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Rand Paul, Truth-Teller 2

Government has no place in private transactions.

By Petrarch  |  June 4, 2010

The name of Dr. Paul, whether the elder or the younger, is like that of Sarah Palin or Margaret Thatcher: prone to generating strong feelings, either of love or of hate, but definitely never neutrality.  Dr. Ron Paul created a near-insurgency in 2008 with his mix of the ideals of the deeply conservative (slash the size of the Federal government and kneecap the Fed) and deeply liberal (bring our troops home from basically everywhere.)  Dr. Rand Paul racked up a landslide victory in the Kentucky Republican Senate primary, but is now the target of leftist screaming fits for his criticism of the long-enshrined Civil Rights Act.

In the first half of this article, we discussed the many virtues of that Act, which Dr. Paul made clear he supports.  Why, then, did he criticize it, and why is that so important?

The Act banned official government discrimination, and it made clear that "common carriers" catering to public commerce cannot discriminate against anyone with the ability to pay for service.  Both of these rules are are not only obviously just, they are traditional rights going back centuries into English common law and even further to Roman times.

Government-Forced Association

The Civil Rights Act did more than that, however.  It required all businesses and vendors, large and small, of anything whatsoever, to deal with anyone whether they wanted to or not, regardless of race, color, creed, and so on.

In other words, federal law forced private individuals and companies to have business dealings with people they did not want to: to sell goods to individuals they'd prefer not to deal with, to rent houses to tenants they'd rather not have, ultimately to hire workers they'd rather not employ.

Let's be perfectly clear: it is morally wrong to refuse to deal with someone just because of the color of their skin.  It's wrong to be bigoted against other races, plain and simple; yet the First Amendment protects the rights of the KKK and neo-Nazis to spew their hatred just as much as it protects the rights of sane people to argue the opposite.

If the KKK has the right to say that black people are inferior, is it logical for the KKK office to be forced to hire a black secretary if that's who applies for the position?  If an individual believes that black people are unusually prone to violence, how is it helpful to force them to rent their spare room to a black if that's who answers the ad?

A little thought reveals that the senselessly bigoted are handicapping themselves.  If someone is willing to hire only white people, they are restricting the pool of available employees; their competitor across the street who'll hire anybody qualified will be able to do so more easily and cheaply, leading to a more profitable operation.  The bigoted landlord's spare room will stand empty while his open-minded neighbor is already collecting rent.

The history of the Jim Crow South shows this to be true.  Many white businesses refused to have dealings with black people - and this unserved market created powerful

...incentives that drove blacks to create multitudes of institutions throughout the segregation period, even before slavery was officially ended. These were institutions such as restaurants, stores, motels and movie theaters. There were banks, insurance companies, newspaper publishers. It is assumed that all blacks were helpless victims, financially crippled drudges, with no resources to pool among themselves. In fact, most of black entrepreneurial success originated in the South, the poorest region and the one of greatest need.

A free market combined with a free people solves problems that our dominant media and cultural forces would have us assume can only be resolved by government meddling and top-down control.

Following that wide path leads inevitably to a government that intrudes into every last aspect of life, including the most private.  The vast majority of people, black equally as much as white, exercise racial bias in their choice of mate: most people are primarily if not exclusively interested only in people the same color as themselves.  What sort of government would dare make people keep a record of the color of all their crushes and dates and extract fines if the totals didn't reflect the population distribution?  Yet that's exactly what the government now requires of employers, a process that began with the Civil Rights Act.

This is the government's
business why exactly?

It's not just restricted to race.  Modern American organizations must now contend with Muslim women who wish to deal with children whilst shrouded in a frightening funereal burkha; restaurants must employ people who cannot speak enough English to communicate with customers; and women's-only gymnasiums sued for excluding transvestites.  What business does the government have to interfere with individual citizens' - or employers' - private choices regarding any of this?

A rare example of common sense appeared ten years ago, when the Hooters restaurant chain prevailed in a lawsuit brought by men whom, shockingly, the chain wasn't willing to hire as Hooters Girls.  Common sense won the day, yes; but only a stunning lack of sense, rationality, or a belief in individual liberty could have allowed such a suit to be brought in the first place.

On another positive note, the US Supreme Court ruled that the Boy Scouts could expel homosexuals from leadership positions.  The NAACP filed a friend of court brief in favor of the Boy Scouts, arguing that the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People needed the right to restrict its membership to, well, colored people by excluding whites.  Again, if liberty and freedom mean anything, no other verdict is possible: on what grounds can you be forced to associate with people you wish to avoid?

Unfortunately, the modern liberal obsession with enforced diversity has gone so far that the Washington Post could, with a straight face, publish an editorial arguing that discrimination by appearance should be banned!

Appearance-related bias also exacerbates disadvantages based on gender, race, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and class. Prevailing beauty standards penalize people who lack the time and money to invest in their appearance. And weight discrimination, in particular, imposes special costs on people who live in communities with shortages of healthy food options and exercise facilities.  So why not simply ban discrimination based on appearance?

Why not, indeed?  It's a fact that Uglo-Americans make less than hotties; it's a fact that, for most jobs, your appearance has no bearing on your ability to do the work.  So why shouldn't such discrimination by banned?

The ability even to ask this question demonstrates how far we have come from America's original concept of liberty.  If we paid the slightest attention to the Constitution, we'd know that the government cannot simply ask why it shouldn't do something; the government is supposed to prove by what authority it should interfere in private affairs by demonstrating a "compelling public interest" ideally rooted in a Constitutionally delegated power.

And if there is such a compelling public interest that government has the right to tell you who you can or cannot employ, where does it stop?  Even the generally-unhinged blogger Andrew Sullivan is able to see the problem:

By the time you've finished preventing discrimination against the ugly, the short, the skinny, the bald, the knobbly-kneed, the flat-chested, and the stupid, you're living in a totalitarian state.

This is where the regulatory road paved by the Civil Rights Act has led us - tyranny of the government's views of what's right over individual rights.

What has been wrought by the Civil Rights Act and its philosophical offspring?  A trip to the airport is revealing.

On the one hand, we have globally-respected and highly-profitable Singapore Airlines, starring young and eager Singapore Girls to cater to the passengers' every need whether real or imagined.  On the other hand you have the perennially-bankrupt American legacy carries, populated mostly by superannuated harridans who'd as soon brain you as look at you.  Apparently, customers really do prefer to deal with the perky and sprightly, not aged battleaxes from whom the last drop of the milk of human kindness was extracted sometime in the last century.  Instead of a trip through the friendly skies, modern American air travel is a journey through the seventh circle of hell.

The difference?  Singapore Airlines has the right to hire whomever it wishes, on whatever terms the employees freely agree to.  American companies do not have that right, so they pay twice as much for a tenth the quality of service to say nothing of looks.  Customers are willing to pay the American airlines rather less than they'll shell out for Singapore-style courtesy, leaving not much room for profit in between.

The Way Out

Does this mean Scragged supports the repeal of the Civil Rights Act?  Absolutely not, any more than Rand Paul does.  Most of the Act was good and necessary in 1964 and is still good today.  Most of it has stood the test of time.

Most of it, but not all of it.  Uncle Sam has no right to interfere in private business transactions beyond the well-understood realm of the common carrier.  The Federal government has no right to interfere in private employment decisions, assuming the employment doesn't require criminality (like prostitution or hit-men).  Yes, it has taken that authority, but it has no right to do so.

The fact that we've grown used to government intervention in an area where it doesn't belong does not make it proper, it only makes it habit.  As Abraham Lincoln once observed, if you call a tail a leg, a sheep doesn't have five legs; it still only has four, because calling a tail a leg doesn't make it one.

Dr. Rand Paul can stand tall today because he and his father have entered that exclusive realm of the politician willing to tell the truth and call a spade a spade simply because it's right, not because it's convenient.

What's more, he is the only living politician we've ever heard of who so respects the limited government prescribed in the Constitution as to be willing to say, "Here is something which is abhorrent and evil, and which you and I despise - but which the government has no right to interfere with."  Not since the 1800s has a statesman held his oath to the Constitution and its dictates of limited government in such supreme regard!

We are astonished and relieved to see his boldness rewarded by the primary victory; if it's rewarded by victory in the general election too, there may be hope for America yet.  In a temporary bow to reality, Rand Paul has now clammed up on this subject; we look forward to him reopening his mouth wide once he's a sitting Senator.