I don’t usually link to other blog posts, but I thought this was a very enlightened and enlightening take on the libertarian flash flood unleashed by Rand Paul’s nomination in Kentucky.

http://thelonggoodbye.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/libertarianism-and-conservatism-sharpens-liberals-swords/

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This is pretty crazy. Other than federal fiscal and tax policy I don’t think I’ve ever done three posts on the same topic, and here I am doing just that on the nomination of Rand Paul, of all things. Don’t get the wrong idea. I’m not obsessed. I’m not. I’m not. I’m really not. Really.

So anyway…

Now Dr. Paul is working to clarify that he does not support repeal of the civil rights legislation, or the Fair Housing Act. And I do believe him. I am sure he is thinking, “How the hell did we get to talking about this??? It has nothing to do with what I want to emphasize in my campaign, or as Senator.” But his original comments do provide a glimpse into his mindset. My blog friend Thrasybulus sees Paul as a full-blown libertarian, with all the conceptual and ideological baggage that represents. And as much as Paul wants this topic to simply vanish, it’s pretty hard to put that genie back in the bottle.

Dr. Paul’s original comments on the Rachel Maddow show stated, essentially, that private businesses should not be subject to government mandates to adhere to societal civil rights standards. If he believes that, then it is fair to ask where he does, and does not, think government should intervene in the workings of private business.

  • Should government regulate safety in privately owned coal mines (certainly near and dear to the voters of Kentucky, which accounts for 10% of total U.S. coal extraction)?
  • Should government regulate oil extraction practices by private companies such as BP?
  • Should government regulate fair lending practices by private banks?
  • Should government regulate fair hiring practices by private employers?

If he does believe in such regulation, then what is the difference between those examples and civil rights? If he does not believe in such regulation, well, then I guess we’ll just know that.

We Americans hold two values dear to our hearts that inherently conflict with each other: liberty and equality. Just ask Hamilton and Jefferson. We have struggled for more than two centuries to keep a proper balance between these two. Come November, the people of Kentucky will have a clear choice taken straight out of that historical context.

Rand Paul is a fervently pro-liberty candidate. He thinks liberty is too important for the government to intervene in the affairs of private persons and businesses, to the extent that if they chose to discriminate based on race, religion, etc., he’s okay with that. He himself wouldn’t himself patronize such a business, he makes clear, but government should not force the business owner to end a discriminatory practice. He makes it further clear that he has no interest in actually repealing civil rights legislation; he is simply stating that he thinks the existing legislation strikes the wrong balance between liberty and equality, without proposing to amend the balance.

Jack Conway will position himself as a fervently pro-equality candidate. He will defend the idea that government should step in – i.e., should limit personal liberty – by imposing civil rights obligations on private persons and businesses who would otherwise discriminate against groups we currently consider protected under the law.

Each of these is a perfectly rational and consistent political paradigm. Personally, I think that the Conway’s view, which is the status quo, is more mainstream and will connect with more voters. But I don’t live in Kentucky, so I don’t get a say in this one. Let the campaign begin.