Rand Paul and the Church of the Golden Calf

Kudos to TNR’s Danny Vinik for using the brief glare of media attention for Rand Paul’s characteristically exotic views on vaccinations to remind us that his views on the far more central issue of monetary policy remain those of his father–not simply unusual but actively dangerous for anyone who makes a living from labor rather than capital. Worse yet, the Paulites have made nineteenth-century-style moral fulminating about the gold standard as a token of national virtue not only respectable but very common in the Republican Party, as evidenced by the inclusion in the 2012 Republican National Platform of a call for a “commission” to investigate a return to gold, along with the similarly-intended “Audit the Fed” Paulite pet rock. What this means in practical terms is support for an obsessively anti-inflationary monetary policy that would make the Fed’s traditionally excessive interest in “price stability” look radically benign.

Early in 2012 National Review‘s Ramesh Ponnuru warned that Rand Paul’s father was in danger of seducing the entire GOP into supporting his crackpot monetary policies. If there is any aspect of them Ron’s son does not embrace, I’m not sure what that would be. And other Republicans can be expected to continue flirting with the goldbug creed, which obscures behind abstruse theory an atavistic conspiracy theory about government-manipulated money robbing savers and creditors in order to give those people artificial wealth they don’t deserve.

There’s a reason Ayn Rand fetishized the gold standard (hence the gold dollar sign that she and many of her acolytes wore on their lapels like Christians with their crosses) as symbolizing her quasi-religious belief that “sound money” represented the only valid instrument for measuring human worth. If Rand Paul gets anywhere close to the White House, it will be time to call him out on leading prayers at the Church of the Golden Calf. And it’s another reminder to progressives that much as they may like Paul’s positions on Cuba or pot or the NSA, his idea of a just world is one in which the claims of capital trump absolutely everything.

Ed Kilgore

Ed Kilgore, a Monthly contributing editor, is a columnist for the Daily Intelligencer, New York magazine’s politics blog, and the managing editor for the Democratic Strategist.