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Opening Arguments

Family fight

Here we go deep into the constitutional weeds. Might be a good time for some of you to run to the refrigerator or take a bathroom break.

Rand Paul and father Ron don't  see the 14th Amendment quite the same way. They especially disagree on the amendment's chief effect of applying the Bill of Rights to state and local governments.


Many Republicans do believe that decentralization of power is the best policy, that government is more efficient, more just, and more personal when it is smaller and more local.

But Republicans also realize that there are occasions of such egregious injustice that require federal involvement, and that is precisely what the 14th Amendment and the Civil Rights Act were intended to do--protect citizens from state and local tyranny.


According to Ron Paul, “The issue in the Kelo case is the legality of the eminent domain action under Connecticut law, not federal law. Congress can and should act to prevent the federal government from seizing private property, but the fight against local eminent domain actions must take place at the local level.” As for the idea that the 14th Amendment extends the Bill of Rights to the states, Ron Paul declared, “we must reject the phony incorporation doctrine in all cases.”

As Reason magazine notes, this "is not a mere academic difference." It isn't discussed as much as it should be, but the 14th Amendment is a real dividing point in this country's history. The Bill of Rights meant one thing before its passage and something else after its passage. What was meant as a check on the federal government's power suddenly became another tool of the federal government in its gradual erosions of state and local power over the years. The rise of the federal behemoth and the trivialization of  state and local efforts began here, not with FDR's New Deal. As I think Robert Bork put it, the 14th Amendment made the 9th and 10th Amendments moot.

This is a big deal for libertarians, and the fact that Rand is straying from strict libertarian orthodoxy is a big deal, too. As a "blended" member of the right myself, I continue to be fascinated by Rand's  evolving mixture of conservatism and libertarianism. He is emerging as one of the most interesting potential presidential contenders for 2016. You never know quite where he's going to land on a particular issue, only that whatever it is will be the result of thoughtful deliberation.