Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand’s World

I don’t think Rand Paul is a racist, and frankly, trying to make the case that he is or isn’t is not the most important thing about this tempest in a teabag that he caused with his comments about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I do think that he is incredibly naive both about the way politics works in prime time and that his brand of Utopian Libertarianism, where everybody is free to do whatever they please with minimum interference from the government, doesn’t work in the real world any more than any other dreamy “ism” that has been tried and failed.

Of course we would all like to live in a world where the laws didn’t have to be written that require people whose businesses serve the public serve all of the public. Of course it would be nice if buildings open to the public were accessible to people with disabilities without having to pass laws to make them so. And of course it would be nice if we could all just get along and not try to take advantage of other peoples’ weaknesses or foolishness. But that’s more reminiscent of Woodstock Nation, not real life, and in this world people have proven all too often that they — we — fall far short of that goal. Most people — myself included — would like to be able to live in a world of smaller government and more individual freedom. (For instance, I’d like the opportunity to get married someday or adopt a child, but the state of Florida presently doesn’t allow that based solely on the fact that I was born gay.) But we’ve also seen the downside of limited government, and it’s not Utopia; it’s Somalia.

Dr. Paul has found out that not everyone lives in his nice cozy world of privilege. That’s not his fault; he can’t help it that he was born white, straight, male, and without any apparent disability that makes trotting up a flight of stairs a journey. It doesn’t look like he’s learned much from his baptism, either; blaming his plight on the “liberal media” is about as trite and tiresome as “some of my best friends….” (He’s also demonstrated a talent for irony by blaming his troubles on someone else, which flies in the face of the libertarian virtue of taking responsibility for what you do and the consequences thereof. I guess that goes along with his paradoxical view of personal freedoms above all unless you’re gay or pregnant.)

He’s fortunate in that the subject of his controversy is based on race relations; that raw nerve in American politics can be easily exploited and deflects the real point of the discussion: what role does society through government have in ensuring that we live up to the goals and aspirations set forth in the idealism of the Declaration of Independence — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — and the force of law in the Constitution of equal protection under the law? I’m sure he’d much rather spend his time proving that he’s not a racist than having to answer the deeper question about how he sees the role of government in the real world.