Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Those Randy Libertarians

By Baynard Woods
Rand Paul, son of Texas Representative Ron Paul, won the Kentucky primary last week and then immediately found himself in trouble when he claimed that he was opposed to the Civil Rights Act. That is, his libertarianism extended so far that he did not believe that the Federal Government had the right to prohibit businesses from discriminating on the basis of race. He did stress that he was not racist and that he hoped the market would punish such businesses.
Jim DeMint endorsed Rand Paul before the election. Both men have claimed the Kentucky primary as a “tea party” victory. Since Paul’s views on Civil Rights have become clear, DeMint has been asked if he agreed with Paul.
He said that he did not agree with Paul and that he supported the Civil Rights Act. Which means that Jim DeMint supports the Federal Government’s intervention in the affairs of private businesses. Which means, that for all his claims to purity -he is the only Senator to get a 100 percent ranking on his own “Senate Conservatives” website—he is not consistent or pure.
I believe that DeMint probably does agree with Paul—but as an ad man is too savvy to say so. Ever since Truman first introduced Civil Rights in the Forties, the rhetoric that opposed it has always been based around an intrusive Federal Government.
When the Committee for Civil Rights report came out, in 1948, Strom Thurmond became a leading segregationist. Jack Bass and Marjorie Thompson’s book “Strom” details his arguments. Strom said: “Don’t forget that the so-called Civil Rights program would bring about the end of segregation in the South, forcing mixing of the races in our hotels, in our restaurants, in our schools, in our swimming pools and in our public places. This change in our customs is not desired by either the white or colored race.”
No modern politician will talk in those terms. But Thurmond went on in a vein that could easily be found on FOX News tonight:  “To bring this about, the federal government would set up a super police force with power to rove throughout the states and keep our people in constant fear of being sent to a federal jail unless we accept the decrees turned out by a bunch of anti-southern bureaucrats in Washington.”
This could be DeMint. The Senator is in a tough position. He doesn’t yet know how the Tea Party is responding to Rand Paul’s remarks. The movement’s most ardent supporters are used to accepting ridiculous nonsense from people named Rand. If DeMint comes out in support of Civil Rights—he might be seen as a Big Government man. If he comes out against it—he’ll come across as a radical racist. He’s up for reelection this year and he can’t afford to alienate either racists or antiracists.
True conservatives need to support the Federal Government as the greatest guarantee of individual liberty against the tyranny of the majority and get off of this idea that everything would be fine if there were no government.
It is so weird. The whole thing goes back to Thomas Hobbes and Jean-Jacques Rousseau. To vastly oversimplify things, Rousseau believed that human beings were “naturally” good, or Noble Savages, and that civilization and government corrupted us. Hobbes believed that without society human life was “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” (No, that is not a description of Joe Wilson—he’s rich). Only government could save us. Rousseau has been traditionally aligned with liberals and hippies and the like and Hobbes with conservatives and law-and-order types. Now, these new Randy Libertarians are embracing Rousseau and moving from Libertarianism to anarchism. The far left and the far right, together again. They come together in the dream that we can live free from constraint. Of course, this is one of the most appealing ideas in history… until somebody else harms you. In the current right wing rhetoric, only the government, terrorists and city slickers hurt you. This latter locution is useful because “urban” acts as code for ‘black’ and ‘elite’ at once.
In reality, the Massey coal mine and BP oil slick make it clear that the Federal Government ought to be a Hobbesian overawing power when it comes to behemoth corporate interests. To keep a business from discriminating against individuals does not take freedom from the individual—it places the citizen before to the merchant, the individual above the business.


  1. You do realize that it has been disproven that he ever said restaurants should be allowed to discriminate, and that at least the Chicago Tribune has issued a retraction. You might want to consider libel laws.

    He did say, when finally asked the question, that he would have voted for the Act himself, due to the intervention of government in creating segregation to the point where it was pervasive and patronizing only integrated facilities was not really an option in the South.

  2. Had the government not limited the liability for oils spills such as the one in the Gulf to a mere $75 million perhaps those companies invovled would have had more incentive to implement better safety measures. After all if you've only got $75 million of skin in the game you'll probably take more risks than if it was billions at stake.

    Yet another example of government being the cause of, not the solution to, many problems.

  3. You may have heard him say that he had some issues with a couple of titles of the civil rights act, but he never said that he opposed it in its entirety (not that he could have opposed it at all, he was a toddler at the time it passed.)

    I find it to be a bit amusing that this story is so scandalous in the media. He's basically taking Goldwater's position at the time. Hell, Hillary Clinton by her own admission was a Goldwater girl back then (and old enough to understand the arguments) ~ guess that cinches her kookiness and racist tendencies.

    Some folks believe in property rights, and don't think the government has a role telling private citizens what they can do on property that they own. Why would a non-white and/or non-racist person want to patronize a business owner who would put a "no blacks" allowed sign in his window anyway? Let the racist be a racist and post his objection, and let the community add that data point into their purchace decisions.

    Now, government has taken its court granted authority to meddle with property to mean it can forbid businesses from allowing its patrons to smoke cigarettes ~ using civil rights grounds and language. The Congress uses racial data from the census to redraw Congressional lines to ensure particular racial makeup of districts ~ again using precidence from civil rights legislation and rulings. Affirmative action, another "victory" of civil rights legislates discrimination based solely on race.

    Racial equality will never exist as long as racial discrimination is written into the law of our land. I believe the dream still exists that folks can one day be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin. I don't know Rand Paul, but as a libertarian who believes pretty much what Rand believes, I doubt pretty seriously that he's a racist. Libertarians believe in INDIVIDUALS ~ racists sort folks into groups.

    Rand is right. The Civil Rights act is flawed. His is a much more defensible argument than support for bailouts, or nationalized health care. Rand may flip the script on you lefties yet.

    Additionally, any serious media reflection on this issue should at minimum contain a reference to Byrd's fillibuster of the bill.