Ron Paul has been consistently polling at number one in Iowa or at a statistical tie for first depending on who you ask. This obviously can’t stand since he’s a threat to the establishment. In desperation the media from both left and right have been doing everything they can to disrupt his campaign. The issue of race in American politics has again come out, with everyone trying to paint Paul as a racist.
Whether true or not, the stigma associated with being accused of racism is oftentimes enough to shutdown any debate or discourse. “Oh, he’s a racist because you said he is? That’s all I need to hear.” End of discussion.
This is a tragedy, even if it were true. For it means the accused isn’t even granted the opportunity to explain his position. It also means that philosophic questions about what role, if any, government has in such issues are muddled at best. The alleged racist might possess a very well grounded argument. One supported by reason and a consistent understanding of justice. But no one would ever hear it.
This is largely because the average consumer of news has been conditioned to expect an entire political platform to be delivered in a four minute interview. Sound bites are perfect for platitudes; not so much for presenting a substantive argument. This is why “debate” questions are limited to only 60 seconds. It allows candidates who have nothing to offer but well-rehearsed talking points an opportunity to sound “presidential.” Genuine thinking takes more time to present and understand.
As an anecdote, let me point out that I know something about racial discrimination. While in high school I applied for a job at a Mexican restaurant. I was denied. The manager told me they only hired Mexicans.
My initial reaction was of shock. Then outrage. Then I thought about things. Freedom of association doesn’t only mean that two people are free to associate with one another. It also means they are free not to associate with one another.
Paul appeared on CNN’s American Morning last weekend and the host brought up Paul’s position on the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Paul drew a connection between property rights and civil rights, saying the two are inseparable. If property rights are insecure, then so are civil rights, because it is from the right to own property that all other rights hinge.
If you can’t own pen and paper, or their modern analog the computer, how can you be free to enjoy the freedoms of press or expression? If one doesn’t own his body, how can he be free to use it in ways he wishes, including earning a living? Slaves were not allowed to own property as a means of controlling them. If they had the freedom to own possessions it would eventually undermine their status as someone else’s property.
Those who attack Paul, such as Michael Lind at Salon, deride his position on certain parts of the Civil Rights Act. He has said before that Jim Crow laws were evil and should never been in place to begin with. Any Libertarian understands this. The problem with the Civil Rights Act is that it goes too far by abrogating private property. It turns what are rightly private establishments into “public” property.
Lind refers to Locke’s understanding of rights, writing that “coercion in the service of communal self-defense is perfectly legitimate.” But what if Locke was wrong and coercion is never legitimate? What if, in order to protect the rights of the people, a government necessarily must violate their rights? Isn’t this contradictory? What other rights might the State violate in order to serve the “community?”
He goes on: “Libertarians typically argue that only government, backed by military and police power, can be tyrannical.” This is a false representation. Libertarian political theory is founded on the non-aggression principle, which must be applied consistently to everyone. Libertarians, unlike other political theorists, recognize that the State is simply the most tyrannical, since it claims a monopoly on the use of force/ violence.
…Ron Paul displays the moral idiocy of someone who declares that a person who pushes a little old lady out of the path of a bus is just as bad as a person who pushes a little old lady into the path of a bus, because both are equally guilty of pushing little old ladies around.
This is a false analogy. The problem with the Civil Rights Act, according to Libertarians, is that it’s not simply a matter of “pushing old [ladies] out of the path of a bus.” A more apt analogy would involve shoving someone else under the bus in place of the old lady, since the act violates the property rights of others. At this point it becomes a subjective argument over who is more valuable as a human: the old lady or whomever is standing next to her.
All of this stems from a misunderstanding of rights. Rights are different from privileges. They cannot be taken away, nor can they be granted. They are inherent, unalienable; they derive from our humanity, whether you believe from God or nature. A right does not require the action or consent of any other entity in order to be exercised.
We have the right to liberty. That is no one can rightfully compel us to do anything, nor can they restrict us from acting, so long as we don’t infringe on other’s rights. We have the right to own things through homesteading or original appropriation, or we can trade legitimately owned property. We are free to contract with one another to exchange goods or services.
We do not have a right to be served a meal at any restaurant. We don’t have the right to be hired by any company. We don’t have the right to receive anything from anyone without first arriving on mutually agreeable terms.
Business owners should not be forced to serve everyone who walks in the door. Doing so violates their rights to legitimately acquired property. Should a black restaurant owner be forced to serve a member of the KKK? What about a Jewish business owner being forced to serve a skinhead? The questions answer themselves.
The obvious question is why would a member of the KKK or a Neo-Nazi want to frequent these establishments? Why would someone choose to associate with people they hate? Or, why would someone voluntarily associate with someone who hated them?
Businesses which choose to discriminate do so at their own risk. By denying service to entire segments of the population they necessarily forfeit these groups to their competitors. If a business refuses to hire someone based on race alone then it’s the business who will suffer. Any other employer can take him on and enjoy his productive capacity.
That restaurant owner had every right to turn me away. Perhaps he wanted to present an atmosphere as authentically Mexican as possible. A suburban white kid would stick out among the other employees. He would immediately remind patrons they were not in fact eating in a picturesque little restaurant south of the border. Perhaps he just resented white people. Either way he was free to decide whom to hire.
Incidentally he closed his doors within a year of my application. I like to think it’s because he passed on the best bus boy ever to clear a table. Without my expertise they couldn’t compete and had to close down. It’s also possible they went under because I told everyone I knew not to frequent their establishment. This is how a free society deals with such behavior. Not with violence or coercion, but with ostracism and a refusal to transact business with them.