Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fool's Goldwater

Yesterday, a novel argument against LGBT rights came to light.

A 2013 video interview with Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) surfaced in which he philosophized, "I don’t think I’ve ever used the word gay rights, because I don’t really believe in rights based on your behavior." The quote re-revealed the Tea Party's chronic freedom-hostile proclivities.

No, rights are not based on a particular behavior - they are based on being a human being. And those rights affirm you can do whatever you like as long as you do not harm anyone else. That is where behavior comes in. There is nothing libertarian or liberty-friendly about Rand Paul's argument.

Ironically, somebody needs to quote the late Senator Barry Goldwater (R-AZ) at him. When Goldwater was accused of turning liberal for supporting gay rights in the 1990s, he replied, "I am a conservative Republican, but I believe in democracy and the separation of church and state. The conservative movement is founded on the simple tenet that people have the right to live life as they please as long as they don’t hurt anyone else in the process." Things sure have changed.

In my book, I called the Tea Party "warmed-over Goldwaterism" but perhaps I should have said southern-fried. As I wrote, "Goldwater had tried to move his party’s regional base from East to West, but it instead shifted from North to South. The Arizona Senator had created a monster that later turned on him." But, to be accurate, the seeds of these reactionary tendencies were apparent in his 1964 campaign. The racist dog whistles were already there. His protests to the contrary, Goldwater had later mellowed and conservative purists hounded him for it until his dying day. Only the political utility of the word "liberty" had allowed his posthumous political rehabilitation among Republicans. The rhetoric of rugged individualism is essential to the GOP's re-branding and Goldwater's image certainly supplies that. It's cowboy rather than klansman.

LBGT rights is one of the quickest litmus tests of having a true libertarian temperament. Abortion rights (which Goldwater also supported) is another. The Paul family - father and son - spectacularly fail both. One anti-Ron Paul graphic said it all - "Government so small it fits in your uterus."

I wrote quite a bit about libertarianism's built-in authoritarian drift.  Their entire philosophy is rhetorical planned obsolescence. In Cato's Letters, John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon wrote, "Liberty can never subsist without equality." Libertarianism is liberty without the equality, and thus such liberty has the lifespan of a fruit fly. Some libertarians have even become monarchists. Interestingly, the full Cato quote also advocates economic equality - which I imagine the libertarian Cato Institute is unaware of: 

Liberty can never subsist without Equality, nor Equality be long preserved without an Agrarian Law, or something like it; for when Men’s Riches become immeasurably or surprisingly great, a People, who regard their own Security, ought to make a strict Enquiry how they came by them, and oblige them to take down their own Size, for fear of terrifying the Community, or mastering it. In every Country, and under every Government, particular Men may be too rich.*

But whatever the issue, orthodox libertarianism is a freedom-toxic sham. As Rand Paul's argument illustrates, its entire purpose is to twist liberty into its polar opposite. It is just a circus of clumsy rhetorical gymnastics designed to deny people their rights.


* John Trenchard and Thomas Gordon, Cato’s Letters: or, Essays on Liberty, Civil and Religious (New York: Da Capo Press, 1971), 2:16.

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