Two replies to my earlier post are here and here. Original post is here.
First off, Jastonite takes my examples of limitations on freedom for the sake of protecting freedom, and flips them around:
It is not that I have a right to clean water, it is that my neighbor has no right to put anything in my water. My neighbor has no right to my property. The general principal, which Rand Paul articulates, is that rights do not extend to infringe on the rights of others. I cannot drive my car however I please on a road, not because people also have a right to walk on that road, but because I have no right to operate a vehicle on property that is not mine.
Two things. First, that I have no right to someone else’s property. Well, I agree. So I have no right to tell you that you aren’t allowed to dump toxic waste on your property. But you have no right to my property, upon which your waste will infringe. We can twist these around all day, I’m not certain that it really changes anything about my original point. Secondly, be careful with the statement I’ve put in bold. Can it not be extended to I cannot wear a blue shirt on a sidewalk, not because people also have a right to wear a red shirt on that sidewalk, but because I have no right to wear blue on property that is not mine. Now that’s an admittedly very stupid analogy, but the argument is ripe for slippery slopes. Also, it’s worth pointing out that the guy in the red shirt dies every damn time, so take that under advisement.
A business owner turning somebody away from his business infringes on nobody’s rights (unless we accept that people have a right to the property of others); however, preventing a business owner from turning somebody away from his business does infringe on his right to property.
For the record, I absolutely agree that the Civil Rights Act infringes upon a business owners right to run his business as he sees fit, but that does not mean we have the right to the property of others. I simply think that in some cases infringement on people’s rights is needed for society to function, as I explained initially. It’s all about tradeoffs. You may not find my argument satisfactory, but that’s OK. It remains my point. And yes, I recognize that you could use this as a precedent to ban people from wearing their blue shirt because the color blue is disruptive to society, etc, etc. We’re back to limiting principles now, and I have a feeling readers will already know where we all stand on that.
I get frustrated with statements like “Rand Paul thinks the CRA is a mistake…” because it misrepresents both him and his argument. Why say it? Why not say “Rand Paul disagrees with one aspect of the CRA…” or “Rand Paul supports the CRA except for…”
Well, OK, but we’re arguing semantics. The point of the Civil Rights Act was to protect against discrimination, so I suppose I should have stated that Rand Paul supports the Civil Rights Act except for the parts where it protects against discrimination. Or something.
A reader reads the sentence and sees that “Paul thinks the CRA is a mistake.” They have already been biased against the part of the sentence that states Paul’s actual position. Paul thinks the CRA is a mistake?!?! How can he think that? In what way does he think the CRA is a mistake? Oh, he doesn’t think businesses should be forced to integrate. Wow, what a complete D-bag. I hate people who are so caught up in the notion of freedom that they would bring back segregation and slavery. FAIL.
That’s one hell of a logic leap, and not at all what I meant to imply. I, in fact, meant to imply nothing. But obviously you could read the sentence in that way and so for that I guess I was remiss.
Again, we can go in circles with all of this all day, but this gives me an opportunity to bring up a complaint I have with libertarianism. Perhaps less of a complaint than a vague idea in the back of my brain. I am probably (definitely) not articulating this nearly as well as I would like but here goes. Libertarianism seeks to strongly protect personal freedom. But many of the views libertarians hold lead to policies with the outcome of less freedom. Those views may be internally consistent, but the freedom is theoretical whereas the policy outcomes are real. Take the example Amused (whose blog you should read) mentioned in her comment on my original post about restricting a woman’s medical rights. The problem, I think, lies in the fact that libertarian arguments about policy are rarely about the actual policy, but rather based on some ideological first principle. A policy discussion thus quickly evolves (devolves?) into a lofty discussion of political philosophy. I enjoy a discussion about political philosophy (why else am I writing this?) but it tends to abstract away the actual impact and details of policy. Missing the trees for the forest, you could say. The result is often that libertarianism is against some detailed policy because it violates their principles. But how would libertarians address the policy problem? We don’t know, because they seem content to point out that others’ solutions are wrong without articulating solutions of their own. Or when they are articulated, they tend to be in the abstract realm of political philosophy. I’m well aware that this is not unique to libertarians, but that’s where I notice it the most.
Simply put, libertarians spend a lot of time on philosophy, but little on actual governance. Ron Paul may be known as Dr. No on capital hill, but we don’t need someone to just point out why we’re wrong. We need someone to propose policy to deal with real problems that impact real people’s every day lives.
Philosophy is of course important, but it isn’t the whole of governance.
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