There are many, many, things that can be said about Rand Paul's candid admission
that his brand of "libertarianism" leads him to oppose the portions of the Civil Rights Act that interfere with private conduct. But let's just keep this to two simple points:
|Protesters at Woolworth's attempt to exercise the freedom to sit at a lunch counter|
- As the result of the Civil Rights Act, it's true that whites post-1965 were less free to engage in racial discrimination. On the other hand, it's also true African-Americans post-1965 were more free to do certain things. Buy a house, for example, or get a job, or eat lunch.
- It would be one thing for Paul to say that the cultural norm of segregation has been greatly diminished since the sixties and so a blunt instrument for curing the problems of race like the Civil Rights Act may have become outdated. But he's not saying that. He's saying that in an era of fire hoses and dogs in Alabama and pitched protests over school integration, he still would have opposed the CRA. I subit that kind of person who's ideological commitment to "liberty" in the face of such gross violations of justice has a rather bizarre set of moral priorities.
To make this more depressing, Paul stands a very good chance of becoming a United States Senator
. While this is a remarkable failing of American elites to eliminate hard money crankery, isolationism, and extremism-in-defense-of-
liberty from the public discourse, it does offer an opportunity to paraphrase Roman Hruska. There are a decent number of hard money cranks, isolationists, and prejudiced folks out there; perhaps they should be entitled to some representation.
What I find so odd about such as view of liberty as articulated by Paul and Andrew Sullivan is that it ultimately sees "liberty" as potentially in opposition to "morality." They both think that racism is evil, but in the name of liberty such evil should be allowed. Therefore, sometimes the propagation of liberty is immoral. Since morality is the in which we define that which is "good" and that which is "bad," they are functionally saying that they don't think liberty is "good."
I, on the other hand, have always understood liberty to be a good thing, so when I see something evil happening, I don't assume that removing the ability to do it in anyway infringes on liberty. Liberty must be something else than what it being infringed upon here. (Not to say that liberty can't be infringed upon in some way by an act to stop an unjust act, but that usually involves in inelegant solution to a problem, often due to the regulator failing to understand what the problem actually is. But racism is pretty cut and dried, so I don't think that is the problem here.)
This is a fairly standard libertarian problem: some libertarians conceive of freedom or liberty primarily as vigorous government protection of property rights. Nothing else counts, or counts as much, so civil rights act = less freedom, because the massive freedom benefits were mostly not property.
This is far from all libertarians, mind -- some real civil libertarians include speech, privacy, searches and seizures, etc. in their definitions -- but many (and I submit Paul is one) seem to think that only property rights count.
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