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Monday, January 02, 2012

Throwing A Tub To The Whale

Statism, schmatism.  Gimme free bananas!

Ron Paul's a racist, homophobic nutjob who has no realistic chance of winning the GOP nomination, let alone the Presidency, but he's probably the candidate that infuriates and scares me more than any other, even historian/paleontologist Newt Gingrich.  I think it mostly comes from his Blind Squirrel capacity, finding a nut every once in a while (war is bad, war on drugs is bad, Federal government can overreach), and the fact that otherwise smart people even on the left side of the 1D political spectrum fall for his so-called constitutionalism and consistency (I'm looking at you, Greenwald and Sirota).

As I have always said, I'm not a conlaw expert, but all citizens have a responsibility to determine the constitutionality of the policies and offices they support.  Yet this guy somehow has been elevated to guru status simply because he cries "Statist! Unconstitutional! Whiskey! Sexy!" every time he meets something--which is almost everything--he doesn't like*.

His fundamental "principle": devolve things like civil rights/marriage/abortion to the states because they never, ever violate individual rights.  If the Constitution doesn't expressly say the Federal government can protect individual rights then clearly it's the states can do whatever they want, including infringing upon rights and the Feds have to stay out of it.  Notwithstanding little niggling details like "general welfare" and "necessary and proper" clauses, the Ninth and Fourteenth Amendments, etc.  

It's almost like he's never heard of any case law or precedent since 1789.  Or slavery.  Or Jim Crow.  Or the criminalization of sex between consenting adults.  Or state intrusions into a person's body.  Quite the libertarian, he.

I've been told by a Paulista whom I otherwise admire, all these silly things are irrelevent distractions.  Equal protection under the law is a distraction?  Driver, this is my stop.

The people who want to undo hard-won protections are the real distractions, not the Civil Rights Act.  The people who want to deny Fourteeth Amendment privileges and immunities are the real distractions, not marriage equality.  The people who want to let state governments stick their noses into your medicine cabinet, bedroom and uterus are the real distractions, not a woman's right to determine her own reproductive destiny.

One might call Paul's "states' rights" stance a dog whistle for obvious reasons, but I think of it as more as a "throwing a tub to a whale".  Sure, bigots hear the code words, but it also diverts the attention of smart, well-meaning folks from Paul's real anti-libertarianism and his dubious constitutional reading and reasoning.

States rights?  Sure, I support the unique powers (and limitations) of the Several States per Article I, Article IV, Article V, the Ninth, the Tenth, etc.  They provide a check on Federal power and encroachment on individiual rights.  But to deny individual rights?  No.  Let's not forget that the central government also provides a check on the States. 

Our system is designed to not only create tension between branches, but the differing levels of government, each of which are jealous of their rights, keeping them focused on fending off power grabs from other quarters which safeguards our individual liberty.  Giving all responsibility and power to states is extreme and just as bad as having too strong a central government.  There's a reason we ditched the Articles of Confederation, Dr Paul.

Individual rights are the atomic unit of liberty.  States in the general sense are created to protect them.  As George Washington, in his capacity of president of the Philadelphia Convention, noted in his letter accompanying the new Constitution's transmittal to Congress:

It is obviously impracticable in the federal government of these states, to secure all rights of independent sovereignty to each, and yet provide for the interest and safety of all: Individuals entering into society, must give up a share of liberty to preserve the rest. The magnitude of the sacrifice must depend as well on situation and circumstance, as on the object to be obtained. It is at all times difficult to draw with precision the line between those rights which must be surrendered, and those which may be reserved...

How Lockean!  We all have natural rights to ourselves, property and fruits of our labor--perhaps Dr Paul has heard about such things here, here or here--but we cede a certain portion to government (e.g., the right to not be taxed, or as libertarians call it, not be robbed) so that we might increase our overall protection.  The formula is a difficult one and there is no single way to achieve this, but we work hard to create constitutions that try balancing individual rights and the powers necessary for government to protect them.

Democratic and republican forms of government are messy and full of conflict between individuals and their rights.  Because this formula is complicated, simplistic solutions like throwing most everything to the states are only recipes for disaster.

At a time when we should be pooling national resources--our money, our energy, our innovation--to address real problems like the jobs crisis, crumbling infrastructure, our unsustainable energy portfolio, global climate change, etc, don't be distracted by cranks who glibly suggest we toss out two centuries of progress.


* A fun example: Paul "asserts that Congress had no power to impose a direct income tax."

Now, it's true that Article I, Section 9 says, "No capitation, or other direct, Tax shall be laid, unless in Proportion to the Census or Enumeration..."  Guess he must've missed this amendment languageThe Congress shall have power to lay and collect taxes on incomes, from whatever source derived, without apportionment among the several States, and without regard to any census or enumeration.  Is he really saying text of the Constitution is unconstitutional?

January 2, 2012 | Permalink


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Similar situation with a LP friend...and with friends, one tends to overlook the problems.

But the last decade of Bush-fluffing made clear that modern "libertarians" are now Birchers that use a gussied up vocabulary.

Sam probably knows more paleontology than Newt, BTW.

Posted by: Snarki, child of Loki | Jan 2, 2012 10:02:16 PM

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