Posts from August 2010

I oppose civil rights acts because I support civil rights movements

Appearing this month in The Freeman (60.7, September 2010):

Opposing the Civil Rights Act Means Opposing Civil Rights? It Just Ain’t So!

Charles Johnson, September 2010 • Volume: 60 • Issue: 7

Just after winning his Republican primary in May, Rand Paul got himself into a political pickle over his views on property rights and the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Having reluctantly discussed concerns about antidiscrimination laws with the Louisville Courier-Journal and NPR, Paul made his now-notorious appearance on the Rachel Maddow Show, where Maddow grilled him for 15 minutes on whether he opposed government intervention to stop racial discrimination. After saying he favored overturning government-mandated discrimination, Paul finally admitted that he opposes Title II, which forbids private owners from discriminating in their own businesses.

As he told the Courier-Journal: I don’t like the idea of telling private business owners—I abhor racism; I think it’s a bad business decision to ever exclude anybody from your restaurant; but at the same time, I do believe in private ownership. . . .

Maddow responded: I think wanting to allow private businesses to discriminate on the basis of race, because of property rights, is an extreme view. Within a day Progressives were touting the interview as proof of a deep conflict between libertarian defenses of private property and struggles for racial equality. Meanwhile, compromising libertarians like Brink Lindsey reacted by discovering exceptions to libertarian principles—to make room, again, for federal antidiscrimination laws. The entire debate has played out as an argument over libertarianism and extremism, with Progressives and many nominal libertarians both condemning Rand Paul’s simplistic extremism about private property and libertarian rights.

I have little interest in defending Paul but it’s strange to treat him like some case study in the dangers of libertarian extremism. Rand Paul is a conservative, not a libertarian—let alone an extreme one. He’s said as much, in so many words, in repeated interviews. Now, you could simply say, He may be no libertarian, but never mind Rand Paul—what about the issue? Libertarianism opposes government control of private business decisions; taken to extremes, doesn’t that include laws against racist business practices—the civil rights movement’s crowning achievement?

Well, I do have something to say on behalf of extremism. Not on behalf of sacrificing the civil rights movement’s achievements to extreme stands on antistatist principle. Rather, extreme stands on antistatist principle show what the civil rights movement did right, and what it really achieved, without the aid of federal laws.

. . .

[I]f libertarianism has anything to teach about politics, it’s that politics goes beyond politicians; social problems demand social solutions. Discriminatory businesses should be free from legal retaliation—not insulated from the social and economic consequences of their bigotry. What consequences? Whatever consequences you want, so long as they’re peaceful—agitation, confrontation, boycotts, strikes, nonviolent protests.

So when Maddow asks, Should Woolworth’s lunch counters have been allowed to stay segregated? neither she nor Paul seemed to realize that her attempted coup de grace—invoking the sit-in movement’s student martyrs, facing down beatings to desegregate lunch counters—actually offers a perfect libertarian response to her own question.

Because, actually, Woolworth’s lunch counters weren’t desegregated by Title II. The sit-in movement did that. From the Montgomery Bus Boycott onward, the Freedom Movement had won victories, town by town, building movements, holding racist institutions socially and economically accountable. The sit-ins proved the real-world power of the strategy: In Greensboro, N.C., nonviolent sit-in protests drove Woolworth’s to abandon its whites-only policy by July 1960. The Nashville Student Movement, through three months of sit-ins and boycotts, convinced merchants to open all downtown lunch counters in May the same year. Creative protests and grassroots pressure campaigns across the South changed local cultures and dismantled private segregation without legal backing.

Should lunch counters have been allowed to stay segregated? No—but the question is how to disallow it. Bigoted businesses shouldn’t face threats of legal force for their racism. They should face a force much fiercer and more meaningful—the full force of voluntary social organization and a culture of equality. What’s to stop resegregation in a libertarian society? We are. Using the same social power that was dismantling Jim Crow years before legal desegregation.

I oppose civil rights acts because I support civil rights movements—because the forms of social protest they pioneered proved far more courageous, positive, and effective than the litigious quagmires and pale bureaucratic substitutes governments offer.

— Charles Johnson, The Freeman: Ideas on Liberty (September 2010): Opposing the Civil Rights Act Means Opposing Civil Rights? It Just Ain’t So!

You can read the whole thing at The Freeman Online, or in the forthcoming print issue.

Many thanks as always to Sheldon Richman and FEE.

See also:

Monday Lazy Linking

Shameless Self-promotion Sunday

This is going to be the last Shameless Self-promotion Sunday for the next couple of weeks, so let’s make it a good one.

As some of you already know, I’m going to spend the next week clearing the deck as well as possible, and then departing for a voyage to India. (I am visiting L. during the last two weeks of her study abroad; we’ll be visiting Kochi, Mumbai, Dehli, and a few points in between, and coming back together toward the end of September.) I’ll be almost completely incommunicado while I’m away; which means if you want to get Shameless, you’d better get while the getting’s good.

So what have you been up to this week? Write anything? Leave a link and a short description for your post in the comments. Or fire away about anything else you might want to talk about.

Chuck Schumer’s Army

Schumer Bill Sends Reinforcements, Drones to Border. www.nydailynews.com (2010-08-28):

The Senate passed a $600 million bill tonight to beef up border security by adding 1,500 new enforcement agents and sending airborne drones to search for illegal immigrants. The bill, backed by Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), targets the Mexican border...

In which "Progressive" Democrats pursue a sensible to comprehensive immigration reform by massively increasing the violent enforcement of border policies that they themselves criticize as arbitrary and irrational and desperately in need of a radical overhaul. The United States Senate's notion of "making the border more secure than ever" is of course to further militarize the 200 mile free-fire zone, among other things creating a paramilitary "strike force" of 1,000 new border guards to interdict, harass or shoot immigrants trying to cross an imaginary line in the sand, and expropriating $32,000,000 to pay for unmanned drone warplanes to help them spy on the borderlands. Schumer, progressive humanitarian that he is, wants us to know that at least the drones won't be armed with air-to-surface missiles. Yet. So just who is this policy of increased spying and border militarization making more "secure"? Not people living on or near the border, that's for sure.

The Police Beat

  • Last month AOL News ran an anecdotal Data-less Trend Story about city governments in small towns firing the city government police force in order to cope with budget crunches.[1] I’d like to know what the actual data here is; typically, cash-strapped city governments react by cutting everything except police and jails. If governments’ financing crises are finally leading them to reduce the number of police patrolling city streets, that’s surprisingly good news. Most of the towns mentioned are very small towns — with populations ranging from about 700 to 4,500. The outlier, Maywood, California, has about 30,000 people living in the town (with a whopping 4 murders in 2008! twice the national average!). Apparently part of the reason they fired the police department was because a lot of the city government’s $450,000 budget deficit, and its trouble securing insurance, came from lawsuits, many involving the police. Government employees and hangers-on are going nuts about all of this. After the vote in Maywood, ex-City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval told the city council You single-handedly destroyed the city, by which she means that they outsourced the city government. (You won’t find any burned-out buildings, torn-up streets, or dead bodies; the places and people in the city of Maywood, California are still right where they were, going on as happily as they were before; the only things destroyed were the government jobs of tax-eaters like City Treasurer Lizeth Sandoval.) Jim Pasco, national executive director of the Fraternal Order of Pigs, said that decisions to fire local police were penny wise and pound foolish, because sheriff’s departments and state police will be spread thin patrolling larger areas, and no amount is too much to spend on city cops, because The absolute threshold responsibility of a government at any level is to ensure the safety of its citizens.

  • For example, consider local hero Officer Bryan Yant, liar and killer for the Las Vegas Metro police department, who by making up lies to obtain fraudulent search warrants and by violently breaking into citizens’ homes late at night, where he ensures the safety of Las Vegas’s citizens by kicking down doors and shooting unarmed black men with his AR-15 assault rifle, based on furtive motions and a glimmer or something shiny that nobody but Officer Bryan Yant ever saw, and which is plainly contradicted by forensic evidence related to the angle of the shot. Local government in Las Vegas has fulfilled is threshold responsibility by once again[2] ensuring the safety of Officer Bryan Yant from any legal consequences for shooting innocent, unarmed men in the head during a hyperviolent raid to investigate a completely nonviolent, victimless crime, all of it based on demonstrable falsehoods and mistaken identity — oops! my bad! All of which should free Officer Bryan Yant up for a fourth Internal Investigation, in which his government colleagues will once again either exonerate him or let him off without any criminal penalties, for lying and fabricating fictitious search and arrest warrants in at least one other drug investigation involving another hyperviolent late night home raid. The polite term in local media for Officer Bryan Yant’s work ensuring the safety of Las Vegas citizens is sloppy. A better term would be fraudulent and lethally violent. How much safer does it make you feel that this lying, killing 4-time winner is still a fully-paid member of the Las Vegas Metro police force?

  • Meanwhile, in El Reno, Oklahoma, government police officers are ensuring the safety of El Reno citizens by forcing their way into an 86-year-old bed-ridden grandmother’s home on a wellness check, and then, if she should object to 10 armed strangers busting into her house, by stepping on her oxygen hose and torturing her with electrical shocks in her own bed, until she passes out from the pain. El Reno Police Chief Ken Brown justified this use of extreme violence against an elderly woman who could not possibly have physically harmed anybody more than a couple feet away from her on the grounds that she was holding a kitchen knife, and she told officers She was in control of her life. Thus, Police were forced [sic!] to use a Taser on the woman until she could be forced into a hospital psychoprison — not because she was actually charged with any crime, of course, but so that she could be cured of her deranged and dangerous belief that she was in control of her own life.

  • Meanwhile, in New York, New York, Officer Patrick Pogan, a government police officer working for the New York city government, ensured the safety of New York citizens by body-slamming an unarmed bicyclist to the ground for trying to avoid hitting him, and then lying about it in his police reports, where he claimed that his victim was trying to ram into him, rather than swerving around him. His government colleague Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Maxwell Wiley, in turn, fulfilled his threshold obligation by ensuring that this lying violent thug would face absolutely no criminal consequences whatsoever for the crimes that he had been convicted of.

  • Also, in New York, New York, government cop Detective Louis J. Eppolito ensured the safety of New York citizens by taking a second job as an informant and hit-man for the Luchese crime family. He took a special interest in ensuring the safety of Brian Gibbs by framing him for murder — among other things, making up fictional witness statements, threatening witnesses in order to get testimony against Gibbs, withholding evidence that would have proven Gibbs’s evidence, and torturing Gibbs himself until he extracted a false confession. Brian Gibbs lost 19 years of his life locked in prison. The New York Police Department spent years fulfilling its threshold obligation to keep Detective Louis J. Eppolito safe from any consequences for his violent crimes, even though — years before he tortured and framed Brian Gibbs — they had direct evidence that he was working for the Mafia (including having his fingerprints on police reports he had handed off to a fellow gangster). The Incident was, of course, Internally Investigated, and Detective Eppolito was let off without even facing any administrative disciplinary actions. Which freed him up to go on murdering and imprisoning innocent people for the mob. The city government in New York still officially maintains that Brian Gibbs is guilty of murder. However, they’ve decided to sign a $9,900,000 settlement; dedicated public servants that they are, they will send the bill to innocent New York City taxpayers who had nothing to do with the crimes committed against Brian Gibbs.

  • Meanwhile, in Sebastian County, Arkansas, government drug investigators are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging heavily armed, late-night raids on citizens’ houses, where they threaten the lives of everyone in the house, including sleeping babies — without bothering to check the address on the mailbox to see whether they are actually even forcing their way into the right house. (Oops! My bad!) Then, after releasing their innocent victims from the shackles they had forced them into, the cops they went down the street to the right house, where they broke into somebody else’s home, threatened three other innocent people’s lives, and forced them into cages at gunpoint, for the completely nonviolent offense of having marijuana.

  • Meanwhile, in Universal City, Texas, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by surrounding innocent women and children in their cars, pointing guns at them and screaming at them to put their hands up, and then forcing their way into the car before they realize — oops! our bad! — that they had the wrong car and the wrong people, and were threatening the lives of a black woman with three children who had nothing to do with the white man they were trying to ambush. Since government police never face any consequences whatsoever for their fuck-ups, no matter how high-stakes, violent, reckless, traumatic or dangerous to the safety of innocent citizens, the police department is waving it off as an unfortunate coincidence. They refer to the use of such high-stakes, violent tactics in uncertain situations, with incomplete information, to terrify and overwhelm innocent women and children, as doing our jobs, and publicly state that We would not change what we did. Of course they wouldn’t; who’s going to make them?

  • Meanwhile, in Tavares, Florida, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by interrogating and then arresting Latina women who are not suspected of any crime, for not giving her name fast enough or producing identification papers on demand. The government police officer told his victim that she had to provide ID because he needed to put her name in a database. When she said she needed to go to the car to get it, the cop arrested her for resisting arrest and had her locked in a jail cell for 5 hours.

  • Meanwhile, in Hamilton, Ontario, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by staging hyperviolent drug raids, forcing their way into apartments at gunpoint, forcing the citizens in them to the floor, then slamming their faces into the floor and kicking them when they try to explain that the cops have the wrong address. Po Lo Hay’s safety was ensured so good and hard that he ended up with stitches above his eye, a bloody nose, welts, and a broken rib.

  • Meanwhile, in Bridgewater, England, government police are ensuring the safety of citizens by threatening them with electrical torture devices and then accidentally hitting them with a 50,000 volt electric shock to their genitals, in the course of an unnecessary traffic stop intended to investigate whether or not they were committing the completely nonviolent offense of driving without government-mandated corporate car insurance. For accidentally inflicting the worst pain that this innocent man has ever been subjected to in his life, government cops are offering an Oops! Our bad!

I sure am glad that government cops are out there to ensure our safety, and local governments are there to extract tax dollars to force us all, on threat of prison, to pay for this threshold obligation. If government cops weren’t there to harass, threaten, torture, frame, jail or kill innocent citizens, all with complete legal impunity so long as they can shout an Oops! My bad! that some fellow cop or other government employee will believe, who would keep us all safe?

  1. [1]When city governments fire police forces, county sheriffs or state police forces generally take over the busting of heads and jailing of suspects. But the shift does mean that patrol cops are fewer and farther between, and local taxpayers are much less likely to get soaked with local tax increases to pay for salaries or benefits packages.
  2. [2]Yant has gunned down three people during his police career — killing two of them, including Trevon Cole — and has been exonerated by the police department and the Clark County government’s coroner’s inquest.