Brad DeLong writes:
Ron Paul: Get the Government Out of My Government!
Matthew Yglesias on Ron Paul:
Ron Paul And The Civil Rights Act: I watched Ron Paul on Hardball yesterday afternoon talking about his opposition to the Civil Rights Act…. The real issue here is Paul’s perfectly sincere [complaint that the]… Civil Rights Act is… a genuinely large infringement of people’s private property rights. It says that just because you own a hotel doesn’t mean you can decide to bar black people from staying at it. It says that just because you own a bus, you can’t decide to make black passengers ride in the back. It says you can’t buy—at any price—a seat at a whites-only lunch counter. It’s a massive instance of big government medaling in people’s private business.
It was also in the 1960s and 1970s an absolutely vital tool in resolving a social and political crisis of gargantuan proportion…. Ron Paul, like Rand Paul before him, opposes this measure not—or not only—out of some bias against black people but out of a deeply-held belief that the state should never solve any social problem no matter how severe the problem or how effective the solution.
It seems to me that that is wrong. When you own a hotel and bar Black people what happens is that if Black people comes in and sleep in the beds you call the police–functionaries of the state–and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a bus and require Black people to sit in the back and Black people sits in the front you call the police–functionaries of the state–and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass. When you own a lunch counter and make it whites-only if Black people sit down at the lunch counter you call the police–functionaries of the state–and they then take the Black people away and charge them with trespass.
Ron Paul’s belief is that the state should assist in amplifying social and political crises and injustices whenever the propertied wish to provoke them.
Private fee-simple property is, after all, an institution established and enforced by the government. You can hardly get the government out of what is, fundamentally, the government’s core business.
Or if you do–if you no longer rely on government to enforce your property rights, you had better be willing to hold seisin in the manner of Richard “Strongbow” de Clare–and had best start practicing with horse and lance…
This is a major problem for libertarians, though not for anarchists. Property rights are a social institution that improve efficiency, they are not however strictly moral. My own property is something worth preserving, as that is property I largely earned from work I did (with of course aid along the way from previous generations). Taking my property from me would discourage work. That the Queen of England owns property comes from inheritance because her ancestors (and the spouses of those ancestors) used force somewhere along the way. Buckminster Fuller labels them the Great Pirates, which I think is a very poetic phrasing of this phenomenon.
But property is not an absolute, and the expectations that the government can help random racist property owner enforce racial exclusion on his property, paid for by the general public, is noxious. This is less of a problem for anarchists like David Friedman who authored The Machinery of Freedom, who don’t rely on the government, but may hire their own private security firms. As those aware of the world may note, Anarchy has problems of its own.
As Hans Rosling says “People who don’t like government, go into this corner and discuss Somalia, People who don’t like markets, go into that corner and discuss North Korea.”
This is a transportation problem because the issue is basically one of the common carrier, who must the bus carry, and how must they be carried? And this was an issue with Rosa Parks, who decided to start the Civil Rights movement those who were defeated in the War of Northern Aggression still grumble about. (Though in that case the Montgomery Bus Company was apparently publicly owned, and the Jim Crow laws required it, it could just as easily have been private at the time, and been a private sector requirement, as it had been in the privately-owned streetcar era).