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Ron Paul and Local vs Federal

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Cortes Posted: Thu, Feb 23 2012 11:27 AM

I converse with a lot of intelligent and thoughtful members on another forum. Lots of them are receptive to Ron Paul but have some reservations on certain issues. Here's one post I thought that summises one big reservation that I don't think RP in his campaign has really succinctly answered:

I just can't support Paul's ideas on the front of positive liberties, the "freedoms from" and not the "freedoms to" so to speak. It seems like either through his philosophical leanings or his reluctance to utilize the federal government for any purpose whatsoever he has some positions on things that are hopelessly naive. In all of his rhetoric there seems to be this base presupposition that local governments are inherently more effective than the federal government, and the "guiding hand" ensures that no group gets left out in the cold and federal protections and anti-discrimination policies are unnecessary. His free market principles seem to extend to every aspect of his thought to the point where it yields conclusions that just appear ridiculous to me.

Like he essentially feels that the Americans with Disabilities Act is unnecessary. It's not that he feels that discrimination against the disabled is an acceptable thing, it's that he believes the impetus for a business to incorporate anti-discrimination policies should be the possibility that they might upset customers and lose money instead of a federal mandate. This just seems foolish to me. It reduces anti-discrimination policies to a mere monetary decision and then stipulates the conditions it wants in order to yield a conclusion that is ethically agreeable. It basically presumes that discrimination will ultimately hurt a business to the point where enough customers take a stand and stop supporting them and therefore, any enterprise that practices discrimination will ultimately be vanquished under the just and righteous hand of our politically and ethically savvy public. And after we have purged such villains from our society America will be a bastion of freedom and social justice that is the envy of the entire free world.

Maybe it's just because I'm a gay atheist liberal pot smoker who has spent most of his life in the Bible Belt south, but the first question that comes to my mind is

 

Quote

"Okay, but what if you happen to live in a place where most people have no respect or concern for you as a social group and therefore have no real interest in whether you are being discriminated against? Or hell, what if it even pleases them to know that groups they consider socially undesirable face much more hardship in society?"


Well, to me it seems such a society would be a lot more likely to kick whatever group they don't like to the curb than to rally against the company and fight for these people's rights. That and when this ethical issue is reduced to a financial question, it seems even less likely that the public will be concerned with accommodating individuals that need it. Shit like elevators in buildings and elevators in buildings cost money, but they make a world of difference to the people that need them. Shit like gay marriage has absolutely no effect whatsoever upon straight people but it makes a world of difference to people who aren't straight.Things like these allows individuals to have an equal place in society and surprise, out of these two rights in question the one which is instated on the federal level is valid everywhere in the country whereas the one which is determined on the local/state level isn't valid in 43 states. Considering we live in a society that tends to take the path of least resistance concerning major issues, I really think it's incredibly naive to assume that the path of least resistance is ultimately going to boil down to making the social and financial investment to ensure that "undesirables" can also have an equal share in society.

That's basically my biggest grievance with Ron Paul. It kind of sucks because I believe his economic and military policy are pretty wise. But I just hate the fact that in his rhetoric there's this constant presupposition that the only entity capable of taking away our rights is the federal government. Shit like "the government shouldn't intrude on a business owner's property rights" sounds very pleasant and nice when it's phrased in term of such a general principle but when you reduce it to real life situations it yields conclusions like "We're pretty much cool with de facto discrimination so long as the majority of people are on board with our attitudes" and that's just the thing I can't stand about his position. 

 

There is the underlying concern that local governments will become hotbeds of discrimination without a more centralized approach.

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limitgov replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 11:54 AM

IF

(you could convince people (dems) why welfare is destructive and HURTS the poor, in the end more.)

&& IF

(you could convince people (repubs) why warfare is destructive and HURTS everyone, in the end more.)

THEN

(everyone would vote for Ron Paul.)

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Mtn Dew replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 11:59 AM

Ron Paul doesn't presuppose the only entity that  can take away one's rights is the federal government. He's never said that and I don't know any libertarian that believes that. The point is that when an entity makes a bad decision it's better that it can be localized. Simply having a bigger government doesn't mean it's a more benevolent government.

Your friend isn't worried about the imposition of the will of the people on minorities, he just wants to make sure the will is the right one. That's the root issue. Look at the federal government mandating Catholics pay for abortions, sterilization and contraception. Does he have a problem with that? I'm going to make an assumption that he doesn't. So to him that's not a case of the federal government violating people's rights. But really it's no different than a state outlawing homosexuality (only in degree really, it's the same principle). At least with a state the error is kept to a much smaller region.

Besides, if you live in a place that doesnt' like you for whatever reason you're screwed anyway. Better to have a decentralized area where you can freely move to a better place than to nationalize stupidity like most people advocate.

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Cortes replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 12:04 PM

Re the abortion mandate, I'd think he'd be strongly against it.

Here's my response:

When you look at history, do you really see such entrenched opposition to minorities ever become widespread through any means other than top-down, centralized policy? Do you think attitudes in the South simply sprang up because people had negative liberties? Or that such mindset-driven legislation like say the Jim Crow Laws could not have enjoyed widespread support without the coercive authority of government (that it was instituted by state government does not excuse it; it is unwise to conflate small-government classical liberalism with support of whatever state governments accomplish simply because they aren't federal or that the federal government is the only aggressor. Something which Paul understands quite well)?

If they did, then how can the governments which are made up of the same kind of men fix these issues by removing freedom of association? If your Bible Belt town remains as evil as it did when you lived there, do you really think federal mandates did absolutely anything to 'fix' these attitudes that could not have been accomplished by local advocacy? Local politics are hopeless and fatalistic because our communities will kick the helpless 'to the curb' so we might as well trust a central authority in DC to force them to 'accommodate'? Doesn't that further divide such communities?

What is your position then on mandating Christian taxpayers to pay for abortions and contraception? Is the federal government kicking Christians to the curb here? Why not? I'd assume you'd oppose such a policy.

 

anything I'm missing here in terms of a first response?

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Mtn Dew replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 12:18 PM

Federal/local is kind of a misnomer though. Why not favor a one world government? The federal government segregated for quite a while itself. How did that end without a top down change? I don't remember Europe forcing Woodrow Wilson to integrate.

Racism and discrimination were quite popular in the North for most of its history too. How did their views change?

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Cortes replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 1:08 PM

The reponse paraphrased, comes down to this:

1.rights 'granted' from federal mandates wouldn't ever have passed in certain rural communities

2. discriminatory attitudes can arise independently of government policy (institutionalized racism). Basically, racism/discrimination on whatever basis still really comes down to people being idiots (I agree).

3. Local advocacy in such communities ends up being futile in the long run to make meaningful change due to entrenched beliefs of the majority, so despite its flaws federal mandates do end up effective to bring positive change.

 

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Eric080 replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 1:28 PM

So, hypothetical situation (assuming democracy functions as the will of the people):  If the majority dislikes you and/or doesn't care about you, they won't fight for your rights.  How does a government voted upon by the people truly solve this problem?  Discrimination can occur in a stateless society and a state-run society.  A minority can only gain their privileges when they can convince the majority to leave them alone in any political arrangement.

 

Another hypothetical situation (assuming governments can facilitate minority rights against the majority): There are also trade-offs to be had.  If a disability advocacy group was able to lobby Congress and get their parking and elevator regulations established, then large corporations can do the same.  Disability privileges can be had in a state-run society without operationally universal support, but so can unpopular war and drug criminalization and regulations that hurt competition and Congressional pet projects.

 

Not to mention everything positive to come from this arrangement comes out of the barrel of a gun.  I know people analyze everything in a consequentialist framework, but there is indeed always a transaction cost.  It's Outcome A + 300,000,000 people being extorted versus Outcome B with nobody being extorted.  It's not as simple as saying, "golly, it works!"

 

And trying to "balance" positive and negative liberty doesn't make sense to me.  If somebody has the positive right to a good parking space on what is seen as your property, then the owner of that property's negative liberty is being infringed upon.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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Mtn Dew replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 1:29 PM

The number of federal atrocities is more numerous than the stars in the night sky. I guess he just ignores those.

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Eric080 replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 1:37 PM

The problem as I see it is that what he sees as "necessary" differ from mine.  His analysis assumes that Ron Paul puts "group X not being discriminated against" above "group Y having imprisonment or death threats issued against it".  Plus, there is a good chance that companies would still have various forms of access for disabled people and things like that. There are no guarantees in anything, but I highly doubt the South would re-institutionalize racism due to all sorts of factors (them not being racist anymore, public pressure, etc.).  So in this regard, Paul can have his cake and eat it too.

 

I agree that sometimes force can bring about a result that could be beneficial to the person being forced to do something.  People can be persuaded to believe the "right" thing if they are forced to, but the question is about the legitimacy of the initial use of force to get them to do that.  I probably would never have met a lot of my friends had I not been forced to go to public school (and I realize the parents have some options, whatever!), but that doesn't mean it was a valid arrangement.

"And it may be said with strict accuracy, that the taste a man may show for absolute government bears an exact ratio to the contempt he may profess for his countrymen." - de Tocqueville
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Cortes replied on Thu, Feb 23 2012 1:48 PM

Some statements from the response:

I think the reason a lot of people are hateful is frankly just because they’re dumb as hell and a lot of times they just have these arbitrary biases that never go challenged because the social scope of their environment is incredibly narrow. And in addition, they might be surrounded by people who also don’t know any better therefore are likely to either confirm their attitudes or be suggested by them.

 

I’m saying that under specific enough circumstances [federal mandates] can be used for good things because its scope is so widespread. Many kinds of hatred are simply extensions of ignorance and are in some sense, organic and naturally occurring and they can, with no deliberation, become so widespread that they are ultimately reflected in but not instituted from widespread social policy.

 

Some of the rights people get from federal mandates never would have passed in some areas. Honestly, I can get by knowing that some people just don’t care for me, but it goes a little further than that. In some places, a lot of people would be fired from their jobs for things like their political affiliation or religion or sexual orientation or whatever if there wasn’t a law throughout the entire country saying that they’ll totally get in trouble if they do that. Yeah, this law isn’t perfect, but I would go as far as to say it’s pretty damn effective at providing protections to people who normally wouldn’t get them.

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In some places, a lot of people would be fired from their jobs for things like their political affiliation or religion or sexual orientation or whatever if there wasn't a law throughout the entire country saying that they'll totally get in trouble if they do that.

Actually, there is no federal law prohibiting discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.  It only seems like its a federal law because companies voluntarily enact their own rules against discrimination.  From wikipedia:

Many large companies already provide equal rights and benefits to their lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender employees, as measured by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) through its Corporate Equality Index. The 2011 report found that 337 large companies received a 100% rating.[25] These businesses employ a total of over 8.3 million full-time U.S. workers.[26] When the Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index was first used in 2002, 13 companies were rated 100 percent.[27]Each year, corporations send thousands of employees to the Out & Equal Regional Summit, a conference that aims to create a more inclusive work environment for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender employees.[28] There are workplace resources for how allies can create a more inclusive work environment, including programs available through PFLAG and the Out & Equal publication, Allies at Work, by David M. Hall.[29]

they said we would have an unfair fun advantage

"enough about human rights. what about whale rights?" -moondog
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Cortes replied on Sat, Feb 25 2012 3:51 PM

I'm posting more arguments from this exchange (my opponent's). For one, I find cross posting extremely valuable to these kinds of discussions. This is from the ongoing thread and is my opponent's concern as to whether the 'Bible Belt' has been in an inherently 'set-back' status in regards to social and economic policy that necessitated the allegedly superior hand of federal decision (not de jure but de facto) versus state and local :

For starters, [in Alabama] the quality and funding of public schools are extremely low and the rate of homeschooling is extremely high. In addition, basically anyone is allowed to be a homeschool instructor regardless of whether or not they have an education. And to take it further, highly questionable texts from publishers such as Bob Jones University are used for homeschooling and considered perfectly acceptable*. Economic disparity is stratified heavily across racial lines. Homosexuality (or rather, sodomy) was legally a criminal offense for as long as I lived there, as Alabama was among the 14 states that didn’t repeal such laws on the state or local level, and this law was ultimately overridden by federal mandate after Lawrence v. Texas.
In addition, their work laws provide basically no protections for discrimination. The only protections most people basically come from the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Civil Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, The Immigration Control & Reform Act, and the National Relations & Labor Act.
Considering all of this, it becomes very questionable that the problem with Alabama is that there is too much federal power and that the solution is to give the local authorities more influence. To me it looks like quite the opposite, that the local authorities have been left to their own devices for such a long time and they have fought so hard to keep all external influence out that the social, economic, and legal condition of the state has basically caused it to deteriorate under the weight of how insular it is.
In its efforts to preserve the status quo it has utterly fallen behind much of the nation in nearly every regard. Anyone who is middle class and part of the cultural majority would likely have no problem continuing with their lives if federal work protections and anti-discrimination policies disappeared, but I guarantee quite a few individuals who don’t fall into that group would find themselves out of work or perhaps unable to find housing to the point where they would have to go and live somewhere else just out of sheer necessity.

But that’s the thing, most Libertarians either believe localization will account for such problems on its own, or don’t believe these protections are good things, or they feel that these sorts of protections are good things and it’s simply regrettable that we have to forfeit them in order to get the kind of legal system we want. That’s what I disagree with. I believe reasonable work protections and anti-discrimination policies are ultimately good things. And ultimately I’m just a pragmatist in the sense that I really don’t give a damn whether these rights come from the local government or the federal government. I don’t have a complete unshaking faith in the power of the federal government and I don’t disagree that reduction is necessary in certain areas. But I don’t have any more faith that a large number of smaller governments acting in their own self-interest are necessarily going to do a better job. 

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Groucho replied on Sat, Feb 25 2012 4:53 PM

Cortes:
And ultimately I’m just a pragmatist in the sense that I really don’t give a damn whether these rights come from the local government or the federal government.

That is the fundamental error. Rights do not come to exist because the government decrees them any more than morals are legitimized by government fiat. Rights - Human Rights - are what we possess because we are human beings. To associate freely, act in self-defense, pursue our individual goals and interests in ways that do not violate these same rights of others. Governments or other groups may not respect rights - or may in fact blatantly violate them - but that does not mean the rights don't exist.

Now if your opponent is arguing from a strictly consequentialist standpoint that the force of government is a good mechanism to "ensure" people's rights are not violated, I would offer up the fact that it was entrenched anti human-rights LEGISLATION (government action) that exploited and cemented in place the culture of Jim Crow laws.

Government power must be greatly restrained to prevent it from being used to "socially engineer" society, whether toward multiculturalism or ethnocentricity, because it always boils down to special interests and coercive action against private citizens. This is to be expected, since most politicians get elected by tapping into and exploiting popular sentiment, regardless of how morally reprehensible it may be (just look at the neocons beating the drums for war and fueling anti-Muslim and anti-Arab prejudices). An unrestrained "democratic" government can perpetrate any atrocity its mouthpieces can whip the masses into wanting (or at least accepting).

An idealist is one who, on noticing that roses smell better than a cabbage, concludes that it will also make better soup. -H.L. Mencken
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Cortes replied on Sat, Feb 25 2012 10:11 PM

What resources do you all recommend I check out that focus on this issue of states' rights vs. federal power and the question of abuses of power by the state governments? Tom Woods I assume has written a great deal, but a recommendation in terms of a blog post/article would help greatly.

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