I sometimes like to say that I am a member of the libertarian wing of the Democratic Party. This is usually good for a laugh, but I mean it seriously. At best, a lawyer is a bulwark between the individual liberties of his client and the awesome power of the state. I am leery of the moralistic, authoritarian wing of the Republican Party, which seems to me to threaten the basic American right to be left alone –what Justice Brandeis called “the most comprehensive of rights and the right most valued by civilized men.” I am a civilized man, and mostly, that’s what I want — to be left alone.
But all values exist in a hierarchy, including individual liberty. Libertarians seem not to recognize this. Forty-six years later, most Americans (including, emphatically, me) believe that it was good that the federal government banned racial discrimination in public accommodations, even though this meant infringing on the right of a restaurant or hotel owner to invite whom he pleases onto his property. But many ideological Libertarians do not — a central tenet of their political philosophy is that property rights are sacred, and that the government has no business banning discriminatory behavior by individuals on private property, even if the majority finds such discrimination offensive. And one of those ideologues, Rand Paul, just won the Republican nomination for the Senate in Kentucky.
Here’s a link to a post that has his recent interview with Rachel Maddow. Pretty amazing stuff. As Ezra Klein says, “when you can’t answer the question ‘Should [the] Woolworth lunch counter have been allowed to stay segregated? Sir, just yes or no,’ it’s fair to say you’re off-message.” This magic moment comes at the end of the long, painful interview. If the Democrats can find a halfway decent candidate, this could be an interesting election.