The same holds true today for the Ron Paul ideology. Conservatives do not want to believe that the bank bailouts averted a financial collapse. That desire renders them vulnerable to the Paulites, who positively welcome a financial collapse as a necessary prelude to the construction of their gold-standard utopia – a fantasy world in which the fluctuations of the credit market are eliminated by the worse-than-the-disease cure of abolishing most forms of credit in the first place.

In today’s Republican mood, politicians who explain practical limits are rejected as weaklings and sell-outs. When Trey Grayson explains that a Republican majority will not be able to balance the budget in a single year – or that some of the anti-drug programs funded by federal dollars are saving lives – he loses support. When Rand Paul announces that he will never vote for an unbalanced budget, today’s angry Republicans hear a man of principle not a petulant grandstander.

You can’t run a country this way of course. Nor (probably) can you win a general election. Especially not with a candidate as deservedly vulnerable as Rand Paul.