Friday, May 21, 2010

People Are Better Than Property

Josh Marshall has a post responding to a libertarian who insists that opposition to civil rights laws isn't opposition to civil rights.  And while I liked Josh's response, I think he missed a bigger point: These are civil rights.  Not civil privileges or civil niceties.  These are rights.  And what good is a right if it can be denied to you?  That's like saying that I have the "right" to own property, but anyone can come along and take it from me if I can't stop them myself.

And hey, let's just take this in the other direction.  Why DO I have the right to property?  Because the "law" says I do.  Just like the "law" says I get to eat at whatever restaurant I choose.  So clearly, a "law" isn't enough for a libertarian, as they clearly prefer that we change laws that infringe upon freedom.  They need something more than that.

So why AREN'T armed gunmen allowed to take property?  I mean, by libertarian thinking, a restaurant owner owns the restaurant, and should get to choose who eats there.  Similarly, a gun owner owns a gun and should get to decide who he points it at and what he says when he does so.  Seriously, why the hell not?  If the right to be a different color and still be fed isn't sacred, what the hell's so special about property? 

And really, government-enforced rules on ownership are TOTALLY an infringement upon my freedom.  I didn't agree to not own that land.  I didn't give up my right to own that restaurant, simply by being born after it was first "owned."  Why the hell do the rules that someone ELSE came up with somehow bind MY decisions on what happens to that property? 

And it should be noted, that there ARE people who think this way, and believe that prior ownership rules are invalid, because there was no original right to ownership from the beginning.

Property v. People

And yet, most libertarians don't think this way.  They think that a black person's right to eat at a diner isn't sacred, because the diner owner's right to own that diner IS sacred, and that means he gets to do whatever the hell he wants with it.  Civil rights written into law are invalid, because they infringe upon property rights; as if the right to ownership is so much more sacred than the right to fair treatment that the right to fair treatment doesn't really exist.

And that's where libertarians like Rand Paul really fall.  Sure, they'll pay lip service to civil rights, but as long as they think property rights invalidate civil rights, then they don't really believe in civil rights in the first place.  Ultimately, people are more important than property.  If you don't see it that way, then you just don't like people very much.  That's all there is to it.

And of course, once you accept the premise that the government can do ANYTHING that restricts your freedom (like your freedom to shoot people in the face), then you're well on your way down the slippery slope of liberalism.  There's nothing magical about property that makes it better than people.

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