Saturday, May 14, 2011

One-Sided Delusions of a Libertarian

One of the most annoying things about libertarians is when they decry laws they believe infringe upon our liberty and insist that we don't need them because the problems those laws fixed are no longer problems.  Like child labor laws.  Apparently, we don't need child labor laws because child labor laws fixed the problem of child labor.  And so these laws only serve to steal our liberty from us, because they worked.

And I'm like, huh?  What??  We don't need laws if they work?  And hey, I suppose for the sake of argument that I can see how we might not need these laws anymore, under the assumption that fixed problems never come back.  I find that ludicrous, as we still have people who violate labor laws and pollution laws and anti-discrimination laws when the laws are in place; and can only imagine this would get significantly worse without the laws.

Besides, how are labor laws an infringement of our liberty, unless people were wanting to do these things?  I mean, if the government threatens to punish me if I engage in Behavior X, my liberties haven't actually been infringed upon unless I was intending to engage in Behavior X.  And if no one is planning to engage in Behavior X, as libertarians claim is the case, then no one's rights have actually been infringed upon.

Sure, theoretically my right to employ ten year olds in my steel factory have been infringed upon by child labor laws.  But this isn't actually a problem unless I was planning to do so.  Call me crazy, but I'd rather have laws to prevent real problems than to repeal laws to preserve theoretical ones.  Either the government is infringing upon our liberties by preventing a problem that would occur without the laws, or we don't need the laws and our liberties aren't being infringed upon.  You can't have it both ways.

But still, on a theoretical basis, the idea that we've now fixed these problems and we're never going back is a point I can comprehend, even though it has no application in reality.

Ancient History

And then we've got Ron Paul, who doesn't just believe that we don't need the Civil Rights Act any longer, but that we didn't need it back in 1964 because those problems have now been solved.   No, seriously.  He said that.

Here's the transcript, from Hardball:
Matthews: I once knew a laundromat when I was in the Peace Corps training in Louisiana, in Baker, Louisiana. A laundromat had this sign on it in glaze, ‘whites only on the laundromat, just to use the laundromat machines. This was a local shop saying ‘no blacks allowed.’ You say that should be legal.

Paul: That’s ancient history. That’s over and done with.

Matthews: Because it's been outlawed.

Paul: Segregation on buses was always done by law, so it was a culture.  That's over and done with.  Why do you want to go back to ancient days?

Matthews: Because you want it to come back.

Paul: It's past.
Ahh, of course.  And since we don't have these problems any more, Ron Paul wouldn't have supported the law that made the problems go away.  And it's dwelling on the past for us to believe that this law was necessary or good.

But of course, it's not Chris Matthews who wants to go back to ancient days.  That would be Ron Paul, who's lamenting the infringement of liberty upon laundromat owners who are now forced to allow darkies to use their machines.  Not that he'd say that, but the fact that he wouldn't answer the question suggests that even he realizes how ridiculous his position is.

Government isn't the Only Problem

In Paul's defense, he makes clear that he opposes Jim Crow laws, and identifies them as bad government..  So he scores a point for that.  And I honestly don't believe he's a racist, as I feel he genuinely believes that property rights trump civil rights, and that the free markets will somehow magically fix these problems; even though that obviously didn't happen in the past.

Somehow, libertarians fail to appreciate the fact that money isn't the only motivator in life; or understand how racism can make racists richer.  But it's pretty simple: If only white people can get good jobs and eduction, then they'll have more money and power than if they have to compete with non-whites.  That shouldn't be complicated, yet libertarians seem to miss this point entirely.

Moreover, his ideological demands disallow him from admitting the reality: Racism wasn't just from the government.  Jim Crow laws institutionalized this racism, but as he said, it was the culture.  And that culture also had rampant discrimination in it by private individuals.

And so Matthews' question about the laundromat was entirely valid, yet Paul couldn't answer it.  He knew his answer would be crazy and offensive, so he refused to answer at all; insisting that it was "ancient history" and "the past."  Uh, Paul?  You're 75 years old.  You were 29 when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was passed.  This isn't ancient history.

Shorter Ron Paul: Property Rights Superior to Civil Rights

And the problem Ron's having is a problem all delusional Republicans suffer from: Their answers only work if they look at the one side of the coin, while ignoring that the other side even exists.  Because yeah, it is kind of messed up that the government can force businesses to serve customers they don't want to serve and I suppose this is a violation of their property property.

And yet...there was also another problem we were dealing with: The violation of civil rights.  And this problem was perpetrated by both the government and individuals, and was a significantly worse problem than the violation of the rights of racists to refuse to let black people use their washing machines.  And so we're to imagine that the property of white people takes precedent over the lives of black people.  Not that Paul would deny the right of black people to discriminate against white people; but I fail to see how that fixes his dilemma.

So Paul is forced to ignore the bigger problem and focus on property rights and infringement of liberty.  And while he rightly attacks government-enforced discrimination, he simply must ignore the problems of white-only laundromats and water fountains and pools, or the whole not-hiring-black-people thing or letting them go to our schools and join our clubs.  And his best response is a nonsensical one about ancient history, as if the problems of segregation magically solved themselves.

Delusions of a Paul Person

And one final point I'd like to make about Paul is the delusional state that Paul and his followers live in, where they'll insist that he's not more popular because the media ignores him; in complete defiance of reality, which has him on television on a regular basis.

I recently read a rant from a Paul person making such a claim on the very night I happened to catch Paul on Anderson Cooper's show, repeating nonsense with very little pushback from Cooper.  It's as if we're to imagine that Ron Paul has a right to have a platform from which to speak, and anyone who disagrees with him is oppressing him.  But since Paul's positions only make sense if they're not questioned, I'm sure it seems unfair to have people question him because it exposes libertarianism as the charade it is.

And then there's Paul's belief that Matthews' question was intended to trap him into being labeled a racist.  Because yeah, had Paul answered the question truthfully, it would have put him in the position of supporting racism.  But...that's not Matthew setting a trap.  That's because Paul's position supports racism. And if people will reject Paul if they hear him say his position on civil rights, then that's what should happen.

And the problem is that you don't get to pick and choose how your argument is applied.  This is reality, not some late night bull session at the dorms.  And if we're discussing your beliefs, we have to consider all of the implications of your beliefs, not just the ones that support your position.  But libertarians do this all the time.  It's not a practical philosophy at all, and only works as long as you focus on the areas that work.  And you're just a brainwashed fool if you suggest otherwise.

And so the Paul people imagine that there's some grand conspiracy keeping Paul down, by refusing to put him on TV and then trying to trap him when they do put him on.  But the only conspiracy here is the one perpetrated by their own delusions.  And so they'll spend all their time focusing on one side of the coin, while insisting that it's a trick to consider that the coin has two sides.

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