Thursday, May 20, 2010


Here's Andrew Sullivan critiquing Rand Paul's take on the Civil Rights Act:

... Paul's entirely abstract intellectual argument wrests pure principles out of an actual society, with actual historical atrocities, violence, oppression and contempt. That's why I cannot be a libertarian the way some others like Paul are. I do not believe you can reify an abstraction like liberty and separate it from the context - historical, cultural, moral - in which it lives and breathes and from which it emerged. I can believe in freedom and believe in equality of opportunity but I should be mature enough to see when there has to be a compromise between the two - and decide....

This is what makes the tea-party movement un-conservative. It is dealing with the world as it would like it to be, not as it is. It has an almost adolescent ideal it cannot compromise.

But that's not really true, is it? Most tea party types and libertarians are all too willing to compromise their abstract lib/tea principles -- when doing so suits their purposes. Rand Paul is an advocate of small government, as is his father, but they're both willing to suspend that smaller-is-better thinking and advocate a very intrusive government on the subject of abortion. Rank-and-file teabaggers, for their part, hate expensive government social programs and "socialized medicine," but God forbid you should take away their Social Security and Medicare.

Libertarians and teabaggers are idealistic and pure on issues that matter to the rest of us. If we want to reduce the ranks of the uninsured and underinsured, or want to use Keynesian stimulus to try to stave off a depression, or simply want it to be possible to pass non-teabag legislation that's supported by a duly elected president and a clear majority of duly elected legislators, that's when the purism kicks in. It's not there all the time. It's only there when we have the temerity to assert a conflicting set of principles.

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