David R. Henderson  

The Wall Street Journal's Strange Editorial on Rand Paul

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In today's Wall Street Journal, the editors have an editorial denouncing Kentucky candidate for the U.S. Senate, Rand Paul. It's strange. Here's the ending sentence of the first paragraph:

But before we move on, it's important to understand why Mr. Paul was wrong even on his own libertarian terms.

So that would lead a reader to expect that the editorial would say why opposing laws that would violate a business owner's freedom of association is wrong "on libertarian terms," right?

But that's not what the editors do. Instead, they lay out the grisly history of local and state governments' assaults on the rights of black people. The editors write:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964--and its companion laws, such as the Voting Rights Act of 1965--were designed to address abuses of state and local government power. The Jim Crow laws that sprang up in the South after Reconstruction and prevailed for nearly a century were not merely the result of voluntary association. Discrimination--public and private--was enforced by police power and often by violence.

Exactly. And notice that Rand Paul did not defend these state and local government assaults. So how exactly was Rand Paul wrong on libertarian terms? Blank out.


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CATEGORIES: Labor Market



COMMENTS (40 to date)
David writes:
Kentucky candidate for the U.S. Senate, Ron Paul

I think you meant Rand Paul.

Aside from that, great post. I think this is a result of striving to be "politically correct" to the extent that they missed the point, and the debate, entirely.

David R. Henderson writes:

@David,
Thanks. Correction made.

Dave writes:

Ross Douthat has a brilliant must-read column on the same topic today.

The Principles of Rand Paul

David R. Henderson writes:

@Dave,
I'm not a fan of Douthat's column. There's strong evidence to support the idea that state and local regulation were the culprit. Douthat lumps that together with private voluntary discrimination.
Moreover, Rand Paul is not, as Douthat says, "radically noninterventionist." I wish. Where I would like Rand Paul to backtrack is on his criticism of President Obama for, wisely, in my opinion, taking nuclear weapons off the table in dealing with Iran.

david writes:

Rand Paul voiced support for "state's rights" in this context. The meaning is fairly clear.

Besides which. Segregation happened in areas without laws requiring segregation; you cannot claim with a straight face that all innocent businesspeople were forced to do so (we know that some were, but these were hardly a majority). In many cases in the South the Jim Crow laws were even specifically written vaguely to avoid Supreme Court challenges (e.g., allowing theater operators to order patrons to seat elsewhere or leave 'for the comfort of other patrons').

Even in the Gary Becker model, all that was happening is the free market selling people an opportunity to be racist. And if that's what "freedom of association" is supposed to be, then screw freedom of association.

Morgan writes:

david:

"screw freedom of association"

So the fact that some people might freely choose to associate in ways that you don't like justifies the elimination of free association, huh? And when people speak in ways you don't like, does the same logic apply?

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:
Segregation happened in areas without laws requiring segregation; you cannot claim with a straight face that all innocent businesspeople were forced....

It's not a question of 'all', it's a question of, 'in the absence of segregation laws' what would have happened. And, as I said in the earlier post, there was plenty of evidence that commercial pressures would have worked in the South as they had almost everywhere else.

Anyone remember the embarrassed silence at the Academy Awards when Robert Rich--aka the supposedly blacklisted Dalton Trumbo--failed to come forward to accept his Best Screenplay Oscar for 'The Brave One'?

More to the point for an econ blog, it took a Federal Law, Davis-Bacon, to stop the construction industry--not theretofore noted for its social progressivism--from hiring Blacks at lower than 'prevailing wages' as replacements for unionized white workers. That was in the 1930s.

Rand Paul, whatever his shortcomings as a political candidate, has given us an Emperor's New Clothes Moment; he's the little boy blurting out the truth while the adults on the editorial pages are pretending to ignore him in order to be 'worthy'.

david writes:

I am entirely fine with hate speech legislation, because I am aware that collective biases (1) exist, and (2) can restrict positive liberties far more easily than a real-life constitutionalized and court-disciplined government.

Boonton writes:

It's not a question of 'all', it's a question of, 'in the absence of segregation laws' what would have happened. And, as I said in the earlier post, there was plenty of evidence that commercial pressures would have worked in the South as they had almost everywhere else.

That sounds like the predictions that slavery would have disappeared 'on its own' if just left alone. Segregation and discrimination were also rampant in the North where there were no formal Jim Crow Laws on the books.

david writes:

And Patrick R. Sullivan condemns the Federal government for restricting itself from using its massive potentially-market-distorting power to lower labor wages. Okay.

The point is that market pressures didn't work everywhere else - that segregation persisted even when laws did not require it. I challenge you to explain why privately-run and privately-owned theaters in the North segregated despite the absence of laws obliging them to do so.

Ella writes:

david, you're wrong on freedom of speech - and freedom of association. Period.

The Constitution (theoretically) and more important Nature itself do not grant "positive liberties" because those do not exist. The idea of negative rights means that the government is constrained from interfering with your life in very important ways - like telling you what you can and cannot say and who you can or cannot associate with.

Is it evil for their to be black churches? Or black universities? Are the NAACP or UNCF so impinging on my positive liberties that it shouldn't be allowed to exist? No. Because freedom of association allows them to form communities that they find beneficial, supportive, and good. The fact that those communities are race-based doesn't affect me a whit.

Even today, people self-segregate along racial, cultural, and religious lines, and we have the right to do that. My ability to go to church or select my community is an intrinsic right - as it is with anyone else. In this case, your "positive liberties" could realistically be used to take away my Nature-given rights, and you're cool with it. That's a little bit evil.

david writes:

@Ella

It doesn't affect you a whit; it affects them. That's how privilege works: the ability for it to not matter.

That's the point - that history matters, that private and civil institutions matter, that structural biases exist and can restrict the exercise of liberty. Letting these persist is what seems evil to me.

Yancey Ward writes:

Again, I will ask Paul's detractors- would you not feel that Jim Crow laws that prohibited you from not dicriminating were a violation of your rights?

david writes:

Because laws which coercively support an existing entrenched and inegalitarian power structure are ethically the same as laws which coercively undo it.

* this is sarcasm.

Nathan writes:
Again, I will ask Paul's detractors- would you not feel that Jim Crow laws that prohibited you from not dicriminating were a violation of your rights?

Yes, but the importance of this violation is orders of magnitudes lower than the importance of the violations of the rights of black people. White business owners were not the victims of Jim Crow.

David R. Henderson writes:

Nathan writes,
White business owners were not the victims of Jim Crow.

They weren't "the" victims, but they were among the victims. Many of these companies wanted to integrate and were forbidden to do so by state law. When you are not allowed by law to engage in exchange, you are a victim of that law.

Ted writes:

So, how far is Rand Paul willing to take his logic? Would he be against government intervention in a large corporation dumping toxic sludge on their property - which then seeped through the soil into the water commons (again, they dumped it on their OWN property). I suspect he would appeal to that fact they are generating an externality and so can be regulated in some fashion. Now, you could do two things. You can't have toxic sludge in the water commons so either you'd have to pass a law banning it or tax it so prohibitively that you effectively ban it. Both would be violating a companies personal liberty to dump their sludge because they generate negative externalites on the rest of the population. Most just decide that the companies liberty is inferior to the collective suffering by those effected.

Well, wasn't segregation harmful to African-Americans (if you say no, I'm not taking you seriously)? Wasn't those business activity perpetuating discrimination and making there lives substantially worse? Is there no substantial loss of utility and quality-of-life among African-Americans from continued segregation? The answer is, of course, yes. So, why is regulating an activity (segregation) that generates so much harm to many people any different than an activity like pollution that generates so much harm?

Of course, one can take the logic even farther an argue because I can't afford a new 3D TV that I'm hurt and so the government should force them to sell it to me for a lower price - but one could easily argue that I'm not hurt that much by that, so the overall loss would be greater by regulating that.

So, libertarians have three options:

(i) Explain why causing harm to millions of people in the form of pollution I described by private business is different than causing substantial harm to millions of people in the form of discrimination by private business

(ii) Argue that government can't interfere with any activity, including dumping toxic sludge onto their own soil which then seems into the water commons.

(iii) Argue discrimination actually wasn't that bad and so their would be greater loss by regulating it (that's a very hard sell).


Also, the argument that everything would have been fine if Jim Crow laws weren't around is ridiculous. It's not as though Southern business owners (protests did work for some larger businesses, but it was because they feared boycotts by Northerners, not Southerners) would suddenly desegregate without those laws. They were extremely popular in the South - they continually elected people that supported these laws. They would have been enforced privately if the Federal government hadn't intervened. We almost have proof of that claim. Segregation in the South didn't even come close to be over, even after the Federal law mandated it! If a Federal law mandating it couldn't desegregate for many years, I highly doubt private actions would.

david writes:

Many of these companies wanted to integrate and were forbidden to do so by state law.

If that were true, once the Federal government forced the matter we would have seen companies rushing to integrate.

But no, we had White Citizen Councils and white businessowners and institutions rushing to maintain segregation. So, no. While some companies were occasionally segregated against their will, it seems like most of them wanted to.

Again, please explain segregation in the places where it was not required, or unequal treatment in the places where it was.

Nathan Benedict writes:

"Would he be against government intervention in a large corporation dumping toxic sludge on their property - which then seeped through the soil into the water commons (again, they dumped it on their OWN property). I suspect he would appeal to that fact they are generating an externality and so can be regulated in some fashion."

I can't speak for Mr. Paul, but in my view, pollution is not an "externality." It is a violation of property rights. If my sludge seeps onto someone else's property, I have violated his rights, just as surely as if I were to have punched him in the nose. But discriminating against someone, while certainly harmful, is not a rights violation. The standard libertarian position is that laws exist to protect rights, not necessarily maximize utility or prohibit bad things. The moral and the legal are two different realms. In short, option (i).

StatingTheObvious writes:

Ted, a very simple answer to (i). The polluter harms you. The discriminatory business simply fails to help you. They are not the same thing.

In the case of a polluter, ask what happens if they don't exist or didn't pollute. The water table you drink from is now cleaner, and your property is more valuable.

Now ask what happens if a discriminatory store didn't exist or didn't do business. You still don't get to shop there.

Boonton writes:

Is it evil for their to be black churches? Or black universities? Are the NAACP or UNCF so impinging on my positive liberties that it shouldn't be allowed to exist? No. Because freedom of association allows them to form communities that they find beneficial, supportive, and good.

No but contrary to popular belief whites and and do sometimes join 'black churches', 'black universitites' and even the NAACP or UNCF. The latter two and churches fall under private organizations so if they wanted to restrict membership based on race they would be well within the law. Universities are a bit more problematic since most entangle their funding with Federal assistance and participate in Federal programs, which is why the term you may hear more often is 'historically black colleges'. While it's financially difficult, it is possible for a university to legally discriminate on race, few do though because they would be writing themselves out of the mainstream but I believe Bob Jones University did prohibit interracial dating for a while and took the financial hit.

Yancy
Again, I will ask Paul's detractors- would you not feel that Jim Crow laws that prohibited you from not dicriminating were a violation of your rights?

As I answered on the previous thread, yes I would feel that would be a violation.

David R. Henderson
They weren't "the" victims, but they were among the victims. Many of these companies wanted to integrate and were forbidden to do so by state law.

Evidence please? The only example I recall seeing were street car companies which is understandable given the massive capital costs and scheduling challenges of running a transit system having to contend with segregated cars and routes would have been a real headache. According to our friend wikipedia:

"Some examples of Jim Crow laws are the segregation of public schools, public places and public transportation, and the segregation of restrooms, restaurants and drinking fountains for whites and blacks. "

It sounds like Jim Crow mostly applied to government offices, schools, parks and large areas of public gatherings (such as movie theatres). The segregation of small businesses, eateries, stores etc. was done not by legal mandate but by the decision of the owner. That makes the bulk of the segregation technically 'voluntary' in the sense that there was no particular law mandating it but it was nonetheless mandated by social custom and sanction.

The libertarian mindset here seems to put the cart before the horse. It seems to imagine the government as some foreign entity imposed on society rather than created by society itself. The South passed laws requiring large public places like the public transit, movie theatres, and schools to segregate because segregation was forced upon smaller enterprises outside of the law. The libertarian take, though, seems to always seek to blame a gov't policy for all ills so it tries to view history upside down, imagining all the small shops, churches and so on segregated because the gov't had a law saying the bus company had to segregate!

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:
I challenge you to explain why privately-run and privately-owned theaters in the North segregated despite the absence of laws obliging them to do so.

Ever hear the adage, the perfect is the enemy of the good?

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:
That sounds like the predictions that slavery would have disappeared 'on its own' if just left alone.

Obviously slavery was a legally enforceable right for slaveholders. You know about Dred Scott? Fugitive Slave Laws?

Tom Dougherty writes:

david, you make no sense. If most people and companies in the South wanted to be segregated, then there would be no need to have laws to maintain segregation. Those businesses who decided to integrate would not be patronized and go out of business. A law forcing segregation would then not be necessary. If this were really true a law maintaining segregation would not be necessary.

But the reality is that to discriminate is costly to those who engage in discrimination. The reason why Jim Crow laws were necessary was to socialize the costs of discrimination to all businesses. That way, those who engaged in discrimination would not be penalized for their racists view relative to those who did not discriminate. It is costly for discriminating business to maintain separate facilities for blacks and whites. It is costly to have additional railroad cars just for blacks. It is costly to have separate waiting rooms and separate ticket counters at bus stations. It is costly to have separate billiard rooms for whites and blacks. And it would be costly to have all your black customers patronize a non discriminating business. This is precisely why Jim Crow laws were necessary.

Without Jim Crow laws the markets would have eliminate the high cost, discriminatory businesses, while the lower cost integrated business would flourish. Without Jim Crow laws the market would have ended segregation. That is why Jim Crow laws were necessary.

Boonton writes:

Obviously slavery was a legally enforceable right for slaveholders. You know about Dred Scott? Fugitive Slave Laws?

It is a common argument of revisionists that slavery would have ceased to have been economically viable in the south at some point in the future. The hypothesis that the social equilibrium could have simply been changed for the better by forcing more neutral laws rather than ones that aggressively challenged the status quo is supported by very weak evidence here IMO.

Without Jim Crow laws the markets would have eliminate the high cost, discriminatory businesses, while the lower cost integrated business would flourish. Without Jim Crow laws the market would have ended segregation. That is why Jim Crow laws were necessary.

Unless, of course, whites were willing to pay a premium to eat with only whites around, to ride in first class cars with only whites, to see movies surrounded by only whites. Likewise whites could also cap the income of many blacks by controlling the opportunities available to them both by short changing education and frustrating their attempts to form their own successful businesses. (Before segregation one of the first things done after the Civil War was to frustrate the ability of blacks to vote by instituting literacy tests and poll taxes thereby denying them access to representation).

Actually such a society might have been in near perfect equilibrium. If the gains the white elite received by being able to tap cheap black labor came close to equalling the added costs of consuming goods in a segregated fashion, I see no theoretical reason why the system wouldn't have remained stable for decades more. The laws were more likely, IMO, enacted to bolster a stable social arrangement rather than enacted as an effort to 'fight the market' trying to shift society to a new equilibrium.

Boonton writes:

Let me raise a question here I've raised on the other thread.

I count the following 'deviations' from libertarian orthodoxy by Paul:

1. Is against legalizing drugs
2. Is against open borders or providing illegal aliens a reasonable path towards legalization.
3. Opposes reductions in Medicare physician paymens because physicians should make a "comfortable living" (paid for by the Fed. gov't, not private insurance or individual co-payment!)
4. Supports the gov't banning all abortion.


Now as Ross Douthat pointed out in his NYT piece, all ideologies bend when confronted with being implemented in the real world. But many of the above things represent huge infringements of liberty on many individuals in America. Yet in the name of getting elected its ok to play 'cafeteria Catholic' and drop some ideas from libertarian theory (which if you come from the Ayn Rand school, is as absolutely true, as absolutely logical and irrefutable and undivisible as Newton's Laws of Motion....if not more so!).

Why shouldn't African Americans and others raise their eyebrows a bit at the fact that while all sorts of compromises are apparantly quite acceptable to the Tea Party/Libertarian mindset, the Civil Rights Act, which nearly everyone prefers to let it remain as a settled issue, isn't. When it comes to the Civil Rights Act, Rand's dithering is suddenly almighty 'principle' that must be set above all the trivial childish concerns of those who aren't quite as grown up?

How about this, he gets more orthodox on #1,2 and 3 in exchange for making peace with civil Rights? Fair trade?

david writes:

Tom Dougherty, I repeat that segregation existed and persisted even in places where Jim Crow laws did not exist.

Your contention that that the market would eliminate segregation is empirically false by examination of segregation in the North and in places in the South where the laws were written vaguely to avoid SCOTUS intervention.

Patrick R. Sullivan, it seems clear that segregation is not a satisfactorily 'good' outcome. I take it you concede that your imperfect preferred market outcome will not, in fact, deliver an outcome better than what we had prior to Federal intervention? That you would support permitting private segregation on the level that existed?

Tom Dougherty writes:

"Unless, of course, whites were willing to pay a premium to eat with only whites around, to ride in first class cars with only whites, to see movies surrounded by only whites."

You have just made my point. If they were willing to pay a premium Jim Crows laws would not be necessary. Exactly. The fact that there were Jim Crow laws shows that discriminatory businesses needed state support without which they would have failed. And you have also acknowledged that businesses that discriminate would be high cost businesses that would require individual's to pay a premium to patronize in the absence of state supported Jim Crow laws.

" Likewise whites could also cap the income of many blacks by controlling the opportunities available to them both by short changing education and frustrating their attempts to form their own successful businesses."

Again this is done through the mechanism of the state. No one is arguing against the need to abolish institutional state supported racism.

Underwriterguy writes:

Anyone posting grow up in the Deep South in the 50's? I did. Segregation was not just a matter of law it was deep into white culture and mores. I was taught to be respectful of "colored people," never use the "N" word, not sit in "their" sections of buses, theaters, etc., not drink from their fountains or use their facilities. To a kid it seemed normal; we didn't invade their places, they didn't use ours. When I played with colored kids from a few streets over, both they and we felt we were getting away with something.

It didn't take Jim Crow laws to segregate the south, and I'm not confident that an integrated just society would have occurred without Federal intervention.

Tom Dougherty writes:

Boonton on why Jim Crow was not effective: "Unless, of course, whites were willing to pay a premium to eat with only whites around, to ride in first class cars with only whites, to see movies surrounded by only whites."

dave: "I repeat that segregation existed and persisted even in places where Jim Crow laws did not exist."

Underwriterguy: "It didn't take Jim Crow laws to segregate the south...."

The Jim Crow law deniers are really multiplying on this thread. I think why these people deny the effects of Jim Crow laws is because they come from a perspective that government is God and cannot see the inherent evil in much of what the government does. Even the removal of Jim Crow laws is considered by them as government intervention, instead of what it really is, which is the removal of government intervention of state enforced segregation. And probably what gets in their crawl the most is that the state was the enforcer of segregation in the south. Their beloved government was so obviously evil that they must deny, deny, deny.

Other Souther(ner) writes:

I was also raised in the south, in Mississippi, and while my memories of segregation itself are hazy, I do recall a lot of outrage from the vocal minority of whites at the loss of segregation, and a lot of ugly talk about what that would mean for whites.

I also remember a lot of measured voices too though. Those were the people who merely lamented the passing of segregation, and wished the federal government would mind its own business. I don't recall ever hearing anyone lament the State or local governments and their laws that imposed it. The State was viewed as the guardians of a tradition—as conservative—and the federal intervention as anything from detestable to discouraging. Separation was normal and natural as far as most white southerners in my area were concerned.

As for why there were laws...it was because black people wanted integration. The laws were there to provide a legal basis on which to enforce white preference, so that social pressure (or worse) was not the only way to keep segregation alive.

Those are my people and I love them dearly, but the notion that they were secretly opposed to segregation in mass numbers seems farfetched from my perspective. Perhaps most business owners were, but I think we seek out evidence on that before we assume that to be a fact.

david writes:

Tom Dougherty has yet to encounter the idea that laws sometimes exist to codify an existing attitude, and also clearly hasn't encountered Gary Becker's work.

Also, denying that segregation existed among private business in the North is pretty rich. The ad hominems really don't help either.

david

Even the supporters of full freedom of association have never denied that SOME organisations WILL discriminate, including in employment and customer service. The question is always relative. Would the South have moved to integrate like the rest of the country if the Civil Rights act had only removed lawful segregation (which arguably the 14th Amendment, if properly enforced by the Supreme Court contra Slaughterhouse was written for)?

The free association folks believe this would happen. Applying the competitive labor market analysis would indicate rapid integration into many positions (which the racist unions fought against all over the country with minimum wage and other laws).

Patrick R. Sullivan writes:
It is a common argument of revisionists that slavery would have ceased to have been economically viable in the south at some point in the future

Great, when you encounter someone making that argument, you're prepared!

Patrick R. Sullivan, it seems clear that segregation is not a satisfactorily 'good' outcome. I take it you concede that your imperfect preferred market outcome will not, in fact, deliver an outcome better than what we had prior to Federal intervention?

You take it incorrectly; I've given you several historical examples of segregation being undermined by competitive pressures.

Joe writes:

If pure libertarianism were an actual natural state, these conversation would be moot; slavery would never have happened because the concept of owning another human being would have been an impossible, unless of course you convince yourself they are different from you and not quite human; therefore mighty makes right

Boonton writes:

Tom

You have just made my point. If they were willing to pay a premium Jim Crows laws would not be necessary. Exactly. The fact that there were Jim Crow laws shows that discriminatory businesses needed state support without which they would have failed.

Except no one has presented any evidence that most businesses were forced to segregate. The segregation laws mostly impacted government entities and a few large enterprises like public transit.

The Jim Crow law deniers are really multiplying on this thread. I think why these people deny the effects of Jim Crow laws is because they come from a perspective that government is God and cannot see the inherent evil in much of what the government does.

Chicken before the egg going on here Tom. You are trying to assert that Jim Crow was inflicted upon an unwilling business community. Why? Aside form a single example of a public transit company what evidence do you have that there was widespread opposition to Jim Crow by business? Segregation was enforced primarily by societal norms and social sanction. Formal, legal segregation was the 'icing on the cake', not the foundation of the cake.

Other Souther(ner)
I also remember a lot of measured voices too though. Those were the people who merely lamented the passing of segregation, and wished the federal government would mind its own business. I don't recall ever hearing anyone lament the State or local governments and their laws that imposed it.

I think I'll stand by your first hand experience rather than the theorizing of our libertarian friends here. I've compared this habit of some libertarians to socialists. They love their clean theories so much they'd rather discount actual reality least anything messy like human nature enter their theories.

Another point which I'd love to hear you speak on, and correct me if I'm wrong.... Segregation kind of falls short as a word. It's not as if whites and blacks were totally separated living apart. Many better off whites had blacks raising their children, working in their homes, living more intimately with blacks than many do today. It wasn't so much that whites and blacks had no interaction or trade but interaction and trade was done with a protocol that was reinforced both by social custom and the law when necessary.

Contemplationist

Even the supporters of full freedom of association have never denied that SOME organisations WILL discriminate, including in employment and customer service. The question is always relative. Would the South have moved to integrate like the rest of the country if the Civil Rights act had only removed lawful segregation (which arguably the 14th Amendment, if properly enforced by the Supreme Court contra Slaughterhouse was written for)?

Well it took maybe a generation to go from 'colored water fountains' to a black President and that was with an aggressive law that banned discrimination. Why would a passive law have done the job faster rather than longer?

Also the problem is again that segregation would 'work' in a market if whites were willing to pay a premium for it. The theoretical question is how much of a premium? Whites were a majority and had more income and resources. Many of segregation's costs were hidden. Millions of blacks were not educated as much as they should have been, did not have the opportunities they should have had. Denying them that has made us poorer. But we don't see that 'cost'. We don't see that maybe we could have had some important medical breakthrough 40 years earlier if we had done things right 150 years ago....likewise we don't see the contributions all those lives that were lost would have made. So a huge portion of the cost is hidden from those in the transaction.

The visible cost is a loss of efficiency due to segregation making it more difficult to conduct business, hire the best people etc. I would suspect that most of these visible costs were imposed on the minority of blacks with the remainder spread out very thin across the majority of whites. Segregation probably didn't seem very 'expensive' to white consumers 50 years ago which leads me to suspect that a neutral gov't policy of just letting the market operate would have likely produced an equilibrium where segregation was stable....or stable for a long period of time.

The aggressive policy of actually going after discrimination not only let market forces work against it but challenged social norms directly and forcefully. To argue that the 'passive policy' would have worked eventually invites Keynes's (I'm sure you guys love to hear it!) passage about we are all eventually dead..... Well 'eventually' sounds ok from a theoretical discussion but if you were a young black person in 1960 or an older person wondering what type of life your children will have 'eventually' is pretty cold comfort....

Boonton writes:

Some examples of Jim Crow laws can be found at http://academic.udayton.edu/race/02rights/jcrow02.htm

What strikes me is that many of the laws are targeted at relatively large social institutions that were often at least partially funded by state gov't. Hospitals, libraries, prisons, schools etc.

Restaurants show up as well and a few other 'entertainment' items (billiard halls, theaters, circuses). But for the most part that's it. The only major example I see was a requirement that employers provide separate toilets for blacks.

I suspect that restaurants found the transactional costs of segregation relatively minor. Basically if your had a lot of black customers you became a black restaurant. A lot of white you were a white one. If you were in between you just needed to put up a wall dividing your eating areas and you could sell to both. Ditto for the bathrooms. Just take the existing bathrooms and cut them in half and you're more or less paid for the costs of segregation. There's still some costs.....I would imagine if you had a lot of black customers one night but not many whites you'd be stuck with lines waiting to get into the black area but you wouldn't be able to use the tables of the less full white area..... Yes a headache and some potentially lost sales....but maybe not. Where could the blacks go? Nowhere and if you had too many white customers you could probably make the black area smaller.

More of an issue is this idea that my objection is because I think "Government is God". On the contrary, the idea that segregation was driven by the law sounds to me like "gov't is god".....as if the entire culture of the south could be explained by a few misguided policies enacted by a government that unfortunately lacked some enlightened libertarians. It's not like the governments of Alabama, Florida, Georgia decided one day to ban blacks and whites eating together in restaurants for no particular reason or decided to mandate white and black toilets because the plumbers union thought it would be good for their members. It was driven by society and if you're going to ask how a libertarian solution would have fared the next question is to ask how exactly you would have had a libertarian solution? Are you proposing abolishing democracy and setting up a libertarian philosopher king who will be sent back to 1930 via a soon to be invented time machine? If not then you should pay some attention to how exactly you get libertarian policies that will not be subverted and distorted by a population that wants segregation and intends to have it one way or the other?

Bob Murphy writes:

Boonton wrote:

Well it took maybe a generation to go from 'colored water fountains' to a black President and that was with an aggressive law that banned discrimination. Why would a passive law have done the job faster rather than longer?

C'mon Boonton, did you just argue that prima facie, when the government passes a law to achieve a desirable social outcome, that any non-ideologue must agree that the law achieves its ostensible purpose?

Do you think the security measures implemented by Bush/Cheney make us more secure?

Do you think the drug war reduces drug use?

Whether or not you do, can you at least understand how someone could question these assertions?

Boonton writes:

C'mon Boonton, did you just argue that prima facie, when the government passes a law to achieve a desirable social outcome, that any non-ideologue must agree that the law achieves its ostensible purpose?

So let's see, the Civil Rights laws were a huge infringement on liberty.....or they weren't anything at all since the market was just about getting ready to 'recalculate' itself anyway! Let's try to get our stories straight ladies and gentlemen!

For the record no simply passing a law does not create a dramatic change in social outcomes. Many laws only make incremental changes. Others make unexpected changes. Some laws, though, reinforce widespread changes in opinions and customs. As I pointed out before, the Civil Rights laws were coupled with a thrust from multiple spheres that challenged segregation, the South and racism in general.

Could a more passive civil rights law have given enough support to effect the social change that happened? I suppose it might have, I suppose it might have even done it in the same time the more aggressive civil rights laws did (although no one here has explained why or how). I see even less reason, though, to assume it could have done the job in less time. And if you're going to say it would have you should provide some actual reasons that we should believe you.

Boonton writes:

Via Ta-Nehisi Coates, Charles Lane has an interesting question on private discrimination in businesses that deal in 'public accomodation':

Suppose an African American customer sits down at a "whites only" restaurant and asks for dinner. The owner tells him to leave. The customer refuses and stays put. What are the owner's options at that point? He can forcibly remove the customer himself, but, as Paul concedes, that could expose the restaurateur to criminal or civil liability. So he'll have to call the cops. When they arrive, he'll have to explain his whites-only policy and ask them to remove the unwanted black man because he's violating it. But they can only do that on the basis of some law, presumably trespassing. In other words, the business owner's discriminatory edict is meaningless unless some public authority enforces it.
Conversely, it is precisely because of this nexus between private discrimination and public enforcement that the larger community, through the political and judicial process, acquires a valid interest in legislating against discrimination. The public is entitled to say whether their tax money should pay for arresting black trespassers on whites-only property.
http://www.theatlantic.com/national/archive/2010/05/toward-an-abstract-courage/57150/

There is a breakdown here I think with libertarian theology. The 'right' to associate appears to be backed up with an entitlement to call the police in to enforce your whims.

I once worked for a man who had a storage unit with a lot of equipment in it. It had an alarm system and the workers would often trigger it accidently and the police would show up 15 minutes later and we'd all have to show ID. The town had a law after something like two false alarms the police were entitled to start citing you with $50 fines.

The gov't does put regulation on businesses that serve as a check on this 'entitlement'. For example, a bar that has frequent fights and crime can have its license revoked on the grounds that it is a public nuisance. You may have a right to own a bar but the town doesn't have to pay for extra cops every Friday night because your crowd likes to get rough. No the town doesn't have to let you use your own 'muscle' to keep things in line as libertarian theology says the gov't has a legitit. monopoly on the use of force.

Hence, while they are probably abused, there is some legitimacy to zoning laws. The gov't doesn't have to accomodate every demand on the 'entitlement' that could be made by businesses. To keep the calls down they can cap the number of bars at three. To keep from getting flooded with hundreds of shoplifting complaints, they can keep retail businesses located on or near Main Street, which can be patrolled by a single cop or two. Regardless while businesses are often a net positive it doesn't change the fact that a business is not neutral. It implicitly takes something from its community and there's an argument that the community is entitled to ask for reasonable accomodations in return.

While I'm not sure this is a perfect argument for Civil Rights Laws under a libertarian mindset I think it's an issue that libertarians should take seriously.

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