Libertarianism and race

Not that it’s actually related to anything of late, but I love this Yglesias take on Rand Paul and civil rights legislation:

Even if you take democracy to relatively narrowly mean majoritarian voting procedures this doesn’t work. In the periods between the Civil War and World War II, African-Americans were a majority in quite a few southern states and would have been a large—and potentially decisive—voting bloc in the others. If, that is, they were allowed to vote. But instead of voting, African-Americans were disenfranchised via a systematic campaign of terrorist violence. The same campaign that gave us the Jim Crow social system. The point of the Civil Rights Act, including its provisions regulating private businesses, was to smash that social system. And it succeeded. It succeeded enormously. The amazing thing about retrospective opposition to the Civil Rights Act is that we know that it worked. It didn’t lead to social and economic cataclism. In fact, the American south has done quite a bit better since the smashing of white supremacy than it was doing previously.

I think the Cook/Paul view that we should somehow regret this and pretend that everything would have worked itself out on its own is bizarre.

But it’s not only bizarre. It seems to me that it necessarily has to stem from not taking the interests and history of African-Americans seriously to even be comprehensible. The “respectable” thing to say about people like Paul or the late Barry Goldwater, I suppose, is simply that they are ideologues rather than people driven by some kind of racial animosity. But I think it’s selling free market ideology short to suggest that government regulations meant to undue the outcome of a century long campaign of terrorist violence is just a straightforward consequence of a general support for free enterprise. You need to combine that ideology with a sincere indifference to black people’s welfare to reach that conclusion, just as you need to combine Paul’s ideology with genuine indifference to the history of race in America to reach Paul’s conclusion about democracy’s relationship to Jim Crow.

Yep.  So, whether “racist” or not is a matter of semantics.  Pretty hard to argue with “extreme indifference” to Black people’s welfare.

About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State

4 Responses to Libertarianism and race

  1. I also wonder if a lot of libertarians aren’t filling in the narratives about segregation with an implicit assumption that it was essentially imposed by government, effectively ignoring the economic reality of business after business refusing blacks on the basis of their private decisions. They just don’t get that the segregated lunch counters were private businesses, that a substantial portion of the fight for civil rights was a fight, not against governments, but against the decisions of private businesses, That whole aspect of the struggle never quite makes it into their thick skulls.

  2. Deborah Ferry says:

    Rand Paul doesn’t really care about anyone’s welfare. He and other libertarians just don’t get that private enterprise is often the problem, not the solution. Take healthcare, for example. Private insurance companies have absolutely no interest in providing coverage to people of low income or to those with pre-existing conditions. Their bottom line, like that for all for profit businesses, is money: not compassion, not morality.

    • pino says:

      He and other libertarians just don’t get that private enterprise is often the problem, not the solution.

      What I think you fail to understand is that a private business owner should be allowed to enter into a transaction or not to enter into that transaction.

      What is the difference between a gas station owner and an individual? Why is one allowed to date any segment of the population but the other not allowed to enter into a transaction?

      Private insurance companies have absolutely no interest in providing coverage to people of low income

      What are you talking about? Of course they have an interest in providing coverage to people of low income. What they don’t have an interest in is providing FREE coverage to people of ANY income.

      That’s as absurd as saying that a grocery store isn’t concerned with providing food to people of low income.

      or to those with pre-existing conditions.

      I don’t think that you uinderstand what insurance is.

      Consider a house.

      You can buy home owner’s insurance. This will cover things like fire or tree damage or something like that. It doesn’t cover routine maintenance. In fact, even roofs aren’t fully covered in the event a tree falls on it as it loses value over time.

      If you wanna buy a pre-paid home maintenance contract, you can do that. This would cover stuff like washing, cleaning, painting, replacing rotted wood etc.

      Same with automobiles. No one thinks that car insurance should pay for an oil change or damage from an accident that occurred weeks before purchasing a policy.

      Their bottom line, like that for all for profit businesses, is money: not compassion, not morality.

      Yes. Profit. It is the single best vehicle for increasing prosperity the world has ever known. That an individual freedoms, things like private property and contract rights.

  3. Mike from Canada says:

    Libertarianism is just Republicanism taken to it’s next logical step. No government for any reason except to enforce the majorities property rights, including the right to refuse service to anyone at all. For instance the right of a pharmacist to refuse to sell contraception, including the birth control pill. We went through this up here and the anti contraception pharmacists lost. The government decided and the pharmacists college voted that if you didn’t want to sell pharmaceuticals you shouldn’t have become a pharmacist.

    In essence they decided societies interest is more important then the minorities interest in refusing service, especially since this is their chosen job. The next logical progression would be social workers demanding right to refuse dealing with pregnant unmarried women. Or Jewish doctors refusing to see women who are menstruating.

    Which is insane.

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