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May 24th, 2010
Freethought San Marcos: Rand Paul, private property, and rigid political ideology

Freethought San Marcos: A column

I don’t know much about Rand Paul, but I do know something about his father, Ron Paul, with whom Rand shares a Libertarian philosophy. I like Ron Paul and share many of his political views. But the problems faced by his son this past week over Libertarian rigidity has local implications as well as national effects.

Rand Paul’s immediate problem is explaining why his Libertarian philosophy in support of private property rights should override the public policy that it is illegal to discriminate against people because of their perceived race or ethnicity or religion or national origin. Rand Paul continues to believe that the owners of private businesses offering goods and services to the public should be able to refuse service to people whose racial-ethnic-religious-national origin characteristics displease them. This country, through its Legislative and Executive branches of government and approved by its Judicial branch, decided 46 years ago that such discrimination offended basic decency and the public good of fostering an egalitarian society, one in which all people had access to public accommodation, whether the accommodation is owned publicly or privately.

Rand Paul believes that such decency and egalitarianism are important, but he won’t let that belief trump his rigid Libertarian ideology that views private property rights as the ultimate good. If Rand Paul had been more straightforward about his views when interviewed about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, he might have received less bad publicity. He could have said simply, “I believe that private property rights are more important than an open society free of ethnic-racial-religious-national origin discrimination,” but he didn’t. He hemmed and hawed around the edges of a clear, direct statement of his views. The equivocation is what got him in the most trouble politically.

This same private property rights belief is behind the actions of a majority of the San Marcos City Council, who regularly change the city’s Master Plan, which was established in the public interest by and through city residents, to allow zoning that gives private property owners what they want. To this council majority, private property rights (and the extra profit that a property owner can derive by developing land with apartments and commercial projects) are more important than the public good of having a well-planned community that develops in an orderly fashion as agreed to by all of the citizens who participated in the planning process and by a unanimous city council.

A city’s master plan or comprehensive plan includes land use (which establishes density levels and the kinds of zoning allowed), thoroughfare plans, water and wastewater plans, open space and park needs, drainage concerns, building regulations, and other features that make the community livable–that is, comfortable, convenient, functional, aesthetic, and satisfying for the public in general. It also provides for the right mix of uses in the right amounts to meet the needs of the city’s population for the foreseeable future. While it can be amended, amendments should be done only when the needs of the community change, not to satisfy someone’s money-making scheme.

In 1926, the U.S. Supreme Court held that zoning based on a comprehensive plan was a proper exercise of a city’s power to regulate the use of private property to protect the health, safety, and welfare of the community. The court found that the public good is more important than the private property rights of individuals who own property. A city’s power is referred to in law as the “police power”; that is, the power of a government to exercise reasonable control over people and property within its jurisdiction in the interest of the community’s security, health, safety, morals, and welfare. It is generally accepted as one of the powers reserved to the states under the U.S. Constitution, and cities are creatures of the states.

As recognized by the U.S. Supreme Court, a primary goal of zoning has been to preserve single-family residential neighborhoods based on the proposition that families promote values that are desirable in communities. This view balances the property rights of single-family residential owners with the property rights of those wishing to develop their property for some other purpose and comes down on the side of single-family residential owners. This is often the opposite calculation made by a majority of city council members. They hold the property rights of developers as superior to those of single-family property owners. The security, health, safety, morals, and welfare of the public generally is of less concern to most city council members than are the economic goals of the developers, probably because developers are a source of significant campaign contributions and neighborhood property owners are not.

This imbalance is a major problem I have with rigid Libertarianism. It concerns itself less with the purpose of the social contract than with individual desires, whatever their effect on the community. When people form a community, they agree, tacitly or formally, to subjugate their private interests, to a greater or lesser degree, to the public good. Conflicts arise over how much private interest must be given up to serve the public good. Libertarians usually want no control or at least less control over private interests than do those who hold a more communitarian outlook.

At its extreme, Libertarianism acknowledges no concern for the public good, arguing for complete individual freedom in personal behavior and use of private property. Few people take this extreme position. Most people recognize that there are limits to individual freedom when one lives in a community. For instance, target practice with a rifle or hand gun creates a safety issue in a community, but may be done safely in an isolated countryside where a stray bullet could harm no person or property.

According to The Libertarian Party’s “Are you a Libertarian?” quiz, I am a Libertarian, but as I read through the party’s platform, I find that I agree with little regarding property rights, education, and free markets. In fact, free markets hold a god-like place in the Libertarian belief system, one that lacks supportive evidence as much as does a belief in Zeus or Zarathustra.

Undoubtedly, something is wrong with their quiz. It must have been designed by someone who went to a Libertarian private school (which is the only kind of school Libertarians believe we should have) and did not learn enough about tests and measurements.

After reviewing Libertarian beliefs, it comes as no surprise that Rand Paul (is his shortened name an homage to Libertarian icon Ayn Rand?) refuses to hold BP accountable for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. While government regulators, including Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, have responsibility for granting BP and its cohorts exemptions from environmentally-protective regulations, it was BP and its partners and contractors that made decisions that led to what may be the worst environmental disaster ever to befall the Gulf.

Tens of thousands of people who make their living from the harvest of food from the Gulf and its environs may not be able to work for a decade or more because of the damage done to the ecosystems in the Gulf and on its shore, and endangered species may become further damaged by the oil that has gushed from the hole in the sea created by BP for over a month, with no end in sight. And tens of millions of migratory birds that daily fly through the Louisiana marshlands are in danger. But Rand Paul says it is just a mere accident, unavoidable, and one of those things that happen occasionally. No concern of the government.

There is much attractive about Libertarianism, but unfettered private property rights and the abolition of public schools are not among tenets that would make this a better country or a better world. I have lived through a time when I could not enjoy public accommodations with friends, and those friends had limited housing options because of perceived private property rights that led to discrimination. I have seen the broad societal benefits of public education as it created middle class citizens of those who served in World War II or were new immigrants to this country. I don’t want to live in a society that will institutionalize discrimination and ignorance by organizing itself around a belief system that is no more proven than witchcraft, demon-possession, and voodoo. I’d as soon live in a society ruled by psychics.

© Freethought San Marcos, Lamar W. Hankins

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25 thoughts on “Freethought San Marcos: Rand Paul, private property, and rigid political ideology

  1. This article was published the day after Rand Paul took the Repub nom for senate here in Kentucky:

    REDNECKS vs. RAND PAUL, et al.

    Rand Paul wants us to think he’s a redneck. He’s not.

    In the year 1921, over 10,000 coal miners from West Virginia, many of whom were World War I veterans, after years of corporate brutality, exploitation and outright murder by corporate hired thugs, said good bye to their families, to their wives and their children and took up what arms they had. It was time for them to lay it all on the line. It was time for these men to sh*t or get off the pot. Thus, began the largest armed civil insurrection in the history of the United States by Americans against Americans on American soil since the Civil War to date. No fancy monument or historical marker commemorates this ragtag army of simple men, men of many colors and ethnic backgrounds, all black from the coal and bone-tired of the corruption. There is no national acknowledgment of their epic battle against corporate greed and political collusion, but one can still find a rusty hunting rifle or two along it’s bloody trail if one takes the time or cares to look.

    They called themselves Rednecks.

    We’ve known for decades where Mitch stands when it comes to Corporations vs. The American People. It’s now clear who Rand Paul would have stood side by side with during The Redneck Insurrection of 1921 and, it’s more than clear whose side he’s on now. I bet a dollar to a donut he doesn’t even like unions. Looks like it’s time for the Kentucky tea partiers to pony up, to put their money where their mouth is, to “take back our country” from the corporations and politicians trying bleed it dry for profit and don’t mind killing us in the process to do it. It’s time to Derby down.

    For Full And Uncensored Version:

    Anything you can do to help get the word out here in Kentucky and nationwide about Rand Paul is much appreciated.


  2. Assumptions in this essay that deserve careful consideration:

    1. Because combating racism was a “greater good”, the federal government was justified in legislating what individuals could do with their private property, even though there is no enumerated power in the Constitution giving the federal government this authority. Therefore, there are no limits on government power when acting on behalf of the “greater good”. If the government felt that limiting speech or assembly, or suspending habeas corpus was necessary to curb discrimination, it would have been within its power and justified to legislate accordingly.

    2. Government is the best and only way to address social problems like racism. Such problems arise due to a lack of sufficient government control. Without government intervention, these problems would simply persist or get worse, as people are incapable of addressing social issues without government.

    Now consider the results that government has achieved with regard to ending racial discrimination and inequality in America. Consider the results of forced school desegregation. Consider hiring and application quotas. Consider the black market economies and violence that preys on minorities in our inner cities and the percentage of blacks incarcerated in our prisons compared to whites.

    Given the means employed and results achieved by government’s attempts to solve complex social problems like racial discrimination, it seems disingenuous to imply, without discussion, that these actions were truly justified, necessary, or successful, let alone criticize others who would raise such questions.

  3. The Constitution was set up to limit the power of the Government to control the lives of We The People. In this case they have over reached without an amendment to the Constitution. It is always in the midst of a crisis that we lose more of our freedom and the Federal Govt. grabs more. These laws should have been an emergency action for a given time, they should have been found unconstitutional for the federal government to legislate, then the individual states should have been pressured by the people of the state to pass their own civil rights legislation. By the constitution that is where the power rests to legislate this kind of law. Finally, it is because of the liberal and progressive disregard for the Law of the land and people like Grant, who have no problem just making up the law and giving our freedoms away as long as everyone feels good about it, that the federal govt. are passing health care laws,bailing out banks and taking over private auto companies . All of which are outside their jurisdiction and all of which have rendered the Constitution useless and our country the same. In this case and in most if you judge Rand and Ron Paul’s opinions against the Constitution Of The USA, these guys are without fault. We need legislators,judiciary and an executive who fallow the law by upholding and defending the constitution of the US, for it is the law that protects our free speech and the rights of the press. Beware, The federal government’s disregard for the law is creating a firestorm over illegal immigration. Once again because it makes us feel warm and fuzzy inside people are choosing the side of lawlessness and there will be crisis, we will lose freedoms,the federal government will over reach, and the Constitution, the flag, and the People will be spat upon… again.

  4. Judy Swindler,

    Your Emotional Assumptions Are Unbecoming. You Should Listen More And Presume Less.


    Way To Use Intellect.

    Fools And Their Rights Are Soon Parted.

    1 time used for the “Greater Good”, 10 times used for undermining Liberty.

    Power given is not so easily taken back.

    Be careful the seat you intend for angels be occupied by evil.

    To Assume Benevolence IS Foolish.

  5. Lamar is being intellectually dishonest with his statement, “After reviewing Libertarian beliefs, it comes as no surprise that Rand Paul refuses to hold BP accountable for the Gulf of Mexico oil spill.”

    Rand Paul said nothing of the sort. He said, “What I don’t like from the president’s administration is this sort of, ‘I’ll put my boot heel on the throat of BP.’ I think that sounds really un-American in his criticism of business.”

    There is a big difference between the impression Lamar is trying to leave the readers with and the actually intent of Rand Paul’s comment. But then again, it is a Lamar piece and distortion, misrepresentation, and misinformation are par for the course.

  6. Wouldn’t it make sense to allow private business owners to serve whomever they wish — and when they refuse to serve people based on race, stop visiting their business and deal with it that way?

    The system, as it is now, allows people to hide their true feelings. But is that really the best way? How many racist people are you keeping in business because the law doesn’t allow them to reveal their true feelings?

    Secondly, how is it legal & acceptable to have the Congressional Black Caucus in a post-Civil Rights Act of 1964 society?

  7. Rand Paul has taken a principled — but politically incorrect — position, for which he’s being pilloried. A look behind the 6-second-sound-bite version of his position might be helpful.

    Despite how his comments have played, Paul has said he is glad that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 passed. He accepts the Civil Rights Act as settled U.S. law — not to be revisited by the courts despite possible constitutional infirmities.

    But, though the Supreme Court upheld the 1964 act, the law has a disputable constitutional pedigree.

    The Civil Rights Act addresses the conduct of private individuals, so it is not easily shoehorned into the 14th Amendment, which constrains only government conduct. And the act has nothing to do with reducing state-imposed obstacles to the free flow of interstate trade — so it should not have been legitimized under an original understanding of the commerce clause.

    Still, the law was affirmed — and deservedly so — by the court because it helped erase an unconscionable assault on human dignity.

    So Paul stands foursquare for civil rights but acknowledges the Civil Rights Act’s possible disconnect from the Constitution. His position is therefore intellectually honest, unlike those who insist that, because the Civil Rights Act is beneficent, it must necessarily be constitutional.

    Some activities — for example, torture — offend the Constitution even though they might yield widely acclaimed benefits — such as preventing a terrorist attack.

    The remedy in such cases is either to amend the Constitution or to acknowledge the disconnect and recognize that the Constitution must not be a barrier to racial equality.

    Paul’s detractors misunderstand the essential nature and purpose of our Constitution. It does not speak to private power; it is not a criminal or civil code that private citizens must obey.

    Rather, the Constitution has two primary objectives: to authorize government, then limit its powers in a manner that secures individual rights.

    First and foremost, the Constitution is a code of conduct for the legislative, executive and judicial branches of government. Both federal and state officials breached that code when they condoned slavery and, later, Jim Crow laws that mandated racial segregation.

    Of course, the media have used Paul’s forthright if impolitic pronouncement as an occasion to disparage his libertarian — that is, classic liberal — philosophy. Not surprisingly, critics either do not understand or willfully distort basic libertarian principles. For starters, libertarians are proponents of limited government. We are not anarchists.

    My colleague David Boaz sums it up nicely: “A government is a set of institutions through which we adjudicate our disputes, defend our rights and provide for certain common needs. … What we want is a limited government that attends to its necessary and proper functions.

    “Libertarians support limited, constitutional government — limited not just in size but, of far greater importance, in the scope of its powers.”

    Ideally, government’s role is to foster an environment in which individuals can pursue happiness in any manner they please — provided they do not impede other individuals’ rights to do the same.

    Regrettably, government does much more — and much less — than create a congenial civil environment.

    It burdens transactors with confiscatory taxes, favors politically connected special interests, coerces parties to engage in unwanted transactions, transfers assets and incomes without consent from one party to another and depletes our financial and human resources by undertaking foreign interventions that bear little relation to America’s vital interests. Those are the excesses of government that libertarians struggle to rein in.

    In addition, and perhaps least understood, a vital aspect of personal liberty is the freedom not to participate. In that regard, libertarianism is the antithesis of collectivism.

    Anyone who prefers a social order that sacrifices individual liberty to attain equal outcomes is free to leave my libertarian world and form the collectivist society he favors. But he may not compel me to join.

    Libertarianism does not foreclose collectivist arrangements as long as participation in those arrangements is voluntary.

    By contrast, collectivists will not endorse libertarian enclaves within a collectivist system. Just try refusing to support the welfare state.

    People who believe a deregulated free market leaves us worse off can create a hyper-regulated marketplace, shackled by government to their heart’s content. They would not extend the same opt-out choice to me.

    The essence of collectivism is force. The essence of libertarianism is choice.

    Robert A. Levy is chairman of the Cato Institute.

  8. Lamar begins his column with, “I don’t know much about Rand Paul,”.

    Well folks, that about sums it up!

  9. “There is much attractive about Libertarianism, but…the abolition of public schools [is] not among tenets that would make this a better country or a better world.” – The Brilliant Lamar

    OK, Lamar. How are the public schools doing? As we invest more and more money in the public schools, what is our return on investment? Do private schools or public schools have better results? Which one spends more money per pupil?

  10. Lamar,

    You cannot consider Libertarians as those who seek liberty of property without also recognizing that most, at least equally, seek civil liberties. Government has been no friend to minorities, and of course, how could the popular will of the majority ever be as much. That is the reason government must be limited — to prevent the tyranny of the majority.

    Government enforced slavery for 100 years so as to not disturb prosperity and then imposed Jim Crow. The Civil Rights Act sped up integration but it merely reflected the will of the people, as a majority already felt blacks should be given an equal chance. Government didn’t liberate the remaining vestiges of slavery; it merely quit imposing them. A Libertarian at the time would not have allowed Jim Crow laws because they perpetuated slavery, and violated the civil liberties of blacks.

    In hindsight, it is unfortunate that courts justified the Civil Rights Act under the Commerce Clause, instead of the 13th amendment and the elimination of the vestiges of slavery. Now, a neo-Nazi has a right to join a Jewish organization, the boy scouts are a public accommodation although they are really neither, and the majority can tyrannically control one’s economic decisions through the government. I think this is the frustration Rand Paul expressed, but you give the idea no thought by simply reiterating your hostility to property rights. Such reactions and exclamations replace discourse with loud screaming and promote sound bite politics.

  11. To John McGlothlin:

    I’m sorry that you took from my column that I am hostile to private property rights because I am not. I do believe that our society is better served when private property rights are balanced with considerations of the public good. When we become part of a community, we give up some autonomy in exchange for the benefits of community. Otherwise, no community could exist.

    In no way does this suggest that I support all of the decisions made by our democratically-elected leaders that limit anyone’s property rights or autonomy. Balancing the needs of the community with private property rights creates the disagreements that we often have. We seem to have many laws in San Marcos that unnecessarily limit private property rights, that is, they diminish property rights without adding anything of real value to the community. The artsy car planter constructed by a business on their property on the IH-35 access road is just one such example. Another example: we used to have a sign ordinance that prohibited political signs except for a time period in and around campaigns. I opposed this when I was city attorney, but I don’t know if it is in the current sign ordinance.

    I agree that government must be limited. What we may disagree about is where those limits should be, but this is what politics is about. Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

  12. Evidently, Lamar only feels compelled to respond to John’s comment. I wonder what that means. You be the judge.

  13. I have no set reasons to respond to comments, but I prefer civil, reasoned discussions of issues to ad hominem attacks and I prefer to respond to those people who give their real first and last names. John satisfies both of those criteria. I don’t feel the need to respond to every comment, even from those who meet the above criteria. Some people appear to intentionally distort my positions or make comments off-topic. Others are just stating their positions and readers can judge for themselves who has made the best argument. I’m comfortable with everyone having their say. Also, I don’t always have the time to post responses.

  14. Oh, Lamar.

    “Some people appear to intentionally distort my positions…”

    Some people appear to refute your positions with sound logic and accuracy you are left without a position to defend. Admit it.

    Hey, I wouldn’t want to respond to, much less read, all the comments that put me in my place either.

  15. Interesting reasoning, Winchester. You do realize that Lamar doesn’t believe in personal property, thus it isn’t HIS article. This article is the property of the state…according to Lamar’s reasoning.

  16. Is Lamar refusing serve to someone because they don’t wish to divulge their last name? Wow. Talk about hypocrisy.

    Lamar writes:

    “Rand Paul continues to believe that the owners of private businesses offering goods and services to the public should be able to refuse service to people whose racial-ethnic-religious-national origin characteristics displease them.”

    ….however, it should have read…..

    “[Lamar Hawkins] continues to believe that the [writers] of [The San Marcos Mercury] offering [responses] to the public [comments] should be able to refuse [responses] to people whose [singular name]-racial-ethnic-religious-national origin characteristics displease them.”

    Attention Seal (the performing artist) and the artist formally know as Prince…feel free to comment, but don’t expect a reply from Lamar. He doesn’t look kindly on your singular name stuff.

  17. Well Name, if you believe in private property rights, it is all the explanation you should need, doesn’t matter what Mr. Hankins believes or not, just what you believe.

  18. In actuality, it doesn’t matter what Mr Hankins, Byron, Name, Dave or any of us here think about Rand Paul. The only thing that matters is what the voters of Kentucky think of him.

  19. Winchester – It might not matter what Texans think of Rand Paul in regards to Kentucky’s senatorial election, but his opinions have grabbed the attention of the nation and warrant being part of the national and local dialogues(thanks Lamar for writing about him). Individual rights and the role of federal, state, and local government are the most important issues of the day as they effect each and every one of us.

    I hope Rand Paul inspires more like-minded individuals to seek elected office and restore the Constitution. And I’m glad we are all talking about libertarian ideas.


    Lamar – Sorry but didn’t follow you when you said, “When people form a community, they agree, tacitly or formally, to subjugate their private interests, to a greater or lesser degree, to the public good.”

    Can you give me examples of this? Who makes these determinations as to the public good? How do they come to these conclusions? How often does the invasion of privacy and/or the public good get redefined, or does it only get defined at the formation of a community?

    And you analogy, “target practice with a rifle or hand gun creates a safety issue in a community, but may be done safely in an isolated countryside where a stray bullet could harm no person or property,” begs the question — have you ever heard of an indoor shooting range? That’s an example of where the free market found a solution that ensures both individual liberties and public safety.

    I went ahead and gave you my last name too, as I hope you will reply.

  20. I’m in favor of the freedom of association that is guaranteed by the First Amendment. I don’t care how people decide that they want to associate with one another.

  21. Clinton accused national labor unions campaigning for Lincoln’s opponent, Lt. Gov. Bill Halter, of trying to manipulate Arkansas voters to “terrify” other Democrats in Congress into cowering to union demands.

    The 42nd president continued to rip labor unions, which have largely supported him in the past.

    “They admit here, they don’t necessarily favor her opponent. They want to make her a poster child. They want you to be something besides a voter for your children and your community and your future. They want you to help them make a poster,” Clinton said.

    “If you want to do that, go back to grade school,” he added.

    Many of the labor unions that are trying to defeat Lincoln now have supported her in the past. Among the issues labor unions cite her opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act, which unions strongly support. The measure would make it easier for workers to form unions.‘terrify”-dems/?fbid=8n4PzmFYXHl#more-106310

  22. This was a hot article around KY apparently. You, sir, got schooled by some hardcore Libs and then responded vaguely and as pseudo-intellectually as possible. Let’s pray it smarts soundly.

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