Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Extremism In The Defense Of Liberty

I was asked recently about Rand Paul's comments regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the political hay currently being made out of the principles involved in its passage. This article does a great service to us all by being honest about the subject. Some excerpts:

This meant that even if the Civil Rights Act gave new freedom to African-Americans to eat in restaurants of their choice, which it obviously did, it was only able to obtain this worthy goal by stripping from business owners the liberty that they had traditionally enjoyed. The liberty of some was being sacrificed for the liberty of others—and the federal government enforced this sacrifice.

Today the vast majority of Americans, including me, believe the sacrifice was worth it. Understandably enough, there is little sympathy nowadays for those racist Southern business owners who were compelled, very much against their will, to serve black customers along with white. Even Paul, in explaining his own position, made it clear that he loathed the practice of racism by business owners, and correctly pointed out that it is economically irrational to turn away paying customers simply because you don’t like the color of their skin. What got Paul in hot water, however, was the perception that he favors giving back to business owners the liberty to engage in racial discrimination. This perception has fueled the liberal attacks on him. It has been used to revile Paul as a racist and to condemn the entire Tea Party movement as a coalition of white supremacist bigots. Regrettably, this highly partisan brouhaha has obscured a point of immense importance for all of us, both liberals and conservatives—sometimes you need extremists to defend liberty, because otherwise no one else would do it...

Someone must always be ready to point out the cost in terms of human liberty that is often the unavoidable consequence of even the noblest political objectives...

Not all of us need to be extremists in the defense of liberty. But some must be, and a healthy democratic society should be grateful for those who are willing and determined to play this role. By simply forcing us to think twice before we curtail our traditional liberties, they may well save us from the tyranny of our own political agendas—a tyranny that seeks to deny to others those rights we have no interest in exercising for ourselves.

I recommend reading the whole thing.

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