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.