Writer: Ron Paul had it coming because he’s a libertarian

Many, at least in the United States, know of the recent attack on Kentucky Senator Rand Paul by a neighbor, an assault that left Rand with six broken ribs.

Attacks on sitting U.S. Congressmen being relatively rare and generally frowned upon, the mugging, by Paul’s neighbor, retired doctor Rene Boucher, has generated considerable coverage. Initially there was speculation that the incident, which occurred while Paul was riding on a lawn mower with noise-canceling headphones, was political in nature.

It now appears that Boucher’s blindside blitz was personal in nature, though it’s not entire clear why the doctor took it upon himself to tackle Paul.

However, more than one pundit has waddled into the fray by stating that Paul’s libertarian stance was not only the casus belli, but a justifiable excuse.

USA Today wrote that Paul was the neighborhood’s problem child because “he has a strong belief in property rights.”

A writer for GQ magazine opined that Paul was “an asshole neighbor” because he “bought a house in a neighborhood that has certain rules with regard to lawns, and he decided that he doesn’t need to follow those rules because of his belief in ‘property rights’ that don’t actually exist.”

This, the writer explained, is the problem with libertarianism: “Libertarians don’t want to follow the rules that we as a society have agreed upon, because they feel those rules step on their freedoms.” Alas, if only John Locke and John Stuart Mill, proponents of libertarian views, had been able to subscribe to GQ they might have seen the error of their ways.

Best of all, though, was Elie Mystal of the website Above the Law, which claims to provide a behind-the-scenes look at the world of law and original commentary on breaking legal developments. Mystal is no novice to the legal world, having earned a Juris Doctor from Harvard Law School after receiving a bachelor’s degree in government studies from Harvard, and he later worked as a litigator before entering the media world.

It would be safe to say that Mystal isn’t a fan of libertarianism:

“The thing everybody knows about Rand Paul is that he’s a libertarian and ‘libertarian’ always sounds like a fine legal and political theory to people who haven’t thought deeply about how to live with others,” he wrote. “‘You can do what you want and I can do what I want and, so long as we’re not hurting anybody, the government can do nothing.’ It’s … cute, as theories of social interactions go. It’s not a workable basis for law and governance.”

Libertarianism isn’t a workable basis for law and governance because … Elie Mystal said so.

Mystal goes on to demonstrate that earning a J.D. apparently requires little in the way of logical-thinking skills:

“Rand Paul’s broken ribs prove the weakness of libertarianism. According to reports, Rand Paul likes to grow pumpkins on his property. You might like pumpkins, but to some people, pumpkins are kind of big and ugly and, stinky. A slightly past harvest pumpkin patch smells the worst.”

“Reports also indicate that Paul makes his own compost (also stinky) and ‘has little interest for neighborhood regulations.’ This, my friends, is what libertarianism looks like in practice. I’ll grow what I want, put trash where I want, and maintain my space however I want, and you can’t do anything about it. FREEDOM!

Yes, that’s right, libertarians embrace a political philosophy with liberty at its core so that they can flout homeowners’ association regulations regarding pumpkin growing and composting. Stickin’ it to the Man every which way they can!

(Not to break Mystal’s path of incoherency, but it should be noted that Paul and Boucher, while neighbors, live more than an acre from one another, so we’re not talking about two individuals who shared a duplex for the past 17 years.)

Then the great unhinging begins to kick into high gear. From reckless pumpkin growing and composting, it’s a small leap to cowardice and misuse of power, in Mystal’s view:

Libertarians only want the heavy hand of ‘government’ involved when things get tough. When things get physical, libertarians will run to your nearest law enforcement officer and demand that something be done.

But libertarians also think they can stand on the very edge of their property and bother you however they deem fit, and then expect you to be restrained in your reaction by the government and … that’s just not how society works. You can only needle a man so long before he tries to break your face, legal technicalities be damned. Libertarianism is the social and political philosophy of instigating conflict without suffering the consequences of their own conduct. It works well enough on paper, but in real life it’s going to inspire otherwise decent people to tackle you off your lawnmower and try to break all of your ribs.

Yes, I’m victim-blaming. Yes, I’m saying Rand Paul was “asking for it,” over these past 17 years.

After all that, though, Mystal never indicates if he even knows Paul personally. His rantings seem based solely on a dislike of libertarianism and Paul, without any apparent genuine understanding of the senator, the issues in this incident or of libertarianism in general.

My guess is that his dislike of the latter philosophy probably stems from an incident long ago, perhaps during his time in the Harvard dorms, when perhaps a fellow student, likely with an interest in libertarianism, dared to commit some egregious act such as leaving pizza boxes in the dorm hallway and then reacted poorly to Mystal’s despotic attempts to rule the roost (read: calling in everyone from the resident assistant to the dean of diversity affairs).

Mystal’s logic: One slob with an interest in libertarianism years proved displeasing; therefore, in Mystal’s eyes, all libertarians are jackleg reprobates.

If the logic displayed in Mystal’s commentary is in any way reflective of the general mindset of 21st century U.S. jurisprudence, we might as well return to trial by ordeal. The results are pretty much the same, but the latter is a whole lot less sanctimonious.

9 thoughts on “Writer: Ron Paul had it coming because he’s a libertarian

  1. With law students demanding trigger warnings before attending lectures on the law relating to sexual assault nothing could now surprise me.

    In my time the sniggerings of the then Lord Chancellor…Lord Hailsham, otherwise known as Hailsham Hogg from his family name and his disposition, in a pivotal rape case concerning the nature of consent and knowledge of such were regarded as vulgarity. It was not an excuse to break his ribs…delightful though that exercise would have been.

    I was once upbraided by a neighbour for growing rhubarb in my front garden….it let down the tone of the area. I explained that it was, in fact, gunnera, but that did not lighten my offence so the next year I grew proper rhubarb as well. I suppose that makes me a libertarian…

    • The constant bleating for a return to a sustainable lifestyle, “shrinking” one’s carbon footprint and all the other foolishness I see being spouted all too regularly is apparently good and well for those pushing, as long as they don’t have to take part in it or witness it. In the subdivision where I own a house, you can’t have a close line to dry your laundry and you can’t grow corn, among the many rules and regulations drafted by the local homeowners association. Too unsightly, one supposes. I can understand that it’s probably not ideal to have a rooster crowing away in a residential neighborhood at all hours of the day and night, but when tyrants in the making are going after gardens perhaps it’s time to reassess how much authority we want in our lives.

      • Amazing how the eco warriors will jump on a ‘plane at a moment’s notice to go to a conference half way across the world but grizzle at people who use a ‘plane to take their family on holiday….

        I remember Leo buying a house in Harrow in the Hill…then a posh area of North London. We, of course, had clothes out to dry on the line in the garden and received a letter from the residents of an nearby block of flats to the effect that we could do no such thing.
        Leo had great delight in telling them that while they…as leaseholders…were bound by the terms of their lease, thus no clotheslines…or, as I recall, keeping of pigs or setting up a tannery business…he, as a freeholder, could do as he jolly well pleased.
        And we had chickens…and a cockerel…and were able to advise fellow freeholders, Ugandan Asians fleeing Idi Amin,, that they too could keep said chickens and cockerels…

      • You probably could have heated the neighborhood with the steam coming from their ears after he trumped them with that!

        The only group more bent on petty despotism than the board of a homeowners association is that of a local school board. One would think the entire lot were attempting to compensate for a great deal of shortcomings.

      • If you did not like or agree with the HOA rules, then why did you buy a home in that neighborhood? Plenty of places without HOA’s you could have moved.

      • A fair point, Walter. However, often the HOA rules aren’t something that home buyers consider when purchasing a house. I now have my home on the market, though not because of my displeasure with HOA restrictions.

        I understand that HOA guidelines tend to be rooted in good theory, but the fact is they sometimes end up with unanticipated consequences for those subject to them.

  2. SOME of the HOAs and master-planned communities like The Woodlands in Texas are notorious for breeding neighborhood Nazis who will come after you if you painted your front door a color that is not kosher for that particular neighborhood. Back in the eighties a guy made a media splash when he managed to hoist his bass boat on top of his roof to draw attention to how ridiculous some of the rules and the Enforcers were. (The HOA forgot to forbid boats on rooftops.) Texas Monthly gave him a runner-up Texan of the Year Award.

    • I realized that HOA neighborhoods were not my thing when I left my canoe on the wrong side of my backyard fence for half a day, and got a note in my mail a couple of days later informing me that I had been in violation of the rules in doing so. I understand that having a front yard full of vehicles up on cider blocks may be an issue for many people, but when you apparently have folks driving around looking for issues – aka neighborhood Nazis – then I realized that HOAs probably weren’t a good fit for me.

      Bully for the Bass Boater! I’d have left it up there year round and changed out scenes with the seasons: Put Santa in there during Christmas, a big rabbit during Easter, etc. The whole HOA crew would have had seizures.

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