'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.

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