Rand Paul and the Vacillations of Libertarianism

Rand Paul and the Vacillations of Libertarianism

—by , May 24, 2010

Libertarianism, as far as I’ve been able to understand it, is as loose as you can be on, well, everything. Far right on economic policy—as in low government interference in business—and far left on social policy—low government interference with your person. On paper, like any stance: conservative, progressive, socialist, etc., it looks good, but in practice, it rarely yields good results.

Take the recent appearance of Rand Paul, whose rapid acceptance by Kentucky voters is comparable to Sarah Palin’s rise to stardom during the McCain campaign of 2008. Rand Paul’s steamroller of a campaign quickly hit a brick wall when he appeared on the Rachel Maddow show and hemmed and hawed over his position on the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While he was almost comically unclear (in a Palin-esque way), the section of the bill he seemed to disagree with, according to a Courier Journal article Maddow referenced, is Title II, which outlaws discrimination in businesses which serve the public, such as hotels, restaurants and theatres.

What exactly he was trying to say was, again, hazy, but the well-worn mantra of ‘freedom’ stuck in his craw—that people who have abhorrent views should still have the freedom to express them. And he’s right, to a degree. The KKK is allowed to demonstrate in public, and they do with some regularity. But extending that freedom to allow discrimination in businesses that serve the public is a troubling view into the limits of the ‘freedom’ dynamic in the Tea Party movement.

It’s safe to say that Rand Paul’s leeriness about the Civil Rights Act extends beyond just the second title. His father, longtime Texas senator Ron Paul, has some unpopular opinions about the Civil Rights Act as well, in both Title II and Title VII of the act. In fact, Ron Paul was the only person to cast a nay vote commemorating the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. During his statement, he argued against racial quotas in employment and the government interfering with private business on private property.

In other words, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree.

But while the second Paul is (or was) heralded as one of the heroes of the Tea Party Movement, his father is an almost legendary example of bureaucratic pigheadedness. The father and the son believe in many of the same things, but the movement tried to cast the younger as somehow being different. Fact is he’s just more spineless. At least Ron Paul sticks to his guns, rather than say “It is interesting, because…” over and over again like his blubbering son.

Both hold the same views on same-sex marriage (against in theory, but doesn’t think it’s up to the government), public education (against), state-run healthcare (against), deficit spending (against), gun control legislation (against), immigration reform (against), etc. They’re “for” some stuff too, but generally, they’re against getting involved in pretty much anything.

They’re only involved in freedom, and in practice, that means freedom for the government to do nothing other than what’s explicitly allowed by the Constitution, as if the country were encased in amber.

Not even getting involved in the ongoing oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Rand Paul called the Obama administration “un-American” when the president criticized BP for not acting quickly enough to stem the spill, even as Republican National Committee chair Michael Steele criticized the Obama administration for not stepping in and taking over for BP.

The “inexperience” that is attributed to Rand Paul by Steele and other politicians (understandably eager to keep the seats they’ve had for decades) in the wake of this “gotcha” (Palin) by the “liberal media” doesn’t have to do with Rand Paul’s views, but rather the way he fails to communicates them. If he were truly a straight-shooting libertarian like his father, he would have simply outlined his argument against Title II of the Civil Rights Act, or anything else he disagrees with.

But as hardnosed as Palin or Rand Paul claim to be, they don’t have the guts of the incumbents they plan to replace.

    reader responses
  1. rand paul is a disappointment, compared to his straight talking father.

    unlike his father, rand paul is not for drug legalization, not for withdrawal of troops from iraq and afghan, not for closing of guantanamo, etc.

    rand paul isn’t a true libertarian.

    bill maher is right – rand paul is ‘sarah palin made it thru med school’.

    ron_paulite on 5/25/2010 at 03:06 AM 

  2. If you could point out where in the article it says that Ron Paul “does not stand for anything” instead of “sticks to his guns”, maybe I can address your argument. The article states he doesn’t believe in government “involvement”. And which part of the government’s failure in the BP oil spill is related to violating the Constitution? Wouldn’t that fall under the commerce clause? Should the government not be able to regulate oil drilling? How does that help?

    Patrick Slevin on 5/24/2010 at 08:56 PM 

  3. The statement that Ron Paul “does not stand for anything” is ignorant (I mean that in the definitional sense). He, like me, stands for the Constitution. It seems that being for the Constitution, and interpreting it as in the Federalist papers (i.e., the Primer) is considered “pigheaded”, but if you don’t stand for something then you will settle for anything. Why don’t you realize that the Federal government is out of control just because the Constitution is has not been followed. And the BP oil rig mess is a prime example of Federal government failure. How long is it going to take to understand that what the the powers that have bestowed to the Federal government are unconstitutional? And the mess we find ourselves in is a direct result of this usurpation of power.

    Having said that, I think that Rand Paul is a political novice.

    This article is extremely poor, completely opinionated, and devoid of any useful argument.

    Jeff Thomasson on 5/24/2010 at 08:13 PM 

  4. Private clubs are still legal under the Title II provision, hence Knights of Columbus, Elks Clubs, country clubs, etc. Discriminating against customers in a business that serves the general public is not legal.

    Patrick Slevin on 5/24/2010 at 07:56 PM 

  5. His point if it is a private business then how far should government dictate…. Hooters has some very fine busty women working there and not to many men wearing there shirts so what is the problem again? Should not hire strictly on race and that is exactly what the government does mandates to companies who they have to hire. That in itself is racist, is it not? What if I want to have a private club for just men or just women or just Germans or just anything is that legal anymore???

    DP on 5/24/2010 at 07:27 PM 

  6. Whose ‘remarks’? Rand’s? Ambush journalism, as the neologism is defined, is putting a person on record regarding a topic without warning, frequently when they’re off-guard. Maddow didn’t do it, and I certainly didn’t. I’ll accept the criticism that the article opens loosely, but there’s no ambush here.

    Patrick Slevin on 5/24/2010 at 06:07 PM 

  7. “Libertarianism, as far as I’ve been able to understand it,” …

    And then, predictably, follow straw men. What a load. When we actually read the context of his remarks, we see ambush journalism. Prediction: the ambush will backfire, and blowkback will be felt. Three cheers for Rand Paul and his policies!

    Ooga Booga on 5/24/2010 at 05:50 PM 

  8. Interesting post.

    I’m not 100% sure how far he fell from the tree, my personal opinion is that Ron wears Libertarianism much more easily than Rand does, but either way, this man and his philosophy are going to be a huge topic of conversation for the next six months. It’s important, I think, to listen to all sides on this, so I’m passing along a Libertarian viewpoint on Rand Paul.

    http://bit.ly/aNQwLL

    Yeggo on 5/24/2010 at 05:34 PM 

  9. PLEASE,we may have a learning moment for the red states…..Get real
    you boys’ in the Gulf sold out to BIG OIL a long time ago…..and now youv’e “FOULED YOUR OWN NEST”

    ed on 5/24/2010 at 03:56 PM 


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