Monday, June 14, 2010

The Myth of Private Enterprise

What? You want to eat at MY lunch counter?

Recently, Rand Paul, the son of Libertarian Ron Paul, won the Republican primary for Senate in Kentucky. Being a Tea Party darling, this was trumpeted as a significant event. In his acceptance speech, he said "We've come to take our government back." What does he mean? Who is the 'we' in this?

I'm sorry, but quite simply I think this is code for "We've come to take our country back from these non-white people."

But here's why I'm writing this piece. Rachel Maddow interviewed him after his victory, and tried repeatedly to ask him if he supported the rights of business owners to discriminate based on race. Over and over again, Rand said it was right to bar discrimination by the government, but skirted the issue of directly answering her questions. For some reason, Libertarians seem to think Freedom (yes Freedom with a capital 'F') is at risk if you tell an individual businessman he can't discriminate in his own place of business!

Here's the rub: This is all based on some sophomoric view of what constitutes 'private enterprise.' It's kind of like the old phrase "a man's home is his castle." Whatever goes on inside a private business is beyond the reach of law, beyond the dictates of society. I think on one level that sounds reasonable. After all, who doesn't like freedom? Who likes being told what to do? I know I don't like it when I'm told what to do, even it it makes sense!

But really, how can business ever be truly private? By its very nature it involves the interrelationship between people and the support of the common infrastructure. How can you run a business without the support of public safety, banking, utilities, and so on. The very fabric of public society is the lifeblood of any 'private enterprise.'

To equate the sanctity of the First Amendment with the right to bar people from your 'private business' is silly at best, and sociopathic at least.
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

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