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Friday, May 21, 2010

The Irony of the Rand Paul Kerfuffle

I'm glad I spent most of yesterday traveling, so that I missed much of the blogospheric tsunami regarding Rand Paul's libertarian views on the virtue of the federal government banning racial discrimination in private businesses.

Where I come down on the issue is that the history and entrenched nature of racial segregation and discrimination both by government and by the private sector in some areas of the country necessitated government action, such as the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

As anyone who reads this blog knows, I do not equate limited government with no government, which is the strawman argument frequently raised to attack conservatives. While in an ideal world we could have let the market work out discrimination in private businesses, the world was not ideal.

I acknowledge that there is a slippery slope of government intrusion, such that protecting civil rights ends up with regulations mandating the purchase of private health insurance and restricting how much salt one can put on one's food. The existence of a slippery slope, however, does not mean that necessary societal steps are not taken at all.

Regardless of one's political philosophy, however, there was no justification for the attacks on Paul as a racist. Paul was very clear in his original statements and subsequent clarification that he was against racism even in private businesses, the issue being one of political philosophy as to how racism was to be eliminated.

The nature of our political debate is such that Democrats' official strategy for the 2010 campaign cycle is to find wedge issues, and there is no bigger wedge in our society than the issue of race. This did not start with Rand Paul; it happens on issues such as health care, immigration and almost every political issue.

The charges of racism against Paul will have little political effect because Democrats have cried wolf so often using the race card that charges of racism in politics have become background noise for most, and counter-motivators for many who resent falsely be called racist.

While Memeorandum filled almost its entire home page with blog posts on the subject, I'd be willing to venture a bet that the vast majority of people in the country are hardly aware of the dispute, and do not care because the issue was settled several decades ago.

But I do also think there is enormous hypocrisy here, because it is Democrats who perpetuate institutionalized race-based discrimination through affirmative action programs which include the color of one's skin as part of the decision-making process. This may be legal in certain circumstances, and may even be desirable to remedy historical imbalances, but it is discrimination nonetheless.

The irony is that it is Republicans and Tea Partiers who hold most true to Martin Luther King, Jr.'s dream of a nation where people were not judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.

But you wouldn't know it to read Memeorandum yesterday.

Update: We've seen this movie before, A Warning For The Next Scott Brown

Related Posts:
They Have Nothing To Fear, But Fear Itself
"Limited Federal Government = No Government" (or something like that)
Saturday Night Card Game (When The Race Card Met Godwin)

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  1. I was in the South when the CRA was passed. I feel that given time, attitudes toward race would have changed without the law. The CRA allowed precedent to be set for the Federal government to enter into our lives. This is wrong, no matter what altruistic motives were intended. We are now faced with the concept of "racial profiling" in everything that happens so that our government is almost paralyzed by this concept which is necessary in day by day activity. We need to return to the Constitution and get out of people's lives.

  2. I was watching Rachel Maddow last night as I flipped through channels, and hope I regain the IQ points I lost by doing so. It is amazing to see the spin at work at what Paul said and her attempts to portray him as a racist.

    It is really amazing the lengths the left will go to in order to attempt to destroy someone they see as a threat. There was nothing racist in what Dr. Paul said, he was simply stating his beliefs about the limited role of government. Now he may as well be David Duke or the Grand Wizard of the Klan...lol

    Hopefully, the efforts of the left will be thwarted by voters who realize what Dr. Paul really stands for.

  3. Those who shout "racist" today do not agree with Martin Luther King, Jr. who desired racial equality. They agree with Malcolm X who said that blacks needed to rise up and stop the oppression of the "white man....by any means necessary."

    Democrats are showing more intolerance every day, and, as you said, their "crying wolf" has dulled if not broken their biggest sword - the label of "raaaaacist."

  4. FWIW, Rand's view (as I understand it), that he would not have voted (at the time of enactment) for the (privately owned)public accommodations and (presumably) private sector employment provisions of the 1964 Act as undue interference with property rights and perhaps free expression is not outside the bounds of reasonable discourse.

    Richard Epstein's Wikipedia entry notes:

    [D]rawing on Gary Becker,
    [Epstein] argues that the Civil Rights
    and other  anti-discrimination legislation would better be repealed. Epstein views market incentives against discrimination as sufficient to regulate the acknowledged evil, and attempting to give everyone a court hearing only encourages excessive litigation.

    I have never heard it argued that Professor Epstein must or should be driven from his appointments at Chicago and NYU for holding views on what limits should exist on the use of government power to remedy acts of private discrimination both he and Rand Paul view as wrong, counterproductive, and just plain stupid. You can argue with Paul as to the manner he would have exercised his judgment on the clean legal slate which existed in 1964. His statement of such views in 2010 should not be viewed as conclusive evidence of racist beliefs or unfitness for office.

  5. I've long regarded the sort of "libertarianism" spouted by Ron Paul as a combination of incoherent thought and outright kookiness -- and one hopes that Rand Paul does not subscribe to it. Such hopes are dimming fast, Professor. Rand has done it again -- just four days after his primary win and three days after absurdly knocking the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

    This morning, Rand ludicrously said of the onging BP oil spill that "accidents happen" in this exchange on ABC:

    "STEPHANOPOULOS: But you don’t want to get rid of the EPA?

    "PAUL: No, the thing is is that drilling right now and the problem we’re having now is in international waters and I think there needs to be regulation of that and always has been regulation. What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, you know, “I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.” I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business. I’ve heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it’s part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it’s always got to be someone’s fault. Instead of the fact that maybe sometimes accidents happen. I mean, we had a mining accident that was very tragic and I’ve met a lot of these miners and their families. They’re very brave people to do a dangerous job. But then we come in and it’s always someone’s fault. Maybe sometimes accidents happen."

    The sooner conservatives and Republicans put their boots on this loose cannon's throat, the better. He's liable to lose a safe GOP Senate seat, which is bad enough. But he seems intent on turning himself into an easy target for Dems to beat up on conservatives and GOPers generally.

    His supposed problem with the CRA -- that Title II prohibited discrimination in public accommodations by private businesses engaged in interstate commerce, which he has now walked back anyway after doing the damage -- revealed either inexperience, lack of knowledge, or just plain stupidity. Title II was among the least controversial of the bill's provisions at the time because the application of the Commerce Clause to such circumstances was long settled law. In any case, many such businesses discriminated because unconstituional state Jim Crow laws required it, and the act properly struck down all such laws in the first serious federal effort since 1877 to enforce the 14th Amendment. And more than 80% of the Republicans in the House and Senate voted for the Act and Senate Republicans provided the votes needed to invoke cloture and end the filibuster by Dems like Robert Byrd.

    This guy is going to singlehandedly do a great deal of damage to the GOP's bright prospects in 2010, and conservatives will be doing themselves a big favor by slapping him down -- soon!

  6. Although I disagree with your stance on the CRA itself (I agree with Paul that all government discrimination should be eliminated, but private ownership means also the right to determine how that property is both used and disposed of), your unequivocal stance on the charges of racism being leveled at Rand Paul are spot on and clearly presented. Very nicely done.

    As to the CRA, I think that it actually has worked counter to its sponsors stated goal of a colorblind society. It has resulted in greater institutionalization of racism, and in a manner that is going to be even harder to eradicate. Additionally, it has acted as precedent for further social engineering, making our society more of an experiment than a free people. Sadly, experiments seldom end well for the guinea pig.

  7. "Racism" is used a lot these days, but it's interesting how it has become almost exclusively a rhetorical device rather than a real-life phenomenon.

    What I mean is, 50-60 years ago, if you were black and especially if you were living in the South, you would experience racism, first-hand, in your day-to-day life. People opening espoused racist views, and society enforced racist standards of conduct. This wasn't kip-service, either: If blacks (or whites) failed to abide by those standards, any number of people, were prepared to take actual, physical action to redress that failure. (Try taking a white girl to dinner and the movies and see how far that goes.)

    Today, we still talk about "racism," but during those times when we do, it is almost always in the context of someone in the public eye's being labeled as racist on account of something he has said, or some position he has publicly taken. Rarely these days do we witness or experience anything that can clearly be called racism in any practical, tangible form. It's just that the ideas or political beliefs that people -- and mostly people in the public eye -- express draws accusations of racism, which accusations themselves rarely lead to anything more than further rhetorical sniping.

    So it seems that racism today exists primarily as a rhetorical charge. People aren't seen doing actual, racist things, they are simply accused of holding racist beliefs. (Moreover, almost all of these accusations rely on the interpretive skills of the accuser rather than any unambiguous racist declarations of the people being accused.)

  8. Burke,
    I don't understand your criticism of Paul. His response seems reasoned and truthful. Having worked on a rig, I can assure you that it is always one big accident waiting to happen. One spark and things go bad fast. In fact, I find his response comforting instead of the feeling you have in talking with most politicians. Many times I feel I have to go home and take a bath when I am around them. From what I understand, there is little we can do if a firm or country decides to drill outside of our legal boundary. Please correct me if I am wrong.

  9. Powerline has the right -- and the smart -- take on this for conservatives:


  10. In a way, there's really no such a thing as a "private business." As I put it on my blog yesterday:

    "Private businesses may be privately owned, but they do not exist in a private vacuum. They use public roads, water, and other services. They employ people educated in the public schools, treated in the public hospitals, serviced by the public largess. They are dependent on the state for protection, for the enforcement of contracts, for the value of the currency with which they transact. A business can not exist without a society around it. Business is a dependent product of civilized society - and not nearly as much the other way around."

    Libertarianism is the simple-minded, convenient polticial ideology of teenagers. It's not for serious adulte. The Tea Party have shown themselves to be nothing more than the equivilant of adolescent racists. And Paul's argument is wrong no matter how you look at it, as racist or not.


  11. And JMJ shows he clearly mis-understands the TEA Party movement (and the inference in his comment is that it is a political party...it is not). In fact, he shows himself as a hater by claiming we are all rrrraaaaacccciiiisssst...and adolescent at the same time. There is nothing "adolescent" about wanting government to act responsibly and allow people to experience the consequences (positive or negative) of their own behavior.

    Of COURSE business can't exist without society, but nothing he lists as necessity must be "public" in nature. There have always been privately financed roads, schools, water and hospitals. To claim otherwise is absurd. Further, he seems to equate Libertarianism with Anarchy. I know of nothing in Libertarianism that says there should be NO government, no public works. Libertarianism does espouse the smallest government consistent with an orderly and lawful society. So get a grip, dude...and take another hit from the bong of Big Government Love.

  12. David7234 -- It's my understanding that there have been tens of thousands of offshore oil wells in the Gulf and around the world. Only this one is threatening the livelihoods of a large part of the populations of five US states as it continues to spill millions of gallons of oil a month after the explosion. As yet, no one knows exactly what happened on the rig or exactly why the systems designed to prevent spills didn't work -- so "sometimes accidents just happen" strikes me as a lame attitude, particularly coming from a guy who wants to gain a high public office where he will share responsibility for the very substantial governmental role in figuring out what happened, how to prevent other similar "accidents," and whom to hold responsible for this one in what way and to what extent.

    Paul seems to have trouble with the notion that private companies can be at fault. Well, sometimes, they are. (It was Exxon's fault that its captain got drunk and ran the Exxon Valdez aground, causing an "accident.") I'm surprised we haven't heard from the miners and their families for Paul's cavalierly suggesting that the deaths of 29 miners is not a good enough reason for some pesky buttinsky to "come in" and "find fault" with the mine operator. Most American mines are very safe; some are not so safe.

    All this is pretty elementary stuff -- and should not be subject to widely differing interpretations because of one's ideological perspective. If Paul's "libertarianism" leads him to believe that big corporations can and should do whatever they please because it's the American way, I suggest he acquaint himself with what Jefferson and Jackson thought of any corporations of any size.

    Paul has now canceled an appearance on this Sunday's Meet the Press -- a booking so sought after that most pols would sell their mothers to get one. This is only the third time in 62 years that anyone has concelled out of MTP. This can only mean that Paul's advisors and likely a phalanx of GOP leaders have leaned on him to back out because he's such a novice and a nit wit that he might say...God only knows what.

  13. So, JB...you REALLY believe Rand Paul is SO hard-hearted? Please. While it's true that accidents don't "just happen", it is also true that we can't see all potential alternatives of a given action. And there is nothing "elementary" in the gulf oil spill investigation.

    OK..the guy's a political novice. I'd rather that than a guy whose knee-jerk reaction is "more government". Or a guy who claims to be for the "working man" while he busily enriches himself through the laws he makes (John Kerry, Al Gore, Chris Dodd, Barney Frank.......).

  14. How do you measure the success of the Civil Rights Act? There are prominent blacks that don't like it, didn't fall under it on their way up the economic and social ladder, and those that still see it as necessary. The current trend in education seems to suggest that some groups don't need helping hands for women outnumber men significantly in obtaining degrees.

    I think the smoking bans are more appropriate than salt limitations. How do most public entities pay for public works projects if not by using business? My business property taxes are higher than my home (on the same dollar evaluation), so to say business only takes and does not deserve to set the rules on its private property is nonsense to me. When businesses close, property tax is reduced, receipts fall and public entities like schools feel the pinch. When businesses close, the empty buildings invite crime. When businesses close, jobs are lost. Government realizes it needs business, and when enough close, they offer tax credits, abatements, etc. to try to attract them. The Kelo decision is what you end up with when government thinks it is more important than private property rights. Or a Poletown in Detroit. The promises never materialized there and the odds it will (GM promises of jobs) is pretty dang small.

    The idea that people serve the government is backward. The government is to serve the people in the peaceful conduct of their lives.

  15. "Private businesses may be privately owned, but they do not exist in a private vacuum. They use public roads, water, and other services. They employ people educated in the public schools, treated in the public hospitals, serviced by the public largess. They are dependent on the state for protection, for the enforcement of contracts, for the value of the currency with which they transact. A business can not exist without a society around it. Business is a dependent product of civilized society - and not nearly as much the other way around."

    Substitute "person" for "business" and you've just given an explanation of why government must -- MUST!!!! -- intrude on every element of your life.

  16. Public schools, roads and hospitals should all be privatized.

    People are brainwashed into believing that corrupt and greedy politicians who are worse than business owners are the solution to a lot of the needs of the people. All government does is steal money from the producers of wealth give it to the politicians and the remainder redistribute to the those that they keep dumbed down in the union controlled public school systems.

    One big corrupt and unconstitutional racket that unfortunately way too many people have become hooked on just like drugs.