Rand Paul is not a racist, he just wants the market to solve racism

Rand Paul is not a racist, he just doesn’t seem to think its the government’s responsibility to do anything about it.  After his stated opposition to the Civil Rights Act (which he’s since sort of walked back), there’s been a lot of good commentary on the matter.  Here’s Ezra:

So I take Paul at his word that he’s not a racist. What he is, however, isan ideological extremist. He is so categorically opposed to public regulation of private enterprise that he cannot even bring himself to say that the Woolworth lunch counter should’ve been desegregated. Instead, he falls back on the remedies of the market: “I wouldn’t attend, wouldn’t support, wouldn’t go to,” a private institution that discriminates, he told Rachel Maddow. But he would let them discriminate. And in the segregated South, that would’ve been a perfectly viable business model for many, many very important institutions.

Bruce Bartlett, though, takes him apart on his extreme libertarianism better than anyone, though.  And although, Bartlett has become a conservative apostate for admitting that taxes actually need to be raised, he’s certainly still a right-of-center guy.  What I especially love about this, though, is the terrific evisceration of libertarianism.

As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation. Indeed, it got much worse, not just because it was enforced by law but because it was mandated by self-reinforcing societal pressure. Any store owner in the South who chose to serve blacks would certainly have lost far more business among whites than he gained. There is no reason to believe that this system wouldn’t have perpetuated itself absent outside pressure for change.

In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. The gains made by the former slaves in the years after the Civil War were completely reversed once the Supreme Court effectively prevented the federal government from protecting them. Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn’t work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse…

I don’t believe Rand is a racist; I think he is a fool who is suffering from the foolish consistency syndrome that affects all libertarians. They believe that freedom consists of one thing and one thing only–freedom from governmental constraint. Therefore, it is illogical to them that any increase in government power could ever expand freedom. Yet it is clear that African Americans were far from free in 1964 and that the Civil Rights Act greatly expanded their freedom while diminishing that of racists.

Of course, the big question will be how Paul’s committed libertarianism plays out during the Fall campaign.  There’s  a lot of difficult questions he’ll have to give an unpopular answer to or else keep on dodging.  As he initially showed on Civil Rights, he’s not averse to giving the unpopular answer.   Will be interesting to see the degree to which his opponent is able to exploit this.  I’m teaching Campaigns & Elections in the fall, and I certainly hope this proves to be a race worth watching.

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Williams syndrome

A couple of really interesting stories about Williams Syndrome recently.  First, from NPR.   Here’s the crux:

Jessica’s daughter, Isabelle, has Williams syndrome, a genetic disorder with a number of symptoms. Children with Williams are often physically small and frequently have developmental delays. But also, kids and adults with Williams love people, and they are literally pathologically trusting. They have no social fear. Researchers theorize that this is probably because of a problem in their limbic system, the part of the brain that regulates emotion. There appears to be a disregulation in one of the chemicals (oxytocin) that signals when to trust and when to distrust.

So, with Williams system, we are able to see that there is a biological basis in the brain for trust, and people with Williams literally don’t know how to distrust.  While it makes for happy, incredibly friendly people, as you can imagine, this is not necessarily so easy for the parents of such a child (as dramatically described in the NPR story).

Another really interesting feature of the brains of these people is that they do not form racial stereotypes.  (Social science types will enjoy following the link for the summary of the experiment).  Psychologists have long known that racial stereotyping is automatic in our brains (the difference is what you do with it, when that stereotype pops up).   Scientists theorize that this same lack of fear leads to a complete lack of any racial stereotypes.   And here’s the really interesting kicker– they do form gender-role stereotypes.   So, this also teaches us that the brain mechanisms behind racial and sexual stereotypes are clearly quite different.

Political memories

Pretty cool link from Slate that takes a look at the accuracy of your political memories.  See how you do.  I’ll tell you my results in the comments.

An immoral ethical system

Really disturbing story in which a Catholic nun was excommunicated for allowing an abortion for a woman, 11-weeks pregnant who already had 4 children, to save the life of the mother.   Since the nun was the administrator of the Catholic hospital in Phoenix, she was forced out of her position and excommunicated from the Church.  And, just so we’re clear here, the mother would have died

According to a hospital document, she had “right heart failure,” and her doctors told her that if she continued with the pregnancy, her risk of mortality was “close to 100 percent.”

and when she died, the fetus would have died too! So, in order to protect the life of the fetus, which was going to die anyway if the mother died, a woman should lose her life and four children would be motherless.  This is not even a close moral or ethical call.  I have no problem on an ethical and moral level with the Church’s opposition to abortion (and, in fact, support it on those levels– the politics is where it gets tricky), but this is taking a moral principle too far to the point of moral blindness.  Sure, I do get where they are coming from:

“She consented in the murder of an unborn child,” says the Rev. John Ehrich, the medical ethics director for the Diocese of Phoenix. “There are some situations where the mother may in fact die along with her child. But — and this is the Catholic perspective — you can’t do evil to bring about good. The end does not justify the means.”

But, damnit, its blindingly obvious that, certainly in this case, the ends do justify the means.  Much like, I think it is safe to say that killing Hitler would have been a good thing.  The perspective presented by Ehrich may be fine for esoteric discussions in Catholic ethics classes, but the real world is not so simple.   In truth, and here’s a phrase with wide applicability, context matters! To judge an action immoral or not outside of the context, is just so morally short-sighted.  How can any thinking and feeling person believe it would be a greater good for this woman to die, and her fetus die, and her four children be mother-less, all for a moral principle (abortion is never okay) that would make no practical differnence in this case (the fetus was going to die either way).

I won’t even get into the whole matter of the Church excommunicating this nun, but never actually using such punishment on pedophile priests, in which case there’s absolutely no question that what they did was wrong.

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