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

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Message David Michael Green
Maybe we can finally have a serious discussion in this country about the lunacies of libertarianism.

I doubt it. This is, after all, America. I doubt we'd know an intelligent political discourse if it whacked us upside the haid.

But now we have Rand Paul, son of Ron, marching toward the United States Senate, with a mission to "take back our government". Oh boy.

I might be able to get a little bit excited about that if it really was his goal. The truth is that the American government exists almost entirely to serve the interests of the American plutocracy. If libertarians want to break that evil connection, well, then, definitely give me a shout. I'll be glad to pitch in.

But, of course, you pretty much never hear them talk about that part as they rant about the evils of government.

What do libertarians actually want, Herr Doktor? It's not entirely clear to me that they know themselves. They're pretty good with the shibboleths, but always seem to have trouble beyond that. That's because it is precisely on the other side of the sappy slogans where the contradictions of libertarianism come glaringly into focus. This is the place where naive but kindly people would say "Wot, I signed up for that?", and that's exactly why libertarians don't want to go there.

Such avoidance of reality is not only rarely a problem in American political discourse, it's nearly a national religion. In this sense, the discussion Rand Paul had with Rachel Maddow the other night was doubly instructive. First, because Paul the national savior on horseback du jour was reduced to repeated instances of the most basic, and base, political maneuvering in order to come to grips with the implications of his own ideology.

And, second, because Maddow gave us a partial reminder of what good journalism would actually look like in America. She didn't actually get quite all the way to where she should have gone, but her polite, thoughtful and semi-relentless questioning of her guest was as foreign to what passes for journalism in this country today as would be six-headed fourteen-dimensional gaseous creatures from a distant galaxy. Maddow is fast becoming a national treasure, which says a lot about her, but, regrettably, a lot more about her colleagues in the "news' business.

There are several key explanations for the rise of the insane right over the last three decades, but surely one of them has been the compliance of the mainstream media. Politicians have been able to make the most absurdly ridiculous and hypocritical statements without fear of being called on them. And if they ever were, they need only repeat the same line in some slightly different variation, and that's the end of the affair media lapdogs are well trained to cease and desist. One of Maddow's great virtues which ought to be a sine qua non for anyone calling themselves a journalist is her doggedness.

To see what I mean, check out this paraphrased approximation (not too far from verbatim, actually) of her conversation with Rand Paul the other night:

MADDOW: Congratulations on your big victory last night. Do you believe that private business people should be able to not serve black people or gays or any other minority group?

PAUL: I don't believe in racism. I don't think there should be any governmental or institutional racism. Now I'm going to go into a long diversionary soliloquy about William Lloyd Garrison, an early nineteenth century abolitionist, and also about when "desegregation' [actually anti-discrimination] legislation was passed into law in Boston...

MADDOW: Yes, okay, that was pretty weird. But what about private businesses who might want to not serve blacks or gays? Should they have the legal right to do so?

PAUL: We had incredible problems with racism in the 1950s concerning voting, schools and public housing. This is what civil rights addressed and what I largely agree with.

MADDOW: But what about private businesses? I don't want to be badgering you on this, but I do want an answer.

PAUL: I'm not in favor of any discrimination of any form, I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. What's important here is to not get into any sort of "gotcha" on the question of race, but to ask the question, "What about freedom of speech?" Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent?

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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 (, but regrets that time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is (more...)
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