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Wednesday, June 02, 2010
John Stossel has a great piece this week on the topic of racism and the Civil Rights Act.
This controversy started when Rand Paul, who had just won a senatorial primary, told TV talker Rachel Maddow that the part of the Civil Rights Act that bans discrimination by private business is improper interference with property owners' rights. He, too, condemned racism.

But the chattering class's reaction to Paul's statements must have made him uncomfortable. The next day, he issued a statement saying that he would have voted for the entire act because federal intervention was needed.

Maybe. At the time, racism was so pervasive that such an intrusive law may have been a good thing. But, as a libertarian, I say: Individuals should be surrounded by a sphere of privacy where government does not intrude. Part of the Civil Rights Act violates freedom of association.
America's fundamental political philosophy has deteriorated quite a bit if we can't distinguish between government and private conduct. I enthusiastically support the parts of the civil rights act that struck down Jim Crow laws, which required segregation in government facilities, mass transit, and sometimes in private restaurants and hotels. Jim Crow was evil. It had no place in America.

Racist policies in private restaurants are also evil, but they do not involve force. Government is force, so it should not be used to combat nonviolent racism on private property, even property open to the public.

I just don't trust government to decide what discrimination is acceptable. Its clumsy fist cannot deter private nonviolent racism without stomping on the rights of individuals. Today, because of government antidiscrimination policy, all-women gyms are sued and forced to admit men, a gay softball team is told it may not reject bisexuals and a Christian wedding photographer is fined thousands of dollars for refusing to take photos of a homosexual wedding.

I'll say it again: Racial discrimination is bad. But we have ways besides government to end it. The free market often punishes racists. Today, a business that doesn't hire blacks loses customers and good employees. It will atrophy, while its more inclusive competitors thrive.

In the pre-1964 South, things were different. But even then, private forces worked against bigotry. White owners of railroads and streetcars objected to mandated segregation. Historian Jennifer Roback writes that in 1902 the Mobile Light and Railroad Company "flat out refused to enforce" Mobile, Alabama's segregation law.

In cities throughout the South, beginning in 1960, student-led sit-ins and boycotts peacefully shamed businesses into desegregating whites-only lunch counters. Those voluntary actions were the first steps in changing a rancid culture. If anything, Washington jumped on a bandwagon that was already rolling.

It wasn't free markets in the South that perpetuated racism. It was government colluding with private individuals (some in the KKK) to intimidate those who would have integrated. {emphasis added}

It was private action that started challenging the racists, and it was succeeding -- four years before the Civil Rights Act passed.

Government is a blunt instrument of violence that one day might do something you like but the next day will do something you abhor. Better to leave things to us -- people -- acting together privately.


Chris A said...

This Rand Paul thing just proves to what lengths the establishment duopoly will go to squash any real political alternative. Of course, they're going to pull out all the stops. And when you play the race card, you're pulling out the biggest weapon you have - particularly in the South. The Democrats will certainly try to keep this alive and use it to energize the black vote.

This latest controversy was initiated on the left, but before that it was a concerted effort from both the left and the right. The establishment Republicans desperately went after him before Maddow took a swipe at him. Grayson, Paul's neocon opponent, could have stolen the election if he wasn't so obviously far behind. This is because, as Kentucky's Secretary of State, he literally oversaw the vote count in his own election.

But what we are witnessing in U.S. politics at this moment is unprecedented as far as I know. Incumbents across the board, Republicans and Democrats, are being ousted. Arlen "magic bullet theory" Specter couldn't even save himself by switching parties.

Conditions are ripe for a major uprising in the U.S. Just as other countries have had riots related to economic instability, we too may be on the verge of something like that. The FDIC fund is broke. We are increasingly becoming a debtor nation, and no one realistically sees a way out. Of course, we could start another war, which might temporarily improve the economy, but Obama is afraid to do that because he wants to be re-elected. He's already thrown all of the real liberals under the bus and he can't afford to go that far.

People are just fed up. Most of them don't know how to identify their enemy (multinational banking interests and oligarchs that control the politicians, in my opinion), but we are teetering on the edge of something potentially catastrophic, especially considering worsening economic conditions in this country. We're heading toward, if we are not already in, a depression. The reason people are listening to guys like Rand Paul has to do with a basic understanding that drastic change is needed. Politicians, in particular incumbents, that talk the same old party line talk are going to have a hard time in places where people are feeling the crunch.

Darius said...

Yep, it's an exciting time in American politics.

On a side note, Chris, I saw a preview for a movie that might be right down your alley called The Adjustment Bureau. The premise APPEARED to be that there is this group of people who control the world and politics... not sure if it plays out that way or if it goes a different direction, but that was the implication of the preview. I thought of you immediately. :)

Chris A said...

I appreciate the heads up, although I am very pessimistic about most Hollywood movies, and probably wouldn't like it.

Here's the plot according to IMDB:

"The affair between a politician and a ballerina is affected by mysterious forces keeping the lovers apart."

By the way, I just [reluctantly] watched Invictus a couple of weeks ago. It was a solid effort, but I would have expected a little more from Eastwood. The thing that really bothered me was Freeman's accent, which struck me as very inauthentic. There was one really awkward part where a song track was put in that really didn't belong. Damon was good as usual. It was okay overall, but not something I ever plan on watching again.

Darius said...

Yeah, Invictus was a good but not great movie. Solid performance from Freeman, accent notwithstanding.

Chris A said...

Yeah, I agree. Freeman is always gonna be good. But as I was watching it, I was thinking, "They should have re-shot that scene" in places where his accent was weak. Then I was thinking that maybe there is too much respect between Eastwood and Freeman, and maybe Eastwood would only go so far. Of course, this is all conjecture, but anyway...

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When Helping Hurts: Alleviating Poverty Without Hurting the Poor. . .and Ourselves
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