If you want the truth, the only way to make America safer is to end prohibition and allow all drugs to be sold like alcohol.”

The answer above is chock full of sound bites. Sound bites become headlines. That’s how you get your message out to 315 million people.

It also answers the woman’s question, something Johnson’s rambling answer failed to do.

This is the way Gary Johnson has to start answering questions if he’s going to take any advantage of the opportunity the Libertarian Party is being presented with during this election. Hopefully, his debate coach is listening.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Trump confirms he’s a Hamiltonian; invokes Lincoln’s protectionist fallacies

GOP-2016-Trump_sham1-725x483Is Donald Trump reading this blog? If so, he’s not grasping that Trump Isn’t Hitler; He’s Hamilton and Reality Check: Trump’s Platform is Identical to Lincoln’s weren’t meant to be supportive of his mercantilist economic ideas. Maybe that’s on me, the writer.

Regardless, Trump invoked both Hamilton and Lincoln, starting at about the 10:30 mark, during a speech yesterday. He quotes Lincoln saying, “The abandonment of the protective policy by the American government will produce want and ruin among our people.”

Like all protectionists, Trump seems to have no idea about the concept of opportunity cost. He posits that tariffs on foreign imports will bring back manufacturing jobs, which he says “the nation” desperately needs. But it never occurs to him that when millions of Americans buy sneakers made in China for $100 instead of sneakers made in America for $200.00, they create other jobs with the $100 they save.

Trump’s speech confirms several of the arguments I make in my latest book. One can draw a virtually straight line from the Federalists, through the Whigs, to the Republicans. Obviously, there are nuances over such a long period, but the core tenets of protectionism, crony capitalism and central banking never cease to be the foundation this house is built on.

More importantly, these are the core tenets of true conservatism in the British-American tradition, since  before the dawn of the industrial revolution. You can call Trump a lot of things, but “not a real conservative” just doesn’t hold water. Free markets, individual liberty and limited government are classical liberal ideas that have only resided within the conservative movement recently and have never been very welcome. That’s because they are all anathema to the conservative worldview that any change, from within or without, threatens to break the barriers between society and man’s dark nature.

The creative destruction of the market, the free movement of labor, capital and goods, and Jefferson’s libertarian principle that the government should be limited to “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement” is the opposite of conservatism. That’s why Hamilton feared and loathed Jefferson; that’s why Trump fears and loathes the free market. He’s a true conservative, like Hamilton, Lincoln, Coolidge, Hoover and the rest.


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

An Anarcho-Capitalist’s Case for Gary Johnson 2016



In the strangest presidential election year ever, the surprises keep on coming. Some of them are pleasant, though, including the huge surge in attention being paid the Libertarian Party.

Four years ago, a little over 20 press passes were issued to cover its national convention. This past weekend, over 250 journalists joined a record number of delegates at a convention that made the 2012 RNC seem like “the dance of the living dead,” as Rodney Dangerfield would put it.

But just as the Republican and Democratic Parties are deeply divided this year, so, too is the Libertarian Party, for relatively the same reasons. The Party’s winning presidential ticket, Gary Johnson/William Weld, aren’t viewed as true libertarians by almost half of the party’s delegates. The cybersphere is replete with comments and blogs from hardcore libertarians saying the Libertarian Party no longer represents them, that it’s nothing more than Republican Party Lite, etc.

I believe they’re wrong.

For the record, I am an anarcho-capitalist, which I believe is the only way to be 100% libertarian. Since just before Lew Rockwell outed me in 2011, I have believed the only way the human race will ever really free itself is to reject the state completely, along with all its works, and all its empty promises. And I believe we will get there. Someday, people will consider government itself as much a barbaric anachronism as we consider state religions today.

But getting rid of state religions took 5,000 years. Libertarianism has only been around a little over 300. Anarcho-capitalism is even younger. This is going to take time and, in the meantime, the political process is one of many avenues to try to advance liberty within the present framework. Voting is a 15-minute commitment. It doesn’t cost anything in terms of time or money and doesn’t stop one from pursuing liberty in any other way, including agorism, civil disobedience (but I repeat myself), homeschooling, etc.

The Libertarian Party has nominated some of the greatest voices of liberty in the past half century, including Ron Paul, Harry Browne and Michael Badnarik. Neither Johnson nor Weld are nearly as purely libertarian as any of these giants, but they’re going to get far more votes. Dissatisfaction with Trump and HIllary is certainly one reason. But it’s not the only one.

Libertarians don’t want to hear the other reason, but I’ll say it anyway. Contrary to libertarian-ish (in rhetoric only) icon Ronald Reagan, government is not the problem. The electorate is. As a social media friend remarked, “If you want to find out how interested your neighbors are in individual liberty, just go to your local planning board meeting.”

The truth is most Americans in 2016 aren’t ready for an ideologically pure libertarian message. This is an electorate that is angry with Washington, D.C. for not doing more, not for meddling too much. Grassroots conservatives complain Obama has gutted the military and (gasp!) negotiated with Iran. Grassroots liberals believe markets are too free and corporations “run rampant.”

Thanks to Trump and Hillary, millions of these Americans are going to find the Libertarian Party for the very first time. If the first thing they hear is “abolish the police,” “close all public schools” or “disband the army,” (all positions this writer would support), they’re going to stop listening immediately, never to be seen or heard from again.

Johnson/Weld has the potential to attract millions of new members to the Libertarian Party where they will be exposed to the far more libertarian views of most of its members. And no, this will not destroy the party or libertarianism as a philosophy, just as electing centrist Bill Clinton did not destroy the Democratic Party or the progressive philosophy. On the contrary, Clinton strengthened the party, paving the way for the far more progressive Barack Obama and the overtly socialist Bernie Sanders.

Perhaps a musical analogy would help. In the 1950s, white kids were discouraged from or forbidden to listen to black artists playing what was disparaged as “jungle music,” a.k.a. “rock ‘n roll.” Then, along came Pat Boone with a sexless, rather cringeworthy version of Little Richard’s “Tutti Frutti.”

Despite Little Richard’s hilarious rant in Hail! Hail! Rock and Roll! about Pat Boone stealing his song, he admitted in a quieter moment that Boone’s whitewashed cover actually helped him, by introducing millions of white listeners to a style of music they may never have otherwise heard, at least at that time. Posterity reveres Little Richard as a founding father of rock ‘n roll. Pat Boone may be remembered for other things, but not that.

Gary Johnson might just be the Pat Boone of libertarianism for an American public subconsciously yearning for the real thing, but not yet ready to hear it.

Let there be no mistake. I disagree with Johnson on all of the same grounds as the hardest core libertarians. He’s wrong on bake the cake, in my opinion. I agree with Darryl Perry he’s wrong on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. And let’s be clear about what Perry and I disagree with: only Titles II and VII, which deny freedom of association to private individuals. Perry and I are both glad the federal government came in and crushed Jim Crow laws, “states’ rights” be damned.

Anyone who’s read my latest book knows I agree with Tom Woods: libertarianism is not “fiscally conservative and socially liberal.” It is a philosophy unto itself, with its own first principles. Woods and I disagree on the strategic value of a Johnson/Weld Libertarian Party Presidential ticket.

But let’s get some perspective here. If these are the worst of Johnson’s heresies against libertarianism, then I have to ask many of my fellow libertarians why they aren’t applying the same measuring stick to Donald Trump, whose only libertarian position is his noninterventionist foreign policy. Because of this alone, they’re willing to excuse Trump’s full-throated endorsement of NSA spying on American citizens, shutting down the internet, protectionist tariffs and promises to expand the military, if not to use it as often. Johnson is far more libertarian on all of these issues than Trump.

Even on foreign policy, Johnson is better. For, while both men agree the interventionist policy must change, both questioning NATO and the overseas military empire, Trump still promises yet another war, against ISIS. Johnson has made no such indication. Johnson told this writer he is willing to go “all the way” down the road of bringing U.S. troops home from overseas deployments, adding “something drastic needs to be done” with U.S. foreign policy.

The purest libertarians don’t believe there is any legitimate role for government, as Darryl Perry also pointed out in last weekend’s debate. Any involvement in politics at all evokes the old joke about the prostitute (Would you sleep with me for a million dollars? Sure! Would you sleep with me for $25? No, what do you think I am, a hooker? We’ve already established that. Now, we’re just bickering about price.)

If we’re going to pursue liberty through the political process at all, the only way to do so is to have a reasonable shot at winning. Even Ron Paul said that. That doesn’t mean selling out our principles. That nominating Gary Johnson is doing so is as hysterical an overstatement as the typical, neocon “Insert-Dictator-Name-Here is Hitler” meme.

As much as I abhor the left’s agenda, I am realistic about one thing: they’ve played it smart. The 20th century was as overwhelming a victory for progressivism as one could imagine. They didn’t achieve that by dogmatically refusing to support any candidate who parted with them on one or two issues. On the contrary, they got behind anyone who supported any of their positions, regardless of how ideologically impure the candidate may have been from their perspective.

It’s time for the Libertarian Party to play it smart, like the left has, albeit for different ends. The real world isn’t a think tank. Get behind Johnson/Weld and seize the opportunity pounding on your door. You have nothing to lose but your irrelevance.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Final Presidential Debate: 2016 Libertarian Party National Convention

convention debate8:00 PM EST – The atmosphere is electric, much like Ron Paul’s event in 2012 just days before the RNC – the latter resembling what Rodney Dangerfield would call “the dance of the living dead.”

8:27 PM EST – “I’d like to build a wall around Donald Trump and make Bernie Sanders pay for it.” – Austin Petersen

8:31 PM EST – “The rights you are born with don’t change depending upon which side of an imaginary line you’re born on.” – Marc Allen Feldman.

8:35 PM EST – “There is an offensive word in your question and that is ‘taxpayer.” – John McAfee

8:36 PM EST – “When it comes to the federal role in education, abolish the Department of Education.” – Gary Johnson

8:41 PM EST: “We’d have voluntary mutual aid societies like we did before the government took over social security.”

8:44 PM EST: “None of us are going to pass a drowning child, even if we are dressed in a tuxedo, going to a wedding. You jump in and save the child. Libertarianism is not heartlessness.” – John McAfee

*8:45 PM EST: First boos for Gary Johnson for remarks about global warming and that “free market bankrupted coal.”

8:49 PM EST: “Why can’t we have a lottery? A lottery is just a tax on people who are bad at math.” – Austin Petersen

8:49 PM EST: “This government survived for 120 years without an income tax. How was that possible? We had a government that was reasonable.” – John McAfee

8:52 PM EST: “The minimum wage is always zero, as one knows who is out of a job.” – Marc Allan Feldman

8:54 PM EST: “The minimum wage was originally devised to stop black workers from competing with white labor.” – Austin Petersen

9:01 PM EST: “When you talk about a 35% tariff on foreign goods, who ends up paying them? Well, we do.” – Gary Johnson

9:04 PM EST: “I have a barber and we have a free trade agreement. I give him money and he gives me haircuts. He never gives me money.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:05 PM EST: “Money is not a creation of government. It is a creation of the marketplace.” – Austin Petersen

9:05 PM EST: “End the Fed! End the Fed! End the Fed!” – the delegates

9:16 PM EST: “Radical Islam is a threat. Congress needs to get involved. They have abdicated their responsibilities to the president. There needs to be an open discussion and that hasn’t happened.” – Gary Johnson

9:18 PM EST: “The most dangerous religion in the world is statism.” – Austin Petersen

9:23 PM EST: “We used to manufacture weapons to support our war efforts. Now, we manufacture war efforts to support our weapons industries.” – Marc Allan Feldman.

9:27 PM EST: “I kind of like the United Nations because it really doesn’t do much.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:29 PM EST: “Calling me an isolationist because I don’t want to invade Poland is like calling me a hermit because I don’t want to rob my neighbor’s fridge. Switzerland has the greatest foreign policy. Have you ever had Swiss cheese, Swiss chocolate or a Swiss Army knife?” – Darryl Perry

9:32 PM EST: “What we are dealing with are two machines. They have no heart; they have no soul. They eat everything.” – John McAfee [on the two major parties]

9:36 PM EST: “I believe in gun control. I believe people should control their guns.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:45 PM EST: “I have traveled extensively and in most Third World countries, you can use the bathroom in the street, in front of everyone. Having seen that, I don’t understand how anyone could care.” – John McAfee

9:49 PM EST: “As far as the nomination of justices, I want to support the firm right of Congress to do nothing. It’s the only thing they do well.” – Marc Allan Feldman

9:50 PM EST – An appearance by Jesus.

9:56 PM EST – “The drug users remain constant whether it’s criminalized or decriminalized.”

10:00 PM EST – Darryl Perry loses his shit over drug laws.

10:06 PM EST – “As many of you know, my wife is black. I can assure you that discrimination was not ended by any legislation.” – John McAfee

10:10 PM EST – “I want you to help me help you make the Libertarian Party libertarian again.” – Darryl Perry

10:11 PM EST – “This is not a campaign about one man. It is about a revolution of We the People.” – Austin Petersen

10:14 PM EST – Marc Allan Feldman tears the place up. Wait for the footage.

10:16 PM EST – The crowd goes wild.

Is Libertarian Kevin McCormick a More Likable Alternative to Trump or Clinton?

kevin mccormickWith unfavorability ratings at record highs for the candidates of both major parties, polls show Americans are more likely than ever to consider voting for a third party. That’s inspired more excitement than usual at the Libertarian Party National Convention in Orlando, where delegates from all 50 states have gathered to choose the party’s candidates for President and Vice President of the United States.

I had a chance to sit down with Kevin McCormick, one of the candidates seeking the party’s nomination (video below). More information on McCormick’s campaign can be found at www.kevinmccormick2016.com.

Watch the video interview at The Huffington Post…

Tom Mullen Speaking/Book Signing Event Feb. 17, 2016 Buffalo, NY

Click on image to enlargeBook signing flyer 20160217 Daily Planet

Rand Paul’s Campaign Proved Libertarianism and Conservatism Are Antithetical to Each Other

1024px-Rand_Paul_by_Gage_Skidmore_7Google Rand Paul today and you’ll find stories about him suspending his presidential campaign under “Breaking News.” In one way it is; in another it isn’t. It’s really an old story, but those who don’t know history have been doomed (again) to repeat it.

Since William F. Buckley started National Review in the 1950s, libertarianism has been viewed as a subset of conservatism. Reagan affirmed this view in the 1970s, before rising to the presidency selling that same theory.

But what caused Reagan to fail to shrink the federal government (it doubled in size during his presidency) is the same problem that doomed Rand Paul’s presidential campaign. Libertarianism and conservatism are antithetical philosophies and any attempt to combine them will fail.

It is important to understand the philosophical differences here, because they do indeed dictate political positions today. I’ve written an entire book about this, but the crucial difference between libertarians and conservatives is this: true conservatives don’t believe man keeps his natural rights when he enters society. Understood properly, they don’t even believe they exist in nature at all.

Read the rest at The Huffington Post…


Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.

Tom Mullen on the Mike Church Show Jan. 7, 2016

Crusade_Mike_Church_Show_LIVE_Audio-1024x576It was again my pleasure to talk to the King Dude on the Mike Church Show on Thursday January  7, 2016. You can hear a preview of our conversation here. Subscribe to his show on the Crusade Channel, part of the Veritas Radio Network.

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There is nothing new about the neoconservatives

nothing new

Robert Eno of Conservative Review named Rand Paul the “standout of the night” after the December 15 Republican Presidential Debate on CNN. Eno laments that the mainstream media, including “conservative media pundits,” will proclaim Rubio the winner. Eno implies these pundits aren’t true conservatives, referring to a species of unicorn sought by millions of self-identified conservative voters.

Rand Paul himself has called out Rubio and other proponents of the U.S. military empire as failing to adhere to authentic conservative principles. The self-named “neoconservatives,” we’re told, are really progressives in Republican clothing, failing to promote the true conservative principles of small government, free markets and a noninterventionist foreign policy.

Rand is right about nonintervention, but he’s wrong about conservatism. There is nothing new about the neoconservatives. The essence of conservativism itself is belief in the need for an all-powerful government that regulates every area of life domestically and dominates every other nation in the world. This has been the conservative worldview for thousands of years. It has never changed.

Conservatives see the world as Thomas Hobbes did. Human nature is so depraved that the government must be powerful enough to “keep them in awe.” Like other enlightenment philosophers, Hobbes saw the relationship of nations to one another as virtually identical to the relationship between individual people. They are all in a de facto state of war unless one nation dominates the rest.

This explains the otherwise puzzling compulsion by generations of U.S. politicians to interfere in the affairs of destitute Third World countries thousands of miles away. Just as individual liberty within society is a threat to the commonwealth, self-determination by any individual nation is a threat to the world order. The “domino theory” offered as justification for the Korean and Viet Nam Wars was firmly rooted in Hobbesian conservatism. So was the British Empire.

Many conservatives would object and point to Edmund Burke or Russell Kirk as representing the true tenets of conservatism. There’s only one problem: Burke and Kirk agree with Hobbes on just about everything.

Hobbes, Burke and Kirk all deny the existence of natural, inalienable rights. Like Hobbes, Burke says that man in the state of nature “has a right to everything,” meaning there can be no rights to life, liberty or the pursuit of happiness. Rather than “to secure these rights,” according to Burke, governments exist so “the inclinations of men should frequently be thwarted, their will controlled, and their passions brought into subjection.”

The only disagreement between Hobbesian “centralizers” and Burkean “constitutionalists” is on how government power should be distributed. The Hobbesians believe the sovereign power can never be safely divided. It must reside in one place, preferably in one man. Hobbesians in American history include Alexander Hamilton, Abraham Lincoln, and George W. Bush.

The Burkeans believe the opposite. As the politicians have the same dark nature, they must be thwarted, too. Burkean conservatives in American history include John Adams, Robert Taft and Barry Goldwater.

Here’s the rub. While Burkean constitutional conservatives want power divided, they still believe 100% of the power resides somewhere in the government. If the federal government isn’t going to regulate a particular area of life, then the state or municipal government should. Or the town government. Or your local school board. No area of life remains unregulated.

Similarly, the two conservative camps have disagreements on foreign policy, but not on principle. “Old Right” conservatives like Robert Taft may have argued against war, but Taft’s chief argument against participation in NATO was his fear it would concentrate too much power in the executive, although he hints at the non-aggression principle in passing:

“Under the Monroe Doctrine we could change our policy at any time. We could judge whether perhaps one of the countries had given cause for the attack. Only Congress could declare a war in pursuance of the doctrine. Under the new pact the President can take us into war without Congress.”

Contrary to the beliefs of a lot of well-meaning people, individual liberty, limited government and free markets are the antithesis of conservatism and always have been. Mercantilism is the economic system of conservatism; empire its natural foreign policy.

The American Revolution was very much a libertarian revolution against a Hobbesian, mercantilist and militarist empire. The ensuing struggle between Federalists and Jeffersonians was likewise a struggle between conservatism and libertarianism, respectively.

As inconsistent as he sometimes was in practice, Jefferson’s thinking and writing remained consistent on this point throughout his life. He repeatedly cited the libertarian principle that government should “restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free” in describing the limits of government power.

His foreign policy was mostly libertarian as well. Unlike President Obama, he really gutted the military, cutting its budget by over 90% and largely dismantling the navy (the army was already disbanded when he took office). His stated purpose was to make the navy a purely defensive force, incapable of foreign adventures.

Like millions of self-identified conservatives, Rand Paul is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. He’s trying to see libertarianism as a subset of conservativism, just as Reagan did. It isn’t. It’s no surprise that even his attempt to portray himself as an authentic, Old Right conservative has failed. Trying to blend conservatism and libertarianism leads one into all sorts of self-contradictory positions.

It’s no coincidence that enthusiasm has peaked at those moments when Paul has taken the purely libertarian positions of his father, as he did filibustering drone strikes on American citizens or the Patriot Act. The marketplace of ideas is telling him something.

There is an intuitive libertarian instinct in everyone. The desire to live and let live and use force only in response to aggression is quite literally the “law of nature,” as Locke wrote over three hundred years ago. There are millions of Americans who believe it, but have it philosophically jumbled with the antithetical tenets of conservatism.

Rand Paul may be one of them. Or, he may believe the only way to make America more libertarian is by appealing to conservatives within the political process. Either way, he’s wrong.

Americans are starving for something besides conservatism or liberalism (as it’s defined today). A lot of them just don’t know it. Rand Paul could do the most good by taking his father’s ideas a step farther and rejecting conservatism altogether. It’s a dead end for the liberty movement, just as it always has been.

Tom Mullen is the author of Where Do Conservatives and Liberals Come From? And What Ever Happened to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness? Part One and A Return to Common Sense: Reawakening Liberty in the Inhabitants of America.