Kentucky Senator Rand Paul and wife Dr. Kelley Ashby Paul presented their new book, “The Case Against Socialism,” at Columbia University on Wednesday night. The event was hosted by Columbia Libertarians, Colloquiua — a multi-partisan discourse group — and Turning Point USA, the conservative nonprofit group. The first 200 guests seated each received a copy of the new book, which will be released next week.
Opening the event were the Columbia University Libertarians President and Vice President, Chloe Schneewind and Lucy Collins, followed by an introduction from former Fox news anchor Kimberly Guilfoyle.
Paul, a prominent libertarian and supporter of the Tea Party movement, is known for his conservative stances on abortion, same-sex marriage, and human responsibility for climate change. He is also opposed to minimum sentences for drug offenses and has similar views on privacy as progressive politicians.
Paul began by noting that his wife would be giving the facts of the book, though she did not begin speaking until about 17 minutes into the talk to provide some statistics about government programs in Scandinavia. They polled the audience to see how many students have positive associations with socialism, of which about ⅓ raised their hands. Paul said he would debunk the myths of socialism in his book and during the talk, and suggested that young people do not really know about the dangers of socialism, claiming that failures of socialism in Venezuela have rendered it authoritarian and left it “in utter disaster” as residents lose weight while President Nicolas Maduro “gains 50 pounds”. He argued that some of the worst political leaders in history, among them Josef Stalin and Adolf Hitler, were socialists, despite the quite widespread understanding that both used socialism as a tool to gain political power and coerce their populations into participation.
Paul notes that young Americans, including students and fans of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders, say things like, “What we want is a kinder, gentler socialism” and “a Scandinavian socialism,” but suggests that what appears to be a successful form of socialism in Northern Europe is actually less free or less equal than the United States. He argues that it is better to have a larger stratification than a cap on income in both directions, and concluded that he wants to help Ocasio-Cortez and Sanders say that they are democratic welfarists, not democratic socialists, though Paul himself is opposed to welfare.
Columbia University has been easily recognized as a liberal campus at least since the famous anti-war and anti-racism riots in 1968, where more than 800 demonstrators were arrested.
One figure who provides some contrast to the liberal-only overtones of Columbia is University President Lee Bollinger, a free speech legal scholar and advocate, and professor of a fall semester class called “Freedom of Speech and Press.” Bollinger received widespread criticism in 2007 when the World Leaders Forum — Bollinger’s own initiative to host global political leaders — invited Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to speak, despite his human rights abuses record.
Despite ideological clashes, the event ran smoothly, with no protestors or disruptions taking place.
“I think it’s great that our university stands so strong for free speech, “says student Blythe Edwards. “I think we’re all really pleased with how the event ran tonight. I’m really glad and grateful that the audience, even though, as you can see is made up by like a third of people who have positive views of socialism, were very respectful, you know, listened to the senator, and I think that’s the civil discourse that we should be having.”
Shakeem Holmes, a School of Social Work student receiving his masters in Clinical Psychology, left class at 5:45 to make it to the event at time. Holmes is involved with Turning Point at Columbia, and says he was surprised nothing happened during the event itself, given his experience handing out flyers for the event, where he says students flipped him off, ripped up flyers, and called Paul a “flaming racist” and an “ass.”