Friday, January 13, 2012

Does Libertarianism Trump Decency?

Have you been paying attention to the Republican Presidential primaries? Have you noticed the strong following Ron Paul has? He finished a very respectable third in Iowa, and second in New Hampshire. Now he is taking his message to South Carolina where I suspect his message will ring nicely in the ears of their Tea Party heavy population.

While running as a Republican, Paul’s message is really one of a Libertarian. If you listen closely, you can absolutely see how a Libertarian message, on its surface, resonates with the conservative masses. It is a message of pure individuality. At its most basic form, Paul’s message is one where the constitution grants each of us individual rights that must not, and cannot, be usurped by the Federal government. A Libertarian believes that each individual has the right to control his or her own body, action, speech, and property. Simply put, as long as you do not hurt anyone else, you should be allowed to do as you please. If you want to go into business for yourself, no problem; if you want to be a career student, by all means; if you want to smoke weed or use your body to profit by performing sexual favors, who are we to say “no.” From a Republican perspective, this is small government in its truest form.

Of course as with anything, there are variations of Libertarianism, but the Ron Paul version is the rawest. He believes that liberty – at least what he calls “liberty” – should be priority number one above all else.

If we are honest, this is very poetic. Wrapped in its cocoon made of patriotism and strict constitutionalism, placing faux-liberty above everything else sounds great! This would create Utopia! However, it is riddled with unintended consequences that seem to disproportionately affect minorities and women. Not only has Paul not denounced those…consequences, he’s embraced them.

“[T]he forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty,” Paul wrote. “The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties.”

Did you catch that? If a property owner wants his property “white only,” the federal government has no authority to tell him otherwise. I’ve had this conversation with my Republican friends in the past. In my opinion, this is not only a position devoid of empathy for any other person other than Caucasian; it is also a fundamental difference in priorities. I hold personal liberty in very high regard; however, I believe the responsibility of bettering our entire nation is even higher. What good is it to have a country with celebrated personal liberties if said country is decaying internally with hatred? I think it is fair to ask our citizens for a slight reduction in personal liberties for the advancement and betterment of the entire nation.

To me, it’s simple, are we a better nation when we allow business to discriminate based on race, sex, or gender perpetuating some of the ugliest and vial stereotypes of our history? I say no! I’ve always argued that diversity makes us a better nation. Can you imagine what type of country this would be if we DIDN’T have the Civil Rights Act (and like actions)? I don’t think it’s too far a stretch to assume many of the falsehoods about the various races would embed itself even deeper (if that’s possible) into society. I could literally see a “Whites Only Facebook” and “Blacks Only Facebook.” What respectable citizen wants to live in that world? We’ve already been through a time when the most power people in our nation grew up only knowing bigotry and segregation. I’d rather live in a country where civil liberties took a back seat to human decency and the advancement of the entire United States.

But, I’m sure Ron Paul would say that integration was a big government power grab. I would say that integration helped usher in better school systems, equipment, books, and pay for teachers that gave African Americans a better education than what they were receiving prior to it. This allowed EVERYONE to benefit and progress, not just White citizens. We’ve experienced a version of Ron Paul’s understanding of government; it was called “separate but equal.” Paul is okay if an individual exercises his civil liberty and decides not to hire someone based solely on the color of their skin. If you don’t get that job, try another employer. Easy peasy…right?

Let’s be clear, I don’t think Libertarians are racist – although we all know Paul has some ‘splainin to do. I do, however, feel their position is a bit…naive. One of the major flaws with Libertarianism is their belief that (eventually) society will self correct and right all the moral wrongs. The federal government need not step in. I guess it is easy to take that position when you aren’t the ones feeling the brunt of the oppression. [Editor’s Note: It’s ironic actually. Dr. Paul graduated from Duke Medical School in 1961. If Dr. Paul were African American, he wouldn’t have been allowed admission into Duke at that time.] There is a reason the SCOTUS demanded the South move “with all deliberate speed.”

Cathy Young, from real clear politics, paraphrasing Richard Epstein said, “[R]acial segregation and discrimination by private businesses in the South was not simply the result of owners' personal choices but of powerful societal pressure as well as coercion by state governments. Businesses that refused to discriminate were targeted for officially sanctioned or condoned harassment and intimidation.”

A serious discussion on personal liberties has its place. For the most part, I’m sure you would find most folks would agree with many of the Libertarian principles. However, being so steadfast against ANY government intervention all in the name of personal liberties completely ignores the history of our nation. It is one thing to ask for liberties and a reduction of “Big Brother’s” fingerprint; it is another to ignore the erosion of decency by allowing entire races to be excluded from society.

Do personal liberties trump racial progress?
Should the government step in to force business to serve everyone regardless of race and sex?
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