Friday, June 15, 2012

Ron Paul's Liberty Defined 3

I have two items for my write-up today on Ron Paul's Liberty Defined: 50 Essential Issues That Affect Our Freedom.

1.  On pages 66-67, Ron Paul states:  "Our Constitution was designed to protect individual rights, and the Founders knew clearly that they wanted a republic, not a democracy, where the majority could not dictate the definition of rights of the minority.  They did a reasonably good job in writing the Constitution but yielded to the principle of democracy in compromising on the slavery issue.  The majority voted for supporting second-class citizenship for blacks, a compromise that we paid heavily for, not only in the 1860s but more than a hundred years later as well.  It would have been better if we had stayed a loose-knit confederation and not allowed the failed principles of democracy and slavery to infect the Constitution."

Ron Paul's point is that democracy is not a good thing because it allows the majority to undermine the rights of the minority.  Case in point: By majority vote, African-Americans were given second-class citizenship under the U.S. Constitution.  Paul does not state explicitly what he has in mind, but he may be thinking of such provisions as Article IV Section 2, which states that servants must be returned to their masters, or the three-fifths compromise, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person for purposes of determining the representation of states.

I don't understand what Paul means when he says "It would have been better if we had stayed a loose-knit confederation".  Is he expressing preference for the Articles of Confederation?  If so, what makes him think that would have been better for slaves?  Is it because slaves presumably could flee to free states, without having to be returned? Later in the book, there is a chapter on slavery, so I'll see what Ron Paul says there.  In any case, it's refreshing to read Ron Paul, an adamant defender of the Constitution, acknowledging that the Constitution is a human document that contains flaws.

Another question: If the Constitution protects individual rights, does that imply that the federal government has the authority to restrict the state governments from violating those rights?  And would that not mean that (contra Rick Santorum) the federal government can overturn a state law that bans contraception, treating it as a violation of the right to privacy?  One could argue that the right to privacy had nothing to do with contraception, but rather pertains to banning unreasonable searches and seizures (Amendment 4 to the Bill of Rights).  Perhaps the answer hinges on what the un-enumerated rights mentioned in Amendment 9 to the Bill of Rights could be.

See the discussion on The West Wing about the right to privacy here.

(UPDATE: On pages 123-124, Paul says that the Bill of Rights was originally intended to restrain the federal government.)

2.  On pages 74-75, Paul says regarding anti-discrimination laws (which he supports when they prohibit the government from discriminating, but opposes when it comes to private interests discriminating):

"The idea here is that if people are left to their own devices, they will always and everywhere choose homogeneity in their social associations.  I can't imagine a stranger view of the human condition.  To me it demonstrates that the supporters of antidiscrimination have an extremely low view of people and their choices."

I myself am skeptical about human nature.  I think that there are many people who mean well, but there are also prejudices that lock the door of opportunity to people who are different.  Consequently, I support anti-discrimination legislation.

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