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Libertarians On Paul’s Civil Rights Stance: ‘Very Reasonable’

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Zachary Roth
Friday, May 21, 2010

Rand Paul’s apparent opposition to a key provision of the Civil Rights Act places him well within the mainstream of libertarian thought, according to several leading libertarians.

The GOP Senate candidate told MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow last night that he would have tried to “modify” the law’s ban on racial discrimination by private businesses. That was an expansion of comments he made last month to a Louisville newspaper, in which he said that opposing the ban was “the hard part about believing in freedom.”

Paul’s stance is “very reasonable, and quite close to the Libertarian position,” a spokesman for the Libertarian Party told TPMmuckraker.

“If some private business discriminates we think that’s unfortunate, but we don’t think the government should get involved in banning it,” said the spokesman, Wes Benedict. “That’s just a negative that we have to tolerate in a free society.”

Walter Block, a libertarian professor of economics at Loyola University, and a senior fellow with the libertarian Ludwig Von Mises Institute, went further. “I think anyone who doesn’t believe that isn’t a libertarian,” he said, calling Paul’s comment “a very mainstream libertarianism.”


  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t

“I’m delighted that Rand Paul said that,” an enthusiastic Block added. “I think it’s magnificent. I didn’t realize that he was that good.”

“The spirit of non-discrimination,” said Block “ends you right up in compulsory bisexuality.”

Harry Browne, the late libertarian activist and presidential candidate, appears to have taken the same view. “Neither before nor after the Civil Rights Act were people free to make their own decisions about whom they would associate with,” he wrote in 2003. “The civil rights movement wasn’t opposed to using government to coerce people. It merely wanted the government to aim its force in a new direction. Although the activists believed coercion served the noble objective of bringing the races closer together, it was coercion nonetheless.”

David Bernstein, a libertarian law professor at George Mason University and the author of the 2003 book You Can’t Say That! The Growing Threat To Civil Liberties From Anti-Discrimination Laws, confirmed that opposition to the ban on racial discrimination by private businesses was a mainstream position in libertarian circles both at the time of the Civil Rights Act and today. “The foundation of libertarian thinking is private property as a limit on state action,” he said. “So if a private business chooses to discriminate, a typical libertarian would say that’s a business owner’s right to do so.”

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This article was posted: Friday, May 21, 2010 at 9:01 am

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