Libertarianism and Conservatism Sharpen Liberals Swords

To paraphrase an old adage, your sword is only as sharp as your opponents. In that sense liberals should be thankful of the opportunity provided by Rand Paul and his supporters to show how ludicrous the Paul brand of libertarianism is. Paul’s politics seem to be a blend of conservatism and libertarianism. That said some of the best criticism of Paul has been by way of libertarians and people who lean libertarian. Cato Scholar Scolds Rand Paul, Gives OK to Soup Nazi

“I think Rand Paul is wrong about the Civil Rights Act,” libertarian Cato Institute scholar Brink Lindsey wrote in an e-mail. “As a general matter, people should be free to deal or not deal with others as they choose. And that means we discriminate against those we choose not to deal with. In marrying one person, we discriminate against all others. Businesses can discriminate against potential employees who don’t meet hiring qualifications, and they can discriminate against potential customers who don’t observe a dress code (no shirt, no shoes, no service). Rand Paul is appealing to the general principle of freedom of association, and that general principle is a good one.

“But it has exceptions. In particular, after three-plus centuries of slavery and another century of institutionalized, state-sponsored racism (which included state toleration of private racist violence), the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn’t just a series of uncoordinated private decisions by individuals exercising their freedom of association. It was part and parcel of an overall social system of racial oppression,” Lindsey said.

Lindsey defense of the Soup Nazi is where most of us would agree and have probably all seen some degree of that behavior – which proprietors are free to exercise. If some one comes into your business and acts in a way that is rowdy or does not fellow some basic rules ( shirt and shoes) they can refuse service. Those that provide public accommodations (private clubs are exempted from the Civil Right Act) they cannot decide to not serve a whole class of people like those with Italian surnames or Protestants or tall people.

“We have to start with some historical context,” e-mailed George Mason Law professor David Bernstein, who is also a blogger at The Volokh Conspiracy. “If segregation and discrimination in the Jim Crow South was simply a matter of law, federal legislation that would have overturned Jim Crow laws would have sufficed. But, in fact, it involved the equivalent of a white supremacist cartel, enforced not just by overt government regulation like segregation laws, but also by the implicit threat of private violence and harassment of anyone who challenged the racist status quo.”

“Therefore, to break the Jim Crow cartel, there were only two options: (1) a federal law invalidating Jim Crow laws, along with a massive federal takeover of local government by the federal government to prevent violence and extralegal harassment of those who chose to integrate; or (2) a federal law banning discrimination by private parties, so that violence and harassment would generally be pointless. If, like me, you believe that it was morally essential to break the Jim Crow cartel, option 2 was the lesser of two evils. I therefore would have voted for the 1964 Civil Rights Act,” Bernstein concluded.

Jim Crow laws were a run round Emancipation. What the south saw as an escape clause to not fully integrate African-Americans into society. The argument that Rand and like-minded libertarians and conservatives make is the marketplace is best left to handle the wholesale exclusion of a class of people from society. The market place had not worked before emancipation and had a hundred years after Jim Crow. The market place was not a powerful enough force to stop discrimination.

Many business owners in the south supported the Civil Rights Act. The problem was that if an individual business started serving black patrons or allowing them to sit up front, that business opened itself up to boycotts and  vandalism. If the Big Bad Govmint makes them open their doors to more revenue then they could just shrug to their racist patrons hey what can I do.

This article has caused me to wonder if Rand is a racist or is like many conservatives who are not particularly racists, but embraced the Southern Strategy and associate with racists to win, The roots of Rand Paul’s civil rights resentment

Specifically, both the Kentucky Republican Senate nominee and his father, Ron Paul, have been closely associated over the past two decades with a faction that described itself as “paleolibertarian,” led by former Ron Paul aide Lew Rockwell and the late writer Murray Rothbard. They eagerly forged an alliance with the “paleoconservatives” behind Patrick Buchanan, the columnist and former presidential candidate whose trademarks are nativism, racism and anti-Semitism.

Conason links to a couple of articles that are very damning of the Pauls. One is this article at The New Republic, Angry White Man – The bigoted past of Ron Paul.

The people surrounding the von Mises Institute–including Paul–may describe themselves as libertarians, but they are nothing like the urbane libertarians who staff the Cato Institute or the libertines at Reason magazine. Instead, they represent a strain of right-wing libertarianism that views the Civil War as a catastrophic turning point in American history–the moment when a tyrannical federal government established its supremacy over the states. As one prominent Washington libertarian told me, “There are too many libertarians in this country … who, because they are attracted to the great books of Mises, … find their way to the Mises Institute and then are told that a defense of the Confederacy is part of libertarian thought.”

I’m not so sure Reason is especially enlightened since they regularly run with Glenn Beck’s meme that President Obama is some kind of socialist and Secretaryof National Security Janet Napolitano is an authoritarian thug . But there are degrees of libertarian crazy and Reason is not as unhinged as Lew Rocckwell or the Ludwig von Mises Institute. Conanson includes this link to Reason – Who Wrote Ron Paul’s Newsletters? – Libertarian movement veterans, and a Paul campaign staffer, say it was “paleolibertarian” strategist Lew Rockwell

Ron Paul doesn’t seem to know much about his own newsletters. The libertarian-leaning presidential candidate says he was unaware, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, of the bigoted rhetoric about African Americans and gays that was appearing under his name.

It is a good rule of thumb not to attach the sins of the parents to the children. In this case it looks as though the virulent strain of libertarianism to which Randy ( His name is actually Randall and the Rand nickname an apparent affectation) subscribes is a mirror of his father’s beliefs, Rand Paul Keynoted 2009 Rally for Far-Right Constitution Party

So it isn’t altogether surprising that Rand Paul could be found, in April 2009, at a rally held by a political party that’s been heavily influenced by a movement whose founder, Rousas Rushdoony, advocated executing homosexuals by stoning, wanted to reimpose the institution of slavery, and maintained that the Sun rotated around the Earth.

On April 25, 2009, Rand Paul was the featured guest speaker at The Constitution Party of Minnesota’s “event of the year.”

The Constitution Party is closely linked to the Christian Reconstruction movement which has advocated Holocaust denial, racism, creationism ( to the point they believe the Sun rotates around the Earth) and has claimed that slavery is a good thing which benefited African-Americans. Further more that civil rights were a way of enslaving whites. Its is possible to associate with such fringe groups without buying every ideological piece of bat sh*t crazy they’re selling. On the other hand what does it say about someone’s character that they want power so much they are willing to show some support for them.

A brief discussion here of the larger implications of what Paul and his supporters believe and the implications for middle and working class Americans – Wage slavery

With due respect to Mark (here and here), I think that Rand Paul’s real problems in 90-percent-white Kentucky will stem from the implications of his radical libertarianism for working-class whites, not African-Americans.

Jonathan Singer at asks four questions that Paul couldn’t answer in a way that would make him both truthful and electable:

1. Do you believe the federal minimum wage is constitutional?
2. Do you believe federal overtime laws are constitutional?
3. Do you believe the federal government has the power to enact work safety laws and regulations?
4. Do you believe that federal child labor laws are constitutional?

Here’s where the Tea Partiers have made their mistake, and fallen into thinking they’re more popular than they are. Americans are “anti-government,” but not in the way that extreme libertarians are.

An easy test of libertarians in the Paul mold versus the average workers is to ask the large coal miner contingent in Kentucky if they feel they would be better off without safety regulations or Worker’s Compensation. Do they think that Massey truly looks out for miner’s interests and those of their neighbors that live next to enormous coal slag pits.Would corporations like Massey look out for their employees left on their own. Would they look out for consumers if not compelled by regulation to do so.

One of the things I would like to see in polls in which they ask people about BIG government is to define what they think that is. BG has become a catch-all term for the grips we all have, but obviously differ in the particulars. Conservatives loved government during the Reagan and Bush 43 years – it was like they were in a giant candy store and they made tax payers for the next two generations pick up the tap. After they trashed the store, a Democrat is elected and conservatives and various anti-govmint miscreants suddenly went in search of their small government roots. Now we’re all supposed to believe after Nixon, Reagan, both Bushes and their expanded government kleptocracy they have finally, once and for all going to be the party of small  effective government. That’s cute, but why vote for a party that has lied its way into power for fifty years, when one can vote for a party that has actually shrunk government. And Democrats manage to do that without the insane pseudo-political theories that include thinking the Civil Rights Act belongs on the list of terrible tragedies of American history. Yet another reason to do away with calling Cons Republicans. There used to be a mix of liberals and conservatives in both parties – NRSC Calls Dem Condemnation Of Paul Civil Rights Act Statements ‘Ironic’

“As a side note, I would point out the irony – which seems to have been lost in some of the news coverage — that the same party seeking to manufacture this issue today, is in fact the same political party which led the filibuster against the Civil Rights Act in 1964,” NRSC spokesperson Brian Walsh wrote.

The true history of the Civil Rights act, according to Princeton university Sean Wilentz, is not exactly worthy of glib emails from the GOP.

“Everybody knows that in 1964, a proud southern Democratic President, Lyndon Johnson, pushed hard to secure the Civil Rights Bill, with the aid of a coalition of northern Democrats and Republicans,” Wilentz said. “This sent the defeated segregationist Southern Democrats (led by Strom Thurmond) fleeing into the Republican Party, where its remnants, along with a younger generation of extremist conservative white southerners, including Rand Paul, still reside.”

Here is another Paul defender that quotes Ayn Rand sycophant Milton Friedman, Milton Friedman on Racial Discrimination – David Henderson

Is there any difference in principle between the taste that leads a householder to prefer an attractive servant to an ugly one and the taste that leads another to prefer a Negro to a white or a white to a Negro, except that we sympathize and agree with the one taste and may not agree with the other? I do not mean to say that all tastes are equally good. On the contrary, I believe strongly that the color of a man’s skin or the religion of his parents is, by itself, no reason to treat him differently; that a man should be judged by what he is and what he does and not by these external characteristics. I deplore what seem to me the prejudice and narrowness of outlook of those whose tastes differ from mine in this respect and I think less of them for it. But in a society based on free discussion, the appropriate recourse is for me to seek to persuade them that their tastes are bad and that they should change their views and their behavior, not to use coercive power to enforce my tastes and my attitudes on others.

Just another don’t do anything about injustice, because fighting injustice is far worse than the injustice. Whatever intellectual gravitas libertarians had, the Pauls, Rockwells and the intellectually lazy like Henderson are going to destroy it.

Last one. Libertarianism: Not Ready For Primetime. Never Will Be.

The only good ideas in libertarianism are those that are already part and parcel of liberalism. The rest is poppycock. But someone who suffers fools far better than I has written a useful takedown in case you think there’s any there there. The nub:

never, and I mean never, has there been capitalist enterprise that wasn’t ultimately underwritten by the state. This is true at an obvious level that even most libertarians would concede (though maybe not some of the Austrian economists whom Rand Paul adores): for the system to work, you need some kind of bare bones apparatus for enforcing contracts and protecting property. But it’s also true in a more profound, historical sense. To summarize very briefly a long and complicated process, we got capitalism in the first place through a long process of flirtation between governments on the one hand, and bankers and merchants on the other, culminating in the Industrial Revolution. What libertarians revere as an eternal, holy truth is in fact, in the grand scheme of human history, quite young. And if they’d just stop worshiping for a minute, they’d notice the parents hovering in the background.

Libertarians like Paul are walking around with the idea that the world could just snap back to a naturally-occurring benign order if the government stopped interfering. As Paul implied, good people wouldn’t shop at the racist stores, so there wouldn’t be any.

This is the belief system of people who have been the unwitting recipients of massive government backing for their entire lives. To borrow a phrase, they were born on third base, and think they hit a triple. We could fill a library with the details of the state underwriting enjoyed by American business — hell, we could fill a fair chunk of the Internet, if we weren’t using it all on Rand Paul already.

At the block quote link Gabriel Winant points out that many libertarians are stand-up folks and some are very bright, but having a code of ethics and being bright doesn’t mean that they’re incapable of be self deluded and having some bounce off the walls wacky ideas.