Thursday, May 20, 2010


Rand Paul has taken it on the chin for his remark that: "I don't like the idea of telling private business owners – I abhor racism – I think it's a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant. But at the same time I do believe in private ownership."

Democrats and their allies have rushed out to paint Paul as a throwback racist, someone who would welcome the return of Whites Only drinking fountains and segregated schools. They've also been rushing to paint him as the face of the new Republicanism, and proof that the Tea Party, with whom Paul willingly identifies, IS chocked full of racists and other ne'er-do-wells who will support people who are bad for the nation.

In fairness to the Left, this is just the sort of thing that the Right does all the time. And, also just like the Right, the Left works to bury the actual point of a juicy comment in well, bullshit, when the ability to use it for political gain (or to stop the bleeding) presents itself.

It's important to realize, if you want to understand where Paul is coming from, that he's a Libertarian. And, in short, one of the central tenants of Libertarianism is: "That government is best which governs the least, because its people discipline themselves." - Thomas Jefferson. And in a very real way, many of his critics should be examining their stance. In the Perfect World of Rand Paul, hanging out a "Whites Only" or "Asians Need Not Apply" sign would be economic suicide. Slate's John Dickerson is correct when he notes that: "As a practical matter, that ignores history and the human behavior of the time." But that's true of a LOT of things - many of which we don't honestly expect will ever make a comeback. Do we really suspect that if the Civil Rights Act of 1964 were repealed tomorrow, that race relations in the United States would instantly - or ever - reset to 1963? When Conservatives rail about the Liberals blaming America first, that's one of the things that they're talking about - this idea that barbarism lurks just below the surface in American society, kept in check only by an activist government that's constantly on the lookout to make sure that people do the right thing.

You can make the point that Paul's optimistic view of human (or at least American) nature is misplaced. But not as misplaced as I think his critics would have us believe. Granted, while 1964 isn't exactly the distant past, it was, as far as this nation is concerned, a long time ago. It's unlikely that you could manage to re-instate the sort of society that we had back then, even if there was a very vocal (and perhaps violent) minority calling for it. Paul thinks that Americans have become permanently better than that. Therefore, it's something of a stretch to think that he doesn't support equal rights, just because he doesn't see government as being the best vehicle to deliver them.

To be sure, most Americans are probably too lazy to go out of their way to make the United States a Libertarian paradise. We've become too used to Big Government doing things for us, and are too sensitive to anything that smacks of a hit to our standards of living. But that's not Rand Paul's fault.


Keifus said...

In that case, it's more broadly highlighting Libertarianism's flaws rather than Rand Paul's, specifically. I mean, the obvious retort to his belief that the market would act as a corrective for segregation is that for 250 years or so, it didn't.

But it probably wouldn't cast us immediately back to 1963. We would surely find (or will find, or are finding) some contemporary way to be horrible to one another. People seem all too ready to be horrible to Mexicans or Muslims, say.

Aaron said...

I think that part of the problem is that people look at the idea that the market didn't act as a corrective for discrimination and decide that it can't. This idea, to me, lies at the heart of the statist branch of liberalism. And it's the idea that this is a self-evident reality is part of what I think drove the idea that Paul is/was a racist.