Decades of reflexive animosity toward anything that might even be remotely labeled as discrimination has rendered the modern left braindead. They no longer have the ability to think critically or debate honestly on policy solutions to social problems involving discrimination. Instead, they simply reflexively label anyone who disagrees with their policy as racist/bigoted/homophobe.
Rand Paul is the latest target of this thoughtless assault. Paul’s sin was discussing publicly a fairly standard libertarian position: that federal intervention forbidding private actors from discriminating, such as with parts of the Civil Rights Act, are unconstitutional despite being well-intentioned. In other words, in a free society individual discrimination is condemned but tolerated in the same way that ugly speech is, or KKK rallies.
The left has twisted this into a story about Rand Paul supporting racism, or possibly being racist himself. This is foolish nonsense, but it comports with the general erosion of serious thinking on the left. Discussions of constitutionality or the necessary trade-off with freedom that is made when people are not allowed to discriminate are verboten, and anyone who brings them up is reflexively labeled a racist.
We’re all expected to bow our heads at the very mention of good-feeling government policies like the Civil Rights Act. Certainly we’re all pleased to be living in a society in which discrimination is no longer a regular occurrence. But the idea that such is due primarily to government legislation, as opposed to changing social mores, is mistaken. Yes, the CRA did have a legitimate purpose and many constitutionally defensible parts. For instance, it prohibited racism in government run schooling and undid the Jim Crow laws. But that’s just it. Those were laws. Laws are government. So when the New York Times says that “it was only government power that … abolished Jim Crow,” they are missing the forest for the trees. It was only the power of government that allowed Jim Crow in the first place. That’s not an indictment of libertarianism. It’s an indictment of government and proof that it poses a unique danger to our civil rights!
It is no indictment of libertarianism or small government to suggest that government was needed to overturn discriminatory government policy. Quite the opposite. It is affirmation of the views of Rand Paul and many others that it is government policy which most frequently threatens civil rights. It is discrimination of government which is both unconstitutional and cannot be tolerated. Discrimination by private citizens, while disagreeable, is neither. Private citizens are constitutionally allowed to discriminate, though of course other private citizens are free to condemn them for it. It is government which is prohibited, rightly, from discriminating. And it is primarily government discrimination which the Civil Rights Act dealt with.
That it did many good and necessary things doesn’t mean the Civil Rights Act cannot be faulted for crossing a line. We’ve allowed these iconic government acts too much wiggle room. We’ve conceded too much ground on fear of being called racists. It’s time to stand up again and point out that limiting private property rights in the name of ending discrimination is itself a limit on individual freedom as much as limiting speech, no matter how well intentioned.
It is also a slippery slope, as silly liberals in their ivory towers look for other forms of “discrimination” that cannot be tolerated. Too many, it seems, are being punished for being ugly. The solution? Ban discrimination based on appearance! Any time a liberal perceives a problem, “there ought to be a law” is the next immediate thought. Why, you’d almost forget that private citizens have a constitutional right to associate and do business with whomever they please. You’d be forgiven for forgetting, though, as the Supreme Court has long ago wiped such rights from memory. They exist, nonetheless.
I suppose it could be worse. One day we might be England. So obsessed with not discriminating, they won’t let employers advertise for reliable workers. Wouldn’t want the lazy and unreliable to be discriminated against, after all. Think it couldn’t happen here? Think again. Too many on the right have already ceded the constitutional ground for fear of being called racist. Once we decide it’s okay to ban private individuals from discriminating on one factor, it’s okay to do so for anything and everything that separates one individual from another.
Cross-posted at Conservative Compendium.