Thursday, May 27, 2010


In all the verbiage spilled over the Tedious Little Peckerhead, Rand Paul of Kentucky, one of the things that pops out at me about Libertarians as a class and Puritans in general is a complete failure to recognize that living in a civilized -- or even just a civil -- society involves trade-offs.

As the poet put it:

You can't always get what you want...

People who have adapted to living in a civil society accept that as a fundamental tenet. You can't always get what you want, and there are always trade-offs -- sometimes ugly ones -- in establishing and maintaining relatively peaceful and mutually rewarding civic, social, and economic conditions.

And if you try sometime you find you get what you need...

The example that is the focus of the current controversy over Rand Paul is that of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which no one under 40 is thoroughly cognizant of on the one hand, and people over 60 still remember the struggles over it as if they were yesterday. The measure is that important to the way society in this country functions, and it took major upheavals and some very bold leadership in Washington, in the States, and at the local levels to get from where we were in matters discriminatory to where we are.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the subsequent civil rights and voting rights legislation undid the strange and twisted Apartheid state that Jim Crow legislation and long-time social custom had imposed -- and not just in the South.

It was as radical a transformation of American society as there has ever been, and its effects appear to be lasting and profound. At least so far as we know, most Americans under 40 wouldn't even dream of reverting to the Jim Crow past, not even in the Heart of Dixie. The idea is absurd to them. They've seen a couple of generations of relatively peaceful, more or less racially integrated living, and the genuine liberation of all sorts of groups, including women, from the restrictions of a straight-laced discriminatory and overtly oppressive white male privilege society.

There's no going back.

But we didn't get where we are without some pretty heavy, and to some extent catastrophic, trade-offs.

We should be discussing those trade-offs much more than we are.

Jim Crow wasn't overcome without a massive trade off. The United States is now a prison society, incarcerating and adjudicating the lives millions upon millions of Americans. Approximately one in three black men being ground up in the prison state mechanisms. Liberation for all has meant imprisonment for many.

This trade off has devastated black families.

The liberation of women from the home has come with a trade off: the stagnation of worker wages over generations. It now takes two workers -- instead of ordinarily one -- for typical households to support families in a comfortably modest lifestyle.

We could go on and on with examples of trade offs for liberation, and we should recognize that both "liberated" society and oppressive, discriminatory society involve trade-offs, and we should recognize what they are and evaluate their social, economic, and political worth.

For example, is the trade-off of living in a prison society like we do right or just or necessary in order to implement the "equal rights for all" premise that underlies civil rights legislation?

Do we have to have the Drug War, "fought" primarily against black and brown men, in order to overcome the racial fears and animosities of a shrinking middle class?

Does liberation of women require flattening and eventually reducing household living standards?

Puritans and libertarians don't accept trade-offs in their pursuit of Liberation to do what they want, when and how they want, with no regard for others if they don't choose to have such regard. They are would-be petty tyrants within their own spheres, which they would endeavor to increase as much as possible. They don't accept trade-offs; it's their way or no way. However, adopting their political, social and economic determinism would mean certain very obvious trade-offs that most rational people reject out of hand. Accepting Puritan/Libertarian "liberation" means the vast majority would be subject to outright and potentially very fierce tyranny.

The Puritan/Libertarian Motto: "I demand the Liberty to impose my Authority on you." The only way the tiny faction of Puritan/Libertarians can have their "Liberty" is by imposing their Tyranny on everyone else.

Which is their goal.

No wonder most people reject it.

On the other hand, there is not nearly enough discussion and consideration of the trade-offs that have been made in order to secure the Blessings of Liberty implicit in the concept of Equal Rights for All.

That's where social, economic and political discussion needs to go.

And I went down to the demonstration
To get my fair share of abuse
Singing, "We're gonna vent our frustration
If we don't we're gonna blow a 50-amp fuse"
Sing it to me now...

[NB: I have seen the Rolling Stones... but I have never seen... "Glee" ]

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