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Liberated from Libertarianism: Rand Paul Runs and Hides from ... Rand Paul

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MADDOW: The Civil Rights Act was created to take away the right of individual business owners to discriminate, taking away their right to make that decision. Which side of that debate are you on?

PAUL: In the totality of it, I'm in favor of the federal government being involved in civil rights, which is mostly what the Civil Rights Act was about. I'm opposed to any form of governmental racism or discrimination or segregation.

MADDOW: The reason that this is something I'm not letting go of this is because it effects real people's lives. This question involves the matter of private discrimination in public accommodations. Should that be allowed?

PAUL: The debate involves a lot of court cases with regard to the commerce clause. Many states are now saying that they have a right to force restaurant owners to allow people to enter with guns even if the owners don't want them to. So you see how this issue can cut both ways, against liberals too.

MADDOW: What if the owner of a restaurant or a swimming pool or a bowling alley wanted to segregate their facility? Should they be allowed to do so under your world view?

PAUL: We did some very important things in the 1960s that I'm all in favor of. That was desegregating schools, public transportation, water fountains.


MADDOW: How about lunch counters?

PAUL: Well, if you do that, then can the owner of the restaurant keep out guns? Does the owner of a restaurant own his restaurant or does the government own his restaurant?

MADDOW: Should Woolworths lunch counters have been left to be segregated? Sir, just yes or no?

PAUL: I don't believe in any discrimination. If you believe in regulating private ownership, you have to decide on whether you also want to force guns in restaurants when the owner doesn't want them. This is a red herring being used by my political opponents. It's an abstract, obscure conversation from 1964 that you want to bring up. Every fiber of my being doesn't believe in discrimination, doesn't believe that we should have that in our society, and to imply otherwise is just dishonest.

MADDOW: I couldn't disagree with you more on this issue, but I thank you for coming on the show and having this civilized discussion about it...

So, by my count, Maddow asks Paul the core question here no fewer than eight times in a row. This is precisely what she should have been doing, and in doing so she provides a huge service to American society. If I were to fault her anywhere, it would be only for not identifying Paul's diversionary tactics for what they were, calling them out, and thereby pushing them off the table. I would have liked to have seen her say, "With respect, sir, we're not talking about that. Or that, or that, or that. We're talking about this."

And she would have needed to do that several times over, because Paul's game here is to shift the discussion to domains where he is more comfortable, and where the problems with his ideology don't show up so readily. Maddow says let's talk about discrimination in privately-held public accommodations, and he says let's talk about my lack of prejudice. She tries again and he wants to discuss governmental discrimination. She repeats the question and he says let's talk about nineteenth century history. She asks once more and he starts talking about censorship and the First Amendment. She tries yet again and he changes the topic to guns, which involves legislating behavior, rather than race, which concerns who you are. She asks still another time and he cries foul, claiming that this is some obscure red herring being used by his opponents for purposes of political assassination.

All of these are diversionary lies, meant to avoid the unpleasant realities of what libertarianism would actually look like in action. But the last lie is the most egregious. The entire reason for Rand Paul's existence right now which is also almost literally true, given that he has the unfortunate burden of being named for Ayn Rand, a twisted soul if ever there was is his premise of reclaiming American government in the name of liberty for the American people. That's who he is. That's what he represents himself to be. That's his political shtick, his raison d'être. What the Maddow interview reveals, however, is that he's really just another politician trying to win office, not a crusader at all. And what it also reveals is just how bankrupt are those libertarian notions if you look at them at all closely.

The ideology has some nice bumper-sticker like appeal, especially for the more simplistic among us. I mean, who, after all, could be against more freedom? And, indeed, when it comes to social issues, the libertarians have it exactly right. The government shouldn't be in the business of controlling women's bodies, or telling people what substances they can imbibe, or who they can sleep with or marry, or whether they can end their own lives should they choose to. But you don't need to be a libertarian to get to those places. These are also progressive ideas as well.

Where libertarianism breaks down is in assuming that we can all just do what we want and it will work out great. And in assuming that all private actors are essentially well intentioned. Neither of these is true, and a libertarian society would leave each of us at the mercy of these twin fallacies. And that's an ugly place to be, let me tell you.

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David Michael Green is a professor of political science at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers' reactions to his articles (dmg@regressiveantidote.net), but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
 

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MoJo claims Rand and his father Ron Paul are both ... by Richmond Gardner on Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 8:54:12 PM
Hope that helps 911 truth... by BaronVonRothschild on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:52:09 AM
While many anarchists latch on to the Libertarian ... by Starbuck on Saturday, May 22, 2010 at 9:46:15 PM
"I don't believe in racism. I don't think there sh... by Kathy Stuart on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:43:15 AM
Individual rights would be WAY more protected in a... by BaronVonRothschild on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:51:16 AM
he would have run as a Republican.He would also be... by marko polo on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 6:21:18 AM
for the record, not all Libertarians believe in th... by BaronVonRothschild on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:44:29 AM
Unfortunately for we the people, the commerce clau... by MichaelOhio on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:26:04 PM
... by Phil DeGrave on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:13:27 AM
I scarecely know where to begin. I'm not a liberta... by BaronVonRothschild on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:40:12 AM
There's an obvious misunderstanding out there of w... by truthseeker7 on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:43:37 AM
Forcing racist business owners to not be racist pr... by BaronVonRothschild on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 10:56:45 AM
If there is one thing we know about Maddow, it is ... by Conspiracy Girl on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 9:38:01 AM
I have thought the same thing because he is his fa... by truthseeker7 on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 10:48:24 AM
"Equality" is a principal of which needs no append... by Randy Rinaldo on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11:02:29 AM
could not or would not answer a simple question in... by Daniel Geery on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11:04:43 AM
Here is a pretty good link of an interview with a ... by Bernard on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11:24:22 AM
The problem with the interview was that Maddow had... by Conspiracy Girl on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 2:43:53 AM
Green exposes the hyposcrisy of Rand Paul and Libe... by MichaelOhio on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11:50:57 AM
While he believes, in civil rights, he does'nt bel... by marko polo on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:10:31 PM
Imagine you're a black parent driving cross-countr... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:37:24 PM
The State of Ohio provides public services. The Ci... by BaronVonRothschild on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 2:22:52 PM
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uh, actually - the point is, the Southern business... by Jim Arnold on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 8:24:30 PM
Business as usual is the "ORDER" in which an indiv... by Randy Rinaldo on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 11:35:10 PM
Perhaps Southern businesses would have continued t... by Conspiracy Girl on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 2:52:28 PM
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that other racist miscreants will choose to use th... by Kathy Stuart on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 5:00:49 PM
I thought Paul handled the interview perfectly. In... by Craig Thomas on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 12:43:20 PM
I see you have the libertarians dancing on the hea... by Carol Crown on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 1:11:25 PM
Professor, I disagree with you about Sarah Palin. ... by Ankhorite on Sunday, May 23, 2010 at 1:18:49 PM
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Maddow did dance around the core issue a bit, whic... by Dick Thomson on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 6:59:29 AM
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I don't want to attack a writer at OpEd News. Let'... by Matt Kjeldsen on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 10:01:29 AM
Requiring businesses to comply with the Civil Righ... by Jim Arnold on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 12:05:08 PM
Here's the deal Jim. Race pimping is the strategy... by Matt Kjeldsen on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 12:42:38 PM
Your definition of a "free" republic assumes the d... by Jim Arnold on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 2:05:27 PM
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The government can shoot you in your bed as you sl... by Jim Arnold on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 8:14:00 PM
There are numerous places you can read about it, b... by Conspiracy Girl on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 9:42:39 PM
There are numerous places you can read about it, b... by Conspiracy Girl on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 10:31:25 PM
Thank you, Conspiracy Girl. Definitely sounds like... by Jim Arnold on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 7:22:08 AM
Sorry, but you are not free to not engage in comme... by Conspiracy Girl on Monday, May 24, 2010 at 10:32:31 PM
IT DOESEN;T MATTER WHO GET ELECTICED ONCE THEY GET... by MARGARET BASET on Tuesday, May 25, 2010 at 7:27:45 AM
since you continue to post more or less the same i... by BaronVonRothschild on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 4:02:00 AM
You don't understand. It's your argument that busi... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 6:06:46 PM
Your view is fascinating... from the perspective o... by BaronVonRothschild on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 11:20:52 AM
An exchange between private persons is an exchange... by Jim Arnold on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 6:07:50 PM
Conspiracy Girl says it is all about individual ri... by Carol Crown on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 9:08:20 AM
Carol, I think you have hit the nail on head: this... by BaronVonRothschild on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 11:17:56 AM
How do you imagine business came to control the go... by Jim Arnold on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 6:19:37 PM
It is indeed your fears that make you see the admi... by Carol Crown on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 8:58:27 AM
For starters, I differ with so-called libertarian ... by BaronVonRothschild on Thursday, May 27, 2010 at 11:58:27 AM