Monday, May 24, 2010

Rand Paul - Ideology Running Amok

It all started when Rand Paul agreed to appear on The Rachel Maddow Show the night after his convincing win in the Kentucky US Senate Republican primary which you can see in this video link. The main topic of conversation turned out to be Paul’s stated concerns about Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act which states that:
All persons shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the goods, services, facilities, privileges, advantages, and accommodations of any place of public accommodation, as defined in this section, without discrimination on the ground of race, color, religion, or national origin. [Private facilities are exempt]
It’s hard to overestimate the significance of this law. It meant the end of an ugly chapter of racial segregation in our nation’s history where "coloreds" had to suffer the indignity of separate restaurants, hotels, rest rooms and even drinking fountains. But Mr. Paul, true to his libertarian roots had reservations about this part of the Act since in his mind, the government had no right to tell private owners of establishments whom they had to serve.

While Mr. Paul’s viewpoint on this subject was known by some in his home state of Kentucky, it wasn’t until Maddow’s interview that this came under national scrutiny.

Many were stunned to hear this from Paul, but for those who have an understanding of libertarianism, this is all very consistent with their ideology of individual freedom coupled with extremely limited government. Many libertarians such as Paul have questioned the right of many established government programs and regulatory agencies to even exist. While Paul has had to defend against aggressive questioning on this subject, Fox News libertarian commentator John Stossel had no qualms about passionately defending Paul in
this video tirade which drew a heated response from America Live host Megyn Kelly. Despite Kelly’s arguments to the contrary, Stossel went even further than Paul by actually advocating outrught repeal of this part of the Civil Rights Act.

Of course it can be argued that we must be careful about government intervening in private business decisions. But even as Paul argues, racial segregation is abhorrent. So something had to be done about it. If the method used was objectionable, does he (or Stossel) have a better way? Simply using the “free market” to remedy this as suggested by libertarians is laughably lame if not outright racist. Marie Burns elegantly sums it up this way.
Since most Southern whites favored discrimination, & since all Southern states had larger white populations than they had black populations, why would a business in 1955 just voluntarily "do the right thing"? They wouldn't, even if they wanted to, because they would lose the majority of their business.
Ideological thinking is OK to a point, but it must not ignore the real world problems we need to solve.

Which brings us to the next whopper uttered by Paul in a subsequent interview by George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America which can be viewed in this video link. In the interview, he singles out President Obama’s criticism of BP for their part in the recent catastrophic oil spill off the coast of Louisiana.

What I don't like from the president's administration is this sort of, 'I'll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.' I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business," he said. "I've heard nothing from BP about not paying for the spill. And I think it's part of this sort of blame game society in the sense that it's always got to be someone's fault instead of the fact that sometimes accidents happen.
Paul then went on to make similar remarks about the recent West Virginia mining tragedy. Of course what he ignores is that the criticism is not just about the accidents happening, but more importantly is about the chronically poor safety records of both BP along with Massey Energy, owner of the West Virginia mine where the recent tragedy occurred.

So what is Paul’s solution?
Earlier this year…Paul told the Fox Business Channel that he believes government agencies should reduce their regulation of the energy industry. "Get the EPA out of our coal business down here, get OSHA out of our small businesses. We need to restrain government to let small businesses create jobs," he said.
So does any reasonable person think that these tragedies were due to over regulation? And that less regulation would decrease the likelihood of these “accidents” happening again?

I must admit that as a social liberal, I have long admired the libertarian position against the government regulating what we do in private under the guise of enforcing somebody else’s moral values e.g. Can We Talk About Legalizing Drugs?

But this obsession over the evils of big government has come with a price. Over the last 30 years or so starting with the Reagan administration, government regulations have been significantly cut. And those that are left are often laxly enforced because the manpower in many of the regulatory agencies has been cut to the bone by the Bush administration as part of its philosophical oppositon to regulation.

The result is that although big government’s power has been weakened, instead of this power going to the people as hoped for by libertarians, much of this power has instead been transferred to big business! For example, most mainstream economists agree that the massive deregulation of the financial services industry was behind the reckless behavior causing the recent financial meltdowns on Wall Street. And then there is the recent Supreme Court decision that treats corporations as “people” which now allows them to put unlimited amounts of money into influencing elections.

Nobody wants too much big government. But on the other hand, advocating that those who for example, practice racial segregation or pollute our waters to simply police themselves without some government oversight is sheer madness. Which as Rand Paul has now found out, leads to indefensible positions. Which is undoubtedly why he suddenly decided to cancel his scheduled appearance yesterday on Meet the Press!

1 comment:

brienpalmer said...

Well said, Tony! The expressed goals of Libertarianism--an unencumbered marketplace and free lifestyles--are hard to argue with, in concept. But so often it seems like just a veneer over a desire by privileged people just to keep their privileges. I can't imagine any minority groups clamoring to get governments off their backs. So in a sense it just seems dishonest, like using "social Darwinism" to justify the greater affluence of white folks.