I tend to have certain Libertarian leanings in my political views, so I was very interested to see Rand Paul win the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in Kentucky. He’s now on the national stage, and the more liberal side thereof has zeroed in on (and is seeking to amplify) his take on the Civil Rights Act as expressed in this interview with Rachel Maddow. After watching the interview and understanding both what he was trying to say in terms of philosophy and how he was getting steamrolled for it politically, I wrote the following note in his website’s “Contact Us” form on the off chance that he might actually read and consider it. I offer it here for your excoriation.
I just watched your interview with Rachel Maddow, and first of all thought you did an admirable job of trying not to let her pin you down on the political point she was trying to make. As I’m sure you’ll agree, it’s her show and she was going to make the point she wanted to make regardless, but you did very well, I think, in distinguishing the racial issue from the federal/private one.
In general I found myself agreeing with you, but I wanted to offer a philosophical twist for your consideration. I agree that the federal gov’t should not unilaterally decide how someone can run their private business, but at the same time I think that we the people are collectively responsible for deciding what kind of people we are. For example, most of us agree that cold-blooded, first degree murder is not only abhorrent but morally wrong to the point of tolerating a law that abridges one man’s personal freedom to act in order to protect another man’s right to live. We as a people and a culture have decided that this is an acceptable and even desirable limitation. And so I think that overall, it’s not a question of whether laws exist that restrict private freedoms, but rather a question of where we draw that line. I don’t agree with laws that seek to take a minority moral position and impose it on everyone, but I think there is potentially a place to say that if a significant majority of us collectively agree that a given law protecting something as foundational as the inherent dignity of an individual reflects who we are as a people and a nation, then perhaps that may be acceptable.
Now with that said, I’m inclined to observe that to my knowledge the legal definitions and prosecution of murder occurs at the state and local levels rather than federal and that is perhaps more appropriately where such laws belong. However, in that view nothing would have changed in the 60’s because the states in question were more than happy to continue business as usual with their Jim Crow laws intact, so I’m not sure how useful such an observation is to the current issue.
In any case, congratulations on your primary victory, and best of luck in shaping the political conversations to come rather than allowing them to be shaped for and against you.
– Joel Fouse