Friday, May 21, 2010

In Which Rand Paul Sticks His Foot In His Mouth

So, shortly after winning the Republican primary for the Senate seat in Kentucky, Rand Paul has commented that the parts of the Civil Rights Act that restrict the actions of private businesses were incorrect. Everyone and their mother has jumped on this as typical "racist Republican" buffoonery. Even sympathetic voices are wondering if perhaps Rand has taken his small-government views too far.

He hasn't. It is perfectly coherent to sincerely abhor racism, and not think the Civil Rights Act should have included restrictions of private agents. It is only incoherent if you believe the only way to affect social change is with government violence. Mainstream socio-political thought, however, sees government as the proverbial hammer and every challenge faced by humanity as a proverbial nail.

Implying that Rand Paul is a racist because he opposes the violent attack on the rights of people to say who can and cannot be on their property (even when they make poor decisions in this regard) follows the same logic as saying that he's a communist because he thinks communists should be allowed to say or publish whatever they want (even though communists say and publish reprehensible things). It should be obvious that Paul is no communist. It might be objected that there's a big difference between freedom of speech and property rights, but this is simply false, both from a philosophical and practical standpoint. Freedom is an indivisible whole and no part is of a different class than the others--there is no line between "economic" freedom and freedoms of expression and thought.

Outlawing the effects of racism is simply foolish. It would be like if you tried to outlaw rain, knowing you couldn't get rid of clouds. Racism is a cultural problem, not a civic one, and attacks against it should be made on those grounds.