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Rand Paul, Civil Rights, and More Liberal Hypocrisy on Race

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I recently wrote two articles in which I criticized liberals for being two-faced and hypocritical when it comes to racial issues. The articles, which concerned the minimum wage, a longtime favorite government program among liberals whose negative effects fall disproportionately on blacks, were entitled “Why Do Daily Kos and Alternet Favor a Racist Government Program?” and “Free Teenagers: Repeal the Minimum Wage.”

Of course, I could also have written an article pointing out the decades-long liberal support of the drug war, another vicious government program whose adverse consequences have long fallen disproportionately on blacks and Hispanics. See, for example, this list of articles.

Thus, it’s not a coincidence that liberal icon Barack Obama, a drug user himself (he smoked dope and snorted cocaine when he was young and smokes tobacco today) and his Democratically controlled Congress are not only not ending the drug war but instead are ramping it up, even encouraging the Mexican government’s use of the military to wage the drug war in Mexico.

I could have also pointed out the long-time hypocrisy of liberals’ purported concern for Hispanics, especially the poor among them, even while supporting immigration laws and their brutal enforcement, including raiding American businesses suspected of committing the dastardly crime of entering into mutually beneficial economic relationships with financially poor Hispanics of foreign origin.

This week, thanks to Rand Paul’s win in the race for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate in Kentucky, we are treated to another grand spectacle of liberal hypocrisy when it comes to race. The liberal community has gone into emotional hyper-drive over Paul’s opposition to the section of the 1964 Civil Rights Act that banned racial discrimination by private businesses. The liberals are just shocked and outraged that anyone would honestly suggest that private businesses should be free to discriminate. And, of course, underlying all this is the suggestion that anyone who advocates such a position must be a secret bigot.

To examine into this latest instance of liberal hypocrisy on race, let’s delve into a few basics.

Suppose a certain white homeowner in a community publicly announces that he is holding a weekly TGIF cocktail party at his home every Friday night. He publicly invites everyone who lives within a one-mile radius of his home to his parties, but with a big exception. He says: Blacks and Jews are not invited and will not be permitted into his home.

How would libertarians respond? We would say that that man has every right in the world to take that position. We might criticize him, we might condemn him, we might ignore him, we might boycott his parties. But we would defend his right to discriminate against anyone he wants, as a matter of principle. After all, we would argue, it’s his home — his private property. To paraphrase Voltaire, we might not agree with how he uses his property, but we would defend his right to use it any way he wants. That’s what private ownership and a free society are all about.

How would liberals respond to that hypothetical? They would take the same position as libertarians! They would say that a man’s home is his castle and that he has the right to keep anyone he wants, even on racial grounds, from his home. They would defend the homeowner’s fundamental right to associate with anyone he wants, even if his choices are abhorrent and offensive to everyone else. They would not call on amending the 1964 Civil Rights Act to apply it to private homeowners.

What? Could this actually be possible? Could liberals actually be defending the right of a bigot to be a bigot in his own home? Wouldn’t this make a liberal himself a bigot? After all, isn’t that what liberals claim about people who call for the right of discrimination in private businesses — that their support of such a right makes them a closet or overt bigot?

Liberals would respond, “No, we’re not bigots simply because we support the right of homeowners to discriminate against blacks, Jews, Catholics, Hispanics, the poor, and anyone else. We simply believe in the principle of private ownership of one’s home and we’re willing to defend that principle, even when homeowners make racist choices.”

Well, then why don’t liberals extend that reasoning to people who support the right of private business owners to discriminate? Why are they so quick to claim that they’re not bigots when they stand on principle when it comes to the right of homeowners to discriminate but so quick to label libertarians who call for the same principle to be applied to business owners as racists and bigots?

Like I say, two-faced and hypocritical.

Let’s delve into this two-faced liberal hypocrisy a bit further. For years, the ACLU has publicly patted itself on the back, especially in fund-raising letters, about how it heroically stood for the right of Nazi sympathizers to march down a (government-owned) street in Skokie, Illinois. This shows how principled we are, the ACLU liberals have long claimed, because we defend the right of bigots to exercise freedom of speech, especially when the speech is abhorrent or offensive.

Would liberals accuse the ACLU of being racists and anti-Semitic bigots for defending the right of Nazi sympathizers to express their views? Of course not. Liberals would praise the ACLU for having the courage of its convictions for standing up for the free-speech rights of those who express horrendously offensive views.

Then, why not the same consideration for libertarians who stand up for the right of business owners to run their businesses the way they want, even if in the process they discriminate against Jews, Catholics, blacks, Hispanics, or anyone else?

Like I say, two-faced and hypocritical.

Now, you might be asking the obvious question: Why don’t liberals apply the freedom to discriminate that they support for private homeowners to private business owners, as libertarians do? After all, on the face of it this inconsistency doesn’t make much sense.

Liberals would respond by saying that businesses are different because they’re open to “the public.” But isn’t that really a distinction without a difference? After all, what’s the difference, in principle, between a homeowner inviting the public (minus blacks and Jews) to his Friday night parties and a businessman who invites the public (minus blacks and Jews) to purchase his goods?

Why were liberals so intent on forced integration of private businesses? What was the real reason they refused to extend their principle of freedom of association and freedom of speech with respect to homeowners and Nazi demonstrators to private business owners?

After all, hardly anyone today questions whether segregation laws and laws that impeded voting rights for blacks were morally wrong. All that needed to be done was to repeal those laws, prohibiting government from discriminating and leaving homeowners, business owners, and other private people (e.g., Nazi sympathizers) free to discriminate on any basis they chose.

How would things have turned out if businesses had been left free to discriminate? Well, does anyone today get into an uproar over the fact that people are free to discriminate in their homes? And yes, people get into an uproar over a Nazi march in Skokie, just as they get upset over the periodic burning of the flag, but how many people lose sleep over the fact that people have such rights?

The same thing would have happened if private businesses had been left free to discriminate. In fact, the likelihood is that the bigoted businesses would slowly but surely have lost market share to businesses that would sell to everyone, especially given the power of social ostracism, boycotts, moral condemnation, and the like.

After all, ask yourself: If everyone in, say, Alabama was a bigot, why would it have been necessary for the government to enact a law requiring segregation? My hunch is that the bigots knew that a free market tends to put a price on discrimination and, therefore, that bigoted firms needed state protection from the competition of firms that would choose not to discriminate.

But the most important principle is the one involving freedom. The essence of a free society is one in which people are free to live their lives any way they choose, so long as their conduct is peaceful. Freedom necessarily entails the right to make choices that other people find offensive, abhorrent, unpopular, and irresponsible. If people are free only to make the correct choices, then they are not truly free.

Liberals understand this principle, but only up to a point. That’s why they support the right of homeowners and Nazi sympathizers to discriminate. But they steadfastly refuse to extend their principles to private businesses.

Why?

I suspect that the answer lies in the long-time, deep antipathy that liberals have to the free market — to free enterprise — to capitalism — to profit. This of course raises the ugly head of socialism, the economic philosophy that has long attracted the liberal community.

In the ideal world of the liberal, there would be no private businesses, no more exploitation of the worker, no more consumer gouging, no more stolen profits. The government would own and operate all enterprises, and everyone would work for the government. The model, of course, for this socialist paradise is Cuba or North Korea.

But liberals instinctively know that they could never get away with converting America to a complete socialist system. Most Americans simply wouldn’t go along with it. So, long ago liberals decided to compromise and settle for less. They began socializing America with socialist welfare-state redistributive schemes, programs that would use the state to equalize wealth by having the IRS take from the rich and middle class to give to the poor. That’s what Social Security, Medicare, welfare, education grants, SBA loans, and so forth are all about.

But they went further than that. They also figured out if they couldn’t nationalize everyone’s business (except in certain instances, like Obama’s takeover of automobile companies and banks), they would use the state to control and direct private business operations. Here arises the ugly head of fascism, a way of life in which the state leaves businesses nominally in private hands but controls and directs them as if the state were the true owner.

The roots for this combined socialist-fascist economic system are found in Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal, an economic program that every American is taught in public (i.e., government) schools “saved free enterprise.” It was actually straight out of the playbook of European socialists and fascists. Indeed, Roosevelt’s Social Security plan had originated within German socialists and his NIRA and Blue Eagle campaign could easily have been implemented in fascist Italy.

Read the following book for more on this: Three New Deals: Reflections on Roosevelt’s America, Mussolini’s Italy, and Hitler’s Germany, 1933-1939 by Wolfgang Schivelbush. If you don’t want to bother reading the book, read this review or this review or this review of the book. Or read Jonah Goldberg’s book Liberal Fascism.

Now, let me say a word about conservatives. For a time, conservatives opposed the liberal movement toward socialism and fascism. Thus, many of them opposed FDR’s New Deal and Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society as well as Johnson’s 1964 Civil Rights Act ban on discrimination by private businesses.

Over time, however, conservatives threw in the towel on all counts. Fearful that they would lose credibility, respectability, and, most important, political power, they ended up abandoning the principles of economic liberty and embracing the principles of socialism, interventionism, fascism, and big government. As part of that process, they ended up embracing liberals’ socialist welfare-state programs that came with FDR’s New Deal and LBJ’s Great Society and the federal control over private businesses that came with LBJ’s 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Thus, Americans who wish to see liberty restored to our land cannot count on either liberals or conservatives. Liberals are dead-set on moving our land toward more socialism, more fascism, more control over private enterprise, more interventionism, more imperialism, more war, and more infringements on civil liberties, all of which means more big spending, big debt, big taxes, and big inflation. Conservatives, fearful of losing political power, have embraced the entire liberal agenda and are especially dead set on fortifying the warfare state in America, leaving themselves with nothing more than their old 1950s irrelevant and hypocritical mantra “free enterprise, private property, and limited government” that they use in their speeches, on their stationery, and on their websites.

It is the libertarians who hold the hope for America, especially with our consistent defense of individual liberty, free markets, and a constitutional republic. That’s why Americans of all races, colors, and creeds who wish to put our nation back on the right track should continue to abandon both liberals and conservatives and join us in one of the grandest, most glorious causes in history — the triumph of libertarian principles.

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    Jacob G. Hornberger is founder and president of The Future of Freedom Foundation. He was born and raised in Laredo, Texas, and received his B.A. in economics from Virginia Military Institute and his law degree from the University of Texas. He was a trial attorney for twelve years in Texas. He also was an adjunct professor at the University of Dallas, where he taught law and economics. In 1987, Mr. Hornberger left the practice of law to become director of programs at the Foundation for Economic Education. He has advanced freedom and free markets on talk-radio stations all across the country as well as on Fox News’ Neil Cavuto and Greta van Susteren shows and he appeared as a regular commentator on Judge Andrew Napolitano’s show Freedom Watch. View these interviews at LewRockwell.com and from Full Context. Send him email.