Take the most recent example: his opposition to the blanket extension of the Patriot Act, which has resulted in some modest restraint on the vast expansion of government powers since 9/11. (The new checks and balances are close to ones recommended by a panel put together by the Obama administration.) In defending his position, Paul notes— correctly — that we would not even know of the existence of this system of metadata collection if not for Edward Snowden’s revelations, that the FBI has been unable to cite a single terrorist plot disrupted by it and that the special courts in place have few checks and little transparency. He cites, glowingly, the 1979 dissenting opinion regarding the dangers of government collection of phone records by Thurgood Marshall and William Brennan, the Supreme Court’s two most prominent liberals of the past half-century.
Or consider Paul’s views on lifting the embargo on Cuba, on which he writes: “The supporters of the embargo . . . fall strangely silent when asked how trade with Cuba is so different than trade with Russia or China or Vietnam.” This is not a path to primary voters’ hearts in Florida.
I’m chagrined that I am only just now remembering to link to this exceptionally good 2011 article in Forbes by Tim Worstall. It’s on a common error that economists too-frequently commit when empirically studying the effects of minimum-wage legislation. The famous Card-Krueger study of two decades ago does not look good.
The central problem with Libertarian Paternalism as an alternative to Homo Economicus, is ubi est pater? Where is this hyper-rational Pater who will guide things for us better than the admittedly shoddy job we often do for our selves, and the somewhat less shoddy job that private institutions designed to help us make decisions can do?
Finally, here’s more from my intrepid Mercatus Center colleague Veronique de Rugy on that great geyser of cronyism, the U.S. Export-Import Bank. If this monstrous edifice to rent-seeking and mercantilist superstitions is ever shuttered – and the chances, however small, are now higher than they’ve been in my memory – American taxpayers and consumers will owe a huge debt to this fiery, intelligent, eloquent, and principled woman from France.