'Cause I Said So…

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 Fourth, even if the CRA were repealed tomorrow, it would have no effective difference in our world.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”?

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One Response

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  1. Yeggo said, on May 25, 2010 at 6:52 pm

    Thanks for the take. I’m a Democrat, but not one that’s beyond hearing a reasonable viewpoint from the other side. In fact, I have a project that takes people from across the political spectrum and tries to get them to listen to each other instead of yelling, thought you and your readers might like to have a look at how each of them is approaching Mr. Paul:

    http://is.gd/coNJK

    For me, I’m still torn. The conclusions we seem to be drawing is that not everyone considers Mr. Paul a Libertarian. In fact, there’s ample evidence that he’s not. I personally think that he’s trying to sell a product that he’s not the best salesman for. His dad never seemed to have the trouble putting forth a cogent argument for his ideals. And none of us are all that impressed with his political acumen.

    At any rate, thanks for adding your voice to the issue. It’s about way more than just Rand Paul and the civil rights act – it’s the key point at the center of most of our political disagreements – the role of government.

    But regardless of what people decide in the end about Libertarianism, every second-tier (no offense, just a fact) political movement would KILL for this type of exposure. Libertarians have eyes on them. They just need to hope that Mr. Paul’s not having them look at a funhouse-mirror version of the philosophy.


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