When Rand Paul was running against Trey Grayson for the Republican nomination for the US Senate, his opponent had the support of the Senate Minority Leader, Mitch McConnell, as well as that of the rest of the Kentucky Republican establishment. When polls consistently revealed that Paul was likely to win, his opponent claimed that it was unfair that Paul got to be on Fox News so often, and that his lead may be exaggerated because much of his support may not have registered to vote. Unfortunately for Grayson and his patrons, he was decimated by Paul in the election.

Then Paul went on a national cable television program the following day and said that he didn’t believe that the federal government had the authority under the constitution to coerce private businesses that had virtually no connection to interstate commerce to abide by its restrictions against discrimination based upon race. Well, predictably, Paul was met with derision by Democrats and Republicans alike, as well as their acolytes throughout the media.

One of the more amusing attacks was that Paul was in favor of Jim Crow laws. For those under the age of 60, Jim Crow laws were those in many Southern states that MANDATED separate services based upon race in the private sector. Libertarians don’t, to my knowledge, agree with this. They find these laws even more abhorrent than the Civil Rights Law of 1964 was, since it did not permit business to serve customers.

Let’s see if I get this right. Paul claims that the government does not have the power to regulate any private business that somehow, even obliquely, relates to interstate commerce. That is apparently completely out of bounds to say. But earlier this year, when the Health Care Reform bill passed, a number of Republican state Attorney Generals immediately said that they were filing cases that this law over-extended federal authority to affect commerce. Well, maybe I’m naïve, but I just don’t see how a neighborhood restaurant has more to do with interstate commerce than does a hospital, which gets much of its funding from either Medicare or Medicaid. So either the Attorney Generals are wasting our tax dollars on a lawsuit which they know is trivial, or there are actually bounds to the feds ability to constrain private businesses.

Another interesting line of attack was that Paul, who opposed one section of the Law, was therefore racist. What Paul and other libertarians actually argue is that if a business owner chooses to discriminate, the rest of us will be so reviled that we will choose to shop elsewhere, either driving him out of business or forcing him to change his policies. This is not an arcane political theory. It is based upon the premise that people teach their kids that all people deserve a level of dignity, regardless of race. Paul’s parents taught him; my parents taught me; I don’t need government to remind me of this. When government tried this instead of parents, all it did was teach people that they don’t need to develop their own moral center; government would do it for them.