- Rand Paul doesn’t claim to be a libertarian, which is good because he isn’t. For example, he is not a consistent noninterventionist in foreign policy; he's merely more cautious than his rivals and prefers that Congress be asked for declarations of war. Let's not conflate constitutionalism with libertarianism. As Paul said in 2010, “They thought all along that they could call me a libertarian and hang that label around my neck like an albatross, but I’m not a libertarian.” That should dispose of the matter, unless one has evidence he is lying or has changed his mind. Even if, relatively speaking, he is more pleasing to libertarians than any other major political figure, that does not make him a libertarian. So Wolfe is wrong when he writes, “If Paul were to win the Republican nomination, libertarianism’s unfitness for the modern world would be revealed for all to see.” Libertarianism’s fitness or lack thereof has nothing to do with Rand Paul.
- Ayn Rand, for all the virtues of her philosophical system, was hardly a model libertarian, a label she also rejected. She endorsed the limited monopoly state as well as intellectual property, which is problematic for a politics rooted in freedom; she lacked insight into the nature of historical capitalism; and she was not a principled noninterventionist in foreign policy (though she was better than some of her followers.) Wolfe writes that Rand, “for all her talk of freedom, was an authoritarian at heart. She was intolerant of dissent and conspiratorial to a fault.” But contrary to Wolfe, her personal failings cannot be held against her political philosophy. Surely he can see the distinction between political philosophy and personal conduct. Rand’s chief political principle was that no person -- including the persons who run the state -- has the right to initiate physical force against another person. (Wolfe doesn’t mention that.) If Rand was intolerant of dissent or conspiratorial to a fault (whatever that means), what does that have to do with this principle? She neither aggressed against those who disagreed with her nor called on the state to do so. Anyone who disliked her intolerance was free not to to associate with her. Clearly, Wolfe is using the term “authoritarian” equivocally. An authoritarian state necessarily aggresses against people. A person with an authoritarian personality need not. The kind of government Rand favored -- although too much for a consistent libertarian -- would not have been authoritarian. (See Rand’s writing, for example, on censorship.)
(Incidentally, I've criticized Wolfe before. See "Market, State, and Autonomy.")