Rand Paul’s interesting precedent

While I don’t generally buy into the views of Ron or Rand Paul on foreign policy, Rand Paul’s filibuster, which is being credited with giving new momentum to the GOP, sets a promising precedent. Paul’s insistence that the president has no constitutional authority to use drone strikes against Americans on US soil was morally obvious, yet at the same time profoundly subversive, since it implies that there are, after all, limits on state authority, and therefore that the doctrine of sovereignty in the pure Hobbesian sense is fall. Bravo! Interestingly, since the Republicans have a reputation as the hawkish party, strong on national security, Paul’s stand actually went against part of what Republicans identify with, but the political configuration allowed Paul to appear, sort of, as the voice of the GOP against the soulless statism of the Obama administration. Paul’s message was fundamentally the doctrine of human rights or natural rights: it’s wrong to kill innocent people, period.

It probably wouldn’t work right now, but one wonders whether at some point in the future, Republicans could be flip-flopped on the immigration issue with similar ease. If a Republican candidate opportunistically assailed the Obama administration for its draconian deportation policies, that would doubtless alienate some of the base, but the GOP might look like white knights and protectors of the weak, and become more popular in some quarters, and Republicans who aren’t particularly nativist might just embrace it. What’s at stake here is the moral high ground. Seizing it is really a lot of fun, and it can pay off in the oddest and most delightful ways.

Nathan Smith

Nathan Smith is an assistant professor of economics at Fresno Pacific University. He did his Ph.D. in economics from George Mason University and has also worked for the World Bank. Smith proposed Don’t Restrict Immigration, Tax It, one of the more comprehensive keyhole solution proposals to address concerns surrounding open borders.

See also:

Page about Nathan Smith on Open Borders
All blog posts by Nathan Smith

3 thoughts on “Rand Paul’s interesting precedent”

  1. One of the things that made the drone debate uncomfortable for me was how people (not necessarily Paul) zeroed in on the question of whether the president can authorise the murder of a US citizen. (This was why the deaths of Anwar al-Awlaki and his son came in for so much criticism; it was odd to me to see people up in arms about them being killed just because they were US citizens.) I don’t see the logic: surely it matters virtually as much if the US government can kill non-citizens however it likes. Even citizenists I think would argue that the power of government to ignore the welfare of non-citizens ought to have some morally-circumscribed limits. The US soil distinction I see as more salient, since it’s more intuitive to me that you should have different policies for handling terrorists or militants within your legal jurisdiction versus those outside your legal jurisdiction.

    This clearly has some relevance to how we approach open borders but I need to ponder this more to see what the connection is. (And on a non-open borders note, I actually don’t find the use of drones necessarily perturbing. If the government could send soldiers or espionage agents to monitor or kill someone before, it seems immaterial to me that the government now chooses to send a remotely-operated drone instead. The question to me should turn on in what circumstances does the government have the right to send its military or espionage agents — human or non-human — to spy on or kill someone.)

    1. Yeah, I’d agree that there’s nothing special about drones, and that the focus on US citizens is troubling. But it’s nice to establish that there’s at least something the government is not allowed to do.

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