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Ron Paul, Racism, and Federalism:

As co-blogger David Bernstein discusses here, Ron Paul's statement on racism claims that "it is the federal government that most divides us by race, class, religion, and gender." As I have argued in great detail here, the federal government's record on racism is not as good and that of the states not as bad as is often supposed. For much of American history, the federal government facilitated rather than combatted slavery and (later) Jim Crow. For example by imposing southern-style segregation in the District of Columbia, the one part of the US where the federal government enjoyed virtually unlimited lawmaking authority even before the New Deal. Prior to the modern civil rights movement, blacks probably benefitted from federalism in so far as it permitted northern and western states to pursue more liberal racial policies than Congress would likely have imposed had it enjoyed the same degree of control nationwide as it did in DC. As I have discussed in various articles (e.g. - here and here), federalism enabled many southern blacks to "vote with their feet" and move to relatively less hostile jurisdictions.

Nevertheless, Paul's claim that the feds are principally responsible for racism and racial division cannot possibly be sustained. It was, after all, state governments that took the lead in defending slavery, segregation, and other forms of discrimination against blacks and (in the Western states) Asian-Americans.

As David notes, Paul's statement on racism mostly targets modern affirmative action and racial preferences, while ignoring traditional racism against minorities. Even these policies, however, are much more common at the state and local than the federal level. Most government-created affirmative action preferences involve state and local government contracting or admissions policies at state universities. I don't agree with Paul's implication that these programs are as bad or worse than traditional Jim Crow-style discrimination against minority groups. But to the extent that they do cause racial division and other harms, state governments are primarily to blame.

The inescapable truth here is that combatting government-imposed racial discrimination often requires federal intrusion on the autonomy of state and local governments. Recognizing this is in no way inconsistent with libertarianism, a political philosophy in which the allocation of power between different levels of government is a purely instrumental value. It does, however, seem to be a blind spot for Ron Paul and his campaign.

UPDATE: It is only fair to note that, to my knowledge, Ron Paul is the sole candidate in either party to denounce the harm done to inner city African-Americans by the War on Drugs, the federal government policy that has probably done more damage to minority communities than any other over the last several decades. I don't think that the War on Drugs is inherently racist, but it certainly has been prosecuted with almost criminal indifference to the welfare of low-income minorities.

Mr L (mail):
I think Paul's a kook, but it's blatantly obvious that his bit on racism refers to it in the modern sense. Do we have 'Jim Crow-style discrimination' today? And at no time in that link does he ever imply that AA is worse than Jim Crow. Your entire post is a gigantic non-sequitur.
11.23.2007 11:56am
Justin (mail):
I agree with all of this, including (especially?) the update. I won't be supporting Ron Paul, but ending the war on drugs would do more to help disadvantaged minorities than all the affirmative action policies in America combined.
11.23.2007 11:57am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
And how exactly will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities other than reducing their incarceration rates? How is legalizing highly addictive and devastating drugs and making their sale legal going to help any one except the big drug companies that will profit off the addictions of poor people. At least under current circumstances some of the money stays in the neighborhood and provides a source of income and jobs.

Ilya is just taking one kook's abhorrent views on race relations to reaffirm his on equally kooky views on what ails this country.
11.23.2007 12:07pm
Jacob (mail):
If Ilya omitted him as too much of a fringe candidate, I'd understand, but I'm pretty sure Gravel has attacked the War on Drugs for the same reason.
11.23.2007 12:10pm
Billy Beck (www):
<i>"...libertarianism, a political philosophy in which the allocation of power between different levels of government is a purely instrumental value."</i>

{blink}

What the hell did he say?

Who in the world taught this person that bloody rot?
11.23.2007 12:40pm
Gino:
I don't think the issue is central to his campaign or the source of his support. It seems a poor issue to direct your attention to. I'd rather hear your thoughts on hard currency (an issue I wouldn't care less about if it died in a tragic fire) than this mess.
11.23.2007 12:48pm
Law Student (mail):
Why does everything have to be turned into an issue of race? The man holds certain political positions, if you agree with them great, if not, don't vote for him. But there is no need to smear the man as a racist. I realize that this post was targeted at misstatements made in his statement on race, but my point is that he should not have to make such statements to begin with.
11.23.2007 12:57pm
David Rogers (mail) (www):
The Ron Paul statement on racism is "it is the federal government that most divides us by race, class, religion, and gender." (Emphasis added.) The present tense here is essential to understanding the statement, and criticisms of the statement that ignore that present tense miss the point. To the degree that state and private institutions emulate the federal government's systematic programs of racial exclusion and preferences, they do so because the increasingly leviathan federal state intrudes into every aspect of hiring, firing, promotions, admissions, retention, etc. in all sizeable institutions. In fact, today it is the federal government that divides us most by race. Of course, the moving force of much of this is Jesse Jackson's Democratic Party, but Bush Republicans have put up no substantial resistance. W., of course, is notorious for refusing to even meet with Ward Connerly, the leading advocate of ending these divisive federally-sanctioned race mandates.

The entire "racist" smokescreen is nonsense put forth by people opposed to Paul for other reasons. Don't like Paul's proposal to eliminate the IRS? Don't like his proposal to reduce foreign aid? Don't like his uncompromising position on gun rights? Just smear Paul as a racist, and you won't have to deal with any of the substantive (and popular) Paul positions. My recollection is that liberals have tried this on every Republican of any consequence for the last forty years (including, ironically, W.) It was B.S. then, and its B.S. now.
11.23.2007 1:15pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Ron Paul says:

"A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities."

Anyone who has experienced "diversity training" and has any ability to think beyond slogans will appreciate the truth of this statement. One is literally forced through institutional coercion to sit through a propaganda barrage about the perversity of men, white people and the United States. While it's bad enough to make adult employees sit through a re-education session, it's far worse to attempt to bully and humiliate young people who are generally less equipped to deal with this sort of thing.
11.23.2007 1:31pm
ChrisO (mail):
Kucinich also is against the drug war.
11.23.2007 1:41pm
Steve2:
Professor Somin, how many decades back are you beginning "the last several"? There's several other candidates for what federal program did the most damage to low-income and minority communities if "last several decades" is allowed to go back to the 70s or earlier, with Urban Renewal being the one that was likely most deliberate. Well, FHA/HUD redlining too, but that started in the 30s.
11.23.2007 1:43pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
"A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities."

Yeah right. All those anti-miscegnation laws (which in most cases defined "colored" as having a "single drop" of non-white blood) and blatantly racist immigration laws had nothing to do with being obsessed with racial group identities.

Of course, the moving force of much of this is Jesse Jackson's Democratic Party

So is "Jesse Jackson's Democratic Party" distinct from the regular Democratic Party? Does it have one member like Joe Lieberman's "Independent Democratic Party"?

To make a blatantly racist statement like this (implying that the Democratic Party is controlled by a cabal headed by Jesse Jackson) and then contend that it is the federal government that most divides us by race is either brilliant satire at the level of Jonathon Swift or some of the sweetest irony ever written.
11.23.2007 1:55pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
One is literally forced through institutional coercion to sit through a propaganda barrage about the perversity of men, white people and the United States.

I defy you to present any corporate, institutional, or government diversity training curriculum (and I have sat through many) that come close to what you describe. You have one huge chip on your shoulder.
11.23.2007 1:58pm
Thoughtful (mail):
First, in the antebellum south, one of the key laws that maintained the institution of slavery as long as it did, was the Fugative Slave law, which of course was supported and enforced on a federal level. This is why many anti-slavery libertarians supported the NORTH seceding from the SOUTH, so that fugative slaves could head north to freedom, not in Canada, but to closer Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. So federal rules played a large role in the maintenance of slavery prior to the Civil War (see Hummel, "Freeing Slaves, Enslaving Free Men").

Second, I'm not sure what Iyla, as a libertarian, expects of Paul. It is a FACT, from a libertarian perspective, that individuals are entitled to engage in peaceful voluntary interactions (like selling to some and not to others) that are morally abhorrent. Given that a libertarian politician cannot urge such actions be made illegal, and given that the only power libertarians running from office have is to explain their political stands, what exactly does Ilya expect Paul to say?

It is the RARE politician that returns campaign funds, if legally obtained, no matter what the source, unless the political embarassment becomes too high. Given Paul's poll numbers, the most likely way for him to return funds contributed by racists is to have more non-racists support his decidedly non-racist campaign. I wonder how much Ilya and David have contributed? (Ilya: if the amount Stormfront contributed is only $500, perhaps the simplest thing for you to do is to tell Paul that you'll contribute a matching $500 but only if he returns Stormfront money. His response should make it clear to you whether he is racist or sympathetic to racist causes. And it only costs you, a dedicated libertarian who finds much worthwhile in Paul's campaign, a mere $500 to find out (and only if Paul is non-racist, at that). Heck, maybe David, another dedicated libertarian, will go halfsies with you.
11.23.2007 2:03pm
Ilya Somin:
But there is no need to smear the man as a racist.

I never said that Paul is a racist, much less "smeared" him as such. I merely pointed out that Paul's view of the relationship between racism and the federal government is flawed.
11.23.2007 2:08pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
It is a FACT, from a libertarian perspective, that individuals are entitled to engage in peaceful voluntary interactions (like selling to some and not to others) that are morally abhorrent.

Which is why libertarianism itself is morally abhorrent.
11.23.2007 2:11pm
Ilya Somin:
The Ron Paul statement on racism is "it is the federal government that most divides us by race, class, religion, and gender." (Emphasis added.) The present tense here is essential to understanding the statement, and criticisms of the statement that ignore that present tense miss the point.

The start of Paul's statement - which claims that the federal government has corrupted the previous tradition of "rugged individualism" on racial issues - implies that his argument applies to the past as well. Moreover, as I pointed out in the post, state and local governments pursue more race-based policies than the feds do even in the present.

To the degree that state and private institutions emulate the federal government's systematic programs of racial exclusion and preferences, they do so because the increasingly leviathan federal state intrudes into every aspect of hiring, firing, promotions, admissions, retention, etc. in all sizeable institutions.

Not true, or at least far from completely true. There are many state and local affirmative action policies that are in no way the result of federal pressure. Indeed, many proceed in the face of efforts by federal courts and the federal Justice Department to stop them.
11.23.2007 2:13pm
Ilya Somin:
There's several other candidates for what federal program did the most damage to low-income and minority communities if "last several decades" is allowed to go back to the 70s or earlier, with Urban Renewal being the one that was likely most deliberate. Well, FHA/HUD redlining too, but that started in the 30s.

I meant roughly the last 30 years or so. The programs you list also harmed poor blacks severely (I have written about the harms of urban renewal policy in several articles). However, these programs were largely over by the early 1970s.
11.23.2007 2:15pm
Technomaget (mail):
Calling someone a "kook" is a lot easier than having to actually think.
11.23.2007 2:18pm
frankcross (mail):
It is ridiculous to claim that federal programs drive state and private affirmative action. Speaking from an business school, private industry is seriously chafing at Title VII, specifically because it precludes affirmative action programs they want to adopt. State programs vary widely but there are certainly states (and many, many municipalities) that go well beyond federal affirmative action and chafe at constitutional limitations.

The claim that the "federal state" is forcing racial preferences is seriously oblivious to the real world.
11.23.2007 2:18pm
Abdul (mail):
Yes, Great post! That Ron Paul Nazi sympathizer has got to go. What in the hell does he think he is doing? The wars MUST go on forever. Wars are the health of the state and good for the economy. Who cares that US occupations cost tax payers a trillion dollars a year. Americans are just going to have to make sacrifices and give up all of their rights if they are to remain free. We can NEVER sleep as long as there is even one islamofacist diaperhead still alive. Kill'em all! Let's turn the entire middle east into nothing but a sheet of glass. Get this, Paul actually wants to shrink the size of government. Ha ha ha! The bigger the better I say. Ron Paul is so out of touch with reality. Imagine, he wants to abolish the Fed to bring back sound money. A greatly devalued dollar makes products cheaper here at home, only imports will cost more. So what if all of the USA's manufacturing has all been exported overseas. There are still have lots of domestic products they can still buy, right? Electing Ron Paul is just a bad idea all the way around. I mean, for crying out loud, he is not even a CFR member. Only CFR member are allowed do be US presidents (don't you idiots know anything?). So vote for any other candidate EXCEPT Ron Paul, our new president MUST have the right credentials. Get this, Ron Paul is only supported by the little people (useless eaters) and won't even take contributions from special interests. One cannot win the presidency with chump change. If Ron Paul ever hopes to get elected he had better open up the coffers to the industrialized military complex and special interest groups to raise hundreds of millions of dollars. Lastly, we must do whatever we have to do to keep this constitutional nut-job from getting any more popular than he is. As our hero G.W. Bush has said, "Stop throwing the constitution in my face, it's nothing but a goddamn piece of paper." Now, we all know that we cannot smear Ron Paul himself (too clean for that), so let's go after his supporters and paint them all as white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and conspiracy theorists. Again, congratulations on the great Ron Paul smear job. Keep up the wonderful work. If we continue to all work hard together, we can stop freedom, liberty and prosperity dead in its tracks. Death to the USA! Up with the NWO!
11.23.2007 2:19pm
Technomaget (mail):
Allowing people to freely make voluntary but immoral actions is not immoral. It is moral because it allows people to determine what is immoral and make mistakes, as long as they don't intrude on the rights of others.

Libertarianism moves the decision making process from the collective to the individual. It is far more dangerous for the government to be immoral than it for a single individual.
11.23.2007 2:23pm
Steve2:

I meant roughly the last 30 years or so. The programs you list also harmed poor blacks severely (I have written about the harms of urban renewal policy in several articles). However, these programs were largely over by the early 1970s.


Gotcha.
11.23.2007 2:23pm
NH (mail):
Wow you spend so much time trying to figure out if Ron Paul is a racist. For crying out loud, it's like you have an agenda. The government causes racism by passing special laws to protect special groups. They are the cause of all troubles.
11.23.2007 2:24pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
I meant roughly the last 30 years or so. The programs you list also harmed poor blacks severely (I have written about the harms of urban renewal policy in several articles). However, these programs were largely over by the early 1970s.

Gee, and I always thought the interstate highway program which encouraged the subarbanization of the country and allowed white flight is what did the most damage, not urban renewal or social programs, to minorities in the city.

Oh and btw redlining, blockbusting and other underhanded means to empty neighborhoods of white residents and deprive minorities of affordable home ownership options was carried out mostly by private banks, realtors and landlords, those paragons of capitalism that are supposed to be above racism and driven by the cold logic of the marketplace. But of course that harsh reality just doesn't correspond with Ilya's (or Ron Paul's) utopian vision of an America of racial harmony and social equality screwed up by the interfering hand of incompetent government.
11.23.2007 2:28pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
It is moral because it allows people to determine what is immoral and make mistakes, as long as they don't intrude on the rights of others.

Well if I can't find a hotel room, drive on your private road (remember they will all be private in your libertarian paradise), be treated in your emergency room, or live in your neighborhood because of the color of my skin or my accent, then you are intruding on the rights of others.
11.23.2007 2:33pm
Ilya Somin:
Wow you spend so much time trying to figure out if Ron Paul is a racist.

I didn't spend ANY time "trying to figure out if Ron Paul is a racist." I'm pretty sure that he isn't one. The post is devoted to analyzing whether his view of the relationship between racism and federalism is sound. One can be badly wrong about that issue without being a racist. I thought that the distinction between claiming that someone has a flawed position on racial issues and claiming that he is a racist is obvious. But evidently - to some - it isn't.
11.23.2007 2:33pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
And how exactly will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities other than reducing their incarceration rates?
Yes, and other than the aqueducts, what have the Romans ever done for us?

Okay, other than eliminating violence in their communities, and reducing their incarceration rates, and the aqueducts, how will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities?

Okay, other than not taking all the adult males out of a community, eliminating violence in their communities, and reducing their incarceration rates, and the aqueducts, how will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities?

Okay, other than ensuring that any substances people choose to take are unadulterated, not taking all the adult males out of a community, eliminating violence in their communities, and reducing their incarceration rates, and the aqueducts, how will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities?

Okay, other than not giving the police an excuse to harass people who aren't harming anyone, ensuring that any substances people choose to take are unadulterated, not taking all the adult males out of a community, eliminating violence in their communities, and reducing their incarceration rates, and the aqueducts, how will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities?
11.23.2007 2:37pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Okay, other than not giving the police an excuse to harass people who aren't harming anyone, ensuring that any substances people choose to take are unadulterated, not taking all the adult males out of a community, eliminating violence in their communities, and reducing their incarceration rates, and the aqueducts, how will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities?

It's not going to solve the problems of homelessness, addiction, lack of education, unemployment, and as I mentioned above, it will actually increase poverty because there will be less jobs available in the neighborhood (because some of the only and most lucrative jobs around--those with drug dealers--will disappear). In fact it will make all those problems worse. Whether crime will drop is a dubious proposition since it is not like legalizing drugs will improve the economy in these neighborhoods. Crime will still be a major source of income--drug dealing will just disappear as the major crime and be replaced by some other crime. And of course since libertarians don't believe in government intervention or aid and the new, legal drug dealers have no interest in getting their customers off drugs, nobody is going to actually going to discourage drug use in these communities

Haven't any of you learned anything from watching 'The Wire'?
11.23.2007 2:48pm
Technomaget (mail):
"Well if I can't find a hotel room, drive on your private road (remember they will all be private in your libertarian paradise), be treated in your emergency room, or live in your neighborhood because of the color of my skin or my accent, then you are intruding on the rights of others."

No one can stop you from living where you want to live as long as someone sells you a house. And on my private road, I would want you to drive because I am motivated by profit.

Your assumption implies that if we give people the freedom to choose, they will be racist, not interested in making money and have no compassion. This is your conception of my "libertarian paradise", not mine. And if you run into someone who doesn't want to give you a hotel room because of your color or accent, do you really want that room? I wouldn't.

When you are born, you don't have any claim on other people. It is through voluntary interaction and trade that people benefit from each other.
11.23.2007 2:52pm
gattsuru (mail) (www):
To be more precise, how will reducing incarceration rates and having even more boatloads of stoned/heroin-addicted/crack-addicted individuals in either inner cities or the suburbs actually help reduce a society where individuals don't get the training necessary for a job with a reasonable income, women are taught that the cheapest and easiest way to get paid is to have a couple of children out of wedlock, and whenever anything goes wrong it's not only acceptable but expected to blame white people, while police still have a thousand other simple excuses to harass people who aren't harming anyone, doing nothing to prevent people from taking cheaper adulterated drugs, and still leaving people to be as violent as before?
11.23.2007 2:56pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
J.F. Thomas:

"I defy you to present any corporate, institutional, or government diversity training curriculum (and I have sat through many) that come close to what you describe. You have one huge chip on your shoulder."

I'm glad you asked that question. Let's look at the University of Delaware diversity training for its residence halls. Let's note at the outset that despite the university's statement the attendance was mandatory. Thanks to the FIRE organization we have the internal documents and session reports that the university administration did its best to suppress, but failed—t he cat's out of the bag. You can download the Office of Residence Life Diversity Facilitation Training document here. It says things like:

"A RACIST: A racist is one who is both privileged and socialized on the basis of race by a white supremacist (racist) system. The term applies to all white people (i.e., people of European descent) living in the United States, regardless of class, gender, religion, culture or sexuality."

"REVERSE RACISM: A term created and used by white people to deny their white privilege."

"A NON-RACIST: A non-term. The term was created by whites to deny responsibility for systemic racism, to maintain an aura of innocence in the face of racial oppression, and to shift responsibility for that oppression from whites to people of color (called "blaming the victim")."

The following document shows the kind of intrusive humiliating questions students were forced to answer. One student stood her ground against the inquisition. It makes interesting reading. Here are a few excerpts:

* When were you first made aware of your race?
* When was a time when you confronted someone regarding an issue of diversity? What was the confrontation about? If you haven't, why not?

Is the UD case simply an example of a rogue university? Not at all. My own daughter was subjected to similar statements in high school, college, and had to undergo diversity training as a new associate at a large international law firm. She reports similar experiences.

Now I realize that on Planet Thomas these things don't happen. But please come visit us here on earth.
11.23.2007 3:03pm
MarkField (mail):

in the antebellum south, one of the key laws that maintained the institution of slavery as long as it did, was the Fugative Slave law, which of course was supported and enforced on a federal level. This is why many anti-slavery libertarians supported the NORTH seceding from the SOUTH, so that fugative slaves could head north to freedom, not in Canada, but to closer Ohio, Pennsylvania, etc. So federal rules played a large role in the maintenance of slavery prior to the Civil War (see Hummel, "Freeing Slaves, Enslaving Free Men").


This is arrant nonsense. The federal Fugitive Slave laws had, at most, a trivial impact on preserving slavery. They were difficult to enforce for a variety of reasons (it was hard to identify the runaway slave; northerners didn't cooperate with them), and the lack of enforcement was a principal "grievance" regularly proclaimed by Southern apologists. The 1850 Act was so unpopular in the North that it was a contributing factor in the runup to the Civil War. Far from supporting slavery, the last Fugitive Law seriously undermined it.

As for "anti-slavery libertarians", perhaps you could identify one. In the US, that is; John Stuart Mill doesn't count.
11.23.2007 3:04pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
No one can stop you from living where you want to live as long as someone sells you a house.

Well that's where you are wrong. Ever hear of a restrictive covenant? They are commonly used in subdivisions nowadays to force you to paint your house a certain color, keep your lawn mowed or your garage door closed. They used to be used to prohibit the sale of property to blacks, Jews or other minorities and bind anyone who bought the property. The Civil Rights act invalidated them for that purpose throughout the country. In your perfect world they could once again be used for that purpose.

And if you run into someone who doesn't want to give you a hotel room because of your color or accent, do you really want that room?

Actually, I like forcing racists to treat all customers with grudging respect and not being able to refuse to serve them. Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been a black man in Alabama in 1960 or so knowing that obtaining a hotel room after a long day's drive would have been nearly impossible? Or as a coworker who grew up in Mississippi once told me, his grandfather was 65 years old and still addressed as "boy".
11.23.2007 3:06pm
Justin (mail):
I've heard a couple of liberals recently make JF Thomas's arguments related to the drug war reducing job opportunities for the poor (most recently at a diner in Baltimore) and let me say that I am baffled. This is hardly a USEFUL economic production in the lower class - and certainly the organized crime (and yes, the drugs themselves) sort of cancel each other out. It isn't like inner city Baltimore drug dealers are exporting to Towson or Columbia.

And while I agree with JFT's point that ending the drug wars will be a panacea for inner city minorities, it certainly will help them more than affirmative action, which tends to escape them entirely - the large majority of beneficiaries of affirmative action are middle and upper class minorities. This is one of the reason that, while I think AA is constitutional, I'm not enthralled with it as a matter of public policy.
11.23.2007 3:10pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
It's not going to solve the problems of homelessness, addiction, lack of education, unemployment,
You're right. After all, incarcerating people and sticking them with permanent criminal records in no way impacts their ability to secure jobs or pursue an education. And neither of these things has any effect on poverty or homelessness. Or crime.

And violent crime has no effect on the economy of a neighborhood. It doesn't discourage people from running a business, nor does it encourage people who are economically successful to leave the area, thus leaving only those who are poor and poor role models.

Keep thinking those deep thoughts, JFT.
11.23.2007 3:10pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: No one can stop you from living where you want to live as long as someone sells you a house.

JF: Well that's where you are wrong. Ever hear of a restrictive covenant? They are commonly used in subdivisions nowadays to force you to paint your house a certain color, keep your lawn mowed or your garage door closed. They used to be used to prohibit the sale of property to blacks, Jews or other minorities and bind anyone who bought the property. The Civil Rights act invalidated them for that purpose throughout the country. In your perfect world they could once again be used for that purpose.

Give me a break. This would not occur in my world because they are a coercive measure violating my rights.

Tech: And if you run into someone who doesn't want to give you a hotel room because of your color or accent, do you really want that room?

JF: Actually, I like forcing racists to treat all customers with grudging respect and not being able to refuse to serve them. Can you imagine what it must have been like to have been a black man in Alabama in 1960 or so knowing that obtaining a hotel room after a long day's drive would have been nearly impossible? Or as a coworker who grew up in Mississippi once told me, his grandfather was 65 years old and still addressed as "boy".

Tech: If it's my hotel room, it is my property and my right to serve whomever I want to serve. You wouldn't suggest that I have a right to invade your house without your permission so why would you think it is ok for me to come into your hotel without your permission.

In today's world, racism is bad for business in terms of profits and in terms of public relations. Violating people's rights because you don't like what they think creates antagonism and conflict. It is through education and voluntary discussion that productive change occurs.
11.23.2007 3:19pm
Deep Thoughts:
I like forcing racists to treat all customers with grudging respect and not being able to refuse to serve them.

And I like forcing trolls named JFT to pick cotton without wages, but provide them with crude shelter and food instead. Ahh, but it's slavery to use the law to force a man work for another against his will, you say.
11.23.2007 3:19pm
rho (www):
How boring it is to have a large body of writings and speeches that define a candidates positions on a variety of subjects. Everybody can pick and sort through the voluminous opinions and find something they don't like and trumpet it as The Main Reason Why I Can't Support This Candidate. Five or ten minutes, tops, is all it takes to find something that puckers your bottom.

How much more exciting it is if you only have wishy-washy, say-nothing talking-points from established candidates. Big-mouthed pundits can then fill in the blanks with their own guesses and prejudices, hitching their rhetorical wagon to whoever is leading in the polls so they can be associated with winners. You can argue for months on who's better, Clinton or Giuliani. What do either of these people plan to do in office? You don't know. Nobody knows. That's what makes it fun! And profitable for people who run their mouth for a living!

This is, I think, what they mean when they say "Ron Paul can't win, of course."
11.23.2007 3:20pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
As for "anti-slavery libertarians", perhaps you could identify one. In the US, that is; John Stuart Mill doesn't count.
Lysander Spooner.
11.23.2007 3:21pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Your assumption implies that if we give people the freedom to choose, they will be racist, not interested in making money and have no compassion.

Your assumption seems to be that people were racist, not interested in making money and had no compassion during the era of Jim Crow because the government made them that way. A completely ridiculous assertion of course.
11.23.2007 3:24pm
Billy Beck (www):
Robert LeFevre is another. So is Frank Chodorov. And John Hospers. Tibor Machan.

This is not a difficult challenge, and the person who posed it is ignorant.
11.23.2007 3:28pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: Your assumption implies that if we give people the freedom to choose, they will be racist, not interested in making money and have no compassion.

JF: Your assumption seems to be that people were racist, not interested in making money and had no compassion during the era of Jim Crow because the government made them that way. A completely ridiculous assertion of course

Tech: I made no such assumption. It's bad enough that people were racist but it is even worse when racism is backed by the force of the law. That is what must be eliminated. Eliminating racism in the minds of people cannot be done by force but can only be done by pursuation.
11.23.2007 3:34pm
justme:
I can't tell if the frequent Ron Paul posts at VC are: 1. An attempt to boost Fred Thompson by consistently criticizing one of the few other real conservatives running (Paul); or 2. for kicks, since these posts seem to attract so many comments.

Either way, it's obvious that VC and PJ Media have their candidate and they're doing what they can to undermine Paul's support. I suspect, it would be a very different GOP if Paul were to win -- and many folks wouldn't have the access to the party they once had.
11.23.2007 3:37pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Ever hear of a restrictive covenant? They are commonly used in subdivisions nowadays to force you to paint your house a certain color, keep your lawn mowed or your garage door closed. They used to be used to prohibit the sale of property to blacks, Jews or other minorities and bind anyone who bought the property. The Civil Rights act invalidated them for that purpose throughout the country.
Not to nitpick on minor points when you make so many major errors, but Shelly vs. Kraemer effectively invalidated them in 1948.
11.23.2007 3:43pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Your assumption seems to be that people were racist, not interested in making money and had no compassion during the era of Jim Crow because the government made them that way. A completely ridiculous assertion of course.
The government didn't make people that way, but did help enable them to be that way. Discrimination imposes costs in terms of efficiency compared to non-discrimination -- unless the government forces competitors to discriminate also. It also helps if the government actively or passively collaborates in violence against those who don't discriminate.
11.23.2007 3:50pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
If it's my hotel room, it is my property and my right to serve whomever I want to serve. You wouldn't suggest that I have a right to invade your house without your permission so why would you think it is ok for me to come into your hotel without your permission.

Well, I don't hold my house open to the general public do I? And if you refuse to rent a room based on their race, you will most certainly be asking for legal recognition of your right to discriminate because at some point you will ask for either civil or criminal sanctions against that uppity person who just refuses to leave when you tell him you don't rent rooms to blacks.

Give me a break. This would not occur in my world because they are a coercive measure violating my rights.

Gee, by that measure, any contract is a "coercive measure" violating your rights. I could say that it is a violation of my rights that a Porsche 911 doesn't cost $20,000 and scream discrimination because the dealer won't sell it to me for that price.

Sheesh. I think Janice Joplin had a song on just that topic.
11.23.2007 3:55pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
Shelly vs. Kraemer effectively invalidated them in 1948.

Learn something new every day.
11.23.2007 4:01pm
MarkField (mail):

Lysander Spooner.


I've always considered Spooner an anarchist rather than a libertarian. But fair enough. However, the original claim was that there were libertarians who supported the North seceeding from the South, and my challenge was to identify someone who held that position (though I didn't make that clear enough). Spooner doesn't count; he (correctly in my view, and nobly in any case) took the position that the Constitution was NOT a pro-slavery document. Of course, he then supported the South's right to secede. Win some, lose some.
11.23.2007 4:42pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: If it's my hotel room, it is my property and my right to serve whomever I want to serve. You wouldn't suggest that I have a right to invade your house without your permission so why would you think it is ok for me to come into your hotel without your permission.

JF: Well, I don't hold my house open to the general public do I? And if you refuse to rent a room based on their race, you will most certainly be asking for legal recognition of your right to discriminate because at some point you will ask for either civil or criminal sanctions against that uppity person who just refuses to leave when you tell him you don't rent rooms to blacks.

Tech: Holding your hotel open to the general public doesn't mean you give up your right to refuse who comes on your property. You do have a right to discriminate on your property because it is yours, not the publics nor the governments. There are no additional laws necessary than the protection of your property rights whether it is your home or your place of business.

Tech: Give me a break. This would not occur in my world because they are a coercive measure violating my rights.

JF: Gee, by that measure, any contract is a "coercive measure" violating your rights. I could say that it is a violation of my rights that a Porsche 911 doesn't cost $20,000 and scream discrimination because the dealer won't sell it to me for that price.

Tech: Huh? A contract is a voluntary agreement between two individuals. There is no coercion involved. There is only coercion involved when one person forces the other to do something they don't want to do.
11.23.2007 5:16pm
Thoughtful (mail):
MarkField says he's always considered Spooner an anarchist rather than a libertarian. Yet there are many libertarian anarchists. One blogs for VC and was heavily influenced by Spooner. And while I agree that Spooner argued (and, I agree, correctly) that the Constitution was NOT a pro-slavery document, it is also the case he argued, as a practical manner, that if the North seceded from the South it would make the fugative slave act void on the north and make it easier for the slaves to escape.

Further, Spooner didn't write in a vaccuum. Most of his audience, and many of his critics, were libertarian. In fact, MF's original question is backwards? "Name an anti-salvery libertarian before the Civil War?" All of them. It was a defining characteristic of libertarians before the Civil War. The debate was over what tactics would most quickly lead to the end of slavery. Or does Field think that Americans in the first half of the 19th century that opposed slavery were also arguing for high taxes, engaging in foreign wars, dramatic increases in government regulation, etc? In fact, most anti-slavery advocates of the time were strong proponents of natural rights. It was their key argument against slavery. It is the fundamental principle of libertarianism.
11.23.2007 5:27pm
Kazinski:
Ilya is plain wrong when he says the war on drugs decimated minority neighborhoods. Compared to what? Decriminalizing drugs and letting users free to use their drug of choice without the harassment and fear of incarceration? Well that experiment has been tried in Vancouver BC, with these results:

There's good reason for the despair that hangs over Vancouver's Downtown Eastside...Researchers have found that the 6,000 to 10,000 heroin addicts who inhabit this pocket of poverty have the developed world's highest rate of HIV transmission - 18.6 per cent. Translation: If 1,000 addicts are free of HIV, 186 of them will contract the AIDS- related virus within 12 months."

M. Cernetig, Globe and Mail, Oct 8, 97.

11.23.2007 5:33pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Gee, Kazinski, maybe if Vancouver decriminalized NEEDLES as well as heroin the results might be different...(but, to be honest, K, they really didn't decriminalize heroin, did they? There was no market distribution of heroin in Vancouver like there is market distribution of alcohol here after Phohibition ended, was there?)
11.23.2007 6:06pm
What Would President Somin Do?:
Still waiting to hear what Ilya thinks an IDEAL libertarian Presidential candidate would say when asked about his position on laws prohibiting invidious discrimination...Does Somin disagree with Goldwater on this issue?
11.23.2007 6:10pm
Thoughtful (mail):
It is a FACT, from a libertarian perspective, that individuals are entitled to engage in peaceful voluntary interactions (like selling to some and not to others) that are morally abhorrent.

Which is why libertarianism itself is morally abhorrent.

------------

So it seems that JF Thomas is in favor of making all morally abhorrent actions illegal. He is therefore in favor of criminalizing (or re-criminalizing):

Sex outside of marriage
Homosexuality
Not honoring your father or mother
Not praying to Mecca
Eating Pork
Masterbating

Or perhaps Thomas merely wants to make illegal those actions HE PERSONALLY finds morally abhorrent...
11.23.2007 6:17pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
There is only coercion involved when one person forces the other to do something they don't want to do.

Well then why is a restrictive covenant coercive? You have freely entered into a contract to buy a house that restricts your right to sell the house to whomever you please at some later date. If you don't like the terms of the contract, you don't have to enter into it. Just like you don't have to buy a house in a neighborhood that has binding covenants in the deed that require you to keep your grass a certain length or keep your garage door closed. But to claim it is coercive because you don't like its terms is silly.
11.23.2007 6:20pm
Brian K (mail):
Or perhaps Thomas merely wants to make illegal those actions HE PERSONALLY finds morally abhorrent...

Isn't that essentially the position taken by everyone who bases an argument on morality? I certainly can't think of any universal held moral position of the top of my head.
11.23.2007 6:26pm
Technomaget (mail):
Well then why is a restrictive covenant coercive? You have freely entered into a contract to buy a house that restricts your right to sell the house to whomever you please at some later date. If you don't like the terms of the contract, you don't have to enter into it. Just like you don't have to buy a house in a neighborhood that has binding covenants in the deed that require you to keep your grass a certain length or keep your garage door closed. But to claim it is coercive because you don't like its terms is silly.

Tech: I didn't know what this was, but since you described it to me, this is not coercive because it is a voluntary contract.
11.23.2007 6:30pm
Technomaget (mail):
There is only one moral concept we need to agree on, and that is that no one may initiate the use of force against another. This is the only condition necessary for a free society.
11.23.2007 6:36pm
MarkField (mail):

In fact, MF's original question is backwards? "Name an anti-salvery libertarian before the Civil War?" All of them. It was a defining characteristic of libertarians before the Civil War.


Again, my challenge (poorly phrased, I admit) was to name a libertarian who supported secession by the North on anti-slavery grounds.

That said, I think you're being pretty selective in your identification of "libertarians". A great many supporters of the Democratic party, including many in the South, could fairly be described as "libertarian". They not only didn't oppose slavery, they strongly supported it.
11.23.2007 6:43pm
MarkField (mail):

Or does Field think that Americans in the first half of the 19th century that opposed slavery were also arguing for high taxes, engaging in foreign wars, dramatic increases in government regulation, etc?


Sorry, missed this the first time. I'm not sure any political group has ever favored high taxes per se. That aside, a great many "libertarians" (again, more broadly defined) strongly supported the Mexican War.
11.23.2007 6:46pm
Brian K (mail):
no one may initiate the use of force against another

so military intervention in darfur would be immoral? both iraq wars are/were immoral? self defense is immoral? use of force to protect property is immoral?
11.23.2007 6:50pm
Kazinski:
Thoughtful,
Your point about not decriminalizing the distribution system would be valid if the problems the Vancouver Lower Eastside were dealing with were violence from drug dealers or high incarceration rates for the dealers. That is not the case, and the problems Vancouver was dealing with are the symtamatic of a high supply and endemic usage.

On "Welfare Wednesdays", the day welfare checks arrive, ambulances would be prepositioned in high risk neighborhoods to deal with the number of expected overdoses. That is not a distribution problem.
11.23.2007 6:52pm
Mark Bahner (www):
And how exactly will ending the war on drugs help disadvantaged minorities other than reducing their incarceration rates? How is legalizing highly addictive and devastating drugs and making their sale legal going to help any one except the big drug companies that will profit off the addictions of poor people.


It's remarkable to me how many people think that presidents are kings! (Is it because presidents have been allowed to behave that way?)

Ron Paul would in no way "legaliz(e) highly addictive drugs." Even if there were zero federal laws against "highly addictive drugs," that would would not make them legal. There still could be (and would be!) state laws against those drugs.

The Constitution gives no authority to the federal government to reach within states to make drugs illegal. THAT'S the problem Ron Paul (and no other candidate of either party!) would address.

Ron Paul would not address any state laws against drugs. It's not his job. He would be a president, not a governor or a king.
11.23.2007 7:02pm
AnonLawStudent:
Brian K,

My understanding of libertarian theory is that the purpose of government is to serve as a collective protection of rights, so that individuals need not soldier forth in a state of nature. Military action between nation states can be viewed in at least two ways. A pure libertarian would argue that use of military force other than in self defense is coercive, and thus immoral. If one takes the state of nature view, national interests are sufficient justification. Humanitarian interventions also raise a problems with coercion of the troops because neither self-defense nor national interests are involved.
11.23.2007 7:07pm
Mark Bahner (www):
At least under current circumstances some of the money stays in the neighborhood and provides a source of income and jobs.


This is a joke, right? It's good to have drugs illegal (and high-priced and dangerously impure), and people thrown in federal prisons for their physical problems, because "at least under current circumstances some of the money stays in the neighborhood and provides a source of income and jobs"?

The jobs being drug dealers and enforcers?
11.23.2007 7:20pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: no one may initiate the use of force against another

Brian K: so military intervention in darfur would be immoral? both iraq wars are/were immoral? self defense is immoral? use of force to protect property is immoral?

I said "initiate" the use of force. No for Darfur since you are defending people whose rights have been violated (even though they are not Americans). That doesn't mean we should intervene of course. As for the Iraq Wars, I don't see how they are moral at all. Killing lots people to protect a tyrannical regime and our oil supplies is not very moral. Self-defense is moral.
11.23.2007 7:27pm
Mark Bahner (www):
"so military intervention in darfur would be immoral?"

Well, it certainly would be illegal. There's nothing in the Constitution that authorizes the President to use the military except for national defense. And without a Congressional declaration of war.
11.23.2007 7:29pm
Thoughtful (mail):
I agree with Mark against Techno. The government is an institution, in theory, of limited powers, designed to perform certain functions and not others. Proving X is immoral or rights violating MAY be an argument against the government doing X, but proving X is NOT right violating is only step one in proving the government may properly do X. It is morally proper and not right violating for you to donate money to the poor; it does not follow that libertarians think there is nothing wrong with government giving (tax) money to the poor. It's simply not the government's function to redistribute income via a coercive tax system.

Eo ipso, proving that people's rights are being violated in Darfur means that you can individually morally choose to fight against this in Darfur (as opposed to choosing to, say, join the Soviet secret police in the 1930s). But it doesn't follow the US government is entitled to send American soldiers to fight in Darfur. It is simply not a function of the American government to police the world and right all wrongs. (This, I take it, is precisely Paul's point. Not that everything would be hunky-dorey if the US didn't intervene, but that we should learn how to live in a world where we only intervene when our way of life is TRULY at stake, not every time FOX News commentators tell us our way of life is at stake...)
11.23.2007 7:59pm
Mark Bahner (www):
I agree with Mark against Techno.


As far as I know, my comment wasn't in conflict with anyone's comments, because I didn't addressed morality.

The job of a president is to enforce U.S. laws, most importantly the Constitution. In fact, that is the ONLY pledge they make in their oath of office: "...to preserve protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States."

So regardless of what the morality of a particular situation is, a president should follow the law (e.g., the Constitution). If he or she can't do that because of some sense of morality, he or she should resign.

Sending the U.S. military will almost certainly NEVER be legal, because: 1) it will be "necessary and proper" for the common defense of the U.S., and 2) Congress will NEVER declare war against the government of the Sudan. Absent both those things, a president would be violating the Constitution to send troops to Darfur.
11.23.2007 8:33pm
MarkField (mail):

It is simply not a function of the American government to police the world and right all wrongs. (This, I take it, is precisely Paul's point. Not that everything would be hunky-dorey if the US didn't intervene, but that we should learn how to live in a world where we only intervene when our way of life is TRULY at stake, not every time FOX News commentators tell us our way of life is at stake...)


I'm not a libertarian, but I'm happy to say that I entirely agree with this.
11.23.2007 8:34pm
Gary McGath (www):
Aside from the question of which parts of government have been most responsible for racism, Paul's statement is an excellent one, showing far more insight than any other candidate. He identifies racism as a form of collectivism, and states that the antidote for it is liberty. Arguing about whether he's exaggerating in attributing the major responsibility to the federal government strikes me as nitpicking in the face of those insights.
11.23.2007 8:38pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
This is a joke, right?

No worse a joke than Ilya's theoretical perfect libertarian society where I assume pure heroin (grown by dirt poor Taliban farmers in Afghanistan) would be sold in well protected drug supermarkets in poor neighborhoods. Of course the corporate managers and employees of these stores (and the benefactors of the profits) would not live in the neighborhood. And since there would be no welfare, public schools, public water or sewage system, public hospitals or clinics, subsidized housing, or any kind of government supported rehab you would have a nightmare scenario worse than even Victorian Europe (where opium addiction, alcoholism, cholera, typhus, TB, prostitution and petty crime were rampant and the cities could not maintain their populations without massive influxes of population from the countryside). Heck, since even the roads would stop receiving public funding, they would fall into disrepair and our inner cities would become a no-man's land of dirt streets, open sewers, unhealthy water, and drug addicts.

I don't know why libertarians insist that their world would be a paradise when we lived through the consequences of their policies in the nineteenth and early twentieth century. After it ended with the ruling class wiping out the working class in the carnage of WWI, we decided enough was enough.
11.23.2007 8:41pm
TCO (mail):
My impression is that Paul is not purely a Libertarian but a Constitutionalist as well. So that if the two are firmly in conflict, he will support the Constitution over Libertarianism.
11.23.2007 8:46pm
Troll Hunter:
Gee, JF...

We TRY to educate you...

We try to REeducate you...

But you're hopeless.

Come the Revolution, we will have to eliminate you...
11.23.2007 9:02pm
Mark Bahner (www):
I don't know why libertarians insist that their world would be a paradise when we lived through the consequences of their policies in the nineteenth and early twentieth century.


What country's drug policies today are more libertarian: the Netherlands or the United States?
11.23.2007 9:02pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
What country's drug policies today are more libertarian: the Netherlands or the United States?

Well, if you want to adopt the Netherlands drug policies and their social welfare programs (and their flood control policies since I live in New Orleans), not to mention their labor policies, I will not argue with you for one second. But somehow, I don't think that is the kind of society Ilya (or you) envisions.
11.23.2007 10:09pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
What country's drug policies today are more libertarian: the Netherlands or the United States?

I mean really, the best you guys can do is point to The Netherlands and Canada as examples of libertarian paradises? But then the very next day, when it is anything other than drug policy, they are socialist hellholes. Why not Somalia, Columbia of Afghanistan? Oh that's right, you did try to pass off Somalia as a libertarian paradise a couple months ago. You might want to rethink that one.
11.23.2007 10:23pm
AnonLawStudent:
JF,

A pure libertarian might, indeed, encourage total drug liberalization. Correct me if I'm wrong, but what seems to be under discussion in this thread are the possession-type offenses that result in wholesale imprisonment of large portions of the population. A Constitutionalist, as TCO designates Paul, objects to possession-type laws, not regulation of the interstate drug trade per se. Thus, one can acknowledge the power of Congress to ban the import and interstate trafficing in drugs, and the resulting social benefits, without opposing Federal bans on possession and purely intrastate dealing under the logic of Wickard and Raich.

On another note, I do think you accidentally raised one important point in your 8:41PM post. 19th century libertarians pragmatically recognized that different (for lack of a better word) social classes react to liberty in different manners. Unfortunately, the modern world doesn't consider that thought to be sufficiently polite, no matter how well grounded in reality.
11.23.2007 10:25pm
AnonLawStudent:
That should be "while opposing Federal bans on possession"
11.23.2007 10:28pm
Ken Arromdee:
And if you run into someone who doesn't want to give you a hotel room because of your color or accent, do you really want that room? I wouldn't.

This is one of the points where I disagree with libertarians.

Of course I'd want to rent a room from a racist, if the alternative is not renting a room. Renting a room from someone who hates me isn't pleasant, but it beats not being able to have one.

I've actually heard the same argument for jobs... would you really want to work for someone who hates your kind? Yes. It would be unpleasant, but it would pay for rent and food, which not working wouldn't do.

That being said, I think there is some misunderstanding of Ron Paul here. Libertarians generally assume libertarian principles as principles, and suggest strange sounding policies based on those principles. It really isn't correct to conclude "that's such a farfetched line of reasoning that nobody could really believe it; they must be making it as a post-hoc justification of racism". People do believe it--not out of racism, but out of consistency; "government shouldn't do these things" *really* means "government shouldn't do these things", no matter how good the cause is. Libertarians are no more racist by suggesting discrimination should be allowed than they are pro-drug by suggesting drugs should be legal, or the ACLU is pro-KKK by supporting the right of the KKK to march.

Mind you, I still disagree with it. But it seems to be honestly motivated.
11.23.2007 10:34pm
Ray (mail) (www):
I don't know why some people talk about libertarianism when it's obvious they don't know what it is. Is it just an urge make themselves look stupid?
JF has definitely swallowed the big paternalistic government kool aid. He's got the whole leftist revision of history down pat with all its horrors and mayhem in the dark ages of small government.
If we had a principled constitutional government, JF would be afraid to leave his house, I think he would be downright terrified of the smell of liberty.
11.23.2007 10:36pm
J. F. Thomas (mail):
JF has definitely swallowed the big paternalistic government kool aid. He's got the whole leftist revision of history down pat with all its horrors and mayhem in the dark ages of small government.

I'm sorry, but what in my portrayal of Victorian Europe was inaccurate? It is modern day libertarians who are the revisionists in trying to downplay the very real horrors of what life was like for the working classes in the cities of 19th and early 20th century Europe and the U.S.
11.23.2007 10:55pm
healtheland (mail) (www):
Black man from the Deep South chiming in here. Let me say by my own experience - and the experience of the previous generations of my family - renders the entire conservative discourse on race issues completely incompatible with anything resembling history. Let me just say that when I was fresh out of college with an electrical engineering degree, I spoke over the phone with a company that loved my transcript and resume and called me in to discuss salary terms. Not for an interview mind you, for I had the job! To discuss salary terms based on my qualifications. Then I, er, walked through the door. I made mental note of the fact that there were no other blacks in the building when I did so, but it was a matter of small import, since I was well used to "being the only black person in the room" during my educational and past work experience. What I DID notice was their refusing to allow me sufficient time to fill out my application, and being told "Not to worry about it" when it was removed from my hands. Then my "interview" consisted of them VERY POLITELY explaining to me for about an our why I REALLY didn't want to work for their company anyway. Then I was shown the door. By the way, this happened in 1999, not 1939 or something. (In 1939 the prospect of a black person even getting hired as an engineer was so remote that Carter G. Woodson wrote "The Miseducation Of The Negro" to denounce the folly of wasting a black person's time by educating him as one. Try reading his book. No, Woodson was not a Marxist, for if he were I most certainly would not be recommending it, because as a Christian I hate Marxism. I hate Marxism so much so that I did not sue that company for racial discrimination for fear that my doing so would in some way advance the cause of Marxism.)

So why has not this company that refuses to hire qualified black engineers not succumbed to the forces of the free market? Quite simply, because there are plenty of qualified white engineers for them to choose from. I know this because of the many that I work with at the company that hired me through one of the affirmative action (recruiting and training, not quotas or preferences!) programs whose existence conservatives find so objectionable.

The bottom line is that the conservative discourse on race is so intellectually and morally bankrupt that it drives off even the many blacks that would otherwise be conservative. The only reason why I lean libertarian and support Ron Paul is that I perceive the state and those that would use its power to be a bigger threat than a racist citizenry. But I am aware that I can take that position because this present day and time is so unlike that of 1939, and as such I did not waste my time by receiving an engineering education (which, incidentally, an affirmative action scholarship did help me complete ... again outreach and training not quotas or preferences, which I have never at any point in my life needed to be admitted to any college or get any job). Had I been seeking employment in or even been forced to live in the society that my father and grandfather did, I would almost certainly feel very differently. As it is, the few blacks that do support conservative and libertarian movements do so in spite the views of most members of that movement have on race and the discourse that they choose to engage in, not because of them. And that is a terrible shame, for blacks would be a useful weapon against the leviathan that is our government.
11.23.2007 11:49pm
Ray (mail) (www):
JF, Victorian Europe was nothing like it was in the U.S. It was worse in Europe, but then they had more overactive governments and decades of disastrous socialistic experiments under their belt to aggravate the problems. Both were in an industrial revolution where there was great migration to the cities. When you have that many people converging on cities, you're going to have conflict, crime and growing pains. That's life, same as it is now.
To say that the cause of all the horrors of city life were because of some kind of uncontrolled anarchy is just plain fallacy. The causes of most problems can be traced directly to politicians. Then, as it is now most are too busy fighting amongst themselves and colluding on how to divy up the stolen loot (taxes) to friends and family, it's a wonder how anything gets done to maintain public infrastructure and improve public safety.
One of the best examples of this in 19th Century America is the story of how Grover Cleveland as mayor of Buffalo, NY fixed decades of political corruption and inaction on important safety and health issues that were plaguing the city. And he saved the tax payers a load of money too.
See http://groverclevelandlibrary.org/mayor1.html
It took one honest and determined man with the backing of a fed up citizenry to defeat the filth that the political machines created.
It's no coincidence that Ron Paul is a great fan of Grover Cleveland.
11.24.2007 12:31am
Thoughtful (mail):
Healtheland:

First, thanks for sharing such a personal story with the rest of us.

Second, the company to which you refer is one I find morally repellent.

Third, it is my understanding of the economic impact of discrimination (Gary Becker's book The Economics of Discrimination is, I believe, a standard reference) that the company who didn't hire you doesn't lose out in the marketplace because there are no other qualified people to hire. As you noticed, they can hire equally qualified whites. Instead, they lose out because their racist preferences necessarily decrease the supply of acceptable candidates. Decreasing the supply, holding all other factors equal, means they have to at equilibrium pay more for the same factors. No competitive business should be able to do this over the long run and remain profitable.

(Imagine a white engineering pool of 1000 members, and an equally qualified black pool of 200. A non-racist company can hire from among 1200 candidates. A racist company with the same labor needs restricts itself to only 1000 candidates. Assuming any reasonable elasticity of labor, and the racist company ends of paying a significant fraction of standard company profits to indulge its preferences.)

Now if this is a small business run by a person or family that is willing to subsidize its own racist preferences, it may persist. But any sigificant sized company--any company one can buy and sell on the stock market, for example--should fairly quickly find economic incentives pushing racist preferences to the wayside.

Obviously, this does not justify, morally, your treatment. Nor might you feel that it is proper that you "compete" against racism by accepting a lower salary than an equally qualified white might get, but perhaps recognizing that many other minorities went through similar stages of acceptance in the last 200 years and have ended up doing quite well could take some of the sting out of it.
11.24.2007 12:46am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I'm sorry, but what in my portrayal of Victorian Europe was inaccurate?
The part about it being libertarian.
11.24.2007 2:21am
Gaius Marius:
By Somin's and Bernstein's criteria, Barry Goldwater was nothing more than a neo-Nazi and KKK sympathizer since Goldwater drew support from some members of such groups even if Goldwater never promoted such racist agendas.
11.24.2007 7:43am
Gaius Marius:
BTW, Thompson is going to throw in the towel after back to back single digit losses in Iowa and NH -- if his wife will let him.
11.24.2007 7:44am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
but then they had more overactive governments and decades of disastrous socialistic experiments under their belt to aggravate the problems.

Examples please. Public health, water, sewer, fire protection systems, and even social welfare programs (not to mention later systems to deliver utilities--including telephone service--widely) were developed in Europe and this country because the private sector proved totally incapable of dealing with the concentration of poverty, pollution, and disease vectors that appeared in the cities of the industrial revolution.

The part about it being libertarian.

Regulation of industry was almost nonexistent. Workers were mostly unfettered by those pesky unions. Governments did not supply education (beyond the most basic level), social welfare, water supply or sanitation services. Food, drugs, and medicine were completely unregulated.
11.24.2007 9:57am
J. F. Thomas (mail):
The causes of most problems can be traced directly to politicians.

The populations of the major cities of Europe (I don't know about American cities) were unsustainable (i.e., the death rate exceeded the birth rate) without massive immigration from the hinterlands. This trend continued until the late nineteenth century. Living in an industrial city in Europe in the nineteenth century was incredibly unhealthy. Air pollution was severe (the famous London fog was actually smog). TB, typhus, cholera and other diseases spread by bad water, food and poor hygiene were rampant and killed millions. As late as World War I, the British Army complained about the poor health of recruits from the cities as compared to those from the country.

Public health measures (water treatment, waste water treatment, food inspection, public health systems, etc.) were not developed because corrupt politicians decided they wanted a source of graft and in an effort to control people's lives, but in response to very real devastating problems that the private sector was unable and unwilling to address.
11.24.2007 10:11am
David Rogers (mail) (www):

To the degree that state and private institutions emulate the federal government's systematic programs of racial exclusion and preferences, they do so because the increasingly leviathan federal state intrudes into every aspect of hiring, firing, promotions, admissions, retention, etc. in all sizeable institutions.

Not true, or at least far from completely true. There are many state and local affirmative action policies that are in no way the result of federal pressure. Indeed, many proceed in the face of efforts by federal courts and the federal Justice Department to stop them.


The font of all affirmative action programs is the federal government. The efforts of the federal courts and the federal DoJ to restrain them range from feeble to mild. Any business or organization of any size that wants federal contracts must engage in racial preferences. State and local governments, some of which initially balked at preferences in the late 60's and early 70's, have almost all enthusiastically embraced the preferences regime promulgated by the federal government. That some of them have gone beyond the essentially notional limits of the federal programs does not excuse the federal leviathan for its role in their genesis and promulgation.

If we had a president who was serious about ending race preferences, he could begin by canceling the executive orders dating back to the Nixon administration that gave, and continue to give, so much force to the program. Paul's statement is entirely consistent with that view. That said, of the candidates running, only Giuliani has actually taken action to dismantle race programs. Maybe it isn't fair to hold a Congressman to the same standard, because votes to end programs that don't end aren't generally regarded as effective action.

There is only one substantive brake on race preferences in America. His name is Ward Connerly. But the engine (white guilt, race-baiting poverty pimps, and political opportunists, or, in shorthand, Jesse Jackson Democrats) has been running for a long time, and it has momentum and a head of steam.

Criticism of the role played by the federales, pushed by the JJD, is entirely appropriate. They are, in Aristotlean terms, the prime mover.
11.24.2007 11:21am
Ken Arromdee:
Decreasing the supply, holding all other factors equal, means they have to at equilibrium pay more for the same factors. No competitive business should be able to do this over the long run and remain profitable.

Your argument is like saying that any business owner who routinely eats at a fancy restaurant or owns an expensive car would go out of business, because holding everything else equal, he has more total expenses than a business owner who scrimps and saves.

People find things to be valuable to themselves which don't benefit their business, and are willing to pay money for them. The racist owner "buys" a lily-white workplace the same way that another owner might buy an expensive car--in either case he's buying something that doesn't benefit the business, but which he enjoys personally.

And this doesn't even consider the possibility that racist employees might value not working around blacks, and consider an all-white workplace a perk, in which case their preferences should push down their salaries the same as any other perk, reducing the cost to the owner. Or that the company might have racist customers who consider "hiring an all-white company" to be value added, and thus would pay more for such a company.

Here's another example: the fast food chain Chick-fil-A closes on Sunday, purely because the owner of the chain is a Christian who doesn't want his restaurants to be open on Sunday. By your "competitive business" argument, he should go out of business immediately, since people want to eat food on Sunday and refusing to open a national chain of restaurants on Sunday makes his business much less efficient. He isn't out of business.
11.24.2007 11:40am
Ray (mail) (www):
"Public health measures (water treatment, waste water treatment, food inspection, public health systems, etc.) were not developed because corrupt politicians decided they wanted a source of graft and in an effort to control people's lives, but in response to very real devastating problems that the private sector was unable and unwilling to address."

So JF, you deny history itself or even modern day politics? Instead you choose to believe in the saintliness of politicians who are transformed from mere mortals to demigods by act of popular vote.
I prefer to get my sense of history from the people who actually walked the streets, read the papers and saw the results of legislated programs in their time. A good place to start is Herbert Spencer, his "The Man versus The State" (1885) will dispel any notion that 19th Century England was a bastion of laissez-faire or libertarianism. You'll find that the experiments of legislatures in socialism were common in that time and despite the revision of history by later leftist historians, the results were not the glorious corrections of social and economic wrongs, but many and far reaching negative unintended consequences.
It was then as it is now, history repeats itself because people do not know the failures of the past or refuse to believe it even could have happened regardless of the facts. They still believe like all Utopians that state coercion is faultless and can solve anything.
11.24.2007 1:20pm
healtheland (mail) (www):
David Rogers:

Rudy Giuliani dismantled affirmative action programs ... well this is what Giuliani actually did. Giuliani made drastic cuts in the city government agencies that primarily employed blacks and Hispanics, but he made large increases in the city government agencies that hired mostly ethnic whites: Irish, Italian, Polish, etc. Of course, these agencies were what these people used to advance themselves into the middle class once they arrived here as immigrants, and were loathe to hire any blacks no matter their qualifications, and any black person that was hired was treated so poorly that they would soon leave. Affirmative action was remedying this longstanding racist culture, and Rudy Giuliani allowed it to remain in place. But the fact is that Rudy Giuliani did not reduce the size of government in New York City: he increased it. This was fine with the conservative alleged small government types because throwing blacks and Hispanics off the public employee rolls and replacing them with even more whites was precisely what they were after in the first place. Of course, they claimed that the agencies that were dominated by blacks were corrupt, wasteful, dysfunctional, and controlled by the liberal public employee unions, and their employees were really welfare mothers that did little work. Meanwhile, the agencies that saw large increases in funding and staff under the Giuliani administration had their operations declared vital, their managers honest, and their employees the type of hard - working folk that made this country great. Boy, you learn a lot from reading the New York Post oped page! The fact that Giuliani used one of those agencies to place the woman that he was committing adultery with into a high paying job that required no work is never mentioned. But the fact that any libertarian would give any credit to Giuliani for "dismantling affirmative action" shows the real motivation for their opposing those programs has nothing to do with smaller government.

Such is your claim that the federal government forces companies to adopt affirmative action programs because of they are required of companies that do government contract work. Well, first off, companies are not compelled to seek government contracts, few companies do contract work, and even fewer would go out of business without them. The company that hired me, for instance, does no government contracting. To the contrary, a great many companies that DO perform government contract work and have "affirmative action programs" are very racist, are able to exploit loopholes and get around the requirements so that they only wind up hiring precious few black employees (almost always to nonessential tasks) and treat those employees horribly. My wife, who worked for such a company before leaving after years of having the people that she trained promoted over her, and people being hired right out of college making more than she did, could tell you some stories. And her employer wasn't even that bad. A fellow came to her company from a similar one that did heavy government contract work in the South Carolina/Augusta area. This fellow his coworkers placed a noose on his desk. He told his supervisors about it, they replied that his coworkers were only kidding, and that he should quit being so sensitive. He considered suing, but such lawsuits take years, you often get fired from your job and blackballed in the industry (preventing you from getting another one) for filing one, and the Reagan/Bush appointees who would have heard the lawsuit did not have a history of looking at such cases favorably. So he took the only practical option available to him, which was to leave a work environment where folks felt that placing nooses his desk was perfectly fine, and it was made clear to him that if he continued to complain about it he would pay consequences. And this was not some thin - skinned marginally qualified crank mind you. The fellow had served eight years in the military, has a master's degree (and was actually overqualified for his position), and is an ordained Pentecostal minister. Yet were it not for these evil affirmative action programs, that company would never have hired him in the first place.

Thoughtful:

The company that treated me in such a fashion was a large corporation whose owners are in Japan. (I do readily concede that blacks get treated much better in America than they ever would in Japan.) But they are privately owned, not publicly traded.
11.24.2007 1:22pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
healtheland:

Your main problem is one of career choice. Outsourcing has reduced demand for engineers, and the H1-B non-immigrant visa program has increased supply. Industry and their sycophants in academia and government have been propagating the big lie about a shortage of tech workers. There is no shortage, and there has never been a shortage even at the height of the dot com bubble. How can you have a shortage when starting salaries are flat? How can you have a shortage when companies are incredibly picky about whom they hire? That's the problem you ran into. With a plentiful supply of applicanst industry can indulge their racial and other preferences. They prefer foreigners to Americans even at the same salary because the H1-B visa holders are waiting for their green card. They can't job hop because that resets the clock. Thus in their eyes the foreigner is the better choice because he is captive.

As to Becker, judging from his blogs, he has no comprehension of the labor market for tech workers as he constantly repeats industry propaganda about shortages. Does this man ever look at data? Worse yet, he could be compromised by industry money. He also repeats the old canards about our inadequate US educational system. A recent report from the Urban Institute puts these myths to rest. Google Norm Matloff at UC Davis and read his stuff about the phony shortage.

Finally ex-Fed Chairman Alan Greenspan let the cat out of the bag at a recent televised interview when he said we must "augment" immigration to "suppress" the salaries of high-skilled Americans workers. My advice is to get out of engineering as soon as possible as this is now commodity labor going to the lowest bidder. Go into something that can't be outsourced and lobby your politicians to stop the H1-B visa program and curtail immigration. Go into something that enjoys economic rent, and has barriers to entry (like the bar exam). Otherwise, like the rest of us, you will suffer a downward spiral of opportunities.
11.24.2007 1:43pm
Thoughtful (mail):
Ken Arromdee is clearly not Ken Arrow...

Ken, I clearly anticipated and discussed your exceptions in my original piece. To the extent that a company is privately held, individuals CAN accept a lower financial profit (higher psychic profit) by engaging in actions that do not focus on the bottom line. In the market, they pay a price for that. With government mandates, they socialize the price. The reason they "needed" Jim Crow laws in the South was that absent a mandate to treat blacks as second class citizens, the profit motive would have allowed blacks to rise as (at first a small number of) entrepreneurs broke racist ranks to cater to their business.

Now, your point about a facist work force or racist customer base is well taken, and it IS true that if you lived in an area where YOU were the only non-racist white, you might not profit by catering to blacks. However, that same scenario does not bode well for blacks using the political process either. The bottom line is that, to a greater or lesser extent, treating non-essential characteristics as essential TENDS to limit your supply and consequently raise your costs. If you don't believe people respond to the incentives of higher costs, you have a fundamental opposition to the market. I, frankly, do not like racists, but in the grand scheme of things I prefer racists willing to pay the cost of their racism more than others. For one thing, there are less of them.

Healtheland's subsequent interesting post confirms that the firm discriminating against him was held privately. It is hard to imagine a company that is publicly traded engaging in this practice--the stock price fall would not be tolerated.
11.24.2007 1:53pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Public health, water, sewer, fire protection systems, and even social welfare programs (not to mention later systems to deliver utilities--including telephone service--widely) were developed in Europe and this country because the private sector proved totally incapable of dealing with the concentration of poverty, pollution, and disease vectors that appeared in the cities of the industrial revolution.
I always wonder at the weird leftist logic which looks at a problem which existed for millennia in the absence of free markets, and then claims that because it hadn't been solved in a few years by the (relatively) free markets of the industrial revolution, this "proves" that markets are incapable of solving it.
11.24.2007 2:28pm
Law Student (mail):
I didn't say you particularly were smearing him as a racist, I meant liberal democrats in general, which is what I think is happening.
11.24.2007 3:26pm
Technomaget (mail):
Healtheland,

I can sympathize with your story as my wife is African American and has gone through experiences similar to yours. She is pro-libertarian and pro-Ron Paul for many of the reasons you are.

Mark Bahner:

I didn't mean to imply that we should go in there or that the government has the right to go in there. I was just saying it would not be immoral to go in there barring the logistics and loss of American life (which would then make it immoral).
11.24.2007 4:23pm
byomtov (mail):
Ken, I clearly anticipated and discussed your exceptions in my original piece. To the extent that a company is privately held, individuals CAN accept a lower financial profit (higher psychic profit) by engaging in actions that do not focus on the bottom line.

But, as Ken points out, public companies operating in a racist environment will profit by discrimination, and suffer if they follow non-discriminatory policies.


In the market, they pay a price for that. With government mandates, they socialize the price. The reason they "needed" Jim Crow laws in the South was that absent a mandate to treat blacks as second class citizens, the profit motive would have allowed blacks to rise as (at first a small number of) entrepreneurs broke racist ranks to cater to their business.

This is drivel. The reason Jim Crow laws existed was because they were massively popular with the voting (that is, white) population. They were not imposed by some outside force. Besides, there were few Jim Crow laws dealing with employment. The vast bulk of employment discrimination in the Jim Crow south was voluntary on the part of the employers.

Now, your point about a facist work force or racist customer base is well taken, and it IS true that if you lived in an area where YOU were the only non-racist white, you might not profit by catering to blacks. However, that same scenario does not bode well for blacks using the political process either.

Actually, using the political process did work pretty well.
11.24.2007 4:47pm
MarkField (mail):

I always wonder at the weird leftist logic which looks at a problem which existed for millennia in the absence of free markets, and then claims that because it hadn't been solved in a few years by the (relatively) free markets of the industrial revolution, this "proves" that markets are incapable of solving it.


Your history isn't very good here. Sanitation efforts by governments have existed in the past. The Japanese, Greeks, and Romans did quite well at it given technology limits. While there are examples of governments improving this situation, I'm not aware of any market solution ever.

There's a good reason for this. In essence, lack of sanitation is a classic market failure resulting from externalities. The poor will always benefit from dumping their trash into the street or peeing into the reservoir unless the wealthier subsidize a better solution.
11.24.2007 4:55pm
byomtov (mail):
a problem which existed for millennia in the absence of free markets,

Are you claiming that "free markets" are a recent invention?
11.24.2007 5:12pm
MDJD2B (mail):

Imagine a white engineering pool of 1000 members, and an equally qualified black pool of 200. A non-racist company can hire from among 1200 candidates. A racist company with the same labor needs restricts itself to only 1000 candidates. Assuming any reasonable elasticity of labor, and the racist company ends of paying a significant fraction of standard company profits to indulge its preferences


Unless all companies pursue the same discriminatory policies. They still will be less efficient than they could be (assuming there are no efficiencies to be derived from having a culturally homogeneous workforce). But it doesn't matter, because they all have tacitly or explicitly agreed to take on the same handicap.

A good example of this is professional sports. They long were segregated, and did just fine competing with only European-American players. When one team (the Brooklyn Dodgers) refused to limit its competitive advantage by taking Black players, other teams had to follow suit or lose their competitive edge.

So the market, by itself, will not eliminate ethnic or racial discrimination.
11.24.2007 5:26pm
Arkady:

And if you run into someone who doesn't want to give you a hotel room because of your color or accent, do you really want that room? I wouldn't.


Substitue 'hospital room' for 'hotel room' and I'd wager you would want it -- especially if it was a matter of emergency treatment and the nearest other hospital was, say, 100 miles away.
11.24.2007 5:39pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"Your history isn't very good here. Sanitation efforts by governments have existed in the past. The Japanese, Greeks, and Romans did quite well at it given technology limits."

That's true. The ancient Romans built a wonderful aqueduct system (using slaves) that brought in almost as much water per person as New York City does today. This allowed them to flush the sewage away. The Romans did this for cultural reasons, as they believed in cleanliness. It certainly wasn't a case of the government trying to address a market failure. They built baths in their colonies. Emperor Caracalla, a vicious, unpopular, and psychotic ruler built a splendid public bath complex. Later civilizations didn't share the Roman zest for cleanliness. Even the rich didn't bathe. The Palace of Versailles was actually built without toilets, and guests at grand occasions would simply take a dump in the stairwells. The connection between disease and sanitation came late in history, as did sanitation. It had nothing to do with market failures.
11.24.2007 5:44pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
"When one team (the Brooklyn Dodgers) refused to limit its competitive advantage by taking Black players, other teams had to follow suit or lose their competitive edge.

So the market, by itself, will not eliminate ethnic or racial discrimination."


I think your example shows that the market did eliminate invidious racial discrimination. At one time professional sports were essentially a cartel— not a free market. When the Dodgers broke the cartel, the market took over and sports teams were forced to recruit on merit.

Now replace sports teams with say chess teams who recruit on merit. If chess were a team sport, and a big business what would be the racial make up? Would the teams get sued if they were all white?
11.24.2007 5:57pm
Technomaget (mail):
Arkady,

Yes, I would want the room in the case of an emergency. But your assumption is that our world today is full of racists, that black people have no economic power whatsoever and could never run hospitals or be involved in the healthcare business, and that hospitals will refuse service to black people. As I said before, this is really bad PR for a hospital if they refuse treatment to someone. Critics of a voluntary society look at emergency situations to try to create a situation where coercion is necessary. Well, I say, let's move toward a society where people are free and then we can talk about these hypothetical cases removed from reality.
11.24.2007 6:35pm
Justin (mail):
As many have done in the past, Mark, you can just criminalize being poor. Make littering and public urination illegal, and rap up the penalties so the poor can't afford to do it, even as they also can barely afford market-based sanitation.

It is the poor's fault that they are poor, right?
11.24.2007 8:54pm
MarkField (mail):

It is the poor's fault that they are poor, right?


That does seem to be the libertarian assumption.
11.24.2007 9:13pm
byomtov (mail):
"When one team (the Brooklyn Dodgers) refused to limit its competitive advantage by taking Black players, other teams had to follow suit or lose their competitive edge.

So the market, by itself, will not eliminate ethnic or racial discrimination."


To which Zarkov reponds,

I think your example shows that the market did eliminate invidious racial discrimination.

And it only took fifty years!!! Not to mention that it was another two decades or so before the game was truly integrated.

And other sports took even longer. It was not until the mid-sixties that there was even one black athlete in the sports-crazed Southeastern Conference.

I think that the failure of big-time sports to integrate earlier is the definitive argument against the libertarian view that the market will eliminate discrimination. It is seldom we get a clear test of these kinds of theories, but here we have one, and the libertarian idea fails miserably.
11.24.2007 9:29pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Byomtov:

"And it only took fifty years!!! Not to mention that it was another two decades or so before the game was truly integrated."

Fifty-seven years after Brown, and 47 years after the Civil Rights act, American schools are still segregated.
11.24.2007 9:36pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Speaking of restrictive covenants on housing, a somewhat confused libertarian upthread writes

Give me a break. This would not occur in my world because they are a coercive measure violating my rights.
Hunh? The correct response here is that you are free to buy another house without a restrictive covenant. The market will allegedly punish the seller of the house with the restrictive covenant because he won't get as much money with a smaller buyers' pool. Perhaps you temporarily lost your faith in libertarian solutions because here you can't buy the house you want, while in the more typical libertarian narrative someone who isn't a libertarian (and is a racial or religious minority) is having his or her desires thwarted.

Except the history of real estate in the United States suggests that this libertarian theory has been falsified. Indeed, property values generally plunged when neighborhoods were newly integrated, so it was in the interests of sellers to enforce such covenants until the courts refused to do so, and to maintain segregated neighborhoods until the Open Housing Act of 1965. (Of course, "testers" often find that housing discrimination persists, illegally. Unless you subscribe to the theory that Affirmative Action is the new racism.)

Incidentally, "realtor" is a trademark of a professional association. Blacks were not allowed to call themselves "realtors" back then.
11.24.2007 10:37pm
MarkField (mail):

Fifty-seven years after Brown, and 47 years after the Civil Rights act, American schools are still segregated.


Nice change of subject.
11.24.2007 11:39pm
Technomaget (mail):
Andrew,

No, I didn't lose my "faith". I just didn't know what a restrictive covenant was so my answer didn't make sense.

I am not quite sure what you are saying though. Can you please clarify?
11.25.2007 2:36am
David M. Nieporent (www):
There's a good reason for this. In essence, lack of sanitation is a classic market failure resulting from externalities. The poor will always benefit from dumping their trash into the street or peeing into the reservoir unless the wealthier subsidize a better solution.
In addition to the problem Zarkov pointed out about what you wrote (that lack of sanitation came from lack of knowledge of the importance of sanitation), the poor will "benefit" -- in the narrow short-term sense you're using that word -- from killing rich people and taking their stuff, too. But one would hardly call that a "market failure." When the government builds streets to be used as a commons, and then those streets are actually treated as a commons, that's a failure, but not one of markets.


Are you claiming that "free markets" are a recent invention?
Are you claiming that slavery and/or feudalism didn't exist throughout most of human history? That guilds didn't control large sectors of the economy of Europe for centuries? That governments didn't grant vast monopolies to government-chartered corporations? That vital segments of a market economy like moneylending weren't declared off-limits to all but a disfavored few outsiders, who might find their property confiscated at any moment?
11.25.2007 6:31am
Arkady:
Technomagnet wrote:


Yes, I would want the room in the case of an emergency. But your assumption is that our world today is full of racists, that black people have no economic power whatsoever and could never run hospitals or be involved in the healthcare business, and that hospitals will refuse service to black people.


I made no assumptions at all. How the hell did you get to that? This thread began with with a discussion of Ron Paul's position on the federal government and racism. I just put you in the position of a black person in certain parts of this country prior to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. (And I don't mean Bessie Smith.) As other folks have pointed out upthread in other contexts, the market certainly didn't eliminate this kind of discrimination.
11.25.2007 6:34am
David M. Nieporent (www):
I think that the failure of big-time sports to integrate earlier is the definitive argument against the libertarian view that the market will eliminate discrimination. It is seldom we get a clear test of these kinds of theories, but here we have one, and the libertarian idea fails miserably.
That's loony. The success of big-time sports at integrating without any government action -- in fact, often in the face of government opposition -- is one of the strongest pieces of evidence in favor of the libertarian argument.

The Southeastern Conference isn't even relevant to the discussion; the members of the Southeastern Conference are virtually all government schools, not free market actors.
11.25.2007 6:36am
Arkady:
Oh, and google 'southern hospitals deny blacks'. You'll find works on the Southern Black hospital movement and the reasons why it arose. My point still stands, though. If you were black and injured and not near one of these hospitals, you might just have been out of luck (and life).
11.25.2007 6:52am
byomtov (mail):
That's loony. The success of big-time sports at integrating without any government action -- in fact, often in the face of government opposition -- is one of the strongest pieces of evidence in favor of the libertarian argument.

Are you serious? Major League Baseball had no black players for a half century despite the fact that there were plenty of excellent black players around and they were easy to identify. Why not? Surely in libertarian fantasyland the obvious incentives would have caused the teams to sign these players. But libertarian fantasies ignore the fact that in society as it existed for that period and longer signing blacks would have been economically damaging, no matter how good they were. Fans didn't want to watch black players. Teammates didn't want to play with them. This changed only when social attitudes changed.

This is my point exactly. The idea that economic incentives will eliminate employment discrimination is simply wrong. In a racist society they will encourage it.

The Southeastern Conference isn't even relevant to the discussion; the members of the Southeastern Conference are virtually all government schools, not free market actors.

So what? To the extent these schools' decisions were controlled by the state governments those decisions accurately reflected the wishes of the states' voters. Believe me. I was there. By the way, the one private school, Vanderbilt. did not have a black athlete - the SEC's first - until 1965.
11.25.2007 10:15am
MarkField (mail):

In addition to the problem Zarkov pointed out about what you wrote (that lack of sanitation came from lack of knowledge of the importance of sanitation), the poor will "benefit" -- in the narrow short-term sense you're using that word -- from killing rich people and taking their stuff, too. But one would hardly call that a "market failure." When the government builds streets to be used as a commons, and then those streets are actually treated as a commons, that's a failure, but not one of markets.


I have no idea what you're talking about here. Zarkov did NOT point out a problem with my argument, he made an irrelevant comment. Nor have you pointed out a "problem"; a Hobbesian world is precisely a market failure.
11.25.2007 11:02am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Techno: As I understand the libertarian argument for the free market, government action to disallow racist covenants were unnecessary because the market itself provides incentive for integration.

As Bernard Yomtov is pointing out, this doesn't ally with reality all that well. Even ignoring the disgraceful delay in the integration of major sports teams (I'm afraid I can't help wondering if fifty years of discrimination would seem so brief if libertarians were getting the short end), the housing markets remained segregated until 1965 and illegally thereafter. Moreover, there seems to have been an economic incentive for whites' living in de facto segregated neighborhoods to keep them that way.
11.25.2007 2:23pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
MarkField:

I don't see how the government can quickly integrate anything that depends on popular acceptance. If somehow it could have forced baseball teams to hire black athletes, what would have happened if the fans didn't attend games? Yes you can say that market forces don't act to quickly change social preferences, but neither do government mandates. Witness forced school integration— US public schools are still largely segregated.
11.25.2007 2:53pm
MarkField (mail):
I'm not sure why you're addressing your comments to me. byomtov made the point about sports teams, I didn't. I do agree with him about the implications of that fact.

As for "depends on popular acceptance", that seems to undercut the whole libertarian position. "Popular acceptance" would seem to be the very reason why racism did NOT die out despite the theoretical arguments of libertarians.

The government, OTOH, has been quite successful at integration. There's the army, the postal service, government bureaucracy. In all these cases, the federal government was, at every point in history, MORE integrated than the society at large (certainly than the South). The incontrovertible historical fact is that the "market" never did eliminate racism and never will. It's a market externality.
11.25.2007 3:40pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
MarkField:

"The government, OTOH, has been quite successful at integration. There's the army, the postal service, government bureaucracy."

The instances you cite are those that don't require public acceptance because they are all government monopolies. Do the army, the postal service and the government bureaucracy function better because they are integrated?

"The incontrovertible historical fact is that the "market" never did eliminate racism and never will. It's a market externality."

I disagree. The market eliminated invidious discrimination against Jews. Many universities had quotas for Jews, but that was not sustainable. If they had kept it up, the Jews would have flocked to places like Brandeis, and places like Harvard would have suffered. Successful Jewish law firms also eventually stopped discrimination at that arena as well. At one time Jews were kept out of resorts. They didn't whine for government help. They cured the problem by building their own resorts. Now you might say that Jews aren't a "race," and I would agree. But most of the anti-Semites do consider them a race, check out the stormfront web site if you don't believe me.
11.25.2007 5:44pm
Technomaget (mail):
Keep in mind that when we refer to the "market", we are just referring to the voluntary choices of individuals (as long as they don't initiate force).

Regarding racism and all the other ills of society, using force doesn't solve the problem, it only breeds more animosity. Discussion and education will end the problem of racism, not the use of a gun or threat of going to jail.
11.25.2007 5:47pm
MarkField (mail):

Do the army, the postal service and the government bureaucracy function better because they are integrated?


Yes.


At one time Jews were kept out of resorts. They didn't whine for government help. They cured the problem by building their own resorts.


Separate but equal is hardly an example of the market eliminating invidious discrimination. It's not a "cure" at all, it's the very evidence of discrimination at work. The reason private business stopped discriminating against Jews is that the government banned it.


Keep in mind that when we refer to the "market", we are just referring to the voluntary choices of individuals (as long as they don't initiate force).


That's just plain wrong. Libertarians depend on government to eliminate the use of force in private transactions. Government -- that is, monopoly use of force -- is a pre-condition for other markets to function at all. In the absence of government, the voluntary choices of individuals include the use of force. That's a market too, of course; it's a market failure, which is why government is essential to solve the problem.

Sometimes, as in the South, that force consisted of racial terrorism practiced by one group. It was the absence of governmental control over private violence which led to Jim Crow. That's why the "market" never did solve the problem and never would have done so. It's an intrinsic market failure.


Discussion and education will end the problem of racism, not the use of a gun or threat of going to jail.


This is only half right. I agree that the use of force won't end racism (defined as a person's internal attitude). What force WILL solve is the detrimental effects which occur when people try to act on their racism. Law and order, baby.
11.25.2007 6:06pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: Keep in mind that when we refer to the "market", we are just referring to the voluntary choices of individuals (as long as they don't initiate force).

Mark: That's just plain wrong. Libertarians depend on government to eliminate the use of force in private transactions.

Tech: I agree with this.

Mark: Government -- that is, monopoly use of force -- is a pre-condition for other markets to function at all. In the absence of government, the voluntary choices of individuals include the use of force.

Tech: I agree with this.

Mark: That's a market too, of course; it's a market failure, which is why government is essential to solve the problem.

Tech: I don't agree with this. Market implies trade which implies voluntary exchange. I don't deny that market require a government to protect rights. I do deny that the requirement that rights be protected is a market failure. In any case, I do agree that the government needs to protect our rights.

Mark: Sometimes, as in the South, that force consisted of racial terrorism practiced by one group. It was the absence of governmental control over private violence which led to Jim Crow. That's why the "market" never did solve the problem and never would have done so. It's an intrinsic market failure.

Tech: Please elaborate on what you mean by "racial terrorism". Private violence is not the market. Violence is a violation of rights and is not voluntary exchange between individuals.

Mark: This is only half right. I agree that the use of force won't end racism (defined as a person's internal attitude). What force WILL solve is the detrimental effects which occur when people try to act on their racism. Law and order, baby.

Tech: I am not sure what you mean by act on my racism. If I initiate the use of force based on my racist attitudes then a law preventing this is legitimate. If I don't initiate the use of force and simply am a racist and utter racist speech, I am against laws preventing me from uttering my thoughts, even if they are abhorrent. I am for law and order and I think the constitution would be our model to follow.
11.25.2007 8:44pm
byomtov (mail):
Yes you can say that market forces don't act to quickly change social preferences,

This is my fundamental point - one that libertarians seem to have a hard time accepting.

I don't see how the government can quickly integrate anything that depends on popular acceptance.

It's easy. See the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Tell restaurants they have to serve anyone who shows up. Now you've destroyed the incentives to discriminate. Suddenly people find, a la Bill O'Reilly, that having a black couple at the next table is really no big deal. Or if it is, they can eat at home. In other words, legislation not only imposes rules, it forces people to live in a world where those rules are in effect. That helps change popular attitudes.
11.25.2007 9:13pm
MarkField (mail):

Market implies trade which implies voluntary exchange.


No, that's a sleight-of-hand that libertarians like. Survival of the fittest is a market too. It's just not one that accomplishes what we want in our lives, so we institute government to intervene.


Please elaborate on what you mean by "racial terrorism". Private violence is not the market.


I agree that private violence is not the economic market. If we consider the economy as a separate unit of analysis, with governmental prohibition against violence presupposed, then the racial terrorism of the KKK was a governmental failure. That's why the market was never going to solve segregation; it was external to the "market" (understood as what happens under governmental protection).


If I don't initiate the use of force and simply am a racist and utter racist speech, I am against laws preventing me from uttering my thoughts, even if they are abhorrent.


Agreed. Where we disagree, I suspect, is that I consider laws which prevent people from discriminating in market transactions to be legitimate. I agree with byomtov's post above describing the effects of such laws -- they destroy the (non-monetary, and thus non-market) incentives to discriminate.
11.25.2007 10:28pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: Market implies trade which implies voluntary exchange.

Mark: No, that's a sleight-of-hand that libertarians like. Survival of the fittest is a market too. It's just not one that accomplishes what we want in our lives, so we institute government to intervene.

Tech: No, that isn't a sleight of hand. You can call whatever you like a market, but I believe you are changing the accepted definition. If you decide to broaden it, then we are talking about different concepts and will need to start fresh with our own definitions.

Survival of the fittest is a separate concept that can be interpreted many different ways. A market is where people voluntary exchange goods or services. This is the accepted definition and the one I use to mean market. If you prefer another word, we can use that too.

Tech: Please elaborate on what you mean by "racial terrorism". Private violence is not the market.

Mark: I agree that private violence is not the economic market. If we consider the economy as a separate unit of analysis, with governmental prohibition against violence presupposed, then the racial terrorism of the KKK was a governmental failure. That's why the market was never going to solve segregation; it was external to the "market" (understood as what happens under governmental protection).

Tech: Racial terrorism of the KKK is violation of rights, precisely what the government is there to enforce. The enforcement of rights by the government is what allows markets to survive. Governments are necessary because people don't all wish to engage in voluntary exchange.

Tech: If I don't initiate the use of force and simply am a racist and utter racist speech, I am against laws preventing me from uttering my thoughts, even if they are abhorrent.

Mark: Agreed. Where we disagree, I suspect, is that I consider laws which prevent people from discriminating in market transactions to be legitimate. I agree with byomtov's post above describing the effects of such laws -- they destroy the (non-monetary, and thus non-market) incentives to discriminate.

Tech: People discriminate all the time in every choice they make. It seems to me that you object to people discriminating on factors you consider to be irrelevant. However, the person discriminating would disagree. If they consider race to be a factor, why should the government force them to do anything with their own property? If equal protection and equal treatment under the law is to mean anything then you need to allow people the right to disagree as long as they don't use force.

As for incentives, one example against this logic would be to have a bar in a racist town where he is now forced to serve people of another "race" (or color or whatever). The people in the town, being racists, will like refuse to go into the bar thus either reducing the profits of the barkeeper or driving him out of business. This is the uninintented consequence of government interference in peoples' private preferences.
11.26.2007 12:22am
Technomaget (mail):
Mark,

I forgot to refer to one point you made where you said government is external to the market. I agree that government is not the market and by being the sole monopoly on the use of force, is only there to ensure that a market exists without disruption.

Where I disagree, I believe, is the misuse of government to violate the rights of the people or to enforce one person's prejudices on another.
11.26.2007 12:25am
David M. Nieporent (www):
Mark, you seem to have a unique definition of "market failure" which has nothing at all to do with what the phrase actually means. Every time something bad happens on the planet, that's not a "market failure."
11.26.2007 5:56am
Joe Bingham (mail):
We might be looking at a new version of the pain-problem argument against the existence of God: extrapolating his non-existence from "market failure" (i.e. everything bad that happens, ever). =)
11.26.2007 11:26am
Christopher Cooke (mail):
To return to Ilya's post, I think this post is emblematic of those on VC who call themselves libertarian having to justify why they are not supporting the only actual libertarian candidate in the race, even when he is doing better than expected in the polls. The usual reason people who lean libertarian do not vote that way is that they don't want to waste their vote for someone who has no chance of winning. Since Paul may do better than Thompson, that excuse no longer applies. The truth is that Fred Thompson, Rudy Giulani and Mitt Romney are not libertarians. Thompson is a conservative, Giulani is a moderate on social issues and conservative on foreign policy issues, and Romney is whatever he thinks will get him elected. To those who call themselves libertarians, but refuse to vote that way, I would ask that they look in the mirror and admit, at least to themselves, that they are not libertarians when it counts.

By the way, I am a liberal Democrat, but will register Republican to vote for Paul, if he gets close. I think our country could use a serious change, and less government might be a good antidote to the problems that Bush has caused.
11.26.2007 11:30am
Mark Field (mail):

You can call whatever you like a market, but I believe you are changing the accepted definition.


Sorry guys, but you're the ones who are conveniently trying to sweep under the rug a factor that creates a real problem for your ideology. Nevertheless, I don't want to get caught up in semantic disputes. I think we all agree that governments properly secure physical safety (among other things), and that such security is a necessary pre-condition for the operation of economic markets. Agreed?

Assuming you do, then the problem with slavery in the South and its later manifestation as Jim Crow, was a government failure. That is, the government failed to provide the security necessary for the functioning of a "proper" market (I'm using your terms here). Thus, in order to solve the problems created by Jim Crow, it was essential for government to intervene. The "market" -- that is, the economic choices alone which you insist on considering as "the market" -- could never solve the problem precisely because the provision of physical safety by government is a pre-condition to your limited "market". This means that the suggestion above that segregation would have disappeared because it involved market inefficiencies is simply wrong. By your own terms, it involved actions (physical violence) occurring external to the "market".


If they consider race to be a factor, why should the government force them to do anything with their own property?


For two reasons. First, because I know from long and painful historical experience -- that is, from facts, as opposed to ideology -- that these decisions can too easily escape control. If we allow racial discrimination in market activity, then we open the door for the use of concealed intimidation to force such discrimination. That was exactly how much of the Jim Crow system operated in the South. It subverted the proper role of government to provide security against physical violence.

Second, I consider markets to operate in both the short term and the long term. Racial discrimination may be consistent with an individual's short term "values", but it's a market inefficiency because it substitutes a false value -- actually, an externality -- for the true values of a transaction. By banning it, we can actually improve the efficiency of the market in the long run.
11.26.2007 11:31am
Cold Warrior:
Wow, this discussion is still going on.

Mark Field said:


It was the absence of governmental control over private violence which led to Jim Crow. That's why the "market" never did solve the problem and never would have done so. It's an intrinsic market failure.


Really?

Weren't Jim Crow laws a response to the behavior of private persons who accepted integration in public accommodations? Didn't the southern states intervene by mandating segregation?

I would imagine that this is precisely what Paul is arguing. The states intervened to force public behavior in one direction (segregation) when the market appeared to be moving in the other direction (integration). If this weren't the case, state-mandated segregation in the form of Jim Crow laws simply wouldn't have been necessary. Railroad operators would've gladly sold a seat to a black man next to a seat they had just sold to a white man, but the states said they couldn't.
11.26.2007 1:00pm
Technomaget (mail):
"If they consider race to be a factor, why should the government force them to do anything with their own property? "

Mark: For two reasons. First, because I know from long and painful historical experience — that is, from facts, as opposed to ideology — that these decisions can too easily escape control. If we allow racial discrimination in market activity, then we open the door for the use of concealed intimidation to force such discrimination. That was exactly how much of the Jim Crow system operated in the South. It subverted the proper role of government to provide security against physical violence.

Tech: You are using the power of government to prevent people from making voluntary choices in the chance that these voluntary choices may lead the government to violate our rights. Why not "not violate" our rights to begin with? This logic seems similar to the logic used to condone the bombing of Iran as a pre-emptive strike (and I am not saying you support this position) because they "may" attack us.

Mark: Second, I consider markets to operate in both the short term and the long term. Racial discrimination may be consistent with an individual's short term "values", but it's a market inefficiency because it substitutes a false value — actually, an externality — for the true values of a transaction. By banning it, we can actually improve the efficiency of the market in the long run.

Tech: The greatest market inefficiency is by stifling the free operation of human beings. Freedom is what allows for positive change, not dictates at the point of a gun. As for specifics, here is a post that argues against your point of view:

http://dev.mises.org/story/2409

To quote some points (the table will be misaligned but I will do my best to make it as clear as possible:


Prior to the first federal minimum wage bill passed on the 1930s, there was virtually no difference between black and white teenage (i.e., unskilled) unemployment, at a time when many assume that racism was more prevalent than today. After the minimum age bill is passed, however, we see an increase in black teenage unemployment relative to whites, since as employers are now forced to pay a wage that is higher than the value of many workers' marginal revenue product, they no longer incur a market penalty for allowing racism to dictate their market decisions.

Table 1: Racial Differences in Unemployment Rates, 1890--1990

Year
White
Non-White
Difference

1890
4.41
4.07
-0.34

1900
6.47
7.57
1.10

1930
6.59
6.07
-0.52

1940
9.50
10.89
1.39

1950
4.9
9.0
4.1

1960
5.0
10.5
5.2

1970
4.5
8.2
3.7

1980
6.3
13.1
6.8

1990
4.7
10.1
5.4

Source: Vedder, Richard K., and Galloway, Lowell E., Out of Work.

To be sure, unskilled blacks suffered from this state intervention in labor markets in many ways. Priced out of jobs, they were unable to earn a legal income that they would have earned otherwise. To the extent that they were shut out of the labor force, many were unable to acquire the skills necessary to earn a larger income in the future. And, they were much more likely to become dependent on the government dole. None of this would have happened had the federal government not intervened in voluntary exchanges between labor suppliers and demanders.
11.26.2007 2:29pm
Mark Field (mail):

You are using the power of government to prevent people from making voluntary choices in the chance that these voluntary choices may lead the government to violate our rights.


No, not "in the chance that". It's because there's a 350 year history in this country of whites violating the rights of blacks. That actual fact is worth more than volumes of logic or theory. It's what separates science from scholasticism.


The greatest market inefficiency is by stifling the free operation of human beings.


It's statements like this which drive people crazy in talking to libertarians. It's a glittering generality, an expression of ideology, not a statement of fact. It's akin to declaiming that the circular orbit of the planets demonstrates the great glory of God.

Look, I support markets. I believe in them. When they work -- and that's much of the time -- they're great. But there's overwhelming historical evidence that sometimes markets don't work. Racism is a classic example; libertarians lose credibility when they deny this and recite theory instead. It's like Richard Pryor's line: who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes? I'm believing my eyes.
11.26.2007 3:37pm
Mark Field (mail):

Weren't Jim Crow laws a response to the behavior of private persons who accepted integration in public accommodations? Didn't the southern states intervene by mandating segregation?


The short answer is "no". The more complete answer is "sort of". The actual historical sequence went like this: slavery; 13th Amendment; Black Codes; 1866 Civil Rights Act/14th Amendment; private terrorism directed against blacks and Republicans; failure and ultimate withdrawal of government enforcement of the law; mandated segregation. In effect, private terror pretty much accomplished the initial goal of segregation. The later statutes simply confirmed what the KKK had already achieved. Of course, additional violence helped maintain the system.

Again, I need to emphasize this point (using the very theory of libertarians): the duty to prevent physical violence rests with government. The failure to protect blacks in the South was therefore a failure of government. Nothing the markets did could change this fact; only when the federal government forced the states to actually fulfill their obligations could "markets" (in the narrow libertarian usage) function.
11.26.2007 3:48pm
David M. Nieporent (www):
Again, I need to emphasize this point (using the very theory of libertarians): the duty to prevent physical violence rests with government. The failure to protect blacks in the South was therefore a failure of government. Nothing the markets did could change this fact; only when the federal government forced the states to actually fulfill their obligations could "markets" (in the narrow libertarian usage) function.
I don't have much quarrel with the above, but of course if the failure of government was the failure to prevent physical violence, then this only constitutes evidence that the government needed to prevent physical violence -- not that it needed to intervene in the market with, e.g., the CRA.

Moreover, describing it as a "failure to prevent physical violence," as if the problem were impotent government a la present day Baghdad, is misleading. The government did not merely fail to prevent violence. Rather, it "failed" by choice to prevent one specific direction of violence: white on black. Whites could use violence against blacks without worrying about the government, but the reverse wasn't the case.
So even in the context of violence, the problem wasn't just lack of government, but dishonest government.
11.26.2007 4:06pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
Railroad operators would've gladly sold a seat to a black man next to a seat they had just sold to a white man, but the states said they couldn't.
In a few instances relating to education, Jim Crow laws did close down what the segregationists saw as immoral and dangerous mixed schools. But there was also private discrimination against blacks that was not the result of any laws, at least as far as I know. For example, I am not aware of any law that prohibited blacks from trying on clothes in a department store, or from returning clothes that had been tried at home and not wanted, but this practice was widespread if not universal in the South. Examples like this falsify the libertarian theory. There is a first-mover disadvantage to private action here as long as the revenue from racists who did not want to have clothes a black person had tried on outweighed additional potential revenue from happier black customers.
11.26.2007 4:13pm
Cold Warrior:

In effect, private terror pretty much accomplished the initial goal of segregation. The later statutes simply confirmed what the KKK had already achieved.


There is a big distinction between (1) government inaction in the face of intimidation aimed at preventing free association; and (2) government-mandated segregation.

A libertarian is not an anarchist. I believe government has a valid and essential role in preventing (1), but I agree with Ron Paul that (2) is a perfect example of how government intervention is certainly not always for the good.
11.26.2007 4:17pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: You are using the power of government to prevent people from making voluntary choices in the chance that these voluntary choices may lead the government to violate our rights.

Mark: No, not "in the chance that". It's because there's a 350 year history in this country of whites violating the rights of blacks. That actual fact is worth more than volumes of logic or theory. It's what separates science from scholasticism.

Tech: No one is doubting the violation of rights of blacks by whites. What I am disagreeing with you about is the role of the government and the markets. The government increases racial tensions and enforces racial discrimination in law. The markets provide incentives via the profit motive to end racial discrimination. The government, even if it has good intentions, creates unintended consequences when try to address this problem as I indicated my reference.

Tech: The greatest market inefficiency is by stifling the free operation of human beings.

Mark: It's statements like this which drive people crazy in talking to libertarians. It's a glittering generality, an expression of ideology, not a statement of fact. It's akin to declaiming that the circular orbit of the planets demonstrates the great glory of God.

Tech: It's not a generality, its an inductive statement based on the thousands of years of evidence on the nature of government, power and freedom. People may have problems with it because they don't want to deal with those concepts but instead with concrete instances which don't seem to make any sense. When you say "expression of an ideology", I am not sure what that means. It seems to imply that if I have formed inductive conclusions about anything, I am making glittering generalities and expressions of ideology. I think those kinds of statements are inaccurate in what I am trying to convey. What would be the correct analogy would be The elliptical orbits of the planets demonstrate the universe has laws of nature.

Mark: Look, I support markets. I believe in them. When they work -- and that's much of the time -- they're great. But there's overwhelming historical evidence that sometimes markets don't work. Racism is a classic example; libertarians lose credibility when they deny this and recite theory instead. It's like Richard Pryor's line: who you gonna believe, me or your lyin' eyes? I'm believing my eyes.

Tech: I believe you that you love markets. I just disagree with you on racism. I think free markets have been rare and the government has been responsible for the enforcement of racial attitudes into racist law.
11.26.2007 4:22pm
Mark Field (mail):

So even in the context of violence, the problem wasn't just lack of government, but dishonest government.


Agreed.


if the failure of government was the failure to prevent physical violence, then this only constitutes evidence that the government needed to prevent physical violence -- not that it needed to intervene in the market with, e.g., the CRA.


Look, if libertarians want to oppose the CRA, fine by me. They're dooming themselves to irrelevance, but then that's their choice, right? :)

More seriously, when there are established social practices in effect -- and I think 350 years is plenty long enough to call them that -- matters don't change just because you suddenly introduce market incentives (and they're pretty weak ones, as others have noted). Andrew Lazarus pointed out the first mover problem. I've pointed out the hidden violence problem. So yes, the CRA was essential.


The government increases racial tensions and enforces racial discrimination in law. The markets provide incentives via the profit motive to end racial discrimination.


Again, you keep resorting to theory instead of the actual facts of what happened in the South. It was private action which contributed so greatly to Jim Crow. It was government action, specifically action by the federal government, which put an end to that.

Southerners believed blacks were inferior. They feared them. These are not superficial problems -- human fear of the "other" has very deep evolutionary roots in our psyche. It takes active intervention to overcome that.


its an inductive statement


Assuming you have the facts to support it (a dubious assumption in this particular case), yes it is. But inductive reasoning is tricky even when you think you know the facts. It's the source of many of our culture's greatest mistakes (and also some real triumphs).


I think free markets have been rare and the government has been responsible for the enforcement of racial attitudes into racist law.


Actually, free markets have been common throughout history. And private terrorism has been an important source of racist behavior.

I agree that governments can do really bad things (don't get me started on our current one). They can do worse things than individuals can do. But they are essential to human affairs and in the proper circumstances they can be and have been very beneficial. Ending Jim Crow is one of those.
11.26.2007 5:13pm
Cold Warrior:
Proposition: the law has, overall, done more to foster and institutionalize racism than it has done to overcome racism.

Evidence: the slave trade itself. If the law had not conferred property rights on one human being with respect to another human being, but instead had insisted on the right to free association by both parties, the South's peculiar institution and the plantation economy would never have developed.

Evidence: when the right to free association was restored, the southern states responded with Jim Crow laws aimed at eliminating that right.

Is it that preposterous to argue that the Civil Rights Act prevented the South from committing economic suicide, and may have actually slowed the integration of the South?

Given this backdrop, is it preposterous (or racist) to argue that overall the government has been more the problem than the solution?
11.26.2007 5:37pm
byomtov (mail):
The states intervened to force public behavior in one direction (segregation) when the market appeared to be moving in the other direction (integration). If this weren't the case, state-mandated segregation in the form of Jim Crow laws simply wouldn't have been necessary.

In many cases they were not necessary, because the behavior the required was already virtually universal in the South. Do you think unnecessary laws are never passed? Much of southern political activity consisted of contests about who could be a bigger racist. See the career of George Wallace for an example. In such an environment it is unsurprising that laws that simply reflect racist attitudes exist, because that is one way for politicians to establish their bona fides.


Railroad operators would've gladly sold a seat to a black man next to a seat they had just sold to a white man, but the states said they couldn't.

And if white people refused to buy tickets unless the cars were segregated how long would this have lasted, law or no law? Why doesn't this simple point sink in? If you run a business, and serving black customers, or hiring black workers, costs you business from white customers your economic incentive is to discriminate.

there was also private discrimination against blacks that was not the result of any laws, at least as far as I know. For example, I am not aware of any law that prohibited blacks from trying on clothes in a department store, or from returning clothes that had been tried at home and not wanted, but this practice was widespread if not universal in the South. Examples like this falsify the libertarian theory.

Exactly. There was plenty of discrimination that was not mandated by law. As I mention above, Jim Crow laws rarely required discrimination in employment, for example, yet it was commonplace.
11.26.2007 6:34pm
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
The libertarian arguments that the free market in the South would erode Jim Crow remind me of the animal rights advocates' claims that there's no medical benefit to animal experimentation. Even a fairly weak knowledge of the actual history (e.g., the practices of department stores at the time and place I was born) yields irrefutable counterexamples.

It is true that perhaps another 50, 100, or 500 years would have resulted in the end of Jim Crow, but compared to government action to end it instantly that doesn't seem like much of a plan.
11.26.2007 6:43pm
Cold Warrior:
Because nobody seems to have actually read the purportedly "racist" statement of Ron Paul (linked to a couple times, including in this very post), I have no choice but to past it below, in its entirety.

The debate here is about this: what in this statement causes people to wonder about what's in the heart of Mr. Ron Paul? So far, nobody's pointed it out to me. He doesn't say that Government is the cause of racism; he says that typically Government is ill-suited to solve the "ugly" problem of racism, and that today it is Government that seems the most obsessed about making racial classifications.

So here it is. Please: point out the offensive part. And stop arguing about the views of the straw man Ron Paul you folks have created:


A nation that once prided itself on a sense of rugged individualism has become uncomfortably obsessed with racial group identities.

The collectivist mindset is at the heart of racism.

Government as an institution is particularly ill-suited to combat bigotry. Bigotry at its essence is a problem of the heart, and we cannot change people's hearts by passing more laws and regulations.

It is the federal government that most divides us by race, class, religion, and gender. Through its taxes, restrictive regulations, corporate subsidies, racial set-asides, and welfare programs, government plays far too large a role in determining who succeeds and who fails. Government "benevolence" crowds out genuine goodwill by institutionalizing group thinking, thus making each group suspicious that others are receiving more of the government loot. This leads to resentment and hostility among us.

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than as individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called "diversity" actually perpetuate racism.

The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence - not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.

In a free society, every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Racism will endure until we stop thinking in terms of groups and begin thinking in terms of individual liberty.
11.26.2007 7:33pm
MarkField (mail):
Following up on byomtov and Andrew, I'd like to return to the example of Major League Baseball as a test case for the persistence of private discrimination despite gigantic opportunity costs. It's a perfect test case because we can eliminate arguments about quality, about the influence of government, about conditions in the South; all the complicating factors simply never existed, yet the ban persisted. Let's take a look.

Blacks were excluded from professional baseball in 1885. This did not occur because of any governmental action. Baseball was not regulated in any way in 1885. There was, IIRC (and I recall quite a bit) not a single Jim Crow law in existence in any state in 1885 (they came soon after). Even if there were Jim Crow laws, there was not a single team in either the NL or the American Association in any former Confederate state (nor would there be any such major league team until 1966). No, the ban was imposed purely by private action among the players and owners of the time. It didn't even need to be enforced by violence; black players simply were not hired.

During the entire time the ban was in effect (until Jackie Robinson in 1947), no government law or regulation enforced the ban. It was effective despite some efforts (notably by John McGraw, only the most famous and successful manager of his era) to subvert it. That is, some market participants wanted to hire blacks, but were "discouraged" by the other participants in the industry. This had nothing to do with government or with violence. All MLB teams, in all major leagues which existed from 1885 to 1947, played in states which were NOT part of the Confederacy. Nearly all the major league teams played in the Northern states, where slavery had been abolished by 1830 or so. (Most minor leagues also played in the North. They too were segregated.)

Now, let's consider the costs of this behavior. Frankly, this issue dooms the libertarian argument either way. If the costs were small, then that suggests that the market never would have provided sufficient incentive to overcome the barrier. In fact, however, the costs were huge.

How do we know this? Because of what happened after Jackie Robinson. Consider even a partial list of the players who came into MLB between 1947 and 1959 (the year the last team, the Red Sox, integrated): Robinson, Roy Campanella, Don Newcombe, Larry Doby, Willie Mays, Monte Irvin, Henry Aaron, Ernie Banks, Frank Robinson, Bob Gibson, Willie McCovey. That list includes several of the inner circle Hall of Famers, at least two of them serious candidates for being the greatest player ever. And I didn't even mention the Latin players of color like Roberto Clemente, Orlando Cepeda, Luis Aparicio, and many others, nor the "lesser" American black stars who dominated the all-star teams and MVP awards for years.

Just try to imagine how the lack of such players cost teams before 1947. Try to imagine how the Red Sox might never have had 86 years of frustration if they had signed Willie Mays to play in the outfield alongside Ted Williams. And those players were available pretty much all the time. You may not know the names of, say, Oscar Charleton or "Pop" Lloyd, but even casual fans probably recognize Satchel Paige and Josh Gibson. They never got the chance.

In short, the lost opportunity costs in this market were the equivalent of offering someone a winning lottery ticket as an incentive to integrate a lunch counter. It's not possible to imagine greater incentive, but for over 60 years the market remained segregated. Now, you can argue, if you want, that MLB eventually did integrate. It's a weak argument -- 60 years might as well be forever in the life of a baseball player. And consider this as well: that after the example of players like Jackie Robinson, Campanella, Mays, Aaron, Banks, and Frank Robinson, and after Brown and Rosa Parks, the Yankees STILL had not integrated and the Red Sox wouldn't integrate for 3 more years. Even when they saw the costs -- had their noses rubbed in the costs -- they didn't do it. If that's what libertarianism has to offer, I don't think you'll get many takers.

It doesn't have to be like this. Libertarians need to let go of doctrine and start facing the real world. You have something to offer. But you're never going to persuade anyone if you sound like Marxists, reciting doctrine instead of facing the facts.
11.26.2007 8:25pm
MarkField (mail):

Evidence: the slave trade itself. If the law had not conferred property rights on one human being with respect to another human being, but instead had insisted on the right to free association by both parties, the South's peculiar institution and the plantation economy would never have developed.


What "law" are you talking about? The slave trade existed for hundreds of years without the support of any "law". It was a relationship of violence, not of law. There was no slave code, even in VA, for at least 40 years (going off memory) after the first slaves were brought there. Slavery was never about right, it was about power.

Even then, the power was generally private rather the governmental (though the two aren't always easy to separate in those days). Mostly, though, it was private merchants who purchased slaves from their kidnappers and transported them by force to the New World, where the white majority similarly kept them by force in the absence of law. Force in the absence of law; that pretty much describes the problem.

Only later, mostly in the 18th C and 19th C, did government intervene with actual laws governing slavery.
11.26.2007 8:35pm
MarkField (mail):
Cold Warrior, numerous posts above have pointed out the flaws in Ron Paul's speech. There's no need for us to repeat those.
11.26.2007 8:36pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: its an inductive statement.

Mark: Assuming you have the facts to support it (a dubious assumption in this particular case), yes it is. But inductive reasoning is tricky even when you think you know the facts. It's the source of many of our culture's greatest mistakes (and also some real triumphs).

Tech: Ok, sounds good. My inductive statements I believe to be correct and I can produce some deductive statements too. I will get you your evidence. I am not tied to the idea of government doing almost everything wrong; it just seems to always happen that way because there is no incentive for government to do right without causing unintended negative consequences.

Regarding free markets being common throughout history, I don't think this is true. If you mean markets where people trade, yes I agree. If you mean where rights are clearly defined and protected, then no. Rights are a relatively new concept. Statism is a relatively old concept.

As for private terrorism, that is still a violation of rights which should be protected by government.

Regarding Jim Crow and how government saved the day, I will gather the evidence and present it when I can. I have presented an article which shows the negative consequences of government interference with discrimination laws in the past century. If that is insufficient, I will gather more facts for you.
11.26.2007 8:39pm
Technomaget (mail):
Mark: Libertarians need to let go of doctrine and start facing the real world. You have something to offer. But you're never going to persuade anyone if you sound like Marxists, reciting doctrine instead of facing the facts.

I don't claim to recite doctrine, just a simple principle: the voluntary exchange of ideas and services between people. I think this is what is worth striving for, rather than looking for areas where the monopoly of power does some good. The facts are that societies have progressed since the concept of human rights have been developed and accepted. The freer the markets, the freer the people, the more people have prospered. The facts are out there for everyone to see.
11.26.2007 8:45pm
byomtov (mail):
MarkField,

Thank you for fleshing out and strengthening the argument.
11.26.2007 9:23pm
MarkField (mail):

Regarding free markets being common throughout history, I don't think this is true. If you mean markets where people trade, yes I agree. If you mean where rights are clearly defined and protected, then no.


Merchants were protected by law throughout the Greek and Roman world. Now, those governments were often despotisms, but they did protect trade (speaking generally). That is, they enforced contracts and prevented fraud and violence. Rights like free speech, etc. did not generally exist (except in Athens and in other limited circumstances). Sometimes price levels were fixed (e.g., Domitian), but most of the time they were not. Trade was actually pretty free. There are other examples as well.


Thank you for fleshing out and strengthening the argument.


I was just glad you picked a topic which I happen to know.
11.26.2007 9:37pm
Technomaget (mail):
"Merchants were protected by law throughout the Greek and Roman world. Now, those governments were often despotisms, but they did protect trade (speaking generally). That is, they enforced contracts and prevented fraud and violence. Rights like free speech, etc. did not generally exist (except in Athens and in other limited circumstances). Sometimes price levels were fixed (e.g., Domitian), but most of the time they were not. Trade was actually pretty free. There are other examples as well."

This may be true, but the concept of individual rights did not exist at that time. If they were protected, it was because it was in the state's best interests for them to be protected. Without individual rights, everything that follows is simply a gift from the state. I don't call this free. Also, we can hardly call these markets free when some people made voluntary choices and others didn't (e.g. slaves). I am not suggesting that what you describe didn't exist, only that this is not what I mean by voluntary associations or free markets. I don't recall your usage however since the number of comments on this entry require us to have an index :)
11.27.2007 12:55am
Technomaget (mail):
Mark: "Again, you keep resorting to theory instead of the actual facts of what happened in the South. It was private action which contributed so greatly to Jim Crow. It was government action, specifically action by the federal government, which put an end to that. "

Tech: Quoting from Wikipedia, which I assume will be accepted as evidence:

"The Jim Crow laws were state and local laws enacted in the Southern and border states of the United States and enforced between 1876 and 1965. They mandated "separate but equal" status for black Americans. In reality, this led to treatment and accommodations that were almost always inferior to those provided to white Americans."

Jim Crow was established by government: State governments that created a condition of apartheid. Then the federal government needed to step in. So the government had to come in to fix the mess another government created. I don't see a problem with the government intervening to protect individual rights.
11.27.2007 1:05am
byomtov (mail):
Jim Crow was established by government: State governments that created a condition of apartheid.

But your implication is that the state government actions somehow bore no relationship to the attitudes of the voters. In fact, the Jim Crow laws were a reflection of very strong racist sentiment on the part of the white citizens of the South. So it's really deceptive to say it was a "government" problem. It was a problem because of the racism of southern whites at that time, and for many decades thereafter.

Indeed, as has been pointed out above by Andrew Lazarus for example, there were common racist practices that were not mandated by law at all.
11.27.2007 10:23am
MarkField (mail):
Again to follow up on byomtov's comment, it's certainly true that Jim Crow laws were passed by state governments (how else could they be laws?). What's NOT true is the claim that all of the segregation system was enforced by law. Much of it was not. Much of it was enforced by common consent, some of it by private violence unregulated by government.


Without individual rights, everything that follows is simply a gift from the state. I don't call this free.


Certainly the governments were not "free" in our sense. But the markets -- that is, trade -- were often free. Free societies and free markets don't always go hand in hand, contrary to the beliefs of some libertarians.
11.27.2007 10:45am
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: Jim Crow was established by government: State governments that created a condition of apartheid.

Byomtov: But your implication is that the state government actions somehow bore no relationship to the attitudes of the voters. In fact, the Jim Crow laws were a reflection of very strong racist sentiment on the part of the white citizens of the South. So it's really deceptive to say it was a "government" problem. It was a problem because of the racism of southern whites at that time, and for many decades thereafter.

Tech: I didn't say it was a government problem per se. The laws were established by the state governments in response to racist sentiment in violation of the constitution.

Byomtov: Indeed, as has been pointed out above by Andrew Lazarus for example, there were common racist practices that were not mandated by law at all.

Tech: This is the distinction we have been discussing, private racist practices versus those enforced by the power of law.
11.27.2007 12:33pm
Technomaget (mail):
Mark: Again to follow up on byomtov's comment, it's certainly true that Jim Crow laws were passed by state governments (how else could they be laws?). What's NOT true is the claim that all of the segregation system was enforced by law. Much of it was not. Much of it was enforced by common consent, some of it by private violence unregulated by government.

Tech: My statement is that there is a difference between private non-violent discrimination and private violence and that the latter is a violation of rights. You can call protection of rights a regulation by government and that is fine. The federal government is there to protect people from private violence as well as state violence.

Tech: Without individual rights, everything that follows is simply a gift from the state. I don't call this free.

Mark: Certainly the governments were not "free" in our sense. But the markets -- that is, trade -- were often free. Free societies and free markets don't always go hand in hand, contrary to the beliefs of some libertarians.

Tech: I am not denying that there are varying degrees of freedom and there were varying degrees of free markets, but a free market, as in the capitalist variety is grounded in the non-initiation force principle. Whatever free markets existed in the past, they were not grounded in this principle and therefore markets would be as free as governments permitted them to be from a pragmatic point of view, not because there were restrained by a constitution that recognized rights.
11.27.2007 12:41pm
Mark Field (mail):

My statement is that there is a difference between private non-violent discrimination and private violence and that the latter is a violation of rights.


Yes, and this is a key point. Under your theory, Major League Baseball did nothing wrong when it voluntarily segregated for over 60 years. I don't agree with that, and I don't believe many others do.

Corollary to this is the claim that such voluntary segregation would not predominate in the market nor exist very long because market forces would burden such irrational behavior. This, too, is simply inconsistent with the example of MLB as well as numerous others from the segregation era (what government kept Hollywood movies, with rare exceptions, lily white?).


a free market, as in the capitalist variety is grounded in the non-initiation force principle. Whatever free markets existed in the past, they were not grounded in this principle and therefore markets would be as free as governments permitted them to be from a pragmatic point of view, not because there were restrained by a constitution that recognized rights.


I'm not seeing the relevance of this point. Someone (I forget who) made the assertion that there hadn't been free markets in the past. That statement is not accurate; there have been many examples of essentially free markets in human history. The fact that those markets existed under governments which were themselves NOT free does not negate their existence, but it does undermine the claim by some libertarians that free markets will lead to political freedom.

I'd note that your own statement, quoted above, seems to treat political freedom as a pre-condition for market freedom. This suggests to me that you reject the claim that free markets => free society. But it's also not clear exactly what you're saying. After all, reasonably free markets can exist and have existed under despotic governments. That suggests that political freedom is not a necessary condition for free markets. If all you're saying is that such societies don't have "truly" free markets, then I think you're committing the "no true Scotsman" fallacy.
11.27.2007 1:06pm
Technomaget (mail):
Tech: My statement is that there is a difference between private non-violent discrimination and private violence and that the latter is a violation of rights.

Mark: Yes, and this is a key point. Under your theory, Major League Baseball did nothing wrong when it voluntarily segregated for over 60 years. I don't agree with that, and I don't believe many others do.

Tech: No, I am not saying it isn't wrong, I am saying it isn't the job of the government to get involved in private affairs.

I will answer your other points in separate comments...
11.27.2007 2:32pm
Technomaget (mail):
Regarding MLB, a few thoughts: Markets are no better and no worse than the societies in which they function. The point is not that markets give us perfection... but that they tend to penalize those who function irrationally. If they function in cultures that are irrational, they will perpetuate some of that irrationality... but over time, the irrationality will wither away. It was not the government that forced the integration of baseball.... but greedy owners who saw fine talent and quality in the Negro Leagues, and who began to break the color barrier and increase their clubs' chances of winning.

As for Hollywood... yes, again... if a culture is racist, one won't expect the markets functioning in the culture to be completely perfect. But over time, markets will meet demand and, in some respects, shape it... which is why today we have more people of color in film, and in various aspects of film-making than at any other time in memory.

The point is: Government can't force a change in this regard. The most it can do is enforce laws such that there is no "de jure" segregation. De facto segregation is something that has to be fought culturally, not politically. The fight is not simply political, but cultural and philosophical.

Regarding free markets throughout history, in my view, no genuinely true and completely free markets have ever existed. It is true: Markets are like weeds. They will grow all over at any time and under almost any conditions, as they did even behind the "Iron Curtain"... but they were shaped by the forces that constrained them.

In most cases, these forces were political (which is why "black markets" arose... and why they still exist, to fulfill demand in areas that are prohibited by law: gambling, drugs, prostitution, etc.). But in many cases, the forces are cultural (see my point above). We can't deny that racism exists, my point there is that it is the political that has created the conditions for the perpetuation of racism and tribalism of every sort across the centuries.
11.28.2007 8:55am
Andrew J. Lazarus (mail):
A libertarian variation on the is/ought problem.

The point is: Government can't force a change in this regard. The most it can do is enforce laws such that there is no "de jure" segregation. De facto segregation is something that has to be fought culturally, not politically. The fight is not simply political, but cultural and philosophical.
One can argue that government shouldn't force such a change, but not that it can't. Not only can the government force such a change, to a very considerable extent civil rights acts did so.
11.28.2007 10:14am