Friday, May 28, 2010

Libertarians and Rand Paul

Kentucky Senatorial candidate Rand Paul is taking a lot of heat for his comments regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Paul stated that the federal government should not be dictating how private businesses operate, and specifically said that businesses should not be forced to serve minorities. He added:
In a free society we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior, but if we’re civilized people we publicly criticize that and don’t belong to those groups or associate with those people.
Paul is correct on this issue. The right to property is the right of use and disposal, the right to use one's property as one chooses. So long as a property owner does not use force against others, he may use his property as he deems best.

This of course, does not sit well with most folks. They don't like the idea that some bigot might refuse to serve blacks or prohibit gays from entering his business. They don't like the idea that some people might hold incredibly irrational ideas. Their response is to prohibit irrationality--or at least the ability to act on that irrationality--by using force against property owners.

Racism is vile. It treats human beings as animals, and those who advocate or practice racism deserve our scorn and condemnation. But using force against property owners is not the solution.

That Paul is being labeled a racist for his comments is not surprising. Nor is it surprising that the Libertarian Party of Kentucky (LPK) has condemned his comments.

Paul, like his father, Congressman and former Libertarian Presidential candidate Ron Paul, is often described as a Libertarian. Seeking to distance themselves from Paul's controversial comments, the LPK released a number of statements this week, including:
The Libertarian Party of Kentucky strongly condemns the hurtful comments of Republican senate candidate Rand Paul. (

Founded in 1971, the Libertarian Party believes in achieving liberty through economic freedom and social tolerance, and is the nation’s third-largest political party. (

“Liberty, freedom, and true economic prosperity cannot exist in a system which institutionalizes racism, bigotry, or other kinds of unfounded hatred,” said Ken Moellman, Chairman and Northern Kentucky native. (
The KLP doesn't explain how economic freedom and forcing businesses to serve minorities is compatible. It doesn't tell us why forcing individuals to act contrary to their own judgment is consistent with liberty. It doesn't tell us why their position on this issue contradicts their introduction page:
[L]ibertarianism is a philosophy that holds that a person should be free to live as that person so chooses, and accepting responsibility for their own actions, without forcibly effecting the lives of others.
A consistent and principled advocate of liberty would defend an individual's right to hold vile ideas. A consistent and principled advocate of liberty would hold that individual responsible by condemning those ideas and their advocates. A consistent and principled advocate of liberty would shun such individuals, rather than use force to compel "rational" behavior.

Despite superficial appearances to the contrary, Libertarians are not consistent, principled, or advocates of liberty.


Rational Education said...

Rand Paul's views on abortion are anti-individual rights--from his website:
On the racism and Civil Rights Act issues too, he did not have the courage to stand for his convictions, and started backing off after the attacks.

Brian Phillips said...

Rand Paul--like his father--is a very mixed bag. Both can be very pro-freedom one moment, and completely anti-freedom the next.

dave said...

Great job Brian
Pauls thinking on this topic in my opinion is correct.
The Civil Rights Act does not contain any section which makes it illegal to speak as a racist, but if you do in the company of civilized people you will be scorned and condemned.
Private property rights should have as much protection as the right to free speach. Don't you think

Brian Phillips said...

Thanks Dave. Yes, property rights should have as much protection as free speech. In fact, if property rights are not protected, ultimately free speech won't be either.