'Cause I Said So…

Regarding Ezra Klein’s Charge of Extremism Against Rand Paul

Posted in Civil Rights, Free Markets, Government, History, Libertarianism, Racism by kevinsoberg on May 27, 2010

[Note: This is the third of three posts concerning Rand Paul and his post-victory foray into the land of the MSM. Let me tell you up front, I’m not a full-blown Libertarian. I do tend toward Libertarian thought, but I am most definitely very Conservative. I’m not necessarily a huge supporter of Rand Paul, and I don’t live in Kentucky. I say “Give the people what they want.” They seem to want him. Also, I am not a supporter of his father. He sometimes borders on “tin-foil hat” land (if you know what I mean?), and I don’t buy his argument about why he takes earmarks. However, I cannot stand the way Rand Paul has been attacked for taking a thoughtful and principled stand, and the way in which his views have twisted to mean something completely different from what they actually are. I felt that I had to say something.  So, here it goes…]

Ezra Klein jumped into the attack on Rand Paul last Thursday with his Washington Post article “Rand Paul may not be a Racist, but he is an Extremist” (http://tinyurl.com/28qhscb). In it Klein argued that Libertarian belief in minimal government interference in private matters is “extreme”; therefore, Paul is an extremist. But on a lighter note Klein says, “I take Paul at his word that he’s not a racist.” Well, that’s mighty big of you Mr. Klein. Hey, what say we do the same for Mr. Klein if someone makes a baseless charge against him, too?

I’ll start with Mr. Klein’s premise about Libertarian “extremism”. The part of Libertarian ideology which Mr. Klein can’t seem to wrap his mind around is the concept that “government cannot fix every problem.” So, if there are people behaving badly (but not criminally), as a good person, you act in personal ways to remedy the situation. If a business owner won’t trade with others for racist reasons, then a good person won’t trade with him. Yes, some may continue to do business with that person, but not everyone. His racism results in lost sales.

These lost sales create an opportunity for another to fill that part of the market left un-served by the racist’s self-defeating behavior. The good people and the discriminated against will frequent the new business, which will have a thankful and loyal client base. Other businesses will see the potential profits lost by this abhorrent behavior and may change their own behavior, if only to prevent another from entering their market. In either case, the market will provide the solution.

Yes, this takes some time, but nothing good happens overnight. That’s not the Statist philosophy, though. To the Statist, any problem can be rectified immediately by government fiat. To them government action is the quickest and most efficient way to achieve the desired results. Racist businesses – pass a law. “Unequal” housing – pass a law. Below national average wages – pass a law.

Instead of the “invisible hand” of the market, Mr. Klein and his ilk wish to use the “iron hand” of government to solve these problems. What they don’t seem to understand is that peoples’ attitudes don’t change with the pound of a gavel or the stroke of a pen. Mechanisms must be created and bureaucracies employed to police the government action created by that gavel or pen. People must fear their government for those actions to occur. Instead of the market having people make these decisions of their own accord, seeing them as a matter of self-interest, the government would have the people act as a matter of self-defense.

The scary part is that a person could be considered racist simply because he doesn’t believe the government should make stupidity a crime. Is it racism to believe in freedom of speech, even for racists? If it’s not, then explain how it’s racist to believe another may do as he wishes with his property. If a person chooses to make less money due to lost sales or taking a lower asking price because he is stupid enough to forgo a sale to another, for whatever reason, then it’s his life, his liberty and his property. He may do as he wishes with it.

Yes, some with racist or sectarian concerns have made use of Libertarian arguments to try to prevent any change in their circumstances. These same people were those who used the levers of State power to forward their racist agenda in the era of Jim Crow. Just as Hitler used government power to pursue a racist program, Southern Democrats (and the Klan) used government to repress minorities. Regardless of methodology used to achieve it, racism was the main purpose of their agenda.

The concern of Libertarians is that government power is coercive. Not only that, once unleashed the power is pervasive and difficult to control or retract. That power may then be used by the less good or evil to pursue their own ends. Those expanding the power forget they may not always be in charge. They might want to think of how it would be to be on the receiving end of government power before allowing its expansion.

Klein’s misunderstanding of human behavior is a symptom of his Statist mindset. His understanding of “civil rights” doesn’t take into account the differences between the public and private spheres. His default position is that government must act to “remedy” perceived “wrongs”. He fails to recognize that in a free society most interactions are within the private sphere and voluntary; therefore, outside the jurisdiction of government.

Only the government or those acting on behalf of the government may violate “civil” rights, as they have to do exclusively with the “public” sphere. An individual acting exclusively within the “private” sphere is incapable of violating another person’s “civil” rights. One individual may wrong another privately, but only in ways actionable under criminal and tort laws, if they were to violate another’s life, liberty or property.

Traditionally, government has only intervened in criminal matters, as part of its police powers. Matters of tort law have been left to the individuals, with the government acting as a “neutral” third-party. Once the government begins “prosecuting” individuals for non-criminal “offenses”, it loses its “neutral” status and becomes an advocate. Does anyone really want government dictating private behavior? Who makes those decisions, and where does it stop?

So, to answer Mr. Klein’s question: Yes, Woolworth could have a segregated lunch counter. Then you embarrass the hell out of them and go eat somewhere else. Just as you don’t counter disagreeable speech by censorship but by open debate, you don’t counter disagreeable actions by government force but by positive action.

Rand Paul, Libertarianism and the Civil Rights Act

[Note: This is the second of three posts concerning Rand Paul and his post-victory foray into the land of the MSM. Let me tell you up front, I’m not a full-blown Libertarian. I do tend toward Libertarian thought, but I am most definitely very Conservative. I’m not necessarily a huge supporter of Rand Paul, and I don’t live in Kentucky. I say “Give the people what they want.” They seem to want him. Also, I am not a supporter of his father. He sometimes borders on “tin-foil hat” land (if you know what I mean?), and I don’t buy his argument about why he takes earmarks. However, I cannot stand the way Rand Paul has been attacked for taking a thoughtful and principled stand, and the way in which his views have twisted to mean something completely different from what they actually are. I felt that I had to say something. So, here it is…]

Rand Paul raised quite a stir last Wednesday (May 19, 2010) with comments made in an interview with MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow, as reported by The Huffington Post (http://tinyurl.com/2bpfare). What people don’t take into consideration are five very important things. First, Ms. Maddow broached the subject, not Mr. Paul. Second, there is no movement to repeal any provisions of the CRA. Third, the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act (CRA) has been decided by the Supreme Court. Fourth, even if the CRA were repealed tomorrow, it would have no effective difference in our world. Fifth, Mr. Paul was absolutely correct.

Rachael Maddow brought up the subject of the constitutionality of the Civil Rights Act (1964). Obviously, she did so knowing how he had responded previously when asked about the issue, which was in standard Libertarian fashion. Maddow decided to set Mr. Paul up for a “gotcha” moment, having negatively framed follow-up questions ready for however he answered. If he answers one way, he is leader of an evil cabal set upon returning Blacks to the cotton fields. If he answers the other, he is an ideologically inconsistent or lying leader of the evil cabal seeking the return of Blacks to the cotton fields. A word of advice to Mr. Paul, don’t go on shows where ideologues control the cameras and the mikes (but the weekend shows aren’t them).

There is no movement to repeal the Civil Rights Act. There are no groups holding rallies. No one’s chanting, “Hey, hey, hey. Gotta end the CRA”. Even in the hard-core, skin-headed, white supremacists’ wildest racist dreams, they know better than to believe it would ever happen (and I use racists in this example due to their very impure motives).

The Civil Rights Act will not be overturned in whole or part for the unforeseeable future. It has weathered multiple Court challenges to its many provisions. I don’t believe there are even any cases in the pipeline to bring it up before the Supreme Court for review. It’s here to stay, judicially.

If the public accommodations provision of the Civil Rights Act were rescinded, the world as we know it would change in no perceptible way. Customers of all races and creeds would continue to eat in restaurants throughout the country. Hotels would still take in all weary travelers who can afford to stay in them, turning none away if a bed was available. Hospitals would tend to the sick and wounded of every shape and color. We have actually reached the point where the good intentions of those who proposed this law have come to fruition. We have a law we no longer need, because the overwhelming majority of the people in this country now see the kind of behavior it sought to prevent as reprehensible. Brava!

However, Rand Paul and the Libertarians are 100% correct in saying that the “public accommodations” provision of the Civil Rights Act was and is unconstitutional. Another thing, the politicians who proposed, backed and, ultimately, voted for those provisions knew so as well. They knowingly passed an unconstitutional law because they believed in its good intentions and because they “must do something” (the three most dreaded words in a Republic).

I’m not saying the entire law was unconstitutional. The provisions of the Civil Rights Act concerning actions by State governments were exactly in line with the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment. Civil Rights Acts passed in the wake of the Civil War sought to do many of these palliative measures. Unfortunately, most of these laws were overturned by Democrat appointees to the Supreme Court. In the rush to complete Reconstruction, proper protections for former slaves were never permanently implemented. Those laws which did remain on the books eventually went unenforced as the Democratic Party and its landed (white, former slave-owning) interests quickly retook control of State legislatures.

It must be stated (unfortunately) that a “true” understanding of Libertarianism leads one to oppose government action favoring any one group over another. The ideal is to have the least possible government intrusion into one’s life. Whenever government picks winners and losers, we all actually lose due to the misuse and misdirection of power. So, you will find no one with a truly libertarian bent thinking “it’s just fine” for someone to be racist. However, you will find those using the libertarians’ arguments to forward their own sectarian concerns, but these same people would change their tune the moment Statist arguments worked more in their favor.

The “public accommodations” provisions of the Civil Rights Act extended the reach of the federal government well beyond the intent of the Fourteenth Amendment. It unleashed federal power on the private sector in ways we are dealing with to this day. Institutionalized race-based preferences, quota systems and other “affirmative actions” are still in use. No company of any size can operate without a Human Resources department which must document all points in the hiring process as a defense against possible charges of civil rights violations. All of these intrusions into the private sector can be traced back to the passage of these provisions. They were the nose under the tent of federal involvement.

If, as I’ve said, the “public accommodations” provisions have been “successful”, how can I argue that they were wrong to have been implemented in the first place? As long as the government (at whichever level) acts as a neutral referee, it’s in the best interest of liberty for people to live as they please, in accordance with minimal laws. The moment government dictates the non-criminal actions of its citizens (criminal actions being those which deprive another of their life, liberty or property) it ceases to be a truly free society. The racist who refuses to commercially associate with another does only himself harm, by his loss of a customer. The would-be customer is at most inconvenienced by the inaction of this idiot.

Yes, there are emotions involved, and they are a real concern. However, does government exist to police emotional grievances? Which grievances and of what size will government involve itself, and who will make that determination? Can’t grievances be created by addressing some grievances more than others? Once you’ve begun down this road, at what point does it end?

The problem with using extra-constitutional powers to combat perceived “wrongs” is that the powers are left in place long after the wrongs have been addressed. These powers become a permanent fixture from which the tentacles of power can reach ever further into areas unintended by even those who proposed the original “solution”. As a result, politics becomes about what “can” be done instead of being about what “must” be done. Seeking political office becomes about getting and maintaining control of government to have access to these “new” powers. How government affects our lives becomes a matter of who is in charge, not a matter of true Constitutional authority. We always hear “we are a nation of laws, not men.” How can that be so when the document fundamental to our laws, and liberty, is not even understood or paid heed to by our “leaders”?

“Frivolous”, Mr. Will?

Posted in Civil Rights, Government, History, Libertarianism, Liberty, Politics, Racism, The Constitution by kevinsoberg on May 25, 2010

[Note: This is the first of three posts concerning Rand Paul and his post-victory foray into the land of the MSM. Let me tell you up front, I’m not a full-blown Libertarian. I do tend toward Libertarian thought, but I am most definitely very Conservative. I’m not necessarily a huge supporter of Rand Paul, and I don’t live in Kentucky. I say “Give the people what they want.” They seem to want him. Also, I am not a supporter of his father. He sometimes borders on “tin-foil hat” land (if you know what I mean?), and I don’t buy his argument about why he takes earmarks. However, I cannot stand the way Rand Paul has been attacked for taking a thoughtful and principled stand, and the way in which his views have twisted to mean something completely different from what they actually are. I felt that I had to say something. So, here it is…]

Sunday, on ABC’s This Week, George Will made the following statement concerning Rand Paul, as reported by Jake Tapper (http://tinyurl.com/28c92y6). Mr. Paul is the GOP candidate for US Senate from Kentucky. The discussion of Mr. Rand came as the result of a stir caused by answers he gave to questions while being interviewed by MSNBC’s Rachael Maddow, as reported by The Huffington Post (http://tinyurl.com/2bpfare).

I must disagree with Mr. Will. How exactly is it “frivolous” to have a discussion concerning our understanding of the Constitution and its underlying principles? By which of the four definitions I could find (http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/frivolous) is this discussion “frivolous”? I don’t find it one bit frivolous. As a matter of fact, I find it comforting to hear a politician speak candidly about and exhibit any understanding of foundational principles. Instead, I find most politicians are all too interested in learning to pull the levers of federal power in their own favor.

Mr. Will is very haughty in his description how “we” exchanged one “right” for another. By whose authority and by what mechanism was this exchange executed? Was there an amendment to the Constitution I missed granting the federal government the power to direct individuals as to the use of their personal property in private, intrastate commerce. If not, exactly what part of the Commerce Clause or the 14th Amendment grants Washington this power?

Mr. Will argues that morality can be legislated. I don’t disagree with him on that. Our governments were instituted to protect life, liberty, property, and, at the state level, public morality. However, at exactly what point did bigotry become “immoral”? Sure it’s boorish, stupid, ignorant, irrational, and distasteful, not to mention a bad business practice, but is it immoral? Is Mr. Will going to argue next that “immoral” speech is not protected? Is he the new moral arbiter?

Mr. Will goes on to say that “white Americans” were given a new education. Hold on a second. Is “the peoples’” government supposed to be in the re-education business? I don’t see that anywhere in the Constitution either. The whole concept actually gives me the “heebie-jeebies”.

Which group is up next for this re-education, or is it only for “white Americans”? Which “white Americans” would that be, by the way? Is it just the white “white Americans”, or the Jewish “white Americans”, or the Irish “white Americans”, or maybe the mixed-race, mixed-ethnicity “white Americans” (like me)? What is the next re-education project for the feds? How to eat more “healthy foods” or stand in line for medical care (don’t take more than your “fair share”)?

Government telling people with whom they must do business is the same as telling them how to operate their business or what type of business they must run. In a truly free society one can make seriously stupid business decisions and go broke doing so. As long as one person does not deprive another of life, liberty or property the government has no say as to how or if they associate with one another.

I understand that Mr. Will sees himself as being very high-minded. He seems to have discovered an argument which makes him feel better for going against his purported “conservative” principles, for the express purpose of not being seen as “racist”. Now we know the price of his conscience. I’m sure the Framers would be as equally impressed as I am.

Trouble Seeing the Forest for the Trees

Posted in Government, Health Care Reform, History, Immigration, Medicine, Politicians, Politics by kevinsoberg on May 13, 2010

Why is it that the same people who are supposed to be the smartest people in any given room (if you don’t believe me just ask them) are the most inept when it comes to human behavior? Yeah I know, they went to Harvard, Yale, MIT or Wharton, but does that necessarily confer genius status on them? Come to think of it, few, if any, of the actual geniuses I know can tie their own shoelaces properly. Maybe that explains all of the Birkenstocks, loafers, and (Lord help us) Velcro-enclosed sneakers amongst the self-proclaimed “best and brightest”.

These people have been extensively (and expensively) educated in the Law, Medicine, the Sciences, Public Policy, Education, Business, etc. They have had access to the most celebrated professors in their respective fields of study. They have interned with Supreme Court Justices, Senators and Captains of Industry. They have been Fulbright and Rhodes scholars. They want us to believe all their “fancy book learnin’” has given them a greater understanding of our needs and of how to best fulfill them.

Yes, they have been taught how to operate a system. When one gets down to the basics of any education, it’s about operating systems. The practice of Medicine is about operating within the system of the human body. The practice of the Law is about operating within our system of jurisprudence. Within those systems they have learned to produce predictable results using techniques which have been achieved through much trial and error.

They have learned to take for granted the predictability of results from a proposed change in some variable with which they have decided to tinker. This attitude is completely understandable when dealing with an individual patient, client, subject, student, etc. The problems arise when they try to extrapolate their specific understanding upon the greater world outside of their area of study. In this case they have leaned the exact wrong lessons from their studies and experiences.

However, these “learned ones” have not benefited from a true “liberal arts” education. The purpose of the “liberal arts” was to free one’s mind. Instead they have been taught to specify. The classics of “liberal” thought of have been replaced with “statist” gender and minority studies. This emphasis on specificity has failed to teach them a vital lesson when dealing with fellow human beings: The one can not be treated as many, just as the many cannot be treated as one.

This failure of understanding has resulted in two contradictory but dangerous phenomena: policy by anecdote and one-size-fits-all policy.

When these “brainiacs” decide it’s time to correct some perceived “wrong” they immediately begin a predetermined multi-step process, one which they have been using for quite some years now. They begin by presenting statistics indicating how a “sizable” (if questionable number) minority of the population is being slighted by government inaction (most often) or action (much less so). They begin lining up individuals within this subgroup who are “victims” of the “problem”. The sob stories begin. These tales of woe are repeated endlessly and magnified to the point where it is forgotten that these are anecdotes. Those opposed to the proposed “correction” are then asked to justify not helping this person (don’t forget “you cruel, heartless SOB’s”). So, public policy is altered not to aid the vast majority of the people (i.e. as in “the general welfare”), but instead to aid specific individuals at the expense of the majority.

Inevitably, the tears dry, the dust settles and the new policy prescriptions are passed (few wanting to seem like a heartless SOB). Only then does someone actually read the new regulations (or laws). Lo and Behold! Not only are some of those “victims” no better off, some actually fare worse. In the process, many (if not most) who had no desire to be included have been ensnared within the new policy. The new policy being “fair”, little quarter is given for individuals’ situations. All must be treated equally, and as most often with government “equally” doesn’t mean “well”. How do you enjoy being treated “equally” by the IRS, DMV or the Post Office? Good times… good times…

Whether it’s “entitlement” reform, “health-care” reform, “immigration” reform, “environmental” regulation, the pattern is the same. Public policy sold through anecdotes. Heck, they even pulled the same trick while passing “finance” reform, except they made everyone think marble bathrooms and trips to Las Vegas were the order of the day for most financial institutions (those greedy SOB’s). Actual, useful statistics need not be presented when a “victim” (or “villain”) is readily available. Why let pesky facts get in the way?

As expected (by the SOB’s), every government program sold as helping the “down-trodden” has cost multiples of the original estimates, failed to properly address the real issues, or most likely both. Want examples? That’s easy. The ’86 Immigration Reform Law (yes, signed by Reagan) was never fully implemented, except for the amnesty part. Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security have taken over the government like a cancer. The recently passed “health-care” reform law has already doubled in cost, even before actual implementation. CAFÉ standards cause more US deaths each year than the entire Vietnam War.

Maybe the “experts” need to be sent back to their original areas of pursuit. Most are probably good practitioners in their original careers. The only downside I see? Some may end up as professors at their alma maters. Can’t see how that would be helpful. I guess it’s a risk we may have to take…