Saturday, May 22, 2010

Some Thoughts After Primary Week

•Republican Tim Burns lost in Pennsylvania, and many were calling that special election (to replace the deceased John Murtha) a bellwether for November — which would seem to bode unexpectedly ill for the Republicans — but since Pennsylvania’s backwards 12th congressional district is the only congressional district in the nation that voted for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry in 2004 but went for Republican John McCain in 2008, might we not draw the conclusion that the rest of the nation is likely trending rightward this year?

•Libertarianism seems like a very simple philosophy when you’re used to having it in your head all day long, but Rand Paul’s “Randslide” victory in the Kentucky GOP Senate primary is a reminder how quickly these things get complicated. First of all, it’s worth noting that despite his strong libertarian leanings, Rand Paul (who was interviewed on the preliminary online version of FreedomWatch, for which I work, the day after his victory) is not actually a libertarian, as noted in a Time interview with him excerpted by The Atlantic.

He says, for instance, that he would enforce federal drug laws and is not in favor of legalization (and it’s worth noting that his father, Ron Paul, goes only a little farther in the drug-legalization direction, calling for an end to the federal drug war but not necessarily legalization at the state level — and some would argue that border-enforcement isn’t libertarian either, since nothing disintegrates the dreaded nation state like eliminating its borders).

•Nonetheless, Rand Paul hews to perhaps the hardest-to-sell libertarian position — and, yes, it is indeed a libertarian position: the view that ownership, if it is to mean anything, means the right to exclude, even for reasons others might deem irrational or rude, including racist ones. That need not oblige one to culturally or personally endorse racism, of course, any more than defense of free speech requires one to like Klan pamphlets. (I see Don Boudreaux has fired off a letter to the New York Times in response to their anti-libertarianism editorial today, and he reminds them Jim Crow was a government-imposed regime, not just private bigotry, the latter tending to erode in a market once people realize they like getting the best prices more than avoiding trade with other ethnic groups.)

As Rand Paul was quick to point out, there are many remedies for racism besides property violations, including equal treatment by all public institutions (especially courts of law) and boycotts of racist businesses (which probably wouldn’t be necessary as often as people on the left fear — few shopping malls will want to exclude 13% of their customers by barring black shoppers, and small businesses can sometimes be ethnocentric without even being all that offensive, as in the case of a Chinese restaurant that tends to hire people who know the cuisine from family experience, or for that matter a Black Muslim-run business determined to help people from its own neighborhood and culture).

•At the same time, if it’s any reassurance to aghast modern-liberals, there’s some division among libertarians on all this, with Milton Friedman himself arguing that anti-discrimination laws might make markets more rational and some like Steve Macedo arguing that anti-discrimination and affirmative action laws might be acceptable if framed explicitly as compensation for past wrongs by the state (with an implicit sunset provision rather than a perpetual guarantee of a certain degree of diversity for diversity’s sake).

Further, I wouldn’t be shocked to learn that “liberaltarians” like Will Wilkinson or Kerry Howley, respectively, think this is one of the issues on which property either must bend for the sake of the worst-off or be augmented by morally-obligatory cultural changes, but after past arguments, I don’t want to leap to any conclusions about their positions or appear hypocritically to be recruiting them to aid right-leaning Rand Paul.

•I remain a big-tent guy — seriously — but also tend to think we should merely tolerate deviations from strict property adherence rather than encouraging or inventing deviations, if you follow me. Rand Paul’s anti-drug stance doesn’t greatly offend me, but given how well property rights work in almost all cases, I’m not going to gleefully invent my own list of preferred exceptions to those rights. I’m sure every intellectual could come up with his favorites — and indeed it often seems that most do — but they shouldn’t.

Some deviants (often Canadians, it seems) take deviationism too far, though, and David Frum is still railing against the advent of overly-principled conservatives such as Rand Paul within the GOP. Who’s the tolerant, moderate, inclusive one here, really — Frum or me?

•In other fringe political news, I see my leftist/Truther acquaintance Sander Hicks has bolted the Green Party and tomorrow is holding the founding meeting of a Truth Party, which will ostensibly transcend left and right.

Taking a more insular approach, by contrast, the Hutaree militia that was recently rounded up and arrested for contemplating attacks on government officials sounds less than terrifying when you read this passage from the Wikipedia entry about them:

Hutaree [militia] members use a unique system of paramilitary ranks with titles from highest to lowest: Radok, Boramander, Zulif, Arkon, Rifleman (three grades), Lukore, and Gunner (three grades). University of Pennsylvania linguistics professor Mark Lieberman commented: “I don’t see basis in biblical or military history for Radok, Boramander, Zulif, Arkon, and Lukore. They sound kind of like Pokemon names (e.g. Arbok, Charmander, Zubat, Rokon), but there’s no precedent there, either.” One man who once contemplated joining the group, a Mr. Savino, was refused admission due to his being a Muslim.

As always, I just ask: how about some spending cuts and deregulation?

1 comment:

Dave said...

I feel alone in admiring Rand Paul for sticking to his guns. I’m not a Libertarian, and see the value in Federal Civil Rights legislation. But in one of his first interviews after winning, Rachel Maddow did what she could to try to push him away from his stated principles, and he stood his ground, when there was an easy and obvious PC answer. I don’t know her that well, but it’s obvious that she’s very intelligent and has an impressive command of facts and logic, so it’s no mistake that she chose to word the question “should businesses BE ALLOWED” wording it in the way most likely to provoke a Libertarian to say yes (I read you say he’s not one. but that was like a second ago, and I haven’t integrated it yet). She could have asked, for example, “What do you think should be done to combat discrimination in the private sector?” She tried to start a fight, and he stood his ground. Given that she, through her meticulous choice of words, was trying to get him to look like a racist, he was smart for repeating again and again that he opposed discrimination, even if that seemed evasive. Nothing wrong with fighting an unnecessarily biased and provokative question with an evasive answer, rather than buckling or jumping into the obvious trap. I’m saying this, and I don’t even agree with him.

I mean a couple of people making the case that Fed regulations are bad won’t hurt the country, and would probably help, even if it turns out to be the best choice.

For example, I recently covered a public fact finding meeting for the Federal HUD about the Fair Housing act. The consultant gathering the information told us that Westchester County had the best policies he had seen regarding serving minorities in the country. The BEST. IN. THE. COUNTRY. (for example, we have 16 protected classes versus the Fed’s 7, and we have more non-profit and county groups than anywhere else) But we’re getting sued because it doesn’t match the regulations. Even though it’s BETTER than those that do. So, the Federal Government is punishing us for taking iniative. And that’s Federal government versus local, not even individual businesses.

Oh, and want to know why certian towns don’t comply with affordable housing requirements? (not the same as fair housing, but related) Because DEC and DEP regulations dictate that they can’t put in a sewer system because it’s located in the NYC Watershed. More regulations causing the stated problem.