Thursday, May 20, 2010

Thoughts on Rand Paul

I just saw Kentucky GOP Senatorial candidate Rand Paul's interview with Rachel Maddow.

How absolutely awful!!!

He shot himself in the foot while it was in his mouth.

When someone asks you if you support desegregating lunch counters you answer the question with a firm yes. You don't digress.

The more and more Maddow asked him if he supported desegregating lunch counters and the more and more he didn't answer the question the bigger and bigger the hole he dug for himself.

Now if Paul were to have answered her question directly but she persisted with questions concerning the 1964 Civil Rights Act here is what Paul should have said:

I know what you're trying to do. It's what liberals have been doing to conservatives for decades. You want to make me and other conservatives out to be racists and I won't let you do it. I expect better than that. Shame on you!!!

That would have put it all back on Maddow.

In fairness to Maddow, she didn't pick the Civil Rights Act out of thin air. Paul had discussed it in an interview with The Courier-Journal last month as well as in a subsequent interview on NPR's All Things Considered after winning the Kentucky GOP Primary earlier this week.

Under most circumstances when Paul says "I think a lot of things could be handled locally" that's fine but in the context of the American South circa 1964 that isn't fine. If your local solution is beating up people sitting at a lunch counter then we've got a problem. A big problem.

I understand that businesses have and should reserve the right to refuse service. But their refusal to serve has to be grounded in reason. Let's use a restaurant as an example. A restaurant is certainly within its rights to refuse service and to ask the customer to leave the premises if that customer is intoxicated, assaults another patron or employee of the restaurant or is otherwise unruly.

But if someone just wants a hamburger and a Coke and has the money to pay for it then on what grounds does the restaurant have the right to refuse service? A smart restaurant owner would see his customer not as a black man but as a hungry man or a thirsty one.

If a restaurant owner in 2010 were stupid enough to refuse service to black people all they would need to do would be go down the street to another restaurant whose owner would be more than happy to take their money. But prior to 1964 black people living in the South did not have that choice available to them. They were effectively barred from engaging in commerce. Their liberty was impinged and were restricted from pursuing happiness.

Now I am not aware of any restaurant, tavern or any other eatery in this country that presently has a policy of refusing service to black people. If there was we would know about it. The United States of America has actually made some progress since 1964 even if the Rachel Maddows of the world would be loathe to admit it.

But the fact of the matter is that Rand Paul is a product of the Tea Party and liberals have been trying to discredit it for some time now. If liberals can discredit Paul then it would go a long way in discrediting the Tea Party. That is liberal agenda item number one and Paul should know better than to play into their agenda. Talking about the Civil Rights Act of 1964 gets him nowhere in a hurry.

With about 5½ months before election day, Rand Paul has time on his side. But he needs to use that time wisely.


Unknown said...

Mr. Goldstein doesn't seem to understand that Rand Paul is a principled libertarian. On libertarian principles, the right of a property owner/business owner to refuse to serve someone for any reason or no reason at all is absolute. A genuine libertarian shouldn't even think in terms of 'social problems' to be solved, and so should not regard the owner's choice to refuse service as anything more than an exercise of his personal freedom. I was pleased to see Paul stand up for his beliefs, although he was forced to apologize and clarify. He should not have been compelled to do so. A libertarian or a conservative should not be ashamed of making allowances for racism. Exercising one's racial views is a part of the right of American, according tot heir ideologies. Only we liberals truly have a problem with that.

Aaron Goldstein said...

How exactly does refusing to serve someone because of the color of their skin make one a principled libertarian?

Unknown said...

It's easy: Rand Paul is not saying that he himself, as a principled libertarian, would refuse service to someone on racial grounds; he is simply affirming that he sees no legitimate legal remedy to be used against someone who chooses to refuse service to someone on racial grounds. This is because, as a principled libertarian, Paul believes in the absolute right of a property owner to do with his own property whatever he chooses.

Aaron Goldstein said...

I'm afraid you have failed to answer the question. How does refusing to serve someone because of skin color make one a principled libertarian? What kind of principled libertarian deprives a group of people the opportunity to engage in commerce? What kind of principled libertarian abides by these kind of practices when they are sanctioned by the state?

It should be noted that Walter Williams, one of this country's best known libertarians, supports the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (

As for a property owner having absolute rights to paraphrase Lord Acton, "Absolute rights corrupts absolutely."

Unknown said...

reply to Mr. Goldstein:

Rand Paul doubtless did not intend to mean that the racist businessman who refuses to serve blacks is, or was, a libertarian. Rather, Paul's defense was of the right of the businessman to exercise his freedom of choice, which, as a property owner, is absolute with regard to his own property. I don't know what sorts of libertarians you know, but I've listened to libertarians for many years refer to the absolute right of the property owner.

So, Paul's position is one taken on behalf of the individual rights of the property owner.

As for Walter Williams, he may be a libertarian, but, in endorsing the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he sides with we liberal collectivists. I don't mind that, but I doubt that he can produce a coherent libertarian argument in favor of the massive liberal social experimentation and violation of both states' rights and individual rights that the Civil Rights Act represents. We liberals don't have a problem with that because we can just reject the idea that states or individuals should have such rights. It's much, much harder for either conservatives or libertarians to take such a position.

Aaron Goldstein said...

So I gather you don't consider yourself a libertarian.

You may have very well heard other libertarians refer to the "absolute right of the property owner." But surely you know there are no absolutes regarding such matters even if other libertarians don't.

If libertarians believe a proprietor has an absolute right to decline to serve a person on the basis of their skin color do they also believe this same proprietor has the absolute right to kill a man on sight because of his skin color?

You might want to think about that one hard and long before you get back to me.