Glenn and Penn Jillette always have a great conversation, and last night was no different. Penn’s always been a big libertarian, so Glenn was really interested in what he thought of someone like Rand Paul entering the race for President of the United States. Penn shared his thoughts - as well as the one question he thinks every candidate should have to answer. What was it?
"The question I always want to ask, you know, every person who believes in big government is the simple question, 'What should the government do?' And that question never gets asked," Penn said.
"They did heating oil subsidies in New England in order to keep people warm in their homes. That was a boy, that’s a good thing. We don’t want people freezing to death, so the government is going to come in and do that. And then right after, in this state, Texas, they in their negotiating said we need air-conditioning subsidies for people in Texas. That’s also a good thing. People should be comfortable in their homes. People do die from their homes getting too hot. Where do we draw that line in what government should do?" he continued.
"And that is the single question I want to ask Elizabeth Warren and I want to ask Rand Paul," he said.
Watch the segment below, and scroll down for the full transcript:
Glenn: Anybody that you see that you like? Anybody?
Penn: I like you. I like that guy.
Glenn: No, that’s thinking about running.
Penn: Oh thinking about running, are you thinking about running?
Glenn: This is the most libertarian that we’ve had maybe in 100 years. Rand Paul, Ted Cruz is constitutional. He’s not libertarian, but he’s constitutional. You’ve got those two.
Penn: You’ve got those two. I happen to love Gary Johnson. I don’t think he’ll run again, but boy, Gary Johnson was just, you know, I want to have somebody that has such strong principles that the person doesn’t matter, you know? That’s what you need. The people moving it towards libertarian, now, Rand Paul—
Glenn: Did you like his father?
Penn: As a matter of fact, I’m going to be doing a thing with his father. I’ve never met him, but you know, to me, you’ve got to do a little bit of prioritizing. Ron Paul was so antiwar in so many ways and so much of a peacenik and so pro-freedom that I was willing to forgive when you got down the line. Rand Paul has done much more fake libertarian stuff, you know?
Glenn: That’s really interesting.
Penn: And his whole thing of religion does have a place in government, which I would like to remind him that the people who most don’t want religion to be in government are the religious people. You really don’t want. Boy, do you not want.
Before communism kind of screwed it all up, at the end of the 19th century, Robert Ingersoll, a very well-known atheist, was courted by all religious groups. Presidents had him in the White House because if you had an atheist, your atheist was the canary in the coal mine. If the Southern Baptist came in and said I’m going to treat this atheist well, then the Catholics went, “Whew, we’re okay.”
You know, what you have to understand is when Rand Paul says government can’t be part of religion, but religion can be part of government, which is what he said, when he says that, people like you should be screaming, “Excuse me, whose religion?” That’s the first question you have to ask. Whenever they say we’re going to put the Ten Commandments up here, we’re going to use the Bible here, we’re going to use religion here, I can’t believe that everybody doesn’t scream, “Whose religion?”
And that’s why before it got tied in with Socialism and Communism, which I understand why atheism got a bad rap. If you give me a choice of free-market democracy with religion and Communism without religion, I don’t think you have to think for a second which I’d go with, where I’m going to do better.
Penn: When you had that idea, using the atheist as okay, we’re going to take over the government right now, and oh, by the way, we’re okay with Robert Ingersoll. He can come on in. Everybody, you know, every Jew in the country, every Catholic in the country, every Muslim in the country gets to go, “Oh, we’re going to be able to go to church. We can do what we want.”
So, I’m very bothered by Rand Paul saying this and that and the other thing. Who I vote for and who I say I vote for, at a very profound level does not matter. What I would love to see more than anything is the conversation publicly between Rand Paul and Hillary Clinton, that conversation of what should the government try to do.
Glenn: I’d really like—because I don’t think Hillary Clinton is an honest conversation there, I’d like to see Elizabeth Warren and Rand Paul. I’d love to have those two have the conversation. If we could all be adults and say, “Just tell us the truth.” I don’t think you’re a communist Elizabeth. You believe in like Swedish Socialism or something. Great, that’s okay. That’s totally fine. Have that conversation. Let’s be open and honest about it.
Rand, you talk about libertarianism and small government. Let’s have that real conversation. The Jeb Bush-Hillary Clinton thing is a waste of time.
Penn: The question I always want to ask, you know, every person who believes in big government is the simple question, “What should the government do?” And that question never gets asked.
They did heating oil subsidies in New England in order to keep people warm in their homes. That was a boy, that’s a good thing. We don’t want people freezing to death, so the government is going to come in and do that. And then right after, in this state, Texas, they in their negotiating said we need air-conditioning subsidies for people in Texas. That’s also a good thing. People should be comfortable in their homes. People do die from their homes getting too hot. Where do we draw that line in what government should do? And that is the single question I want to ask Elizabeth Warren and I want to ask Rand Paul.
You say the government should be a small as possible, and yet you want the government to have some say in religion? I would say you open a can of worms, but opening a can of worms is no big deal. Opening a can of bees, that’s a bad thing. Let’s say that’s opening a can of whiteface hornets, because a can of worms, we open that, we put it there, we keep talking. A can of bees changes the conversation. Can we agree with that?
So, I think that saying the government has some say—this is the crazy thing, the government needs to have say in keeping people safe, and that is automatically morality, but the government shouldn’t be seeing it as morality but seeing it as individual rights. And that is the really difficult part. And by the way, that question we want to ask, “What’s government’s role?” anybody who can answer that question is a liar, but they will say on a sliding scale, I think it’s about here. And you say well, what about this thing, you know? And that’s the point to me of libertarianism is everybody jumps right to roads and public schools. Everybody jumps right to the poor starving. Everybody jumps right to those things right away.
I say let’s not get to those. Let’s talk about corporate welfare. Let’s talk about Wall Street bailouts. Let’s talk about too much war overseas, interacting too much overseas. A lot of us can agree on that. By the time we get to public schools, we will be so happy, it’ll be a nice, easy, comfortable call. Because I’ll tell you right now, if you were to come to me and say here’s the deal you have to make with the devil, we’re going to give an amount of money you can live on to every single poor person in the country, we’re going to have public school, we’re going to have roads, but you know something, we’re not going to have the national endowment for the arts, we’re not going to have NASA, which is two things I love, by the way, which is why I choose them first. We’re going to get rid of those.
What Harry Brown used to say, pick the three government programs that you like the most. Now, ask yourself would I be willing to get rid of those if I could get rid of all the others? But we can pare it down quite a ways. So, my question that I’m asking myself now is can I feel good enough about Rand Paul’s foreign policy and money policy to not be repulsed by his absolute slap in the face to me and the people I love dearly of religion needs to be part of government? You know, that’s a conversation I’ll have with myself and not very interesting, but boy, do I want that question, “What should government do?” to be asked to everybody.
Glenn: That’s great.