May 23, 2010

A Missed Opportunity to Define Government's Limited Role.

In the course of developing political thought, the occasion arises when one has to look deeper than their basic philosophical opposition to government interference into individual rights. It is the case that at times a quick reaction to what one sees as intrusive government interference will with deeper introspection develop into a viable argument for just the opposite conclusion. If in the early period of developing ones principles on such an occasion, one fails to reassess the true core issue at hand, they tend to ignore the underlying truth from that point on and thereby develop a flawed philosophy that completely diminishes an otherwise healthy distrust of government in all of it's oppressive forms. The damage to ones credibility in all other rightful criticisms might be fatal to the articulation of the meaning and importance of liberty for all citizens.

Sadly, I believe that such is the case with Rand Paul's recent attempt to create a dialogue about the role of government in our lives by pointing to provisions in the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that prevents businesses from discriminating against American citizens because of race or religion. Now this is not a discussion of that bill. I have not recently read the bill, though I have many times before. The intent of this writing is to argue the point that failure to properly articulate the true message and promise of liberty for all citizens, is to create a political environment in which the opponents of liberty can successfully frame the debate against it. Neither will I here debate the obvious bias of the media, that is well established. Our enemies will always engage in that quest regardless. However, when evil is attempting to pierce your heart, one should not provide the arrows.

I do not believe that Mr. Paul is a racist. In fact I believe he would staunchly defend a black mans right to disallow whites in his store. I simply believe his formation of political thought has allowed a key aspect to be missed, that government intrusion can and should be limited and clearly defined. Ironically, this indeed could have been an opportunity for Mr. Paul to propel the cause of liberty had he chosen to make the following point instead:

The government has limited enumerated powers. These powers are rightful and necessary for a civilization to excel and prosper to the extent of their abilities. These rights are limited and cannot be usurped without damaging the republic. What is important is to ensure that government fervently exercises these powers while clearly defining where they end. This civil rights act is a perfect example of government correctly taking on the role of protecting citizens rights to life, liberty and property. This is why it was a Republican block of senators that actually allowed it to pass. This act is also an opportunity to teach how this power is limited in this case because it's intent is to protect the liberty of citizens to engage in commerce without regards to race, creed or color. To allow discrimination in the area of commerce is to allow the liberty of certain citizens to be diminished in order to protect the freedom of speech and association of others. Liberty is not anarchy or chaos and it was not the intent of the founding fathers for it to be so. One's liberty ends at an other's. No man has the right to diminish the liberty of one man in order to protect his own. This prevents the opposite from happening thereby protecting both. Therefore, in this case Mr. Paul has allowed his fervent defense of liberty early on in the development of political thought to in reality diminish his cause.

While some may argue that this would however allow more intrusion by government to for instance prevent smoking in a business establishment, the opposite is true. It is a perfect example to prove the point that while government has a role it is limited. That role is to protect the citizens right to engage in commerce. It specifically does not allow that intrusion to extend to providing comfort or health or relaxation in this pursuit, especially when such intrusion in turn limits the rights of others to be comfortable and relaxed. Again, your liberty ends at an other's.

I find it very unfortunate that once again a leader on the side of liberty and limited government has forever lost a wonderfully teachable moment to show the clear line of division between governments limited enumerated powers and government meddling in the trivial pursuit of managing behavior. I do not agree with all of Mr. Paul's stands on issues but I enthusiastically endorse his encouraging dialogue on the role of government. I believe we need more representatives and senators just like him. Sadly, this moment cannot be relived. No matter how much he tries to frame the debate, the discriminatory cat is out of the bag. Certain citizens will feel that liberty for all, in fact means oppression for them. That is not only tragic, it is completely opposite of what liberty should mean in the Constitutionally United States of America.

By: Keith D. Rodebush

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