Sunday, January 2, 2011

The Straight Dope on Libertarianism




Baruch Pelta put the issue of the legitimacy of government funded public before the messaging board of Straight Dope. To my delight, Baruch's post received quite a number of comments, far more so than either of our blogs normally receives. These comments provide an excellent window into the sort of objections one usually finds from modern liberals. I would like, therefore, to respond in turn. More and more I am convinced that modern liberals simply have a mental block when it comes to Libertarianism that makes them unable to even contemplate the issues at hand. One, all government action is, by definition, coercive. Two, a government with the power to deal with non-physical harm, by definition, has the power to do anything since all human actions cause some form of non-physical harm. Three, government action, by definition, favors those with access to the government, the wealthy and well connected. Considering this, how can modern liberal political theory, built around the assumption that government needs to step in, in essence use physical force, and protect people from non-physical harm, be considered anything but authoritarian, randomly creating privileged groups, likely those already well positioned influence wise, and giving them special rights? It is not just that liberals have different solutions to these problems; they frustratingly refuse to even acknowledge that these problems exist.


Last I checked school boards still had to answer to the voters. So if he has a problem with what schools teach then he needs to take it up their boss, the voters.

 
Certainly I could accept it if local school boards were actually the last word in education. Except that liberals have spent the past few decades having courts interfere whenever schools do something that they personally disagree with, whether prayer or the teaching of creationism. Of all forms of government, local school boards are the least coercive, being the most answerable to the public and having the least ability to use coercive power against opponents. The courts are the most coercive as they are outside of the democratic process and are hierarchly positioned to order the other branches of government to use force in support of its wishes. This is particularly the case when the court operates according to a "living Constitution." When a court makes a decision that is not based upon previously agreed upon laws, but upon personal moral principles, and on top of that personal moral principles that the opposition may not even accept, the court declares that their opponents are outside the social contract at the heart of any free society. (See Doing What is Right in One's Own Eyes.)


First, the alternative to public schools is massive public ignorance; they were created in the first place because before the government stepped in most of the population had no formal education at all.

 
This demonstrates an unfortunate misunderstanding of history. Obviously in pre-modern agricultural societies mass education was impractical and had to wait until the urbanization brought about by the Industrial Revolution. Particularly in the case of Europe, government public schools were not put into place out of humanitarian concern, but as an authoritarian power grab against the Church, which until then had dominated the field of education. One of the virtues of the early United States was, as Alexis de Tocqueville noted, that it managed to avoid a head on conflict with established religions. This changed in the last few decades when our courts stepped in and ripped up the social contract which, for all of its imperfections, kept this country free of religious conflict. And liberals act surprised that they are now faced with aggressive evangelical and tea-party movements of people who believe that the government does not represent them and therefore feel that they are not bound to play by its rules. Why should someone respect the democratic process and accept losing when one knows that even when they win their victory will be overturned?


Second, evolution and the falsehood of creation is a fact, not just an opinion.

This may be true in your mind and even in reality, but that does not mean it can be accepted as fact by the government. Keep in mind that Christians believe that Jesus rising from the dead is a fact. There is nothing you can say that will convince them otherwise. Considering this, what deal can you offer such Christians to stop them from trying to have the government acknowledge this "fact?" The only thing I can think of is to have everyone agree that the government will endorse no "facts."
Third, children are not the toys of parents to exploit as they will, they have rights too; including the right not to be rendered hopelessly ignorant because their parents prefer lies over truth.

 
True, but again keep in mind all those Christians who believe that every child deserves to be raised with the knowledge of Jesus as their personal savior. Can you offer them a coherent reason as to why the government should not step in to "educate" such children that does not involved puffing up your chest and insisting that these Christians are wrong about Jesus? As a libertarian I can offer Christians a government that only deals with whether children are being physically harmed and does not concern itself with whether or not children are being raised in "ignorance" or are being "lied" to.


And fourth, his position is the authoritarian one; as libertarians typically do he is pretending that government action is the only possible source of oppression. Saying that the government should only take action to defend "people from direct physical harm caused by other people without their consent" is a demand that the primary function of government should be as a tool of oppression for the wealthy and powerful organizations. Because the rich and large organizations like corporations, political parties and religious organizations and so on don't need to use violence to get their way, to oppress and exploit the common people. The common people however need the government to protect them from just that. And if the government refuses to protect them, then all the common people have left is force - and then and only then is when the libertarians like your friend want the government to step in, on the side of the wealthy and powerful. Under the system your friend wants the only real function of the government is to serve as a giant boot to stomp on any of the lower classes who get uppity. not to help people, not to educate or defend them from being exploited; just to crush them when they get tired of being treated as slaves.

I certainly do not believe that the government is the only source of oppression. If I did I would insist on no government and be an anarchist. Yes I believe in government precisely because I am afraid of being oppressed by my neighbor. Of course, government has the potential to be far more oppressive than any individual. Which is why, before we agree to submit ourselves to the authority of government, we need specific limits to its power. (See My Bargan with Fearless Leader.) One has to wonder where this person goes every time there is a complaint that government seems to act on behalf of the wealthy and powerful and that such people have too much influence. It is not possible to create a law that actually benefits those at the bottom for the simple reason that those at the top are the ones in the best position to understand the laws work them to their advantage. Take the example of a poor inner city youth. Liberals claim that they understand are looking out for his best interest so they offer him free public education. The problem is that his family lacks the money to support him while he goes to school. So he has to drop out of school, and therefore receives no benefit from it even though he will still have to pay for it with his tax dollars. He wants to earn an honest living to help his family, but liberals have placed child labor laws that limit his ability to work. Furthermore no company will be willing to hire him at minimum wage and of course liberals have made it illegal for any company to have him at less than a minimum wage. Notice though that the free schools, the child labor and minimum wage laws do benefit people higher up on the economic latter; people who can support their children while they take advantage of a free education at society's expense. These adults are helped by the fact that they are protected from any competition from poor children willing to undercut them by working for less than the minimum wage. Of course liberals are not conspiring, with say the skilled working class, against the desperately poor unskilled workers, whatever the evidence that stands before our eyes. We, as a society, are engaged in a massive act of inter-generational robbery of those too young at present to vote, with our national debt and social security entitlements, which they will have to pay for. But we can trust politicians to look after the needs of children.

Libertarians know how to end poverty. It is a multi-generational approach that allows unskilled workers the chance to work for whatever someone is willing to pay them and earn the money to give their children the education needed to become skilled laborers and small business owners and their grandchildren a chance to go to college and enter the middle class. It is a hard and slow road, but it worked for generations of immigrants and there is no reason why it cannot work for poor people today, no matter their race. We libertarians are not going to lie to poor people and rob them by creating programs that we pretend are going to help them when in fact they are designed to help those with more money and influence and keep them in poverty.

15 comments:

MIghty Garnel Ironheart said...

Maybe the two of you should take a break, and a deep breath before this goes too far. Clearly there's a huge level of disagreement between you but it would be a shame to let this get so personal.

Futurama said...

The current of New York magazine has a piece on libertarianism. It's an interesting read. Do you have any responses to the charges of impracticability that appear at the end of the article?

http://nymag.com/news/politics/70282/index1.html

Vox Populi said...

>It is a hard and slow road, but it worked for generations of immigrants and there is no reason why it cannot work for poor people today, no matter their race.

This is not my understanding of American history at all. When people had to pay for education, poor people just went uneducated.

Say you're a poor immigrant living on New York's Lower East Side. You work in a garment factory with no safety regulations, and no minimum wage, and no maximum hours. As immigration is uncontrolled and the work is unskilled, there is a constant stream of workers who will replace you if you try to work for anything less that what the owner is willing to pay you or demand safer working conditions. This seems like the libertarian ideal.

Thing is, we had this. This used to be the way things worked, and it sucked. Life sucked much more then for immigrants then than it does now. Life sucked much more for the poor then than it does now. People like to decry liberal government overreach but it is largely due to the efforts of the New Deal and the Great Society legislation that we've practically eradicated illiteracy and people dying of starvation, both phenomena that were very common in the the America of the 1920s and earlier.

You say you don't like government using its force to protect against non-physical harms because it creates interest groups that become dependent on government subsidies and becomes overly responsive to those segments of society that already enjoy great influence over the government.

First, theoretically, I think you fail to see that, just by existing, the government does all this anyway. Think of the government as a policeman with a gun and the will to use it. By involving himself in some disputes (violent ones) and not in others (non-violent), he is not staying neutral as to the parties in non-violent struggles. He is effectively supporting the more powerful party in those disputes as well, by failing to intervene. The rich then get richer, and the powerful become more powerful. All by the government not lifting its finger. You're supporting one faction over the other. It's a fiction to pretend that by staying neutral the government is benefiting neither party because it is benefiting the stronger party.

Empirically speaking, do you find that the government has been enlarged to benefit the more powerful in society, and those with more access to the levers of government power than the reverse? Did the Civil Rights Act or Medicare benefit the poor and the minorities, or did it benefit the rich and the powerful? (Or do you consider the poor and ethnic minorities groups that have a stranglehold on the government?)

Sure, there are instances of agency capture or regulations that end up benefiting the powerful, but is there any empirical evidence to suggest that this problem is so extensive as to render the entire enterprise perverse?

I think you spend too much time worrying about the hypothetical tyranny of democratic government, which is unlikely to actually come about, than the actual oppression caused by the powerful in society. I think it's silly to prevent the government from forcing hotels to serve black people because hypothetically a government that can do that can force me to eat my vegetables.

Anonymous said...

Hello.

I have to agree that liberals are as authoritarian, in somewhat different ways, as conservatives. :-)

"Last I checked school boards still had to answer to the voters. So if he has a problem with what schools teach then he needs to take it up their boss, the voters."

Kind of, except when they actually don't answer to the voters. School boards make decisions behind closed doors all too frequently. There is little, if any, public input into curriculum choices; most core curriculum is defined and mandated by the state, anyway.

"Voting" implies choice, and there is usually little choice when it comes to voting for board members (often called "lifers") and even less choice when voting for school budgets.

Voting on budgets is sometimes a lose-lose for taxpayers. If a budget fails with the voters, the bean counters tinker with the numbers a bit, then put out another budget for the public to vote on.

They will do this dance a number of times before they finally resort to the emergency/contingency budget, which can be only slightly less than the original proposed budget, and your taxes still go up anyway. It's a farce to pretend that somehow there is "choice" involved in this process.

Izgad said...

Vox

If we had a proper libertarian government a century ago, the government never would have stepped in to stop workers from forming unions and striking to get the reforms they needed.
The problem with welfare programs goes far beyond getting people dependent on government programs, though it does that. These programs don’t even work to end poverty. Once we scratch the surface what we get are programs that really serve the interest of higher and higher economic groups.
Yes I admit that the wealthy have an advantage over the poor on all fronts, but government will always end up siding with the wealthy so bringing government into play will only make matters worse. The best that can be done is keep government out and hope that the poor will, in the long run, be able to use their numbers to negotiate with the rich to create a more equitable society.
Giving black people a vote was a good thing as well as making sure that the government itself did not discriminate against them. Making sure that every black person can order a cup of coffee in every Starbucks is of little practical benefit to most black people. Discrimination laws make every black person a liability and encourage businesses to find ways to discriminate under the table. Discrimination laws are made to benefit a narrow elite of political activists, precisely at the expense of ordinary black people and small businesses, lacking the money to hire the lawyers needed to make sure they are compliant with these laws. The same with Medicare laws; they exist to benefit established hospitals and pharmaceutical companies make it impossible for startup groups to compete. This ultimately hurts those at the bottom, who might only be able to afford medical care unless they are allowed to go “outside the box.”
I am not worried that the government will make me eat my vegetables. I am worried about them conspiring big pharmaceutical companies to keep new drugs off the market or that some government board will declare me a bigot and take my job and my kids away from me.

Vox Populi said...

>If we had a proper libertarian government a century ago, the government never would have stepped in to stop workers from forming unions and striking to get the reforms they needed.

But who would enforce the results of those strikes? Libertarian thought, I assume, is willing to let the government enforce collective bargaining agreements, like the government can enforce any contract. But in a system where striking is inadequate, say, where the labor pool is potentially infinite (unlimited immigration), and the government won't force workers to join a union, the only way to regulate is through legislation. Legislation can work like negotiation when there is massive inequalities in bargaining power between the two parties.

>The problem with welfare programs goes far beyond getting people dependent on government programs, though it does that. These programs don’t even work to end poverty. Once we scratch the surface what we get are programs that really serve the interest of higher and higher economic groups.

How do you figure? What do you call ending poverty? I call it getting practically everyone indoors and eating food. Does welfare get everyone middle-class jobs and picket fences? Of course not. But poor people are a lot better off with food than without food, unless you think everyone on welfare is there because they are just not trying. There are other countries out there that do have public welfare programs that ensure a higher standard of living for more of the population than we do, but that's more government, not less.

How does welfare support the interest of the powerful over the interests of poor people? I can see where it expands the bottom line of the producers of bread and other staples, but I think poor people benefit much more.

>The best that can be done is keep government out and hope that the poor will, in the long run, be able to use their numbers to negotiate with the rich to create a more equitable society.

We did use our greater numbers to negotiate and create a more equitable society. It's called government. Instead of using the contract system we used our democratically elected representatives. It seems ridiculous to demand that poor people cannot use the government to coerce the rich because any government action ultimately benefits the rich, and therefore we must let the rich keep on dominating.

Izgad said...

Futurama

I have responded in my most recent post. Thank you for pointing out the article to me.

Izgad said...

Vox

There is no way to raise unskilled labor to anything above bare survival. By definition unskilled jobs are going to be taken by the most desperate people, who have nothing else. The only solution is for people to work their way out to becoming skilled laborers, who cannot simply be replaced by the next group of random immigrants. The more in demand skills you have the better you can unionize and strike with others of similar skills to advance the common interest.

I think it is worthy of note that you openly call for throwing out the social contract to be replaced with coercive force. Now that we have enshrined as a principle that people can use the coercive force of government to advance their private needs, what is to stop them from taking it to its logical extreme and creating a government not of law, but of private whim. While we may begin, by going after the rich, in the long run the poor will become the targets and they will be the ones least able to defend themselves. I can think of no greater gift to a poor man than to allow him to live under a government of laws, safe in the knowledge that whatever he earns will be his.

Vox Populi said...

>Making sure that every black person can order a cup of coffee in every Starbucks is of little practical benefit to most black people.

It's of immense value! Why do you think it's not? First, the main purpose of those provisions of the CRA was to ensure that not Starbucks, but that the hotels and restaurants of the South, where all those regular black people lived, would serve them. That was and is of immense value. The free market was not solving the problem.

>Discrimination laws make every black person a liability and encourage businesses to find ways to discriminate under the table.

Okay, but they don't. While I'm sure there were situations where discrimination laws have made things tricky for human resources, this is not their main effect. It's not as if the private employers of the South were hiring African-Americans and the damn CRA turned them into a burden. Private employers specifically refused to hire blacks because they were blacks. If fixing that means the pendulum very rarely swings back a bit, I'm still going to count that as a victory for black people.

And the effect has largely not been to encourage businesses to find ways around it. That's like saying outlawing murder is foolish because it encourages people to try and circumvent murder laws.

>or that some government board will declare me a bigot and take my job and my kids away from me.

Yeah, but this is a ridiculous fear. It's like refusing to use a gun against a mugger because you're afraid that you might have an allergic reaction to the alloy finish, even though you've been using the very same gun to no such ill effects for the last 200 years.

Vox Populi said...

>There is no way to raise unskilled labor to anything above bare survival. By definition unskilled jobs are going to be taken by the most desperate people, who have nothing else.

There's no reason that should be true. You're just stating a policy preference. And that policy preference, by the way, consigns a large segment of the populace to mere subsistence living, and probably worse.

>I think it is worthy of note that you openly call for throwing out the social contract to be replaced with coercive force.

That's not what I said. I said that the contract system relies on coercive force to enforce it. When somebody doesn't fulfill the terms of a contract, the injured party goes to the government (courts) to force the reneger to pay up. If GMC and a union agree on max. hours, the government will enforce that contract. If we're using government's coercive power anyway, I think there's nothing particularly more coercive about skipping the middleman and using democracy to set up rules, especially if one party is much more powerful than the other.

>Now that we have enshrined as a principle that people can use the coercive force of government to advance their private needs, what is to stop them from taking it to its logical extreme and creating a government not of law, but of private whim.

Democracy. Checks and balances. The same thing that's stopped us from creating a government of private whim for the last 200+ years. This isn't theoretical. We have some experience with a government of laws, and not men. We've been regulating since at least the New Deal. We're still here.

Izgad said...

Not being able to get coffee at a specific place or use a specific hotel might be annoying and even seriously humiliating, but it does not place you in physical danger. A government armed with the power to interfere with people’s private lives is an imminent danger to everyone no matter the color of their skin. Of course once the government decides to seriously abuse their power the first people they will go after are those most vulnerable. Think of government anti-discrimination laws as a deal with the devil. You get something that looks nice in the short term, but you end up, in the long one having to pay for it with literally everything.
The problem in the South was not free markets, but that you had a State power forcing people to discriminate. This is a good example of government causing a problem and offering the solution of, you guessed it, more government.
The difference between murder and discrimination is that the latter is quite open ended and can be defined any way the authorities desire. Murder is relatively simple. There is no reason for me to avoid interacting with people out of a fear that I might accidently murder them, unless I carry the Ebola virus. That is not the case with discrimination. Funny how, starting at the university I was forced to take classes about discrimination, but not a single one about murder. Of course every class about discrimination is a pay check to someone who chooses to specialize in the field, who is usually also an activist. We should trust such people that their actions are for the sake of heaven and not to enrich themselves? I might be willing if they did not have the coercive power of government behind them. Not having a gun pointed at my head does wonders to making me more willing to trust you.
You think I am paranoid? When I started at OSU, my advisor sat me down and warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to anyone about race, religion or politics. What did the government do a few years ago to that polygamist compound in Texas? It came in the night, snatching their kids away. Explain to me why that could not be New Square or Williamsburg next.
Jobs have specific values based on whatever a free market would pay regardless of whether the market is allowed that freedom. All that government can do is redistribute that value. The government could raise wages by not allowing some people to work through race laws, anti-immigration, tariffs or a minimum wage; this robs both workers and their employers. The government could also more directly confiscate money from employers in the name of helping the workers. Again, in the end, that will also end up harming the workers, particularly the least well off.
It makes all the difference in the world whether we have a social contract or not. Part of the strength of a democracy is that everyone of their own free will accepts the system. This keeps us from having to worry about people trying to overthrow the government. The moment the government gets to simply do things to people and say tough we risk people turning around and deciding that it is not “their government” and try to overthrow it. I like having government when it means people get to sit down and negotiate their differences; much better than people turning to violence.
Checks and balances are part of the social contract. Please read Hayek. A government that can do whatever it wants as long as it has a fig leaf of acting to protect the poor does not have any checks and balances. Stalin and Hitler were able to act in the name of the poor. The fact that we have not followed this path is because there have been people, and not people from the left, willing to push against this “road to serfdom.”

Vox Populi said...

What can I say? The way I read the history of civil rights in this country is that we've gained a lot (not just something that looks nice) for very little (the theoretical loss of liberty that allows someone not to serve black people because they think black people are intrinsically of less value than white people). When 1/2 to 2/3 of the accommodations in your part of the world do not serve you because you're black, it is a big deal to you. A much bigger deal than the hypothetical chance that one day child services might swoop down on a polygamous fundamentalist farm and give you due process. To me, you're all too comfortable with the actual tyranny of the majority, but unreasonably skeptical of the tyranny of the government-elected-by-the-majority-but-restrained-by-the-social-contract.

>The problem in the South was not free markets, but that you had a State power forcing people to discriminate. This is a good example of government causing a problem and offering the solution of, you guessed it, more government.

This is silly. Maybe that was the problem in the South with slavery. But after the Civil War Amendments, slavery and state discrimination is illegal. No state is forcing any restaurant to not serve blacks. Your problem is with legislation which combated Jim Crow, which was a mixture of legislative and social restrictions on blacks. Are you telling me that in the 1960s, it was Georgia and not the Heart of Atlanta Motel that didn't want to serve blacks? Would Georgia have prevented it from doing so? Moreover, even if your version of history was what was happening, I read you as saying you would have no problem with states enforcing the discrimination of private parties.

>The difference between murder and discrimination is that the latter is quite open ended and can be defined any way the authorities desire. Murder is relatively simple.

My point is that unless you're willing to argue that anti-discrimination laws have actually caused either more or similar amounts of discrimination (just moved them underground) it's silly to argue against them on the assumption that people look for ways around laws.

>There is no reason for me to avoid interacting with people out of a fear that I might accidently murder them, unless I carry the Ebola virus. That is not the case with discrimination.

These are not arguments against discrimination laws, but arguments against bad discrimination laws. If I defined murder really poorly, you could have a really hard time interacting with people. Arguably our medical malpractice system does just that.

>We should trust such people that their actions are for the sake of heaven and not to enrich themselves?

How do I know historians aren't pushing some pro-historian agenda? I find it a bit rich that the entire corpus of anti-discrimination law is to enrich the people who teach it. It's not a very lucrative field. I think the actual point of it was pretty straightforward. To prevent unjust discrimination on the basis of race. I see it as much more likely that a business in the 1960s would discriminate against a black employee than that Congress passed the Civil Rights Act to enrich mediocre lawyers working at Legal Services that had captured it.

>When I started at OSU, my advisor sat me down and warned me in no uncertain terms not to talk to anyone about race, religion or politics

You're a state employee. Lots of people who work in government are constrained in what they can discuss. I don't see this as the creeping march of tyranny.

Vox Populi said...

>Explain to me why that could not be New Square or Williamsburg next.

I don't understand. If there is reliable reason to believe that the children of Williamsburg are being forced into child marriages or are being physically abused, would not libertarianism dictate that government protect them? CPS was not getting involved in Texas because they believe fundamentalist Mormons are silly.

>The government could raise wages by not allowing some people to work through race laws, anti-immigration, tariffs or a minimum wage; this robs both workers and their employers

Or by just mandating a minimum wage for certain labor. Or the government can tax people more and put it into a welfare pool. There are plenty of countries where people do this and everyone seems to be happy and well-fed. There are also plenty of countries where the government is incapable of doing such things, and those countries all suck.

>It makes all the difference in the world whether we have a social contract or not.

I'm all for the social contract. The social contract has decided on bigger government. Are you in? The New Deal and the Great Society were not some conspiracies pushed forward by a small cabal of discrimination professors while the country was drunk one night - we used democracy to do it. Johnson and Roosevelt had huge elected majorities in Congress, and the unelected Court rubber-stamped it. Checks and balances signed off on it.

>The moment the government gets to simply do things to people and say tough we risk people turning around and deciding that it is not “their government” and try to overthrow it.

Your argument would be more persuasive if you weren't the one arguing the rare minority view. Big government was instituted by the majority. It's in no risk of being overthrown by another majority violently. As soon as a majority is passionately aroused to get rid of it, it can do so through the ballot box. If you can't get a majority to do that, then it's ridiculous to suggest that I'm the one making things undemocratic. If anything, one would imagine that it would be ineffective governments that could not provide basic services to their citizens that would be most in danger of violent revolts.

>A government that can do whatever it wants as long as it has a fig leaf of acting to protect the poor does not have any checks and balances.

Again, we did all this through checks and balances. Obamacare, for example, relied on 60 democratically elected senators, at least 218 democratically elected congressman, one democratically elected President, and will have to survive the scrutiny of nine old people on the Supreme Court. Not to mention all the unofficial veto points, like filibusters and committee chairmen.

Hitler's problem was not that he justified doing things to help the poor, no more than Mussolini is judged harshly by history for making the trains run on time. Until you show me how we big government types ran roughshod over the will of the majority, I'm not going to give much credence to your allegations of there being a "checks and balances" deficit.

The way I read your social contract is that no matter how many people want to do something, there are some things you just won't let them do, regardless of the calculation of benefits, in order to make a philosophical point. I think that's misguided.

Izgad said...

Part of Plessy v. Ferguson was that State government could force private businesses to operate according to Jim Crow even to the extent of making trains from out of state have separate black compartments.

We did gain a lot from the civil rights movement and we still could have had almost all of that if we had limited the government to not getting in the way. As it is we are left with a very heavy bill that I do not believe we will ever be able to pay.

Rights are always theoretical. When they come for the communists (or the Muslims) it is only theoretical that they could come for me. It is important to me to make sure that every suspected Muslim terrorist receives his legal due process, not out of any love for Islam or doubts about the guilt of the suspects, but because I know that the only way I can fight for my own rights is when it is someone else. The moment it becomes me telling the government that I am not a terrorist and have rights it is already too late. So the only meaningful way to talk about rights is in theoretical defenses of the “indefensible” like segregationists or polygamous. Anything else is a demand for special privileges.
It is not possible to write a good anti-discrimination law, because, by definition, discrimination, as with any other form of non-physical harm, is a vague concept. Everyone discriminates to some extent. What anti-discrimination laws amount to is an arbitrary decision by politicians to ban certain types of discrimination for no good reason but to satisfy a particularly powerful special interest. Should Aspergers like me be protected against discrimination; what would that even mean?
Like any good scam, civil rights laws work, because there is some obvious good to hang in front of people. Certainly Bernie Madoff wants to help me become rich. Hundreds of thousands of not millions of people, most of them not poor southern blacks, are enriched by government involvement in civil rights. Why should I believe that any of these people are actually motivated by anything other than a desire to enrich themselves and gain political influence all why gaining the moral high ground as “civil rights activists.” One of the advantages of being a libertarian is that I am not required to believe in the moral goodness of anyone. I can assume that every person in this country would slit my throat at a moment’s notice if it benefited them and libertarian principles would still allow for a functional society.
I have already posted on the issue of not trusting historians when it comes to creating government mandated history education. http://izgad.blogspot.com/2010/11/history-on-free-market.html
The fact that the government has stepped into education when they were not forced to makes it completely not innocent when restrictions are placed on those now rendered government employees. This is why any expansion of government into the social sphere is a denial of people’s rights.

Vox Populi said...

>Part of Plessy v. Ferguson was that State government could force private businesses to operate according to Jim Crow even to the extent of making trains from out of state have separate black compartments.

I assumed we were dealing with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act of the 1960s. Plessy was overruled almost ten years before those acts. The cases that challenged the CRA (e.g. McClung and Heart of Atlanta Motel) were cases of private actor discrimination. The problems the CRA and the VRA sought to remedy (and which were most controversial and radical) were acts of private discrimination. My point is that even had we abolished state government in the 1960s, private discrimination would have gone on indefinitely. You tend to separate the actions of democratic governments from the will of the majorities that elected them. The problem was not that Woolworths wanted to serve blacks but couldn't because of some unaccountable tyrants in the North Carolina Legislature. To the extent that the state wished to discriminate, it did so with the support of, and not despite, the popular will.

>As it is we are left with a very heavy bill that I do not believe we will ever be able to pay.

What is the bill?

>What anti-discrimination laws amount to is an arbitrary decision by politicians to ban certain types of discrimination for no good reason but to satisfy a particularly powerful special interest. Should Aspergers like me be protected against discrimination; what would that even mean?

I think you're subscribing to a public-choice theory on steroids. The CRA was not just the machinations of a narrow special-interest group working against a largely disinterested polity. It was the result of a century long movement towards equal rights that was publicly and lengthily debated. The decision to ban employment discrimination against black people just because they were black was not an arbitrary distinction created by the powerful equal rights lobby of hopeful discrimination professors. Perhaps in the abstract, from a cosmic perspective, forbidding discrimination against black people is as nonsensical as forbidding discrimination against yellow bananas, but government is created by people, and people have a right to order their society in ways in which bananas do not.

>Hundreds of thousands of not millions of people, most of them not poor southern blacks, are enriched by government involvement in civil rights. Why should I believe that any of these people are actually motivated by anything other than a desire to enrich themselves and gain political influence all why gaining the moral high ground as “civil rights activists.”

I understand you don't mean enriched in the colloquial sense of "getting rich off something", but I'm still mystified at what you deem to be the cost here? What is your parade of horribles, exactly? Has it occurred? From a public welfare perspective, are there more people being hurt by discrimination laws in severe enough ways such that it would be better to just allow businesses not to serve people for being black? Obviously, we have different values, but do you really value the right of a bigot to discriminate over the right of a black individual to get on a train?

>One of the advantages of being a libertarian is that I am not required to believe in the moral goodness of anyone. I can assume that every person in this country would slit my throat at a moment’s notice if it benefited them and libertarian principles would still allow for a functional society.

Okay, but this sounds ridiculous, and I wouldn't classify it as an advantage. You can assume that every person wants to slit you throat, but they probably wouldn't. If you order not just your affairs on this assumption, but also everyone else's, it will lead to silly and incorrect results.