The Corner

Paul and the Civil Rights Act

It goes without saying that a senate campaign is not the best place to hold a seminar on Historic Issues in Libertarianism. Besides, even if I understand where he’s coming from, I think Paul was wrong (as were many conservatives, including NR, at the time). In the historical context, the Civil Rights Act was the last spasm of the Civil War. The south had frustrated the imposition of black civil rights during Reconstruction in a low-grade insurgency that successfully rumbled on into the 1960s. Black civil rights weren’t going to be vindicated any time soon, absent the application of federal power again. Yes, there was already a people’s movement that was having some success against segregation, but without the Civil Rights Act, it probably would have been decades more of repression in the South, and blacks — rightly — weren’t willing to wait, nor was the rest of the country willing to make them. I’m sympathetic to libertarianism, but it sometimes has a weakness for theoretical exercises removed from reality. Rand’s dad thinks the Civil War could have been avoided by having the federal government buy the slaves. But what if the South wasn’t selling? (Lincoln tried this approach in Delaware and it didn’t fly.) I wish Rand Paul well, and hate to see him smeared as a racist for speaking his mind on what he considers a matter of principle. But the sooner he can put this behind him, the better, and I hope with his clarifying statements today he’s done it.

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