I’ve been sporadically using Zite for the iPad to get a taste of related web-content in a way that Flipboard didn’t provide. Now that may or may not mean anything to you, but it did lead me to this piece by Jason Easley catching Ron Paul on Fox News Sunday regarding his position on federal sexual harassment laws. From the transcript (the usual – my emphasis in bold):
WALLACE: Let me just interrupt, I’m sorry but we have limited time and we want to get to the other two candidates as well. I want to ask you about one other thing that you wrote back in your book in 1987 about sexual harassment in the workplace.
You wrote this, “Why don’t” — this is about the victims of sexual harassment. “Why don’t they quit once the so-called harassment starts? Obviously, the morals of the harasser cannot be defended, but how can the harassee escape some responsibility for the problem?”
You said that sexual harassment should not be a violation of someone’s employment rights?
PAUL: Well, the whole thing is, is you have to get a better definition of sexual harassment. If it’s just because somebody told the joke and somebody was offended, they don’t have a right to go to the federal government and have a policeman to come in and put penalties on those individuals. I mean, they have to say, well, maybe this is not a very good environment, and they have the right to work there or not there.
But if sexual harassment involves violence as libertarians, we are very opposed to any violence. So, if there is any violence involved, you still don’t need a federal law against harassment. You just need to call the policeman and say there’s been an assault or there’s been attempted rape or something.
So, you have to separate those two out. But because people are insulted by, you know, rude behavior, I don’t think we should make a federal case out of it. I don’t think we need federal laws to deal with that and people should deal with that at home.
Except Ron Paul isn’t really asking for a “better” definition of sexual harassment, he’s simply asking for the federal government (I.e., federal law) to not be involved within the workplace as it pertains to sexual harassment – or anything else, really, for that matter. If one was truly concerned with finding a better definition then you would call for reforming the law, not abolishing the law. Paul’s response’s sometimes reminds me of adolescent retort’s – “Geez, let’s not make a federal case out of it or anything!”
To which Easley responds with (again, my emphasis in bold):
Paul has held these views on sexual harassment laws for decades, but it wasn’t until he went from a fringe player to top tier Iowa candidate that anyone bothered to do even the most basic vetting of this candidate.
What Ron Paul was saying here is that there should not be any federal laws against sexual harassment. There should not be any civil rights protections for women and some men in the workplace. In other words, sexual harassment should be legal. Rep. Paul’s statements today reflect his ideology taken to its logical conclusions. I have praised Ron Paul in the Republican debates for his consistency, but we should not mistake consistency for a rigid ideological inflexibility that promotes a decision making process where details and circumstances don’t matter. In the mind of Ron Paul, the ideology must be adhered to at all times.
It isn’t so much that it’s Ron Paul’s notion of the ideology that makes it rigid and inflexible, because it seems to me to be a key feature of the libertarian ideology itself. Whenever I hear or read a John Stossel, Andrew Napolitano, or a Ron Paul I hear a lot about the “principle of the thing.” I never hear very much about the details of the world they envision – other than to say you generally wouldn’t notice the federal government and it would be “freer.” Of course whether the reality of such a world would indeed be freer is, shall we say, all in the details.
So perhaps in that regard Ron Paul isn’t all that unique as a champion of liberty so much as a rote denier of the federal government’s involvement in anything. In that way his appeal crosses many ideological boundaries – everyone has something they’d like the federal government to stop doing – but it’s important for non-libertarians to understand that his sentiment is also directed towards federal government programs and protections of law they approve of as well.