Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Whose liberty?

According to Paul the Elder (Ron) and Paul the Younger (Rand) the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was a terrible, terrible mistake. In their construction I, as an American, had more liberty when there were jobs I might as well not even bother applying for because of the color of my skin or because of my gender. This is the logic of libertarianism. In that construction, there are no tradeoffs. Rather, there’s just a big pile of liberty and everyone either has all of it or none of it.
Now, I will be the first to admit that my employer’s liberty was limited in that they couldn’t just refuse to hire me because I’m black, a woman or queer. However, in the America my parents spent the first 50 years of their life in their liberty was seriously constrained because they were black. In other blog posts, I have taken apart the idea that if only the market had been left to its own devices integration would have come to America in the fullness of time. There is less than no reason to believe this. In fact, the argument comprises a counterfactual worthy of Harry Turtledove. We ran the experiment and we know how it turned out. Many of the people who experienced that experiment through most of the last century are only now departing this veil of tears. Another fairly large cohort is only now just retiring. The generation who experienced ‘the Change’ are only now reaching middle-age. The market didn’t solve the problem on its own. I will not rehash that argument in this post but if you’re interested in it (and my mea culpa for assuming a goodwill on the part of Paul the Elder that his newsletters suggest he does not deserve) the blog post discussing the problem with the libertarian fantasy that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was unnecessary is here.
Over at the Washington Post, Michael Gerson, in full mainstream Republican freak-out mode makes this observation about Ron Paul and the overly anti-government rhetoric of libertarians.
Government can be an enemy of liberty. But the achievement of a free society can also be the result of government action — the protection of individual liberty against corrupt state governments or corrupt business practices or corrupt local laws. In 1957, President Eisenhower sent 1,000 Army paratroopers to Arkansas to forcibly integrate Central High School in Little Rock. This reduced Gov. Orval Faubus’s freedom. It increased the liberty of Carlotta Walls LaNier, who was spat upon while trying to attend school. A choice between freedoms was necessary — and it was not a hard one.
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