Abraham Maslow, the man who codified our hierarchy of needs, is credited with an important witticism: "If the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail." It is a good answer to idealogues such as the new Republican candidate for senator from Kentucky, Rand Paul.
Dr. Paul has been bloodied in interviews, following his victory last Tuesday, for his libertarian views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act and of minimum wage, and for his denunciation of the Obama administration for criticizing BP during the environmental crisis in the Gulf of Mexico. It seems that for Libertarians, as for the Antinominians of old, belief in the right dogmas relieves us of duty to our fellow man and to the earth we share.
Perhaps Rand fortifies himself with Ralph Waldo Emerson's observations that "Whoso would be a man, must be a nonconformist," and "To be great is to be misunderstood." However, Emerson also wrote: "A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines."
This morning, Rand did the unthinkable: he backed out of an appearance on Meet the Press, potentially a major forum from which to expound his creed. I hope it was the advice of Dirty Harry that finally penetrated: "A man ought to know his limitations."
Photo of Emerson with his grandson, Ralph Emerson Forbes. Photos of historic figures usually make them seem more contemporaneous, but this one, with a boy wearing a ruffled dress, makes me think otherwise. Click on the picture for a closer look.