Saturday, May 22, 2010

Rand Paul gets demagogued

By Rick Morris

I was glad to see Rand Paul win the Kentucky Senate primary on Tuesday night both because he will be a thorn in the side of the GOP Good Ol' Boys and because his principled libertarian beliefs are somewhat like a cousin to my own paleocon ones. Sadly, it didn't take long for the professional political hacks of the world to set upon this guy and do everything they can to muddy him up for the fall.

His (naive) good faith in going on the Rachel Maddow show Wednesday night was repaid in predictable fashion, as the usual leftist talking points came bellowing up past the show's Adam's apple. Essentially, his Socratic dialogue about the nature of private property rights coexisting with the need for government to enforce basic civil rights was cast aside in favor of a "YES OR NO? SHOULD BLACK KIDS HAVE BEEN TURNED AWAY FROM A LUNCH COUNTER? YES OR NO?" type of deliberate incivility that was not at all masked by the host's usual phony, furrowed-brow fig-leaf attempts at actual back-and-forth conversation.

Unlike the simpletons who immediately denounced him, I understood what he was talking about and I sympathized. I agree that government should enforce laws against discrimination. Aside from the few bigots in all races, this is a point that is universally agreed-upon and for good reason.

However, as a huge believer in the free market, I don't find private property issues to be so black-and-white, no pun intended. For the cradle-to-grave statists like Ezra Klein, who want the government to control health care and every other decision in our lives, the decision to smear Paul in order to make the race at least potentially winnable for the Democrats is a no-brainer. I get that. Klein, by the way, like Maddow, is another fugazi who likes to pose as a reasonable person interested in ideas all the while throwing feces at the other side.

But the idealogues like Klein and Maddow get away with what they do only because the vast majority of people have sadly been far too intellectually lazy to contemplate what they believe in and why. Paul does us a valuable service in thrusting these issues front and center.

My initial impulse when the controversy began was to take Paul's side completely. Mandates on dining and accomodations are private sector ones and isn't it the ACLU that always tells us that the price of freedom is paid by allowing the dirtbags among us to practice their vile beliefs? Of course it's reprehensible for whites to disallow blacks from their establishment -- or blacks to disallow whites. The question of whether it should be illegal is one that a free mind unafraid of political correctness should be free to debate.

As I say, I started by taking Paul's side completely in my capacity as a strong private property advocate. I changed my mind upon reading a column from the great Bruce Bartlett -- one of the foremost thinkers on today's scene -- when he pointed out that the Deep South of the 1960s could not have been pulled out of the nightmare of racism without the measures on public accomodations. I believe strongly that, all things being equal, bigots who exclude people of races other than their own will not exist in business for long. Our races in this country are tribal, but not to the extent of outright hostility in the overwhelming majority of instances. Decent-hearted people would not patronize these businesses and advocates for equality would organize boycotts to successfully shut them down. The free market would work, without the corrupting influence of Mommy Government trying to do what it never can, to legislate what is in people's hearts.

But the key phrase is "all things being equal." Bartlett is right, and I was initially wrong not to take into consideration the reality that 100 years of Jim Crow necessitated the measures I questioned. Otherwise, the deeply-ingrained bigotry of the time would have led to most businesses in the South continuing to refuse to service blacks. So something that I would intellectually classify as a market distortion was necessitated by 100+ years of a huge market distortion in the other direction.

[While we're questioning provisions of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, I think it ideally would have had some more weight against the possibility of quotas. I know that the bill did not authorize them, but it didn't have enough teeth in it against the possibility of reverse discrimination. The lesson here is that even though reverse discrimination might have seemed like an absurd eventuality in 1964, it did come to pass with the notion of set-asides and weighted test scores for federal jobs. Never legislate for the moment, always try to take into consideration the ramifications for decades and generations down the road. I know this firsthand as somebody who expressly got the "Thank you, please apply in the future treatment" once when I checked off "white male" on a mandatory form that was part of a job application. OK, lecture over on this side subject.]

Regardless of where you come down on these subjects, however, as long as you're tackling them in good faith, there ought to be room for your arguments in the arena of ideas. Attempts by statist demagogues who never want any mandate of Big Government to be questioned are wrong, as is the shoehorning of serious public policy debates into sound-bite gotcha politics. Sadly, however, as jerks like Maddow and Klein continue to prove, such methods are the ways of the world these days. Think about that the next time you hear their simpering about why nobody will discuss issues honestly and fearlessly anymore.

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