Tag Archives: Rand Paul

libertarianism, state action, and private discrimination

Some great commentary coming out in the wake of Rand Paul’s floundering attempts to dodge explaining his philosophy. For instance, this from No More Mister Nice Blog:

Here’s the thing: segregation at lunch counters didn’t exist because individual privately owned businesses were determining for themselves that they would not serve black people. They relied on the local government to enforce this discrimination. Otherwise it would have been possible for non whites to sue white businesses for physical assault. Just because something isn’t statutory doesn’t mean that it isn’t taking place with government aid. A truly libertarian stance on the Civil Rights Act that wasn’t covertly conservative/racist would be to argue that the government must withdraw all legal aid, police help, and rights to sue for damages from discriminatory businesses *and then* leave the business free to discriminate. … The line between public and private property is guaranteed by government action and its something we all pay for and no private business has the right to take our money and then refuse service to us.

Rand Paul, weasel extraordinaire

Oh man, Rand Paul was on Rachel Maddow weaseling around a straight-up answer on his views of whether the federal government can prohibit discrimination in public accommodations.

A, I thought this guy was supposed to be glib and personable? This was one of the least smooth, least adept weaseling’s I’ve ever seen. Maybe that’s all just due to Rachel Maddow, who is a far more kick-ass journalist than most in terms of straight-up asking for a yes/no answer (and still not getting it).

B, wow, is he just stupid, or completely disingenuous, about the differing rationales that might justify (a) a ban on guns in establishments serving alcohol versus (b) a ban on racial discrimination?

C, again, is he just stupid? Or did he not realize that by picking on the ADA that he was also picking on the rationale underlying all civil rights laws? and that his ass would be busted on this issue? not because it’s “hypothetical” but because it’s real, live, and current — as even he must concede, since he’s picking on the ADA!

D, He’s seriously confused about law and regulation. Nobody has ever explained to this guy one of the fundamental rationales underlying the permissibility of banning some forms of private behavior — that state action would in fact otherwise be involved in enforcing those private behaviors. If someone is trespassing on your private property, you can call the police and get them to bust heads for you. That’s state action. You can sue the trespassers and get the courts involved. That’s also state action. So allowing “private businesses” to ban Black people or gay people necessarily involves state action, since the definition of a “civil right” involves the possibility of invoking the law to enforce the right. He’d like to hand that right not to individuals of color (or queer folks, or disabled folks) but instead to racist, homophobic, short-sighted business-people. Nice.

Along with other areas of law, Paul must also be unfamiliar with the long tradition, far predating the Civil Rights Act, enforcing different rules on hospitality and traveler businesses and such public accommodations. (eta: that’s common carriage, folks, although the wikipedia article is woefully inadequate on the history.)

E, Entirely unsurprisingly, he is also seriously confused about what “institutional racism” is, apparently thinking it is just state action.

F, I like how Paul pulls out the “It’s interesting…” line just before he weasels. I myself have a tendency to pronounce that things are “interesting” but not, I think, when I’m weaseling; more when I think there’s some contradiction or something a little surprising that piques my interest.

Anyway, I’ll be interested to see if Rand Paul & his libertarian policies really get him up to the U.S. Senate. How backwards-ass are my old neighbors in Kentucky? I guess we’ll find out come November.