The Tension between Civil Rights and Limited Government

kingWhen Congress passed the Johnson-Era Civil Rights Acts, America began an unprecedented expansion of personal liberty that reached far beyond the black community. For the first time ever, the meritocratic ideals that have always rested at the foundation of the American political experiment were backed by forceful Federal intervention.

The effects were rapid and dramatic. In a single generation, Southern states nearly caught up with the rest of the country in terms of literacy, average incomes, even life expectancy. A solid African-American middle class emerged along with vast new political power. Frustrating gaps still exist, but the expansion of basic personal liberty for African-Americans and other formerly marginalized communities has been impressive.

This presents a conundrum for libertarians. The Civil Rights Acts expanded personal freedom by expanding the role of government in our private lives. There may be no major Federal legislation in history that stretched the fingers of the central government more deeply into realm of personal decision-making, or even personal opinion, than the Civil Rights Acts. The use of intrusive Federal power to successfully expand personal liberty puts the whole foundation of modern libertarianism in doubt.

The Acts regulated how personal opinions could be expressed in almost any economic terms. Freedom of association, as it had been previously interpreted was deeply curtailed. State and local government rights were severely limited. Civil Rights legislation was even interpreted to define, in some circumstances, how religious opinions could be expressed.

For libertarians, freedom is almost always defined by the extent to which individuals are unencumbered by the coercive power of government. By that absurdly narrow definition the Civil Rights Acts were a dramatic reduction in freedom. The libertarian obsession with government leaves them blind to other, more powerful forces that destroy personal liberty.

By libertarian standards, Southern states in the pre-Civil Rights Era were a paradise of personal liberty. There was virtually no government to speak of. Personal choices were almost entirely unburdened by intervention from an organized central authority.

Want to dig a coal mine? Go for it. Want to dump industrial waste in the river? What you do with your property is your own business. Want to lynch a black teenager for whistling at a white girl? No one is going to stop you.

In the libertarian paradise of the Old South, no central authority interfered with a man’s basic freedoms. As a result, the strong, the popular, the well-organized, and the wealthy were able to run roughshod over those with less power.

Enforcement and maintenance of white supremacy did not come from the state. Governments in the South were too weak to enforce anything. Jim Crow was conceived, implemented, and held in place by informal, voluntary, popular arrangements as one would expect in a libertarian community.

A dense, organic network of paramilitary and terrorist groups performed the day to day work of maintaining white supremacy. The KKK is by far the best known of these organizations, but much of the dirty work of maintaining segregation was carried out by local, less formal groups.

Sitting above the paramilitaries were more dignified, “moderate” local assemblies, like the White Citizens’ Councils of the late Jim Crow period. The secrecy of the paramilitaries meant that a man could sit on a more respected assembly by day, urging the peaceful resolution of differences while coordinating or even participating in more violent groups.

Very little of the structure of Jim Crow was ever reduced to law. The laws were only necessary to limit the ability of high-minded law enforcement from attempting to restrain “public will.” Jim Crow was almost entirely informal, cultural, and driven by extra-legal enforcement. Jim Crow is what happens when libertarians get what they want.

When Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. rallied African-Americans to resist Jim Crow, they faced some resistance from local law enforcement, but it wasn’t a sheriff who murdered Emmett Till or Medgar Evers. No civil authority bombed churches or lynched Civil Rights workers. When local law enforcement feebly tried to enforce the law, attempting to prosecute those who harassed or even murdered civil rights workers, they were thwarted by a liberty-loving community bent on preserving their own freedom to discriminate.

For Republicans in our era looking to restrain growing Federal power, it is critical that we demonstrate an understanding of the risks. Smaller government could potentially make our society wealthier, freer, and better able to compete in the world, but only if we know what to cut and what to preserve.

Successful streamlining of our Federal government must preserve its core functions or it risks nightmares. No one will trust our efforts unless we have the sense to acknowledge this fact. The experience of the Jim Crow South, or the Caribbean, or Mexico, or much of the Third World shows that weak government is not a value unto itself.

Smaller government is not about indiscriminate cuts. Smaller government means developing smarter ways to operate. We seek to streamline government for the same reason that companies seek to streamline their operations. Being able to perform core tasks while consuming fewer resources improves liberty and wealth. Cutting government blindly merely releases demons to do their work.

We will never successfully restrain the relentless expansion of Federal power unless we understand the valid reasons it exists. On Martin Luther King’s birthday, it would be wise to acknowledge the permanent tension between small government and personal liberty. We must learn to intelligently protect the latter if we will ever achieve the former.

Chris Ladd is a Texan living in the Chicago area. He has been involved in grassroots Republican politics for most of his life. He was a Republican precinct committeeman in suburban Chicago until he resigned from the party and his position after the 2016 Republican Convention. He can be reached at gopliferchicago at gmail dot com.

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Posted in Civil Rights, Ownership Society
123 comments on “The Tension between Civil Rights and Limited Government
  1. There’s definately a great deal to learn about this subject.
    I like all of the points you have made.

  2. […] rights were jealously guarded and subject to a myriad of largely arbitrary local limitations. A system of private violence, without recourse to the justice system, was leveraged to maintain cultural conformity. That […]

  3. […] The Tension Between Civil Rights and Limited Government […]

  4. Texan5142 says:

    I have been enjoying reading the comments on this blog. I believe I have found the CaptSternn twin in thought.

  5. flypusher says:

    My boss e-mailed me a copy of Dr. King’s “Letter from the Birmingham Jail” this morning. I can’t post all of it, but with some people trying to paint “whites only” as some benign expression of individual freedom, this sentence is poignant:

    “.. when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she cannot go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her little eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people;…”

    It’s poison in the public square.

    • DanMan says:

      As a kid visiting my grandmother in East Texas one of the things we often did was go the washateria in a bigger town down the road. I was carrying a basket of clothes and saw the faded “Whites Only” signed over the door.

      “Nannie! its says whites only! we have clothes that aren’t white!” a very kind explanation of the old days and old ways ensued.

      My dad told me about his youth in a different town in East Texas. “Blacks got a raw deal” is how he told it. His parents would whip him and his sister if they ever heard any denigration of their black neighbors.

      I used to run in front of the football team with my Confederate flag shirt in high school. I came home one day and told my mom how bummed Mrs. Lee (remember her?) was about my shirt. I had no clue. Like when her mother did, I got another explanation.

      So lets fast forward through the years and look at where we are now. The racial divide is wider than I’ve ever known it to be. I can’t be alone is seeing this as I know I am the most typical person ever born. What do we do about it?

      I sure don’t know but I keep my head on a swivel and pay attention. I’ve mentioned before I moved back to my old neighborhood. I had never experienced so much “in your face” than the day after Obama won. I’ve seen a black gal slap her child for smiling with me at Food Town. I know what’s going on around me now. I’m pretty much the opposite of my dad in one regard. I don’t trust anybody until they give me a reason to. There are many lessons that had to be unlearned. Its a shame but its reality. We’re divided and probably permanently. I believe its by design too.

      Did me being unaware make me part of the problem? If it did I didn’t know it. I never wore the shirt around Mrs. Lee again. Now I’m called a racist by people that have never met me. I don’t care anymore.

  6. John Galt says:

    “Smaller government could potentially make our society wealthier, freer, and better able to compete in the world, but only if we know what to cut and what to preserve.”

    A lot of comments are focusing on the Civil Rights Act and racism past and present, understandably since this was the bulk of the post. But it was just a timely example and the more important points made are those at the bottom, including the quote above. Neither party today seems to have any overriding philosophy of government, any “strategic plan” for what are the appropriate roles for government. The Democrats seem to govern through a knee-jerk reactionary mechanism in which all problems are met with large helpings of government involvement. The Republicans seem to approach government based on how it sounds as a Fox News headline, which so dumbs down politics as to make it meaningless. War on Christmas! Lower taxes! Smaller government! Let’s blow stuff up! It is appropriate that a lot of this stuff comes from some politicians who appear not to be the sharpest knives in the drawer.

    Missing in this is any sense of rational thought about what government should be doing. A lot of conservatives, epitomized by our own CaptSternn, think that if James Madison didn’t explicitly write it down with a quill pen, then it’s not appropriate, but I like national parks, highways, the FAA, and medical research and so do virtually all of my fellow citizens. None of these are explicitly stated in the Constitution, unless you believe that I-610 is somehow critical to national defense. How should the government invest tax revenue in order to promote stability, commerce, prosperity. What things make the biggest differences in enabling the citizenry to be as productive as possible? Unfortunately, these are conversations that are impossible to have as sound bites.

    • flypusher says:

      ” Neither party today seems to have any overriding philosophy of government, any “strategic plan” for what are the appropriate roles for government. ”

      The only strategic plan they have is ” get over on the other party”.

    • Crogged says:

      The parties reflect the citizens. If one is discussing the Chicago Board of Trade, NYMEX or the NYSE then we are talking about ‘free markets’, but when discussing a regulated market of private health insurers we are discussing ‘socialism’. And removing entire layers of government and rules to directly provide no strings attached funds to citizens is ‘communism’, where maintaining arbitrary standards and the administrative hordes to parcel out tiny, leftover portions of the same funds is ‘helping the poor’, rather than The Liberal Arts Degree Employment Act. I like golf, so I’m a little more used to counterintuitive ideas like “Hit down to make ball go up”. Sometimes we are individually free when we work together.

    • John Galt says:

      Actually, FP, I was going to suggest that their only strategic plan was “to get myself re-elected”, which is pretty close to yours.

      • DanMan says:

        yep, I think its closer to just get re-elected. Both parties. They can work out the details of the largesse they afford themselves between their races for office. Cruz excepted. So far.

  7. CaptSternn says:

    In the end, we are talking about things very un-American. We are talking about assumed guilt and the infringement of basic human rights. We are not talking about libertarian views or limited government, we are talking about totalitarin views and an intrusive government, at the local level and at the federal level. With the Civil Rights Act of 1965 we are talking of assumed guilt of international or interstate commerce. Proof beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law is not easy to attain, so it is assumed. Parts of the Civil Rights Act of 1965, the Controlled Substances Act of 1970 and many others simply dismiss proof and assume guilt.

    There are those that say we should not legislate morality or assume guilt, yet they are the loudest in calling for legislating morality and assuming guilt. Those that call for tolerance and do not tolerate the views of others. Do not tolerate those that do not tolerate. Do they not see the contradiction?

    There are those that denegrate past peoples for seeing human beings as less than human, while seeing other human beings as less than human. I do not understand how such people can face themselves in the mirror, being intolerant, wanting to legislate morality and assuming guilt while being on their high horse saying that they are different, tolerant, not legislating morality or assuming guilt.

    Can we say “hypocrits”?

    • Turtles Run says:

      Good to know that Cappy is still finding a way to argue against things no one said.

      • DanMan says:

        just for turtlehead…

        ” Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”

        According to Andrew Cuomo yesterday…right to life is extreme, every gun is an assault weapon to him so he’s against the 2nd amendment and not promoting the gay agenda is seen by the left as hating gays. There’s no room for differing views. In other words, he has no tolerance for views outside of his own.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Turtles, what do you think the Civil Rights Act of 1965 was based on? I will help you, the infringement on private property and private business is based on international and interstate commerce. Since it would be difficult or impossible to prove that refusal to do business with a person encroached on such trade, guilt is assumed, automatic. Assumed, automatic guilt with no charges, trial or even evidence is what you are supporting.

    • John Galt says:

      “There are those that say we should not legislate morality or assume guilt, yet they are the loudest in calling for legislating morality and assuming guilt. Those that call for tolerance and do not tolerate the views of others. Do not tolerate those that do not tolerate. Do they not see the contradiction?”

      Funny. You’ve just described the religious wing of the Republican party, though I’m sure that’s not what you intended.

      • DanMan says:

        Nice try JG. So the resistance to granting new rights to gays is not tolerance but demanding special rights at the expense of other’s religious convictions, moral views or basic choice of association is?

        flypusher makes a good point. Bigotry does seem to override logic and reason.

      • Turtles Run says:


        What new rights? They are demanding the ability to utilize the rights granted to all American citizens.

      • John Galt says:

        Your “religious convictions” do not matter in the slightest when it comes to setting public policy or treating all citizens as equal under the law and nobody is forcing you to attend gay marriages.

      • DanMan says:

        Do the Christian couple in New Mexico that provides wedding photography as a themed story have a right to refuse to work for gays?

        Does the baker that is fighting in court over similar issues have the right to associate (or not) with the gays that are demanding she bake them a cake?

        You realize New Jersey pulled its original gay marriage legislation because one of the representatives insisted that churches not be excluded from having to perform gay marriages. I believe they have since removed the exemption so now it should only be a quick matter of time before a gay couple insists the largest church they can find perform their ceremony so the cabal of east coast jour-o-listers can romp for a week with stories of bigotry crushed, when they know they are merely pounding traditional social issues because that’s what they do. I bet they don’t go looking for a muslim mosque to make a statement.

        It’s not that the gays don’t have options because they do and have said so. They want to push these issues like most typical liberals do. And go ahead, equate being gay to being black in 1935. I’ll let the blacks deal with that.

      • John Galt says:

        I’d never hire a wedding photographer who didn’t like me or my spouse, because he or she would do a crappy job, but if the state law describes a non-discrimination principle for public businesses and the photographer is a public business, and that law is constitutional (it has only been reviewed by the NM court), then she cannot refuse business for that reason. But, I mean, really, are these people (on both ends) so tactless they couldn’t have made a polite excuse (I’m so sorry, I’m already booked that day) or found an alternate photographer without lawyering up?

        Churches should be able to refuse to perform ceremonies that go against their beliefs, no matter how bigoted. And I should be able to mock them for it. I think the better comparison is not outright discrimination towards African-Americans but laws against interracial marriage, which made no sense either.

      • DanMan says:

        This I agree with JG. If I was forced to make a cake I didn’t want to it would be the worst cake ever. If my gay cousin asked me to make him a cake for his wedding I would follow his recipe to a T and it would be delicious. (He is a great cook and has published cook books btw).

        This is the concept of America that is going away.

  8. objv says:

    Here we go again …Lifer, If this comment stays up, please remove the other awaiting moderation.


    Tuttabella wrote: I don’t believe racists are going to be racists no matter what. As you indicate in your point about how society has evolved, a person who 50 years ago would have been racist — that was just the way things were then — would not be racist if living today.


    Excellent point, Tuttabella. In past history, racism was not limited to southern, white, religious men.Unfortunately, the concept of Africans being an inferior race can be traced back to at least Roman times.

    The consensus among scientists for centuries fostered the concept that blacks were less human and more like apes.In the 1700s, Carl Linaeus classified five varieties of human species. “The Afer or Africanus: black, phlegmatic, relaxed; black, frizzled hair; silky skin, flat nose, tumid lips; females without shame; mammary glands give milk abundantly; crafty, sly, careless; anoints himself with grease; & regulated by will.” In contrast Europeans were “gentle, acute, inventive.”

    Darwin did blacks no favors although it does not seem that he promoted racism himself. That was left to his cousin, Francis Galton, and a number of other scientists and thinkers who took racism to a whole new level with the concept of eugenics – ushering in the era of Hitler and racial cleansing.

    Fortunately, we now know that ALL races are remarkably the same as far as their DNA. In no way do I think that our current knowledge excuses the atrocities committed in the past, but it does explain why many people acted in ways that we would consider racist nowadays.

    • Tuttabella says:

      OV, are you suggesting that scientific interpretation can change over time??

      • objv says:

        Yes, Tuttabella! I’ve been reading over your comments below and they are spot on – as usual. To start the new year right,I am reading “A Year With Rilke” since he is one of your favorite authors. I might finally be able to get some culture!

        Have you ever read any of Malcolm Gladwell’s books? In “David and Goliath,” he had a chapter on how MLK and others were able to masterfully manipulate the media. On the surface, some of their methods were questionable – such as intentionally putting children in danger – but the end result was to shame the white establishment and garner sympathy across America. He also touched on affirmative action – in a way I had never thought of or seen written anywhere else.

    • fiftyohm says:

      Perhaps to a degree more lasting than the Great Dumkopf, at least in the area of antisemitism, was another historical figure. His name was Martin Luther. Now how ironic is that?

      • objv says:

        That Martin Luther was anti-Semitic is both puzzling and disturbing – especially since Jesus and most of the early Christians were Jewish.

        Although I was born in the US, I grew up in a German, religious household. My father’s immigration was sponsored by part Jewish relatives, so there was never any anti-Semitism in our home. There was never any racist or anti-Semitic talk at our German Baptist church either. That said, I have to admit that when my generation grew up and some decided to date or marry non-whites, the older people who had grown up in Nazi Germany had a hard time dealing with it. Fortunately, with only one exception, the old Germans really did change, and accepted the new in-laws, and loved the biracial grandchildren just as much as any white grandchildren. I truly believe that people can change.

        The Bible teaches tolerance. Early disciples where told to preach the gospel to ALL people. It’s a pity that the true message has been so distorted.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Actually OBJV, the *New Testament* teaches tolerance. The rest of the bible is mostly about the opposite. As a result, there is a huge dichotomy in the Christian belief system. I submit it is one that enabled Luther to be such an anti-intellectual ass and still have people listen to him.

    • Tuttabella says:

      Thanks, OV (and Cap), but my comments are rather simplistic compared to all the thoughtful words I see posted here. I don’t have the necessary knowledge, nor the time to develop my ideas, in order to reply properly. I am enjoying the exchange, though, and I’ve learned a lot.

      I especially appreciate fiftyohm’s idea that if we were to go back to a world with a less intrusive federal government, it’s highly unlikely it will result in the same racism that existed before. We’ve come too far.

      I have not read “David and Goliath” by Malcolm Gladwell, but I have an idea as to what it’s about. I’m reminded of how I’ve always enjoyed the “underdog” mentality of being a minority, versus the “victim” mentality.

      • Crogged says:

        When people are really interested in achieving results they offers rewards rather than rules. In my mind, which is too tired and feeble to come up with objective reasons to support the coming assertion, it’s just time to roll back some of the anti-discrimination laws with regards to data collection in hiring practices.

      • DanMan says:

        “When people are really interested in achieving results they offers rewards rather than rules.”

        so simple, so true

  9. objv says:

    What’s up? Why is my comment awaiting moderation?

  10. fiftyohm says:

    It is not at all clear to this observer that the Civil Rights Act accomplished on it own, all the great things that Chris has attributed to it. Social change, for better or worse, can and does happen without government intervention – believe it or not.

    The Civil Rights Act did not legislate individual behavior or attitudes. Bigotry and racism are still legal. They have become unpopular, however. I reject out-of-hand the notion that positive social change – enlightenment if you will – comes only from government. Did the proscription of racism in the public square have a positive effect? Quite possibly. Was it the entire story – or even most of the story? I sincerely doubt it. Either way, that is not for me to prove.

    Does anyone really believe the repeal of the Civil Rights Act would bring back the KKK? Or Jim Crow? Or cause successful businesses to turn away qualified applicants? Or dissolve the super glue that welds SJL’s backside to her seat in Congress?

    Racism is antithetical to Classical Liberalism. I doubt you’ll find a card-carrying libertarians more racist than any other group – at least by any reasonable measure.

    So how far need we look to find authoritarian regimes “unfriendly” to minorities? Let’s start with the most authoritarian: Iran? Check. The majority of the Islamic world? Check. The Russian Federation? Check. It’s clear there seems to be an inverse correlation between authoritarianism and racial/religious/whatever tolerance. Need we review the history of the last century? Didn’t think so.

    Libertarianism is the polar opposite of authoritarianism – not what we now call “liberalism” or “conservatism”, or the Right or the Left.

    And from the ‘for what it’s worth’ department, and based on experience, if one wants to find a real racist, Houston is not the first place, (or even the tenth), I’d look. Frankly, I’d go to Chicago.

    P.S. for Chris: I obviously mean no insult here, my friend. My experience suggests this bastion of the South, this Houston that I have called home for 35 years, is a whale of a lot more tolerant and diverse than the place I came from. I’d be interested in your take.

    • flypusher says:

      “Social change, for better or worse, can and does happen without government intervention – believe it or not.”

      Indeed, but let’s play the what-if game and suppose that the Federal gov’t had declined to enforce desegregation and pass/ enforce Civil/Voting Rights laws. Do you think Jim Crow have withered away on its own? If so, what would have done it in? How long would it have taken? Would race relations be better than they are today? Worse? The same?

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP- Those are exactly the questions I asked. You are effectively saying that all those good things are solely the result of the CRA – a simple assertion without any supporting argument.

      • flypusher says:

        Solely, no. But I will argue that the Feds getting involved was the swiftest way to justice.

        Those of us who are early 50s and younger can have no direct memory of these events, because we would have been born at the earliest towards the end of the Civil Rights Movement. So we have to rely on the history books and broadcasts and news articles of those times. My impression is that things could have been much, much worse, as in a race war. MLK wasn’t the only rights-for-black-people game in town. There were others who were willing to resort to violence. If I were a fed-up black person who didn’t want to take it anymore, I’d have a choice to make. Would I think there was a chance to reform the current society or were my chances for freedom better if I took up arms and burned that mofo down? If I see that there are at least some elements of American society (in this case the Federal gov’t) are willing to act against Jim Crow, MLK’s path would seem more plausible.

        The people who say that such Federal intervention is ALWAYS bad don’t offer up much in the way of answers to the questions I posed (and I’ve posed them often). Also, just because I do approve of Federal intervention in THIS case does not mean that I approve of Federal intervention in EVERY case. This was a major problem, centuries in the making, that needed major action. I don’t want the gov’t to change what is in people’s hearts. I do expect it to lower the boom on those people if acting on what’s in their hearts is undermining the kind of society we like to claim is so exceptional.

    • goplifer says:

      You raise some excellent points.

      What the Civil Rights Acts accomplished for the first time ever, was to break the strangehold of Southern elites on Southern politics. The impact of that change has taken years to play out, and its not over yet (but almost). The last stand of Rick Perry and the rest of the representatives of the old white racist oligarchy is happening around our ears. But their fate was written in the 60’s. The Civil Rights Acts destroyed the legal machinery that kept white supremacy in place.

      The CRA’s did not legislate decency, but for the first time ever in the South it gave legal protection to those who would fight for it. For the first time ever, the power of the Federal bureacracy was brought to bear in the fight against white supremacy. That has had a radical impact on the entire scope of American culture. Like a glacier, it has moved slowly, but relentlessly. Look at the opinions of people under 30 on a whole range of social issues and you are looking at the outcome of the CRA’s.

      Would repealing the CRA’s bring back Jim Crow? History does not repeat itself. Not exactly. The de facto judicial repeal of the Voting Rights Act was followed within hours by efforts aimed specifically at limiting voting rights (don’t try to tell me that’s not what that was), but that doesn’t mean Jim Crow would come back.

      Build it and they will come. Take away the curbs that prevent bigoted, greedy people from using every tool at their disposal to deprive others of their rights, the property, and their livelihood and they will do it. They will do it now just like they did it then. It will look different because everything looks different, but it will happen.

      Racism may be antithetical to Classical Liberalism, but so what? Libertarians are no more racist than anyone else. They have no more affection for anarchy than anyone else. They just happen to accidentally be a racist’s best friend, and be promoting policies that would generate anarchy.

      Is Houston more racist than other places I have lived? Sort of. Racism in the South is…special. I’ve heard people in Chicago or Boston express some shocking opinions about black people. They say things just as inflamatory about the Serbs. Or those dirty Bohemians. It is not the same thing.

      In the North people lived in their own tribal spaces and left each other alone. Their bigotry about other ethic groups carries almost as much enthusiasm as their feelings about a football team. They coexisted for centuries because a larger, more powerful governmental authority kept tensions in check. They have learned to live in a fantastically diverse atmosphere.

      The legacy of slavery and Jim Crow makes race relations in the South an entirely different experience. In the South, those bigoted opinions are backed up with firearms and a very real, very recent history of sustained deadly violence and systematic oppression. The people who inflicted that violence, the people who covered for the people who inflicted that violence, and the people who lost loved ones and property to that violence are still walking around.

      The rhetoric that supported that reign of terror has been cleaned up slightly, but still floats around. And that leaves everybody a little tense. Listen to a few speakers at a King Street Patriots meeting talk about “voter fraud.” Then go listen to a recording of racists defending Jim Crow in the ’50s. That’s why racial tension in Houston is higher than it is in Chicago even though the general public may in the aggregate be less bigoted.

      The CRA’s brought protection to minorities. That has helped lower tension and open opportunities. The effects are spread out over decades, but they are vast. And yes, it is the CRA’s that opened up the South to First-World economic development.

      • fiftyohm says:

        First, the racial violence of the past was an extralegal process. Lynching was never legal. Neither was arson, or battery, or violent threatening behavior. (The murder of minority members has been illegal for a very, very long time.) A brief review of the CRA’s provisions demonstrates this. Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat long before Lyndon Johnson ascended the throne. The wheels of change (and decency, as you so aptly put it), were in motion and gaining speed long before the CRA. I simply do not buy the assertion the CRA was the primary, proximal, pivotal cause of our emergence from the dark.

        And I also don’t buy the statement that ‘Chicago racism’, being so generally omnidirectional, is thereby somehow nicer, warmer, or less offensive. What we seem to agree upon is that it is more common.

        Blaming a sociopolitical philosophy for potential repercussions of it’s unbridled extension is a bit like trying to blame liberals for the loss of decency, or Shirley McClain for our general loss of sanity.

        I wrote last week about doing what was right for the simple sake of it, and taking the good with the bad that comes from that. To a certain extent, that applies to this issue as well.

      • flypusher says:

        “First, the racial violence of the past was an extralegal process. Lynching was never legal. Neither was arson, or battery, or violent threatening behavior. (The murder of minority members has been illegal for a very, very long time.”

        Sure, but if no one was being arrested or tried or convicted or punished for breaking those laws, there’s no real practical difference from it being legal for whites to do those things to blacks. It some ways you could say it was worse, since it made a mockery of the concept of equal treatment under the law.

      • flypusher says:

        Since the iPad is recalcitrant today, a split post

        “Blaming a sociopolitical philosophy for potential repercussions of it’s unbridled extension is a bit like trying to blame liberals for the loss of decency, or Shirley McClain for our general loss of sanity.”

        But shouldn’t libertarians be concerned about unbridled expression tainting the brand, as it were? It’s just like biologists should be concerned about the example that obv gave above, where some people distorted the idea of evolution to justify racism and eugenics, and have a responsibility to counter that misuse.

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP, Those would be really great arguments if the CRA actually did all of that. Minor problem is that it did not – at least in any direct or convincing manner. Sorry.

        To your last question, the answer is, No. First, it is not a brand. Second, and as I said quite specifically, the consequences of authoritarianism are far worse. Good with the bad FP, good with the bad.

      • fiftyohm says:

        And it serves you right for using an iPAD anyway.

      • Turtles Run says:

        ” Second, and as I said quite specifically, the consequences of authoritarianism are far worse. Good with the bad FP, good with the bad.”

        I am curious, how is the authoritarian rule over blacks and other minorities prior to the CRA different from the possible authoritarian abuses by the government? No possible action by the federal government could possibly protected the rights and freedoms of minorities, while at the same time allow the continued institution of segregation in the south.

        A choice had to be made and like many decisions it is the one that allows the most good. The CRA opened up access to rights denied to a large segment of society for generations. To me this is a much greater expression of freedom than the right to keep African-Americans in their place.

        I understand that the libertarian ideal is the uplifting of all people but the reality is much different.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Hey Turtles- To start, prior to the CRA there was no central authoritarian rule over minorities. There were local statutes, but by far the most damaging and pernicious factor was an *attitude*. It was a widely-held belief that people of color were inferior. It was the demise of *this* strangling ignorance that has changed since those days. (Well, mostly I think.) If your thesis is that the CRA was the driving force behind that change, (despite the historical momentum I have suggested), the burden of proof is on you.

        Finally, Left-Right arguments seem always to revolve around, “my authoritarianism is better than your authoritarianism”. “Mine is motivated by good, yours by evil”. “Mine is fair, and yours is not”. And on ad nauseum. I don’t believe in the use of central authority to change people’s hearts. Or minds. It doesn’t work. And the only way it changes behavior is through threat of force.

        You do realize which ‘side’ this places you on, right?

      • goplifer says:

        Maybe this clarification would be helpful.

        Imagine a sport. One side cheats relentlessly, but the rules are structured in a way that prevents the referees from doing anything about it.Through a combination of violence and theft, the cheating side establishes over time a powerful advantage even through the rules should have made that impossible.

        Someone finally gets a rules change that allows the referees to shut down the cheating. The cheating side complains about the authoritarianism of the new rules, but the cleaned up game becomes far more attractive and successful.

        That’s what I see when I look at the CRA’s.The South before the CRAs was like a game with plenty of rules, but no referees.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Chris- I love analogies! Allow me to deconstruct yours, and propose an alternative:

        Sports, by definition, involve symmetry. If one side has an opportunity to cheat, so does the other. (And both will.) I assume here the idea is that somehow one side could not?

        Let’s try this one:

        There is a twice-weekly stick ball game at a vacant lot in the bad part of town. Kids get hurt tripping over bricks and debris, and cut on broken glass. One fine day, in the middle of the game, a “Mom” pulls up in a red Volvo station wagon and stops the game. She proceeds to retrieve a bunch of helmets from the back of the wagon, and decrees that no stick ball shall henceforth be played unless all players wear them. Then she leaves.

        The boys look at each other. After a brief contest to see who can hit the helmet the farthest with a stick, the helmets end up in a pile, and the game resumes.

        Years later, stick ball-related injuries have fallen dramatically. (The vacant lot has also become a beautiful park, with manicures grass, and benches, and all of that.) The now middle-aged “Mom” reads the below-the-fold squib regarding the decrease in stick ball injuries, and smiles to herself – secure in the knowledge that her efforts “saved the children”.

      • flypusher says:

        “consequences of authoritarianism are far worse. Good with the bad FP, good with the bad.”

        IMO there are some bads (like Jim Crow) and potential bads ( a race war as a result of Jim Crow), that are too bad to take. Given the all too many example of vile authoritarian governments we have, I see that comparison as a big reach. Sending in the troops to ensure that children can safely walk to school is a far, far different thing than ordering the tanks into Tianammen Square.

        I used the word “brand” as a shorthand , not trying to be flippant or disrespectful. My point is that I think people who champion certain ideas ought to be concerned if others misuse those ideas. Promoting limited gov’t to deny certain groups equal protection is a misuse of that idea.

        I also don’t believe in the use of central authority to change people’s hearts. I DO believe in using to change people’s behavior, it that behavior is wrong. I’m a pragmatist; I ‘ll take the right thing for less than the ideal reason if that’s what is realistic.

        Also I don’t think anyone here has been arguing that Federal intervention was the SOLE driver of positive change. But important, yes.

        As for the iPad, sometime you gotta have mobility.

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP- Sure. I get it. “My authoritarianism is better than your authoritarianism”. “Mine is motivated by good, yours by evil”. “Mine is fair, and yours is not” Wait! I already said that…

        Mobility? Nexus 10, baby.

      • flypusher says:

        If the Federal gov’t stepping in because state/local gov’t couldn’t or wouldn’t do what they were supposed to do, i.e., provide due process and equal protection under the law for ALL citizens, as spelled out in our Constitution, is authoritarian, then that word has some new definitions I’m not aware of.

      • Turtles Run says:

        fifty – The problem with your analogy is that it does not resemble the situation for minorities prior to CRA. Your example assumes that everyone is subjected to the same playing environment and that was simply not the case.

        The situation in the South was that minorities were not allowed to participate in society either through force of law or the use of unchecked violence. The CRA gave legal teeth to the protection of the rights of minorities and any injustice that some may feel because they are no longer able to deny others the public use of accommodations.

        So is it a case of “my authoritarianism is better than yours”, no I reject that comparison. I see it as “my right to participate in society is superior to your right to marginalize me”. By you I am not referring to you directly but to those that would take advantage of the limits of a Libertarian society to oppress others.

        I use my tablet for simple email and web surfing so Levovo S6000, $200 bucks and does a great job.

      • fiftyohm says:

        “favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, esp. that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom”

        Unless, of course, it is used to enforce personal freedom. (What?)

      • fiftyohm says:

        Turtles- It was postulated in the parent piece that the CRA(s) was the primary and fundamental driver of the racial enlightenment we have all enjoyed over the last 50 years or so. I simply asked for support of that postulate. It is one accepted by nearly everyone yo whom we speak. It’s just sooo truthy!, But it is never convincingly demonstrated to be true. (And it has not been here.)

        Yeah – I looked at the Lenovo. I think it was the display that put me off…

      • flypusher says:

        ““favoring or enforcing strict obedience to authority, esp. that of the government, at the expense of personal freedom””

        I favor obedience to authority contingent upon that authority enforcing JUST laws. My or anyone else’s personal freedom should never go so far as to take Constitutionally spelled out rights away from other citizens just because their skin is darker.

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP- Uh huh. So are we to assume without governmental legislation to the contrary, you’d be a bigot?

      • flypusher says:

        I thought I had made this point perfectly clear, more than once, but [sigh] here it is again. I am NOT expecting gov’t to change what people THINK. If someone wants to hate black people, or gay people, or Muslims, or anyone else, they can go ahead and hate. I AM expecting government to punish bad BEHAVIOR.

        As for not being such a bigot because of government legislation, it certainly didn’t hurt. It meant that I didn’t grow up in a Jim Crow TX and didn’t have to unlearn any bad habits to get with the 21st Century.

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP- I see now. It is your position then that federal legislation prohibiting employment discrimination say, (fear of the Feds knocking on the door of the personnel department), is *at least* as important to the continuing demise of racism, as the cultural Zeitgeist – well, who am I to argue what you believe? What I can say is that is a unique, and quite strange point of view. I say ‘strange’ as you apparently believe that “BEHAVIOR” is largely separated from attitude, That one’s actions are independent of personal morality, and regulated primarily by external threat. Of course, this applies only to the unenlightened – those who never had to ‘unlearn’ the nasty attitudes of “Jim Crow Texas’. That the threat of external force only applies to the small-minded, for we all know WE needn’t be bothered about that. WE know what’s “right”.

        Really? (shakes head and *sighs* mightily…)

      • Crogged says:

        Hmmm, there was an overwhelming tide of social change occurring in the South, despite Northerner meddling, which makes the contributions of the CRA pale in comparison? MLK was a communist devil to many Southern Whites (and the director of the FBI) and a spineless moderate to the Malcolm X’s of the time. I will grant social changes as occurring in correlation to the CRA and don’t feel making a causation as to the advancement of the recognition of equality to be necessary. Certainly anyone who makes the growth of welfare recipient’s founded in the President’s desire to ‘give stuff’ to his brothers as opposed to a natural result of having negative growth GDP quarters has a hard time fighting against a label of latent racism in my mind. And for metaphor’s I defer to Gertrude Stein, a rose is a rose is a rose. For the first time since the 1860s Southern blacks had a real sense that the federal government was on their side and the resulting backlash from Southern whites wasn’t a bug but a feature.

      • flypusher says:

        “I say ‘strange’ as you apparently believe that “BEHAVIOR” is largely separated from attitude, ”

        Seriously, you concluded THAT? I never said or implied anything remotely like that. Behavior does come from attitude, but it’s not the same thing as attitude. Two different steps in a process. One is reasonably subject to laws under some circumstances, one is not.

        “That one’s actions are independent of personal morality, and regulated primarily by external threat. ”

        That depends on the individual. Some may think that they have every right to help themselves to another’s belongings’ or punch out someone just because. For some of those, the prospect of punishment is a deterrent. For some it isn’t and they pay the consequences. Some will choose not to regardless of any laws, because they believe it’s wrong.

      • flypusher says:

        To further elaborate, whether you refrain from lynching someone because you personally believe it to be wrong, or you really want to lynch but don’t because now the Feds will come after you, there is a common positive, result- an innocent person doesn’t get lynched. If you do lynch anyone, at least you can now be prevented from repeating the crime. That would make a HUGE for people who were working for peaceful reforms in the Jim Crow days.

        The 14th Amendment holds the states accountable for protecting the rights of their citizens. If the states can’t or won’t, I have zero problem with Feds doing it.

      • fiftyohm says:

        FP- With all due respect, your statements have lead inexorably to each and every conclusion I drew. Your position on this issue is intellectually and philosophically inconsistent and “holier-than-thou”. You think “behavior” is primary and rightly subject to authority, (excepting your own, of course), and should be controlled by external threat. But behavior is not actually regulated by threat, but by thought. But only in the enlightened. “Those other people” are different. The threats only apply to ‘them’ – not to you. It’s the threats and not the thought that has been primarily responsible for our societal transformation. It was, and has therefore always been ‘them’ that were responsible for racism in America. I could go on here, but all of this balderdash follows directly from one statement or another you’ve made in this dialog.

        My apologies, but I’ve become bored with it all.

    • Tuttabella says:

      fiftyohm, one way to approach your question as to whether the Civil Rights Act was solely or primarily responsible for the decrease in institutionalized racism is to search for examples of an absence of racism BEFORE the CRA, and then to ask how and why that was the case, to study the circumstances at that point in time.

      • fiftyohm says:

        Tutt- I think it’s been a process – a long process. We could start with Franklin. Or the Quakers. Or another pamphleteer, Paine. We could continue with Jefferson’s Act to Prohibit Importation of Slaves. And then there was that little war. There was the recognition of the contributions of George Washington Carver. And the well publicized and nationally revered black heroes of the next two wars. And national sports greats like Satchel Page and Willie Mays, and the ultimate desegregation of baseball. And artists like Louis Armstrong and all the other jazz greats, and their fundamental influence on American music and culture. All of these, (with apologies to all the rest unmentioned), men and women who demonstrated beyond all doubt the fact of racial equality, made their marks well before the CRA. As mentioned, by 1965, the pace of racial normalization had been accelerating. That continued unabated after the CRA, and continues today.

    • Tuttabella says:

      50, so what you’re saying is that circumstances were ripe for the CRA to be passed, that it wasn’t so much necessary as inevitable, more a confirmation, a formality for something that was already in progress, that it was the circumstances that produced the CRA, and not the other way around.

      • Tuttabella says:

        50, I enrolled in first grade (or WAS enrolled, by my mom) in HISD in 1972, and not only was the school fully integrated, the principal was Black, and there were several Black teachers, and it was no big deal whatsoever, so whatever growing pains Houston might have experienced with respect to school integration must have been gotten over pretty quickly, which suggests to me that circumstances were already ripe for integration.

        It reminds me of how the national press made such a big deal about Mayor Parker being elected mayor in Houston.

        I also read an article about an Anglo man in Houston who invaded the home of a Black man in 1969 and was shot by the homeowner. The Black homeowner was no-billed, because it was ruled that he had the right to shoot the intruder.

        HPD is another story . . .

      • fiftyohm says:

        Tutt- First question: That is exactly what I am saying.

        Second comment, While LA elected Tom Bradley before Houston elected Lee Brown, we had a woman mayor in 1982. La still has not elected one. Of course, we’ve all had to get over our racist pasts, unlike those golden souls that inhabit the Golden State. We have all the race problems down here in the South. What’s that? Did someone in the back just whisper, “Watts Riots”? Coulda sworn I heard something…

  11. CaptSternn says:

    Tutt is hitting the mark this morning, but many are so blind they refuse to see. The civil rights issue was not a problem of limited government, for limited government would not have legislated that it be illegal for some to use certain water fountains, to visit parks, swim in public pools, sit at counters or any seat on a bus. Doing so was government overreach, not what a person with libertarian leanings would support. An infringement on the rights of some through legislation to enable others. The 14th amendment should have been enforced as it would have legitimately covered such issues without any other legislation.

    As it is now, we have gone to the other end of the spectrum, infringing on the rights of some to enable others, namely property rights and the right to choose with whom we will or will not associate with. Again, that goes against libertarian leaning ideas and views.

    And as she pointed out, people with libertarian leanings are not anarchists. Anarchy leads to warlords and feudalism, to slavery and serfdom. There is a proper level of government that is spelled out in the U.S. Constitution and many state constitutions. The legitimate powers of government is to protect the ultimate minority, the individual. The federal government is violating that responsibility. Maybe some of you should take off the blinders and read what she has been saying this morning. Or maybe some of you want the government to destyroy the freedom of others so you can have your way, to use government to control your neighbors and deny their basic human rights?

    • Anse says:

      But it took federal authority to undo what were primarily state-level Jim Crow laws; that’s the gist. The federal government was needed to step in and run roughshod over state governments that were controlled by white racist establishments, fueled by a bigotry that was culturally embedded all the way to the local level. This is why Barry Goldwater took a “principled” stand against the Act, after all. To boil segregation down to an overreaching government authority is to miss the fact that it was a system that had the full endorsement of the white population. The Civil Rights Act was an attempt (a mostly successful one) to alter the very nature of relations between white and black citizens. There are few things more intrusive, then, in terms of government authority, than the Civil Rights Act…and yet at the same time, it illustrates how important it is for the law to reflect in practice what we claim to embrace in our ideals.

      Somebody mentioned the case of the bakery that was forced to do business with a gay couple against the moral objections of the bakery owners. They see in that case a distinction that makes it unjust even while racial segregation was not. But I don’t really see a difference. If the law can be abusive in its way of upholding racial discrimination, I can’t see how the law can be justified in upholding other kinds of discrimination. Putting a No Gays Allowed sign above the door is fundamentally and legally no different than putting a No Coloreds sign above it. Whatever moral qualms one may have against gay rights are virtually indistinguishable from those upon which racism once rested. The passage of time, and the current revision of those older, racist views, don’t change that fact. Where do we draw the line? That’s the hard question to answer, though I don’t think that means it’s unanswerable. The KKK still exists, after all. It’s not like they’ve been forced into accepting black and Jewish members.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Goldwater supported individual liberty and rights, and that’s why he opposed an act that would violate those individual liberties and rights. You should not be forced to associate with or do business with anybody under any circumstances. By forcing it, the government is violating the rights of indivuiduals. Bigotry of a different stripe is still bigotry.

      • flypusher says:

        “But it took federal authority to undo what were primarily state-level Jim Crow laws; that’s the gist.”

        Oh, I’m sure the free market would have corrected it in what, another 7 or 8 decades?
        (I say this most tongue-in-cheek because your post reminded me of a claim that I heard once straight from a self-professed libertarian’s mouth. I don’t think all libertarians are that extreme, but they are out there.)

      • Anse says:

        In the case of segregation, it was a necessary act. The problem, as I see it, lies in the fraud that was “separate but equal.” If one could have made the case that black Americans really did have equal rights with whites, even as they were separated, you *might* have a good case. But we know that such equality of opportunity most emphatically did NOT exist. It was not possible for black entrepreneurs to seek financial backing from the white-owned banks to establish black enterprises in any significant sense. It was not possible for black Americans to save the capital necessary to do it on their own, since their wages were radically depressed compared to whites, and the sharecropper system kept them in perpetual debt, essentially perpetuating the old slavery system. And finally, the legal system was so racist that it made it impossible for black people to live freely; the white-controlled courts rarely prosecuted or even investigated lynchings or other crimes against black people (and of course, a lot of those murders were committed by members of law enforcement anyway). Which brings us to the point of Chris’s argument: the system was racist from the ground up, perpetuated not just by laws, but by a culture of violent bigotry so entrenched that even in instances where black people should have been protected or should have been afforded some measure of opportunity, they could not hope for either. The Civil Rights Act was the thing that forced change on an unjust system that refused to change on its own. And that’s why, in this example, the government had to intrude on the rights of some to guarantee the rights of all.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Anse, we can simplfy this easily. Do you believe that you should have the right to hire whomever you want to work on your home, your car, your yard? Do you believe that you should have the right to choose what name brands you buy, what restaurants you eat at? Do you believe you should have the right to choose who is allowed on your property, into your home? Do you think you should have the right not to buy something you don’t want? If yes, don’t you think others should have those same rights? If yes again, then you should stand up and support those rights, yours and those of others. That means opposing some parts of the civil rights acts, spec ifically the CRA of 1965.

        That is the key issue, only some parts are wrong. That doesn’t mean opposing all of the acts, or even all of any single act. Governemnt should never force segregation or favor any race or sex or religion by legislation, but it did and still does. That was and is still the overreach by government, any level. That is not limited government nor does it have anything at all to do with libertarian ideas. There are many good things that came from the civil rights acts, but really the constitutional amendments would have been enough to deal with those.

        And so far, nobody that I have asked has managed to justify forcing a privately owned local company serving local clients has to do with international or even interstate commerce., much less explain why we have become government property in the name of international or interstate commerce.

      • Actually, Anse, I mentioned a similar case, the Elane Photography case. And it isn’t about one kind of discrimination vs. another; it’s about the nature of the transaction.

        Here’s how I look at it: If I have a shop (a public place), and you come into my shop to buy something, e.g. a cake, I am subject to non-discrimination regulation, and I must not discriminate against you according to the CRA. This is *because* the transaction is taking place *in* my shop, a place of business open to the public.

        If, on the other hand, you want me to come into *your* house and bake you a cake, such transaction is no longer occurring in a public space; it’s completely private. In that case, I *ought* to have the right to demur from the transaction. That my two cents, and that’s what currently being argued in the Elane Photography case. I’m not sure of the details of the bakery case, so I’m not sure if the same logic applies.

        A public transaction *should* be treated differently from a *private* transaction. In private, each of us ought to be free from government intrusion when participating in transactions between mutually consenting parties. This holds true even if, in private, I want to be a racist, bigoted jerk. To have our government intrude into private affairs is to vitiate any notion of privacy; such a thing would place us squarely at the mercy of a police state. I don’t think any of us really want that.

      • flypusher says:

        ” Do you believe that you should have the right to hire whomever you want to work on your home, your car, your yard? Do you believe that you should have the right to choose what name brands you buy, what restaurants you eat at? Do you believe you should have the right to choose who is allowed on your property, into your home? Do you think you should have the right not to buy something you don’t want?”

        A grossly false equivalency. Those individual, private choices differ from the “white only” sign in a crucial way. That sign served a sinister function- to remind a black person that s/he had better remember his/ her place, that that place was at the bottom. It had the weight of the society behind it, a weight that those individual choices you list could never have. To try to paint racial discrimination in the public square as some benign result of individual freedom is to ignore history.

      • CaptSternn says:

        “To try to paint racial discrimination in the public square as some benign result of individual freedom is to ignore history.”

        That’s the point, private property and private transactions are not the public square, they are private property and private transactions. And again, you are assuming guilt of a crime when there are no charges, no evidence, no proof, no trial and no conviction. That goes against the constitution and founding principles of this state and nation.

      • flypusher says:

        Wrong. Doing business with the public is going into the public square.

      • CaptSternn says:

        The public square is publicly owned, such as parks, swimming pools, government owned and operated facilities. Privately owned businesses and property is not the public square, it is private. Not only that, but guilt is not to be assumed and automatic in the States. You want to accuse a person of a crime, do so, get charges filed, have an arrest warrant issued, take it to trial before a jury and prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Why do so many on the left oppose our justice system and desire to simply assume guilt without due process?

  12. flypusher says:

    I’ve said this before on the chron version of the blog, but I think it bears repeating here. We Americans can cite a number of values we treasure, with freedom and equality getting a lot of mention. In the abstract, we can say we value both equally. In the messy, complicated real world, there are times where those values will come into conflict and we must assign priorities. Those of us who have played here long enough have heard the arguments from those who will say that liberty must always have the upper hand, no matter what the circumstances. I take a more pragmatic view, in that when you have values coming into conflict, you should pick sides based on what does the most good for the most people. Supporting segregation in the public sphere, whether by passing laws to enforce in or failing to enforce laws that prohibit it, has a very toxic effect on society. The Jim Crow situation was a case where prioritizing equality was the proper response, and people like Goldwater were on the wrong side of history. Far more of us are better off for the Feds having dragged the South kicking and screaming closer to the 21st Century, than if it had not happened. I am not angsting over being denied the “right” to open a business and keep “those people” out.

  13. Anse says:

    Excellent article. The hardest thing to accomplish in a free society is that balance between the protections the law gives us and the potential for overreach. Too many of us are convinced that there is a body of law that can be written in such a way that will guarantee the perfect balance for all time. But this isn’t the case. Good government is an ideal that we must always strive for but will probably never meet. When Jefferson famously noted that a little rebellion may be necessary from time to time to expunge the tyrannies of the previous generation, I think he was touching on just how hard it is to put into practice a system of law that can meet the needs of every citizen in every generation. I completely agree that liberty has to be understood as something more than merely the absence of government restraint.

    Part of the problem here is simply cultural. The Civil Rights Act wasn’t, in itself, a solution for Southern bigotry (or bigotry anywhere else). Racists are going to be racists, no matter what the law says. But what we don’t like to admit is that the government can, in fact, influence not only behavior but opinion and even our values. We don’t like that because the idea of a government influencing personal values seems immediately like overreach, and we start to think about all the terrible consequences that could come as a result. But the fact is that when the culture’s values need reforming, we can and sometimes must pursue that reform by force of law. At issue is merely how far is too far, and the answer may be different from one era to the next.

    • Tuttabella says:

      Anse, I don’t know who you are, but you make an excellent point about government influencing behavior, opinions, and values.

      I don’t believe racists are going to be racists no matter what. As you indicate in your point about how society has evolved, a person who 50 years ago would have been racist — that was just the way things were then — would not be racist if living today. Even racists living today can still change their views as they have new experiences and meet new people. Once a racist is not always a racist.

      • flypusher says:

        “Even racists living today can still change their views as they have new experiences and meet new people. Once a racist is not always a racist.”

        Is a racist more likely to come to enlightenment in a Jim Crow type of society or a society where there are rules against public discrimination and those rules are enforced?

      • Anse says:

        That’s absolutely true. My point is, passing a law may not change the world overnight, and even though racism is still a problem even a couple of generations after the Civil Rights Act, at the very least, it is understood that those old bigoted values are no longer acceptable in a civilized society. What I cannot accept is the way some people justify an injustice in defense of some larger principle. There are times when it can’t be helped (like when a guilty defendant walks free in a case on a technicality or jury nullification), but much of the time, it’s just wrong.

  14. “The Civil Rights Acts expanded personal freedom by expanding the role of government in our [public] lives.”

    Note the minor, but important, editorial correction. The primary impact of the Civil Rights Act is at the interface between private and public life. When you or I buy a product or service, or are hired by an employer, that’s something that is regarded as private to us, but it takes place (typically) in a public space. That transaction is, in truth, only semi-private; in fact, it could be rightfully regarded as semi-public. For transactions (even semi-private transactions) occurring in the public space, the Civil Rights Act says, basically, that we have to treat everybody the same. And that’s as it should be.

    In my view, equality under the law is what classical liberalism is all about. As Locke put it, “that being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions.” The most basic role of government is to see that this notion is enforced for all members of our society. Note that this is actually a fairly narrow view of equality, and has nothing to say about equality of outcomes, nor even, necessarily, about equality of opportunity with respect to the circumstances of one’s birth.

    Where government gets into trouble is when it intrudes beyond the public/private interface into the truly private. Examples abound, e.g. the Elane Photography/gay wedding photo case, or the employer coverage mandates of the ACA, or progressive taxation in general. When government attempts to determine outcomes, bad things happen. The reason for this is that once government intrudes into the world of desired outcomes, it must, by definition, abandon equal treatment under the law. And once that happens, it’s game over for liberty.

    • goplifer says:

      Or when a private university is forced to end it’s racial discrimination by the federal government?

      The long and short of it is that the narrow definition of liberty laid out by Southern libertarians then and now is a recipe for private oppression. That’s why they supported it then and that’s why they still support it now.

      The real conflict going on during the Civil Rights movement is the same conflict the GOP in the South remains mired in now. To what extent will we allow Federal power, accountable to the public, to be used to limit the private power to extract unfair outcomes. Looks like that fight won’t end for some time yet, but it is headed in one inevitable direction.

      • Chris, we’re in violent agreement on your point; I’m not sure you understand mine.

        You provide yet another example of a semi-private transaction in a public space, namely enrollment by a student at a university. Such a transaction is really no different from Denny’s selling me a plate of eggs in a Denny’s restaurant. So of course such a transaction should be subject to federal discrimination regulation.

        Contrast that with the following. Suppose a professor at said university posts an ad stating he/she is available for instruction on some extraneous subject outside the confines of the university system. Suppose I, as a non-student, see that ad and solicit that professor for private instruction in my home. That’s a completely private transaction, and it should not be subject federal regulation. If that professor doesn’t care for my personal hygiene, or my skin color, or whatever, the federal government should not force that person to provide services to me that we don’t both mutually consent to.

        There has to be a limit to government intrusion into our lives. The line may be a little blurry, but I believe that line exists. The government should not intrude past the public/private transaction space into the private transaction space.

      • goplifer says:

        I get your point and I agree that at some level I should have a personal right to, for example, be as bigoted or unreasonable as I want. So long as I cannot leverage public infrastructure or public enforcement to inflict that bigotry on others then that’s fine.

        The problem is not so much that we disagree on that point. The problem in my opinion is that leading characters in the GOP, like Ted Cruz and Rand Paul, vehemently disagree with you about where that line should be drawn. In fact, Rand Paul disagrees with you pretty explicitly.

        They are working very hard to re-create the conditions that gave rise to Jim Crow. I do not doubt that they would disapprove of Jim Crow and other injustices in the abstract, but what they are working to create would rob us of our ability to stop those things from happening.

        I want to see a smaller, more efficient central government. It will be far easier to accomplish that goal if we develop a more credible understanding of what we do and do not need a govt to do. The GOP has a serious problem right now with that most basic element. Everything else will have to wait while we work that out.

      • DanMan says:

        Like Illinois trying to force caregivers who accept federal Medicaid payments to be in unions.

      • “… I agree that at some level I should have a personal right to, for example, be as bigoted or unreasonable as I want. So long as I cannot leverage public infrastructure or public enforcement to inflict that bigotry on others then that’s fine.”

        Eggselent! My work here is done. 😉

        Chris, you’ve probably gleaned from my comments that I’m not a big supporter of Sen. Paul, or hard-core libertarians, in general. However, I’ll take what he’s offering over what the Dems are offering any day of the week.

        As for Sen. Cruz, he strikes me as more of a Constitutionalist than a Libertarian. I’ll withhold final judgement on that point until I know him better. At this juncture I question his tactical political judgement, but I must admit that I do admire his sand.

  15. DanMan says:

    So I guess the talking point went this weekend and you answered the call as usual Chris. The coincidence of Obama whining about racism being the reason he’s being held down in the polls, with references to state’s rights and Jim Crow thrown in resonates well on this blog at the same time. Hmmm. Chicago!

    The politics of race. MLK wouldn’t recognize the hustlers operating under his name now.

    • Anse says:

      It is irrational to suggest that disagreeing with Obama is racist. It is also highly delusional to suggest that racism plays no role in how Obama is perceived by many of his fiercest critics. Bigots never acknowledged the severity of racism in the past, and they continue to downplay it today.

      • DanMan says:

        bigots also use their race to advance their agendas and the racialist in the White House uses it to the max

      • Anse says:

        Yes, we all know how burdened the white man is in America. It’s just gotten so tough, what with all these black people in the White House and in the Congress and on television, demanding all this stuff and these agendas.

  16. UseYerNoodle says:

    One of the great impediments to sound political thought is language itself. Great Ideas may look like stupid ideas and stupid ideas may sound great, depending on who is listening and how well they understand what the actual idea was. Hence, people constantly quote great thinkers thinking that the soundbite they are quoting was in support of their half-baked ideas, and people like Ayn Rand build elaborate straw-man cases against an idea that nobody has, ignoring the actual idea which she inadvertantly proves to be true, although she does not see it.

    This post is about “Freedom”, but there are many ways to define freedom, and I think Chris is getting to that without actually clarifying the differences. Many people use “Freedom” interchangeably with “Liberty”, but they are not really interchangeable, and hence the confusion.

    Liberties are legally used to refer to the rights and privileges that are granted or protected by law, while Freedom refers as much to ability as liberty. For example, you may be at liberty to go to outer space, but you are still not free to do so if there is no possibility. Similarly, those who are above the law enjoy more freedom than those who are not, although they are not at liberty to break the law.

    Laws like the Civil Liberties Act does curtail the liberties of some and ascribe liberties to others, but the Freedom taken from one group is only nominally diminished while it is greatly enhanced by the other. The net Freedom is much greater.

  17. Tuttabella says:

    Once you have over-protection of the individual and other minorities, the very freedom you’re trying to protect risks being lost.

    • flypusher says:

      I see it as a Goldielocks principle; we have plenty of examples of too much government and how that makes things turn out badly for personal liberty. The Jim Crow South stands as an example of the bad things that happen from too little.

    • Bobo Amerigo says:

      What is ‘over-protection’ in your mind?

      • Tuttabella says:

        Bobo, to my mind, over-protection would be protection that risks resulting in over-dependence on the entity doing the protecting, dependence for things one ought to able to do on one’s own at some point.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Any examples?

        As a pedestrian, I depend greatly on government-installed traffic lights to provide a count-down to light changes. Am I over-protected?

        I’m not trying to be snarky, although the risk is there.

        At different times in our lives, we may need different types of support.

        If I’m not using a societal support at the moment, are those that are over-protected or having their hands held? Next month, when I need that societal support, does some other societal support become over-protection?

        NYT had an article this morning about monetary benefits given to some native Americans when their tribe opened a casino. Once or twice a year, everybody in the tribe receives money, even those not employed at the casino.

        Social scientists have tracked the impact over years. While not perfect, there are many benefits, including the observation that parents become better parents when relieved of the burden of poverty.

        Getting money without working for it would be over-protection in the eyes of many. What if we’re wrong about over-protection and hand-holding? Are over-protection and hand-holding merely apprenticeship?

      • Tuttabella says:

        Bobo, as a fellow pedestrian, I would say that if the traffic light that provides the countdown were to malfunction, you and I should still be able to make decisions on our own as to when and how quickly to cross the street. Sometime we have to rely on our own “street smarts” and not be overly dependent on that traffic machine, otherwise we will be caught like a deer in the headlights.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        You and I, perhaps. But the person with limited vision? Or seated in a wheel chair and unable to see all the traffic?

        Pap this morning, Tutt. You are providing generalized pap.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Bobo, a person with limited vision or in a wheelchair is handicapped and has special needs and therefore needs special protection — a very special case — at least when it comes to crossing the street. Minorities may have been held back over the course of history, but it’s not the same as being mentally or physically handicapped.

        Snark, Bobo. Thanks for your usual generalized snark.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Bobo, the situations you describe are temporary. As you yourself said: “At different times in our lives, we may need different types of support.”

        I’m talking about support which becomes permanent, for people who are not mentally or physically handicapped, or elderly — able-bodied people of sound mind. That’s the type of support that risks making some people overly dependent.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Bobo, I have no problem whatsoever with safety nets, with temporary help, for people who have fallen on hard times, and even for people who did not make the best decisions in life. Everyone deserves a break now and then, just not on a permanent basis.

      • CaptSternn says:

        Tutt, looks like some people are going out of their way to change the actual subject, promote socialism and redistribution of wealth. The same kind of people that support paying a living wage even to those people that choose not to work or accept responsibility. You summed it up nicely, simple snark for the sake of snark.

      • Bobo Amerigo says:

        Please, Tutt. An example.

        Welfare recipients have to prove their destitution over and over to receive benefits.

        Is that what you mean?

        If a minority-led small business gets an advantage in government contracting, it’s not a permanent situation for them.

        Is that what you mean?

      • Tuttabella says:

        Bobo, it makes sense that a welfare recipient who is able to prove again and again that he/she qualifies for benefits, according to the standards set, should receive those benefits, but I think people should strive to move beyond that IF AT ALL POSSIBLE, and there’s little incentive if people get those benefits without working to improve their situation.

        As for affirmative action for minority businesses, the advantage may not be permanent, but the effects are long-lasting. I don’t know if a lifetime of affirmative action is a good idea — starting with affirmative action in college, and then moving to affirmative action in employment.

        I say that as a minority who benefitted from affirmative action in college, even though I don’t think I needed it. I can’t help feeling a twinge of guilt at being given an extra advantage just because of my last name, although I don’t see the same guilt coming from people who benefitted for generations from the advantage of NOT having a Hispanic surname.

  18. Tuttabella says:

    I don’t think libertarians are necessarily anarchists. They don’t like too many laws, but I would think at a bare minimum, the type of laws that would be advocated would be those protecting the freedoms and rights of the individual, like the Bill of Rights, which are already in place.

    So, protecting the individual, and other minorities, would be paramount for libertarians, so long as it doesn’t devolve into over-protecting and too much hand-holding.

    • flypusher says:

      “So, protecting the individual, and other minorities, would be paramount for libertarians….”

      But not if you’re so drunk on the notion that you are so superior to those dark- skinned people and you’re dedicated to keeping those people in God’s preordained place. Prejudice can and does make people into hypocrites (the people lynching black teens no doubt thought of themselves as good Christians), and even act against their economic best interests (black $ spends just as well as white $). This bit of history is a very powerful lesson in how corrosive a poison bigotry is.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Fly, those people with superiority complexes would not be true libertarians, then.

      • flypusher says:

        Or true Scotsmen?

      • flypusher says:

        Also, those people who did or enabled the lynching would have considered themselves to be good, upright, God- fearing Christians, even though I think we’d all agree that no way, no how would Jesus ever do that. It’s really easy to say ” Oh, they weren’t REAL Christians.” But that’s a cop out that sweeps the underlying problem under the rug. It’s better to ask why these people are taking the talk but not walking the walk, and figure out how to correct that. Same with the political philosophy issue. Chris is right in pointing out that these Old South whites very much believed in lots of personal liberty and very limited government. Instead of denial, I think it would be better for today’s libertarians to ask why these people who believed in so many of the same principles created such an unjust society, and how can we make sure it doesn’t get repeated?

    • Turtles Run says:

      There were laws in the Jim Crow era to protect rights the minority class. The problem is that the structure of government can be limited so much that enforcement of those laws is near impossible. No one claimed that Libertarians are anarchists but their policies lend lot of support to those that wish to marginalize a segment of the population.

      African-Americans had the right to vote, but could they realistically exercise that right? Limited government is useless if it is not able to do its most basic functions – the protection of the basic rights of people. By focusing only on limiting and shrinking government versus making government efficient and more dynamic then the environment becomes more ripe for abuse by some people.

      Most minorities when they hear the cry of states rights and limited government they view it in a whole different light because we experienced the negative effects of it. We grew up with the tales of the night riders and the local expression of what some people called liberty and it is going to be real hard for the limited government types to convince us that a return to that kind of liberty is really in our best interest.

      • Tuttabella says:

        Turtles, I understand, but I think that, because of the changes brought about by the Civil Rights movement, which were absolutely necessary, the playing field has been leveled to such an extent that we minorities can begin to benefit from the same individual freedoms that were once bestowed only upon a select few. And no, I don’t mean that we minorities now have the freedom to enslave or otherwise mow over others.

    • Tutt, it’s not so much that Libertarians are anarchists, it’s that Libertarians recognize no bounds on individual behavior, nor any limits to the primacy of the individual. Libertarians value free association above all else, and therefor typically hew to the notion that as long as the concerned parties mutually consent, any transaction goes. Thus, for instance, the committed Libertarian sees no problem with sado-masochistic prostitution, as long as it’s between consenting adults.

      This is in contrast to classical liberalism, which recognizes a higher authority than the individual, namely that very same Creator mentioned in the Declaration. The classical liberal believes that we are all creations of the Creator, and are His property. Therefore, we are not at liberty to abuse either ourselves, or each other. This Lockean notion forms the basis for democratic government by rule of law, with government as the servitor and enabler of the individual. The rule of law is (ideally) a perfectly neutral, minimally intrusive stand-in for an omnipotent Creator who shows a remarkable reluctance to interfere in the day-to-day activities of His creations.

      The problem with modern liberalism/progressivism is that it attempts to substitute the state for the Creator, with the federal government playing God. No government playing God is complete without delivering favors from on high to its chosen people, thus the God awful mess that is present day Washington, D.C.

      • goplifer says:

        Yes, if we were all merely accountable to our Creator, then we would once again be free to exercise our rights of free association and lynch those scoundrels who threatened those rights.

        We might not ‘endorse’ said lynching, but without some temporal power in place with the capability to stop it, it would happen. As it did in fact happen.

        Being accountable to no one but our “Creator” is attractive, because our Creator has a habit of failing to show up to intervene in unjust situations. Our Creator lets us do what we want.

      • flypusher says:

        “The problem with modern liberalism/progressivism is that it attempts to substitute the state for the Creator, with the federal government playing God.”

        I’ll offer you a deal, if you can guarantee that the Creator would actually get down here and mete out some justice to the bad actors, then I’m willing to make the gov’t as small as you want.

      • DanMan says:

        Pretty bizarre interpretation of how we got here Chris, I guess those heathens in the nescient Republican party of Lincoln’s era had no concept of Christianity. Amazing they were able to squelch that desire to perpetuate slavery.

      • Hmm. Chris, you and your cronies are displaying a truly remarkable degree of obtuseness today.

        “…we are not at liberty to abuse either ourselves, or each other.”

        Correct me if I’m wrong, but I’m pretty sure “lynching” falls into the “abuse” category, no matter how you slice it. Government is, of course, that “temporal power” we put in place to prevent lynching (and other abuses). In Locke’s ideal state of nature we all conform to the law of reason, but in this broken world some of God’s more recalcitrant creations just refuse to play nice. Hence, the need for that most necessary of evils, government.

        The trick lies in crafting a government subject to appropriate restraint. The Framers did the best they could with the materials at hand, but sadly, that dog done slipped its leash.

      • flypusher says:

        “The Framers did the best they could with the materials at hand, but sadly, that dog done slipped its leash.”

        With regards to slavery (and the issue of race relations), the Framers kicked the can down the road. I’m not pointing fingers here, because I don’t see any way they could have gotten the Southern states on board to get the Constitution ratified if there had been absolute insistence on the principle of ALL men are created equal. So they made that compromise, but they were smart enough to see the hypocrisy. Some of them may have salved their consciences with the nation that eventually slavery would wither away, but we know that didn’t happen. When you postpone payment, the interest compounds. This country was born with a serious birth defect (slavery), and there has been much pain and suffering in correcting that defect, and the corrections still aren’t finished. What’s good for us is that the medicine we take now is far less painful than 150 years ago, or even 50 years ago. We are an experiment in progress. We are getting closer to those wonderful concepts that the Framers laid out, but we’re not there yet. The dog had to slip that leash, because the leash was choking it.

  19. Tuttabella says:

    Morning, Mr. LIfer. You mention informal, cultural, and popular arrangements, and extra-legal enforcement, in the pre-Civil Rights South. I’m not an expert in political philosophy, but those factors would translate into mob rule, and mob rule is something that libertarian philosophy is vehemently opposed to, because the right of the individual, the ultimate minority, is considered to be paramount. I would think libertarians would be opposed to this method of rule based on little more than peer pressure and societal norms, and even bullying. So, no, I don’t think pure libertarians would consider pre-Civil Rights society to have been a libertarian paradise.

    • goplifer says:

      ***I would think libertarians would be opposed to this method of rule based on little more than peer pressure and societal norms***

      It doesn’t matter what kind of arrangements they might be philosophically opposed to if they build a governing arrangement too weak to stop them. Very few Southerners liked lynching, but far too few Southerners were willing to make the changes to government necessary to stop it.

      You are describing what Libertarianism looks like on a chalkboard. It sounds nice. I’m describing how it played out on the ground and why we should not go there again.

      • Tuttabella says:

        I’m using the idea of individual rights to try to appeal to libertarians to support minority rights, sort of like when you tried to use family values to appeal to conservatives to get them to support same-sex marriage.

        Logic and reason do work sometimes.

      • flypusher says:

        Bigotry has this bad habit of overriding logic and reason.

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