Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Follow Up - The Right to Discriminate

The comments made by a reader regarding my most recent post, warrant a reply post, as I believe there is some fundamental confusion regarding this issue.  I am encountering similar misunderstanding in my non-line conversations as well.

The reader writes, "...but the majority of the criticism that I read did not focus on whether or not Paul is racist but on the accuracy of his statements and his understanding of history."
I am not sure what you mean by this.  When Paul said he believes that business owners have the right to discriminate, he was charged with being a racist.  That was the focus of outrage.  As I mentioned in the main post, he strongly supports most of the civil rights legislation.  Let me make this very clear, I do not like Rand Paul and the way he is handling this!  Instead of using his abundant face time on cable news shows to hammer home this one CORRECT point about private property rights, he is sheepishly backing away from his previous statements and acting just like a politician.  This strategy will likely help him get elected, but in doing so his is compromising what principles he appeared to have.  His father would educate and stick to his guns.  I defend the statements he made, not him or his candidacy for Senate.

"...I think it's important to note that he was being criticized by many members of his own party."
I guess that I haven't been clear enough about my disdain for both the Republicans and the Democrats. Republicrats, whats the difference really?  Anytime you can be distanced from either of these parties, it is a good thing.  I'll note that the republicans who were doing this are strictly playing moderate politics, fishing for that optimum number of votes. 

"but Stossel and Paul are simply wrong in believing that free markets would have eliminated problems of extreme discrimination and racism that existed in this country not too long ago."
No one is making this outrages claim.  What Stossel is trying to say is that the market would not allow for this kind widespread racial and religious discrimination in stores and restaurants specifically.  Yes, some backwater business's could succeed with ignorant policies like this, but the majority of restaurant owners who tried would be, as Tom Woods of the Mises Institute say's "boycotted and picketed out of existence within ten seconds."

"I once believed we could evolve our way up from Jim Crow, I was wrong: federal intervention was necessary"
This quote you use makes the case for libertarianism!  Jim Crow was LAWS! That's your team, the government.  Those were laws that mandated racial discrimination.  Bill Buckley was no libertarian.

And regarding the ADA, I like what Stossel says about it.  It would be perfect if every business in the land had power ramps and voice activated door handles and escalators in lieu of stairs, but as with candidates, perfect is the enemy of the good.  Which is better, those thing that I just mentioned or the untold jobs lost by the cost of the multitude of mandated insurance policies, the expensive ramps, the ever-glowing exit signs, etc?  I think a lower unemployment rate is more desirable as well as a utilitarian outcome of giving back property rights to the owners of the property.  There will be ramps.  There will be exit signs.  But not everywhere. 

I hope this clarifies some of the points I was trying to make in my previous post

For more on this, see Milton Freidman at 3:08.


  1. A few quick things:

    The point I'm making about where criticism is coming from is important because when politicians blame criticism on "the liberal establishment" it is predictable, inaccurate, and lame. I often agree with you about the slim differences between the two major parties. Let's just not pretend that this criticism belongs to a particular ideology when it is coming from multiple places. So, how do you feel about Ron Paul being a Republican?

    It did sound to me as if Stossel was making the case that free markets would have eliminated some of these problems and opened private businesses to all people. During the interview they were speaking specifically about 1964. Stossel first seems to indicate that federal intervention was necessary, but then goes on to say that the free market would have "cleaned the clocks" of businesses that did not serve all customers. Which is it? Was federal intervention necessary in 1964, or, should people have been forced to wait for free markets to open up opportunities and basic services to them? I want to understand what the libertarian position is on this.

    Yes, Jim Crow was laws, government laws, but not "my team". These were state laws. I assume this makes no difference to you, but I think it is important to note that this was an instance where the federal government was battling with state government. This leads me back to the above question--What should have been done in 1964?

    Finally, the point I made about Rand Paul and ADA is that he doesn't understand the very thing he is criticizing. In an attempt to rally people against big, bad government he brings up an example that seems to show he doesn't know what he's talking about. You don't need to defend Rand Paul, I'm just saying that a lot of the criticism I read about Rand Paul focused on him being and idiot, not a racist.

    I will add, because I think it is part of the story here that has not been discussed, that much of this criticism might also stem from Rand Paul's association with the tea party movement. While that is not directly related to his comments, his association with a movement that has had problems with overt racism in its ranks does not help.

    Thanks for your comments, and couldn't they have gotten Milton a taller chair?

  2. They should have just made Milton sit on the ground and the interviewer could have sat in one of those thrones that line refs in tennis use. That would have accentuated his diminutive stature a little more.

    There has been nearly wall to wall coverage of Rand Paul the kitten killer on MSNBC, with Rachel Maddow and the geek Keith Olberman relentlessly badgering him. It is played to say, but I think this is kind of the "liberal media."

    Ron Paul(R)TX, or Ron Paul(Anarcho Capitalist)TX, or Ron Paul(Intellectual Giant of the Austrian School of Economics)TX. My point is this: which one of these titles is going to allow you a seat in congress? a spot at a nationally broadcast presidential debate? He is a classical republican, kind of in the vein of ol' Thomas Jefferson, the Renaissance man.

    Most importantly, regarding the topic of these posts, you wrote your original reply "...eliminated problems of extreme discrimination and racism..." That is why I said outrageous. Unfortunately nothing will ever eliminate discrimination and racism, and if anyone claimed that free markets could do this they would be wrong. As you said now, they would have eliminated some of it, even most, but certainly not all.

    As far a the libertarian position on this, I'll cite myself from this post: "...the market would not allow for this kind widespread racial and religious discrimination in stores and restaurants specifically. Yes, some backwater business's could succeed with ignorant policies like this, but the majority of restaurant owners who tried would be, as Tom Woods of the Mises Institute say's, "boycotted and picketed out of existence within ten seconds." Think of the hero Martin Luther King Jr. and his immensely effective brand of non-violent protest. Again, the small part of the civil rights legislation that made it illegal for business owner to discriminate is wrong. It is PRIVATE PROPERTY, and therefore, up to the owners discretion who can enter the doors.

    Yes, I think it was a good that the federal government made the public places (buses, schools, hospitals,) public by eliminating Jim Crow laws, but it was indeed another failure of a democratic governmental system that made those laws in the first place.

    Thank you very much for your thoughtful comments and time.

  3. Gardner, you are very very internally consistent. You never waiver from your basic premises and you always take your argument to the logical conclusion that stems from those premises.

    I think, though, that sometimes we have to judge ideas on their usefulness and outcomes. If the idea that the state should under no circumstance meddle in private property leads you to a situation where this is the argument you are making, then maybe you should reevaluate your premises. I don't think that the pain and anger and unimaginable humiliation that must have been felt by african Americans who were barred from private establishments could possibly be worth maintaining the consistency of your stance.

    I finally commented on your post where you explain that it all comes down to private property. I'd be interested to hear your response. I want to know how you can argue that a system of belief based on protecting private property could possibly not favor those with more property over those with less. I think that this case is a good example.

  4. Madeleine,

    I appreciate the comment on consistency. Its one of my goals during all of this.

    Walter Williams, professor of economics at George Mason University writes:

    "If places of public accommodation were free to racially discriminate, how much racial discrimination would there be? In answering that question, we should acknowledge that just because a person is free to do something, it doesn’t follow that he will find it in his interest to do so."

    Read the great short article here---

    My point in using this quote is that I know that there would be some business's that choose to discriminate based on race, sex, religion, etc, but the majority of private business owners would find it in their best interest economically, as well as socially to serve all. As I mentioned before, with the non-violent tactics employed by MLK Jr. and the heroic civil rights protesters, ignorant, racist business owners would be subjugated to the fringes.

    Granted, these are places of public accommodation, but they are still private property. Should there be a law that allows anyone into my home because I sell books over the internet from my living room?

    From both a utilitarian as well as natural rights perspective, the libertarian solution is the best for all, in this case.

  5. I often wonder if such rigid adherence to a way of thinking and focus on consistency can hamper ones ability to react to certain situations and deal with issues. Part of what I was getting at in my last post, was that there seems to be an indication by Stossel that, yes, federal intervention was necessary in 1964 to make basic services available to people (in both public places and places of public accommodation). He advocates for eliminating that provision now, but acknowledges that it may have been necessary in 1964. I think there's certainly a case to be made that the provision is necessary.

    I just came across a response that is worth reading--a bit lengthy, but some points made that are very much in line with some of Madeleine's response.

    I'm sure you'll be put off by some of it (as others are put off by Rand Paul).