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Rand Paul and the Civil Rights Act: Was he right?

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I write as a libertarian, something Rand Paul claims not to be. The essence of the libertarian philosophy is that each person owns him- or herself and whatever belongings he or she honestly acquires. Thus individuals are due freedom of association and, logically, non-association. It also follows that the owner of property should be free to set the rules of use, the only constraint being that the owner may not use aggressive force against others.

Admittedly, that leaves room for loathsome peaceful behavior, such as running a whites-only lunch counter. Who imagined that freedom of association couldn’t have its ugly side?

Nevertheless, individuals are either free to do anything peaceful or they are not. If politicians decide, we have arbitrary government. But government is force, and force is moral only in response to force.

Some champions of Title II acknowledge the opponents’ consistency with the libertarian principle but suspect it is motivated by racism. Logically, that is absurd. Even if every racist invoked libertarian grounds for opposing laws mandating desegregation in private establishments, it would not follow that everyone who invokes libertarian grounds is a racist. (Southern racists were hardly libertarians; they supported government-mandated segregation.)

Libertarian opponents of Title II are also accused of being so unmoved by racial bigotry that they are blind to the importance of Title II. But there is no inconsistency in abhorring bigotry and opposing a government-based solution.

A final charge made against Title II opponents – from left and right – is that they are so obsessed with doctrinal purity that they ignore real-world consequences, abominable as those may be. The premise here is, as Maddow put it, “[U]nless it’s illegal … there’s nothing under your worldview to stop the country from re-segregating….”

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