The Kentucky Republicans have chosen Dr. Rand Paul as their candidate for Senate in the November 2010 elections. Paul beat his establishment challenger handsomely. However, Paul’s stance on civil rights is receiving lots of attention a few days after winning the Republican nomination. In this article I wish to argue why Dr. Paul’s views are erroneous.
To understand his views, it is important first of all to understand what Paul’s political persuasion—Libertarianism—stands for. Libertarians believe in basic human goodness. They believe that the solution to the world’s or America’s problem today is as a result of big government. Their principles hinge on small government and fiscal discipline. They also believe that the central government should have lesser powers. The biggest enemy to American progress according to libertarians is the government. They also believe in the literal application of the constitution as it was originally given.
All these Libertarian principles sound very good. But Dr. Paul’s controversy begins when he now applies these principles to civil right laws. He believes that the 1964 Civil Rights Law is good in its totality, but he has reservations with particularly Title (Chapter) Two of the Law. Basically, the civil rights law ended discrimination of any kind against ethnic and other minorities. It was primarily made law through the hard work of people like Martin Luther King, and as a consequence of the Civil Rights Act, segregation against Black was made illegal. However, Dr. Paul holds the view that while forcing public bodies to end racial discrimination was in order, he doubts whether forcing private businesses to do the same is in order. He holds the view that private businesses should retain the right to discriminate against others, based on the color of their skin. As such, a privately owned cafe, for example, may under Dr. Paul’s views, refuse to sell coffee to any person they so wish—based on race. He feels that such a private business should have the constitutional right to do as they wish. He therefore, takes issues with the fact that the Civil Rights Act did force both private and public bodies not to discriminate.
While Dr. Paul himself does not believe in racial discrimination, he nevertheless in keeping with libertarian principles believes that private individuals and private businesses could do so. Additionally, while he advocates for private business, he is quick to mention that he personally would not go to private businesses that encourage such discrimination. To support his views, Dr. Paul uses various examples. One of these hinges on gun rights. Just as Americans have a constitutional right to own guns, so should individuals have the liberty to exercise racial discrimination. Indeed the civil rights act, did give religious organizations some right to discriminate based on their beliefs. As such, an evangelical church can discriminate based on faith when hiring their pastor. That is guaranteed by the Civil Rights Act, but Dr. Paul would want to see that exception done to private businesses as well. Businesses should discriminate whom they can serve coffee based on race. And according to Dr. Paul that would serve the needs of the libertarian principle.
But what, I think, Dr. Paul misses in his thinking is that while churches could indeed discriminate based on faith, private businesses should not discriminate based on race because being black is not a religion or a belief. You do not believe to be black, it is who you are from conception, and you remain so until death. Being black is not the same as being evangelical or being Catholic. Being Catholic is what we believe, but being Black is not!