Sunday, May 23, 2010

Rand Paul Revisited

People objecting to Rand Paul’s adherence to property rights (vs. adherence to anti-discrimination law) is reasonable — even if I don’t share their position — but I’m already getting tired of the assertions, from both right and left, that Paul somehow contradicted himself.  Call his position wrong if you like, but don’t pretend it lacks internal coherence.  If he seemed mealy-mouthed responding to Rachel Maddow, it was because history and law are complex, not because his position is hypocritical or incoherent.

He thinks government-run institutions shouldn’t discriminate, that private ones morally shouldn’t but legally should be allowed to, and that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was, on balance, good and necessary but shouldn’t now apply to private property.  That’s pretty much the standard libertarian position (though he is not an across-the-board standard libertarian).

He could easily have stuck to the points of all this on which he and Maddow — and most Americans — agree but was honest enough to jump to the crux of the disagreement Maddow was driving at.  At the end of the day, she didn’t care about 1964, much as liberals enjoy refighting the battles of that decade, but about the question “Should a property owner be legally able to exclude people for racist reasons?”  The consistent, coherent, libertarian answer is yes.

Far less coherent, far more evasive, and far less libertarian are responses like this one from tomorrow’s Wall Street Journal.  Everything they say about history is correct — and that’s why even people like Paul think the 1964 Civil Rights Act was on balance correct — but nothing they say adds up to evidence that Paul has been contradicting his own principles.  The Journal’s essay amounts to saying that given the baggage of history, one shouldn’t answer hypothetical questions as forthrightly as Paul did.

People often accuse others of hypocrisy or internal contradiction when the accusers themselves don’t want to answer the real question, which makes me wonder whether a lot of Paul’s critics, forced to answer the question “Can property owners exclude whoever they want?” would sound even more evasive and mealy-mouthed than Paul — but in a way, that’s encouraging.  It means people may not be as quick to give confident anti-property answers as I might have feared.

1 comment:

Dirtyrottenvarmint said...

Rand’s mistakes were, 1) answering questions from Rachel Maddow, who has zero interest in honest (or even accurate) reporting; 2) answering a specific question about laws and social reforms in 1964, a time when he was one year old.

What he should have done is to say, “You’re welcome to visit my website and read the FAQ, Rachel sweetie.” Or perhaps called Fox and asked if they want an exclusive interview. Libertarians lose when they play the standard politics game, because anti-liberty politicians and reporters are always willing to lie.

It’s very simple to put together a coherent argument that the Civil Rights Act was 1) unconstitutional, and 2) has been severely detrimental to the well-being of black Americans, who were categorically far better off prior to 1964. (But not individually. Certain individuals profited greatly from the bureaucracy which grew out of the Act). I’ll go so far as to say it is impossible to defend the Act on rational, unemotional grounds – that is, an argument based on “it’s the right thing to do” or “discrimination is wrong” doesn’t cut it.