Rand Paul

Since this is all over the Internets today:

Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, the new GOP Candidate for the open Senate seat in Kentucky, went on NPR and Rachel Maddow (and other, lesser-known places) and articulated his pure Libertarian position on the Civil Rights Act. He does not believe the Government should interfere with private enterprise and tell privately held companies who they can hire or who they can do business with. Thus, turning away black people from the Woolsworth’s counters is okay. He wouldn’t personally go to Woolsworth’s if they did but if Woolsworth’s didn’t want to serve black people or hire black people simply because they’re black, he’s good with that because Government does not have a right to interfere with private free markets and individual freedom.

People started digging and discovered — amazing! — Rand Paul’s very internally consistent Libertarian philosophy right out of the Fountainhead. Surprise!  A guy named after Ayn Rand is a devotee!*

I’m a little disappointed he’s now backing off on his statements. It’s too bad. I love Victoriana! His platform is great for 1880! Yay 1880! Yay Steampunk!

His articulated position is not one of racism  — and I sincerely doubt he is a racist — but he is standing on ideology on a specific position: to be Truly Free, men have the right to be terrible to the rest of mankind without Government interference on their own recognizance and should pay whatever price society exacts. The problem is both a lack of context and a lack of history. First, society doesn’t exact a price from racial discrimination. Otherwise we wouldn’t have needed the Civil Rights Act.** Second, the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s upheld this purely Libertarian notion of freedom on multiple occasions in all sorts of areas — you can thank the Supreme Court of the 1880s for the whole Corporations are People nonsense. Most notably, Plessy vs. Ferguson (1896) upheld the distinct rights of private enterprise (and, granted, the state, since this was about segregation laws in the state of Louisiana) to segregate at will. Hey, the decision says, black people can go make awesome stuff just like white people. You’re just not applying yourself! Stop your whining and go make awesome stuff! What do you mean you can’t get a bank loan to start a business or buy a house or… The opinions are online and pretty entertaining reads. This was overturned by Brown vs. Board of Education which lead to the Civil Rights Movement and we are where we are today.

The problem is, in the real world of big-time politics in a system where whomever builds the biggest coalition between different voting blocks wins, running on an pure theoretical ideology based on a science fiction novel is going to run into operational problems. Purity of Ideology rarely gets one kissing babies and hugging old ladies and giving speeches at the VFW hall so he’s doing well to get this far. I am surprisingly cool with his internally held convictions and his loyalty to his internally consistent ideology — when he’s not busy running from it. It’s great that he at least has one which puts him above other politicians. He simply shouldn’t be surprised when people, after listening to him, go: “…. what? Can you say that again?”

* Maybe he got his copy from someone on Mad Men!
** This is the core point I think Dr. Paul missed. There’s all sorts of things to unpack here but the 100 years between the end of the Civil War and the passing of the Civil Rights Act was not exactly a free market paradise and ultimately, the Government forced down a fairness as part of the rules of the road. Agree or not, this was the point.  We gloss over the 1870s-1910, the core of this period, in our history books.  Perhaps deliberately.