Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties

Rand Paul (Ron Paul’s son) was just chosen as the Republican nominee for the Senate in Kentucky, and he’s hit the ground running. He’s already getting a lot of press for some controversial opinions that he’s expressed, which as we all know is free publicity.

He’s getting this free coverage for saying that he believes that the 1964 Civil Rights Act went too far in restricting the rights of privately-owned business to discriminate against people on the basis of, well, whatever they want. On the Rachel Maddow Show this Wednesday (video), he basically said that the Civil Rights Act was unconstitutional. He said that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., “was fighting legalized and institutional racism”, but not really individual racism. Dr. Paul’s allegation is that the Civil Rights Act conflicts with the First Amendment right of people to express their racism through segregation, for example, refusing to serve lunch to black people at a Woolworth’s lunch counter.

Now, don’t get him wrong: he’s not a racist. He rejects racism. By the government, at least. He supports preventing the government from institutionalizing racism. But if an individual wants to act on their racism by, say, refusing to provide medical care to someone because of their religion, then he’s saying that that’s a valid expression of their First Amendment rights. He’s saying that if a business wanted to put up a sign that said “Whites Only”, that he would support their right to do that. He would disagree with it, and he thinks that it’s a bad business model, but what can you do? First Amendment. But remember, he’s not a racist.

I know, crazy, right? This may seem like a misstep. This may seem like he’s espousing an incredibly wrong-headed and unpopular view. This may seem like the sort of ideological extremism that has little regard for the real world effects of fringe political theories and the policies that flow from them. But on the other hand: free publicity! And that’s always good. I just feel sorry for the poor democrat that’s going to have to run against him.

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One Response to “Civil Rights vs. Civil Liberties”
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