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Rand Paul, Fauxbertarian

in culture-society-history, government

Ta-Nehisi Coates | The Proud Ignorance of Rand Paul

But Paul never settles down and to make the argument. Rachel Maddow repeatedly raises lunch counters, and it would have really pleased me if Paul had just made the case for private sector discrimination. Frankly, I can see the outlines of the argument and am not totally unsympathetic to it. Indeed, I think there’s a beautiful justice that’s visited upon the random politician who, to this very day, is routinely exposed as belonging to a white country club. There’s a kind of social sanction in that embarrassment that I don’t think the law can bring. (That said, I trust the people who were actually there more than my own abstract theorizing.)

… my sense is that for a senator to be ignorant of the Civil Rights Act, is not simply to be ignorant of a “black issue,” but to be ignorant of one of the most important pieces of legislation ever passed.

… I’m sure Paul’s defenders will dismiss this interview as a lefty hit-job.

Enter Reason’s Matt Welch stage left:

About one second or so after Rand Paul won the GOP primary in Kentucky’s Senate race, the liberal commentariat began painting him as a lunatic and possibly racist creep, using as prime evidence his recent statements in opposition to the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Translation: But but but we heralded Paul as the Second Coming of John Galt, even if the neo-Nazis, Christian-nation supporters and anti-abortion movement are high-fiving each other over his victory. We couldn’t possibly take it back now.

Jeezus, Mama Rand‘s message is really lost on you all, isn’t it?

Update: So, which is it? Businesses can be told how to conduct themselves or do what they want? One solution is to regulate only behavior that has a negative effect on the common good. Then, we have to define negative effect. I fully admit it’s a hard question to answer, but racial discrimination and not holding companies responsible for wanton pollution are (also un-American and) not satisfactory outcomes, either.

Plum Line | Rand Paul spox: Fed gov’t should bar businesses from discriminating

“Civil Rights legislation that has been affirmed by our courts gives the Federal government the right to ensure that private businesses don’t discriminate based on race. Dr. Paul supports those powers.”

AP | Rand Paul: WH criticism of BP sounds ‘un-American’

Paul says Obama’s criticism of the oil company sounds like an attack on business and “really un-American” … In an interview Friday on ABC’s “Good Morning America,” Paul says the president’s response is part of the “blame game” that’s played in the U.S. Paul said that leads to the thinking that tragic incidents are “always someone’s fault” and added, sometimes accidents just happen.

3 comments… add one
  • I read the same article by TNC. But in the Maddow interview I don’t hear what a lot of people are hearing. This doubtless has to do with my growing up around beaucoup conservatives and libertarians. We shouldn’t need Paul to come out and say it. They’ve been saying it for a long, long time.

    I don’t agree with the sentiment, I’m just wondering why people are acting shocked at all this.

    When I hear Paul discussing the CRA1964, I don’t hear him saying “I wouldn’t have voted for it” (I mean, did I miss where he said that?), I hear him saying that he agreed with the first 9 titles of the act because they pertain to government modifying government behavior. Then I hear him saying that he has a problem with title 10, regarding government intrusion into business, because that’s more complicated. This is completely in line with what they’ve been saying for years, if not decades (if not longer).

    His worldview makes no moral distinction between a business proprietor discriminating on the basis of a patron’s legal handgun ownership, their prediliction for smoking, or their skin color. His worldview says the proprietor makes those rules, not the government. His moral opposition to discrimination on the basis of color, creed, gender, orientation, etc. will be expressed in what businesses he patronizes. In his worldview, these dynamics are determined between individuals without government involvement.

    Considering that the relationship between government regulation and private property rights has been one of the most recurring themes in the politics of almost every civilization, my concern rests mainly with the folks who think this question was answered with finality with the CRA1964. We’re getting very caught up in the race aspect of this, but we aren’t focusing on the overarching philosophical question: where do the rights of property owners begin and end? Where are the interests of the common good allowed to supercede those of the individual property owner? (Please see also: BP, oilpocalypse)

    This is what libertarians believe, they have a nationwide movement, and they are winning elections. If you disagree with those beliefs, we’d better start getting our stuff together and stop acting shocked that real voting populations adhere to this philosophy. Pretending it didn’t exist got us 8 years of Bush, and talking like it doesn’t exist will get us 4 years of Obama.

  • Pat: As a former Harry Browne libertarian, I know of what you speak. What I wish to point out here is not so much Coates being aghast at Paul’s stance on title 10, but the fact that libertarians keep shedding so many of their core beliefs in order to align themselves with a candidate who falls even remotely within their parameters of libertarian-ness. When I hear anti-choice, pro-war, anti-drug, anti-civil-liberties Republicans call themselves Libertarians now (when it is convenient for them not to be regulated by government for some specific activities), alarm bells go off. The Republicans invited this element into their party and are now facing the fallout. I don’t wish a similar fate on the Libertarians.

    But thanks for highlighting the yet unresolved relationship between government regulation and private property rights. Where is the line between me believing and practicing whatever I want on my private property (something I strongly believe in) and the abuse of the common good? Then again, where do we place the division between private and community property? That’s a question to be answered first.

    A serious question: Somalia has no government. What passes for authority there is uneducated teenagers with AK-47s. What will stop us from devolving into that, when most Americans have shown repeatedly and without remorse that they behave only when government (and religion) regulates them with no personal civic and moral barricades of their own? I’m all for individual rights, including my individual right not to be screwed over by their individual rights.

  • When I hear anti-choice, pro-war, anti-drug, anti-civil-liberties Republicans call themselves Libertarians now (when it is convenient for them not to be regulated by government for some specific activities), alarm bells go off.

    That is one hell of a quote, and one I couldn’t agree with more.

    RE: Somalia

    Good point, that place is anarchy defined, and taking that example vs the USA’s libertarian (small “L”) leanings is an important thought excercise. We are a big, dynamic, progressive society that doesn’t appear to be because we expend so much energy on trivial concerns. We’re far more orderly than we give ourselves credit for because we’d rather live in a state of fear and be proven right than live in a state of contentment and have that feeling violated.

    I’ve long believed the US is a society of loosely arbitrated (as opposed to controlled) chaos at the best of times. We really only ever experienced a “big” government between 1941 and 1965. These days, a lot of people here are more frightened of a powerful imaginary US government than the actual US government is interested or (it seems) capable of projecting. These people have far more to actually fear from their family, friends, neighbors, and their own behavior on almost every threat matrix from violence (most sexual assaults are committed by someone the victim knows) to civil litigation (divorce) to driving down the street (how many people die on our roads each year?), but they dismiss those threats as absurd. On the other hand, the government power that most affects their lives (state, local & school) is the government power these people know the least about and expend the least amount of effort to change.

    Our society as a whole doesn’t have so far to fall to find ourselves in a Somalia-like situation. We can see episodes of it in post-flood New Orleans, the war on drugs, and in the tribalist fiefdoms scattered throughout our country in inner cities, suburbs, and rural backwoods counties. Right now, the places where teenagers do have AK-47’s are Somalia-like places with gangs operating independently from government control, even in prison. Hell, we can see it in the smallest children who can turn into the most viscious bullies when the teacher or parent is incapable of curtailing that behavior. (Lord of the Flies and Lost are compelling for the same “no real authority” reasoning.) But wherever consequences are inconsistent with reality or wherever there is a real fear of reprisal for confronting wrongs – that is where you find the strongest progress resistance that threatens throw us back to third worldism.

    The only differences between their teenagers with guns and ours is 1) weapons technology, 2) historical period and 3) Robert E. Lee. Imagine Bleeding Kansas, the Lincoln County War, Manifest Destiny or any pre-WWII internal American conflict if warlords on any side had access to AK-47’s and rocket launchers. Lee’s greatest, most courageous and heroic decision was to surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to Grant – Forrest and some of his other popular generals wanted to retreat to the Blue Ridge and wage guerilla war for 100 years.

    All that being said, we really have no idea how large populations would react to the removal of “government power,” since most government power is a mental construct anyway. A lot of the historical situations of horror show anarchy I can think of (lynchings, crime waves, disasters) all occured with either explict or understood government acceptance from commission of the crime to the fear of reprisal for confronting the anarchy.

    That’s where our society’s dynamism becomes a strength and a bulwark against anarchy, even if done in a big “L” libertarian construct. Dynamism and pluralistic social cohesion put pressure on government power not to accept anarchy and mitigate the effect of reprisals. This can be seen in the abolitionist and civil rights movements, who literally expanded enlightenment liberalism in support of human rights further than they ever have been and did so against the entire weight of government and human history.

    Sorry to bloviate.

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