Monday, March 16, 2009

States' Rights and Ayn Rand

There are times that reading Rand really frustrates me. And then I come across something where she was "so right" that I go "Wow!" One of my pet peeves has been the invocation of the concept of state's rights as an excuse for local government to oppress people in ways that are forbidden to the federal government. I don't believe that government, at any level, has the right to act in such a manner.

Of course, some "libertarians" disagree. I use quote marks because I don't think these individuals are really all that libertarian to begin with. I believe a lot of conservatives use libertarian labels for their own purposes. I've mentioned Ron Paul, Bob Barr and Wayne Root as three prime examples. All three have used the state's right doctrine to argue for the right of states to violate the rights of individuals. Paul says it it means that there is no separation of church and state required. Barr claimed it means that the war on drugs should be fought at the state level. And Root crowed that the "state's right" theory meant he didn't have to take a libertarian position on any of those messy social freedoms that alienate conservatives from libertarians.

Here is what Rand had to say on the issue.
The constitutional concept of 'state's rights' pertains to the division of power between local and national authorities, and serves to protect the states from the Federal government: it does not grant to a state government an unlimited, arbitrary power over its citizens or the privilege of abrogating the citizens' individual rights.
At another point Miss Rand was addressing the campaign of Gov. George Wallace. Wallace was a bigot and used state's rights as the justification for denying blacks in Alabama equal rights with whites. Sounding quite similar to the candidates I've already mentioned, Wallace argued that he was against Big Government and supported the rights of the states. Rand said that Wallace was not "a defender of individual rights, but merely of state's rights—which is far, far from being the same thing. When he denounces 'Big Government,' it is not the unlimited, arbitrary power of the state that he is denouncing—and he seeks to place the same unlimited, arbitrary power in the hands of many little governments. The break-up of a big gang into a number of warring small gangs is not a return to a constitutional system nor to individual rights, nor to law and order."

As I said, Wow. That's a message I hope some libertarians figure out.

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