Friday, May 21, 2010

Principled but Wrong: A devastating critique of Rand Paul and Libertarianism

For years, maybe decades, Libertarians have camped around the periphery of the Republican Party, acting mostly as fellow travelers and--occasionally--as critics of the GOP. Inherent in their critiques of Republican conservatism was a belief--usually unstated but implied--"if only we Libertarians were in charge, we'd show you what conservatism really means." To other conservatives, Libertarians often come off as sanctimonious know-it-alls perpetually clicking their tongues in disgust at the unwashed corporatist cronies or sweaty bible thumpers that have traditionally dominated the GOP.

Then, on Tuesday evening, for one bright and shining moment, all of that seemed to have changed. A Libertarian had won a state primary, had won the top of the Republican ticket in a statewide race. For one brief and shining moment it seemed that a Libertarian would lead the way and show the corporate lobbyists and bible thumpers how it was done. In less than 24 hours, that dream had forever crumbled into the dust.

In an epic 20 minute interview with Rachel Maddow, Libertarian Golden Child Rand Paul not only failed to evoke the Libertarian Utopia, he presented himself as the rhetorical champion of the downtrodden racist small businessman forced to integrate his business against his will. In doing so, Paul has probably defined American Libertarianism for at least a generation. Not the most auspicious of starts.

Over at Huffington Post, writer Bob Cesca delivers an epic slapdown to Rand Paul, the Tea Party Movement, and Libertarians. Cesca starts out by allowing Rand Paul to make the standard self-identification:
I'll take Rand Paul at his word. He's opposed to racial discrimination.

However, he obviously supports allowing businesses to engage in racial discrimination with impunity. Evidently, if the government says it's against the law to run a whites-only business, this is a bridge too far for Rand Paul.

Congratulations, Republicans. The man you chose to run for the vacant U.S. Senate seat from Kentucky and the man who delivered the highest profile political victory for the tea party movement has turned out to have some very twisted ideas about civil rights and race.
And then the blade drops with sickening finality:
Rand Paul's extremist position on the Civil Right Act underscores a major flaw in libertarian ideology, and it further cements the connection between the tea party movement and race.

Libertarianism, which both Ron and Rand Paul famously embrace, suggests the free market is a significant and vital component of liberty. Private businesses are capable of accomplishing everything, and government can't interfere or regulate those businesses in any way. The free market will police itself. Just leave it be.

Private industry can pave roads, educate children, put out fires and protect our streets from drunk drivers. It can shuttle our kids to corporate schools and back, it can provide clean water to our homes and they can guarantee our meat and vegetables aren't contaminated with diseases. And by the way, in a nation that's 70 percent white, private businesses can choose to do all of these things for white people only. Private businesses can provide everything we need, but only offer those services to white people.

And these businesses, according to libertarian ideology, can form monopolies if they want to. As we're all painfully aware from the health care debate, monopolies occur even in our current government-regulated system. Imagine what would happen in a totally unregulated free market.

So, in Rand Paul's utopia, not only can Woolworth's prevent black people from sitting at its soda stand if it wants to, but a private, free market police corporation can set up shop in a community, buy up any competing police corporations and announce that it no longer serves black people or Jewish people or Hispanic people or gay people -- any minority segment of the population.

Or, when public schools are eliminated, a free market education franchise can form a monopoly and ostensibly can choose turn away non-white students, potentially excluding minorities from receiving an education. And all of these businesses are allowed to consolidate with each other, forming larger monopolies, and the ability of the people to effectively fight back simultaneously decreases as unregulated corporation's financial and market power increases.

Of course these free market mega-corporations might not admit that they're engaging in discriminatory practices. Bad PR. They could lie and say that all are welcome, but then create unseen rules that prevent minorities from enrolling. No wheelchair ramps, or prohibitively expensive tuition for poorer students and so forth.

Who would hold them accountable for their lies? Who would have the financial and organizational wherewithal to take on too big to fail corporate franchises like, say, the Halliburton Police Department? Or the Bechtel Water Corporation? Or the News Corp School System?

Most libertarians claim to oppose racial discrimination, but they ultimately support a system that utterly ignores it as a business practice. Put another way, it's like being opposed to cancer, but in favor of asbestos. Rand Paul, to say nothing of a long list of other Republicans, subscribes to this free market libertarian philosophy. And he's also become a champion of the tea party movement.
Game. Set. Match.

You can read the rest of Bob Cesca's indictment of Libertarianism at The Huffington Post.

It matters little whether you see Rand Paul as naive or malevolent. His silly genuflection to the free speech rights of racists shows more than anything else could that Libertarianism isn't ready for prime time.

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Please support Rand Paul's Democratic opponent, Jack Conway: he's a good guy, he needs our help, and he can win.

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