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Ridiculous Strawman Watch (Part 4 of ???)

It’s R.S.W. time again, which puts me in a bit of a quandary. Not about who to recognize in the Watch: Bruce Bartlett’s recent column on libertarianism and Jim Crow obviously deserves a place in the R.S.W. far more than any lesser imitator. But Bartlett’s post does raise a very serious problem: the problem of how I’m supposed to decide which pull-quote from the post actually represents the most ridiculous Ridiculous Strawman that Bartlett has to offer?

Is it Ridiculous Strawman A (of the free market):

The Court’s philosophy in these cases led logically to Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896, which essentially gave constitutional protection to legal segregation enforced by state and local governments throughout the U.S.

As we know from history, the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation.[1]

Or is it Ridiculous Strawman B (of the libertarian philosophy and freedom):

In short, the libertarian philosophy of Rand Paul and the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s [?! sic — Ed.] gave us almost 100 years of segregation, white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs, the KKK, and discrimination of African Americans for no other reason except their skin color. … Thus we have a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy and an indisputable conclusion: it didn’t work. Freedom did not lead to a decline in racism; it only got worse.

Long-time readers may remember that Bartlett was already named as an R.S.W. laureate a little more than a year ago (in which he decided that the problem with American libertarians is that they never talk about interventionist foreign policy or the War on Drugs). But such a man of action is not content to rest on his laurels, and he has certainly outdone himself this year.

As usual, of course, I have little interest in defending a weaselly conservative statist like Rand Paul; and none at all in defending the Supreme Court of the 1880s and 1890s. But I do have some passing familiarity with the libertarian philosophy, and with the meaning of the term free market; and I think that if you consider almost a century of legal segregation enforced by state and local governments to be the right setting for a historical on free market outcomes; or looking at what happened under politically-enforced white supremacy, lynchings, chain gangs and the KKK to be a perfect test of the libertarian philosophy — apparently on the notion that libertarian anti-statism is identical with a doctrine of unlimited States Rights, and the free market is identical with the market outcomes that you get when pervasive racism and segregation are explicitly required by an extensive system of government economic regulation — well, then, you, sir, are eminently qualified for the R.S.W.

See also:

  1. [1]Of course, to be fair to Bartlett here, it is true that the free market did not lead to a breakdown of segregation in the American South. Neither did a Communist invasion of the United States, or a visitation by space aliens. Guess what all of these things have in common? —R.G.
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