DON’T BASE ENERGY POLICIES ON STRANGE NOVELS…. The Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee met yesterday, marking up bipartisan energy efficiency and hydropower measures, the first bills considered by the committee in the 112th Congress.

They were approved, but not before Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) reminded the room how deeply strange he is. (thanks to reader A.S.)

“Ayn Rand wrote a novel, Anthem, it’s a dystopian novel where individual choice is banned and the collective rules society. There’s a young man and his name is Equality 72521. He is an intelligent young man but he is been from achieving or reaching any sort of occupation that would challenge him. He is a street sweeper.

“Over time he discovers an abandoned subway and rediscovers the incandescent light bulb. And he thinks, naively, that electricity and the brilliance of light would be an advantage for society and that it would bring great new things as far as being able to see at night, being able to read and the advancement of civilization.

“He takes it before the collective of elders, and they take the light bulb, and basically it’s crushed beneath the boot heel of the collective. The collective has no place basically for individual choice.

“Now I’m not suggesting that this collective body is against electricity per se, or that your goals are to quash individualism. But I am suggesting that we’re against choice. And I think you seem to be oblivious to this sometimes that you’re taking away people’s freedom to buy products they want to buy.”

Paul’s proposed amendments were defeated, but not without a lot of eye-rolling in the committee room.

This comes, by the way, about a month after Paul blamed the Obama administration for his toilet troubles, and compared abortions to light bulbs.

Jon Chait, describing the Kentucky senator, added, “He’s not only an ideological fanatic, he’s not even a terribly bright one. The issue here is that, according to the scientific consensus, emitting carbon into the atmosphere harms other people. Even 18 year old college libertarians tend to grasp that you have to work through the issue of polluting the commons, not treat polluting the commons as a simple act of individual choice.”

What’s more, Eric Kleefeld noted the literary references didn’t make sense, either: “In [Ayn Rand’s Anthem], of course, the protagonist was attempting through his individual experimentation and achievements to advance his society past a more primitive technology, the candle. In this case, however, regulations are being used in order to move society forward to the next generation of technology, after the incandescent bulb, on the grounds that it would save energy.”

I’m so glad Kentuckians elected a strange, self-accredited ophthalmologist to the U.S. Senate.

Steve Benen

Follow Steve on Twitter @stevebenen. Steve Benen is a producer at MSNBC's The Rachel Maddow Show. He was the principal contributor to the Washington Monthly's Political Animal blog from August 2008 until January 2012.