Civil Liberties

idealism and reality: rand paul's troubles

After winning the Republican primary to be the party's Kentucky Senate candidate, a series of interviews - one with NPR and another with the Rachel Maddow Show - left Rand Paul in a bit of trouble. The issue concerned his views on a section of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In summation, his views are that the federal government does not have the constitutional right in legislating who a private business may or may not choose as patrons - if the business owner decides to refuse service to a person of another race, it was within his right as the property owner to do so.  This is in keeping with the libertarian view that a key function of government is to protect the rights of property owners and the right to free speech of its citizenry.

In theory, the community at large (leveraging their collective might as consumers) could boycott the discriminatory business owners and hurt him economically as a protest against his opinions. In the libertarian viewpoint, this is a self-correcting mechanism that does not require governmental involvement and zero infringement on the property rights or freedom of speech of anyone theory, at least.

The problem with Paul's (and libertarians') view on this issue is that it makes several assumptions:

  1. Government is an entity separate from the wider society that has a set (if arbitrary) role in protecting "natural rights" - rights that include the protection of private property and free speech but not freedom from unjustifiable discrimination or injustice; essentially,  government has no right to protect the welfare of a minority group due to an arbitrary demarcation of responsibility and duties libertarians adhere do.
  2. The notion the wider society would actually be opposed to the discriminatory actions of the hypothetical business owner and be bothered to actually boycott the hypothetical business. For example, we all know that many goods on sale at your local discount store are made in sweatshops that abuse the rights of their workers - how are the boycotts against these sweatshops and Wal-Mart working out? They're still in business (and thriving) despite years of knowledge of these practices.
  3. The notion that property rights are more important than the right of a citizen from being discriminated against.

While these views may seem reasonable to Paul and his ilk, these ideological views are completely out of touch from reality. It is easy to say that people will unite and protest against unfair business practices if these practices are known in the open; but when the situation emerges, how many people will actually partake in the boycott? And what is to be done when nearly every business in the hypothetical community are also discriminatory as well? Who will protect the minority group from this?

It is easy for an idealistic libertarian to tout how, if given the chance, he would march along side Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement in condemning racism...only after the fight for equal rights has been mostly won already. An idealistic libertarian does not have the burden in having an internal debate over the rampant racism and discrimination against blacks and other minority groups pervasive throughout the entire country and the rights of business owners in choosing whether or not to discriminate. When faced with a situation that causes this type of conflict between one's ideals and one's common sense, it is always troubling. Fortunately for most libertarians, they do not have to face history in their day to day lives.

Unfortunately for Rand Paul, he now needs to balance his idealism and reality. It will be interesting to see how he proceeds from here.

it's about fairness, isn't it?

I understand the sentiment behind hate crimes legislation: I understand the well-meaning people who want to end the continuation of hate crimes

I understand the seeming high-minded and noble belief that we, as a society, must combat despicable human attitudes like racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia.

I understand.

Yet I cannot support hate crime legislation, despite the good intentions behind it.

Despite the good intentions, the "noble" idea of enacting hate crimes legislation, I believe the end result is not a solution of discrimination but rather a perpetuation of discrimination.

The most noblest, high-minded ideals, when enacted and legislated, can result in evil.


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sickening support for sterilization

A few weeks ago a story emerged that a Massachusetts woman, who was both a mother of nine children and was receiving welfare, was accidentally sterilized after requesting a contraception to be inserted to prevent any future unwanted pregnancies. You can read up on this story here:

I will not comment on the litigation filed against the doctors who either botched the operation or purposely sterilized her.  No, I will write about the many people who have thrown their support to the doctors who sterilized the woman.  These people tend to pop up in comment threads on various news sites praising the medical mishap of the operation and moralizing against having 9 children while on welfare.

Now, before I go on, let me be clear that I have nothing against the notion of personal responsibility and I have nothing against saying that this woman should have been more careful as to protect herself from getting pregnant.  Birth control is readily available and cheap to buy, especially in comparison to the money to raise a kid.  There was no reason for this woman to get pregnant and give birth nine times.

That being said, my opposition is to those people in support of sterilizing this woman.

I might be someone on the fringe of society for saying this, but who has ownership of your body?  Society?  Institutions such as religion or governments?  Your spouse or family?  I'd figure most people would unequivocally say that the only person who has ownership over your body is you.  You have absolutely zero right to tell someone what they can do over their own body.  If society was to demand that you be sterilized, would you agree to this demand and peacefully comply?

You may counter,"this woman was getting welfare!  If she is accepting the public dole, then society has the right to demand a change in her lifestyle...or enforce it upon her."

On an emotional and visceral level, this may make sense.  This course of action feels right.  But it is not if something feels right, it's if that something is an anathema to the purpose of governmental institutions and is an inherent contradiction to highest ideals our society is built upon.

What do I mean by this?

The main argument that the supporters of the doctors who sterilized this woman point to the fact she gets welfare as proof that this woman was irresponsible and thus deserving of her misfortune.  This argument falls apart when you consider how much taxpayer money is drained up to support everyday activities that take a larger chunk of taxes than an irresponsible woman.  Our society is in love with automobiles and our highway system.  Tens of million of dollars are spent on the building of new roads and buying new cars...but also clearing up the mess when accidents occur.  Tens of thousands of people die every year on motorways.  Thousands more are injured and disabled permanently as a result.  The deaths and disability of thousands of people each year means that the productivity of these people they would have done during their lifetime is erased.  The cost to emergency responders to the wreckage of accident scenes is in the millions of dollars.  The societal costs of automobiles exceed the cost of welfare queens.

If it is okay to sterilize a woman because she got pregnant 9 times, then it follows that cars should be banned.  It's an idiotic line of reasoning, but if the infringing of a woman's right over her body is perfectly acceptable to save society money, then the banning of automobiles to all will also do the trick, right?

Same thing with alcohol: the societal and economic costs of alcoholism, liver disease, and drunk driving exceed that of welfare queens.  But no one in their right minds will respond to these costs by pushing forward another era of Prohibition.  But why not prohibition when it's okay to sterilize a woman against her will?

What I'm trying to get at is that when we pay taxes, we are already paying for other people's mistakes and fuck ups.  When we fund welfare, we ideally hope that we will support people who are down-in-there-luck.  But there are the people who exploit and leach off the system.  Likewise, we fund our fire departments and police force to not only protect the community, but to protect the community from the idiocy and mistakes of people in that community.

No matter what you may want and feel that you need, tax money will be used to fill in the costs caused by idiots and people who are socially irresponsible.  To try to infringe on the civil liberties of a person because you want to save a dime is akin to torturing people to prevent a crime.  It may "feel" right, but it is something easily said by people who cannot realize they will fuck up and leach off the system as well.

Civil Liberties are another part of this story.  I will not dwell on this too much, but I will say that I am someone who is pro-choice.  I feel that a woman has the right to end a pregnancy.  A woman has the right to her body, after all.  If a woman has the right to her body, she has the right as well to have as many kids as she wants.

You can't pick and chose what civil liberties you want to fight for and which ones you want to dismiss and ignore.  It's all or nothing.