Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, recently spoke at the “ Rebooting Congress, Causes and Campaigns 2014 ” conference in Silicon Valley. The goal of Lincoln Labs, which put on the event, is to “create a bridge between technology and efforts to advance liberty.”
The conference sought to “bring together technical talent and policy advocates to turn ideas into deliverables for liberty.”
Mr. Paul has also met in recent weeks with tech luminaries, including Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg and PayPal co-founder Peter Thiel.
This might seem like just the usual meet-and-greet in advance of a possible presidential run. The libertarian-leaning Mr. Paul’s efforts, though, could presage a radical realignment of the Republican Party and a revolution in American politics.
The GOP is in a demographic death spiral as its traditional voter base — for example, white evangelicals — shrinks. To survive, it must bring into its fold minorities, young people, and, especially, the new modernist achievers. These latter are the innovators who led the communications and information revolution and who are pioneering new technologies and services in areas such as medicine, robotics, energy, transportation, space and education.
Republicans usually overlook modernist achievers because such mostly young entrepreneurs are usually Obama supporters. Being a political entrepreneur, Mr. Paul seems to appreciate that perhaps they vote for statists because no one has offered them an attractive alternative.
These new entrepreneurs have an obvious interest in free markets. Most aspire to earn profits by attracting paying customers rather than by securing government handouts. In recent years, many have found government regulations hampering their freedom to innovate, whether it’s the Food and Drug Administration banning 23andMe from offering genetic-testing services by mail or local governments banning Uber ridesharing. On these issues, entrepreneurs are a better match for the GOP than for the Democrats, a point Mr. Paul no doubt is making.
Most of these new entrepreneurs loathe “crony capitalism,” the current system in which businesses profit principally through political pull, usually at the expense of competitors. They seem to prefer a system in which businesses succeed or fail on their merits. In other words, what they favor, whether or not they have the vocabulary to describe it, is a true free market.
In the past, the GOP has been perceived, with some truth, as the party pimping for business privileges. Today, however, Democrats want to blur this distinction between the two systems so they can punish achievers with taxes and regulations, all the while taking the lead from Republicans by giving special favors to their business buddies. Again, Mr. Paul and the GOP can offer the new entrepreneurs clarity about the crony system and the honest, free-market alternative.
More important in the long run than the political support these new entrepreneurs might offer the GOP are the values they hold and are promoting in our culture.
First, they respect the power of human reason, which gives us an almost infinite capacity to change the world for the better.
Second, they understand that individuals matter — that individuals, not government bureaucracies, are the driving force behind human progress.
Third, they love their work and seek personal fulfillment through productive achievement.
Fourth, they know that their efforts help to create a world as it can be and should be.
To put it in Ayn Rand language, they have the values and spirit of a Howard Roark and now need the politics of a John Galt. These are just the values that must triumph over the pernicious entitlement culture that today is replacing proud, personally responsible citizens with whining, servile subjects. In the end, only these values can provide the foundation for the restoration of individual liberty.
The new entrepreneurs tend to be socially liberal. Thus, they generally avoid a GOP that they perceive as dominated by intolerant, liberty-limiting social-conservative extremists. Mr. Paul is personally a social conservative, but gives political priority to limiting government. He will certainly try to retain the support of such conservatives while bringing in young wealth creators.
In the short term, that could be a winning formula. In the long term, though, the GOP likely will have to choose whether to continue with its crippling contradiction and decline, or to become a truly modernist, future-oriented party. The latter would not only be the best thing for the party. It would be the best thing for the country.
(This piece first appeared in the Washington Times online edition on July 25 and in its print edition on July 28, 2014)
Book Review: Abundance: The Future Is Better Than You Think , by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.” ISkeptic, April 24, 2013.
Edward Hudgins is research director at the Heartland Institute and former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society.