PAUL VS. PAUL… Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas), for all of his faults, tends to be a pretty consistent Libertarian. He has a specific worldview — one I happen to find hopelessly misguided — but Paul generally tends to be intellectually honest enough to stick to that worldview.
With that in mind, it was heartening, though not necessarily surprising, to see Ron Paul issue a fairly strong condemnation of his allies for their ugly demagoguery related to the proposed Park51 community center.
The debate should have provided the conservative defenders of property rights with a perfect example of how the right to own property also protects the 1st Amendment rights of assembly and religion by supporting the building of the mosque.
Instead, we hear lip service given to the property rights position while demanding that the need to be “sensitive” requires an all-out assault on the building of a mosque, several blocks from “ground zero.”
Paul didn’t hold back. He argues that the debate itself was initiated by neocons, exploiting anti-Muslim bigotry and manipulating the public through propaganda. He notes the polls showing opposition to the community center, but insists that “majorities can become oppressors of minority rights as well as individual dictators. Statistics of support is irrelevant when it comes to the purpose of government in a free society — protecting liberty.”
The uproar, Paul concludes, “is all about hate and Islamaphobia.”
From a Libertarian perspective, this makes perfect sense. We are, after all, talking about a private real-estate transaction between the owners of a former clothing store and those hoping to build a community center. As far as Libertarian adherents are concerned, the notion of political officials intervening, demanding that a religious group build a private facility five blocks away from Ground Zero instead of two-and-a-half away, is absurd.
What’s interesting, though, is that Ron Paul’s essay is specifically at odds with Rand Paul’s political rhetoric in Kentucky. While the elder takes a principled stand in support of American ideas, the younger, running a bizarre Senate campaign, is doing precisely the things his father finds offensive.
Just last week, Rand Paul’s campaign said the community center’s construction would run counter to “the healing process.” In fact, while some on the right want Park51 moved elsewhere, Rand Paul has suggested the facility shouldn’t be built at all — his campaign said all of the money that would construct the building should instead go a 9/11 memorial and/or victims’ families.
In context, the father doesn’t have to worry about re-election, while the son has to exploit anti-Muslim animus to win a competitive Senate campaign in a different state. But the lesson here is nevertheless interesting — Rand Paul not only has a radical worldview, he has a radical worldview that he doesn’t fully understand. Despite all the Ayn Rand novels and speeches to fringe groups, these concepts shouldn’t be hard for the right-wing ophthalmologist to understand. He’s either confused about his own principles, or he’s cast them aside in the hopes of winning an election.
Rand Paul’s beliefs are troublesome; his intellectual inconsistencies are worse.