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May 2010
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Rand Paul’s problem with absolutism

Dr. Rand Paul, GOP candidate for U.S. Senate in Kentucky

Dr. Rand Paul, the very recent flavor of the month for the Tea Party, now has something in common with Louis Farrakhan and Prince Bandar bin Khaled al-Faisal of Saudi Arabia. Dr. Paul, Louis Farrakhan and the Saudi prince are the only three people to cancel and appearance on NBC’s Meet the Press.

Dr. Paul’s cancellation comes the Sunday after he won the Kentucky Republican party primary for that state’s open U.S. Senate seat. A pretty huge feat considering he was the Tea Party candidate going up against the establishment to win that election– and that he was a first time candidate.

And what does Dr. Paul get for winning the primary: a media firestorm. Welcome to the big leagues Rand!

After winning the Kentucky primary, Rand went to MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and defended past comments he made about the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Rand Paul said that the Civil Rights Act should not apply to businesses– he believes that the federal government should not have the power to force businesses to admit minorities against their will.

Let’s be clear: Rand Paul is not a racist. He stated that he abhors racial discrimination. A statement there is no reason not to believe. Rand Paul is an absolutist. He believes in absolutes. You are either for business– and trust that business will do the right thing– or against it. The government either has the right to meddle into private business affairs or it doesn’t.

Rand Paul clearly believes government does not have the right to meddle into private business affairs. Maybe as a general proposition, this might be a reasonable argument. However, to state– and believe– that the federal government never has the right to meddle into private business is problematic– because it leaves you with egg on your face when Rachel Maddow gives you a hypothetical, which is not too hypothetical.

Rand Paul believes that business will do the right thing for the sake of corporate profits. To Dr. Paul, business will want to do the right thing to appeal to other customers and increase its profit. Rand Paul agrees, it’s a good thing that blacks are able to sit at a restaurant in the south. Rand Paul does not agree that the government should be able to force a restaurant to serve black people. And that’s where his absolutism fails. At times, businesses fail to get it right. If the government is not able to come in when that happens and fix the situation– then there is never a fix.

That’s what’s going on today on the Gulf Coast. A business, British Petroleum, has created a big mess. Rand Paul, ever the absolutist, decried the Obama Administration for being anti–business, when the administration stated that the government had to keep its foot on the neck of BP to make certain that it cleans up its big mess. Dr. Paul also recently stated about a Kentucky mining accident killing two miners that maybe it wasn’t the fault of the company, but rather just an accident. Coming out in defense of BP and big business, which Rand Paul did, in today’s generally anti-big business climate– think Wall Street, banks, coal mining companies, and automakers to start– probably is not what the average American wants to hear.

Moreover, many times its not just an accident. Sometimes companies like West Virginia’s Massey Energy Company– the West Virginia mine that just killed 29 minors last month– purposefully skirt the rules to increase profits. See Holly Rosencranz’s article on recent congressional findings at:

Massey Energy Co., is an example of a corporation acting in the interests of the corporation and against the interests of the individual: increasing profit by shorting safety concerns putting miner’s lives at risk. I wonder what Rand Paul would think of corporate responsibility with respect to Massey Energy’s coal mines in West Virginia?

Which is why Republican power brokers have started trying to walk Rand back from his statements. Cancel the Meet the Press interview. Limiting his interview requests. But listening to Dr. Paul, it doesn’t sound like he will be able to step away from his belief that corporations, on the whole, will not do wrong and should never be regulated by the government. Although that viewpoint may not help his adversary in Kentucky’s November election, it is outside mainstream American opinion. Although government may not be good and at times even bad– it is still necessary. The belief that its not– means anarchy, corporate or otherwise.

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