Bryan Caplan  

Libertarian Nurture? The Case of the Paul Family

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The NYT has a fun story on how Ron Paul raised Rand Paul:
In keeping with their position as the First Family of Libertarianism, the Pauls of Lake Jackson, Tex., did not have many rules around their home.

"Behave yourself and be polite" is how Representative Ron Paul describes his regulatory philosophy about rearing five children. Mr. Paul, a Republican, and his wife of 53 years, Carol, never believed in assigned chores or mandates.

They did not give out allowances, which they viewed as a parental version of a government handout. They did not believe in strict curfews; Mr. Paul says that unintended consequences -- like speeding home to beat the clock -- can result from excessive meddling from a central authority.

"Behave yourself and be polite" - that's basically my parenting philosophy, too.  The NYT is quick to conclude that libertarian nurture leads to libertarian adults:

While Mr. Paul's laissez-faire views produced a family of likeminded thinkers -- "We're all on board," says the oldest son, Ronnie Paul -- they inspired the middle child, Rand, to follow his father's career path, first into medicine and now politics.
I suppose it all hinges on the sense of the word "produced."  But note:
Mr. Paul was loath to guide his five children in any vocational direction, although three of them followed him into careers in medicine.
Personally, I'd love to see my three sons eventually join the GMU faculty.  But love it or loath it, I doubt there's much I can do about it.

HT: Andrew Healy


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COMMENTS (7 to date)
Nate Alderson writes:

I've heard that the Pauls are Presbyterian, which I believe has a rich history of family loyalty, intellectualism, and libertarianism

Greego writes:

It's quite a nice article really, and a lot fairer than what I'd expect from the NYT. The comments on the other hand...

Rebecca Burlingame writes:

There must have been something in the water in Brazoria County Texas...no allowances or assigned chores either, when I was growing up. I could, however, make a little money from work around the house and put it into a savings account.

geckonomist writes:

so what would Mr. Paul have done if his kids were absolutely not behaving themselves and were not polite??


it's very easy when you have nice, polite kids, but some kids' nature is very, very different.

rpl writes:
They did not give out allowances, which they viewed as a parental version of a government handout.
How was the roof he put over his children's heads or the food he put on the table any less of a handout? Or are we to believe that Paul charged his kids market value for their room and board? The fact is, a family, particularly one with children is an inherently socialistic arrangement, and there is nothing wrong with that. Where it goes wrong is when people imagine they can run a nation the same way they run their families.

To me, stories like this illustrate the problem with being doctrinaire about a political philosophy (libertarian or otherwise). Any philosophy that can be expressed in 50 words or less is too simplistic to deal with the complexity of the real world. It's reasonable to adopt such a philosophy as a starting point for reasoning about the world, but trying to cram every situation into that pigeonhole just makes you look like a fool.

Brian Moore writes:

One of my parents was a libertarian doctor too, but I was far too lazy to follow in her footsteps.

Visf writes:

I come from the same kind of family, they gave me the freedom to do things the wrong way which granted me the tools how to figure things out. Give your children freedom and they will develop a process in how to deal with information and how to interact with other people. Tell them how to act or tell them what the conclusions are and they will be clueless their entire life and have no idea how to adapt.

The same is true in society. If people do not bear the blunt of their faulty actions, then how will they learn?

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