Green Room

The Lizards Defend That Blooming Idiot, Rand Paul

posted at 12:55 am on May 21, 2010 by

Before diving into the substance of Dr. Rand Paul’s remarks on the 1964 Civil Rights Act, let’s get one thing straight: Paul was a fool for blundering into that tar pit — or allowing MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow to lure him into it like a drunken farmer chasing a corpse candle into a bog. Worse, once hip deep in the big muddy, he contracted a bad case of hoof-in-mouth disease and couldn’t defend his position.

But just because one shallow thinker of today was unable to defend the liberty position doesn’t make indefensible a principle famously argued by Barry Goldwater in the 1964 presidential election campaign… no matter what Hugh Hewitt says.

It’s hard to nail down exactly what Paul’s position actually is; I think it’s the same as Goldwater’s: Where state or federal policy either directly discriminates on the basis of race or else mandates private racial discrimination, it is absolutely appropriate to pass a federal law overturning such “institutional racialism;” however, such a law should not and constitutionally cannot reach beyond that point to purely private and voluntary racial discrimination, which (alas) the final version of the Act did.

That’s why Goldwater voted against it after having supported earlier versions that did not outlaw private, volunatry discrimination; and fair warning, that is my objection to the Act, as well.

Here’s my best collage of Paul’s lengthy, meandering, and unfocused response to Maddow:

MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don’t serve black people?

PAUL: Yes. I’m not in favor of any discrimination of any form. I would never belong to any club that excluded anybody for race. We still do have private clubs in America that can discriminate based on race.

But I think what’s important about this debate is not written into any specific “gotcha” on this, but asking the question: what about freedom of speech? Should we limit speech from people we find abhorrent? Should we limit racists from speaking?

I don’t want to be associated with those people, but I also don’t want to limit their speech in any way in the sense that we tolerate boorish and uncivilized behavior because that’s one of the things freedom requires is that we allow people to be boorish and uncivilized, but that doesn’t mean we approve of it…..

MADDOW: I mean, the Civil Rights Act was the federal government stepping in to protect civil rights because they weren’t otherwise being protected. It wasn’t a hypothetical. There were businesses that were saying black people cannot be served here and the federal government stepped in and said, no, you actually don’t have that choice to make. The federal government is coming in and saying you can’t make that choice as a business owner.

Which side of that debate would you put yourself on?

PAUL: In the totality of it, I’m in favor of the federal government being involved in civil rights and that’s, you know, mostly what the Civil Rights Act was about…. Most of the things [Martin Luther King, jr.] was fighting were laws. He was fighting Jim Crow laws. He was fighting legalized and institutional racism. And I’d be right there with him….

MADDOW: As I understand it, what you`re saying, [is that] the portion of the Civil Rights Act that said you can’t actually have segregated lunch counters here at your private business [is the one title of the Civil Rights Act you reject]…. Until the year 2000, Bob Jones University, a private institution, had a ban on interracial dating at their school, their private institution. If Bob Jones University wanted to bring that back now, would you support their right to do so?

PAUL: Well, I think it’s interesting because the debate involves more than just that, because the debate also involves a lot of court cases with regard to the commerce clause. For example, right now, many states and many gun organizations are saying they have a right to carry a gun in a public restaurant because a public restaurant is not a private restaurant. Therefore, they have a right to carry their gun in there and that the restaurant has no right to have rules to their restaurant.

So, you see how this could be turned on many liberal observers who want to excoriate me on this. Then to be consistent, they’d have to say, oh, well, yes, absolutely, you’ve got your right to carry your gun anywhere because it’s a public place.

So, you see, when you blur the distinction between public and private, there are problems. When you blur the distinction between public and private ownership, there really is a problem. A lot of this was settled a long time ago and isn’t being debated anymore….

MADDOW: Let’s say there’s a town right now and the owner of the town’s swimming club says we’re not going to allow black kids at our pool, and the owner of the bowling alley in town says, we’re not actually going to allow black patrons, and the owner of the skating rink in town says, we’re not going to allow black people to skate here.

And you may think that’s abhorrent and you may think that’s bad business. But unless it’s illegal, there’s nothing to stop that — there’s nothing under your world view to stop the country from re-segregating like we were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964

PAUL: Right.

It goes on an on, but the basic points are all here. Note that Paul brings up a valid analogy — should gun owners in a gun-friendly state be allowed to bring guns into a restaurant, even against the will of the restaurant’s owner?

Paul says no. But if the owner is allowed the private-property liberty to control who brings a weapon into his facility, then under what principle can he not control who he allows in, period? The analogy was valid, but it was (again) foolishly chosen: No listener not already predisposed to the Goldwater, Paul, and Lizardian point of view will understand his point.

Allow me to help Dr. Paul out of the mire; again, bear in mind I’m defending his position, not the hamfisted way he expressed it.

Rachel Maddow’s fundamental confusion is shared by all liberals and about 80% of conservatives (e.g., Hugh Hewitt): Under Jim Crow, the problem wasn’t that individual owners “decided” to racially discriminate; state laws required them to discriminate.

In a free market, some-but-not-all restaurants will discriminate, while others won’t. Those that do cut off much of their customer base — not just the potential customers who are black but also those whites who vehemently oppose racial discrimination; their non-discriminating competitors get the extra business instead. Thus, a discriminatory stance creates an automatic “economic penalty”: Racism becomes an expensive luxury that most business owners simply cannot afford.

(The same punishment operates whenever an owner makes an economic decision on a completely non-economic basis, such as not serving old people or divesting stock from companies that do business with Israel; that’s one of the magical effects of a free market!)

After a while, many racists will decide they need the money more than they need to discriminate; they will take down the “whites only” sign, no matter how much it pains them, or risk going out of business. A few will maintain their discrimination until the bitter end; so it goes.

But wait, what about the other side of the coin? Some dyed in the wool racists would only frequent those establishments that discriminate. They will boycott the integrated businesses and patronize only the racists.

Frankly, I doubt that such persons would have been the majority in any state even back in the days of Jim Crow: If they had been the majority, there would have been no need for laws to force them to do what they wanted to do in the first place. The very fact that the state legislature had to enact Jim Crow laws testifies that residents weren’t discriminating, they weren’t keeping blacks “in their places.”

Walter Williams writes about this in his wonderful book, South Africa’s War Against Capitalism: The Afrikaaners enacted Apartheid laws precisely because at the turn of the twentieth century, businesses (from railroads to mines to hotels), left to their own free will, were rapidly integrating the races. Economic necessity was breaking down the barriers; blacks offered their services for lower wages than whites, and employers snapped them up to save labor costs. Soon the whites had to lower their own wages to compete; at the same time, as blacks gained more experience, they raised their demands… eventually, the two races met in the middle, more or less.

Funnily enough, one of the first bills the Kreugerites enacted forced businesses to pay blacks and whites exactly the same wages, “equal pay for equal work.” Sound familiar? The effect was to remove the financial incentive to hire blacks, because their labor was no longer any bargain.

With the market mechanisms removed, it was easy to threaten or bully businesses into hiring and promoting only whites. (Most of the racist coercion was committed by the socialist labor unions, by the way… quelle surprise!) Thus, even in Apartheid South Africa, the free market acted to integrate and equalize the races, while the government — “for their own good” — acted to segregate and discriminate between them — “Apartheid” literally means “apart-ness”.

In any event, I steadfastly believe that even in the deep South in the 1950s, far more potential customers would choose to patronize a business on the basis of quality and price — than on the basis of whether that business segregated black from white. Over the long run (which would likely be only a few years), that would drive out the adamant racists: Businesses operate on such a small margin that even a small economic advantage towards race neutrality would have an oversized effect on a business’ viability.

Unless, that is, the state steps in and makes such racial discrimination mandatory; that is what we mean by “Jim Crow.” If the state interferes with the market, forcing everyone to discriminate, it kills the market’s ability to drive behavior away from irrelevant (and offensive) absurdities like racial discrimination: I can no longer compete with a “whites only” lunchcounter by advertising “we serve everybody!” I would be arrested and my business shut down if I tried.

That robs me of my liberty, my property rights; and that is the ground on which the Civil Rights Act should have been fought. Let freedom reign, and allow the market to do its holy job of driving the fools and haters out of business.

Of course, there will always be pockets where there really are more racists than sons and daughters of liberty; in those dark nooks, they will open their whites-only swimming pools and bowling alleys and ice-skating rinks. What do we do about that?

We let them. If they want to segregate themselves away from the rest of society, let them huddle together and fester. So long as we all have freedom of mobility and association, the 99% of the country that is decent will isolate the tiny fraction who are morally putrid; and the good citizens will open their own pools, alleys, and rinks open to everyone. After all, there’s gold in them thar businesses.

The racist kooks will become curiosities, monkeys in a zoo: We’ll point and laugh at the funny and now-powerless haters, just as we do whenever the Ku Klux Klan musters its eight or nine hoodwinkers to stand on the corner holding up racist, and typically illiterate signs.

That’s the American way, the path of liberty. Just as we don’t deny Klansmen, Black Panthers, or MEChA (Movimiento Estudiantil Chicano de Aztlán) their freedom of speech, we should also not deny them their right to serve only “their own kind,” if that’s what they want.

Nor do we prevent the rest of us from expressing displeasure by patronizing their competitors instead.

Had Rand Paul really thought this all through aforehand, he could have answered Rachel Maddow much more powerfully and directly, like this (warning, fabricated interview ahead!):

MADDOW: Do you think that a private business has the right to say we don’t serve black people?

LIZARDS: Sure — if they want to cut their own economic throats.

MADDOW: What do you mean? The Civil Rights Act was the federal government stepping in to protect civil rights because they weren’t otherwise being protected. It wasn’t a hypothetical. There were businesses that were saying black people cannot be served here and the federal government stepped in and said, no, you actually don’t have that choice to make. The federal government is coming in and saying you can’t make that choice as a business owner.

How about desegregating lunch counters? Lunch counters. Walgreen’s lunch counters, were you in favor of that? Possibly? Because the government got involved?

LIZARDS: The problem wasn’t that Jim Crow wasn’t protecting civil rights, Rachel. The great evil of Jim Crow laws was that they forced even non-racists to racially discriminate.

In a free market, I could open a lunchcounter right across the street from a “whites only” Walgreens; and in my front window, I could put a sign that says “we serve everybody!” I have faith in the American people, Southerners included. Let me compete with the racists without the state government or federal government stacking the deck, and I guarantee you I’ll drive the racial haters out of business and out of town.

That way, we’ll lose the racists — good riddance — but we’ll keep liberty and the sanctity of private property, the cornerstone of America. That’s the same sanctity of private property, by the way, that allows a homeowner to sell his house to a black family, no matter what the ancient, entrenched political class in the state capital demand.

MADDOW: Mr. Reptile, until the year 2000, Bob Jones University, a private institution, had a ban on interracial dating at their school, their private institution. If Bob Jones University wanted to bring that back now, would you support their right to do so?

LIZARDS: Bob Jones University didn’t drop its policy as a result of the Civil Rights Act; President Bob Jones dropped the policy in the year 2000, because the adverse publicity of its racist stance was hurting the university. That’s an important point, Rachel: The market was hurting Bob Jones badly enough that it forced them to change their stupid, evil policy.

The most the feds ever did to BJU was to take away its religious tax exemption. I’ve long argued that when an insitution requests special dispensation that amounts to an endorsement of that institution — such as a religious tax exemption that secular private universities don’t get — the government has every right to make that privilege contingent upon meeting the base-level standards of decency that American society demands. I would just as vigorously oppose giving a tax exemption to Mohammed Atta Martyrdom University, no matter how sincerely held was its jihadist religous curriculum.

MADDOW: Let’s say there’s a town right now and the owner of the town’s swimming club says we’re not going to allow black kids at our pool, and the owner of the bowling alley in town says, we’re not actually going to allow black patrons, and the owner of the skating rink in town says, we’re not going to allow black people to skate here.

And you may think that’s abhorrent and you may think that’s bad business. But unless it’s illegal, there’s nothing to stop that — there’s nothing under your world view to stop the country from re-segregating like we were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

LIZARDS: Nothing but the justice and common decency of the American people! In the first place, this isn’t the 1950s. The whole world has come a long way in the last half century, wouldn’t you say? And no country in the world is less racist than the United States: Not a single state in the Union has even one pair of racists in its legislature to conspire together to re-segregate the country.

But frankly, Rachel, I don’t even believe any state in the deep South had a majority of racist citizens even in 1964. What they had was an oligarchy of bitter, hate-filled, septuagenarian racists who occupied state legislatures like the Nazis occupied the Reichstag. They were corrupt, elections were rigged, and they couldn’t be ousted from their seats except perhaps by dynamite… or by joining Republican Party!

But that’s no longer true, and it hasn’t been since I was in grade school. Oh yes, there is still racial discrimination in the United States; but today, as in the 50s and 60s, it comes from the left side of the aisle, from race-obsessed Democrats and leftists allied with radical Islam. But so long as we can keep the Left away from the levers of power, I’m confident America will never re-segregate.

I am quite certain this would have been much, much harder to spin as racist, pro-segregation, and anti-civil rights. And in any event, it sure would have made more exciting political theater!

Cross-posted on Big Lizards

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Why the hell did he even bother to respond to an interview request from MSDNC at all?
Doesn’t matter what the program is, they are only looking to embarrass and damage any Republican candidate or office holder.

To quote someone, they are not even a legitimate news organization. Freeze them out entirely.

If it was NBC Nightly News or the Today Show, maybe, but be loaded for bear as you suggest.

MSDNC is a joke, many more people have seen or heard about this interview from the internet than the original broadcast anyway.

Of course he got a slap from Robin Roberts over on ABC’s Good Morning America as well.

I really, really despise the media in this country today. They are almost all worthless propaganda hitjob artists, and now they don’t even try to hide it anymore.

They think we are all morons just nodding along.

AS far as the substance about the ’64 CRA, this was very thought provoking and well done. Goodonya.

Brian1972 on May 21, 2010 at 6:05 AM

Just because Paul couldn’t or didn’t know how to defend his position, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Jim Crow laws were patently wrong because it was about public policy, but so were the feds wrong dictating to private entities who and what they could with their private property.

That was the start of the slippery slope we’re now seeing where the president grabbed auto companies and gave them to the unions and took over healthcare and banks and who knows what else in future.

The Civil Rights Act would have been a far better piece of legislation if it declared non-discrimination in public institutions and places where congress had a perfect right to act and leave private entities to sink or swim with their decisions to continue their vile discriminatory practices. It wouldn’t have taken long for the private sector to see the handwriting on the wall and comply voluntarily.

erp on May 21, 2010 at 9:33 AM

Look at this!

It appears that Joe Scarborough agrees with me, as per Newsbusters:

JOE SCARBOROUGH: I will not mention any names, but I’ll just say one of the top conservative leaders in Washington, DC, not elected, but a real opinion-shaper, had two questions. First of all, how could he have been so stupid to have walked into this type of controversy? And secondly, this is part of a news story so I’m going to say it, what the hell was he doing on MSNBC? This isn’t an anti-MSNBC situation but you don’t find a whole lot of very liberal Democrats going on Fox News election night or the night after to do their victory lap. They’re wondering whether he’s ready for prime time.

Scarborough finished on an optimistic note.

SCARBOROUGH: I’ve got to say, though, personally, if we’re just looking at political crisis management, Rand Paul did what was required and I predict Rand Paul’s going to win Kentucky.

Even the talent at MSDNC sees the obvious!

Brian1972 on May 21, 2010 at 9:37 AM

such a law should not and constitutionally cannot reach beyond that point to purely private and voluntary racial discrimination, which (alas) the final version of the Act did.

Once opened to the public, the purely private and voluntary nature of said racism is no longer purely private or voluntary.

Note that Paul brings up a valid analogy — should gun owners in a gun-friendly state be allowed to bring guns into a restaurant, even against the will of the restaurant’s owner?

If the law allows a gun owner to bring guns into the “public” restaurant, the owner would be required to adhere to the law. The will of the owner of a “public” restaurant does not supersede the public law.

Frankly, I doubt that such persons would have been the majority in any state even back in the days of Jim Crow: If they had been the majority, there would have been no need for laws to force them to do what they wanted to do in the first place. The very fact that the state legislature had to enact Jim Crow laws testifies that residents weren’t discriminating, they weren’t keeping blacks “in their places.”

If such persons were not the majority, how did such laws come to be? If the majority was against the Jim Crow laws, it should have easy to rescind the laws.

The laws were not rescinded by the majority, which refutes your assertion that the only the minority of residents were discriminating.

In any event, I steadfastly believe that even in the deep South in the 1950s, far more potential customers would choose to patronize a business on the basis of quality and price — than on the basis of whether that business segregated black from white.

How was it that the businesses that did engage in racism continue to thrive?

The free market should have fixed the problem, it did not.

Let freedom reign, and allow the market to do its holy job of driving the fools and haters out of business.

The free market will never eliminate racism because racism exists within the individuals that participate in the free market. Until the day comes that all of humanity has been cured of the disease of racism, the Civil Rights Act is the best medicine that man can offer to treat the symptoms of the disease.

rukiddingme on May 21, 2010 at 12:05 PM

This is a solid defense of the libertarian principle Dafydd. At one time, it was a compliment to say that a person had discriminating taste. That person could tell a bad wine from a good one or have other quality judging skills. We all discriminate on the basis of color too, as when you are at the store and choose a shirt because it is in your favorite shade.

We still discriminate. A convenience store may have a sign saying no more than 4 teenagers are allowed in the store at the same time. There is a perfectly valid reason for this; gangs of kids might swarm the store so that several can shoplift while a few make small purchase and generally distract the clerk. Setting business decisions should be within the purview of the owner. I can see an argument to limit this however if the public health is involved or a government loan has been made to the business.

A point about public versus private restaurants — A lunch counter at the airport, baseball stadium, or the Smithsonian is a public venue. McDonalds is a private venue.

GnuBreed on May 22, 2010 at 7:56 AM

Why the hell did he even bother to respond to an interview request from MSDNC at all?

Brian1972 on May 21, 2010 at 6:05 AM

Because he’s a retard who thinks libs will still suck up to him. Just like McLame did during the presidential election. If you’re too stupid to be able to go into the lions den and leave it with a necklace made out of their teeth, you should not go in at all. Sadly, nearly all of politicians are morons which is why we’re screwed right now.

Darth Executor on May 23, 2010 at 11:44 PM