Thursday, May 20, 2010

Rand Paul and a New Dialectic

As the winner in Tuesday’s Republican primary in Kentucky and a viable candidate for the Senate, Rand Paul has now taken a place on the national stage. Although generally regarded (even by his supporters) as a bit eccentric, he appears to be more articulate and media savvy than his father, Ron Paul, whose candidacy stirred things up during the 2008 presidential election.

This is likely to get interesting.

Less than 24 hours into his candidacy, the younger Paul was already facing tough questions about a remark he made to Louisville’s Courier-Journal regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964: namely, he said he was concerned about the part of the bill that required “private businesses” to desegregate.

Pundits and commentators spent the better part of the day, it seems, trying to get the candidate to say whether or not, had he been a Senator at the time, he would have voted for that bill. To his credit, Dr. Paul (who was all of one year old at the time) refused to answer the question directly and become snared in that trap. He passed the first exam in Candidacy 101 with flying colors.

But this whole question of “private” vs. “public” business is critical to some of the central issues being debated in this country right now:
  • Where, exactly, should the line be drawn between “public” and “private”?

  • When does a local issue merit national concern?

  • What should be the role of the federal government in protecting the interests of individual citizens?

As a spokesman for at least a segment of the libertarian community, which has been credited with launching the Tea Party movement, Rand Paul may stimulate frank and focused discussion of questions that, until now, have been merely undercurrents that inform attitudes but not understanding.

Let the games begin.


Six said...

I am sure he will be wrongly painted as a racist for this. The problem with a guy like Paul is that he is too much of an intellectual and loses sight of the real-world where the rest of us live when he tries to make points like this... the way I understand his point is not that he thinks segregation should be considered okay/good, rather, that he is saying that legislating morality on to private business owners is not a proper function of the Federal Government.

As for Private vs Public - the role of the FEDERAL Government should be fairly limited. An example of the proper function of government is to offer security against violation of natural/unalienable rights - against things like fraud, coercion, violence, etc - particularly of those people who have the least ability to protect themselves. An IMPROPER role of government is to tell me the gender of who I can marry, tell me what I can plants I can choose to put in to my own body or tell me what actions are permissable between consenting adults. Making people criminals for exercising and living within thier unalienable Rights so long as they do not infringe on the rights of others is where the law between private/public should generally be drawn.

Another way to look at his point: I own my labor - it is my property - an unalienable right to possess/enjoy. Some then would argue that I should not be forced with the threat of violent loss of personal liberty to provide my labor for which I did not consent for whatever reason - it's mine, I own it. However, an employer can and should have the ability to terminate me for not performing in a manner in which they expect (i.e. providing my labor which I consented to them purchasing) - that is a proper role for Private vs Public.

Six said...

By the way, in my uncessarily verbose reply I managed to forget to include that Rand Paul is NOT a libertarian and certainly NOT a voice for libertarianism. He is a conservative with some libertarian tendancies in some areas... which is like mixing oil and water with a spoon really fast and hard. For a short time it might give off of the appearance of being one liquid, but given enough time it becomes obviouse that the two are very different.

That said, I am a realist and believe in not allowing the Perfect to be the enemy of the Good... and Paul is certainly less-bad than his ultra-conservative-washington-establishment opponent. I smiled a little when I saw how large of a margin he won by despite who was endorsing his opponent.

Citizen Jane said...

This is scary, Six. I agree with everything you said. (OMG, is libertarianism contagious?)

I think most rational people agree, to one degree or another, that the Federal government should do what's necessary to protect people and their freedom. But there are whole continents of meaning in words like "necessary," as well as many instances in which one person's rights conflict with another's. (The "right" of a business owner to pick and choose customers, for example, may conflict with the right of a human being not to be refused service just because of his or her appearance.)

I'd be interested to know more about why you say that Rand Paul is not a libertarian (albeit an odd one).

Six said...

CJ - Thats because libertarianism and liberalism are much closer to one another than conservatism. Thomas Jefferson was a libertarian. The constitution and the declaration of Independence are libertarian documents. Actually they are classically liberal documents to be more precise.

Paul sounds great when he is talking in generalities about a Free Market but when it comes to social issues, he takes the cop out of his father and other fake libertarians who are trying to hijack the word such as Glenn Beck - things like a woman's right over her own body and marriage he disapproves of you start to get a sense of what he really believes. It's not about individual liberty - it's about his religious convictions, which is fine, but call it what it is and its not libertarian. On the one hand he claims to want limited government, but on the other he wants that same 'limited' government to control the things he does not approve of... he's right-wing with libertarian leanings on market issues. I get the sense that in his perfect right-wing world, his idea of liberty would be Henry Ford's idea of choice in the Model T - that is you can have it in any color you like so long as it's black.

Citizen Jane said...

Very interesting analysis, Six!

If only Tea Party populists would take the trouble to do some careful, nuanced thinking. Perhaps they could save themselves the embarrassment of supporting nutcases like Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachmann, and Rand Paul (who at least seems to have humanitarian instincts and good intentions).

Six said...

Now a legitimate libertarian voice within the Republican party would be Gary Johnson. Of course he fell far out of favor with the Republicans when he openly opposed the invasion of Iraq and was critical of the Bush administration in Afghanistan while govenor of New Mexico back in 2003. He favors a womans right to control her own body, he is a long time opponent of the war on drugs, and he is much more common sense about immigration. I went to watch him speak a while back and in addressing someone who was critical of him on immigration and was advocating to 'finish the fence', Mr. Johnson responded, "a 10 foot fence only requires an 11 foot ladder" along with a whole lot more government to manage it. He answer is to make it easier to immigrate here for work, make it easier to document and track those who come here and make the incentives to go the legal rout rather than what we have today. He also gets it on the economy too and had an outstanding track record while running the state of New Mexico for 8 years.

Johnson is not perfect, he is still a Republican and misses it a bit on a few issues, but as far as Republicans go, if there were a libertarian voice within the party, Johnson's tune would be the closest. said...

The problem is that the tea partiers thinks he's one of them. He's just riding their coattails. The tea partiers didn't cause a fuss over government expenditures until Obama tried to save the economy from free-fall. Wouldn't the money given to the military by Bush be the biggest handout and addition to the deficit?

Back to dear old Rand Paul, I don't think he can really make much headway in his "goals". What I found interesting in the recent anti-incumbent fever that it was just as much against Republicans and Democrats.

The Tarquin said...

"(OMG, is libertarianism contagious?)"

No, but in my experience liberty can be addictive.

In all seriousness, though, I have some issues with both of the Pauls. My most serious ones are in regards to their foreign policy. I agree with Six in that I think that Gary Johnson is a much better candidate for libertarians than are the Pauls. Now I certainly won't say no to either of the Pauls getting elected, since I think they are better than what we have now. But I would love to see a candidate like Johnson be a serious contender for congress or for the presidency.

Citizen Jane said...

New Mexico does pick the most interesting governors.

Well, best wishes to Gary Johnson and his supporters. However, it's beginning to look like Rand Paul has more feet than an centipede, and he's trying to see how fast he can get them all in his mouth. Thanks to him, the libertarian "brand" isn't gaining many admirers right now.

It's beginning to look like being associated with the Tea Party movement can be the kiss of death for Republicans and libertarians alike.

Six said...

CJ - here is a more articulate summary of why Rand Paul is a conservative and not a libertarian. Classically Liberal Blog

Citizen Jane said...

Thanks, Six. That essay was illuminating. More needs to be said about the distinctions between libertarians and conservatives, and I can see where a high-profile imposter can really confuse the issue.

I was especially interested in the author's distinction between states' rights and individual liberties. I think conservatives in general tend not to make that important distinction.