Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Rand Paul, Rights and Racism

COLUMN NOTES: I made some local readers quite irritated by bringing up Rosa Parks. One even went so far as to say it was offensive to say she was asserting her personal property rights:

I am sorry I read it. Her take on Rosa Parks is offensive in my opinion. I think Rosa Parks must have been taking a stand against racism...not asserting a 'property right'. Maybe I am wrong but that sounds crazy.

My friend Tom Knapp had this response to this column:

...Current law means that the bigot down the street will hire as many "minorities" as he absolutely has to to get by. He'll promote from within that minority employee pool just enough to not attract government attention. He won't use the n-word, but he'll make black (for example) employees feel like they're in a hostile environment. He'll accept a return from a white customer with no problem, but give a black customer trouble in the same situation.

I'd just as soon he was allowed to put a "NO BLACKS ALLOWED" sign on his front door, because he's just stupid enough to do that. And then I'd know, and he wouldn't get one thin dime of my money, and I'd damn well tell him why. Instead, I'm patronizing the SOB's business without ever knowing that he's a bigot. He's watching a big-screen TV and eating prime rib instead of listening to a transistor radio over a TV dinner because I don't have the information I needed to avoid subsidizing his prejudices.

Finally, although there have been loads of articles, columns, blogs and comments about Rand Paul's comments, I found this question, attributed to Karen De Coster a good one to ponder if you are struggling with the idea of freedom of association:

Does a black businessman have the right to refuse service to a Klan member?

HARBESON: Stay out of my personal space

By DEBBIE HARBESON Local Columnist

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Newly nominated Kentucky Republican senatorial candidate Rand Paul made comments recently that released a foaming fury of phony concerns. Paul attempted to answer a question about whether or not he supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, and in his response he made the point that private businesses should be free to make their own decisions on who they want to serve.

Almost all of the discussion in response only skimmed the surface, using fear tactics and manipulations to make people take sides. If we are going to evolve past this constant polarization, we must do what Henry Thoreau said and “strike at the root.”

The editorial section of the paper across the river opened up the opportunity to do just that. In two separate editorial pieces, the claim was made that Paul was putting “property rights” ahead of “human rights.”

“Human rights” cannot be separated from “property rights.” This is a complete distortion of a very important and basic principle underlying all of our interactions with each other. The people responsible for spreading this viewpoint are trying their best to complicate what is really a very simple principle that defines individual freedom.

At the root, it’s extremely simple: You own yourself. Your human body is your property. You cannot have any freedom if you don’t first acknowledge this property right above all else.

All rights labeled in any other way must have the concept of property rights as its core. Any other property rights are just an extension of this basic premise as each of us labor to justly acquire other property, which includes private businesses.

That’s what Rosa Parks was saying. She protested on a government-subsidized bus that was following a city-government enforced policy that denied her this most basic property right.

She wanted those bigots to know that she owns herself and they had no authority to grant other humans any property rights over their body that superseded hers. Sadly, the government system itself ignored the root principle of human freedom.

Of course, what makes people uncomfortable in this regard is that bigots also own themselves. But if humans have the right to own our own bodies, then we are morally obligated to respect the same property rights for everyone.

Besides, it’s a good thing to let bigots be bigots openly because it’s much easier to find them if they are free to discriminate. That freedom in turn gives others much more power to show we disapprove by taking action, using the freedom of association and refusing to support them. This can only happen if we know who they are and can call them out.

This means you don’t need government in order to take action against bigotry and discrimination. You don’t need government to force business owners to serve wants and needs by providing services and products to anyone who wants to voluntarily trade for them. The smart and savvy business owners will do that without any government involvement, provided the government stays out of the way.

But there are people who simply don’t want you to realize that.

Don’t fall for it when others try to complicate a basic principle. The only reason anyone tries to do this is to polarize, confuse and scare you. Polarized, confused and scared people are easier to control and manipulate.

You still have property rights over your own brain, so far at least. So exercise that right and think for yourself. Take the time to analyze any assertion about rights and private property. Start out by figuring out how it meshes with the primary principle of property rights: self-ownership.

— Sellersburg resident Debbie Harbeson believes that she owns her body. However, she does sometimes wish she had less property around her midsection.

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