Rand Paul used to understand libertarianism

Last year Rand Paul made some politically stupid, but perfectly libertarian comments:

INTERVIEWER: Would you have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964?

PAUL: I like the Civil Rights Act in the sense that it ended discrimination in all public domains, and I’m all in favor of that.


PAUL: You had to ask me the “but.” I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism. I think it’s a bad business decision to exclude anybody from your restaurant—but, at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. But I absolutely think there should be no discrimination in anything that gets any public funding, and that’s most of what I think the Civil Rights Act was about in my mind.

Shortly after that comment, however, Teabaggers and other like-minded individuals (i.e., the Republican party…because, come on, they’re the same thing) distanced themselves from Paul. Unbeknownst to all the pseudo-libertarians out there, Paul was perfectly in line with their (espoused) ideology. He didn’t say he favored racism. He said he favored allowing it. One can maintain a position within the ethics of libertarianism whilst at the same time believing the follow-through to that position to be immoral. Not that I think allowing for racism in that context is acceptable, but I want to present a pretty straight-forward analysis of what libertarianism entails; Paul was being consistent.

Unfortunately, that consistency appears to have worn off:

I’m not for profiling people on the color of their skin, or on their religion, but I would take into account where they’ve been traveling and perhaps, you might have to indirectly take into account whether or not they’ve been going to radical political speeches by religious leaders. It wouldn’t be that they are Islamic. But if someone is attending speeches from someone who is promoting the violent overthrow of our government, that’s really an offense that we should be going after — they should be deported or put in prison.

This has zero connection with libertarianism. Free speech composes a cornerstone of not only the U.S. constitution, but also much of libertarianism (especially as the ethical theory pertains to politics). That Paul would go and say something so stupidly inconsistent makes it quite clear that he really could only ever be elected in the South.

Now just wait and see how many of his pseudo-libertarian brethren don’t distance themselves from him.

6 Responses

  1. This is simply xenophobia, a different form of racism.

  2. I don’t distance myself from either of those statements. I think he’s right about both of them.

    The Civil Rights Act should have been a constitutional amendment – the way is used the Commerce Clause loophole, to say that the act was justified because discrimination could impact interstate commerce in some way is wrong. Being against something doesn’t always mean you believe it should be illegal.

    I refuse to date someone who smokes, and I won’t let people do it in my house or car, and I think less of people who smoke – but I don’t want it to be illegal. I can be opposed to something without wanting it banned.

    As for this statement, freedom of speech has certain limits. Calls for violence are NOT protected form of speech – this is elementary. The only wrinkle here is that Rand Paul is talking about arresting people for something the founding fathers believed in – a revolution to overthrow America if enough of the public thing it has been corrupted.

    I don’t believe they expected the government to allow those cries for freedom to be legal.

    Freedom of Speech does have certain limits. “Fighting Words” are a classic example. You can also declare certain times or places can not be used to express any message (but you can’t treat certain messages differently, such as allowing the Salvation Army to hold a rally somewhere but not the Westboro Baptist Church)

    Some colleges require protests to take place at designated areas. This is all well understood.

  3. His first statement is correctly libertarian, and as you say, he is can believe something is wrong without advocating that it be illegal. It was politically stupid to say what he said, but it was ideologically incoherent for his tea party brethren to distance themselves from him.

    But on the free speech issue, he isn’t talking about throwing in jail the speaker. He’s talking about jailing those who dare even attend such speeches. That is far from illegal. Unless the person is part of an organized group, there is nothing Paul ought to find offensive about the idea of a person attending a speech of any kind.

  4. Ok, that’s different. I’ve listened to the clip and unfortunatly it cuts right off, do you know where I can.

    I think it’s likely he misspoke and meant to interrogate and follow up on people who show a pattern of meeting terrorist profiles. I do not think he means political rallies should be raided.

    The relevant part of the first amendment here is the right to peacefully assemble – groups conspiring to commit violence are not protected. I am fine with breaking them up, but I am opposed to putting someone in prison just for showing up – that is not enough to show they are involved.

  5. oops. Do you know where the full interview can be found?

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