Ron Paul On The Civil Rights Act

by John Holbo on May 14, 2011

I almost admire Ron Paul for sticking to his propertarian guns, even when he knows it’s going to cost him. All the same, I wish the next person who gets to play the Chris Matthews role could manage to make it cost him a bit more, maybe like so:

“Jim Crow was a legal institution but also a social institution. Both functioned to deprive African-Americans of what all Americans today would consider basic liberties. Your libertarian philosophy commits you to dismantling the legal institution, but also commits you to prohibiting legal dismantlement of the social side of Jim Crow. This means one difference between you, as a libertarian, and the liberals who supported the Civil Rights Act of 1964, is that you are, in at least one important sense, less committed to guaranteeing individual liberty. You hope everyone will be free, but your libertarianism actually forbids you from fully guaranteeing basic liberties, in the no-Jim-Crow sense all Americans now take for granted. Is that right?”

That’s too many words, but I think it does a better job of pre-empting Paul’s responses: one, protesting he’s no racist; two, just expressing optimism that the market would somehow have caused the social problems to disappear, if there were no legal Jim Crow; three, saying it’s ancient history. Of course, boxing in Ron Paul is not the most vital task of the hour, probably. But it would be good if libertarians – tea party types generally – had more of an uphill slog, due to the fact that the liberty they want to guarantee is not quite the liberty Americans tend to assume should be guaranteed.

{ 270 comments }

1

Phil 05.14.11 at 4:58 pm

your libertarianism actually forbids you from fully guaranteeing basic liberties

Because you’re calling for those liberties to be guaranteed by MEN WITH GUNS! From the GOVERNMENT! It’s consistent, as you say.

I wonder if he’s seen Mississippi Burning, and who he was cheering for.

2

DefiantOne 05.14.11 at 5:09 pm

The racist naïveté of Ron Paul’s Civil Rights Act opposition – National post-partisan | Examiner.com http://www.examiner.com/post-partisan-in-national/the-racist-na-vet-of-ron-paul-s-civil-rights-act-opposition#ixzz1MLc69Dpe

3

El Cid 05.14.11 at 5:25 pm

I usually hear things in response like “people may do things I don’t like or which are wrong, but government can’t legislate morality,” or “it’s wrong and even evil for people to discriminate or do other things, but it’s wrong and going to end up worse when government tries to coerce people to think the way it wants.”

And so on and so forth.

4

Brett Bellmore 05.14.11 at 5:42 pm

“Is that right?”

No. A key distinction between libertarians and liberals is that the former are rather more careful with their use of the word “right”. (Because being sloppy with the word leads to contradiction, to two people having ‘rights’ that directly conflict.) And private discrimination, while properly subject to disapproval, is not a violation of anybody’s rights, because you don’t have a right to have other people engage in transactions with you.

A store keeper does not violate anybody’s rights by refusing to sell to somebody on the basis of their race, any more than a customer violates the store keeper’s rights by refusing to buy from him on the basis of his race. Because you don’t have affirmative rights to people dealing with you.

There really is no principled way, from a libertarian perspective, to distinguish between demanding that an employer not discriminate in hiring, and demanding that that potential employees not discriminate in job seeking. Or between demanding that businesses not discriminate in selling, and demanding that customers not discriminate in buying.

In short, we demand that both ends of any transaction be voluntary.

Liberals, of course, do not make that demand. And yet, you don’t, when confronted with employment disparities, think to conscript employees for the employer having trouble hiring blacks. Or conscript customers for the hotel with a disturbingly white clientele.

Why is that? Libertarians see no principled basis for the distinction.

And so, you might complain that libertarians can’t really object to racial discrimination, if they’re not willing to ban it. But it seems to us that you’re perfectly prepared to tolerate racial discrimination yourselves. And you, unlike us, have no principled reason for opposing such a ban. You’re no paragons of anti-racism yourselves, from our viewpoint.

And this even setting aside the occasions when you demand racial discrimination, instead of opposing it…

5

kth 05.14.11 at 5:43 pm

That question (and it is a good one) would be more pertinently addressed to someone like the late Barry Goldwater, who seemed truly to abhor bigotry, but whose principles of limited government drew a bright line he was unwilling to cross. Ron Paul gives no evidence of any such abhorrence, and <a href="http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/88421/ron-pauls-racism"ample evidence of being comfortable with such bigotry.

6

kth 05.14.11 at 5:45 pm

try again with linky: Ron Paul, pretty much a stone racist

7

geo 05.14.11 at 5:45 pm

That’s too many words

Stop right there, John. You’re right, of course; but if public discussion can only be carried on with sound bites, then goodbye, democracy.

8

c.l. ball 05.14.11 at 5:54 pm

I think this is mostly right. Libertarians are in general committed to letting people act autonomously, even if they act stupidly or immorally. It is a political philosophy; not a universal moral system. But let’s play the game out: what if the CRA banned government-mandated discrimination, but let the social field alone (so Titles II and VII restricted to government-owned or operated enterprises, but not private ones)? Racists could have segregated their hotels, cinemas, restaurants, and stores but couldn’t have segregated public transportation, public schools, or gov’t facilities. So some private facilities would have remained segregated; some not. The question is how this would have affected the course of de-segregation. It could have been slower or more violent, or never been fully achieved. But it could also have produced a much deeper normative change as the social divide between racists and civil people became overt.

Remember, though, that the CRA permitted other forms of unethical discrimination. Anti-miscegenation laws were not affected, for example. Political discrimination was permitted under CRA (but not discrimination on association). A political bigot would have been within his rights to deny accommodation or services to a card-carrying ACLU or Communist. In fact, a political bigot still can in the private sector under federal law. Title VII does not bar it.

I’d be more interested in seeing Paul queried on the contradiction between his libertarianism and his opposition to abortion rights. A right to at-will abortion certainly exists if one supports near-absolute personal autonomy claims (the counter that the fetus depends on the mother has no traction since the autonomy of the woman should remain absolute absent a contract). Again, it may morally revolt some people that some women choose to have abortions, but libertarianism does not prohibit people from acting in morally revolting ways to others. So Paul could reject abortion personally but support the political right — like Kerry.

9

Brett Bellmore 05.14.11 at 6:03 pm

The libertarian counter-claim on abortion is actually that, at some point, the fetus becomes a person, with rights of their own. Any moral theory for a species that doesn’t spring into existence fully formed is going to have to accept that children are a special case.

10

Substance McGravitas 05.14.11 at 6:10 pm

The libertarian counter-claim on abortion is actually that, at some point, the fetus becomes a person, with rights of their own.

Kudos to libertarians for ground-breaking thought.

11

Brett Bellmore 05.14.11 at 6:23 pm

I wouldn’t say it’s an original thought, but it does explain why there’s no necessary contradiction between libertarianism and opposition to (some) abortion.

12

jack lecou 05.14.11 at 6:32 pm

Why is that? Libertarians see no principled basis for the distinction.

Wow. Really?

I mean, I guess it’s par for the course, but that seems to involve deliberately playing dumb on the approximately 10,000 different ways that shops/customers or employers/employees are distinct roles and have different levels of power and responsibility in their respective side of their transactions and in society. It’s very nearly nonsensical – like saying that libertarians see no “principled” basis to make any distinction in legal treatment between a bus stop and a bus.

13

Jason 05.14.11 at 6:48 pm

As kth says (and provides a helpful link for), it’s well-documented that Ron Paul is a stone-cold racist. He fears and loathes black people. It’s fine to point out that his libertarian arguments fail on their own merits, but to allow that there is any meaningful sense in which “he hopes everyone will be free” is counter-productive.

As is often the case with libertarians, the ugly social attitudes drive the bad arguments, and it is perfectly possible to criticize the bad arguments on their merits without pretending otherwise. The pretense turns a contemptible racist into a mere bad political philosopher, and thus plays into the “Newt is an idea man” style of political discourse that makes all of us suckers.

14

bobopapal 05.14.11 at 6:59 pm

Shouldn’t we all be free to an asshole? Isn’t it good to know who the assholes are in this world? Do you want assholes to hide behind laws that prevent us from seeing what assholes they really are? This is why I see the libertarian argument as honest and real – you can’t legislate away people thinking and acting like assholes, and you don’t want to, we want to know who they are. Liberals want to outlaw assholes. I say society has an interest in what discovering who the assholes are and treating them appropriately through social shunning or boycotts.

15

StevenAttewell 05.14.11 at 6:59 pm

First of all, kth is absolutely right. Ron Paul has demonstrated racist beliefs and rhetoric, he’s associated with white supremacist organizations – this isn’t a Barry Goldwater situation of someone’s beliefs barring them from pursuing the antiracism they so devoutly espouse.

Secondly, I don’t think libertarianism or federalism should be a shield against the real political consequences of one’s actions. Goldwater voted against the CRA because, he says, he opposed government intervention in private businesses or state’s rights – but that doesn’t excuse the fact that when he ran for president, he toured the South with Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, denouncing “forced integration” in front of all-white crowds singing “Dixie.” (New York Times, Nov 1, 1964) Goldwater knew exactly what he was doing, and it didn’t have anything to do with individual freedom.

Thirdly, I think it points to the genuinely cramped libertarian vision of economic liberty and state intervention. To begin with, private discrimination was frequently used to achieve public discrimination – black people who tried to register to vote, or vote, or engaged in civil rights protests, or harbored civil rights activists were targeted for firing, their debts were called in, they were evicted, and denied access to basic necessities like groceries. At the same time, these private discriminating agents were receiving resources from black taxpayers – roads, utilities, police protection to enforce the removal of black taxpayers from their otherwise publicly available premises, and so on. As Risa L. Goluboff has pointed out (and by the way, her book, The Lost Promise of Civil Rights is a book that every progressive/citizen should read), throughout the rural south, there also were private regimes of labor in the South that resembled quasi-slavery – during WWII, black men were hired by U.S Sugar to work in Florida, then charged an impossible debt for transportation and living expenses, then held to service on the basis of their debt, with the threat of jail if they attempted to leave. These regimes could not have existed without the support of black taxpayer-funded police departments.
http://realignmentproject.wordpress.com/2010/04/11/industrial-democracy-vs-economic-liberty/
http://realignmentproject.wordpress.com/2010/08/21/rethinking-economic-liberty-pt-2-equality-and-progress/

16

roac 05.14.11 at 7:11 pm

The historical reality behind the 1964 Act, of course, is that the refusal of business owners to deal with black people was not the aggregate of thousands of “individual choices”; it was coerced. The lunch counter which started serving blacks would have faced a boycott by its white customers, and violence would not have been out of the question. Same with any white person who refused to honor the boycott.

It has always mystified me that out of all the various forms of coercion in the human repertoire, libertarians object only to one.

17

Brett Bellmore 05.14.11 at 7:25 pm

That’s right, business owners were being coerced. They’re being coerced now. We never paused, in between, to see what they’d do if they were freed from the coercion.

18

Substance McGravitas 05.14.11 at 7:30 pm

“Freed” is such an interesting way to put it.

19

Mercutio 05.14.11 at 7:34 pm

Unless the economy is expanding, any social progress by one group can only be purchased by regress on the part of some other.

Such a zero sum game ultimately is nothing more than interest group politics and has no basis in social justice, however defined.

Accordingly, it is not enough for one to assert some interest in advancing “civil rights” or some other such agenda. Rather, one must combine that objective with a credible program to expand the economy as a whole.

As for calling people “racist” who oppose various liberal programs, that is a tired tactic typically deployed by individuals who are at least as hate filled as those whom they would denounce. So not only to such “liberals” fail to state a claim, but they also give rise to serious questions about their own motives.

20

Jason 05.14.11 at 7:37 pm

I just read Yglesias’s recent post on Ron Paul and the CRA, and it makes a similar mistake. Matt says that what’s interesting and important about Paul’s opposition to the CRA is not that it reminds one of his “racist associations”, but that it reflects his sincere, “deeply held belief” that the government should never work to solve any social problems.

Fine. But why does he hold this belief? Because, despite his obvious intellectual dullness, he’s discerned the justifications for libertarian constraints on government action that Nozick failed to satisfactorily provide? Or because of the racism to which he relentlessly returned in his earlier writings? Somehow I suspect Paul does not stay up nights sighing, “If only the social problems I want the government not to solve were problems for white men rather than for everyone else. But what can you do?”

21

Bruce Baugh 05.14.11 at 7:38 pm

Of course we do know what business people do when not coerced. Some of them establish sane and sensible policies of equal treatment, recognition of minority situations as worthy of coverage in insurance and the like. Some work with the government on standards of fair lending and don’t lose a lot in big crashes; others try to do the required minimum or less, and lose much more, loaning to wealthy customers who turn out to be less reliable in repayment than poor minority borrowers. Some redline neighborhoods of people in the wrong skin colors, and some establish MERS and destroy trillions of dollars of wealth in a variety of ways. Some companies try to recruit widely, and some discriminate on the basis of black-sounding names.

But these are things it’d be very inconvenient for libertarians to know, so generally they don’t.

22

Jeff 05.14.11 at 7:47 pm

What Brett Bellmore said.

23

Walt 05.14.11 at 7:49 pm

Does Brett Bellmore get furloughed from prison every few months, and chooses to spend his free time here?

24

Jim Harrison 05.14.11 at 7:49 pm

Classic liberalism is all about freedom for us. The herrenvolk may or may not be defined racially–you don’t have to be Calhoun–but an absolutist view of property rights only works if somebody gets oppressed to pay the bills. I don’t think that all Tea Party types are unreconstructed Confederates, though many obviously are. Many even support the right of black people to vote provided they can be counted on to vote correctly, though they still support the eternal Republican campaign to discourage voting by the wrong sort of people. One ironic outcome of the civil rights movement may be an increased level of hostility to labor unions and working people in general now that it has become politically inconvenient to crap on the blacks. One can also dream of an imperial compensation: what was lost in Selma may somehow be regained in Kabul.

25

mrearl 05.14.11 at 7:53 pm

I have lived in the South all my life and I am not young. With apologies Mr. Bellmore, I don’t know any other way to put this: You are out of your mind. So is Ron Paul, and so is anyone else who believes the “free market” would have eliminated de facto Jim Crow.

Assuming the commerce clause parts of the CRA had not been enacted, for how many generations would libertarians have been willing to allow the market to operate to end the racial discrimination you disapprove of, before throwing in the towel? I fear that doctrine dictates the answer, “As long as it takes.” And the injustice, not to mention the inhumanity, of that borders on the absurd.

26

Tim Worstall 05.14.11 at 7:58 pm

Me, I think the nub’s here:

“if there were no legal Jim Crow”

There was legal Jim Crow, foully, and that did indeed change the social side.

How the South might have developed without legal Jim Crow can’t be determined by looking at the South. But we can look elsewhere and see how the general racism of a century, 60, 80 years ago, changed in places both without the previous existence of legal Jim Crow and in places, without laws that banned social such.

I would argue that the UK managed to move from the “no dogs, no blacks, no Irish” (and yes, there’s argument as to whether that sign ever actually existed) to a glorious multiculturalism without the 1976 Race Relations Act having much to do with it. The Act being more the expression of already changed attitudes than the cause of those changes which started earlier and became apparent later.

The most obvious measure of true racial discrimination is the intermarriage (or to use the foul word, miscegenation) rate. There never were any laws against this in the UK and that rate has been rising ever since there were appreciable numbers of non-pink (or in my own case, Irish, or to think of one granny, Catholics) to intermarry with.

Which leads to an interesting question: would the South, with the legacy of slavery, have had a similar to the UK experience with the end of racism in the absence of legal Jim Crow?

No, I dunno either, but I tend to think that in the absence of the legal sort the social side would have disappeared in much the same way, as the proclivity for humans to create humans over the generations made the distinctions impossible to maintain.

27

Jason 05.14.11 at 8:08 pm

Brett Bellmore says in #3:

A key distinction between libertarians and liberals is that the former are rather more careful with their use of the word “right”.

Brett then specifies a more “careful” use of the word, and points out that there is an asymmetry in the application of the word thus understood to the case of the shop keeper and the customer.

But what the word “right” means in the language (or really in this case, in a particular person’s chosen idiolect) of course has no implications for which social policies are just. With respect to the example at issue it is open to liberals to cede this term and coin another. The question is then whether the appropriate social policy is to be framed in terms of the one term or the other, and here the meanings of words cannot help you in the slightest.

This might seem like uncharitable nit-picking. But I think it’s a good example of the fundamental hollowness of much libertarian argument. Libertarians lack any compelling justifications for their principles, and so they make sophistical points about unclear word meanings (or supposed logical contradictions) or whatever to fill air-time.

28

dictateursanguinaire 05.14.11 at 8:48 pm

“That’s right, business owners were being coerced. They’re being coerced now. We never paused, in between, to see what they’d do if they were freed from the coercion.”

1. Regardless of logic, the fact that you have the audacity to complain about “coercion” of people lucky enough to be able to own a business while certain other classes of people can’t even vote shows that you have some seriously warped priorities.

2. Well, we already tried to see what they’d do, free of coercion. That was called “American history until 1964.” You might try reading about it some time.

29

StevenAttewell 05.14.11 at 8:58 pm

Bruce Baugh’s right – we shouldn’t overstate the coercion. Jim Crow wasn’t just individual merchants being oppressed by local whites; it was big business. Farmers used Jim Crow to keep their workforce in place and limit competition from other employers; factory owners used it to keep unions out and wages down. The National Association of Realtors used racial covenants nationwide because they could extract a premium for white-only housing, then extract extra profit from blacks locked into segregated housing.

Jim Crow was profitable.

30

Patrick 05.14.11 at 9:16 pm

Look at Chicago in 1960. Or Boston. There was no legal Jim Crow and the market had caused the north to desegregate to the point that people lived harmoniously together in…. Oh, wait.

Anyone who suggests that American society in the sixties, when I grew up, would organically develop into a society as integrated as the one we have now, much less one fully integrated, is, as the man from the south puts it, out of their mind.

31

Hidari 05.14.11 at 9:19 pm

It occurs to me (and any libertarian can criticise me here, possibly legitimately, I’m not an expert) that the real trouble for libertarians is not how the US treated African Americans but how the US treated (and treats) native Americans. It is much harder to see how the ‘free market’ could solve issues relating to imperialism, colonialism and ethnic cleansing/genocide, because to the best of my knowledge libertarians have no coherent theories about these issues.*

(*Yes, FWIW I know some of the Austrian school condemned (European) Empire building, although, again, AFAIK, they shied away from the fact that the ‘success’ of the US** was mainly built on ethnic cleansing and Empire building. But AFAIK none of them developed coherent theories about why the Europeans engaged in some activities).

**And yes I know RP is an isolationist. But again, he seems to have no real theory about why the US decided to ditch isolationism, and why business elites continue to oppose isolationism.

32

Main Street Muse 05.14.11 at 9:19 pm

It seems likely that Ron Paul would favor the Jeffersonian take on slavery as well. Property rights are, after all, property rights….

33

icastico 05.14.11 at 9:27 pm

No. A key distinction between libertarians and liberals is that the former are rather more careful with their use of the word “right”. (Because being sloppy with the word leads to contradiction, to two people having ‘rights’ that directly conflict.) And private discrimination, while properly subject to disapproval, is not a violation of anybody’s rights, because you don’t have a right to have other people engage in transactions with you.

I don’t think “more careful” is accurate. They do, certainly, use the terms differently. The main issue (as you describe) is that libertarianism does not recognize “positive rights” (more properly called responsibilities in my view). The libertarian view requires only that you avoid infringing upon others liberty, not that you take any positive actions to help another. Most people, however, recognize that moral rule go both ways requiring you to refrain from certain things, and to take certain positive actions as well. This difference is the key to the disagreement, it seems to me.

34

StevenAttewell 05.14.11 at 9:34 pm

Hidari – classically, the justification was the argument that property is labor mixed with nature, and since Native Americans weren’t mixing their labor with nature in recognized fashions it wasn’t their property, the land was unused and therefore belonged to the white settlers who improved it into farms.

35

bjk 05.14.11 at 9:49 pm

CRA! CRA! CRA! Woo! Wait – this was nearly fifty years ago? And liberals are still patting themselves on the back? And holding Ron Paul responsible? Really, it’s time to move on.

36

Bruce Baugh 05.14.11 at 9:53 pm

Bjk: As long as there are conservatives and libertarians who keep talking about how it should be done away with, sure. The chances of repeal are, well, nonexistent. But the case of abortion rights demonstrates how sustained legislative and judicial effort can make a nominal right practically unavailable to more and more people. So yeah, it’s necessary to remind each other and the rest of our fellow human beings that it was a good idea, that it still is a good idea, and that we can’t get complacent about it this generation either.

37

Omega Centauri 05.14.11 at 10:41 pm

Libertarianism, and Pacifism have always seemed very alike to me. Both represent unachievable ideal societies. In either case, the ideal society (if it could exist at all) is completely defenseless against organized groups who don’t share their goals. They are quite simply unstable ideals, and the instability leads to an end few would consider attractive.

And what is government anyway? Isn’t government an association of people (we would like to think of all the people, more or less equally represented), that is given certain powers in order to protect social norms. Organized subgroups of course do this all the time. Think of the KKK, or the Cosa Nostra. Those are simply associations of some subset of the people, which have formed to advance their interests. So I claim the boundary between legitimate government, and nonrepresentative organizations (thuggish or not) is actually a fuzzy thing. In one (anti-libertarian) sense, we need the broadest possible based association to protect against the worst abuses of narrowly based associations.

38

Jeff 05.14.11 at 10:56 pm

@Hidari, @StevenAttewell

I think it’s even simpler than that. Libertarians don’t want government interfering with the rights of powerful citizens. Libertarianism at its core is simply a justification for the powerful dealing with the weak as they see fit. But citizens or the government killing those who are not citizens doesn’t violate that basic philosophy. Thus, there was nothing wrong with killing Indians.

39

Matthew Ernest 05.14.11 at 11:08 pm

“two people having ‘rights’ that directly conflict”

Thus, there is no libertarian solution to the question of what side of the road to drive on.

40

Substance McGravitas 05.14.11 at 11:31 pm

Wait – this was nearly fifty years ago? And liberals are still patting themselves on the back? And holding Ron Paul responsible?

I don’t think many people hold Ron Paul responsible for…um…that think I think might be implied by the sentence you wrote, but it’s reasonable to hold Ron Paul responsible for the stupid things he says. He is an elected official running for president.

41

Substance McGravitas 05.14.11 at 11:34 pm

I’d like to trade in that first “think” for a “thing” please.

42

Daniel De Groot 05.14.11 at 11:35 pm

Mercutio:

Unless the economy is expanding, any social progress by one group can only be purchased by regress on the part of some other.

What is the cost of allowing black people to vote or use whites-only drinking fountains?

Jim Crow was not entirely about ecomics. It gave poor white southerns someone to look down on.

43

StevenAttewell 05.14.11 at 11:41 pm

Omega Centauri –

Um, no. The “the KKK, or the Cosa Nostra” are not “simply associations of some subset of the people, which have formed to advance their interests.” They are associations of a subset of people which have formed to restrict the rights of other people; black people have a right not to be attacked or to be denied their right to acquire property, register to vote, serve on juries/testify in court, etc. through threats of violence. In the case of the Cosa Nostra, protection rackets, fraud, etc. all impinge on the rights of businesses, consumers, and workers to conduct business without being extorted by stealth or threat of violence.

The boundary between that and government is pretty clear – consent, social compact, bounded majoritarianism in a context of constitutional rights and independent judiciary, etc.

The major divergence between liberals and libertarians, I would argue, is that post the 14th amendment, liberals recognized that state and local governments, along with private actors could pose a risk to individual rights (both in the case of Jim Crow and monopoly/corporate capitalism) – and thus a new role for the state in affirmatively guaranteeing protection against infringement was born. Libertarians essentially deny that there is any threat to individual rights outside of a central state or that the state has any role in protecting people from those threats, unless the people in question are propertied or corporations.

44

Daniel De Groot 05.14.11 at 11:43 pm

@Matthew Ernest:

“Thus, there is no libertarian solution to the question of what side of the road to drive on.”

And my right to free speech, exercised by shouting at the top of my lungs on my front lawn at 3am cannot possibly violate someone else’s “right” to sleep at night.

45

phosphorious 05.14.11 at 11:48 pm

That’s right, business owners were being coerced. They’re being coerced now. We never paused, in between, to see what they’d do if they were freed from the coercion.

But one kind of coercion (white customers refusing to eat at a lunch counter that serves blacks) is perfectly legitimate, and indeed not coercion at all, according to the libertarian.

It’s only when a “government” coerces that the market fails and blood is spilled and a bad time is had by all.

46

Jim Harrison 05.15.11 at 12:02 am

Seems like as good a time and place to ask the question as any other: Why is it such a wonderful thing to have principles if your principles routinely have bad consequences?

I guess I’m just not a deep thinker or consistent moralist, but as far as I’m concerned even the Categorical Imperative is not a suicide note, and I have a hell of a lot more use for that rule than for the sacredness of property.

47

Bruce Baugh 05.15.11 at 12:08 am

Jim, that’s the question that ended up pulling me away from libertarianism, pretty much. If it comes down to liberty as defined that way or the realities of reliable health care, safety, prospects for improved quality of living, dignity, the safety to express one’s loves in public, etc. etc. etc…then yeah, I’ll let liberty slide. Because I’m more interested in how people are actually doing than the abstract realm of things they might do if they were the luckiest, wealthiest, best-connected people in the society.

48

Lee A. Arnold 05.15.11 at 12:14 am

A key distinction between libertarians and liberals is that the former THINK that they are rather more careful with their use of the word “right.” To begin with, (1) negative and positive “rights” are different than negative and positive “liberties”. (2) Secondly, in both cases of rights and liberties, the “negative” ones do not have primacy over the “positive” ones by any law of the universe, except in your imagination. And (3), if you had blue skin, and people could see you coming a mile away, and everyone else in the whole land where you were born refuses to deal with you because you have blue skin: well then, you would have to move to someplace else to get a job and to buy a loaf of bread. So their negative liberty would contradict your negative liberty to not have to move from the place you were born into. (For similar reasons, the market system itself is also a coercive force and it is not “natural” as Hayek tried to establish.) So here the libertarian argument has the same validity as that other item of Paulian gibberish about central banks and inflation. And on the other side of it: if you were able to CATCH people making a consumer decision to not buy your wares or making the labor decision not to work for you, simply because you were painted blue, and you could PROVE that this were the only reason why, we would probably make it illegal. But it is highly impractical to catch an interior mental decision, and indeed the issue of practicality has hampered possible anti-discrimination suits even under the existing laws about the exterior situations. For me, though, it is about the children. If a little child finds out he can’t buy candy in your store because of the color of his skin, then the only right you should have is the right to an attorney.

49

Myles 05.15.11 at 1:33 am

As a classical liberal, I just want to point out how much I resent the word “liberal” being appropriated by people who basically are social democrats.

The great Liberal Party of Gladstone did not, overnight, become the Labour Party of Attlee, or the Democratic Party of the Great Society.

50

Bruce Baugh 05.15.11 at 1:36 am

You can fight alongside the people trying to reclaim “gay”, and “they” as exclusively third-person singular, and sentences that never end in prepositions, too. Fight on fiercely. We are not obligated to care, because it’s a feature of living languages that usages change.

51

John Quiggin 05.15.11 at 1:44 am

@Myles, maybe you should take it up with JS Mill, or Lloyd George.

52

John Holbo 05.15.11 at 1:48 am

Brett Bellmore: “A key distinction between libertarians and liberals is that the former are rather more careful with their use of the word “right”. (Because being sloppy with the word leads to contradiction, to two people having ‘rights’ that directly conflict.) And private discrimination, while properly subject to disapproval, is not a violation of anybody’s rights, because you don’t have a right to have other people engage in transactions with you.”

This is actually a picture perfect illustration of the point of the post. Libertarians use the word ‘right’ differently than most people do. (Brett says ‘careful’ when I think he really means ‘different’, but that’s ok. He’s sort of a sloppy writer.)

53

sg 05.15.11 at 1:53 am

StevenAtwell at 33, I think that definition of property was only settled on by libertarians in order to define away the problem of the unjust acquisition of native lands. It still flounders even then, being grounded in a wilfull ignorance of the historical situation of Indigenous people.

In order for libertarians to defend “property rights” over all others they need to hand-wave away historically unjust acquisition of land. Hence they need some serious rhetorical sleight of hand to deal with colonialism.

Libertarian “thought” is completely contradictory. I have a chap on my blog using this definition of property to deny the importance of legal land titles, in order to avoid the inevitable conclusion that Shrek was an illegal squatter and the King a righteous land owner. There is no escaping the intellectual boondoggles libertarianism leads one to.

54

mw 05.15.11 at 1:59 am

Why is it such a wonderful thing to have principles if your principles routinely have bad consequences?

In the 1960’s in the U.S. we had a situation where the federal government and the country as a whole was more tolerant on race than some states and localities, so imposing federal power had positive effects. But there’s no reason to expect that to be the typical case. In recent years, we’ve had states and localities that were more tolerant on gay rights than the population as a whole, and centralized government power has been wielded to increase discrimination against gays (e.g. the ‘Defense of Marriage Act’ and many anti-gay state laws as well).

If you take a wider perspective (both historical and cultural), islands of tolerance in illiberal countries is a more common pattern than islands of repression in tolerant states. Central state power has been more often used by majorities to repress minorities than it has been used to protect repressed local minorities from intolerant local majorities. Minorities are more likely to be able to find (or establish) spaces to live free of repression in states with relatively weak central governments than the reverse. So I’d argue that it’s big-government statism, not small-government liberalism, that produces the worst results in the general case.

55

IM 05.15.11 at 2:00 am

Are the liberals in Canada basically social democrats too? And what about Lloyd George?

56

Bloix 05.15.11 at 2:06 am

” And private discrimination, while properly subject to disapproval, is not a violation of anybody’s rights, because you don’t have a right to have other people engage in transactions with you.”

Private discrimination is not private. It depends on the coercive power of government contracts and police protection to enforce it. Imagine a restaurant that will not serve black people – no Jim Crow laws, just an owner who chooses to cater to a racist clientele. Now a half a dozen black people come in and refuse to leave. The owner calls the cops and says, “these people are trespassing.” What do the cops do? Do they use force to evict the black people? Ron Paul and Brett Bellmore think that the answer is yes, because the rights accruing to ownership of property must be enforced by the state, and these right include the right to preclude access to that property.

The rest of us understand that property rights are not God-given but are a creation of the state, and like all other state-created rights, they can be limited and modified.We understand that the state has no obligation to deploy the police power on behalf of racists. But it you worship at the altar of property rights, as libertarians do, then a little human sacrifice is not merely acceptable, it’s positively sanctified.

57

spyder 05.15.11 at 2:08 am

Hidari makes my point very well. Thanks.

As for StevenAttewell’s “counterpoint,” i would suggest that the history of the Pueblo nations strikes that. It is shocking how easily ‘property rights’ can leap history to suit the needs of the selfish.

58

Gene O'Grady 05.15.11 at 3:04 am

I’m curious about Brett Bellmore’s background. His ideas on what’s private don’t cohere very well with the experience of most people in the US, particularly people who grew up in the kind of small rural towns my parents did.

59

StevenAttewell 05.15.11 at 6:06 am

A couple things:
1. Myles, you need to sit down and read Robert Kelley’s Transatlantic Persuasion, or Nancy Cohen’s Reconstruction of Liberalism, or Sklar’s Corporate Reconstruction of American Capitalism, or anything by Mary Furner, or really anything about Lloyd George, Beveridge, and Keynes. There was something called New Liberalism, it was not the same thing as social democracy, and it was tremendously influential in shaping American liberalism 1900-1945.
2. sg – except that it wasn’t just an after-the-fact justification; it was a key dilemma of classical liberalism. It’s all wrapped up in the problem of starting from a position of the individual natural right to one’s own labor and reconciling that with the theft of the commons, ownership of property beyond the individual smallholdership, and the use of wage labor. “The turfs my servant has cut” had already been developed before the Pilgrims hit the rock.
3. spyder – sorry, not sure what you’re saying at 57. Clarify please?
4. Bloix – you’re quite right, but I don’t think we should lose sight of the inherent private-ness of a gang of Klansmen burning your house down because you tried to register to vote, and that in the face of that, Goldwater and his acolytes arguing that the Federal government doing something about that was the greater violation of individual rights.

60

sg 05.15.11 at 6:12 am

StevenAttewell, was classical liberalism obssessed with property rights above all else, though? It seems like libertarianism is its own beast in this regard, so hand-waving away any fundamental injustice in the present distribution of property is more important to them than to classical liberals. But this is a complete guess on my part.

61

Robert 05.15.11 at 6:32 am

Contemporary propertarians are often ignorant about classical liberals.

Some British 19th century liberals often advocated a strong central government and weak local government. The idea is that duplication of effort among municipalities could be avoided. All governments might have limited powers, but those powers would be exercised more efficiently if they centralized. As a consequence, taxes could be kept low. (I don’t say the argument for supporting diverse experimentation among localities isn’t also a liberal argument.)

Karl Popper is often taken to be a defender of liberalism. Karl Popper would not have accepted some “principled” arguments that lead to bad consequences. His idea was that we need a system of government in which we can learn from our mistakes. And people suffering unnecessary pain is a mistake that should be corrected.

Nor do propertarians need to be as stupid about property rights as some here insist. (“Stupid” is not spelled “Rather more careful”.) My name links to some quotes by Hayek and by David Ramsay Steele recognizing, more or less, that ownership is not a natural kind and that societies can and should experiment with what rights are included in ownership.

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Alex 05.15.11 at 6:45 am

No, I dunno either, but I tend to think that in the absence of the legal sort the social side would have disappeared in much the same way, as the proclivity for humans to create humans over the generations made the distinctions impossible to maintain.

Well, I’m sure black people in pre-1964 America will feel just swell if you travel back in time and tell them that you “tend to think” things would get better for them all on its own.

63

Alex 05.15.11 at 6:58 am

The great Liberal Party of Gladstone did not, overnight, become the Labour Party of Attlee, or the Democratic Party of the Great Society.

If we’re being pick, by what standards can Gladstone be deemed a “classical liberal”. He didn’t believe in democracy to anywhere near the same extent that today’s classical liberals (or for that matter social liberals) do.

But anyway, you can have “liberalism” back if the left can have “libertarianism” back.

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John Holbo 05.15.11 at 7:36 am

“No, I dunno either, but I tend to think that in the absence of the legal sort the social side would have disappeared in much the same way, as the proclivity for humans to create humans over the generations made the distinctions impossible to maintain.”

The important thing to see, at the level of libertarian principle, is that the reason why it is ok to leave the social side to take care of itself is that it is ok even if this sort of optimistic prediction doesn’t pan out. Suppose legal Jim Crow is abolished and, instead of this dissolving the social side, it actually makes it stronger, or at least no weaker. (Suppose this is a social-cultural backlash against the legal event. Just suppose.) There is no problem with this, from a propertarian libertarian point of view, because no one’s property rights are infringed. And, because no one’s property rights are infringed, no one’s freedom is infringed. So blacks are now perfectly free, even though Jim Crow is strongly in effect. This goes to show that the word ‘freedom’ is not being used in an ordinary, intuitive sort of way. Because, intuitively, blacks are made less free by Jim Crow.

The simple formula for it is this: freedom, for propertarians, is not having your exercise of your property rights frustrated. One way to achieve this result would be to have no property, hence no rights whose exercise could be frustrated. (‘Freedom’ can be just another word for nothing left to lose, in effect.) The effect of social Jim Crow is among other things, to keep blacks from accumulating property. This can actually make it easier, not harder, for blacks to be free, in a propertarian sense.

Therefore, when libertarians argue that blacks would have come to enjoy equal freedom, anyway, because social Jim Crow would have withered away, they are really operating with a non-libertarian notion of freedom. And if that notion is really valid, if it has some moral tug, then the logic of insisting on the libertarian route to this good end – no Jim Crow in any form – collapses.

65

Tim Worstall 05.15.11 at 8:10 am

@64

But we have reasonable (no, I don’t insist it proves it, just that it indicates that) evidence from another time and place that the social side did go away all on its ownsome.

Maybe it would have done in the South, maybe it wouldn’t have done. What we don’t have is evidence that such a libertarian solution would not have worked.

66

John Holbo 05.15.11 at 8:41 am

“Maybe it would have done in the South, maybe it wouldn’t have done. What we don’t have is evidence that such a libertarian solution would not have worked.”

What evidence do was have that there was a libertarian problem in search of a solution in the South, re: social Jim Crow? What’s was wrong with this social arrangement, from a libertarian perspective?

67

Bruce Baugh 05.15.11 at 9:49 am

Tim Worstall: But we have reasonable (no, I don’t insist it proves it, just that it indicates that) evidence from another time and place that the social side did go away all on its ownsome.

Like hell we do. I’m glad you’re happy about interracial dating, but it doesn’t deal with all, or indeed any, of the real problems faced by minorities in the UK. Things like:

– Opportunities for hiring and promotion.
– Support for business ownership and growth.
– Access to higher education.
– Comparable outcomes from the legal system when it comes to arrest, conviction, and sentence.
– Threat of violence at the hands of the police or the general public, and support for the investigation and punishing of such violence when it does occur.
– Representation at all levels of government.

…ad so forth and so on. A society you feel happy about is not the same as a society that is in fact just with regard to the status of its ethnic minority and female members.

68

Andrew 05.15.11 at 11:43 am

Libertarians are in the minority in their view of property rights, to be sure. But I don’t think they have an inconsistent position on the Civil Rights Act. The OP implies that we’ve somehow caught Paul out. We haven’t.

As to whether a libertarian could consider Jim Crow a problem, even if it is the outcome of a process they believe to have not involved the violation of rights, i.e. the decision of a one group to not engage in certain types of commerce with a second group, the answer is that of course they can. There’s no contradiction in stating “X is a problem” and stating “Government should not do Y to resolve X.” Nor is there a contradiction in stating “I agree that you have the right to do X, but doing X is still morally wrong.”

Consistency has never been a problem for libertarians. Now reality however…

69

Brett Bellmore 05.15.11 at 12:00 pm

“If it comes down to liberty as defined that way or the realities of reliable health care, safety, prospects for improved quality of living, dignity, the safety to express one’s loves in public, etc. etc. etc…then yeah, I’ll let liberty slide. “

At which point, you’ll be in a situation where whether or not you get all, or even any, of the things you took in place of liberty is up to somebody else, because you handed control of your life over to them. Better hope it was a good deal, ’cause it’s the last deal you get any choice in making.

That’s what makes liberty the most important value. It’s the key to obtaining all other values.

“(2) Secondly, in both cases of rights and liberties, the “negative” ones do not have primacy over the “positive” ones by any law of the universe, except in your imagination. “

Unless you consider the law of non-contradiction to be a law of the universe. Positive rights are rather like division by zero in this respect: Once you add them to the system, you can construct situations where there are contradictions, where respecting one person’s ‘rights’ requires violating another’s.

And, I assure you, liberals don’t use the word ‘right’ in the same way the general public does, either, and don’t fool yourselves on this. Try talking to the average person about “welfare rights”, or something of that sort, if you’re in doubt about this.

“4. Bloix – you’re quite right, but I don’t think we should lose sight of the inherent private-ness of a gang of Klansmen burning your house down because you tried to register to vote, and that in the face of that, Goldwater and his acolytes arguing that the Federal government doing something about that was the greater violation of individual rights.”

And you shouldn’t lose sight of the fact that, while the 14th amendment didn’t authorize the federal government to reach private choices, it DID demand that states extend the equal protection of the law, and authorize the federal government to make sure of that. That means that the state damned well CAN, under the 14th amendment, be compelled to do something about a gang of Klansmen burning down your house, if they’d do something about anybody else burning down anybody else’s house.

The distinction you’re trying to distract from, is between discrimination in doing things that you’re otherwise entitled to do, and discrimination in doing things that you’re NOT otherwise entitled to do.

Jim Crow had two important components of state discrimination, within the reach of the federal government under the 14th amendment:

1. Government mandating discrimination. Rosa Parks was sent to the back of the bus as mandated by state law, not because the bus driver was a racist.

2. Government discriminating in extending the protection of the law, and thus enabling private discrimination of a rather violent sort. Not sending the police around if the Klan are burning down your house.

The Goldwater position didn’t let the federal government reach all discrimination, but the sort of discrimination that it DID let the federal government reach was by far the most important.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 12:09 pm

@StevenAttewell, 43 The major divergence between liberals and libertarians, I would argue, is that post the 14th amendment, liberals recognized that state and local governments, along with private actors could pose a risk to individual rights (both in the case of Jim Crow and monopoly/corporate capitalism) – and thus a new role for the state in affirmatively guaranteeing protection against infringement was born.

So, private actors could pose a risk to individual rights (agreed), state and local governments could pose a risk to individual rights (agreed), but the central government is, somehow, the unquestionable guarantor of protection against any infringements (huh?)?

Is this always true, for every state? If not, isn’t this a bit like, eh, American exceptionalism or something? Not to mention, empirically dubious?

And if it’s not always true, shouldn’t the fact that central governments are usually much more powerful than private actors and local governments give you pause?

71

Popeye 05.15.11 at 12:18 pm

Apparently there were no people in the south that wanted Rosa Parks in the back of a bus, it was only the evil government that wanted that.

Why didn’t the good people of the south change the law to make things better? Because government is inherently bad, and decent people don’t get their hands dirty using the government to coerce people and derive them of their liberty.

If that’s true then who the hell was electing and re-electing the government that passed these horrible laws?

Listen, why don’t liberals understand how principled libertarianism is?

72

Andrew 05.15.11 at 12:26 pm

Brett @69: That’s what makes liberty the most important value. It’s the key to obtaining all other values.

No, that’s what makes SOME liberty essential. It doesn’t make all liberty essential, and that’s the key point. Is the liberty to exclude someone from your store on the basis of race an important liberty? No.

The Goldwater position didn’t let the federal government reach all discrimination, but the sort of discrimination that it DID let the federal government reach was by far the most important.

The Goldwater position allowed those who controlled most of the wealth and resources, which they had acquired, in substantial part, unjustly, to continue to exclude another group from most of that society’s commerce and opportunity.

I agree that the other types of discrimination you mention are very important, but so is this. Without remedying this type of discrimination, you have a much, much longer extension of inequity and racism into the future.

73

John Holbo 05.15.11 at 12:32 pm

Brett Bellmore: “The Goldwater position didn’t let the federal government reach all discrimination, but the sort of discrimination that it DID let the federal government reach was by far the most important.”

Was there any non-government-mandated discrimination in the South, pre-1964, that you also regard as important? If so: what was it, why do you think it was important, and in what ways?

74

John Holbo 05.15.11 at 12:56 pm

To be a bit more specific: were there any private, discriminatory actions taken, pre-1964, that you regard as morally or politically unacceptable? If so, what, why and in what ways?

75

Substance McGravitas 05.15.11 at 1:09 pm

At which point, you’ll be in a situation where whether or not you get all, or even any, of the things you took in place of liberty is up to somebody else, because you handed control of your life over to them.

Does the one lunch-counter owner lose more liberty under the CRA than the hundred people who are denied his lunch without it?

76

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 1:23 pm

I dunno, if I were black down South in 1964, I’d be avoiding restaurants with racist owners forced to serve me anyway, on account on the likelihood of them spitting into my coffee. And in fact, due to the Title II ban on overt discrimination, it would be difficult to distinguish (discriminate, if you wish) between the restaurants serving coffee with saliva and those without.

77

Aneece 05.15.11 at 1:36 pm

Bad faith argument alert!

Henri Vieuxtemps, your social/political hypothetical is the equivalent to the “safety” argument that runs: “I don’t wear a seat-belts because I’d rather be thrown from the car to safety rather than get stuck inside and drown/burn to death”.

If I were more clever, I’d connect this to the apparent concern libertarians have with coercive seat-belt laws, but I’m not, so I won’t.

78

Aneece 05.15.11 at 1:38 pm

Bad grammar alert!

Sorry about “…a seat-belts”.

79

Brett Bellmore 05.15.11 at 1:47 pm

“Does the one lunch-counter owner lose more liberty under the CRA than the hundred people who are denied his lunch without it? “

Well, yeah. He loses control over “his” restaurant. while the hundred can just find their lunch somewhere else.

80

Castorp 05.15.11 at 2:16 pm

Brett,

It is not a simple as, hey, this or that shopowner made a not nice decision to allow certain people into his shop and that is just his right and it is unfortunate for the victims of this but they can just go to the shop next door. Each shopowner was part of system of racist social norms of the Jim Crow-era South, which not only pressured African Americans to “know their place” but also shopowners to enforce this hierarchy. This could not have been broken down any other way than using the force of federal government. I’m sorry your extreme view of rights prevents you from actually addressing real social problems. I also wonder, given libertarians views of rights, why Ron and Rand Paul would choose to focus on this when something like, what, 50 percent or so (more?) of what the Federal Government does today cannot be defended by your principles.

81

Brett Bellmore 05.15.11 at 2:31 pm

What “chose to focus on this”?

“”Yeah,” he told Matthews when asked if he would have voted against the act in Congress. “But I wouldn’t vote against getting rid of the Jim Crow laws.””

He gets asked, and as a man of principle, he answers honestly. It’s Matthews at the focus control, address your question to him.

82

Constitutional Gov 05.15.11 at 2:36 pm

This video shows the hypocrisy of this argument. People discriminate in every part of their lives. That is why we enjoy freedom of choice and voluntary contracts and associations in a free society. The government often creates bigger social problems by attempting to unconstitutionally solve them (problems likely created by the govt to begin with) by taking way people’s freedoms to choose. This is also a free market issue.

http://youtu.be/ba2kfIc4Ttg

83

Lee A. Arnold 05.15.11 at 2:37 pm

Brett Bellmore @69: “Unless you consider the law of non-contradiction to be a law of the universe. Positive rights are rather like division by zero in this respect: Once you add them to the system, you can construct situations where there are contradictions, where respecting one person’s ‘rights’ requires violating another’s.”

You already constructed contradiction in your libertarian system, just with negative liberties. If everybody discriminates against you, then you would have to move to someplace else to get a job and to buy a loaf of bread. So their negative liberty would contradict your negative liberty to not have to move from the place you were born into.

84

Castorp 05.15.11 at 2:42 pm

That’s a fair point Brett. I actually think the difference between liberals and libertarians that you referenced earlier is that libertarians believe they have somehow divined a few moral laws that can guide all political action regardless of the consequences. Most liberals, be they Millsians or Rawlsians, care about consequences too. Also, as the Civil Rights Act question shows, liberals also care about other forms of coercion than just by the government. It is also an act of coercion, you know, for a shopkeeper in the Jim Crow era to be ostracized by the community for serving African Americans or letting them sit at the counter or whatever. To my mind it is much more powerful form of coercion in fact.

85

Castorp 05.15.11 at 2:48 pm

To my mind it is much more powerful form of coercion in fact.

Than the government making everyone serve everyone, not more powerful than what was done against African Americans.

86

Stephen Lathrop 05.15.11 at 2:54 pm

Brett Bellmore on this thread does what libertarians do best. He heckles those with the responsibility of governing. I mean that positively, because those doing the actual governing need constant heckling. But not too positively, because Bellmore doesn’t do it very well.

Every government requires a theory of sovereignty. Government is the will of the sovereign effected by force. The first principle of libertarianism is to deny that. But libertarians then omit to offer an alternative. That leaves them free to criticize each and every forceful manifestation of government according to taste. Some libertarians have good taste, others, like Bellmore, not so much.

The result for the rest of us is that sometimes we can get good advice from some libertarians. Criticisms of regulatory capture, or the use of eminent domain to promote private interests come to mind.

But for the libertarians themselves, personal tranquillity depends on a realistic view of their own situation, which seems often absent. Talking political philosophy while lacking any theory of sovereignty is like being the inventor of a perpetual motion machine. The patent office isn’t going to let you in the door, and ordinary people will take you for a crank. In that predicament, it won’t do to be too vociferous, or repose excessive faith in your own invention.

87

Brett Bellmore 05.15.11 at 2:58 pm

Your negative liberty to not move is only violated if somebody forces you to move. Not enabling you to stay is hardly the same thing.

In 2008, I was laid off back in Michigan. I couldn’t find work within commuting distance of my home. If I had stayed, I would have eventually gone broke, and not been able to pay for food, or make the mortgage payments on the house my bank actually owned. I moved. This did not involve my rights being violated in any way.

I gather I’m supposed to find the idea of people moving in order to improve their circumstances offensive, somehow. Personally, I find the idea that people won’t move to improve their circumstances offensive. Take charge of your lives, people. Don’t ask others to improve them, improve them yourselves. And if this involves picking up and moving, DO IT.

You’re not sessile organisms.

88

Tim Wilkinson 05.15.11 at 3:10 pm

Lee @83 – not exactly a contradiction, but a failure to deal with reality and what is actually important.

If individual negative rights are absolute, ‘compossible’ and strictly correlative with individual negative duties, you can construct situations in which they are destructive of liberty (on any non-gerrymandered conception of liberty).

The locus c. is Nozick who in ASU remarks that multiple individuals might settle land in such a way as to surround another, meaning they are trapped on pain of (gasp) trespass. Police kettles, in which you aren’t allowed to push (assault) policemen out of the way (even if you could) might be a topical example of a similar phenomenon, though the UKSC has obviously used a broader brush to adopt a half-way sane approach and accepted that this is in fact a kind of imprisonment.

The problem is perhaps most pressing though if the example involves non-coordinated action, as N envisages IIRC, but it could at the limit involve only one other person.

The example can be extended indefinitely. Noz doesn’t extend it though, nor IIRC resolve the problem. Presumably at the time that was because he didn’t regard it as involving ‘catastrophic moral horror’ which was the only thing that could trump negative rights. Ordinary moral horror, or pervasive moral problems short of actual horror, not enough.

89

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 3:11 pm

Henri Vieuxtemps, your social/political hypothetical is the equivalent to the “safety” argument that runs: “I don’t wear seat-belts because I’d rather be thrown from the car to safety rather than get stuck inside and drown/burn to death”.

Sorry, I don’t see it. I was talking about delicate social interactions, not mechanical contraptions.

90

Brett Bellmore 05.15.11 at 3:14 pm

“Every government requires a theory of sovereignty. Government is the will of the sovereign effected by force. The first principle of libertarianism is to deny that. But libertarians then omit to offer an alternative. “

Yes, I would say that is accurate. Consistent libertarianism is anarchism, because government can not exist without violating rights, and libertarianism says rights should not be violated. A moral theory is not required to present an alternate theory of how to justify an institution it finds to be reprehensible.

This is not to say that inconsistent libertarianism has no value. Government is inevitably going to be evil, but once you recognize that, you can at least try to minimize the evil. Something you’re not going to do very effectively by denying the evil in the first place…

91

polyorchnid octopunch 05.15.11 at 3:27 pm

Mistermix over at Balloon-Juice has a relevant post up. You can find it here. He makes the point that in fact, if a place of business in the south wanted to be non-discriminatory to non-whites, they were prevented by state law from doing so. In short, the tyranny of the CRA was replacing the freedom fries of the Jim Crow laws. Why is one tyranny and the other isn’t? seems the relevant question to ask of the US libertarians who like that line of argument.

92

Substance McGravitas 05.15.11 at 3:32 pm

Well, yeah. He loses control over “his” restaurant.

I don’t see that he loses any practical control over his restaurant at all with the CRA. He will make food, people will eat it. He does what he is in business to do.

93

John Holbo 05.15.11 at 3:40 pm

Brett, your argument seems to consist of pointing out that certain sorts of discrimination by private actors should be permissible. Granted. The issue, however, is whether there is any sort of discrimination by private actors that should not be permissible. I take it you take the strict line that there is not. You are, then, not opposed to social Jim Crow. Not just in the sense that you think it would wither away without being legally abolished. Rather, in the sense that it just doesn’t matter whether it does or not. It’s existence is of no more moral concern and consequence than the fact that there are two 7-11’s in my neighborhood. Just one of those things the market has worked out. Either the condition will persist or not, as individuals either patronize, or do not, these two establishments. There isn’t really any ought or ought-not beyond that. Is it fair to say that you think of social Jim Crow the same way? Neither a good thing or a bad thing, just a thing that results from the aggregated actions of individual actors, or does not?

94

Tim Wilkinson 05.15.11 at 3:50 pm

Brett Bellmore: government can not exist without violating rights

John Locke: On the contrary, every man, by consenting with others to make one body politic under one government, puts himself under an obligation, to every one of that society, to submit to the determination of the majority, and to be concluded by it; or else this original compact, whereby he with others incorporates into one society, would signify nothing.

David Hume: On the contrary, Can we seriously say, that a poor peasant or artisan has a free choice to leave his country, when he knows no foreign language or manners, and lives, from day to day, by the small wages which he acquires? We may as well assert that a man, by remaining in a vessel, freely consents to the dominion of the master; though he was carried on board while asleep, and must leap into the ocean and perish, the moment he leaves her.

Brett Bellmore: On the contrary, Take charge of your lives, people. Don’t ask others to improve them, improve them yourselves. And if this involves picking up and moving, DO IT.

95

N.C. 05.15.11 at 3:50 pm

I apologize if I misunderstood your argument, but I don’t think your experience with being laid off and finding work in another area is equivalent to a discussion of wide-spread, severe structural racism that impacted the lives and well-being of millions.

96

Substance McGravitas 05.15.11 at 4:12 pm

Obligation of white lunch-counter owner pre-CRA:
Do all that’s entailed in serving customers food plus keep out black people.
Obligation of white lunch-counter owner post-CRA:
Do all that’s entailed in serving customers food.

97

Myles 05.15.11 at 4:41 pm

Are the liberals in Canada basically social democrats too?

Oh hells no.

98

MPAVictoria 05.15.11 at 4:43 pm

“Oh hells no.”

Oh Myles never change.

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StevenAttewell 05.15.11 at 5:30 pm

sg – I would argue that it was obsessed, but not necessarily above all else; rather there was a tension between the ideals of individual rights and human freedom and equality and the belief in unlimited property rights. As more and more working class people gained the franchise, and as trade unions and the rise of corporations thrust the “social question” into the public eye, eventually liberals had to make a choice – some of them became Tories of all parties, and some of them became New Liberals.
Brett Bellmore at 69 – let’s be careful with what the 14th amendment authorized, because the Congress and Supreme Court disagreed on this point. The Civil Rights Act of 1866 extended to the right to “make and enforce contracts, to sue, be parties, give evidence, and to the full and equal benefit of all laws and proceedings for the security of persons and property as is enjoyed by white citizens;” the Civil Rights Act of 1871 established that “any person who, under color of any law, statute, ordinance, regulation, custom, or usage of any State, shall subject… any person within the jurisdiction of the United States to the deprivation of any rights, …secured by the Constitution of the United States, shall,…be liable to the party injured” enforced through Federal courts and made it a Federal matter if any two persons attempted to “by force, intimidation, or threat” to “[deprive] any person or any class of persons of the equal protection of the laws, or of equal privileges or immunities under the laws;” and the Civil Rights Act of 1875 guaranteed that “all persons within the jurisdiction of the United States shall be entitled to the full and equal enjoyment of the accommodations, advantages, facilities, and privileges of inns, public conveyances on land or water, theaters, and other places of public amusement.”

The larger point here is that if state governments are unwilling to prevent discrimination, the Federal government has a duty to act. The Supreme Court eventually disagreed with these acts, but changed its mind eighty years later. At the same time, the Supreme Court did adopt, if just for corporations, the idea that the 14th amendment did incorporate Field’s broader, and economic, conception of privileges and immunities, etc.

But I really question whether you can separate these two categories of discrimination. If the only grocery stores in town refuse to serve you because you attempted to register to vote, or if the monopoly employer blacklists you because you signed your name to a civil rights protest letter, or if the landlord evicts you because you tried to desegregate the local school – these private acts have the same effect, if not a greater effect, than a private act of violence. I think Field is right here: “A person allowed to pursue only one trade or calling, and only in one locality of the country, would not be, in the strict sense of the term, in a condition of slavery, but probably none would deny that he would be in a condition of servitude. He certainly would not possess the liberties nor enjoy the privileges of a freeman.”
Henri – well, yes, Henri. “No state shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any state deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws…Congress shall have power to enforce.” The 14th amendment specifically set up the central government as the aegis of the people against state governments which were attempting to reduce large minorities or even majorities of the population into slavery in all but name.

I’m sorry to be exceptionalist on a thread on the U.S Civil Rights Act, but official discrimination has been the rule in pretty much every state of the union at one point in time – and the Federal government’s duty was to prevent that; obviously, duty and execution are not always in synch, but the principle is still there.

As for the power question, I think it’s actually an asset. Private actors (the kinds we’re talking about here) and local governments are much more powerful than individual citizens, and you need something more powerful than them to restrain them.

100

Stephen Lathrop 05.15.11 at 5:31 pm

Brett Bellmore: “Take charge of your lives, people. Don’t ask others to improve them, improve them yourselves. And if this involves picking up and moving, DO IT.”

Just out of curiosity, let’s try a hypothetical. A paper company builds a mill in the Maine woods, in a remote area. To make the mill a growing proposition it sets aside from its own land a town site, and advertises for workers, who can get a homesite by signing up. Over the years, they arrive and build homes at their own expense, plus a school system, a fire department, a police department, utility service, an entire village. To do that, they take out the usual loans, none of which have been paid off.

The mill is profitable, but could be more profitable if wages were lower. The paper company demands concessions, but can’t get them—the workers have been living hand to mouth as it is. The mill decides to make its paper in Indonesia, and abandons the village. The workers, of course, are compelled to move, and also to lose their investments. They must all go bankrupt, and the sunk capital that previously represented development is gone. That is, in microcosm, the process of development in reverse now being practiced across the nation.

Does that have a moral dimension? If not, what would give it one?

101

Aneece 05.15.11 at 5:33 pm

Henri Vieuxtemps, the seat-belt analogy runs A’s follows: Much as worrying about getting trapped by a seat belt is absurd compared to the danger of driving without one, the risk your hypothetical black southerner runs from not “knowing where the racists are” is absurd compared to the harm of out-and-out racist store policies. It’s a bad faith argument, or, if your serious, just a really bad argument, and it strikes me as particularly funny be because the libertarians I’ve known have succumbed to poutrage over coercive seatbelt laws (incidentally, I feel I should have the right not to kill some moran in what should have been a simple fender bender, but that’s separate).

In addition, you’re exhibiting another characteristic of libertarians, obtuseness as debating tactic.

102

Bruce Baugh 05.15.11 at 5:38 pm

It is, of course, true that the federal government has been the agent of oppression as well – Woodrow Wilson’s administration when it came to making segregation much more official on grounds of race, for instance. But something very few libertarians or conservatives seem to grasp about a lot of liberals is just how little the latter venerate federal power. Libertarians and conservatives are almost all looking for a rock of ultimate power and perfection on which to build a temple that will last for all time; liberals are much more likely to shrug and look for alternatives when it’s necessary to do so, and have already learned to detach from hoping for too much from any one source. “Relative best bet” is a more likely judgment than “yes yes yes the answer”.

To someone who feels a deep need to have an omega point, this looks like intellectual anarchy. But it’s not, any more than pointing out that there’s no final point in a food cycle.

103

Salient 05.15.11 at 5:56 pm

Given that Brett Bellmore has stated he’s okay with a Jim Crow outcome of market decisions, what good does it do to engage with him about the particulars?

Even more explicitly, he’s said that the ‘evil’ of federal government intrusion to break up Jim Crow is far greater than the evil of an entire category of people living under the disenfranchisement and exclusion of a social structure in which the minority of wealth-controlling individuals dictate to the rest of the populace the precise circumstances under which those individuals will be allowed to share in the wealth.

It sounds quite a bit like a philosophy that is designed to defend the right of a lord to maintain a serfdom.

104

Salient 05.15.11 at 6:00 pm

“That’s right, business owners were being coerced. They’re being coerced now. We never paused, in between, to see what they’d do if they were freed from the coercion.”

In an indirect way we sort of did, and the answer turned out to be something like, “they’d dress up in pointy hats and start intimidating fires in lawns and lynch black people. Or for lots of them they’d just attend the lynching, with a sandwich picnic packed for lunch.”

105

StevenAttewell 05.15.11 at 6:07 pm

Henri at 76 – Henri, if you were black in the South in 1964, the real question is what do you when there’s only one grocery store in your small town and they refuse to sell to you, or when your landlord (who’s working together with all the other landlords through the White Citizens Council) evicts you, or when the monopoly employer blacklists you? We’re not talking about a paradigm of many different small providers, we’re talking about big institutions.

106

StevenAttewell 05.15.11 at 6:14 pm

Steven Lathrop – an even better analogy:

A textile company builds a mill in the hill country of North Carolina, in a remote area. “To make the mill a growing proposition” the company buys up all the land around the mill, then advertises for workers. The workers arrive to find that their employer owns their homes, all the available land, the school system, the fire department, the police department, the utility services, the church, and most importantly the only store around. The workers then find out that the employer has decided to pay them in company scrip, which is only good at the company store at company prices.

This places the workers in a position of entirely private non-freedom. They don’t have the money to leave, because relocation is expensive (travel + first and last and deposit) and the company scrip isn’t good anywhere else. If they say and do anything that the company doesn’t like, they face not merely unemployment but eviction, total social exclusion, and denial of access to goods and services without which they will starve. They can try to appeal to local government, except that local government is either in the pockets of the company or outgunned by private security officials.

I’ve yet to see libertarians grapple with the reality of company towns in America.

107

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 6:46 pm

@Aneece, 100

I don’t care about any libertarians or any seatbelts; like I said, I don’t see seatbelts causing any social conflicts or tensions. A ban on refusing services based on various criteria (except to the communists) I do find problematic, however. If someone doesn’t want to serve me at a restaurant based on the way I look, I’d prefer them to refuse outright, rather than doing it because of the fear of a lawsuit.

Now, I’m open to the argument that it was a sensible enough solution, under the circumstances; but you guys aren’t even willing to admit that there is any tradeoff involved in it; that’s just crazy.

108

Substance McGravitas 05.15.11 at 6:49 pm

you guys aren’t even willing to admit that there is any tradeoff involved in it

Spell out what the trade-off is. What, in your working day, would be different?

109

Lee A. Arnold 05.15.11 at 6:56 pm

Brett Bellmore #87 — No, you’re not making sense. If you can’t get a job or buy food because of your skin color, not because of exterior economic conditions in Michigan, then everyone has forced you to move. In the case where economic conditions are bad or opportunities are non-existent, then no individual, or even no group of individuals, is willing the constraint upon you especially. Once economic conditions improved, you might stay despite your skin color, and get a job.

110

Aneece 05.15.11 at 7:27 pm

OMG, Henri Vieuxtemps, perhaps I wasn’t clear because my iPhone kept “helping” me with auto-corrections.

The seat-belt analogy hinged on the overemphasis of small issues, and ignoring big issues. Play along at home.

1)Seat-belt—–>CRA
2)Death by fire——->Spit in my coffee
3)Far more likely death via impact trauma——>Refusal of basic services/attendant indignity

Do you see the underlying logic? In what way, short of a puppet show, can I make this clearer? This is exactly what I meant by bad faith. You’re being deliberately obtuse. Stop it.

111

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 7:31 pm

My working day would be different in that, for example, if I am a racist, I would not have to serve people I despise. That would probably make me less unhappy, less resentful. Less resentment would be passed to the next generation. 45 years later, there would be fewer people with confederate flags at a townhall meeting.

112

Substance McGravitas 05.15.11 at 7:35 pm

My working day would be different in that, for example, if I am a racist, I would not have to serve people I despise.

Well that’s it in a nutshell. I agree that the only problem with the CRA is that racists don’t like it, which is what the CRA was addressing.

113

Tim Worstall 05.15.11 at 7:35 pm

“What evidence do was have that there was a libertarian problem in search of a solution in the South, re: social Jim Crow? What’s was wrong with this social arrangement, from a libertarian perspective?”

1) I’m not a libertarian.

2) As far as I understand libertarianism the social arrangements that people come to are different from those that are imposed by law. It’s entirely possible, again as I understand it, for it to be immoral according to libertarians for the law to insist on a particular outcome even while such solves a social outcome which many/most libertarians would personally consider immoral.

Which ends up as, in no doubt my incomplete understanding, as being that libertarians would argue that both the imposition of and the illegality of social Jim Crow woul;d be morally wrong: perhaps wrong in different measure, but both wrong to some degree.

“I’m glad you’re happy about interracial dating,”

How sweet, we get to discuss my sex life on Crooked Timber.

“but it doesn’t deal with all, or indeed any, of the real problems faced by minorities in the UK. “

Don’t be blitheringly stupid. A sufficiently high level of intermarriage (one that the UK passed decades ago as regards Afro Caribbeans for example) means that there aren’t any minorities about which anyone can be prejudiced. This has happened variously with Normans, Saxons, Hugenots, Irish, Catholics, immigrants to mention only my own genetic inheritance. We make jokes about D2 because he’s Welsh and Ginger and they’re different. It’ll happen again with any and every other group that immigrates in any great number: one of my previous colleagues in UKIP (you know, that political party described as being so horribly racist?), still working for the party, has just had a child by a Tamil: all of us are chipping in for that very English thing, the christening mug (er, this may or may not be appropriate, as none of us have ever asked about the religion thing).

@93 “Not just in the sense that you think it would wither away without being legally abolished. “

That is the sense in which I’m arguing. Without the (immoral!) legal support for it it will whither away. As it has in the country that I know best.

114

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 7:48 pm

Aneece, no still not seeing the similarity. You take the “spit in my coffee” thing too literally.

Substance, what, the goal was to teach racists a lesson?

115

Aneece 05.15.11 at 7:49 pm

Tim Worstall, two words:

Chicago. Boston.

Pre CRA, these places were such redoubts of racial harmony that many black Southern emigres returned to South, where at least the place they were required to stay in was clearly delineated.

116

Substance McGravitas 05.15.11 at 7:50 pm

Substance, what, the goal was to teach racists a lesson?

No, the goal was to end segregation. If that teaches the stupid a lesson, then great, but clearly some folks have problems with lessons.

117

StevenAttewell 05.15.11 at 7:50 pm

Worstall – are you really saying that racial discrimination is dead in the U.K? Because evidence from matched-pair job application experiments shows otherwise – traditionally white names have an interview offer rate nearly 20% higher than traditionally muslim names and 12% higher than traditionally African/West Indian names. Ditto when it comes to acceptance rates at Oxbridge, etc.

118

Aneece 05.15.11 at 7:54 pm

Good lord, Henri. You’ve been the Amelia Bedelia of the comment section, and then call ME literal minded? I took your “spit in the coffee” example exactly as you meant it, as a signifier for the concealed racial animosity caused by the CRA. Obtuse. Deliberate. Stop. Being it.

119

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 8:06 pm

It’s not clear from you 117 that you agree that the relevant parts of the CRA did aggravate racial animosity, but if you do, please demonstrate that what you call “refusal of basic services/attendant indignity” would represent a more serious problem.

No, the goal was to end segregation

So, has it been successful?

120

Aneece 05.15.11 at 8:18 pm

Henri, let me try a meta analogy: It’s as if I said, “doing X is pointless and cruel, like stealing third base in the top of the ninth inning of a baseball game with a ten run lead.” And you respond, “I don’t see the connection to X. It’s not a game played outdoors, it doesn’t involve grown men in uniforms, nor is it very popular in Japan”.

To be absolutely clear, the analogy in this analogy is the unnecessary meaness of the base stealing. I think you know this, but are being tactical in your misunderstanding.

Now, in answer to your question, I don’t think it did aggravate racial animosity, at least not in the aggregate. But, yes, there are sure to be SOME negative outcomes due to the CRA, just like SOMETIMES people do get trapped in burning vehicles due to their seat-belts. And yet I think it’s insane to hand wring over the problems of hidden racists being forced to serve black people, just as it is to obsess over death by seat belt. It’s the choice between a small evil in exchange for a big evil.

121

StevenAttewell 05.15.11 at 8:36 pm

Henry at 118:

I’ve explained why denial of basic services is a more serious problem than individual animosity – see 104 and 105. Economic retaliation to uphold Jim Crow went way beyond spit in coffee.

And the Civil Rights Act has been moderately, though not completely successful. Disenfranchisement was generally eliminated, and modern disenfranchisement is an illegal, marginal behavior (Title I). Discrimination in “hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters, and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce” was eliminated – with very few private clubs retaining exclusive policies as well (Title II). State and local governments have ceased de jure discrimination (Titles III and IV, VI). Title VII (employment discrimination) is a bit of a mixed bag – certainly, there’s much less than there was in 1964, but the extent to which it remains is rather difficult to deal with under the Act (largely due to S.C decisions and uneven enforcement, rather than the act itself). Housing discrimination wasn’t covered in the ’64 Act – had to wait until ’68 – but there has been much less success here, due to a multiplicity of factors.

So overall, yeah the 1964 Act was successful.

122

Phil 05.15.11 at 8:41 pm

If someone doesn’t want to serve me at a restaurant based on the way I look, I’d prefer them to refuse outright, rather than doing it because of the fear of a lawsuit.

How about if no restaurant at all in the town where you live wants to serve you based on the way you look? Or no restaurant for fifty miles around? Or if the norm of not serving people who look like Henri is so embedded that any restaurateur who wants to violate it comes under financial or personal pressure to comply?

123

PHB 05.15.11 at 8:48 pm

Ron Paul was a racist before he became a ‘libertarian’ and has done nothing to suggest he has ceased being a racist since.

I guess we could pretend that his opposition to the civil rights act is purely a result of his libertarian philosophy, just like we could pretend that lowering taxes increases revenues and we can all loose weight eating ice cream.

Or we could instead pick the more likely conclusion that Ron Paul is in fact a racist who turned to libertarianism when he discovered that it provided him with a convenient cover for his racist views when outright racism became unfashionable.

124

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 9:09 pm

@119 Well, if you don’t believe it aggravated racial animosity, then, under this assumption, everything you’re saying makes perfect sense.

@120, 121, If there is not a single black-owned store in town, and a vast majority of the landlords and employers are white, then, I would argue, the main problem is not segregation, but the poverty. And then the feel-good anti-discrimination efforts for restaurants and hotels are simply missing the point. Which is exactly what we observe 50 years after.

125

Aneece 05.15.11 at 9:19 pm

Henri, one way I know racial animosity is less than it was:
1) We no longer hold well attended picnics in public parks beneath the burnt corpses of castrated black men.

2) We have a black president.

We can play dueling anecdotes if you want, but I think I hold the trump card.

126

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.15.11 at 9:25 pm

The question is not whether it’s less than it was, but whether it’s less than it would’ve been.

127

Aneece 05.15.11 at 9:34 pm

See Boston, then see Chicago. Norms changed.

128

StevenAttewell 05.15.11 at 9:53 pm

123 – poverty is sidestepping the issue; capital was held in the hands of whites-only as much as possible, starting right at 1865, and the Federal government were faced with a situation where virtually all businesses were white owned. In that situation, when black people are being systematically denied access to employment, housing, food, and other necessities, there was no alternative. At the end of the day, you’ve got millions of black people who are under threat of economic devastation if they cross racial lines.

Anti-discrimination efforts on those areas were not “missing the point;” it meant that black people could exercise their democratic rights without economic retaliation. It’s obviously not a panacea, poverty and wealth inequality still have to be dealt with, but without it, it’s almost impossible to make any headway.

129

Phil 05.15.11 at 10:09 pm

Henri – how did ‘the poverty’ get there? Or rather, how did it (in your example) acquire such definite and entrenched racial characteristics? This is a pattern of disadvantage and one-sided exploitation as between two groups we’re talking about here, not sickle cell.

130

Bruce Baugh 05.15.11 at 10:28 pm

Tim Worstall: Don’t be blitheringly stupid. A sufficiently high level of intermarriage (one that the UK passed decades ago as regards Afro Caribbeans for example) means that there aren’t any minorities about which anyone can be prejudiced.

Eventually, sure. But in the meantime there are generations of people who are born, live, and die in the UK suffering all kinds of public and private disadvantage because as things are now they’re marked as non-white, other, lesser. Telling them that things will probably be lots better in 2300 seems like way less than a morally responsible sort of answer. What about those who feel like they should be getting more equitable treatment and outcomes now?

131

Alex 05.15.11 at 10:34 pm

It is surprising that libertarians don’t seem to grasp the real possibilities of coercion by contract. It is, after all, fairly common as a criminal or political gambit. Company towns are an example. The various versions of the Mafia are another – to a large extent it works by imposing itself as a contractual arbitrator.

This is a distinction, I think, that comes from the fact that not many libertarians are actual business people, nor do they think about business rather than economics. In a lot of supply chains there are quite a lot of potential control-points – typical ones are wholesale suppliers and some kinds of financial institutions. If you can’t get trade credit, or only get it on extortionate terms, your business is basically fucked. Similarly, if your access to important supply chain nodes (North American example: the grain elevator) is constrained you’re not going to be competing.

It’s well known that the temptation to organise a cartel for profit is very strong; the corollary is that organising one for power is at least as tempting.

This is all very strange, as the classic libertarian text is after all about a boycott.

132

Alex 05.15.11 at 10:37 pm

Also, Tim hasn’t actually lived in the UK for many years and he may have a rosy view of the issue. Further, the state of affairs he describes, in as far as it is realistic, is the result of 40 years of very deliberate effort by government and by social organisations. The various acts of parliament on racial discrimination are, well, the law.

133

Lee A. Arnold 05.15.11 at 10:41 pm

Suppose nobody will deal with you. Take the libertarian logic all the way. If the racist shopkeeper won’t sell to you because of your skin color, then he is hypothesizing that you have somewhere else to go. So let’s apply that blind adherence to absolute logic which is so endearing of the libertarians; let’s suppose that nobody else in the world will deal with you, either. Well, you can’t go buy your own island, because you don’t have any money, because nobody in the world would give you a job. So the big question is: At that point, is the racist shopkeeper obliged to deal with you, to sell you bread? Because otherwise you would die, which (I will guess) violates your negative liberty. So the libertarian defense of the racist shopkeeper is based upon a contingency of the world (i.e. that there is some other place to go, a ghetto perhaps), and not only based on the faulty principle that rights to properties will be non-conflicting. In fact there are three premises: (1) the faulty principle that rights to properties will be non-conflicting; (2) the contingency in the world that there is some place else to go; and (3) the assumption that someone can intentionally do something detrimental to your interests while claiming to be indifferent to your suffering, and thus escape moral blame. If you take it logically all the way, Ron Paul’s position is like saying, “You cannot live, and you have no right to.”

134

LizardBreath 05.15.11 at 10:46 pm

Because otherwise you would die, which (I will guess) violates your negative liberty.

I think that guess is where you part company with hardline libertarians. I’m pretty sure that if you starve to death because no one will sell you food, Ron Paul wouldn’t call that a violation of your ‘rights’.

135

JP Stormcrow 05.15.11 at 11:42 pm

“With regard to the idea of whether or not you have a right to buy bread, you have to realize what that implies. It’s not an abstraction. I’m a bread salesman, and that means you have a right to come to my house and conscript me. It means you believe in slavery. It means that you are going to enslave not only me but the janitor at my store, the bakers who bake the bread, the farmers who grow the wheat.”

136

Lee A. Arnold 05.16.11 at 12:02 am

It means you will expand to fill the whole cosmos, and to control all worlds!

137

Alex 05.16.11 at 12:10 am

Jim Crow had two important components of state discrimination, within the reach of the federal government under the 14th amendment:

1. Government mandating discrimination. Rosa Parks was sent to the back of the bus as mandated by state law, not because the bus driver was a racist.

2. Government discriminating in extending the protection of the law, and thus enabling private discrimination of a rather violent sort. Not sending the police around if the Klan are burning down your house.

What about:

3. A wealthy property owner opens a shop and refuses to serve customers that are black. When the black customers refuse to leave his shop, he calls the police, and the government dutifully responds by violently removing them from his premises.

Libertarianism is about “freedom from government”, right? Now when libertarians (and most other people) demand freedom of speech, freedom from torture, freedom of religion and so on, there is one key aspect that is common to all these freedoms – namely that every single one of us has them in equal amounts. We all have the same amount of freedom of religion etc.

But property rights don’t work like that. We don’t all have the same right to property. Some have little or no property. And a small elite have vast swathes of property. So when we look at a libertarian state where the government refuses to interfere in who a business owner serves (freedom from government), we also have to look at the other side of the coin, at all the other people denied the enjoyment of that property (not just those the businessman refused to serve, but everyone else too, since only that businessman owns that property, no-one else). Those people can be removed by the government from that property, at the businessman’s mere whim. The government interfere’s with which points on the Earth’s surface they can freely interact with. As #1 says, MEN WITH GUNS from the government will remove them from that land. Their “freedom from government” is violated. And because the distribution of property is unequal, then it follows that those with more property have more “freedom from government” than those with less, all other things equal.

So unless everyone shares property in some fashion, or we split the world’s property 6.8 billion equal ways, then some people have more freedom from government, greater rights. Now, what could justify an unequal distribution of property and thus unequal amounts of freedom from government?

Your answer ought to be quite enlightening.

138

Alex 05.16.11 at 12:11 am

Blockquote fail. 1 and 2 should be in the quote.

139

MarkUp 05.16.11 at 1:06 am

@105 – “I’ve yet to see libertarians grapple with the reality of company towns in America.”

This is where the gold standard comes in to play. It’s raining outdoors now, besides the Apple/Facebook/Google cloud now own the Mill. Redundant will be made virtual one day.

140

John Holbo 05.16.11 at 3:14 am

“It’s entirely possible, again as I understand it, for it to be immoral according to libertarians for the law to insist on a particular outcome even while such solves a social outcome which many/most libertarians would personally consider immoral.”

But why should propertarians personally consider it immoral? Deciding, personally, to support social Jim Crow is a private decision to do something privately with your private property. You might suggest that it’s immoral to be racist, but I’m not sure that libertarians are committed to that. It’s a matter of private belief, after all. And if your actions, pursuant of your private beliefs, extend only to the uses of your private property, it’s hard to me to see where the immorality in it lies, for a propertarian. You have the right to believe what you want. You could say that it’s immoral to harm others, but that’s not really true. (If your business drives theirs into the ground, and they are financially harmed by that, that’s ok.) The one thing you can’t do is infringe the freedom of others. But, by hypothesis, even fairly grinding social oppression may not be an infringement of the freedom of those ground down, so long as the grinding proceeds by the exercise of private property rights. So if there’s no wrongful harm in social Jim Crow, from a propertarian point of view, it’s hard to see why it should be regarded as immoral at all.

I realize that you, Tim Worstall, are not really defending the libertarian position. But I do think it’s useful to see how propertarians who deplore Jim Crow, while assuring us libertarianism would (probably) take care of it, are importing values of freedom that are apparently inconsistent with their own philosophical position, or at least external to it. And if it’s ok for libertarians to wander off the libertarian path like that, it’s hard to see why non-libertarians should listen to libertarians when they are urging us to stay on the libertarian path.

141

Pinko Punko 05.16.11 at 5:09 am

Are we not ignoring the marketarian stripe of libertarianism that says clearly some business owner would immediately fill the supply gap for feeding and sheltering of our discriminated-against souls? Perhaps we aren’t, because as long as the status quo deprives these individuals of capital yearning to be free, we may respect the market’s right to remain silent on these matters. We certainly wouldn’t want to comment on a possible hypothetical cartel of likeminded racists who would restrict access anyway to our colorblind market forces, should they wish to exert themselves.

On the other hand, some forward looking Galtian overlord might imagine the uses these disenfranchised might bring to society by subsidizing their relocation and employment, realizing of course that costs might be recouped once these individuals multiply and their labor is monetized. It would be a market driven investment. Perhaps costs could be recouped maximally by having them also live in the company town with company currency? This might have been touched upon above.

142

Alex 05.16.11 at 5:30 am

But why should propertarians personally consider it immoral? Deciding, personally, to support social Jim Crow is a private decision to do something privately with your private property. You might suggest that it’s immoral to be racist, but I’m not sure that libertarians are committed to that. It’s a matter of private belief, after all. And if your actions, pursuant of your private beliefs, extend only to the uses of your private property, it’s hard to me to see where the immorality in it lies, for a propertarian.

John, I can be as critical as libertarians/propertarians as the next guy, but this argument of yours is silly. Presumably you don’t think adultery should be illegal? And yet I reckon that if your wife (assuming you have one) had an affair, you’d be mighty cheesed off.

143

John Holbo 05.16.11 at 5:34 am

“John, I can be as critical as libertarians/propertarians as the next guy, but this argument of yours is silly. Presumably you don’t think adultery should be illegal? And yet I reckon that if your wife (assuming you have one) had an affair, you’d be mighty cheesed off.”

Well, that’s sort of the question, isn’t it? Adultery is generally regarded as a private vice, not a public or political one. It’s also a contractual violation between two partners, presumably. We don’t normally think of being a racist, or social Jim Crow, as being quite like that. So on what basis does a propertarian derive moral disapproval of social Jim Crow? I’m not saying it’s impossible. I’m just saying it isn’t obvious, and that the results may look a bit odd.

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Alex 05.16.11 at 5:36 am

Or, to take this argument to its logical conclusion, each of us must be in favour of censoring all the views we consider immoral if the set of all ought to be legal but nevertheless still immoral actions is a null set.

145

Alex 05.16.11 at 5:39 am

#143 was posted before I saw #142.

Well, racism is immoral to most leftists, including myself. But many of us also believe in freedom of speech even for views we disapprove of. Are you also saying that the reconciliation of these two concepts “isn’t obvious, and that the results may look a bit odd”?

146

StevenAttewell 05.16.11 at 6:03 am

Pinko Punko – except that historically, business owners “fill[ed] the supply gap for feeding and sheltering of our discriminated-against souls” by providing people with no alternatives shoddier products at inflated prices, and since monopoly rent profits are higher than competitive profits, they have a vested interest in Jim Crow staying the way it is.

That’s the promise with reflexive appeal to market forces – monopolies always sneak in.

147

StevenAttewell 05.16.11 at 6:05 am

* had, not have.

And while I’m at it, wouldn’t this debate be a lot more productive if historical economics was as widespread and reflexive as Econ101?

148

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.16.11 at 7:11 am

@StevenAttewell It’s obviously not a panacea, poverty and wealth inequality still have to be dealt with, but without it, it’s almost impossible to make any headway.

I don’t see it that way; it’s not obvious to me that cause-and-effect are aligned like this.

I’m not against social engineering, but in this economic system there have to be more clever ways to do it; like that law with Indians and casino licenses, for example. The federal government is very powerful, and if they really wanted to help, they could, for example, force their military contractors to build factories in economically depressed minority areas, hire locals there, and pay good wages. If that worked and reduced or even eliminated the white/black wealth disparity, I’m sure a whole lot of racial problems would go away as well.

149

Henri Vieuxtemps 05.16.11 at 7:13 am

@StevenAttewell It’s obviously not a panacea, poverty and wealth inequality still have to be dealt with, but without it, it’s almost impossible to make any headway.

I don’t see it that way; it’s not obvious to me that cause-and-effect are aligned like this.

I’m not against social engineering, but in this economic system there have to be more clever ways to do it; like that law with Indians and cas1no licenses, for example. The federal government is very powerful, and if they really wanted to help, they could, for example, force their military contractors to build factories in economically depressed minority areas, hire locals there, and pay good wages. If that worked and reduced or even eliminated the white/black wealth disparity, I’m sure a whole lot of racial problems would go away as well.

150

Tim Worstall 05.16.11 at 7:19 am

@129 “Eventually, sure. But in the meantime there are generations of people who are born, live, and die in the UK suffering all kinds of public and private disadvantage because as things are now they’re marked as non-white, other, lesser. “

Depends rather on the meaning of “eventually”. If 2300 as you indicate then perhaps you’re right. But it just doesn’t take that long, or at least hasn’t taken that long in the UK. West Indians started turning up in large numbers what, in the 1950s? The intermarriage rate now is something like 30-35% of Afro-Caribbeans marrying non-A-Cs. This is a self-solving problem.

Perhaps not as fast as we’d all like it to be but then that’s true of large parts of life.

Further, I’d argue that it’s the only final disposition possible of the problem: as and when US intermarriage rates approach the same sort of levels then race as a problem in the US will be near to an end.

“Worstall – are you really saying that racial discrimination is dead in the U.K?”

No, I’m saying that it’s dying.

@139 “But why should propertarians personally consider it immoral?”

I believe that it’s a fairly basic tenet of libertarianism that morality and the law are different things. It tends to be conservatives (and certain flavours of leftists I suppose) who think they should be the same thing. There might well be (I’ve no idea but can imagine there are) libertarians who think that consensual buggery is immoral but if they then use that perceived immorality to insist that consensual buggery should be illegal then they’re not actually being libertarians. Social or religious conservatives perhaps, but not libertarians (nor even liberals).

Similarly most libertarians think (Objectivists perhaps aside) that aid to the poor, food to the hungry, treatment to the sick, is a moral activity: but not that there should be a legal obligation to provide such through the coercive powers of the State and taxation.

To a certain degree of approximation this divorce between morality and law is what defines libertarianism. Which comes back to, even if a libertarian thought that Jim Crow was immoral, there are two parts to that. The imposition of it by law is one immorality, the banishment of social Jim Crow by law another: even while deploring social Jim Crow itself as immoral.

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John Holbo 05.16.11 at 7:32 am

“Are you also saying that the reconciliation of these two concepts “isn’t obvious, and that the results may look a bit odd”?”

No, I understand how it works in the liberal case. Suppose I disapprove of racism – I do! – but think I don’t have the right legally to forbid anyone from having racist beliefs – I don’t! How that works is a combination of principles of tolerance, rights and no-harm. Basically, I think people should be allowed to think and do what they like, so long as they don’t harm people. In some cases, I will tolerate some harm – hurtful speech and such – for the sake of a larger principle – free speech – which I believe in for itself, and for the good consequences that I think will generally flow from keeping it strong. (I’m not saying how this works is obvious, but it’s pretty well combed-over at this point.)

Now how does it go in the propertarian case, re: Jim Crow. (I need to distinguish propertarians from other libertarians, because a liberal libertarian has none of these problems.) A propertarian can, presumably, disapprove of social Jim Crow, not on political of social grounds – as a liberal would – but, as it were, ‘privately’, as in the adultery case. But, in fact, no one does this, I think. We often hear that we should ignore a politician’s private vices – adultery, say – because it doesn’t bear on his (or her) public role. Bedroom stuff can stay in the bedroom, and what happens in Vegas can stay in Vegas, maybe. But no one would say that about Jim Crow. Everyone in fact disapproves of Jim Crow because of its political and social character, not just because everyone who is contributing to this ugly political and social situation is, privately, an unvirtuous figure. What this shows, I think, is propertarians who disapprove of Jim Crow are, in fact, operating with a ‘richer’ political theory than they think they are operating with. They actually disapprove of social Jim Crow for the reasons pretty much everyone else does. But there really isn’t space for this in their theory.

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Phil 05.16.11 at 7:46 am

they could, for example, force their military contractors to build factories in economically depressed minority areas, hire locals there, and pay good wages

Remember that the problem we’re trying to solve is endemic discrimination against an identifiable minority group. What in the name of Rand is going to make the managers of those new factories hire members of the minority group, rather than choosing freely to recruit from a bit further away?

As far as we can tell, Rand Paul’s answer to “I’m going to use my economic power to discriminate against ethnic minorities” is “I’m sorry to hear that”. Brett’s answer seems to be something like “you’ll never make that pay” or “people will never let you get away with that” – but we know that, if businesses are allowed to, they can get away with that, and they can make it pay. Henri’s now proposing “aha, try doing it under these ingeniously minority-favouring conditions!”, but I can’t see that working either. The only answer – and it’s an answer that is known to work – is “that’s not allowed”.

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sg 05.16.11 at 8:06 am

It seems to me that this version of libertarianism enables a natural method by which a libertarian community could force black people back into slavery – or extermination – without ever breaching their “rights” as carefully defined by Brett. It depends on the victim group being economically weak for starters (e.g. fresh out of slavery) but that’s about all. Like this:

1) the majority group decides voluntarily to use its voluntary powers over its own property to exclude the minority from economic life: refuse to serve them in shops, refuse to employ them or offer them housing, so that the minority group rapidly becomes impoverished
2) as the community becomes impoverished, the majority community voluntarily offer to buy back their property at below market rates, further weakening them
3) the majority group decides voluntarily to use its voluntary powers over its own property to prevent the minority leaving: refuses to sell them bus tickets, plane tickets or gasoline
4) the majority group calls in all debts and evicts the minority from all current property, using the strictly legal stipulations of current contract law (1 months’ notice etc)
5) now this minority is essentially homeless and bankrupt, the majority group forms an association that offers them housing and employment in a specified camp area, under extremely punitive terms, including that they have to seek the camp manger’s permission to leave. They can own their own property inside camp, but admission to the camp is the cost of everything they still own. Every member of the minority group who chooses to enter the camp does so of their own free will, signing a contract. The remainder, starve to death outside or find a way to leave without any economic support.

Note also how easy step 3) is under a perfect libertarian society where all roads are privately owned.

At this point it’s up to the majority group to decide whether or not to start cutting the food allocation to the people in this camp, or use them to pick cotton.

At no point have they broken anyone’s “rights.” You could even stipulate this happening in a perfect libertarian community where the government strictly prevents any violence or outright theft – no lynching or cross burning (except in public spaces!) But in such a perfect libertarian community the majority group could openly state in media their intention to enslave the minority through voluntary action, and it would be legal and there would be nothing the rapidly empoverished community could do.

I’m interested to hear from the libertarians in the audience where in this model the minority group’s “rights” (under libertarian terms) have been violated. Where could a Federal government step in to prevent the process without abusing the “rights” of the majority community?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.16.11 at 8:38 am

@Phil Remember that the problem we’re trying to solve is endemic discrimination against an identifiable minority group. What in the name of Rand is going to make the managers of those new factories hire members of the minority group, rather than choosing freely to recruit from a bit further away?

That these factories are financed by federal money, federal contracts. So, the feds, if they wanted to, could add these conditions to the contracts. Feds do this all the time – allocating funds directly (so called “pork”), or creating tax breaks, or giving cas1no licenses to an ethnic group – to promote this or that social change or social goal.

For example, they want you to own a house, so they could (arguably) pass a law like this: if your income is above X, then you must buy a house; instead they choose a more subtle (and more meaningful, given the socioeconomic system) mechanism: making mortgage interest tax-deductible.

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Phil 05.16.11 at 11:16 am

So, the feds, if they wanted to, could add these conditions to the contracts.

At which point the local majority community screams government racial discrimination, and you’re back to square one.

156

Barry 05.16.11 at 11:22 am

Tim Worstall 05.15.11 at 8:10 am
” But we have reasonable (no, I don’t insist it proves it, just that it indicates that) evidence from another time and place that the social side did go away all on its ownsome.”

As has been pointed out, your evidence is weak, and that’s for the situation in the UK.
In the US, which is the context of the original post, things were rather different. And it wasn’t due to just the fault of the evul guvmint; Jim Crow was the result of a 30-odd year terror campaign by people who had been divested of their government powers; they took those back by private social organization.

157

Brett Bellmore 05.16.11 at 11:43 am

“Given that Brett Bellmore has stated he’s okay with a Jim Crow outcome of market decisions, what good does it do to engage with him about the particulars?”

Well, once you’re willing to start with false premises, you can prove pretty much anything. Let’s be clear about this: “Jim Crow” was a system of coercively enforced racial discrimination. You can’t divorce “Jim Crow” from the coercion. When people say they disapprove of “Jim Crow”, they’re not talking about private discrimination carried out without any coercion. They’re talking about a system where racial discrimination was enforced by armed gangs which would attack you if you didn’t take part in it. One of the gangs being the government…

So, no, as a libertarian I am NOT ok with Jim Crow.

Furthermore, as a person, I’m not ok with private racism carried out apart from any coercion. I think it’s a disgusting vice. I’ll have no part of it, I do not associate with people who engage in it.

But, again, as a libertarian I don’t think vices are appropriately the subject of laws. Social condemnation, shunning, that sort of thing, but not of laws.

In fact, I’ll go further: My disgust with racism is one of the things that makes me dislike “liberals”. Because you use of tendentious defintions to establish your innocence while you demand systematic racial discrimination in such areas as hiring and school admissions doesn’t particularly fool me.

Finally, SG, interesting scenario. The libertarian response would be, it violates nobody’s rights if somebody on a deserted island starves to death because they can’t supply all of their needs themselves. Why, then, would it violate their rights if there happened to be other people about, and the same thing happened anyway?

But even in a liberal world, if everybody is against you, you’re screwed. So how does this implausible scenario make libertarianism look any worse than liberalism?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.16.11 at 11:47 am

@Phil, sure, but I don’t think it would be nearly as controversial (at the grassroots level, at least) as a ban on discrimination by private parties. Besides, local majorities would benefit from it too, to an extent.

159

Nababov 05.16.11 at 11:54 am

“Why, then, would it violate their rights if there happened to be other people about, and the same thing happened anyway?”

It does seem sometimes like the ideal world for some libertarians would be one with no one else in it.

160

sg 05.16.11 at 12:03 pm

So you agree, Brett, that the scenario is plausible under a libertarian society, without anyone breaking any laws?

Note that further up thread someone else pointed out that if you give up your property rights you are giving up a fundamental freedom and handing your rights over to someone else to control. The ominous threat here is that society will then degenerate into some kind of horror zone of stolen rights.

But here we have a society where the only thing protected is property rights, and we have a scenario for the perfectly legal implementation of slavery or genocide. How can society get worse than that?

In a liberal world, if everyone is against you you’re screwed. But you won’t find defenders of the liberal order saying this is an acceptable philosophical outcome of their politics, and a lot of work goes into finding ways to balance the various forces in society so that doesn’t happen (e.g. by repealing Jim Crow laws). Yet here you are accepting that it violates no-ones rights if a majority of your preferred society implement a conscious scheme to enslave a minority. Do you see which of these is worse?

161

Hidari 05.16.11 at 12:15 pm

oooooooooh do we have a real life libertarian here?

Perhaps I may ask then: what would a libertarian have to say about this?

Because I genuinely don’t see how a libertarian could even begin to have an opinion on it.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.16.11 at 1:16 pm

@sg,Where could a Federal government step in to prevent the process without abusing the “rights” of the majority community?

But what makes you think that the feds are eager to step in to prevent the process? Open manifestations of racism are embarrassing (especially back then, in the cold war context), but exploiting (in a very similar way to what you described), say, undocumented laborers in the US, or Chinese workers by US-owned companies in China or Saipan, – that’s just fine, the feds don’t mind at all.

163

michael e sullivan 05.16.11 at 1:25 pm

JH, I’m don’t actually agree with the Paul/Bellmore position here, but for the sake of a nit, I will play devil’s advocate on one issue.

One serious question is the counterfactual: would things get better if governmental Jim-Crow were abolished, but social Jim Crow left in place (or at least, no federal law against it). This depends greatly on what we mean by social Jim Crow.

If racists are allowed to privately enforce their code on blacks, and this is tacitly accepted by the government (i.e., the police won’t help you remove someone by force or lynch them, but they won’t put you in prison for doing it either), then this is still in a sense governmental Jim Crow.

If racists are free to not transact with black people, but are *not* free to prevent them by violence from transacting with each other or non-racist whites and others, then it is perfectly possible for black people to build up a great deal of property. History bears this out. There were some very successful primarily black towns in the South during reconstruction. They disappeared or failed because racist terrorists pillaged and burned them, stealing or destroying their property and killing many of the people, not unlike the pogroms in eastern Europe.

Even while they were unable to transact business fairly and equitably with most of the white population, and even under real and actual Jim Crow, it was possible for blacks to build their own settlements and economies that were quite a bit more successful than anything they could experience as sharecroppers or servants in racist white communities — *until* the white people took notice and destroyed them violently.

A legal regime in which laws against violence were truly enforced equitably would almost certainly have been enough to make a huge difference.

The question I have (and the reason I could never take the hard-right-libertarian line on this question) is whether it was possible for legal enforcement against violence to ever be equitable in the immediately post-Jim Crow south. It’s still not completely equitable *today* in places that don’t have a legacy of slavery or explicit Jim Crow laws. Given that, some kind of strict legal guidelines to push in that direction were, I believe necessary and appropriate.

But the idea that a truly non-discriminatory legal regime could and probably would ultimately have led to the end of social Jim Crow as well (or at least something like what we have now — still heavily discriminatory, but rarely explicitly so and much ameliorated among most of the white population) doesn’t seem at all far-fetched to me.

The question is whether such a legal regime was possible in the absence of specific federal steps against the social structure of Jim Crow. I don’t think it was, and I think the reason people like Paul and Bellmore take the position they do is not that they disagree, it’s that they don’t even ask themselves the question.

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michael e sullivan 05.16.11 at 1:40 pm

Well, SG, from a counterfactual corner-case standpoint you’ve clearly enumerated the problem with a pure propertarian system. In practice your system will never happen without tacit government consent allowing private force to be used to get every single white person on board with your scheme. In the Jim Crow south there were plenty of whites in some sympathy with blacks, but who did not act out of fear of retribution. In a situation where they could be reasonably certain that the government would protect *their* property and person to the same extent as it protected Klan members, there would be a sizable minority of propertied members of the majority willing to transact fairly with minority persons at least to the extent that it would keep them out of slavery or genocide, even if it was just for the purpose of spiriting them out of the country.

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Andrew 05.16.11 at 2:51 pm

JH @151: Everyone in fact disapproves of Jim Crow because of its political and social character, not just because everyone who is contributing to this ugly political and social situation is, privately, an unvirtuous figure. What this shows, I think, is propertarians who disapprove of Jim Crow are, in fact, operating with a ‘richer’ political theory than they think they are operating with. They actually disapprove of social Jim Crow for the reasons pretty much everyone else does. But there really isn’t space for this in their theory.

You’re imputing the following claim to propertarians:

X is wrongfully harmful if and only if X violates a person’s rights.

If denied, this puts the propertarian in the awkward position of having to explain why, if social Jim Crow is wrongfully harmful, the government cannot forbid it.

But this isn’t really much of a trap. A propertarian explains that not all forms of wrongful harm justify the use of violence to prevent such harm; or that a due respect for the dignity of each person must entail allowing each person to use their sphere of freedom in a way that will, in certain ways, harm others; or, contingently, that in the case of the US, he believes that the harm permitted is outweighed by the harm that would be done by reducing property rights; or any of a variety of other moves. He’ll explain, in short, that “wrongful harm” does not always mean “harm that the government would be justified in forbidding.”

Part of the problem is that there are different premises on which a general libertarian theory might stand. Different combinations of those premises can result in different responses to the problem you’ve raised. There may be some specific set of premises which really does lock a particular type of libertarian into a contradiction – or at least into a moral claim that is not supportable by his theory – but not all libertarians will be so trapped.

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Main Street Muse 05.16.11 at 3:46 pm

A country that was born of the idea that “all men are created equal” and that prides itself on offering “liberty and justice for all” cannot retain those ideals when it also enacts and enforces laws that restrict equality and justice for those citizens with darker skin.

The CRA, enacted nearly 50 years ago, was written to overwrite numerous laws enacted and enforced to restrict liberty, equality and justice for people who were of African descent.

That we are arguing the point today is a significant victory for racists.

167

Slocum 05.16.11 at 3:48 pm

John wrote: “But why should propertarians personally consider it immoral? Deciding, personally, to support social Jim Crow is a private decision to do something privately with your private property. You might suggest that it’s immoral to be racist, but I’m not sure that libertarians are committed to that. It’s a matter of private belief, after all. And if your actions, pursuant of your private beliefs, extend only to the uses of your private property, it’s hard to me to see where the immorality in it lies, for a propertarian.”

I think that you’re going too far with what we can ascribe to libertarianism. Suppose that we live in Libertarianland and I am a racist shopkeeper who refuses to serve African Americans. Some years later, I come to see that my racism is wrong and serve all equally. On your construal, I cannot be properly said to see how my past self and my past actions were wrong, since, after all, Old Racist Me was just using his property, etc. But the move from seeing racism as a-okay to seeing it as wrong had better be describable in moral terms even in Libertarianland. Of course, you’re free to just say this is a massive reductio of libertarianism, showing it to be like emotivism.

What libertarian claims to think is wrong is interference with persons’ use of their property that does not infringe on the right of others to use their property. I can muster moral disapproval of racist shopkeepers and try to persuade others to boycott them. Racist shopkeepers can make the next move using their speech rights and property rights. There does not seem to be any interference implied here.

None of this is meant to be a defence of libertarianism, since I don’t agree with it and I do agree with all those who are skeptical of the idea that a properterian regime would lead to racism, Jim Crow and the like going away.

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sg 05.16.11 at 3:55 pm

But michael, it’s not a corner case. We have examples of historical systems where property owners decided everything that happened in their lands – feudalism – and we’ve seen just how nasty they can be. We also have historical examples of the lengths people will go to to exclude people from the economy, and we know that it can be done efficiently with government coercion. Why should we think that it couldn’t be done with private majority coercion?

You say the government would protect the rights of those minority whites that would continue to trade with blacks, but how? The majority whites can just exclude them economically too – as they did under the Jim Crow system. And this is not “wrong” under libertarian principles, because they’ve very carefully defined “rights” in such a way that you aren’t violating someone’s rights if you and everyone else in your community use a system of economic blockade to force them into starvation.

Corner case or not, the fact that libertarians can’t even say this is wrong says everything you need to know about how useful their ideology is.

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Brett Bellmore 05.16.11 at 4:40 pm

“So you agree, Brett, that the scenario is plausible under a libertarian society, without anyone breaking any laws?”

SG, I explicitly describe the scenario as “implausible”, and your response is that I’ve agreed that it’s “plausible”? Can you explain to me why I should bother replying to anything you say, given that you’re going to invert my response?

170

ScentOfViolets 05.16.11 at 4:48 pm

Don’t be blitheringly stupid. A sufficiently high level of intermarriage (one that the UK passed decades ago as regards Afro Caribbeans for example) means that there aren’t any minorities about which anyone can be prejudiced. This has happened variously with Normans, Saxons, Hugenots, Irish, Catholics, immigrants to mention only my own genetic inheritance.

Worstall is being his usual idiotic self while at the same time calling other people “blitheringly stupid”, I see. No, Tim, genetics doesn’t work that way (or at least not for anything but a very small set of characteristics which old school-types call “incomplete dominance”. But don’t take my word for it, look at someplace like, say, India: despite several centuries of intermixing on the subcontinent, the populace stubbornly persists in taking on every shade of brown from almost coal black to almost lily white.

Ah, speaking of dodgy science, that reminds me: anyone know how Worstall’s super-duper cheap new process that was going to make some of the rarer metals not quite so rare is doing? The one that banks were in the process of financing even as we spoke?

171

Pinko Punko 05.16.11 at 4:51 pm

Steven @146- exactly- hence the magical market being a “no true” creature, except of course if we get rid of all regulation, which only prevents the blessed event from happening. The true, free market. It is just over the horizon, I can feel it.

And now I close the invisible sarcasm tag with extreme prejudice.

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Alex 05.16.11 at 5:08 pm

That we are arguing the point today is a significant victory for racists.

Perhaps, or you could ask – cui bono?

Ah, speaking of dodgy science, that reminds me: anyone know how Worstall’s super-duper cheap new process that was going to make some of the rarer metals not quite so rare is doing? The one that banks were in the process of financing even as we spoke?

Cite?

Also, am I the only one who has noticed that Worstall’s blog seems to have turned into a daily argument by anecdote – “Lefties are shit because of Argentina”, “Public school boys can’t be that privileged, since everyone who went to mine has turned out at best mediocre” etc. It’s either that or regular mudslinging at Richard Murphy. “If Murphy did not exist, it would be necessary for Worstall to invent him” as Voltaire didn’t say.

173

Monster Zero 05.16.11 at 6:56 pm

most corporate liberals are more or less libertarians– but just scared of guns, and too stupid to gamble or solicit ho’s

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NadePaulKuciGravMcKi 05.16.11 at 7:42 pm

… the two parties should be almost identical, so that the American people can “throw the rascals out” at any election without leading to any profound or extreme shifts in policy … Quigley

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aciWaZkvXGI

President Barack Obama
Uncle Sam or Uncle Tom

175

bianca steele 05.16.11 at 8:10 pm

c.l.ball @ 8
Interesting to consider. Suppose your suggestion played out. Some private facilities were segregated and some were not, because some individuals would want segregation and some would not. Of course the private facilities that were not segregated would not hire individuals who wanted segregation.

Now, the libertarian dogma is that the non-segregated facilities would succeed where the segregated facilities failed. Unfortunately, for the individuals who wanted segregation, this would mean the places where they wanted to work tended to fail. They might decide for second-best and go to non-segregated facilities, but these would not hire them, according to their policy.

It seems unfair.

176

bianca steele 05.16.11 at 8:37 pm

Patrick @ 30: no legal Jim Crow in the North
In the public schools, whenever a neighborhood reached a racial tipping point, it was moved to a district unofficially designated as for the new majority race. This is a well known fact.

But pace Steven Attewell, I do think Omega Centauri makes an interesting point. The Cosa Nostra, for example, long predates the existence of liberal democracy (at least it is said to–IIRC Mario Puzo suggests it arose as a reaction to liberal democracy, a fifth-rate imitation of real feudalism–if you consider Mario Puzo to be a competent historian). Why should liberal democracies, these states newly arisen on the bones of the old order, without which they would have no people and no institutions (arguably, even in the Western Hemisphere), not defer to them? They served real functions in their communities.

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Jim Flannery 05.16.11 at 9:43 pm

So is it OK not to do any business with firms that hire doctrinaire libertarians? And could Brett share the name of his employer so we could do so?

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sg 05.17.11 at 12:53 am

Brett, you think it’s implausible because it would never happen, but that’s not a defense of your political theory. You can’t present any argument as to why i’m wrong about the effect of the libertarian principles, and instead blather about dying on a desert island. So I take this as a sign you think this theoretical model is plausible. Please feel free to enlighten me if you think there’s more at fault than that it merely wouldn’t happen.

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Brett Bellmore 05.17.11 at 1:02 am

SG, you posit a situation where everybody is a libertarian, and everybody hates your guts, and attribute the fact that you’d be in deep doo doo to the fact that everybody was a libertarian, rather than your being universally loathed. Meanwhile, in a world where everybody was, say, a utilitarian, and hated your guts, instead of simply being shunned, you’d be starring in the “Flay SG alive telethon for Muscular Dystrophy”, and they’d think it was fine, because it was for a good cause, and the enjoyment everybody got out of your suffering neatly canceled the suffering itself.

And you think libertarianism has problems…

Frankly, liberalism is fine with designating victim classes, and justifying discrimination against them. Ask any Asian American trying to get into the college of their choice, and running up against affirmative action. You even have your five minute hates, though the one against the Koch brothers has gone on for rather more than five minutes.

I’m not impressed with your moral pretensions.

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ScentOfViolets 05.17.11 at 1:30 am

So is it OK not to do any business with firms that hire doctrinaire libertarians? And could Brett share the name of his employer so we could do so?

I would imagine businesses that hire doctrinaire libertarians knowing what the applicant’s ideology is beforehand must be run by doctrinaire libertarians.

Well good luck finding one of those firms; they tend not to remain in business for very long unless they receive regular infusions of taxpayer money.

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Salient 05.17.11 at 1:32 am

When people say they disapprove of “Jim Crow”, they’re not talking about private discrimination carried out without any coercion.

(shrug) but they’d say the same thing about private discrimination carried out without any coercion, and I doubt too many folks are even taking the time to make a careful distinction. When people say they disapprove of “Jim Crow” they’re (usually) expressing disapproval of white people treating black people like dirt. If you ask them why they disapprove, most of ’em will say something like “because you shouldn’t treat people like that” and only a rare, precious few will say “because business owners were being coerced!”

For most people “this was wrong” is distinct from “it was illegal to do otherwise,” even when both happen to be true. (Which I don’t intend to deny.)

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ScentOfViolets 05.17.11 at 1:34 am

I’m not impressed with your moral pretensions.

On the off chance it really has escaped your notice, let me clue you in to the facts of life: Nobody gives a damn what does and does not impress you by virtue of the fact that you’re a rude, dishonest, dissembling little weasel who apparently finds the whole business of arguing in good faith a completely alien notion.

Shorter version: Bite me.

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Salient 05.17.11 at 1:38 am

good luck finding one of those firms; they tend not to remain in business for very long unless they receive regular infusions of taxpayer money.

…ah, so defense contractors, then.

And you think libertarianism has problems…

I will never agree with you more fervently, Brett. Any utilitarian model that allows some people to induce arbitrarily much suffering onto other people is junk. (Now, ok, most of the modern utilitarian models that people take interest in today don’t make this mistake; for example, they set a certain level of suffering effectively at minus infinity, and go into alephs to sustain numerical comparisons. And it was useful to me to learn about early utilitarian models in my undergrad philosophy course. Some junk’s instructive. But still. Opportunities to agree with you are rare, I can’t pass it up.)

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 2:29 am

OK, we’ve got this: “Given that Brett Bellmore has stated he’s okay with a Jim Crow outcome of market decisions”

And then this, from Brett: “Well, once you’re willing to start with false premises, you can prove pretty much anything. Let’s be clear about this: “Jim Crow” was a system of coercively enforced racial discrimination. You can’t divorce “Jim Crow” from the coercion.”

Suppose we have an ideal propertarian society, in terms of its legal structure, consisting of two groups: A’s and B’s. These are social castes or races. The society is 80% A and A’s control 99+% of the property and wealth. All the successful businesses, all the good land. A’s won’t let B’s patronize their business, won’t hire them, won’t mix with them, won’t sell land to them, etc. If any A does any of these things, he or she becomes a B in the eyes of his fellow A’s. If the A/B distinction is racial, then obviously an A doesn’t change race, but the A’s regard ‘B-lovers’, as they call them, as equivalent to B’s. And information gets around efficiently in this propertarian paradise, so any A’s who deal with B’s effectively become B’s themselves, permanently. Finally, suppose it’s quite hard for B’s to leave the area. And we’re done.

Now this toy system is a model of social Jim Crow. It strikes me as perfectly stable potentially. Libertarians usually imagine that some A will break ranks because it is, rationally, to his or her advantage to deal with the B’s. Irrational discrimination creates moneyball opportunity. But it’s easy enough to squash that. Anyone who seizes moneyball opportunity is ruthlessly punished, socially. He used to have a successful restaurant, until he decided to serve B’s, but now no A’s will patronize it, and even his suppliers have all cut him off.

You will object that the real world doesn’t work quite like this. Of course not. But it works somewhat like this. The point is to get clear about the theory. There is legal Jim Crow. And there is social Jim Crow. Normally they are entangled. Conceptually, you can tease them apart. The latter is consistent with perfect propertarianism, at a theoretical level.

Now suppose we set our Scenario 1 alongside Scenario 2. It’s A and B plus the A and B equivalent of the Civil Rights Act. Obviously only the social side, since the society has always been squeaky clean, on the legal-governmental side (for whatever reason). And, for good measure, we throw in a few affirmative action programs for B’s.

Now what is Brett Bellmore’s reaction to scenarios 1 and 2. It’s clear that his theory commits him to preferring scenario 1 because, in that case, there is perfect freedom and equality, by his lights, and everyone treats each other fairly. Yes, people are privately vicious in this society, but they are publicly virtuous, and it’s the public stuff that matters. Their private racism is not made public. So, politically, the situation is ideal. By contrast, in scenario 2, in which we have Civil Rights-style reform of scenario 1, the demon racism has been let loose for the first time. In scenario 2, everyone’s freedom and equality have been fundamentally infringed, people are being unfairly forced into relationships with their fellow citizens that are not of their choosing. And the government itself, by attempting to redress the non-wrongs of the past, has turned into an oppressive, racist regime.

This result seems to me absurd. What do you think, Brett?

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 2:37 am

“This result seems to me absurd.” And don’t just say that it’s absurd because you don’t believe it. I know you don’t believe it. The problem is that you are committed to it.

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 2:42 am

One last clarification, so we don’t get sidetracked: when I say scenario 1 is perfectly stable, I don’t mean I’m sure it will be a Thousand Year Reich. I just mean I don’t see why it couldn’t last for quite a while. Any ideal, propertarian society is going to be hopping, economically. Rapid economic change could mean rapid social change. But I don’t see that the system will necessarily have an inherent tendency to undermine its own A/B social structure.

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StevenAttewell 05.17.11 at 3:05 am

Henri @149 – I’m sorry, if you can’t understand how an inability to buy food might impede people’s willingness to assert their basic rights, you’re not arguing in good faith.

Regarding the “build Federal factories” argument, we have historical evidence of this as well: the WPA provided the first real competition for rural Southern employers, and later the war industries would do the same. We know what the response was – Southern farmers were outraged (famously, one Southern constituent wrote his Congressmen to ask “how am I supposed to hire a [racial expletive deleted] to chop cotton for fifty cents a day, when he can get a dollar an hour to dig a ditch?”), and tried as much as possible to undermine and eliminate the program, and then during the war, everything possible to keep factories and army bases Jim Crow.

And again, it’s hard to get political support for these actions when existing economic institutions can be used to threaten and intimidate people from voting, allowing Jim Crow a monopoly on the political process.

But more importantly – none of these things would be acceptable to libertarians. Federal intervention in the economy, etc.

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StevenAttewell 05.17.11 at 3:28 am

Holbo – what about the “racist monopoly profit” addendum to that argument? The appeal to market forces doesn’t work if higher profits can accrue from charging As a premium for a B-free lifestyle, and charging Bs a premium because they can’t access potentially-competing A-only producers.

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Andrew 05.17.11 at 3:28 am

A libertarian does not have to concede Scenario 1 to be perfect politically, since he is not committed to the proposition that the perfection of a polity consists in the mere respect of the negative liberties of others.

Libertarians can view a society riven by bigotry as morally inferior as a society. But rather than infringe property rights, they might support alternative means for improvement: fully integrated schools, curriculum designed to increase positive interactions and cast doubt on racism (or… consonantism, in the example), programs designed to increase capital investment in areas that are underinvested due to a manifest failure of the market, and so forth.

The complications you add to the hypothetical allows the discussion to become more about sociology and political science than political philosophy.

Let’s lay out the same scenario.

And then let’s just posit this: the CRA is the ONLY WAY to end the brutal exclusion of B from social and economic opportunity.

If the CRA were the ONLY WAY to end the brutal exclusion of B from social and economic opportunities, could a libertarian support it?

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Lee A. Arnold 05.17.11 at 4:03 am

Brett Bellmore #157 : “The libertarian response would be, it violates nobody’s rights if somebody on a deserted island starves to death because they can’t supply all of their needs themselves. Why, then, would it violate their rights if there happened to be other people about, and the same thing happened anyway?”

Ans.: Because in that case, the logical conclusion is that the others are contributing to your death, if they are not completely causing it. Your real fault on the island was that you did not leave it, to go to a place with specialization and trade. Trade is necessary for the getting of the things of life, because of the division of labor. In fact it would be very rare to supply those wants on most islands. (Indeed you couldn’t buy the island anyhow as I pointed out in #133, though apparently to no avail.)

In addition to the racist shopkeeper’s reprehensible behaviors, he is imposing something like illegal “restraint of trade” upon the customer he discriminates against. Because no one could live in any economy with others and not do some sort of trade. This extends logically to allowing trade immediately for everyone.

Now, if the libertarians are going to hinge their arguments upon the contingency that there is some place else for the discriminated to go to, then we are free and justified to enter a multitude of our own contingencies upon their ridiculous logical arguments, right on down the line, which will easily prove that they are gibberish.

Back in the real world, our morals are partly informed by the necessity of trade, as well as by the necessity of property. Trade and property are different necessities, two different rights actually, and they also conflict sometimes, and one does not outweigh the other by any cosmic law.

In continuance of same: Since trade is necessary to all people because of the division of labor, therefore your engagement in trade makes you subject to universal rules which pertain to the getting of sustenance by anyone in particular. To learn those rules, you need only to follow the course of any particular trade, and the principles will be adumbrated to you as automatically and subverbally as in any other “language-game”.

A big one that you must accept is the golden rule: you shall not do something if you wouldn’t want it done unto you. It pops up everywhere. Now, you can still put people out of business, because contra John Holbo in #140 it is not defined as immoral to harm others in that situation. You aren’t breaking the golden rule with business competition, because business competition has an additional set of rules that is accepted by anyone and everyone who wishes to enter competitive business. The key to the puzzle is that it is agreed by all. What is censured is if you put someone out of business by doing something illegal — you have broken the golden rule in business.

But do not mistake this “competition allowance” for having a right to do whatever you want with your property. You have the right to believe whatever you want and you have the right to do whatever you want with your property, UNTIL you enter it into trade and competition. Then you have left the realm of what you believe, and what you like, and have entered the realm of what is morally required.

The racist shopkeeper was already in violation of the golden rule because he would strongly object to being run off the planet because of his own skin color, yet that is the logical extension of what he is doing to someone else.

The propertarian argument in defense of the racist shopkeeper had also failed, and by that same logical outcome: the discriminated is denied his own property.

But in addition we see that the propertarian argument against civil rights also manages to contradict Adam Smith on the necessity of trade. (chapters 1 & 2)

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elspi 05.17.11 at 4:51 am

Why are we debating insanity?
Without government there is no property.
Think of going to the store and coming back to find that seal team 6 has taken up residence in THIER new house. Yes the fact that, without government, you have no way of removing them, means that they own the house.

Now imagine a person who sees property rights as the ultimate good and government as the ultimate evil.

That is the definition of insanity.

You wonder why the US is sinking from the first world to the third world.
Because instead of solving the country’s problem, we are debating with the insane.

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 5:35 am

“Why are we debating insanity?”

You have to admit, there is a certain fascination to the practice.

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StevenAttewell 05.17.11 at 5:55 am

elspi – because we tried not debating insanity and we got Reagan for our troubles.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.17.11 at 6:09 am

@190, A big one that you must accept is the golden rule: you shall not do something if you wouldn’t want it done unto you.

I think that’s, actually, the silver rule. Still, if you accept it, I imagine in a few minutes you’ll end up owning no property at all.

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Charles St. Pierre 05.17.11 at 6:20 am

Lee A. Arnold :“The libertarian response would be, it violates nobody’s rights if somebody on a deserted island starves to death because they can’t supply all of their needs themselves. Why, then, would it violate their rights if there happened to be other people about, and the same thing happened anyway?”

Ans.: Because in that case, the logical conclusion is that the others are contributing to your death, if they are not completely causing it.

No. I believe the libertarian argument is precisely that, barring specific ah- unapproved by libertarianism? actions against you, the others are not causing your death. If you own property surrounded by other’s property, and starve because you cannot pay the toll to leave, they are not causing your death. If you sell your property to pay the toll, that is a legitimate acquisition of property by the other, representing a voluntary transaction between two individuals. All ‘trade’ requires the voluntary consent of both individuals. Any individual can refuse to trade with any other. Your elevation of trade to a right, and thus also an obligation, is foreign to libertarian assumptions.

Libertarianism, what ever its nominal claims, guarantees no effective rights to anyone. This is because we give rights to get rights, and being forced to give rights, any rights, to others, as by law, is, I believe, considered theft. So effectively, all rights are in proportion to your property, which is not guaranteed. They make a big issue of ‘ownership of self,’ but this is useless without property.

I think the strict propertarian version is like a game of Monopoly, but without the squares you can land on and not have to pay rent. Unless you own them.

196

Charles St. Pierre 05.17.11 at 6:26 am

Oops. “The Ans.:Because in that case the logical conclusion is that the others are contributing to your death, if they are not completely causing it. ” is also Lee A. Arnold.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.17.11 at 7:18 am

My ans. was given to refute the libertarian rhetorical question, not to answer with the libertarian position! Sorry for the confusion.

198

Tim Worstall 05.17.11 at 7:56 am

@172 “Also, am I the only one who has noticed that Worstall’s blog”

Probably. Given that you and I are the only two people in the set “read Worstall’s blog and read Crooked Timber”.

“anyone know how Worstall’s super-duper cheap new process that was going to make some of the rarer metals not quite so rare is doing? The one that banks were in the process of financing even as we spoke?”

I said that I’d been talking to banks about financing, not that financing was in place. And reasonably well actually. Buoyed up by the way that the CSIRO (the Oz Govt’s minerals research bureau) has released a report coming to much the same conclusion we have about where to go and get that lovely scandium.

If you’ve access to sciencedirect you can read their report:

“Metallurgical processes for scandium recovery from various resources: A review

Weiwei Wanga, Yoko Pranoloa and Chu Yong Cheng”

If you do you’ll note that I am referenced in the first para of the report as one of their sources. They seem to think I know what I’m talking about, on this specific subject at least, even if you don’t.

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sg 05.17.11 at 9:13 am

Brett, the issue is not that you’d be fucked in either society. The issue is that your vision of your society denies that what is being done impinges on anyone’s rights. And if the government were to intervene to force the As to sell to the Bs, it would in your view be a gross violation of the rights of the As. You may not have noticed, but when liberals talk about Jim Crow or the holocaust, they tend to do so within a framework of violation of fundamental rights, of creating a society with checks and balances to prevent people being able to do this, etc. But what does a libertarian do? Throw up your hands and say “that’s just tough, they should have moved.”

Someone far above pointed out that once the As give up this fundamental right to trade with whomever they want, society is on its way to less freedom and ultimately bad things may happen. But in the scenario John Holbo and I have described, society is on its way to those bad things anyway.

And incidentally, what is this?

Ask any Asian American trying to get into the college of their choice, and running up against affirmative action.

Are you suggesting that “liberals” have established “affirmative action” quotas that limit the number of Asian Americans who can get into a college? Please do tell more about this sordid nightmare.

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 10:28 am

I didn’t respond to this, upthread, from Andrew: “A libertarian does not have to concede Scenario 1 to be perfect politically, since he is not committed to the proposition that the perfection of a polity consists in the mere respect of the negative liberties of others.”

I think, actually, libertarians are committed to this. How not? I agree that libertarians actually don’t believe this. But I think what that shows is that libertarians (we are, as I keep saying, talking about propertarians here) really have thicker political values than their theory officially admits. The lesson to be drawn is that we should ignore libertarians when they tell us to focus just on the pure, negative protection of property rights. If they really believed that, they would think scenario 1 was politically perfect, which they obviously don’t really think, because it’s really quite politically horrible.

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Brett Bellmore 05.17.11 at 10:44 am

Why, yes, I am suggesting exactly that. In fact, it’s not even much of a secret, as I’m sure you’re aware. Since everything has to add up to 100%, if you establish a floor for one or more race/ethnicity, you have to establish ceilings for others.

I do hope you’re not going to go all post-modern on me, and deny that affirmative action programs involve quotas…

202

Brett Bellmore 05.17.11 at 10:50 am

“I think, actually, libertarians are committed to this. How not?”

Libertarianism is a theory about when the use of coercion is justified. As theories go it’s really quite minimalist in that regard, which I suspect confuses people who are used to moral/political theories which are more ambitious in their reach. It has precisely squat to say about the use of anything else. Do you imagine this means that libertarians don’t also, individually, have theories as to other matters?

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 11:07 am

“Libertarianism is a theory about when the use of coercion is justified. As theories go it’s really quite minimalist in that regard, which I suspect confuses people who are used to moral/political theories which are more ambitious in their reach.”

No, I’m afraid you are the one who is confused, Brett. Libertarianism is also the theory that political theory pretty much stops with the theory about the legitimate use of coercion. It’s not possible to be a libertarian divine right of kings theorist, for example. Because libertarianism says that the other thing is wrong, because it goes way too far, and in the wrong direction. Similarly, I doubt it is possible to be a propertarian political opponent of social Jim Crow. (It is possible to be a libertarian opponent of Jim Crow, just not a propertarian-libertarian opponent of it.) But you are welcome to show me wrong if you’ve got some sort of argument.

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Brett Bellmore 05.17.11 at 11:40 am

I think I’ve already related my argument on that score: That Jim Crow was a system of organized coercion, and that if you want to describe a system of pervasive, and entirely non-coercive discrimination, you need to find another name for it.

I’m perfectly willing to concede that libertarianism won’t make your life pleasant if everybody else hates you. I just don’t think this distinguishes libertarianism from other political philosophies, and it sure as hell doesn’t distinguish it from liberalism.

And as for the notion that utilitarianism has managed to rescue itself from the early problems with people enjoying torture, and secretly murdering the homeless for transplant organs, and the like, I don’t buy it. What you’ve got are a series of “patch jobs” which in no way organically grow out of the theory, which essentially boil down to a rule that, “If utilitarianism demands something that will lead to a lot of people with non-utilitarian moral intuitions holding it in contempt, ignore the demand.”

Which obviously does nothing to help you in a society where most people DID have utilitarian moral intuitions. They’d drop all those patch jobs so fast your head would spin, and it would be back to holding five minute hates, and then pulling the target’s toenails out on live TV for entertainment.

205

Brett Bellmore 05.17.11 at 11:48 am

And, of course it’s possible to be a propertarian libertarian opponent of “social ‘Jim Crow'”, if by that you mean pervasive non-coercive discrimination. After all, since libertarianism under determines your position on all sorts of things, once the non-coercion criteria is satisfied, a propertarian libertarian is entirely capable of having other reasons for opposing the discrimination, which do not conflict with their libertarianism so long as they implement that opposition non-coercively.

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 12:13 pm

“a propertarian libertarian is entirely capable of having other reasons for opposing the discrimination, which do not conflict with their libertarianism so long as they implement that opposition non-coercively.”

What are your reasons for opposing the discrimination practiced in scenario 1, and how would you implement your opposition non-coercively, in scenario 1?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.17.11 at 12:22 pm

@187, Henri @149 – I’m sorry, if you can’t understand how an inability to buy food might impede people’s willingness to assert their basic rights, you’re not arguing in good faith.

Again, if, in a segregated environment, one (a sizable minority) group has no ability to buy food, then you have a much bigger problem than segregation.

You seem to believe that private discrimination is unacceptable, but once everyone (with a good credit card) is welcomed at Bob’s Diner, – that’s it, your work is done, justice has prevailed. Well, guess what, there’s still a whole bunch of people, of various races, ethnicities, and religions, unable to buy food. Indeed, most of them are probably of the same race that, in the past, Bob discriminated against. But they are still not allowed in Bob’s Diner, simply because they got no money. The ban on private discrimination doesn’t do anything for them.

208

sg 05.17.11 at 1:06 pm

Brett, we’ve already discussed how you don’t care one whit if people enforce “a ceiling” on a commodity so harshly that the people being “non-coercively” dealt with in this way end up in penury, slavery or death. So why are you up in arms about Asian Americans having to get slightly better marks to get into university than they did 10 years ago (or 20)?

I love that “coercion” has come into this too. We’re talking about a political system in which it’s entirely legitimate to blockade someone into selling themselves into slavery – it’s not even an abuse of their “rights” as “carefully” defined by this theory- yet you claim libertarianism is a theory about the limits of coercion. Hilarious.

209

Brett Bellmore 05.17.11 at 2:18 pm

No, you’ve alleged that I don’t care one whit about it, because I wouldn’t pass a law against it. Completely ignoring that libertarians certainly do care about a lot of things they wouldn’t pass laws concerning. It’s like you can’t believe that anybody cares about something, if they’re not willing to pass a law concerning it.

210

John Holbo 05.17.11 at 2:25 pm

Brett, rather than simply repeatedly declaring that, in the abstract, it is possible that you might have some grounds for objecting to social Jim Crow that would be consistent with your libertarianism, wouldn’t it be simpler just to declare what those grounds are, if they exist? That would presumably settle the matter.

211

chris 05.17.11 at 3:17 pm

You will object that the real world doesn’t work quite like this. Of course not. But it works somewhat like this.

Not really. In your scenario, the police chief is obviously an A. And he has the same attitudes about Bs and B-lovers as the majority of his fellow As. So most, if not all, of his force is also non-B-loving As, with those same attitudes. The idea that law would actually be evenly applied in that scenario is ridiculous, even if that’s what is on the books — just as in history, law enforcement would effectively become another arm of letterism. (And if that *is* what’s on the books, it probably won’t stay that way — by the same reasoning, the legislature is also composed of As in good standing. As is the supreme court, so judicial review is no help either.)

Social and legal discrimination aren’t divisible because the law is enforced by humans who are part of the society. Any social institution will inevitably affect the policemen and prosecutors and judges and jurors too.

212

bianca steele 05.17.11 at 4:03 pm

John Holbo @ 184: If any A does any of these things, he or she becomes a B in the eyes of his fellow A’s.

You get a interesting variation if you vary this premise in different ways. But then we’d be encroaching on the SF writers’ turf.

I’m wondering too how the situation got to be that way, with As and Bs mixed together willy-nilly.

213

StevenAttewell 05.17.11 at 4:36 pm

Henri – you’ve misread me pretty badly, and given that I’ve been pretty vocal on issues of economic redistribution on this blog, not very charitably either.

My argument is that, in the specific historical circumstances of the Civil Rights Act, the ability to buy food is a crucial intermediary step to ensuring that poor people are able to exercise their political rights de facto as well as de jure; even if the Federal government were to engage in a fundamental redistribution of wealth, this would still be the case in the short-term. It takes time to build new grocery stores, establish supply chains and delivery schedules, etc. It’s a “teach a man to fish, and he might starve to death while he’s learning to fish so why not give him a fish while he’s learning” situation.

bianca – I believe a star-bellied sneetch machine was involved somehow.

214

Alex 05.17.11 at 5:48 pm

It’s not possible to be a libertarian divine right of kings theorist, for example

You can get pretty close:

http://www.lewrockwell.com/hoppe/hoppe4.html

The libertarian response would be, it violates nobody’s rights if somebody on a deserted island starves to death because they can’t supply all of their needs themselves. Why, then, would it violate their rights if there happened to be other people about, and the same thing happened anyway?

The concept of “rights” when there’s only one person is meaningless. Rights are socially created. If I have a right to free speech, then that implies a duty on somebody else (usually the government) to not interfere with that right.

A better analogy would be if you’re on a desert island with two other people (Alice and Bob). By some fair process, you’ve determined that Alice will govern the territory (under some constitution) for a fixed period (e.g a year).

A dispute soon arises between you and Bob. Bob claims that he owns all the land on the island, other than the small amount of land Alice lives on, and a patch of sand (approx 1m in diameter), which he says you own. You claim that you own more.

The dispute goes to court. Alice adjudicates and finds for Bob.

Bob now owns the vast majority of the island. He does not want you on his property He does not want to trade with you, and since there’s very little meat on the island, both Alice and Bob are looking at your flesh with anticipation.

You retreat to your small patch of sand, your property. It’s so small, you can barely move. There is nothing of value there.

Now, according to libertarians such as yourself, in this scenario you should just drop dead. If Alice interfered with Bob’s property in order to make sure you had enough to eat etc, that would be coercion against Bob, and wrong. But in what sense can it be said that, by deciding that Bob has the particular property rights he now has, Alice has not coerced you. Your freedom of movement, and your freedom to use the island’s resources, has been massively circumscribed by a government decision. Try and feed yourself and Alice, the government, reserves the right to handcuff you or even shoot you. How is this not coercion against you?

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bianca steele 05.17.11 at 8:32 pm

Sometimes when I’ve been reading certain CT threads for a while, I start thinking about a speech from Perestroika, the one that begins, “I hate America, Louis,” and ends, “I’ll show you America . . . crazy, terminal and mean.”

But on the other side, not surprisingly for a blog like CT, it isn’t entirely obvious what the objection to slavery is. I think many of the US discussants would like to distinguish actual slavery from “mere wage slavery.” That is what Steven Attewell has advocated with his relation of the legendary company towns. Because–in Alex’s scenario, say–suppose you had taken away from you almost all the land you earlier thought belonged to you, leaving you not enough to support yourself, but just enough to give you what you needed to get enough resources from others to support yourself, if you worked very hard. This might be said to be all the resources you were really entitled to (if any should not work, neither shall he eat). But nobody here who knows about the specific historical circumstances (as Steven Attewell phrased it) would compare the two situations; nobody would think of it unless they had a problem distinguishing reality from fantasy.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.17.11 at 8:47 pm

@213 The Jim Crow laws (which is, obviously, a lot worse than tolerating private discrimination) were in effect for, what, nearly a hundred years? Are you implying that 20% of the population managed to survive there for a hundred years without food?

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Andrew 05.17.11 at 9:00 pm

JH @200: I think, actually, libertarians are committed to this. How not? I agree that libertarians actually don’t believe this. But I think what that shows is that libertarians (we are, as I keep saying, talking about propertarians here) really have thicker political values than their theory officially admits. The lesson to be drawn is that we should ignore libertarians when they tell us to focus just on the pure, negative protection of property rights. If they really believed that, they would think scenario 1 was politically perfect, which they obviously don’t really think, because it’s really quite politically horrible.

My understanding of propertarianism is that it holds that persons own themselves, including their labor, and whatever that labor produces. Violations of rights are really violations of this right of ownership. Governments, the non-anarchist propertarians believe – for varied reasons, as far as I can tell – are constrained in their actions by such ownership rights. In fact, the only purpose of government is to protect those ownership rights.

So, I gather JH would argue, it follows from propertarianism that Scenario 1 is without political fault. But this conclusion conflicts with a strong intuition that Scenario 1 is flawed politically. Propertarians must therefore either expand the fence-lines of their ideology, or find a way to explain away that strong intuition.

But propertarianism isn’t necessarily a full moral theory, or even a full political theory. A propertarian can agree that government is ethically bound to respect the ownership rights of all persons, while at the same time launching a broader critique of the nature of segregation and bigotry in his A/B society. He can argue it impoverishes our lives as persons, that it degrades our culture, and that every person should be treated with equal dignity regardless of whether they are vowel or consonant.

This brings us to the hard part of JH’s argument, which is that this propertarian critique doesn’t really get at our intuition. The propertarian is holding the discriminatory practice to be a “private vice” and not a “public vice.” Unless one equates “public vice” with “behavior that government ought to prevent,” I don’t think this is enough though.

JH, can you expand on this last part of the argument?

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Bruce Baugh 05.17.11 at 9:16 pm

Andrew: But propertarianism isn’t necessarily a full moral theory, or even a full political theory. A propertarian can agree that government is ethically bound to respect the ownership rights of all persons, while at the same time launching a broader critique of the nature of segregation and bigotry in his A/B society.

But in practice he won’t. He’ll end up being viciously critical of unions, of fair trade, of minority rights advocacy groups, of boycotts and advertiser pressure campaigns, and in general of just about every actually existing effort to get people to peacefully and cooperatively push on managers, individually or collectively. There are exceptions, but it’s broadly true of Joe Propertarian – he isn’t just disinterested in doing anything himself to substantially improve the conditions of those on society’s margins, he’s angered by some such efforts and contemptuous toward others, and ends up putting his passion at the service of defending the prerogatives who already have the power right now.

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Bruce Baugh 05.17.11 at 9:29 pm

That is, to Joe Propertarian, efforts to collaborate at depriving law-abiding Propertarian Enterprises Inc. of sales, to convince its management to accept restrictions on their hiring, promotion, and firing, to punish civic disengagement and reward constructive civic engagement, and so on, all seem far more coercive than anything PEI managers may do to their employees or to any victims of their negative externalities. Propertarianism flourishes with (feeds, and is fed by) a sympathetic identification with the interests of corporate decision-makers and wealthy entrepreneurs, to the point where any effort to impede their ability to do just as they wish and get rich doing so feels like an attack on the propertarian’s own self.

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Mike Billy 05.17.11 at 9:34 pm

My response:

I can’t speak for Rep. Paul, but here is how I would answer that question.

First, Holbo is right to separate the legal and social institutions of segregation. As he points out, libertarians would have no problem dismantling the Jim Crow laws that legally institutionalized segregation. On the other hand, they would not have allowed the government to create a law that would violate property rights in order to dismantle the social institution of slavery.

Here is the problem, though. By asking the question in the manner that he did, Holbo is presuming that laws actually have the ability to dismantle social institutions. Perhaps it is a chicken or egg question, but it seems obvious to me that laws instituting social change are often reactive and not proactive.

Segregation in the Antebellum South, through the Jim Crow laws, actually makes this point rather clear. If the government were proactively fighting for social justice then the Jim Crow laws would have never been implemented. Instead, the federal government reacted to the overwhelming societal pressure to institutionalize segregation.

It turns out that governments tend to jump in front of parades when they see enough societal support. So, when the parade for civil rights got big enough, Uncle Sam jumped up and said, “Oops! My bad! Jim Crow laws should have never existed! Let’s get rid of them and make segregation illegal!”

One more point: Prohibition never eliminates behavior. Making segregation illegal did not get rid of the societal institution of segregation. When the Civil Rights Act was passed it did not make all of the racist bar, hotel, and restaurant owners have a sudden change of heart. They may have taken down their signs, but they still segregated by making their establishments have an unfriendly atmosphere toward African Americans.

The point is that segregation did not disappear until society was ready for it to disappear. It was not the government that eliminated segregation, but society itself. And, quite frankly, I find this viewpoint to be much more empowering than relying on the government to change society for us.

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 11:34 pm

“He can argue it impoverishes our lives as persons, that it degrades our culture, and that every person should be treated with equal dignity regardless of whether they are vowel or consonant.”

The problem with this, basically, is that it doesn’t seem like a set of potential reasons that can be used to ‘thicken’ propertarianism, in the sense of supplementing it. It seems like a set of reasons for not being a propertarian. At the very least, for switching to being a plain old non-propertarian libertarian. Because either these are values that are important enough that we should seek to secure them, politically and social, or they are not. If they are, then that is a reason not to be a propertarian, since propertarianism does not place value on them, per se. If they are not important, then they are … not important. This could be because they are very minor public problems, light costs that are easily borne for the sake of the higher values like no infringing property rights; or because they are important but private values, like being able to play the guitar solo from “Stairway to Heaven” note-for-note.

Compare the situation to one that might face a Millian liberal. Suppose, as a Millian, you have a sudden change of heart. You decide that it is vitally important that everyone should know, and be obedient to, their traditional social station and its duties. Could this be a consistent supplement to Millian liberalism? Well, yes and no. But mostly no. You could hope that this result was obtained by Millian means: individualistic remonstration and persuasion, but no coercion or even significant social pressure. But 1) this is unlikely to produce the desired result; 2) if the result really is so desirable, in principle, as all that, it’s completely unclear why one should be restricted to only Millian means to get it. Basically, if you start to find it plausible that the ideal society is one in which everyone keeps to their traditional social station and its duties, you would not find Millian principles compelling. Because the whole ‘no coercion, except to prevent harm to others’ business is really orthogonal, at best, to what you really value. On the other hand, if Mill had a sudden change of heart to the effect that he really wanted to be able to play Jimmy Page’s solo, note-for-note, that would be a fine supplement to liberalism. A private, personal project. Liberalism is designed to take this sort of value as a consistent supplement, after all.

If propertarians suddenly decide that equality, in some non-propertarian sense, is really important, they should adopt a non-propertarian notion of equality, for normative political theoretic purposes. They should stop being propertarians. If propertarians suddenly decide that certain results of the social market might be severe culturally degrading, then they ought not to have a theory according to which deciding such things is left to the market. Again, they should stop being propertarians. And so forth. On the other hand, if they object to social Jim Crow, but only in a private ‘that stuff is not for me’ spirit, then that would be consistent with propertarianism, but it’s important to see that no one actually objects to Jim Crow in this private, rather aesthetic or private taste spirit. Either you think Jim Crow is a public problem, or you don’t think it’s a problem at all. No one thinks it’s a serious problem, but strictly private.

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John Holbo 05.17.11 at 11:39 pm

“In your scenario, the police chief is obviously an A. And he has the same attitudes about Bs and B-lovers as the majority of his fellow As. So most, if not all, of his force is also non-B-loving As, with those same attitudes. The idea that law would actually be evenly applied in that scenario is ridiculous”

Yes, one gets that a lot in thought-experiments – ridiculousness, that is. There are no socially realistic scenarios in which one cleanly separates out legal and social variables. But, theoretically, we are trying to solve for these variables, so the thought-experiment is supposed to speak to that.

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Dan 05.18.11 at 12:21 am

As much fun as you’re all having with the “propertarian” epithet, it’s quite easy to see that the issue doesn’t require anything like private property in order to get off the ground. Consider a world where there is a service — not an inert physical good, a genuine service that must be provided by other people — that each person requires a certain amount of in order to lead a decent life. (For the sake of harnessing some latent intuitions, let’s call this service “health care”.) Suppose that health care is something that only relatively few people can perform. Now suppose further that the providers of health care are for the most part heavily racist and as a consequence refuse to serve certain segments of the population… well, you can see where this is going.

The point is that private property is not what’s at issue here — it’s rather a basic sort of freedom of transaction, whether that transaction is mediated by physical property or not.

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bianca steele 05.18.11 at 12:32 am

if you start to find it plausible that the ideal society is one in which everyone keeps to their traditional social station and its duties, you would not find Millian principles compelling

Can you have a political philosophy that has this view of the ideal society? It seems that most historical philosophies that prescribe keeping to one’s traditional station are philosophies for the non-rulers. How do the rulers make decisions that would have the effect of changing the society if they have that kind of non-political philosophy political philosophy?

It seems to me, too, that you also have the problem that some people’s stations will enable them to tell others whether or not they are properly keeping to their own stations, and these stations will in effect include the right to overstep one’s own station (reproducing a problem like the one sg described in another form).

I’m assuming that you can’t simply say “but we won’t have rulers and we won’t have cops,” and you also can’t simply say you’re perfectly okay with a philosophy that’s only for non-rulers and let the rulers do what they like without philosophy.

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Dan 05.18.11 at 12:38 am

John Holbo,

I don’t see anything in your post that addresses the position that I think moderately reflective libertarians would take (and which I have sympathy with): namely that the basic kind of freedom of association I just mentioned (as well as property rights) provide side constraints upon action directed towards any other goal we might have. So I guess I’d take the first horn of your purported dilemma: yes, these are values that we should seek to secure politically and socially; but there are side constraints upon how we can permissibly do this.

I think there is a clear analogy between us here and those who believe that a) free speech is an important value and that b) racist speech is wrong, and should be opposed in the public domain by all right thinking people. (I imagine a lot of people here (but not all) will sympathize with that conjunction of views). It’s not as if racist speech is merely a private vice, though — that’s why we oppose it in the public domain, and speak out against it when we hear it, and try to stop those who have a track record of it gaining positions of power (insofar as we legally can), and so on.

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Andrew 05.18.11 at 1:08 am

JH @221: Because either these are values that are important enough that we should seek to secure them, politically and social, or they are not. If they are, then that is a reason not to be a propertarian, since propertarianism does not place value on them, per se. If they are not important, then they are … not important. This could be because they are very minor public problems, light costs that are easily borne for the sake of the higher values like no infringing property rights; or because they are important but private values

The propertarian though has a rejoinder. Yes, he says, the values I have in mind are very important. Unfortunately we cannot use government’s coercive power to secure those values, because to do so would violate rights that (for reasons x, y, z) I place first priority in not violating.

So he denies the dichotomy you’ve set up, whereby either values are important and we should secure them, or they’re unimportant (public and minor, or private and major – major being A minor in your example).

More generally, a propertarian can say value X is highly important, but to promote it we cannot violate right A.

This brings me to a question:

Does a propertarian have to adopt an absolutist position with respect to the morality of violating the right of ownership in order to be a propertarian?

That is, can a propertarian argue that, under most conditions, including those of the actual 1960s American South, it is not permissible to violate the right of ownership; however in certain cases, perhaps in a hypothetical society where a minority is literally trapped and without means of self-support, the right of ownership can be violated?

If not, then the propertarian’s problem is in a sense that of anyone who holds an absolutist position with respect to some principles. If so, the the propertarian has little problem adding values, although he still must explain why he weights the right of ownership so heavily.

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John Holbo 05.18.11 at 1:22 am

“So I guess I’d take the first horn of your purported dilemma: yes, these are values that we should seek to secure politically and socially; but there are side constraints upon how we can permissibly do this.”

Certainly this is the way we have to argue it, Dan. So let’s proceed. Why are there side constraints of this sort, not others? Why are there not, instead, side constraints on the enjoyment of private property rights? (Such as the Civil Rights Act.) I think the only really coherent answer a propertarian can give is: because the negative enjoyment of private property rights is the only absolute political value. All other values can, tolerably, fail. But not this one. But this position has repugnant implications. My scenario 1 turns out to be politically ideal and scenario 2 turns out to be pretty intolerable. The only things missing from 1 are things one can, in principle, do without, and 2 provides them only by adding things that one cannot, under any circumstances, tolerate. You are probably right, Dan, that I shouldn’t keep pushing the private/public line. It’s not that propertarians need to see the problems as ‘private’, per se. It is and it isn’t. It’s, as you say, like racist speech. We think of it as private, in a certain sense, but as not-private in another sense. It’s private because, as Mill says, it’s protected as a necessary adjunct to the right to private beliefs. But it’s public because it obviously affects others. But, setting the fraught nature of public/private aside, propertarians do see the problem as ultimately not that serious. Why? Because if it were that serious, then the theory would have addressed it. Propertarianism lays out a normative political ideal. If that ideal is attainable, and yet there are still terrible, systematic political problems present – problems that could be addressed, but that you aren’t addressing – then you haven’t actually articulated your ideal. That is, you should stop advocating a monotonic political ideal of negative non-interference with property rights as the alpha and omega of political theory. Because you yourself don’t actually believe it.

Let’s try another angle. Let’s suppose that we construe propertarianism as rule libertarianism, by which I mean: propertarians are libertarians who think that you can’t be allowed to infringe negative private property rights, ever, for more or less the same reason that rule utilitarians think you can’t be allowed to hatch little schemes to murder rich old ladies and distribute their money to the poor, ever. Namely, if people start thinking this way, it will lead to more trouble than it’s worth. So just don’t go there.

The problem with reading propertarianism this way is twofold. One, it’s radically inconsistent with propertarian rhetoric. Two, it’s wildly implausible, in terms of its assessment of likely means-ends relationships. Taking these in order: propertarians don’t, in fact, talk about government infringement of private property rights as a thing that is not in principle wrong – that might, from a natural and really reasonable point of view, be deemed in principle the right thing to do – were it not that doing it would, in practice inevitably have perverse, backfiring consequences. Propertarians do not object to infringement of private property rights exclusively in instrumental grounds, the way that rule utilitarians object to murder-for-charity projects exclusively on instrumental grounds (officially). Propertarians object to infringement of private property rights in principle. One doesn’t count consequences concerning such things. (Just ask Brett Bellmore!)

Two, suppose one got over this hump by modifying propertarian rhetoric. You just shift and say: yes, you are right. I storm and fulminate against this stuff but, at the end of the day, it’s true that I regard absolute non-interference with private property as an instrumental means of ensuring dignity and equality for all. Or whatever. You can fill in the blanks in whatever way you choose, and we’ll see how it goes. This is not incoherent, but I think, for any value that is likely to fill in the blanks, it’s empirically crazy. Because it assumes that the actions of the market will have an inevitable tendency to ensure dignity and equality and that legal side-conditions on private property enjoyment, aimed at ensuring dignity and equality, will have an inevitable tendency to backfire and undermine those very values. It’s sensible, of course, to respect the power of markets and to be suspicious of the actions of governments. But it’s not sensible to inflate faith in the morally elevating powers of markets to Panglossian proportions while simultaneously inflating suspicion of government actions to anti-Panglossian proportions.

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John Holbo 05.18.11 at 1:38 am

My comment crossed Andrew’s, but I think I ended up addressing it.

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StevenAttewell 05.18.11 at 2:14 am

Henri – I’m arguing, as would be obvious if you stopped to think about the actual historical reality of Jim Crow, that access to food and other basic necessities (shelter, clothing, employment and credit needed to pay for those things) was made conditional on whether you acquiesced to Jim Crow. If you challenged the system, you faced immediate retaliation and there are thousands of documented cases of this in the history of reconstruction through the civil rights movement.

As Eric Foner points out in Nothing But Freedom, this was not incidental but absolutely central to the operation of the Jim Crow system. As Confederate General Robert Richardson, treasurer of the American Cotton Planters Association (and that’s not a coincidence), said in 1865: “the emancipated slaves own nothing, because nothing but freedom has been given to them.” This fact – that whites held access to the basic tools for survival and could use blacklisting as a threat against potential challengers to white rule – was what let Jim Crow function smoothly. The alternative was a 24/7 military occupation by the white South of the black South, which would have been ruinous; local economic monopoly allowed the cost of violent suppression to be limited to crisis management and individual examples.

And the same thing was true in the 1960s – which is why civil rights activists cared about immediate access to public amenities as well as the long-term project of the Freedom Budget or the War on Poverty.

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StevenAttewell 05.18.11 at 2:22 am

Andrew – I don’t think that propertarianism really holds that “persons own themselves, including their labor, and whatever that labor produces”? Because if you follow that logic, as Marx did in 1848, capitalists have no right to surplus labor value. As I’ve argued (here and here), libertarian conceptions of economic liberty only really extend to the economic freedoms and rights of some property owners – not those of workers or consumers.

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Civil-Rights Lawyer 05.18.11 at 2:48 am

Long time lurker de-lurking:

How would libertarianism treat something like good, old-fashioned quid pro quo sexual harassment? In Libertopia, what’s the legal status of the boss saying “Have sex with me or you’re fired”? Is that illegal because it’s “initiating force”? Is it illegal because it’s fraud? Is it illegal for some other reason? Or is it private conduct that, no matter how reprehensible, Libertopia law does not reach?

And, if you don’t like the threat to the job, what about the boss who says “Have sex with me and I’ll give you a nice raise and a promotion.” What’s the legal status of that in Libertopia? And would the co-workers who didn’t get the raise and promotion have any legal claim against the boss?

Just want to add that John Holbo’s posts on Libertarianism and the comment threads those posts engender are the best!

Ok, re-lurking now.

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John Holbo 05.18.11 at 3:16 am

“Have sex with me or you’re fired”

I think libertarians will be more or less happy to bite this bullet. It shouldn’t be illegal to be a jerk. Jerks will be punished because people won’t want to work for them. You can always go get a job somewhere else if the contract on offer is not appealing. That’s pretty much it.

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John Holbo 05.18.11 at 3:17 am

“Just want to add that John Holbo’s posts on Libertarianism and the comment threads those posts engender are the best!”

They are certainly much better than my Fleet Foxes threads! thanks!

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Sebastian 05.18.11 at 3:37 am

Who is a strict propetarian? Isn’t that kind of a strawman?

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John Holbo 05.18.11 at 3:46 am

“Who is a strict propetarian? Isn’t that kind of a strawman?”

And yet the citizens of Kentucky saw fit to elect him junior Senator, so it seems worth talking about. Also, Brett Bellmore apparently is one as well (unless he shows up and says differently.)

Apart from that, it would still be interesting, in a seminar room sense, as a limit case which shows that libertarianism is only ambiguously a sub-variety of (classical) liberalism. I would say that propertarianism is really not properly classed as a form of liberalism, because liberals have to put freedom first, and propertarianism puts property first. Which is properly regarded as rather a different sort of primary value, even if you call it ‘freedom’. So the case has interest if you like classifying political theories.

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John Holbo 05.18.11 at 3:49 am

Sorry, the thread is really about Ron Paul, not Rand. So correct that to: the good citizens of the 14th district of Texas. In general, a lot of conservative rhetoric is propertarian, so it seems ok to take the rhetoric at face value and see what it’s value is – straw or otherwise.

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David Kaib 05.18.11 at 3:51 am

I know I’m late to this, but I don’t care whether Paul himself is a bigot. His stated position forbids the US government from using public power (granted by the Constitution) to ensure that all persons get to participate fully in the economy, or can exercise their right to travel, or to be anything but dependent on those who seek to exploit them. These rights trump the alleged right of an owner of a public accommodation to exclude people. His reasons for that are irrelevant, as far as I’m concerned.

I also don’t care whether he is being principled in taking that position. Consistency in the service of vice is still vice.

That said, it strikes me that the principles behind the CRA apply well beyond the particulars of that law. Most of the politicians who would take Paul to task are willing to say they support the CRA, but how many of them articulate the reasons why or suggest ways of extending it’s reach?

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sg 05.18.11 at 5:19 am

I find the claims that the “side effects” of weakening property rights will be really bad, and thus justify elevating property rights to revered status, really weak. There are so many corner cases of propertarianism – feudalism, monarchy and slavery in real life, not to mention the cute cases presented here – where the reall effects of strong property rights have been disastrous that the fear of side-effects is just silly.

Civil Rights Lawyer’s sexual harrassment point, for example. If we put a few simple rules on employers’ rights to do that, how far down teh slippery slope to dictatorship and loss of all freedom are we going to slide? Is the inch we go down that slope really so bad, compared to a corporate world where the only way for women to get or keep a job is to put out?

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Brett Bellmore 05.18.11 at 11:43 am

“Andrew – I don’t think that propertarianism really holds that “persons own themselves, including their labor, and whatever that labor produces”? Because if you follow that logic, as Marx did in 1848, capitalists have no right to surplus labor value. “

No, because owning your labor, you can sell it. Which is what employees do, they sell their labor to employers. Capitalists have a right to surplus labor value when, and only when, they have bought it.

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Andrew 05.18.11 at 1:38 pm

So JH suggests there are two possible moves for the propertarian at this point:

(1) Embrace absolutism: [T]he negative enjoyment of private property rights is the only absolute political value. All other values can, tolerably, fail. But not this one.

(2) Embrace rule-libertarianism: [Y]ou can’t be allowed to infringe negative private property rights, ever, for more or less the same reason that rule utilitarians think you can’t be allowed to hatch little schemes to murder rich old ladies and distribute their money to the poor, ever.

But there is a third option:

(3) The principle of ownership rights is not absolute, but it is very heavily weighted. In some cases, the magnitude of loss/gain of other values will be sufficient to permit, morally, some sacrifice of ownership rights. The propertarian might then argue that while 1964 America is not such a case, as he believes that social Jim Crow would have resolved without infringement of ownership rights, he is willing to entertain hypotheticals where it could be.

The problem JH sees with the first option is that Scenario 1 is normatively ideal from a propertarian vantage. To quote JH again, [i]f that ideal is attainable, and yet there are still terrible, systematic political problems present – problems that could be addressed, but that you aren’t addressing – then you haven’t actually articulated your ideal. That is, you should stop advocating a monotonic political ideal of negative non-interference with property rights as the alpha and omega of political theory.

Here the absolutist propertarian replies: Yes, in Scenario 1, government is not doing anything wrong. In that sense, government is acting with normative perfection. However I don’t regard the society as a whole to be normatively ideal, and our moral reaction to Scenario 1 is really more to the plight of the Bs, and not to the inaction of government. So long as my theory has a place for explaining why we find the plight of Bs to be terrible, my theory accounts sufficiently for our moral intuition.

The absolutist propertarian then creates an alternative hypothetical, with a more palatable moral absolute at center. In this hypothetical, all is identical to JH’s, except that government has enacted anti-discriminatory laws. Unfortunately, the intransigence of the As is so cunning, and so well supported with resources, and the population of the Bs so small, that the laws have little effect. Bs are hired, but with time the As skillfully create overwhelming pretexts to fire any B who advances. Matters are improved, but Bs remain deeply excluded from society, unable to meaningfully pursue careers or in many ways to create their own lives, and unless the massive conspiracy of the As is broken, they will always be so excluded. As it turns out, the only way to get access to sufficient information to destroy the massive conspiracy is torture. Sven Haggerfjordstrom is a Rawlsian democratic socialist who believes in an absolute proscription against torture. Now, the propertarian asks, does Sven have to say that the hypothetical is normatively ideal because he believes one ought not take the action that – in the hypothetical – is the only action which will solve the problem? Of course not. Although in our hypothetical government is not doing anything wrong, indeed is performing flawlessly, the society as a whole is not normatively ideal. Sven’s political philosophy is not thin simply because it includes a moral absolute, even when that absolute prevents the full realization of other values in some circumstances.

The propertarian concludes by noting that, by his lights, the proscription against infringing a person’s ownership of self is as important and absolute as a proscription against torture might be for others.

For a propertarian that heavily weights ownership rights, rather than holding them as absolute, the problem is considerably ameliorated. He might even agree that, if the plight of the Bs is sufficientl severe and can be changed only by the CRA, then the CRA should be used as a temporary measure.

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bianca steele 05.18.11 at 3:55 pm

Are libertarians generally in favor of making it easier for ordinary people to file lawsuits if they think their rights are infringed even by the more powerful?

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bianca steele 05.18.11 at 4:13 pm

Or do they think, we’ll have Norms about not taking others’ property and there will be no need for lawsuits; theft is a sign of an imperfectly libertarian society?

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StevenAttewell 05.18.11 at 5:08 pm

Brett:
1. The definition of surplus labor value is that the employer isn’t buying – they get it for free, because they are able to exploit the inherent coercion in a dependent wage-worker class (ironically, a form of coercion that fit within the classical liberal worldview of Adam Smith but seems to have been selected against thereafter). In other words, the argument is that workers are being paid less than the value of their labor.
2. However, my argument about the neglect by libertarians of the economic liberty of workers goes beyond just the wage issue. Consider the sweeping powers that employers claim to regulate the speech of their employees, to conduct warrant-less searches of their persons and belongings, to surveil them, etc. – and the expanding role of private security forces in the world. In the propertarian view, none of these things are coercive because they don’t involve state actors.

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bianca steele 05.18.11 at 6:38 pm

@243 #2: You hear about this often from people who tend to be close to free speech absolutism though maybe not absolutely, but I think it’s a mistake to assume it as a general fact that most employers claim rights over their employees to the extent you suggest. Saying it’s true suggests people who work for private employers are so dependent on their employers they are uniquely untrustworthy, and surely can make it more reasonable for people to expect it to be true and for it to appear they’ve consented in the few cases an employer might want to try something like banning Democratic Party bumper stickers on employees’ cars.

(I knew someone who was fired for singing at work, and maybe that was excessive. I knew someone else who discovered–none of us had known–that the company could pull up any e-mail that had gone in or out of company premises at police or other request. You are suggesting something farther reaching.)

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Bruce Baugh 05.18.11 at 7:24 pm

Bianca: In my experience, propertarian libertarians talk simultaneously about moving a lot of action from regulation to litigation and about how good it will be to make various kinds of lawsuits much harder to file. They tend to be strongly hostile to class action suits, and to contingency fees when these enable less well-off people to press suits against owners and the wealthy. So the practical outcome is “You should take that to court…but won’t be able to.”

Of the current Supreme Court justices, Scalia and Thomas, I think, most often rule in ways congenial to actual libertarian emotions, as opposed to the occasional noble bit of libertarian rhetoric.

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dubl59zy 05.18.11 at 7:37 pm

For all the allusion to the horrors of “social Jim Crow”, does anyone posting here think that in 2011 there is any spot in the US in which a person of any race would not be able to find a restaurant to serve him within 50 miles (assuming there are any restaurants within 50 miles)?

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Phil 05.18.11 at 10:44 pm

In the propertarian view, none of these things are coercive because they don’t involve state actors.

Needs a bit of unpacking, I think. Argument #1 is that the employee has willingly forfeited certain rights by signing the contract. If he or she didn’t have any alternative to signing the contract, we go to argument #2, which is that he or she should have looked harder. (Objectivists actually make a principle of withholding empathy, which may have something to do with their prominence in propertarian circles.) It’s only in the unlikely event that argument #2 fails – if our propertarian concedes that this employee really, really didn’t have any alternative to signing the contract – that we need to go to argument #3, which is that in this particular case it just plain sucks to be him or her, but the overall situation is still basically OK (because no MEN WITH GUNS).

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Bruce Baugh 05.18.11 at 11:37 pm

dubl59zy: I can think of some areas where it wouldn’t surprise me if people of some races can’t get good, or comparable, service anywhere there. And I am certain of some areas where people can’t be served if they look insufficiently like the area’s norms of masculine and feminine presentation, and other issues that haven’t yet had the benefit of half a century of legislation and a century and a half of effort including a civil war to stomp out.

Furthermore, we are not making up the existence of prominent politicians saying that they’d repeal these laws, and presumably the norms they represent, if only they could.

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Lee A. Arnold 05.18.11 at 11:50 pm

The Right to Trade and Communicate would come to require the safety-net and welfare state. The Right to Property and the Right to Trade both have some interesting outcomes. We have already shown that coerced civil rights becomes a social necessity, to prevent the Right to Property from effecting its logical conclusion, which is to run you off the face of the planet.

Furthermore, we saw that the Right to Property hopes to avoid blame for immorality, not with a moral or philosophical argument, but upon the contingency that there is someplace else for the discriminated to go.

The Right to Trade is impacted by a different contingency, the Pareto distribution. It is another constant contingency. There appears to be no society that has not exhibited the Pareto distribution: the 80-20 distribution of incomes and wealth: about 20% of the people control 80% of the wealth, and vice versa, a rough rule of thumb. It appears to be an empirical law of societies; in the Soviet Union for example, the Communist Party had access to most of the wealth. We can only assume therefore that it has little to do with anyone’s moral philosophy, and rather it has to do with the positional geometry inherent to any system of social information and control, any such system at all. Where you are in it, of course, is partly determined by your skill and your luck, if not some older hereditary order. But no matter, it always has a top and bottom.

If that is true, then there will be some people left out of any system, including the market system. Indeed we observe empirically that markets surely do not solve the Pareto distribution, and at the bottom of the distribution, some people are left out of the market system.

But what happens if we adhere to the Right to Trade, which is logically necessitated by the division of labor?

If we do, then we have to make sure that all people are able to trade for necessities, because specialization and the division of labor has pushed us long past the era of self-sustaining lifestyles.

This justifies certain governmental coercions to provide cash transfers insofar as they enable the Right to Trade: e.g. unemployment compensation, retirement security (such as U.S. Social Security) and universal healthcare. These support the participation of recognized and predictable segments of the population in the trade game. So the Right to Trade would be a primary justification for the safety-net & welfare state.

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Jane Plumber 05.19.11 at 12:35 am

You guys are clueless. I have researched all of the racist propaganda and it leads to nothing. Saying that he spoke at a Birch Society meeting means that he is in the KKK and is a Nazi? Yet the links lead to nothing that backs up their claims.

It’s so amazing how people will flock like sheep to those who play on their fears. I just want people to check out what they read, both good and bad, then make an educated decision. Dr. Paul’s words and actions in the past 30 years make these claims outrageous.
The Republicans don’t want him to run and neither do the Democrats. Why do you think they are both trying to slay his character? To keep us slaves to the system. I don’t know about you, but I choose freedom and you have the right to choose for yourself.

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dubl59zy 05.19.11 at 12:35 am

Bruce Baugh: I actually asked about not getting any service anywhere within 50 miles, which was the tenor (and an actual quote) of some of the comments. “Good or comparable” sounds awfully nebulous to use as a legal standard, doesn’t it?

Also, FWIW, opposing a legal ban on an action isn’t the same as opposing the existence of a norm against that action. For instance, I don’t think that adultery should be illegal, per se, but I still favor a social norm against it.

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John Holbo 05.19.11 at 1:33 am

“As it turns out, the only way to get access to sufficient information to destroy the massive conspiracy is torture.”

And it will be a thriller, entitled, “The Girl Who Kicked The B’s Nest”. Or something.

More seriously: I think the problem here is that the stipulated division between legal and social Jim Crow, for thought-experimental purposes – which was always inherently unrealistic – has now stretched the story to the breaking point. When we get that sorted out, I think we see that the liberal has a coherent way of resolving the issue, theoretically and the propertarian still doesn’t.

Basically you are imagining a liberal society in which a critical mass of the citizenry would rather die than live in a liberal society. What do Rawls and Mill and other liberal theorists say about this? They say you can’t and oughtn’t to try to have a liberal political order, under these conditions. (I think you get this, but let me just write it out to be clear about it.) Rawlsian (let’s say) laws, floating on top of a sea of a population that would apparently rather die than live under Rawlsian law, is not only non-ideal, it is normatively intolerable to a Rawlsian. So the torture issue basically doesn’t arise. In theory, we shouldn’t have Rawlsianism in such a case, because we don’t have the right sort of overlapping consensus. In practice, a supermajority of non-Rawlsians will be elected at every level of government and the laws and Constitution will all be changed toot sweet to suit the non-B’ish sentiments of the majority. Sucks to be B, and sucks for the Rawlsians, but there is no paradox for the Rawlsian, because the situation is very non-ideal, long before we contemplate resorting to the waterboard. And this isn’t some sort of lucky dodge, either. The very same principles that make the liberal unwilling to torture will have already made him unwilling to impose Rawls on a Rawls-hating population, at an earlier stage of the game. Prescriptions against torture cohere with liberal attitudes and responses generally. (Ticking timebomb scenarios are a bit different, but here we are talking about torture to keep down a restive population.)

Can a propertarian say something similar? I don’t think so. The basic problem here is that scenario 1 is consistent with the letter of propertarianism, as we have established. But it is also an expression of an important component of the propertarian social spirit. Namely: ‘it’s not illegal to be an asshole, so get off my lawn.’ This is not a propertarian ideal, per se, but it is a quite central part of the propertarian ideal that this is a tolerable attitude. It is normatively obligatory to tolerate this social attitude. Liberals are often being lectured for not appreciating that freedom requires strong protection for people who exhibit this sort of attitude. So it doesn’t make much sense for a propertarian to say: ‘of course propertarianism only gets off the ground if a critical mass of the citizenry gets into the positive, we’re in this for the greater good, spirit of it. If they are all just a bunch of Jim Crow assholes it will break down in practice.’ No, the idea is supposed to be that you don’t need to get everyone on the same page, reading Rawls or chanting kumbaya or any of that. They can all be sitting on their lawns, with their shotguns and a scowl and a beer, if that’s what they want, in the aggregate. So long as they respect other people’s property, they can do what they want with their own. So scenario 1 is not only ideal, to the letter, it really ought to serve as an object lesson in the spirit of propertarianism. Namely, it’s not illegal to be an asshole, regarding the disposition of your private property. Learn this lesson well, oh naive kumbaya-chanting liberal. Gaze at the spectacle of scenario one, realize it’s basically ‘not illegal to be an asshole’, pluralized, and learn the important lesson that social Jim Crow is not unfair, not unjust, doesn’t make anyone unfree, violates no one’s rights or equality. You can think all these people are assholes. That’s exactly what you are supposed to do when someone says ‘it’s not illegal to be an asshole, get off my lawn’. You can say ‘tsk, I say!’ But that’s about it. But most of us think social Jim Crow, of a scenario 1 sort, is something that calls for a firmer normative response than ‘tsk’, in effect.

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StevenAttewell 05.19.11 at 4:47 am

Bianca – I don’t think it is a mistake. 30% of union drives encounter illegal terminations for pro-union speech; 78% encounter mandatory one-on-one anti-union meetings with managers; 92% encounter mandatory group anti-union meetings; 52% encounter INS threats and 51% encounter threats of plant closures or benefit losses.

That’s just the most obvious case. 40% of the workforce is subject to random drugs testing. By law, your workspace and locker are subject to search, as are any emails, phone calls, texts or computer usage, and the employer has the legal right to monitor you with security cameras.

And because of the ubiquity of at-will employment and the decline in union protections, due process is vestigal.

Outside of prisons, the workplace is the least free place in America.

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StevenAttewell 05.19.11 at 4:54 am

Jane Plumber:
1. The newsletter that went out under his name for twenty years was chockablock with racsit rhetoric. While he says now that it was a rogue staffer, the Houston Chronicle and the Austin Chronicle quoted him in 1996 as saying that his writings about 95% of black men in D.C being “semi-criminal or entirely criminal” were “in the context of “current events and statistical reports of the time.” He’s changed his story since then, but in 1996 he wasn’t denying that he wrote those things.
2. It’s not just the newsletter – he’s said a lot of sketchy stuff on his House website basically arguing the “obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist” ergo let’s get rid of anti-discrimination policy line.
3. Ron Paul is a frequent speaker at John Birch Society rallies and events (keynoted their 50th anniversary bash). It’s not a one-time deal, but an ongoing political relationship.
4. He’s been photographed with Don and Derrick Black (founders of Stormfront), took money from them, and refused to give it back.

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StevenAttewell 05.19.11 at 4:55 am

* racist,

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Substance McGravitas 05.19.11 at 5:00 am

Dr. Paul’s words and actions in the past 30 years make these claims outrageous.

His opposition to the Civil Rights Act makes these claims obvious.

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JanieM 05.19.11 at 5:21 am

Outside of prisons, the workplace is the least free place in America.

Less free than let’s say the average public high school?

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StevenAttewell 05.19.11 at 5:36 am

Good question. It’s a really close call, but I’d still give the edge to the workplace. Although the Supreme Court has cut away at this, their public nature gives more rights to students via 14th amendment equal protection/due process rights and many states have explicit rights to education that also provide some sort of check. Also, public schools have less resources compared to parents in middle class and up districts.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.19.11 at 7:20 am

@JH, 252, I’m guessing Andrews’ thought experiment is a version of the temptation of Ivan Karamazov, why pollute it with Rawlsianism and other irrelevant stuff?

Also, too much emphasis on property. Let’s make it cleaner: what if it’s a racist barber; traveling, door-to-door barber. No property, only labor.

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.19.11 at 7:24 am

…or a racist prostitute, for that matter.

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Brett Bellmore 05.19.11 at 11:16 am

“Brett:
1. The definition of surplus labor value is that the employer isn’t buying – they get it for free, because they are able to exploit the inherent coercion in a dependent wage-worker class (ironically, a form of coercion that fit within the classical liberal worldview of Adam Smith but seems to have been selected against thereafter). In other words, the argument is that workers are being paid less than the value of their labor.”

Surplus labor value is labor by people the employer hasn’t hired, and isn’t paying? Well, then, I agree: Employers have no right to it. I’m unclear on how often people, for instance, come in off the street and sweep your warehouse without demanding in advance to be paid. I certainly don’t see it happening where *I* work…

They do, however, have a right to the product of any labor they are paying for, which, outside of unpaid interns, is pretty much all of it, despite your effort to define a portion of the labor paid employees provide as somehow “unpaid”, apparently because you think they’re not being paid enough.

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StevenAttewell 05.19.11 at 11:39 am

Brett – come on. Leaving aside the issue of wage theft (which one study of 4,000 workers in LA, Chicago, and NY found that 25% of workers (with an average weekly paycheck of $300) experienced $50 a week in wage theft, either in the form of sub-minimum wage, illegal deductions, refusal to pay overtime rates, or forced off-the-clock labor), the issue is whether people are being paid the full value of their labor.

Surplus labor value is the very simple point that you will produce for your employer more than the value of your wage during the workday – but you don’t get paid any additional wages for the value over that amount, and you don’t get to go home early.
For example, Social Security’s national average wage index shows an average of $40,711, output per worker is $105,000 across the U.S.

The question is, how can this be justified under a labor theory of value that property rights is inherently based on?

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Brett Bellmore 05.19.11 at 11:50 am

I agree wage theft is a significant problem. But what you’re talking about is people being paid what they’ve agreed to work for, and you thinking they’re being cheated because they should be paid more.

You justify it on the basis that they owned the labor, and can sell it for any price they want, no matter what you think it’s worth.

As for the average wage being $40,711, and average “output per worker” being $105,000, how can that be justified under a labor theory of value? A purely labor theory of value is crap. The difference isn’t being produced by the worker, it’s being produced by the equipment they’re working on, the “capital”. I’m a tooling engineer, are you telling me the stuff I design doesn’t contribute anything to the value being produced in my workplace? When the machines are running during the night shift, unattended, who do we attribute the output to, the janitor?

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Henri Vieuxtemps 05.19.11 at 3:23 pm

Capital is also produced by labor. You could argue that surplus labor is necessary to facilitate production of capital, but the machines running unattended have nothing to do with this.

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Andrew 05.19.11 at 3:29 pm

JH @252: Yes, I shouldn’t have tossed in that our democratic-socialist was a Rawlsian. Fair point. But we can alter the hypothetical in any number of ways to show the same general conclusion: anyone with a moral absolute (MA) can be confronted with a hypothetical in which their government performs perfectly, but is constrained by the MA from taking the only action which will secure one important value or another. The normatively ideal government can fail to secure a normatively ideal society. If I’m reading you correctly, you think that propertarians really have no normative ideal of society beyond a government that respects ownership rights; or that if they do, it’s a weak normative ideal of society that holds less moral force for them than it should. So you write:

But it is also an expression of an important component of the propertarian social spirit. Namely: ‘it’s not illegal to be an asshole, so get off my lawn.’ This is not a propertarian ideal, per se, but it is a quite central part of the propertarian ideal that this is a tolerable attitude. It is normatively obligatory to tolerate this social attitude. […] Gaze at the spectacle of scenario one, realize it’s basically ‘not illegal to be an asshole’, pluralized, and learn the important lesson that social Jim Crow is not unfair, not unjust, doesn’t make anyone unfree, violates no one’s rights or equality. […] You can say ‘tsk, I say!’ But that’s about it. But most of us think social Jim Crow, of a scenario 1 sort, is something that calls for a firmer normative response than ‘tsk’, in effect.

I think this really gets at the center of the argument. But one can read propertarianism as simply a theory about the limits of justified coercion, and as nothing more. This theory can be set in a larger theory of human goods and nature – an odd admixture of John Finnis and Nozick, for instance. In this larger theory, we find other moral prescriptions – perhaps even other moral absolutes – in addition to the moral absolute (or very heavy weighting) of not violating ownership rights.

A propertarian of this sort might say about Scenario 1 that, given his view of human nature, it is logically impossible for such a situation to truly be stable and seek to avoid it altogether. In practice, I suspect that the dissonance this Scenario 1 produces (for reasons I touch on below) will in most conversations produce that response.

But, a more robust propertarian might take up the challenge and explain that, regardless, in Scenario 1 one would be obligated not merely to say “tsk” but to form voluntary associations, to speak against, to show by one’s conduct that the exclusion of Bs is wrong, to support Bs financially, and in short to enact a vigorous campaign of persuasion. In the end, he claims, we arrive a society that has more authentically achieved the values of human community and fellowship, of the recognition of the dignity of all, because we did so not by the illegitimate violence of government, but by the enlightenment of individuals.

In a significant respect, this differs little from what many other political theories would prescribe, except that for those theories the object of such a campaign would be both to persuade a population to change and to persuade a population to adopt a CRA. Our democratic socialists of varying philosophical foundations could agree, for instance, that an individual A or B ought not force an A to open his store to all at gunpoint. They might say that government has the permissible power to do so, following a legitimate process, and that government, following such a process, should do so. But in both cases the objectionable aspects of Scenario 1 must be tolerated while the process goes forward.

I agree with you that propertarians must do more to explain how their insistence on either an absolute respect for rights of ownership, or a heavy weighting, coheres with their other values. And my impression is that many propertarians do hold the very narrow, cramped attitude to which you object. Those propertarians have become so fixated on rights of ownership that they adopt propertarianism not simply as a theory of the limits of coercion, but as a thorough moral theory – which, I agree, is easily shown to most of us to be absurd.

Hypotheticals like Scenario 1 might encourage propertarians who think of propertarianism as a full moral theory to reflect more fully on whether such a propertarianism coheres with their actual moral sense. For those propertarians who view propertarianism as a theory about the limits of coercion, these hypotheticals focus the discussion on what is likely the least theorized and weakest aspects of the fit between their propertarianism and the rest of their moral view. So, imho, while the propertarian can still accommodate our intuition about Scenario 1, I don’t think he can fully escape the tension that it provokes.

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bianca steele 05.19.11 at 6:34 pm

Steven:
I just don’t think that level of surveillance and control, both during and outside of working hours, are expected by either employers or employees–regardless of what the Supreme Court has ruled in specific recent cases. If employers tried it, I suspect, they would have a Tea Party level of rebellion, and would have to have a pretty strong presumption they could ride out the anger they would face in the community. Drastic measures against unions, illegal drug use, and using company equipment to access the Internet for personal business aren’t things that most people are worried about–not only because they think of those things as things “other people” do–but because in many cases they know their employers wouldn’t choose to take advantage in those ways.

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bianca steele 05.19.11 at 6:49 pm

Brett:
Unpaid interns, okay. Accounting rules not considering certain necessary overhead items as “costs” on pain of being labeled a cheat, maybe, though it seems doubtful Marxist theory is dependent on the vagaries of accounting rules. What about recent college grads making, say, $30K/year? A manager hires a few to do filing and stuff, answer phones, be a handsome face for clients. They also have experienced professionals doing certain tasks, they make $60K and up, they have attitudes and family obligations. The recent college grads think, we could do those guys’ jobs, and they offer to do exactly that in their free time, no extra pay? If their labor is being paid for, what were the pros being paid for before they lost their jobs?

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John Holbo 05.20.11 at 3:34 am

Little late getting back to the thread. Andrew, I think we are pretty close to agreeing at this point. Let me comment on one thing you say: “If I’m reading you correctly, you think that propertarians really have no normative ideal of society beyond a government that respects ownership rights; or that if they do, it’s a weak normative ideal of society that holds less moral force for them than it should.”

I might weaken that just a little bit. If propertarians have a strong normative ideal of society beyond a government that respects ownership rights, it’s unclear why they are propertarians. (So it is doubly unclear why we should take their word for it that WE should consider becoming propertarians.) This is like the case of the Millian liberal who has a strong ideal of a traditional society of the sort that Millian liberalism is, in practice, highly likely to disrupt. There is really no contradiction whatsoever in holding this view. But it is extremely hard to see why anyone would find it plausible or appealing. The likelihood, in such a case, is that the person is somehow confused or not being fully forthcoming about what they actually think.

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Andrew 05.20.11 at 1:39 pm

JH, I think we’re basically in agreement. As to why a person would be a propertarian… one strong possibility is, as you say, that they’re confused or not fully forthcoming.

Not inconsistently with the confusion hypothesis, I would also guess that the primary draw of propertarianism for its adherents is the emphasis on self-efficacy. It is a theory that begins, and ends, with the individual, and it relies on narratives that place enormous confidence in the ability of an individual to forge from his circumstances a good life, regardless of society.

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dictateursanguinaire 05.21.11 at 6:05 am

For all the allusion to the horrors of “social Jim Crow”, does anyone posting here think that in 2011 there is any spot in the US in which a person of any race would not be able to find a restaurant to serve him within 50 miles (assuming there are any restaurants within 50 miles)?

wait. so let’s get this straight. at some point, we definitely had social Jim Crow in this country. then there was a march and some laws were passed and now it has stopped. and this is an argument AGAINST passing such laws? fail.

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