Conservative Principle and The Rhetoric of Principle

by John Holbo on May 25, 2010

This post is theme-and-variations on my previous one. The issue: Barry Goldwater is lionized as an icon of conservative high principle and true philosophy. But his signature domestic issue was opposition to integration and civil rights legislation. If – like Rand Paul a week ago – you think his opposition was philosophically and Constitutionally correct and admirable, then bully for you. But if – like Rand Paul today, like most conservatives – you think Goldwater was wrong to oppose integration and civil rights legislation, then you need to explain how Goldwater’s conservative conscience failed him so utterly and comprehensively. One possibility: he was personally just a racist or opportunist, and that overrode his principles. But no, this answer is not accepted (by conservatives). Well then: either 1) he espoused wrong principles, or 2) he mis/over-applied them in some way.

Conservatives are going to go for 2), overwhelmingly. This is the position that Sebastian took in comments, in response to my last post. “But all the political philosophies break down at ugly margins.” This is the position Conor Friedersdorf takes in his most recent post.

But Mr. Goldwater was a failure as a politician, a builder of coalitions, and as an adept translator of principle into policy. The right lionizes Ronald Reagan for those things, whereas the enlightened way to lionize Barry Goldwater is as a man of principle who practiced his main virtue to a fault. To borrow a line from Ross Douthat, today’s Goldwater apologist should say, “no ideology survives the collision with real-world politics perfectly intact. General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous intellectual consistency” — so while I admire Barry Goldwater for articulating and sticking to first principles, which were generally correct, I also wish like hell he would’ve abandoned zealous consistency in the singular instance of Civil Rights.

The Douthat column contains more in the same vein:

This was all that Rand Paul needed to admit, after his victory in Kentucky’s Republican Senate primary, when NPR and Rachel Maddow asked about his views of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. “As a principled critic of federal power,” he could have said, “I oppose efforts to impose Washington’s will on states and private institutions. As a student of the history of segregation and slavery, however, I would have made an exception for the Civil Rights Act.”

But Paul just couldn’t help himself. He had to play Hamlet, to hem and haw about the distinction between public and private discrimination, to insist on his sympathy for the civil rights movement while conspicuously avoiding saying that he would have voted for the bill that outlawed segregation.

By the weekend (and under duress), he finally said it. But the tap-dancing route he took to get there was offensive, tone deaf and politically crazy.

All this seems to me philosophically and politically untenable.

First, if we are going to get all ‘consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds’ about our philosophies, we need to drop all leg-pulling about principle. And, no, this isn’t some higher insistence on consistency, it’s a point about character. If you are a pragmatic trimmer, you are not a champion of high principle. Being a trimmer while preening yourself on your pure adherence to principle is not some sort of wise balancing act. This is important in the Goldwater case because a Goldwater who said and did all the things Goldwater is admired for – all that ‘conscience of a conservative’ stuff – who reversed course and supported integration and civil rights legislation, wouldn’t have been ‘an adept translator of principle into policy’. He would have been an 18 karat gold-plated phony. Which is, I take it, nobody’s ideal of virtue and authenticity.

So it’s very hard for me to make sense of Friedersdorf’s phraseology when he says – let me quote again – “while I admire Barry Goldwater for articulating and sticking to first principles, which were generally correct, I also wish like hell he would’ve abandoned zealous consistency in the singular instance of Civil Rights.” To me this translates: Goldwater would have been a better conservative if he’d been less committed to conservatism. Or, even more harshly: since Americans are philosophical conservatives but operational liberals, what you do to win is adopt a sham rhetoric of conservative principle, while crafting actual policy in accordance with liberal principles, which will produce better results, and better match up with what people actually want. The problems with this are manifold and I will note but one: to recommend that, say, Rand Paul should take this path amounts to recommending that he turn RINO. He should promise all sorts of conservative stuff until he gets to Washington, at which point he will judiciously adapt all that into policy, i.e. totally fail to deliver.

I don’t think Friedersdorf would agree with this at all – I’m sure he wouldn’t – for the following reason: recognizing the injustice of Jim Crow is not a case of pandering or trimming. It’s not just putting your finger up to see whether the wind is blowing left or right. Conservatives should be in favor of civil rights legislation, not because they’ll be killed at the polls if they aren’t, but because you should do the right thing. Now the rubber hits the road. But let’s shift into reverse for a second. What is the actual point of saying things like ‘consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds’? The point can be pragmatic. Politics is the art of the possible; consistency is often impossible. Coalitions must be assembled. There are horses that need trading, sausage that must be made. But it can be more philosophical: you should be a pluralist about values because that’s the correct philosophy. You should acknowledge that there are large principles, incommensurable values, and they sometimes collide in confusing ways, that can’t be solved for to three significant decimal places. Freedom and equality, tradition and progress, individualism and community, universalism (cosmopolitanism) and patriotism. There are no higher principles that really tell you how to balance these things. It takes good judgment. This is a thing that gets us back to pragmatic ability to see what is really possible, what really works, what real life is like. And now the trick is to tell trimming – stuffing sausage with trimmings from the dirty backroom floor – from Trimming – Stuffing The Sausage of This Mortal Coil With Trimmings From Our Solid Earthly Existence. (As William James said: “the trail of the human sausage is over all.” Or words to that effect.)

Now I expect Friedersdorf will say: yes, the noble one, if you please, not the sordid one. And now the problem is: congratulations, you’re a liberal.

Because what is really going on in the civil rights case? What incommensurability of values is it that induces us to bend or blend our principles in such a case, according to Friedersdorf and Douthat? Well, obviously, it’s something like freedom vs. equality [beyond bare formal political equality]. Or negative freedom vs. positive freedom. Or justice, as a relationship between private individuals, to justice, as a positive institutional/social arrangement. Or regarding people as individuals vs. thinking of them in terms of groups or classes. It obviously isn’t totally clear which way of thinking about the issue is best, philosophically. But the problem with suggesting that the conservative principle should be bent, in these sorts of cases, is that the principle that we are going to be bending is the one that says, precisely, that you shouldn’t be willing to bend your principles in cases like this. At the philosophical level, the balancing act approach is not some wise compromise between conservative and liberal principle. The balancing act is the dreaded liberal philosophy. So to engage in the balancing act is not to compromise but to concede. Conservative principle is that we are not even going to set foot on the road to serfdom, because that leads to serfdom. This means we need to stand up for individual freedom against any and all attempts to balance individual freedom against some progressive social engineering ideal of what society should be like. If it turns out that it’s actually right, in practice, to balance principles of individual freedom against principles of progressive social engineering, then the conservative principle is not bent but broken.

Now maybe there’s some other way to think about what the relevant conservative principle is in this case, but I haven’t heard it. It’s obvious that we are not looking for some mellow, Burkean thing, in the case of civil rights. It seems there is a tendency to retreat into vague claims that ‘race is special’, or ‘the history of race makes it special in the US’. But I would like to hear some explanation of why this is so. In comments, Sebastian objected that it’s completely obvious why we can carve out a morally unique exception here, that won’t touch other sorts of cases. “Surely you’re aware of the racial component to slavery in the US. Right?” Yes, I was aware, but I fail to see the overwhelming moral relevance of this historical fact. How does the fact that some people owned other people 150 years ago override the value of individual liberty today, by conservative lights? Conservatives tend to mock those who would make policy out of feelings of historical guilt. (If they are serious that it’s all about the slavery: do they think the problem in the 60’s was not that some people couldn’t sit at lunch counters but that the ancestors of those who couldn’t sit at lunch counters had been slaves? So if only we had Jim Crow from time immemorial, rather than as a legacy to slavery, it would be ok?) I invite conservatives like Friedersdorf and Douthat – as I invited libertarians like Bernstein and Barnett, in my last post – to explain why they think civil rights legislation, in the 1960’s, required a departure from principle, without conceding that the principle turns out to be mostly just a rhetoric of principle, masking acknowledgment that, in practice, the principle is wrong.

{ 107 comments }

1

Vance Maverick 05.25.10 at 5:19 am

Friedersdorf slimes through three degrees of affirmation of what you’re pointing out:

the enlightened way to lionize Barry Goldwater is as a man of principle who practiced his main virtue to a fault.

That’s irony, right?

To borrow a line from Ross Douthat, today’s Goldwater apologist should say, “…General principles have to bend to accommodate the complexities of history, and justice is sometimes better served by compromise than by zealous intellectual consistency”

At this point, can we be sure what CF means by “should”? Are we talking about duty or prediction?

while I admire Barry Goldwater for articulating and sticking to first principles,…I also wish like hell he would’ve abandoned zealous consistency in the singular instance of Civil Rights.

Finally he speaks in the frank first person — or does he? I’m not sure why he needs to be so slippery.

2

Conor Friedersdorf 05.25.10 at 6:58 am

Vance Maverick,

I’m not sure why you presume that I am being “slippery.” In fact, I’m thinking all this through as I write. I was born in 1980, and while I read The Conscience of a Conservative in high school — and by the way, that book, not the 1964 election, is how most younger conservatives know Barry Goldwater — I haven’t given him very much thought in over a decade.

Mr. Holbo,

Thanks for engaging my post, and offering your own. You’re right that I am taking the position that there are competing values and principles that we must weigh against one another. I am zealously in favor of freedom of speech, for example, so much so that I am glad the ACLU defended the Nazis in Skokie. But can I think of extreme instances when I’d favor speech restrictions? Sure.

With regard to Barry Goldwater and the Civil Rights Act, my understanding is that the conservative principles at stake are as follows:

— Adherence to the Constitution, its guarantee of freedom of association, and its establishment of a federal government with limited, enumerated powers.
— The idea that political power should be exercised at the local level.

And indeed, I think these things are good in principle.

Brink Lindsay wrote, “As a general matter, people should be free to deal or not deal with others as they choose. And that means we discriminate against those we choose not to deal with. In marrying one person, we discriminate against all others. Businesses can discriminate against potential employees who don’t meet hiring qualifications, and they can discriminate against potential customers who don’t observe a dress code (no shirt, no shoes, no service). Rand Paul is appealing to the general principle of freedom of association, and that general principle is a good one.

“But it has exceptions. In particular, after three-plus centuries of slavery and another century of institutionalized, state-sponsored racism (which included state toleration of private racist violence), the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn’t just a series of uncoordinated private decisions by individuals exercising their freedom of association. It was part and parcel of an overall social system of racial oppression.”

I agree with that. And with Julian Sanchez:

“Anyone who values freedom of association should also recognize the real tradeoff that anti-discrimination law involves. In a free society, Americans have long believed, even people with repulsive views have a right to express them, and to join with like-minded bigots in private clubs and informal gatherings. It is not crazy to imagine that in a more just world, an ideally just world, respect for that freedom would lead us to countenance—legally, if not personally—the few cranks who sought to congregate in their monochrome cafés and diners.”

“Yet that’s precisely why Paul’s 1.0 argument breaks down on its own terms: at the scene of a four-century crime against humanity—the kidnap, torture, enslavement, and legal oppression of African-Americans—ideal theory fails. We libertarians, never burdened with an excess of governing power, have always had a utopian streak, a penchant for imagining what rich organic order would bubble up from the choices of free and equal citizens governed by a lean state enforcing a few simple rules. We tend to envision societies that, if not perfect, are at least consistently libertarian.”

“Unfortunately, history happened. Rules for utopia can deal with individual crimes—the mugger and the killer and the vandal—but they stumble in the face of societywide injustice. They tell us the state shouldn’t sanction the brutal enslavement or humiliating legal subordination of a people; they have less to say about what to do once we have. They tell us to respect the sanctity of the property rights that would arise as free people tamed the wilderness in John Locke’s state of nature. They have less to say about the sanctity of property built on generations of slave sweat and blood.”

Perhaps I am making some error, but I basically agree with what Lindsay and Sanchez wrote, and I don’t think that is somehow devastating to conservative principles. Of course, I don’t think those principles require the sort of absolutism that you seem to either.

3

Sebastian 05.25.10 at 7:32 am

“The balancing act is the dreaded liberal philosophy. So to engage in the balancing act is not to compromise but to concede. “

Really? Liberals certainly don’t talk like that very much. They *sound* just as absolutist as anyone on lots of things. Just talk to US liberal politicians on abortion, or affirmative action, or except for a very few–the possibility of teacher evaluation. And they’ll insinuate that you’re evil if you disagree with them too.

I think you want to believe that liberalism is about the balancing act, but in practice it is plenty dogmatic and fact resistant. More so than current iterations of conservatives in the US? No. But lets not get all crazy and assert that they are VERY undogmatic or VERY interested in questioning questionable ideas.

4

John Holbo 05.25.10 at 7:44 am

Well, it’s important to see that I’m not sketching a psychological profile of the average liberal, Sebastian. I’m talking normative political philosophy. Those are quite different things and it’s quite unlikely that any one thing could be both.

5

Sebastian 05.25.10 at 8:04 am

I think that distinction isn’t as important as you seem to.

The normative political philosophy you are sketching isn’t particularly normative except retrospectively. It boils down to something like “make the best decision at the time given the facts you have available”.

But every political philosophy could boil down to that for various settings of ‘best’, and ‘facts available’. Whenever I try to pin you down to what the bedrock normative principles are (in Constitutional interpretation from previous discussions or in moral/policy questions in the last thread) you get incredibly vague while simultaneously asking me to be hyper-specific. It feels like you want to just push all the ‘liberal’ normative decisions behind a curtain where we can’t examine them very closely. You suggest complicated balancing tests but don’t want to talk about exactly what factors go into the balancing.

That doesn’t seem normative. That is just obscuring.

6

John Holbo 05.25.10 at 8:53 am

“I think that distinction isn’t as important as you seem to.”

The difference between how people actually think and how they should think isn’t important? How not? Let’s start with that because I think some of the other things flow from it.

7

bad Jim 05.25.10 at 9:24 am

The point is that liberalism is not an ideology. There may be general agreement on values like life, liberty, equality, fraternity and the pursuit of happiness (yeah, right) but questions of means remain interminably debatable. We laugh about it all the time.

Conservatives are famously unable to propound positive principles significantly different from liberal values, and distinguish themselves by straddling the globe, standing athwart history and yelling “Stop!”

Libertarians are the political equivalent of alternative medicine advocates, railing against the allopathic consensus, and insisting that nature the market can be relied upon to remedy all ills. If the public health is nobody’s business (and there are parents who don’t vaccinate their kids because much of the benefit accrues to other people) then we ought to encourage them to think libertarian prescriptions homeopathically increase their potency by dilution.

8

Z 05.25.10 at 9:27 am

Sebastian, I think you fail to acknowledge that there is a fundamental difference between liberalism (in the american sense) and libertarianism (in the largely american propertarian sense): the former explicitly denies the existence of a golden way to craft just policies (it’s reflective equilibrium all the way down), whereas the later has such a golden way. In that sense, your comparison with socialism in the comments of the previous post was more justified, in the sense that socialism also has a golden way.

But it is really not true that all political philosophies break at extreme case. I would go as far as saying that only poorly thought philosophy do. In particular, I don’t think you can “catch” a liberal in the same way you can catch a utilitarian by asking if he would walk away from Omelas, or a propertarian if it is okay to charge one year of labour for a loaf of bread to a starving man. If you think otherwise, then I suggest you provide an example.

In the previous thread you mentioned the case of affirmative action hurting asian students; if this was meant as such an example, then I think it is particularly weak, seeing that many countries with policies usually described as much more liberal than the US have decided against affirmative action on this basis without this decision deemed as illiberal. Just a case of a different equilibrium (presumably reflecting in that case different social histories). This is something liberal can say (no golden way), but not something propertarian can say (which was the whole point of John Holbo, I’m guessing).

9

bjk 05.25.10 at 10:02 am

This is from the Goldwater campaign brochure in 1964.
http://www.4president.org/brochures/goldwater1964brochure.htm

CIVIL RIGHTS
Barry Goldwater wants equal treatment for all Americans, but preferential treatment for none.

“The right to vote, to equal treatment before the law, to hold property, and to the protection of contracts are clearly guaranteed by the 14th and 15th Amendments to the Constitution. These rights should be rigorously enforced. Existing law demands it.
“In the schools, the Attorney General already has the authority through court decrees to effect integration. But if more authority must be granted, we should write a law that is tightly drawn, that can be used like a rifle, not a shotgun.
“As for the proposed public accommodations law, it is unconstitutional and a clear example of a new law which will only hinder, not help the cause of racial tolerance. Such a law could even open the door to a police-state system of enforcement that would eventually threaten the liberty of us all.
“No matter how we try, we cannot pass a law that will make you like me or me like you. The key to racial and religious tolerance lies not in laws alone but, ultimately, in the hearts of men.”

I don’t see what’s wrong with that. As has been pointed out elsewhere, the South went from forced segregation to forced desegregation. It’s not as if free association failed, it was never tried. If there are plenty of trimmers writing for the Atlantic or NYT who don’t want to get smeared, that doesn’t invalidate the basic principle.

10

bjk 05.25.10 at 10:09 am

This video from ABC is a perfect example of the conservative principle. ABC sets up a candid camera scenario with a discriminating deli owner and then records the customer reaction. The customers a) defend the owner’s right to discriminate and b) decide not to patronize his restaurant.

11

John Holbo 05.25.10 at 10:18 am

bjk, you are a true libertarian conservative. What I am wondering, quite honestly, is why other conservatives don’t agree with you.

12

bjk 05.25.10 at 10:23 am

Do I get a prize? Does that come with some sort of membership card and benefits? There are plenty of conservatives who agree with me, go over to econlog and read Henderson and Caplan. They just don’t happen to write for liberal publications like the NYT.

13

rea 05.25.10 at 10:55 am

The notion that Jim Crow was a matter of good people who didn’t want to commit racial discrimination being constrained to discriminate by the evil power of the state is . . . somewhat ahistorical. I don’t recall the state leading lynch mobs.

14

Walt 05.25.10 at 11:03 am

Because apparently being a true libertarian conservative means that you have to be a nut like Bryan Caplan.

15

John Holbo 05.25.10 at 11:17 am

“Do I get a prize? Does that come with some sort of membership card and benefits? There are plenty of conservatives who agree with me, go over to econlog and read Henderson and Caplan.”

I am not unfamiliar with Caplan’s work, per many of my recent CT posts. And I am sorry to say there is no prize. Indeed, I would go so far as to speculate that there are no benefits!

16

politicalfootball 05.25.10 at 12:00 pm

“but preferential treatment for none”

Am I reading correctly that Goldwater was fretting about what conservatives now call “reverse discrimination”? In 1964?

17

tps12 05.25.10 at 12:44 pm

Such a law could even open the door to a police-state system of enforcement that would eventually threaten the liberty of us all.

There’s the “what’s wrong” with Goldwater’s position right there. At the time of his writing there existed a “police-state system of enforcement” that was actively restricting the liberty of a great many Americans.

Defending that status quo on the grounds that reform might open a door to threatening liberty (eventually) seems insane. It only makes sense under a very specific parsing of “us all.”

18

politicalfootball 05.25.10 at 12:47 pm

The customers a) defend the owner’s right to discriminate and b) decide not to patronize his restaurant.

I don’t see how b) is relevant to your argument, unless your point is that bad outcomes aren’t mandatory in Libertopia. Others would certainly choose that deli based on its discriminatory policy, and what would the libertarian objection be?

Either choice is acceptable by free individuals, right? It’s the market that dictates appropriate outcomes, no?

19

Antiquated Tory 05.25.10 at 12:49 pm

bhk, rea,
More to the point, Jim Crow was just the legal side of a set of societal norms that preserved the power structure. Do you know what happened to a white man in the South who dared let a black man eat in his restaurant, or was too chummy with his black employees? People would start to say, maybe he *is* black. By the height of the Jim Crow laws (by which time everyone had forgotten how much freed slave blood was in the lines of prominent families), there were laws in place in most of the South by which a person could challenge the legal racial status of another, and the burden of proof was very heavily on the challenged person to prove he/she was white. Impossibly heavy. In fact, it was extraordinary for the challenged person to win. It required a ridiculous amount of documented ancestry. That meant his kids were doomed to go to black schools, be limited to black jobs, etc. Or he could just move North, where people would accept that someone who looked and talked White was White. In either case, the challenge to the local social order was removed, and a salutary lesson was taught to anyone else who had moral qualms about how he or she was supposed to treat black people. The social mechanism is not all that different from how school bullies deal with kids who object to their bullying.
(Note that by these laws, hardly anyone in the South would have been classified “white,” if everyone were challenged. But everyone wasn’t. Troublemakers were. And these were local laws, set at the state level and with the endorsement of respectable local people. And the race laws were merely a matter of a state level census category–surely any libertarian would agree that the citizens of a state have the right to determine their own census categories without interference from the federal government?)

20

Nick 05.25.10 at 12:53 pm

“The notion that Jim Crow was a matter of good people who didn’t want to commit racial discrimination being constrained to discriminate by the evil power of the state is . . . somewhat ahistorical. I don’t recall the state leading lynch mobs.”

The point is there is a difference between being beaten or lynched or prevented from voting, and being refused a service. In addition, if you prohibited the former activities and enforced the public civil rights of all, then you would have seen private forms of discrimination challenged and diminished as well.

Since Goldwater appears to have worked to desegregate in his home state, and been a desegragationist in his own private actions, it looks more like it really was principled opposition to some aspects of the civil rights act that prevented him from voting for it, not the intention behind it. He wasn’t looking to maintain segregation. It also seems possible (though I would disagree) that he could have got it wrong too, that a principle of federalism really ought to have been overruled in this case. In some sense, we will never know, because we don’t know how rapidly civil society in the South would have desegregated without that particular bundle of federal interventions. The important thing to note is that there is more going on in these situations than simply changes in government policy.

21

Nick 05.25.10 at 12:56 pm

“There’s the “what’s wrong” with Goldwater’s position right there. At the time of his writing there existed a “police-state system of enforcement” that was actively restricting the liberty of a great many Americans. “

That would be a fair comment ONLY if he wasn’t challenging this system of enforcement in other ways at the same time. Which he was.

22

Witt 05.25.10 at 1:20 pm

The South manifestly did not “go from forced segregation to forced desegregation,” as is stated above. This was summarized nicely by Bruce Baugh at the end of the other thread:

A lot of the apparatus of Jim Crow dates not from right after the Civil War but from decades later, and accumulated throughout the early 20th century. This is important: the law followed rising, not falling, intolerance. It was, in much of the country, worse for black people in 1925 than in 1900 in terms both of legal restraint and of practical social possibility, and worse in 1900 than in 1875. Mob violence was on the rise, along with restrictive housing covenants, standardized redlining, and the like.

23

Bruce Baugh 05.25.10 at 1:30 pm

Goldwater fanciers: What is it that you find so obviously right about Goldwater that the KKK missed at the time?

It is a fact that racist agitators and groups throughout the country gave Goldwater their support. Why is it that they were all so – according to your claims – profoundly wrong?

24

matt 05.25.10 at 2:09 pm

“The balancing act is the dreaded liberal philosophy.”

Just wanted to put a word in for other “liberal philosophies” that are not balancing acts. A certain sort of liberal would say that the Civil Rights Act was no sacrifice of individual property rights because there are no property rights independent of or prior to a just political order. (In fact, wouldn’t most people say that Woolworth’s had no property right whatsoever to kick out– or have the police remove– black customers? Who really feels a tragic tension of competing values here?)

Another example: while “balancing” conservatives and liberals may see progressive taxation as a trade-off between private rights and public goods, a little bit of injustice that we can’t do without, the view I’m talking about sees no trade-off. One only has a right to a just distribution of property, as settled by social and political institutions run by free and equal citizens. That is, redistribution itself is not at all unjust.

I think this is actually the reigning “operational” liberalism that dare not speak its name.

25

Rich Puchalsky 05.25.10 at 2:28 pm

John Holbo, you might want to read this old post that I found by somebody named John Holbo. It concerns not having to build a coherent political worldview for someone who doesn’t have one, just so that you can argue with them.

What’s going on here is clear. Libertarians are lying about what they want, and what they would do if they ever got power, because — because of the political work that liberals have done — it’s no longer respectable to be against civil rights. It’s the kind of thing that Internet nuts and people who send out racist newsletters can get away with. Senatorial candidates? Nope. So libertarians are all of a sudden going “Wait, did I ever say that government should respect the rights of free association? No, I didn’t really mean that. That would make me a racist, in this very special and extreme and never again repeatable case!”

It’s pointless to dignify this sordid episode with a lot of political theorizing that pretends that there is some principle at work here.

26

Hogan 05.25.10 at 2:31 pm

So it turns out that extremism in the defense of liberty IS a vice. Huh.

27

Jonquil 05.25.10 at 2:38 pm

“The point is there is a difference between being beaten or lynched or prevented from voting, and being refused a service. “

In practice, however, when people protested being refused a service, it went from being a private matter (two people doing business) to a State matter (the police coming in to arrest the protesters). At which point the people involved were frequently beaten by the police. You can’t disentangle the two. It is not true that discrimination in the South was simply a matter of one person’s choice against another. It was a matter of a system of personal choices — to refuse black people service — being enforced by the State, both in laws and in practice.

I have a separate libertarian philosophy question. By 1963, millions of American homes had racial clauses built into their deeds: by buying these homes, you promised not to sell them to black (and no doubt other) people. This system was entrenched in law, and it kept black people from freely making contracts with the current owners, many of whom had simply taken over the existing deed the existing contract. (In the Myers Park neighborhood in Charlotte, to which I link, the deed clause, written in 1935, states “This lot shall be owned and occupied by people of the Caucasian race only.”

It’s 1962. If I (imaginary-black me) want to buy any house in Myers Park, my freedom of contract is constrained by decisions made in 1935. Ah, you say, but I can buy elsewhere. In Charlotte, North Carolina, however, the dead hand of history ensures that I cannot buy anywhere except a few black neighborhoods. My freedom of contract is constrained not just by current owners but by the social customs of 1935.

In Libertaria, how is this issue dealt with? Is it acceptable for deeds to be written such that large classes can never use this land, so that over time more and more land is inexorably removed from the purchasable pool?

This matters to me because I have a personal story. In 1967, give or take, the first offer for my (white) parents’ house in Indiana came from a black couple. My parents accepted it, ignoring their deed clause, which was no longer legal. The neighborhood was furious. There were death threats. A cross was burned on our lawn.

My parents took it as a personal comfort that this wasn’t merely the right thing to do, but it was enshrined by law: they were no longer bound by that deed clause, because it was illegal. Before the Civil Rights Act that Mr. Goldwater so despised, people in the neighborhood who were not part of the contract my parents had signed would have been able to control who my parents sold to. The government’s civil courts would have enforced that immoral (oops, I let my objectivity slip) contract.

28

alex 05.25.10 at 2:51 pm

This is a very interesting point – insofar as it illuminates libertarian lalaland a bit more. The restrictive covenant issue amounts to what we might call ‘privatized legislation’ – a private contract that ipso facto creates a legally enforceable state of affairs that didn’t exist before, and about which nobody except the originator of the covenant has any say. You can see that for the first generation of libertarians, life would be dandy; but heaven help those that follow if they want to change the ways of their people…

29

Sebastian 05.25.10 at 3:00 pm

“The difference between how people actually think and how they should think isn’t important? How not? Let’s start with that because I think some of the other things flow from it.”

At this point it sounds to me like you are just dodging serious questions about your favored philosophy.

Did you even read the very next sentence, or did you just flip that one?

The distinction may be important in theory, but it is not important to this discussion because liberal philosophy (at least to the super tiny little bit that you are willing to allude to when I try to talk to you about it) is not normative in the sense you suggest.

The ‘normative’ political philosophy you are sketching isn’t particularly normative except retrospectively. It boils down to something like “make the best decision at the time given the facts you have available”.

But every political philosophy could boil down to that for various settings of ‘best’, and ‘facts available’. Whenever I try to pin you down to what the bedrock normative principles are (in Constitutional interpretation from previous discussions or in moral/policy questions in the last thread) you get incredibly vague while simultaneously asking me to be hyper-specific. It feels like you want to just push all the ‘liberal’ normative decisions behind a curtain where we can’t examine them very closely. You suggest complicated balancing tests but don’t want to talk about exactly what factors go into the balancing.

That doesn’t seem normative. That is just obscuring.

So unless you are going to point to an actual normative philosophy, the rabbit hole of the distinction between how people act and how they think and how they should think really isn’t worth deeply exploring.

So by all means bring out your normative theory. Let’s examine it.

30

hilzoy 05.25.10 at 3:02 pm

Conor: I’ve always been curious about the idea that the Constitution includes a “guarantee of freedom of association” that includes the right of businesses to decide who to serve. Surely this doesn’t follow from the closest thing to a right of free association in the Constitution, the right “peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances”. I mean, that’s plainly about political demonstrations, not about who I sell nails to at my hardware store. Various rights presumably include the right to assemble for various purposes as “penumbra”: i.e., my right to freedom of religion should include a right to assemble for worship with my co-religionists, my right to free speech ought to include a right to assemble with others to speak or debate, etc. But, again, none of these seems likely to yield the kind of freedom of association that extends to deciding who to sell to at my store. (This justification of freedom of association justifies it as a means to a Constitutionally protected end, but while various kinds of association are means to those ends, deciding who I sell to is not such a means, and cannot, I think, be justified in that way.)

So: what am I missing? Where is this Constitutional guarantee?

31

Jonquil 05.25.10 at 3:05 pm

I got the date wrong (I was wee at the time). The deed was invalidated by the Fair Housing Act of 1968, which means the sale has to have been after then; I would have been nine or ten.

32

alex 05.25.10 at 3:10 pm

@29 – and while you’re at it, if you could track down the right to privacy? kthxbai.

33

roac 05.25.10 at 3:11 pm

One reason why the neighbors were furious at Jonquil’s parents was because at that time, it was a violation of the official code of “ethics” of the national cartel of real estate brokers (“Realtors”) to participate in the sale of a home to a black family if there were no other black families living on that block. Once that first sale had been made, however, the prohibition was lifted, and a horde of salespeople would descend on the white homeowners on the block, pointing out to them that pent-up black demand would now be directed at them and their neighbors, and that the first ones to sell and move would get the best prices as values fell. This was called “blockbusting,” and it caused whole neighborhoods to change color with incredible rapidity.

Add that scenario to the list awaiting libertarian comment.

34

grog 05.25.10 at 3:12 pm

There is an interesting problem in the defenders of conservatism here.

In retrospect, it seems that most folks across the political spectrum agree that breaking the Jim Crow laws was the right thing to do. It also seems that most folks across the spectrum (fewer, but still a substantial number) seem willing to agree with some variant of the notion that Goldwater was following his principles and wasn’t a racist, but was wrong (I know that quite a few liberals consider him racist, but I also know quite a few who revised that opinion upon learning more about him).

So if conservatives want to make this argument, a useful step in the direction I think Holbo was pointing would be to offer a rule of thumb that had Goldwater followed it, would have taken him to the right choice at the time he was formulating his position.

In other words, how can we know when to break from conservative dogma, except in retrospect?

I’d offer one that doesn’t go very far towards being philosophically sound, but perhaps can serve as a red flag: If you, like the Poppa and Little Paul, seem to consistently garner support from obvious racists, You May Have A Problem.

35

Clod Levi-Strauss 05.25.10 at 3:16 pm

“Or, even more harshly: since Americans are philosophical conservatives but operational liberals”
Can we add also that many of the elite are philosophical liberals but operational conservatives? And that both are fully molded by and into the mass-bureaucratic state?

Capitalism destroys or perverts both “family values” and open sociability [social conservative and socially liberal terms for the same thing] rendering it/them secondary to state function, which is why a sort of critical left-Burkeanism is the best response to both. This debate in the grander scheme is largely pot and kettle, since liberals and conservatives are both obsessed with finding a defense for one sort or another of libertarianism, and libertarianism is problematic in ways neither want to admit. Both conservatives and liberals are philosophical “economic liberals” each trying to justify that to their differing sensibilities.

It’s easy and fun to feel intellectually superior to the National Review crowd et al. but it avoids the bigger problems.

36

roac 05.25.10 at 3:20 pm

@30: No, you were probably right about the date. The Supreme Court held that state enforcement of restrictive covenants was unconstitutional in 1948 The case is Shelley v. Kraemer, 334 U.S. 1.

Under the 1968 Fair Housing Act, it is presumably illegal to enter into a new racially restrictive covenant, and also to try to discourage a minority homeseeker by pointing to the existence of an old one. But it’s the enforceability that really matters.

37

Nicholas Weininger 05.25.10 at 3:41 pm

John, you’re arguing with caricatures here. First of all, opposition to integration was *not* Goldwater’s “signature domestic issue”. Have you ever actually read _The Conscience of a Conservative_? Hint: there are lots of domestic issues he spends lots more time talking about.

Furthermore, it is not the case that conservatives, or libertarians, are unwilling ever to bend on principles of individual liberty. Many, indeed most, just think those principles are more important and harder to override than you do, and that the utility of most social engineering schemes and goals is much less than you think. It is possible for people to agree that balancing acts are sometimes needed but to disagree mightily both on the frequency of the need and on the proper weights to put in the balance.

38

LFC 05.25.10 at 3:50 pm

I agree with Puchalsky @24. In 2010 it’s sort of ludicrous to be having, in effect, an extended debate about the ’64 Civil Rights Act and de jure segregation (including in those forms mischaracterized as private decisions). From a civil rights standpoint the period more illuminating to debate is the 1970s (see, e.g., the Supreme Court’s awful, fateful decision in Milliken v. Bradley, 1974).

39

rea 05.25.10 at 3:57 pm

So: what am I missing? Where is this Constitutional guarantee?

It’s in the 14th Amendment–substantive due process. This business about “penumbras” is just a metaphor. Some rights are so fundamental that the government can’t interfere with them, consistent with the requirement of “due process,” except in very narrowly limted circumstances. There is no comprehensive list of such rights in the Constitution. The Bill of Rights provides some useful guidance as to the type of rights that qualify as fundamental–but only by analogy, as most of the Bill of Rights does not purport to apply to state rather than federal government.

Some aspects of the Bill of Rights suggest fundamental rights that are broader than those formally recognized in the Bill of Rights–that’s where the “penumbra metaphor comes in. Other aspects del with things that the Supreme Court has determined not to be fundamental–grand jury indictments, or 12-person juries in civil cases. But its all about the 14th Amendment, really.

40

roac 05.25.10 at 4:03 pm

The term “social engineering schemes” is doing a lot of work in no. 35.

It cannot be denied that liberals have in the past advocated for some measures on the basis of the overconfident assumption that they understood the dynamics of a given social system as well as engineers understand the dynamics of physical systems, and that the term “social engineering” has fairly earned the strong whiff of derision that clings to it.

But the consequences of enacting Title II of the 1964 Civil Rights Act were well and correctly understood at the time: Racial discrimination by certain limited classes of businesses affecting interstate commerce was prohibited, and, after a certain period of legal maneuvering, it stopped.* I have not seen those questioning the wisdom of the law, then or now, claiming that it caused actual harm to anyone that came anywhere near to equaling the large and obvious benefits to racial minorities; the whole argument seems to be that the harm to the abstract principle of “property rights” outweighs what was clearly a win-win by any quantifiable calculation.

* Title II of course continues to be violated today, but at quite a low level in comparison to the volume of covered activity. As I am in a position to know.

41

Bruce Baugh 05.25.10 at 4:17 pm

Bah. Rich is right, again, about this stuff.

42

Sebastian 05.25.10 at 4:20 pm

Roac, I think you are actually responding to the #37 (as numbered at the moment) by Nicholas Weininger. Unfortunately, because of the way the screening system works here, the numbers aren’t always static (comments that got entered earlier but not let through the gate until later push into the number they would have gotten immediately). Usually better to call out the name and the comment number. I make the mistake all the time.

In any case, while “social engineering schemes” is doing a lot of work in his comment, it doesn’t seem to be inappropriate work. Libertarians definitely have a lower threshold of tolerance for, and ask for a higher threshold of effectiveness from “social engineering schemes” than more traditional liberals. Like I said before, and as Nicholas notes, this isn’t *generally* from a categorical imperative against *all* government action. It is a higher threshold than for liberals because libertarians weight some of the competing rights differently than liberals do.

43

chris 05.25.10 at 4:31 pm

It cannot be denied that liberals have in the past advocated for some measures on the basis of the overconfident assumption that they understood the dynamics of a given social system as well as engineers understand the dynamics of physical systems, and that the term “social engineering” has fairly earned the strong whiff of derision that clings to it.

Sure — in the same sense that it cannot be denied that conservatives have in the past hanged black people by the neck until dead and then set the corpses on fire. If you think that’s an irresponsible use of a generic plural to tar the innocent along with the guilty, I completely agree, but mutatis mutandis you then have to acknowledge that only *some* liberals ever had delusions of Hari Seldon-hood and that this idea is discredited among modern liberals.

So it’s not really relevant to much.

P.S. How much understanding of the theoretical basis of something do you really have to have to do engineering on it? Can’t you engineer empirically, by observing what works and what doesn’t? It’s a cruder approach, I admit, but when the theory is really intractable, it may be all you have.

Also: numeric references appear to be broken again. AFAICT roac’s reference to 35 was intended to point to what now appears to be 37, and may change numbers again in the future. This site needs a better way to refer to comments.

44

Jack Strocchi 05.25.10 at 4:37 pm

I guess I can understand forcing Rand Paul to go through some ideological self-criticism and re-education for having wrong thoughts, even if they were only hypothetical ones. His name is doubly incriminating and he is a member of Congress. So in principle it would be possible for him to repeal the Civil Rights Act and re-introduce Jim Crow laws.

But Barry Goldwater is dead. Couldn’t CT’ers confine themselves to kicking around a Right-winger who is, you know, alive?

BTW Nixon supported Civil Rights laws as Vice-President and strongly promoted integration when President. Looking forward to seeing how CT’ers can find the fly in that ointment.

45

Francis 05.25.10 at 4:48 pm

Once again, I think people are making this dispute much more opaque than it needs to be.

Libertarians believe that individuals should be free to discriminate in a commercial context. Some further believe that the right to do so arises under the First Amendment. Others take the approach that the Federal government has no power — whether under the Commerce Clause or the 14th Amendment — to bar those who wish to discriminate from doing so. The power of the Fed. govt to break the Jim Crow system arises from and is limited by the 14th Amendment, construed with and informed by the 13th Amendment. (You can see a similar move in the current debate over the Affordable Care Act, where the old colonial law mandating purchase of a weapon is construed and informed by the 2nd Amendment. So that old law is constitutional, but the ACA is not.) So, there is no fed. power to limit discrimination based on sex, or race other than historic black, or religion, or …

Liberals believe that the commercial sphere is fundamentally different from the private sphere and that no right to discriminate exists (except for legitimate business purposes — like the right to impose a uniform dress code). They further believe that the Fed. govt has broad power to prohibit discrimination under the Commerce Clause and 14th Amendment, and neither the First Amendment nor the 13th Amendment restrict the Federal government’s power.

These are fundamentally different views about the organization of our society. They’re not really subject to useful debate. Personally I believe that the Constitutional move whereby the power of the fed govt under the 14th Amendment is limited by the 13th Amendment is utter BS, but I’m never going to persuade Sebastian that he’s wrong. It’s just a value that he holds.

46

roac 05.25.10 at 4:52 pm

Sebastian, yes. Rookie mistake.

But I maintain my objection to the appropriation of the term “social engineering” by libertarians. I invite you to contemplate the way in which white Southerners joined ranks, in the decades following the Civil War, to achieve complete and lasting political and economic domination over their former slaves. Some of this was done through control of governmental machinery (e.g., Jim Crow laws). Some of it was done extralegally (lynching, the Ku Klux Klan). But it was all of a piece — and if it wasn’t an example of a successful “social engineering project,” on a scale virtually unparalleled in human history, then what does the term mean?

47

ajay 05.25.10 at 4:53 pm

Looking forward to seeing how CT’ers can find the fly in that ointment.

Er, he was a lying, dangerous, paranoid, belligerent, corrupt, alcoholic, anti-Semitic crook who ran on a “states rights” and “law and order” platform in 1968 as part of the Southern Strategy, deliberately aimed at picking up Southern white votes antagonised by the Civil Rights Act?

…was that a trick question or something?

48

CJColucci 05.25.10 at 4:54 pm

rea:
Yes, substantive due process would be the basis for whatever constitutional protection there might be for a right of free association in business relations, but I’m not sure it gets one very far. Owners and operators of the types of businesses generally considered public accommodations did not have a wide-ranging discretion to refuse service to whoever for whatever reason. At common law, they were required to serve all comers subject to the right to restrict their custom on bases society was prepared to accept as reasonable, such as behavior, dress, hygiene. Statutes could restrict that right even further. There was a time when society was prepared to accept as reasonable restricting custom on the basis of race, and in some cases statutes required it. Now we don’t, and Congress passed a statute, which, if valid under the commerce power, does what state statutes have always been able to do. I can imagine a statute that might so restrict the freedom of public accomodation owners as to be vulnerable to constitutional challenge under substantive due process, but it would be so bizarre as to be inconceivable.

49

Hogan 05.25.10 at 5:01 pm

I guess I can understand forcing Rand Paul to go through some ideological self-criticism and re-education for having wrong thoughts, even if they were only hypothetical ones.

Yes, I’m stringing up the razor wire at the camp as we speak.

BTW Nixon supported Civil Rights laws as Vice-President and strongly promoted integration when President. Looking forward to seeing how CT’ers can find the fly in that ointment.

He supported them, but not on principle. Since, you know, he didn’t have any of those. By the way, if you mean “Republican” when you say “conservative,” maybe you should spell that out; the identity of the terms is, shall we say, not self-evident.

50

Jack Strocchi 05.25.10 at 5:03 pm

ajay@#48 said:

Er, he was a lying, dangerous, paranoid, belligerent, corrupt, alcoholic, anti-Semitic crook who ran on a “states rights” and “law and order” platform in 1968 as part of the Southern Strategy, deliberately aimed at picking up Southern white votes antagonised by the Civil Rights Act?

…was that a trick question or something?

No, it was a straightforward qestion. You got the first word of the answer right, though.

You are talking about politics. I am talking about policy. The former is about how you obtain power. The latter is about what you do with it.

Nixon was a Machiavellian so perhaps his ways were a little bit subtle for the likes of the more simple-minded liberals.

51

Uncle Kvetch 05.25.10 at 5:09 pm

Nixon was a Machiavellian

He’s also dead, so by your reasoning there’s absolutely no point in even talking about him. Next subject?

52

Clod Levi-Strauss 05.25.10 at 5:12 pm

#46- “Liberals believe that the commercial sphere is fundamentally different from the private sphere…” but that the private sphere, as being home to subjectivity and sensibility is shrinking in importance in the face or the rise of “objective” knowledge, rationality, and utilitarian drive for progress: the imperatives if technocratic uniformity.

As always, I think liberals in these debates should read Derrick Bell’s dissent in Brown v. Board of Ed

53

LFC 05.25.10 at 5:15 pm

Re Nixon and civil rights:

Of the 5-justice majority which decided Milliken v. Bradley, 1974, four of the five were Nixon appointees. Milliken struck down metro-wide area (i.e. city/suburb) school desegregation in Detroit, ensuring that minority students in northern cities would continue to languish in effectively segregated, subpar urban schools. Case closed, IMO.

54

bianca steele 05.25.10 at 5:28 pm

Can’t you engineer empirically, by observing what works and what doesn’t?

Sure. You didn’t really need that preview button, did you? (Which is not to say that the preview button problems are the fault of current employees of WordPress or that they were avoidable–I don’t know whether they were or not.)

The better objection to the metaphor is that people and societies aren’t actually predictable enough even to herd gently, much less to engineer.

55

bianca steele 05.25.10 at 5:29 pm

And yet somehow regulation works! It’s a mystery.

56

Jonquil 05.25.10 at 5:46 pm

BTW Nixon supported Civil Rights laws as Vice-President and strongly promoted integration when President. Looking forward to seeing how CT’ers can find the fly in that ointment.

Richard Nixon, the day after Roe v. Wade:

Nixon: There are times when abortions are necessary – I know that… Suppose you have a black and a white.
Charles Colson, Aide: Or a rape.
Nixon: Or a rape… [Abortion] leads to permissiveness. It breaks a family.

Probably not your best example.

57

Rich Puchalsky 05.25.10 at 5:47 pm

grog: “In retrospect, it seems that most folks across the political spectrum agree that breaking the Jim Crow laws was the right thing to do.”

No offense to grog at 34, who writes a pretty sensible comment, but the sentence above is passively phrased. If people agree, they agree because of work done. Political work, by liberals and others in the center-to-left generally. It is not some rational process by which everyone across the political spectrum now looks back and in retrospect agrees that it was right to break Jim Crow. Contemporary conservatives and libertarians only agree with that because we forced them to. We changed the public degree of acceptance of racism by taking political risks — among them, the loss of the South to the Democratic Party for a generation. We laid out our efforts to change the law in the hope, which has proven itself more or less realized, that once the law was changed the ethos of the polity would follow. There was nothing, at base, argumentative about it at all. We forced the libertarians of the country to pay the lip service to decency that they now do, because we changed the country so that they can not now isolate black people as unimportant others.

58

Ollie 05.25.10 at 5:52 pm

The point of view from which segregation is seen as a ‘freedom of association’ issue would seem a racist one.

It seems to me to assume that all white people do not want to associate with non-white people. If this assumption wasn’t present, then segregation would seem like a clear infringement on the freedom of non-white people to freely associate with any white person or any group of white people.

You could make the philosophical point that Goldwater’s conception of segregation was as a ‘freedom to not associate’ issue i.e. the right of certain people which was being affected by the Civil Rights Act was the right to choose to not associate with certain people. It is important to contrast it with the fact that non-whites (and non-racist whites) were not allowed by segregation to associate with whoever they wanted.

By only seeing it from the white majority perspective, it seems to me Goldwater was racist in a vague sense. If not racist, he was at least clearly more sympathetic & empathetic to the white racist view, and apathetic (or even antipathetic) to the rights of non-whites to associate.

The Civil Rights Act was about the freedom of non-whites & non-racist white people to associate.

To elaborate on this point let’s look at socially-accepted forms of discrimination which exist today. One is discrimination against young people. Minors are not allowed in a strip club. This is clearly not the right of males above 18 years of age to associate with each other in exclusion of minors. It is a clear restriction of the rights of minors.

Tying that back to segregation, a publican could refuse to serve a black man, but it’s not because the publican wants to associate with white people, it’s because the publican doesn’t want the black man to associate with white people.

Seen this way, I can’t see where or how Goldwater’s position is/was a matter of principle.

59

roac 05.25.10 at 5:55 pm

Couldn’t CT’ers confine themselves to kicking around a Right-winger who is, you know, alive?

Fair enough. Jack Strocchi is apparently alive — how about we kick him around a little?

It is a fact — and I speak from personal knowledge here — that the Nixon administration did not systematically pour sand in every orifice of the civil rights enforcement machinery, the way the Reagan and (even more effectively) Bush II people did. But as ajay pointed out, the systematic use of white resentment of black uppitiness as a recruiting tool for the Republican Party began with Nixon. As Nixon’s attorney General John Mitchell famously put it, “watch what we do, not what we say.”

60

Barry 05.25.10 at 5:56 pm

roac 05.25.10 at 4:52 pm

“But I maintain my objection to the appropriation of the term “social engineering” by libertarians. I invite you to contemplate the way in which white Southerners joined ranks, in the decades following the Civil War, to achieve complete and lasting political and economic domination over their former slaves. Some of this was done through control of governmental machinery (e.g., Jim Crow laws). Some of it was done extralegally (lynching, the Ku Klux Klan). But it was all of a piece—and if it wasn’t an example of a successful “social engineering project,” on a scale virtually unparalleled in human history, then what does the term mean?”

Don’t worry, the right uses that term, also. ‘Social engineering’ by either refers to things that they don’t like. Things that they do like are rarely called that.

61

roac 05.25.10 at 6:06 pm

Barry, my impression is that it is only the right that uses the term “social engineering” any more, as a pejorative meaning “liberals messing around with stuff they don’t understand and screwing it up.” Which is why I objected to its use as a club against a measure like the 1964 Act, which worked exactly as its proponents intended.

62

Jack Strocchi 05.25.10 at 6:06 pm

LFC @#54 said

Re Nixon and civil rights:

Of the 5-justice majority which decided Milliken v. Bradley, 1974, four of the five were Nixon appointees. Milliken struck down metro-wide area (i.e. city/suburb) school desegregation in Detroit, ensuring that minority students in northern cities would continue to languish in effectively segregated, subpar urban schools. Case closed, IMO.

You might want to re-open the case in the light of new evidence. Wikipedia’s entry on Nixon’s civil rights record makes interesting reading given the tireless way Left-liberals such as Perlstein paint RMN as the scourge of black people everywhere:

The Nixon years witnessed the first large-scale integration of public schools in the South.[97] Strategically, Nixon sought a middle way between the segregationist George C. Wallace and liberal Democrats, whose support of integration was alienating some Southern white Democrats.[98] He was determined to implement exactly what the courts had ordered— desegregation — but did not favor busing children, in the words of author Conrad Black, “all over the country to satisfy the capricious meddling of judges.”[99]

Nixon, a Quaker, felt that racism was the greatest moral failure of the United States[100] and concentrated on the principle that the law must be color-blind: “I am convinced that while legal segregation is totally wrong, forced integration of housing or education is just as wrong.”[101]

Nixon tied desegregation to improving the quality of education[100] and enforced the law after the Supreme Court, in Alexander v. Holmes County Board of Education (1969), prohibited further delays. By the fall of 1970, two million southern black children had enrolled in newly created unitary fully integrated school districts; only 18% of Southern black children were still attending all-black schools, a decrease from 70% when Nixon came to office.[94]

[snip]

“In this sense, Nixon was the greatest school desegregator in American history,” historian Dean Kotlowski concluded.[103] … Daniel Patrick Moynihan, Nixon’s presidential counselor, commented in 1970 “There has been more change in the structure of American public school education in the last month than in the past 100 years.”[105]

I only dredge up Nixon mainly to show that “gotcha” blogging about discrepancies between principles and practice is one of the more tedious and tiresome ways of filling up cyber-space. All the more so when the target is long dead. In any case Goldwater was considered a bleeding-heart liberal by the standards of the post-Gingrich REPs. So for pity’s sake perhaps we can lay off him so long as he remains dead.

BTW, before anyone tries to retrospectively enlist me in the Klan, if CT’ers want to provide me with a time machine and “tempoport” me back to the USA in the sixties I will be only too happy to vote for the Civil Rights Act in 1964. I get to vote Nixon for President in 1968, of course.

63

Landru 05.25.10 at 6:13 pm

I may be slow — let’s say some evidence exists — but on behalf of my people I need to ask: why bother to pay the respect of critical thought to libertarianism at all? To me, it’s like trying to debate why a boneless chicken can’t fly, without ever registering that it can’t even walk or stand.

As a practical approach to any real-world society, libertarianism, like the chicken, collapses immediately. Without even getting into details of racial history or the particulars of the US constitution, let us just imagine humans as the smooth, productive, self-interested, property-disposing androids out of Ayn Rand’s dreams; start them in a generic liberteria where private property rights are absolutely paramount, and then let them go. What happens? Well, we know what happens: laissez-faire fails. After a quick cascade of mutually-voluntary and fully-informed commercial transactions the society contracts (no pun intended) to an oligarchy, where the few ultra-rich hold all the deeds and the rest have no meaningful property rights left. Absolute emphasis on private property rights results in no private property and no rights at all (beyond a set of measure zero).

With this in mind, it seems silly to debate libertarianism’s possible failings or inconsistencies as it is espoused by this person or that, following any particular history or another. The whole thing is intrinsically self-contradictory, and will never stand on its own through any examination; debating the fine points of the collapse seems like a waste of Holbovian power.

64

bianca steele 05.25.10 at 6:16 pm

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Social_engineering_%28security%29

I don’t know anything about the term I learned about it on the radio.

65

grog 05.25.10 at 6:36 pm

Rich @58: If people agree, they agree because of work done. Political work, by liberals and others in the center-to-left generally. It is not some rational process by which everyone across the political spectrum now looks back and in retrospect agrees that it was right to break Jim Crow. Contemporary conservatives and libertarians only agree with that because we forced them to.

I agree with this, and in fact, that’s where I wanted to go, but nobody (until you) bit.

I think it is a parallel way of pointing out that doctrinaire conservatism or doctrinaire libertarianism doesn’t do much good for informing when to compromise principle, except after the fact.

I think there’s a joke about Burke and a barn door there, somewhere.

66

grog 05.25.10 at 6:38 pm

Grah. I (@66) shouldn’t try to write a post while replying to emails and trying to overhear a telephone conversation… Sorry for the truly awful writing.

67

alex 05.25.10 at 6:41 pm

Landru, you forgot the most important bit, “the smooth, productive, self-interested, property-disposing androids with guns“. It’s the magic ingredient that makes everything alright forever.

As for me, I like throwing shit at libertarians. Every now and then one comes by who’s stupid enough to try to answer back; and they get angry so quickly, it’s hilarious.

68

piglet 05.25.10 at 6:43 pm

rea 40:

“It’s in the 14th Amendment—substantive due process. This business about “penumbras” is just a metaphor. Some rights are so fundamental that the government can’t interfere with them, consistent with the requirement of “due process,” except in very narrowly limited circumstances. There is no comprehensive list of such rights in the Constitution.”

That is interesting. Why wouldn’t that argument cover reproductive autonomy and sexual privacy and self-determination? Yet conservatives continue to insist that states have the right to legislate in private and sexual matters. Scalia in Lawrence vs. Texas (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-102.ZD.html): “State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices.” Most of us agree that “some rights are so fundamental that the government can’t interfere with them”. Liberals would cite the right to freely chose a sexual partner as one of the most fundamental rights. Conservatives cite the right of a business to refuse service to a black person. That says little about political philosophy and consistency but a lot about values.

69

Jack Strocchi 05.25.10 at 6:45 pm

Jonquil@#57 said:

Richard Nixon, the day after Roe v. Wade:

Nixon: There are times when abortions are necessary – I know that… Suppose you have a black and a white.

Charles Colson, Aide: Or a rape.

Nixon: Or a rape… [Abortion] leads to permissiveness. It breaks a family.

Probably not your best example.

Actually, this example perfectly illustrates my point: the personal is not the political. Especially when wire-tapping an unguarded private conversation.

Nixon’s racist personal opinions and even his divisive political tactics are matters of secondary and dwindling importance. What counts were his liberal policies, which in this respect were correct. Call me old-fashioned but I think that statesmen should be judged by their down-to-earth consequences rather than high-minded rhetoric.

By contrast, Goldwater’s personal opinions were exemplary, whilst his policy position on Civil Rights was anachronistic at best and oppressive at worst. If I could hop on the “tempoporter” I might be moved to reprimand him on that score, in the unlikely event I could muster the courage to confront that jutting jaw.

Although if you want to see how two made Alpha-males get on in public you cant go past this ad that Ike appeared in on behalf of Goldwater in 1964. Spot the uber-Alpha!

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Substance McGravitas 05.25.10 at 6:51 pm

Actually, this example perfectly illustrates my point

Indeed, it is central.

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Jack Strocchi 05.25.10 at 6:58 pm

Substance McGravitas@#71 said:

Indeed, it is central.

No, its peripheral.

Your argument appears to be missing a major premise and conclusion. Or perhaps you were just clearing your throat?

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Glen Tomkins 05.25.10 at 7:00 pm

Fundamentalism

I think it would be useful to flesh out the observation that Conservatism, at least for the moment, if not inherently, goes in for ideological consistency, and tends to disparage eclecticism, by characterizing that tendency as fundamentalism.

The various -cons, (your neo-, theo-, etc.) that make up the Conservative universe may appeal to different One True models of how the world works. No doubt having more than one One Truth cohabiting under one tent gets sticky, I’m sure. But that makes their unity all the more remarkable, and requiring of some One True explanation of that unity. This shared belief in One Truth, in the face of a wicked world that slouches on in louche intellectual eclecticism, is presumably what makes all the -cons unite against what they think of as the liberal way of the world.

You expect some degree of fundamentalism, the belief that the world has gone astray, is on the wrong course because it has fallen off the One Path, in societies that are failing, or at least falling behind in some notional rivalry. Islamic fundamentalism is at least understandable on those terms. Even if there were nobody on the political scene appealing to Islamic fundamentalism, you would expect that there would be a certain sentiment in that direction out there anyway.

But when we see fundamentalism pushed as an answer to the problems besetting a successful society, you have to forgive us for seeing it as about 9 parts manipulative ploy to about 1 part popular outrage.

Now, a lot of people right across the political spectrum, see, to take a recent example, the individual mandate as a bad idea. I’m of that opinion myself, it’s part of a bad policy that won’t work, and it won’t even accomplish its particular role in that overall bad policy. To the conservatives, though, it can’t just be a bad idea. It has to be a fundamental violation of Truth, Justice and the American Way, right off the starting blocks, before they even warm to the topic. The only dispute on their side seems to be whether the mandate is merely unconstitutional, and can be addressed merely by a court challenge, versus such a violation of the Social Compact that either state interposition, or just skipping the formalities and going straight to a revolution, would be in order should the courts uphold it.

If conservatives doesn’t have a philosophy that can handle extreme conditions, then they need to quit systematically pushing every issue to extremes. The one principle they all seem to agree on, fundamentalism, is the practice of the extreme for its own, purifying, sake.

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piglet 05.25.10 at 7:06 pm

2:

With regard to Barry Goldwater and the Civil Rights Act, my understanding is that the conservative principles at stake are as follows: —Adherence to the Constitution, its guarantee of freedom of association, and its establishment of a federal government with limited, enumerated powers. —The idea that political power should be exercised at the local level.

This marks another shaky spot in the arsenal of “conservative principles”: “The idea that political power should be exercised at the local level” makes sense as a rule of thumb, yes, you can at least make that argument, but not as a general principle. Abuse of power happens at the local and state level just as it happens at the federal level. There is nothing that makes the federal government inherently more prone to power abuse, corruption, inefficiency, etc. I regard all political (as well as economic) power as suspect and in need of checks and balances. It makes no sense – neither from conservative nor libertarian nor liberal principles – to single out the federal level as somehow suspect by default but at the same time give the state level the benefit of the doubt. If government is suspect per se, then surely state government must be as suspect as federal government. The whole “states right” argument cannot be justified by any sort of “conservative” principles. It has never been anything other than an excuse to oppose civil rights legislation.

footnote: ditto the opportunistic position that people like Ron Paul take on abortion or same-sex marriage. Either conservative principle says that abortion should be outlawed, or it doesn’t. Either libertarian principle says it should be legal or it doesn’t. To say that outlawing abortion in some states and allowing it in others is consistent with any kind of “principle” is complete nonsense.

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Hogan 05.25.10 at 7:09 pm

Wikipedia’s entry on Nixon’s civil rights record

The main source for this entry, and for the entire Nixon article, appears to be currently in residence at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. Seems appropriate.

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Substance McGravitas 05.25.10 at 7:10 pm

Black’s also got a gig at the National Review, which is also appropriate.

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Jack Strocchi 05.25.10 at 7:16 pm

roac@#60 said:

But as ajay pointed out, the systematic use of white resentment of black uppitiness as a recruiting tool for the Republican Party began with Nixon. As Nixon’s attorney General John Mitchell famously put it, “watch what we do, not what we say.”

But that quote gets things back-to-front even by the standards of your own lame argument. Because, in respect of civil rights, what Nixon did in public policy was worthier than what Nixon said, in either personal opinion or political division. Machiavelli rules, okay?

roac said:

Jack Strocchi is apparently alive—how about we kick him around a little?

[swishing sound of air being kicked]

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Jake 05.25.10 at 7:34 pm

I sometimes wonder if people remember how unbiased Goldwater was concerning race issues. Goldwater voted for both the 1957 and 1960 Civil Right Acts. He supported the civil rights movement both financially and politically: he co-founded the Arizona branch of the NAACP and got the Arizona National Guard desegregated and desegregated schools in Phoenix when he was on the city council. He also desegregated his family’s department store. When it came to the Civil Rights Acts, he voted against making jurisdiction over Right-To-Vote cases permissive which would allow judges to delay hearing cases, and voted against adversary proceedings and for a simple proof of eligibility under the the federal law, while opposing actions that would expand federal power, like allowing the AG of the US to bring civil cases against state authorities. In sum, he promoted desegregation and civil rights at both the state and local level at every turn, and even at the federal level as far as possible without disrupting the balance of power between between state and federal governments.

I don’t see why he should be smeared for opposing troubling legislative solutions to cultural problems. Legislative change should be possible as an effect of cultural reform. Trying to make legislative change the cause of cultural reform is foolish since it increases government power.

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Jack Strocchi 05.25.10 at 7:35 pm

Hogan@#75 said:

Wikipedia’s entry on Nixon’s civil rights record. The main source for this entry, and for the entire Nixon article, appears to be currently in residence at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex. Seems appropriate.

Rather than engage in a smearing/spinning competition, a contest I would give up as unequal, I would simply let the facts speak for themselves:

In the fall of 1968, 68 percent of black children in the South were attending all-black schools. By 1974, that number had fallen to 8 percent. This extraordinary accomplishment was achieved through the shrewd political skills and raw courage of President Nixon, Secretary of Labor George Schultz, and Attorney General John Mitchell.

I know CT’ers derive endless satisfaction from denigrating conservatives, libertarians and Right-wingers in general. All good, clean fun, I suppose. And I do so hate to poop the party.

But lets not confuse this merriment with social science or history, shall we?

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Hogan 05.25.10 at 7:41 pm

This extraordinary accomplishment was achieved through the shrewd political skills and raw courage of President Nixon, Secretary of Labor George Schultz, and Attorney General John Mitchell.

If this is your idea of “letting the facts speak for themselves,” you probably shouldn’t be lecturing other about about engaging in spinning contests. Just sayin.

I mean, History News Network? Please.

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Substance McGravitas 05.25.10 at 7:44 pm

Come on Hogan, we should give Nixon credit for, um, obeying the law. In this case.

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politicalfootball 05.25.10 at 7:51 pm

I know CT’ers derive endless satisfaction from denigrating conservatives, libertarians and Right-wingers in general. All good, clean fun, I suppose. And I do so hate to poop the party.

I thought your point is that Nixon wasn’t a conservative. The only alleged virtues of his that you cite are non-conservative ones.

And the idea that the Southern Strategy had no significant consequences in policy seems ahistorical.

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Hogan 05.25.10 at 7:57 pm

I’m willing to give Nixon many kinds of credit. But the initial point here was that a principled political figure who ran on his principles and his strict adherence to his principles (for all of which he is still widely admired by conservatives–not universally, but widely) opposed the Civil Rights Act based on his principles. “But what about Nixon, based on Conrad Freakin Black’s epic tale of his heroic achievements, you foolish liberals?” kinda misses that point. Unless, as I noted, you consider “Republican” and “conservative” to be interchangeable. But that would be stupid.

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Steve LaBonne 05.25.10 at 7:59 pm

I know CT’ers derive endless satisfaction from denigrating conservatives, libertarians and Right-wingers in general.

They make it so easy with the utterly fatuous things they post, that only a saint could resist.

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Landru 05.25.10 at 8:05 pm

Phritz — A system which not only impoverishes most of its people, but also drives them to inchoate madness, is even worse; a twofer, as it were, in the case against pure libertarianism.

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roac 05.25.10 at 8:10 pm

English history is not taught very well in the US, so I missed the part where the oppressed Hegelians liquidated the bourgeoisie. Can someone bring me up to speed?

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Earnest O'Nest 05.25.10 at 8:15 pm

Is Nixon dead? Who played him in the documentary (uhr, movie) then? Damned, I bet if he were alive that oil spill would’ve been solved by now!

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chris 05.25.10 at 8:28 pm

Trying to make legislative change the cause of cultural reform is foolish since it increases government power.

I think you’re hiding an assumption there. When is it foolish to increase government power? Would it be foolish for, say, Somalia to have a more powerful government than it presently does? The Constitution increased government power relative to the Articles of Confederation. Was that foolish?

Also: the culture can oppress as thoroughly as, or more thoroughly than, the government. If the government bans lynching, or cross-burning, or suttee, or some other cultural practice that oppresses someone… is the government causing oppression? Preventing it? Substituting one form of oppression and set of victims for another? Clearly that’s an increase in government power in some sense, but does it follow that it is foolish?

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Hogan 05.25.10 at 8:29 pm

I missed the part where the oppressed Hegelians liquidated the bourgeoisie.

The creation of NHS? Or was it when John Osborne started writing plays?

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Western Dave 05.25.10 at 8:46 pm

@Jack Strochhi

Ah statistics. So in the intervening years between Brown v. Board and Nixon’s desegregation within but not across city lines what happened?

Two things. One: many whites flee southern cities Two: a whole network of private schools that are white only are created. So when we talk about moving from all black to schools to integrated schools, what we’re really talking about is shifting from crappy all black schools to crappy urban schools (or rural schools) that are mostly but not completely black because some mixture of do-gooders and suckers and unfortunates couldn’t get their act together to get out while they could.

When do we get to pick on Reagan and Nixon for claiming that Martin Luther King caused the Weathermen and the imminent communist victory in the Cold War?

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Substance McGravitas 05.25.10 at 8:49 pm

Troll of sorrow!

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Hogan 05.25.10 at 8:55 pm

@90: I dare you to make less sense.

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Greg B 05.25.10 at 9:07 pm

I missed the part where the oppressed Hegelians liquidated the bourgeoisie

Sublimated, actually. All that is solid, &c.

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someguy 05.25.10 at 9:41 pm

I am totally confused.

You seem to think that there is some absolute set of conservative principles that you have disproven and now conservatism must disappear.

But like a lot of people on this thread I am not sure that any such absolute set of principles exists. From the comments it certainly doesn’t seem to exist in practice for a lot of conservatives.

My weak and out of date understanding is that it is a conservative principle is to reject that any such absolute set of principles exist.

http://www.kirkcenter.org/kirk/ten-principles.html

But you need more than that. You need some absolute set of conservative principles and a belief that those principles result in the best outcome in every case.

Ok, so, maybe, conservative principles got it wrong in regards to Civil Rights. Ok, that it terrible. What did they get right?

I think this is also true for most Libertarians. Most libertarians support the notion of common goods. Most support say some form of govt currency. They just have a much narrower definition what is and isn’t a common good.

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Uncle Kvetch 05.25.10 at 9:50 pm

The whole “states right” argument cannot be justified by any sort of “conservative” principles. It has never been anything other than an excuse to oppose civil rights legislation.

This calls for a hearty “amen” from the choir. Thank you, piglet.

Now back to the weenie roast!

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piglet 05.25.10 at 9:56 pm

Could somebody please rescue my comment from moderation?
rea 40:

“It’s in the 14th Amendment—substantive due process. This business about “penumbras” is just a metaphor. Some rights are so fundamental that the government can’t interfere with them, consistent with the requirement of “due process,” except in very narrowly limited circumstances. There is no comprehensive list of such rights in the Constitution.”

That is interesting. Why wouldn’t that argument cover reproductive autonomy and sexual privacy and self-determination? Yet conservatives continue to insist that states have the right to legislate in private and sexual matters. Scalia in Lawrence vs. Texas (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-102.ZD.html): “State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incest, prostitution, masturbation, adultery, fornication, bestiality, and obscenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices.” Most of us agree that “some rights are so fundamental that the government can’t interfere with them”. Liberals would cite the right to freely chose a sexual partner as one of the most fundamental rights. Conservatives cite the right of a business to refuse service to a black person. That says little about political philosophy and consistency but a lot about values.

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Substance McGravitas 05.25.10 at 10:03 pm

You seem to think that there is some absolute set of conservative principles that you have disproven and now conservatism must disappear.

I think people are aware there are no firm principles, it’s just that conservatives insist there are.

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JRoth 05.25.10 at 10:14 pm

I don’t know that this observation is worth much, but:

My switch from conservative to liberal came about pretty much precisely over this sort of thing. I’m (far) too young for it to have been over Civil Rights, but it was over another great issue: abortion. I was happy and comfortable with the moral certainty and philosophical absoluteness of the conservative position: Abortion is murder, therefore it must be illegal. It seemed so simple and straightforward. Furthermore, as a (cynical) conservative, it seemed obvious to me that we were the realists, while liberals were naive and unrealistic.

And then I was forced to acknowledge that abortions would happen whether they were legal or not. It’s obvious, of course, but the whole conservative position on abortion is predicated on ignoring that obvious fact. And suddenly, I had to realize that [doctrinaire] conservative positions weren’t realistic at all. You’ve got to negotiate with even the evilest of empires. You’ve got to deal with abortions regardless of their legality. Gay people will exist regardless of their legal status. Without collective action and organization, the powers that be will abuse their position. And, yes, racism will persist and insinuate its way into our institutions unless it is actively resisted.

Without the veneers of consistency and hard-eyed realism, conservatism is left with little more than special pleading for entrenched interests, which is why conservatives always wave their hands at the special pleading of the moment and try to turn attention back to their alleged principles.

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rageahol 05.25.10 at 10:43 pm

Nixon supported civil rights legislation because he was having trouble with organized labor, and thought that by doing so he use widespread racism to fragment the unions.

divide and conquer, baby.

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piglet 05.25.10 at 10:44 pm

(Trying to get my comment through the censor’s office)
rea 40:

“It’s in the 14th Amendment—substantive due process. This business about “penumbras” is just a metaphor. Some rights are so fundamental that the government can’t interfere with them, consistent with the requirement of “due process,” except in very narrowly limited circumstances. There is no comprehensive list of such rights in the Constitution.”

That is interesting. Why wouldn’t that argument cover reproductive autonomy and secsual privacy and self-determination? Yet conservatives continue to insist that states have the right to legislate in private and secsual matters. Scalia in Lawrence vs. Texas (http://www.law.cornell.edu/supct/html/02-102.ZD.html): “State laws against bigamy, same-sex marriage, adult incst, prosttution, mastrbation, adultery, forncation, bestality, and obcenity are likewise sustainable only in light of Bowers’ validation of laws based on moral choices.” Most of us agree that “some rights are so fundamental that the government can’t interfere with them”. Liberals would cite the right to freely chose a secsual partner as one of the most fundamental rights. Conservatives cite the right of a business to refuse service to a black person. That says little about political philosophy and consistency but everything about values.

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W. Kiernan 05.25.10 at 10:59 pm

Jonquil: … By 1963, millions of American homes had racial clauses built into their deeds: by buying these homes, you promised not to sell them to black (and no doubt other) people… It’s 1962. If I (imaginary-black me) want to buy any house in Myers Park, my freedom of contract is constrained by decisions made in 1935…

Not that I disagree with your point, but to be precise, racially discriminatory deed restrictions were overthrown by Shelley vs. Kraemer way back in 1948.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shelley_v._Kraemer

Obviously, however, this didn’t mean that black citizens down South were free to buy houses in any neighborhood they chose; the courts couldn’t enforce apartheid but the Klan picked up the slack.

I’ve seen plenty of records plats here in Pinellas County, Florida, with deed restrictions prohibiting selling or leasing houses to blacks. A couple of them also prohibited sales to “Hebrews” or “Mongolians.” Here for example is one of the restrictions on the 1926 plat of REPLAT OF PINEHURST, Plat Book 19, Page 5, Public Records of Pinellas County, Florida:

6. At no time shall the land included in said tract or any part thereof, or any building located thereon, be occupied by any negro or person of negro extraction. This prohibition, however, is not intended to include the occupancy by a negro domestic servant or other person while employed in or about the premises by the owner or occupant of any land included in said tract.

http://uncharted.org/frownland/pix/00019-0005.gif

and here’s SURFSIDE SUBDIVISION, 1937, P.B. 21, Page 33:

7. Surfside Subdivision will be owned and used solely for the residences of the white or caucasian race.

Similar restrictions can be found in Pinellas County P.B. 17, pages 18, 24, 39, 40, 43, 46, 57 and 69 – apartheid seems to have been quite popular here back in 1926.

The other day I stumbled upon the only plat I’ve seen which limited ownership to non-whites, BROOKLYN, 1914, P.B. 4, page 9, which at the top of the page has a charming little pen sketch of a lioness and below reads

BROOKLYN
A Subdivision for Colored People Only

Possibly this wasn’t a legally enforceable deed restriction, but just a suggestion.

http://uncharted.org/frownland/pix/00004-0009.GIF

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PatrickDolan 05.25.10 at 11:26 pm

1. But surely we can agree that “states rights” was racist code when Reagan invoked it to begin his campaign in 1980. He’s dead, to be sure, but plenty of conservatives invoke his name. He certainly didn’t back down from preventing the federal government from forcing anti racism down our throats.

2. If the difference between a philosophical theory and what most of its adherents actually believe isn’t relevant then libertarianism and conservatism have to answer for the racism of the large percentage of those people and we can end the discussion. Conservatives opposed and continue to oppose full inclusion of blacks and women into the political life of the United States. We cannot separate their principles from their behavior, we don’t need to engage those principles. I think we can make such a separation.

3. Race isn’t the only thing with an salient history in this country. And whites and blacks aren’t the only races. To say, “well, the history of African-Americans is unique” is both true and deceptive in that it ignores the treatment of women, Native Americans, Asian Americans (Alien Exclusion Act, a frankly racist artifact) and Mexican Americans, not to mention gays, the disabled and on and on. The only people left out of this is white men, and even then we’re only talking about certain white men. Laboring people had Pinkertons bashing their heads in for exercising their “freedom of association,” and the civil rights workers like Goodman and Schwermer who were white died too (killed by conservatives, probably Democrats, in Philadelphia MS).

It turns out that if you aim for consistency in the exceptions you make to libertarian/conservative principles, it’s exceptions all the way down. Which I think is the point Mr. Holbo was trying to make, no?

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piglet 05.25.10 at 11:39 pm

But surely we can agree that “states rights” was racist code when Reagan invoked it to begin his campaign in 1980.

Racist as well as hypocritical – witness Reagan’s campaign to force the states to raise the legal drinking age to 21 years. Why or why is it that conservatives keep repeating the same phony, blatantly dishonest claims when they have been refuted millions of times already, and we still keep pretending that they are worthy of serious debate.

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John Holbo 05.26.10 at 12:40 am

I just noticed that Conor Friedersdorf replied, up at #2. (How did I miss that earlier? Did the comment show up late?) Anyway, Friedersdorf writes:

“But it [the principle in question] has exceptions. In particular, after three-plus centuries of slavery and another century of institutionalized, state-sponsored racism (which included state toleration of private racist violence), the exclusion of blacks from public accommodations wasn’t just a series of uncoordinated private decisions by individuals exercising their freedom of association. It was part and parcel of an overall social system of racial oppression.”

This is a very interesting point because it’s not the case that libertarians – much less libertarian-conservatives – think that individuals are obliged to remain individualists. That is, their decisions in life, the patterns their life exhibits, don’t need to be, and forever remain, uncoordinated with those of others. It is, indeed, to be expected (nothing else could be remotely likely or desirable, culturally or socially) that rather tightly-knit patterns of coordination will emerge, even if (impossibly) we started with a bunch of atomistic individuals, thrown together in the state of nature. So what do we do if those patterns turn out to be socially ugly, but not as the result of state action, rather as the result of coordinated private actions? One of the main things that separates a Nozickian, say, from a Rawlsian, is that the former, not the latter, is opposed to ‘patterned redistribution’ to break up such ‘bad’ patterns. Now conservatives – and even libertarians – don’t have to be Nozickians. And, should they fail to be Nozickians, Rawlsianism is not the only alternative. But I think it says something that Friedersdorf’s ‘exceptions’ seem to put him much more in the Rawlsian than in the Nozickian camp. This was my point in the post: this way lies liberalism.

Now it would be possible to say that the problem here, from a Nozickian standpoint, is the history. Bad government (as opposed to private) actions in the past, require positive government interventions in the private sphere now. But I think this is a bit morally implausible, per the tail end of my post. The problem with Jim Crow, as a social system, wasn’t that it came after slavery, as a governmental system. The problem with Jim Crow, as a social system, was Jim Crow, as a social system. This is the thing that is deemed intolerable.

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John Holbo 05.26.10 at 12:52 am

I just realized that the bit I quoted was Friedersdorf quoting Brook Lindsey, so that’s cleared up. And this seems to provide a nice connection for tying my point up with a bow: liberaltarianism (Brink Lindsey’s term). If it turns out that what Friedersdorf is recommending is liberaltarianism. And if libertarianism is just a better way, policy-wise, to get at basically liberal ends – which is what Lindsey and Sanchez (and Wilkinson and Levy and others who might show up in this thread) think – then that is a confirmation of my point. And all this is fine, and I expect that Friedersdorf will say he’s a bit on the fence about all this, which is fine. But, getting back to Goldwater, if him bending his principles to ‘adapt them to policy’ ends up being a request for him to swap his conservative conscience for a liberaltarian one, then that’s actually quite a big switcheroo, philosophically

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rea 05.26.10 at 1:38 am

Good god, Strocchi, you do realize, don’t you, that all the wonderful pro-civil rights things you claimNixon did amount to is not defying court orders?

By your reasoning, Charles Manson did a lot to support catching and punishing criminals.

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Substance McGravitas 05.26.10 at 1:54 am

The HNN article Strocchi quotes gives Nixon credit for trying to manage such things peacefully.

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scathew 05.26.10 at 2:33 am

At some level I could have lived with Rand Paul saying he didn’t believe in the Civil Rights Act. It would have been insane, sad, wrong, and seriously deluded, but it would have been principled.

But watching Maddow he couldn’t do either. He couldn’t say he was for or against it and you could tell it wasn’t because he wanted to research the Act (even though he tried to imply it) – clearly he knew the answer he wanted to say, but also knew it was political suicide to say the truth – that he was against it.

Instead he weaved a tangled web like every other unprincipled politician and when you’re a batshit-insane Libertarian, the only thing you’ve got going for you is you’re at least principled (ie: you stand behind your crazy idealism).

So, by taking the tack he did he showed he’s the worst of both worlds. A dangerously deluded Libertarian (like they all are) and a lying weasel politician. In short, he has exactly zero, zip, zilch going for him.

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