Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Bill Maher on Jon Stewart's Rally

Bill Maher took on Jon Stewart for claiming during his rally that there are extremists on both the Right and the Left.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Just Libertarianism?

from Talking Points Memo

TPM Reader SW wrote in this morning cautioning that we make clear that opposing all civil rights legislation on libertarian grounds doesn't mean you don't support civil rights. I think this is far from an uncontested claim. And since the Rand Paul situation is going to be raising it to such high salience I wanted to share SW's email with you and give you my thoughts on the underlying question.

First here's SW's email.

You write that Rand Paul is "...against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the Americans with Disabilities Act and supporting abolishing the Department of Education..."
It's worth noting that Libertarians are against the Civil Rights Act, but not against civil rights. Indeed you'll find no stronger defender of civil rights of any type than libertarians. For us its a matter of approach. A different means to the same end. But the means does matter both in principal and practice. I think you understand this, but the way you characterize Paul's policy positions gave me pause.

He's not against civil rights, people with disabilities, or against educating today's youth.

Let's start the conversation by agreeing that as a technical matter, this is true. Libertarianism is a political philosophy rooted in a belief in radical limitations on state power. And I'm inclined to follow my friend Mike Lind's argument that unlike a lot of mishmash conservative claptrap libertarianism is a political philosophy I can disagree with but still recognize as internally consistent and rooted in important principles. As Mike wrote once, I simply think its assumptions and understanding of human nature are off. But this is hardly the end of the story.

Political philosophy can never be free of history. And there is no denying that similar states rights or libertarian arguments have been the arguments of choice for those who want to defend racial discrimination since avowed defenses of racial prejudice and subordination became publicly unacceptable outside some parts of the South in the early second half of the last century. That's simply a fact. In principle, it doesn't delegitimize libertarian political philosophy. But we don't live in classrooms or treatises. We live in an actual world where history and experience can't be separated from philosophy.

When he ran for President in 1964 Barry Goldwater ran on opposition to federal Civil Rights legislation on what he claimed were states rights grounds. And there's some reason to believe that for him that really was what it was about. But it is entirely clear that his political punch came from supporters in the South who wanted to keep Jim Crow in effect. Again, that's just a fact.

So that's the history.

Then there is the simple matter of priorities. To a degree the argument Paul is making is something like saying that I don't like rape or murder, I just don't believe in a police force to prevent it or a judiciary to punish the offenders. The reason we, albeit imperfectly, have equality before the law and in the society at large (in terms of public accommodations and so forth) on racial grounds in the whole of the United States is because of federal legislation that forced that to be the case. The reason we don't have white and colored drinking fountains or pools for whites only, etc. You can say you think all those things are awful and you may be telling the truth. But what are you going to do about it? The variant of libertarianism which Paul espouses, while internally consistent in theory and separate from race, has you saying, I wouldn't do anything about it -- though I'd decry it as an individual.

Folks who espouse this kind of philosophy deserve to be held to account for that fact, whatever their inner beliefs about race and equality may be.

And having said all this, I'd be remiss not to say that an awful lot of folks in the South seem to have these views and theories of the constitution that are completely divorced from history that end up bringing them to these conclusions. As one observer said in a totally different context about the Nation of Islam, they may not be looking for trouble, but they sure do seem to find it.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

S.C. Lt. Gov. Andre Bauer Compares Helping Poor to Feeding Stray Animals

South Carolina Lt. Governor Andre Bauer, who hopes to succeed fellow Republican Mark Sanford as his state's governor, drew a comparison between government help for poor people and "feeding stray animals" – who, he noted, "breed."

"My grandmother was not a highly educated woman, but she told me as a small child to quit feeding stray animals," Bauer said during a town hall meeting, as the Greenville News reported over the weekend. "You know why? Because they breed. You're facilitating the problem if you give an animal or a person ample food supply. They will reproduce, especially ones that don't think too much further than that. And so what you've got to do is you've got to curtail that type of behavior. They don't know any better."

As the Greenville News notes, more than half of the students in South Carolina participate in a program that allows them to get their lunch for free, or at a reduced cost.

Bauer later said he wasn't saying those who receive government help "were animals or anything else."

He added that his metaphor was taken out of context, WSOCTV reports, and added that "maybe the stray animals wasn't the best metaphor."

Bauer made the comment as part of an argument that people should lose government benefits if they fail drug tests or don't attend parent-teacher conferences or PTA meetings.

"Look folks, if you receive goods or services from the government and you don't attend a parent-teacher conference, bam, you lose your benefits," he said. In a follow-up story, the Greenville News reports that Bauer said "he would penalize only adults and that he never advocated taking away a child's free or reduced-price lunch. His speech was about breaking the cycle of dependence on government aid, he said."

During the town hall meeting, Bauer said he "can show you a bar graph where free and reduced lunch has the worst test scores in the state of South Carolina." He added: "So how do you fix it? Well you say, 'Look, if you receive goods or services from the government, then you owe something back.'"

South Carolina Democrats responded harshly to the comments, and there were calls for Bauer to apologize and to drop his gubernatorial bid. Some in his own party were also critical, with Republican state Rep. Harry Cato saying Bauer "has gone overboard."