I painfully cringed my way through Rand Paul’s recent interview on The Rachel Maddow Show today on YouTube. If this isn’t a clear example of the folly of electoral politicking I don’t know what is. If you google “Rand Paul Civil Rights” and watch the video you will plainly see a writhing wannabe politico forced to jettison speaking his mind on a simple but ostensibly ugly libertarian principle.
There is a dark side to libertarianism. As H.L. Mencken said, “the trouble with fighting for human freedom is that one spends most of one’s time defending scoundrels. For it is against scoundrels that oppressive laws are first aimed, and oppression must be stopped at the beginning if it is to be stopped at all.” Libertarians aren’t always going to get pitched softball questions about small business owners and the regulations that harangue them or taxing and regulating marijuana. We have to actively defend what is often seen as the seedy underbelly of mainstream society: queers, intravenous drug users, racists, and every other nonaggressive but atypical lifestyle.
The great unifying principle of liberty is that as long as a behavior isn’t using force or fraud, or threatening its use against others, it should not be stopped or prevented with force. If racists, sexists, heterosexists, or any other naughty collectivist ‘ist’ one can think of does not want to associate with any of their hated imagined-as-meaningful groups then it is within their prerogative to make that choice.
The ideal reaction to private prejudice should be that all responsible justice-loving people use apolitical means to ostracize and punish the bigots socially and economically. One should use one’s own freedom of association to completely disassociate from those who support the principle that one disagrees with. This has recently been occurring with the boycotts and buycotts of Arizona as a result of SB1070. I am aware of very few people who are suggesting that force should be used to coerce racists to trade or be personal friends with brown people and/or undocumented immigrants.
The only choices for trying to change the behavior of prejudiced but peaceful individuals are as follows:
1) Allow for freedom of voluntary association and disassociation to solve nonviolent problems through peaceful persuasion, and…
2) Use the government’s force to coerce peaceful people to interact with others who don’t naturally want to do so.
I understand that if Rand had openly defended the principle of voluntary association and had said Woolworth’s had a right to turn away potential black clientele from their lunch counter he might as well have proffered his withdrawal from the Senate race. He had to utilize the technique of politickin’ of always answering the question one wished one had been asked. He successfully weaseled his way out of any conclusive gotcha! quotes, but everyone basically knows where his heart is. He would side with the privacy rights of the scoundrels.
His discard of principle is troubling. A clear and succinct defense of libertarian morality and respect for peaceful voluntary association and disassociation would have been more than philosophically satisfying to the rational viewer; at least I hope it would be. It’s a consistent position, libertarianism, and how often can one say that about other ideologies? Most are based on inconsistent moral reasoning and ex post facto justifications. Ah, but there is never time to defend moral principles and its consistent application for a brief cable news interview and it would probably destroy his public life and career.
Whether Ron Paul, Adam Kokesh, Debra Medina, Peter Schiff, and all other politickin’ libertarians have had a net gain or loss for radical freedom ideologies I will leave to someone else to analyze. After all, that is a complicated question. I am only stating that the road is fraught with compromise of principle when it comes to the defense of those on the outskirts of the mainstream.
Rand, I wouldn’t have expected any differently. We are drowning in a sea of silly here trying to hide our radicalism. Come out of the libertarian closet and be radical with the rest of us if that’s what you really are. We will join you in the defense of freedom — but you will have to acknowledge that those principles logically entail abolition of the state if you’re going to successfuly articulate and defend them.