Rand Paul gave an interview on Reason.tv recently (the video below) in which he suggested that Republicans need to adopt an attitude of “live and let live.” It’s a good interview in which I agree with probably 90% of the content that includes a display of some solid libertarian credentials like curbing the grip and extent of the regulatory apparatus and reinforcing property rights. Paul said at one point in the interview, “I want everybody to work. Not as a punishment, but as a reward.” But of course, he didn’t elaborate on how to go about that – how to ensure there are opportunities to work and he didn’t mention monetary policy.
About the “live and let live” attitude, Paul put that in the context of getting along with each other as Party which I think is pretty important. Because as someone who has been alienated by a whole raft of recent hardline positions with which I do not agree, which is quite an understatement, it would be nice to be able to go “home” again. I’ve never agreed that government should be highly involved in our lives, the extent to which it is currently involved in our private relationships and personal behavior is highly underappreciated as being more cult-like than anything one could reasonably describe as a free society. I was in the Party because I agreed with the pillars of economic freedom and limited government intervention because of my dramatic libertarian stripe, and over the last few years, those pillars on which I agreed seemed to vanish. The majority of Milton Friedman’s scholarship was tossed under the sadomonitarist bus, and the “values voters” appeared to fill the power vacuum after the more libertarian minded folks jumped off. There truly is almost nothing left to support.
It’s not that I have a problem with the way the values voters want to live life. If they find comfort and security in their religious beliefs and the family unit, more power to them. My husband and I just celebrated out twentieth wedding anniversary. We raised my daughter and our son together. I lived mostly by their standards. But I chose that because it was on my own terms, not because it had anything at all to do with economics. In fact, economics has been pretty bad the last several years, starting with the recession in 2001 when things changed and my husband had to find a new career. Then, in 2007 I had to find a new career and there were none to be had. The economic hardship had nothing to do with family units, or borrowing too much, or any other kind of reckless behavior to which these values people insist that the deterioration of the family is the root cause.
I find a bit of incoherence in their principles. I once had a debate with a values voter in which he emphatically insisted that I was immoral because I had been married once before, and in all actuality I was still married to the ex and sinning with my current husband, even though the ex was a falling-down drunk who couldn’t keep a job, cared nothing about our daughter, and couldn’t keep his pants zipped. He said that I could leave him if he posed a hazard to our child, but couldn’t divorce him, couldn’t marry someone who wanted to be a dad. I cannot rationalize the position that instead of putting up with that kind of behavior one should make the alternate choice of living the life of a widow when it comes to doing what is best for children. They decry the sorry state of fatherless children, which my daughter in fact was even before I left the ex, and then say if what you have isn’t working that is exactly the moral thing to do, consign the child to be fatherless in perpetuity regardless of whether the status of single mother is enough to satisfy needs.
I had enough money to go it alone, but not the emotional wherewithal. I was young and life as a single mom was a certain kind of hell (though a lesser, different kind of hell than living with the ex) that I would not ever want to relive. I was not pleasant. I was deeply angry and resentful at the predicament in which I found myself, about having been locked alone in a prison designed for me by my ex. Many nights after putting my daughter to bed, I would just lay on the floor staring at the ceiling, weeping just to let it all out. I stopped sleeping in my bed because it reminded me of how alone I was. Instead, I would just lay on the couch watching TV until I fell asleep.
It all came to a head about four years into living this way after I became exhausted in every sense and things I should have been doing started falling off the table. My house was a mess. My daughter was out of control. I got into trouble at work for being late, and my mother would call me up just to scream at me (mostly, I think, to make herself feel better as she never offered help). Everything was out of control and I was on the edge of my sanity. Something had to change or I wasn’t going to make it, it’s that simple. So instead of being beside myself with grief constantly, I decided it was imperative to free myself from that prison and get a normal and livable family life. It was what I needed to be able to provide the kind of life for my daughter that she deserved, one that included someone who wanted to be her dad.
No matter what any of those judgmental values people have to say about me, the only thing I would do differently is that I would have done it sooner instead of trying to tough it out until I was just barely functional. Having been down that road, I suggest that they are free to live as medieval as they wish, but that they have no right to foist it on others. And I wish that they would say what they really mean, that men can do to women whatever they’d like, and with religion as a shield for the men, the women and children have to suffer for it either way.