Thursday, May 20, 2010


The point to make about Paul, however, is that what he suffers from here is an excess of honesty and ideological rigor not an unusual degree of racism. Basic free market principles really do lead one to the absurd conclusion that government regulation of private business is a greater evil than institutionalized segregation. That’s why Barry Goldwater, William F Buckley, the Young Americans for Freedom, and the other progenitors of the postwar conservative movement all opposed the Civil Rights Act and the civil rights movement.

No, Matt, "basic free market principles" were not the reason why William F. Buckley opposed the civil rights movement.

Under Buckley’s editorship, the magazine featured, besides ideological disagreements to offend any progressive, arguments that would offend anyone who values civil rights. One editorial from the sixties: “The central question… is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes…. National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct…” In other words National Review opposed civil rights legislation. Buckley later characterized that stance regretfully, saying, “I think that the impact of that bill should have been welcomed by us.” Whether this apology exonerates Buckley, and we believe it does not, it is important to recognize that conservatives used support for segregationists pull the South out of the New Deal Democratic coalition, paving the way to the landmark victories of Ronald Reagan in 1980 (who, like Buckley and National Review, was against school busing for integration) and the Republican congress in 1994.

Here's the thing: segregation at lunch counters didn't exist because individual privately owned businesses were determining for themselves that they would not serve black people. They relied on the local government to enforce this discrimination. Otherwise it would have been possible for non whites to sue white businesses for physical assault. Just because something isn't statutory doesn't mean that it isn't taking place with government aid. A truly libertarian stance on the Civil Rights Act that wasn't covertly conservative/racist would be to argue that the government must withdraw all legal aid, police help, and rights to sue for damages from discriminatory businesses *and then* leave the business free to discriminate. As I said below, on one of Steve's threads, and as Atrios and others have pointed out when the government liscences a buisiness it performs all kinds of functions for that business that are paid for by all taxpayers, regardless of race, class, creed, and sex. To allow a business to partake in taxpayer paid benefits like firemen, police, social security, medicare, etc...while refusing to serve taxpayers is absurd. The line between public and private property is guaranteed by government action and its something we all pay for and no private business has the right to take our money and then refuse service to us.

Buckley and other wealthy conservatives were conservatives because it was the party of christianity, property, racism and classism. They were and remain revanchistes who use the language of libertarianism because they (and many of their followers) think it washes them of the ugly term bigot and racist since it appears to put the argument on a higher intellectual plane. Rand Paul (and others) explicitly argue that it is their libertarian principles, rather than their personal racist or sexist inclinations, that lead them to certain inescapable economic and political conclusions. But, of course, this is absurd. Modern day American libertarians pick and choose among their principles all the time--Mr. Paul is opposed to a woman's right to choose whether and when to carry a pregnancy to term but I bet if you ask him he will be opposed to men being forced to pay child support for children they have fathered. In one case the imaginary fetal "right to life" trumps the woman's right to bodily autonomy, in the other the man's right to freedom from cost trumps the child's right to a secure living. In Buckley's case he was so far from believing in a free market of ideas that he explicitly demanded protection both for Christianity and for his class of owners against a true free market which was causing them to lose influence (as he saw it) in places of higher learning. Libertarians (with the exception of Arthur Silber) are the farthest thing from merely intellectually rigorous and principled that you can possibly be. How many libertarians have refused, on principle, to sue a private business because they were discriminated against? Bork, anyone?


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