Monday, January 19, 2015

Martin Luther King

MLK, like JFK, RFK, and LBJ*, came from an era better than this one; it's easy for me to sympathize with him and his marchers, dressed like me and appealing to noble principles, defending the rights of people historically oppressed. A heady mix of Christian values of charity and justice and space-age idealism, liberalism's belief in man's and society's perfectibility. (The Great Society!) But all principled American conservatives in the golden era opposed the civil-rights movement, I think simply because constitutionally it didn't have a leg to stand on. The dilemma: blacks' rights vs. some whites asserting THEIR right to freedom of association. You may well be mean-spirited but that's your constitutional right: the government can't make you associate with someone you don't want to be with, as long as the other person's rights are protected too. Separate but equal was an attempt to solve this legal conundrum. In a free country there is no such thing as thoughtcrime. Basing the law on feelings, however well meant, replacing logic or precedent, is bad. So, if not the status quo nor the movement, what? It's too bad the silent majority, Middle America's pushback then, seemed not to come up with an answer. My guess: the answer is a color-blind government; neither racial bans nor special treatment. Let the outcomes happen as they will. White Americans have no agenda against black ones.

Related: the "me too" Republican Party desperately looking for black candidates/spokesmen, because establishment conservatives have lost their nerve, buying into the ruling left's narrative.

*The '60s: the Initials Decade in American politics. If only Barry Goldwater had catchy initials. (His campaign pin is on my desk.)

3 comments:

  1. The principled part of the civil-rights movement was a strike not against freedom of association but for equal access to public accommodations and to access to public spaces on the same basis as whites (lunch counters, etc.). Jim Crow wasn't a legal system that protected the rights of certain people not to associate with other people based on their free choice; it was a legal system that prevented individuals from doing business with each other, or having an opportunity to do business with each other, based entirely on accident of birth. If I ran a lunch counter in the South in the 1950s, I would have been legally prohibited from selling a sandwich to an African-American, no matter how much he wanted to buy a sandwich from me and no matter how much I wanted to sell him one.

    Goldwater's objection to the Civil Rights Act was a principled one -- federalism. However when he was an elected member of the Phoenix City Council, he worked mighty hard to de-segregate Sky Harbor airport. He also worked very hard to get the military to complete its desegregation project while he was a senator in the 1950s.

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    1. Jim Crow... was a legal system that prevented individuals from doing business with each other, or having an opportunity to do business with each other, based entirely on accident of birth. If I ran a lunch counter in the South in the 1950s, I would have been legally prohibited from selling a sandwich to an African-American, no matter how much he wanted to buy a sandwich from me and no matter how much I wanted to sell him one.

      I know you're no libertarian but Ludwig von Mises made a similar point, saying that a free market works against that injustice because, as you say, commercially it doesn't make sense. Why would a business turn away paying customers? Related: I understand Harvey Milk said something similar. Commerce: bringing people together without infringing on our rights or theirs. The peaceful, prosperous republic Jefferson envisioned.

      Goldwater's objection to the Civil Rights Act was a principled one -- federalism. However when he was an elected member of the Phoenix City Council, he worked mighty hard to de-segregate Sky Harbor airport. He also worked very hard to get the military to complete its desegregation project while he was a senator in the 1950s.

      Exactly. Many golden-era whites weren't hostile to blacks.

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  2. The "principles" in question only came into existence in the first place in order to defend slavery's institutions, and at any rate without addressing that bit of longstanding rationalization/doubletalk I'm seeing being a man of principle in this case as being an advocate for "man was created for the sabbath." "Separate but equal" was patently a lie, given that there was never any sign of intent towards "equal" (and even less reality). You cannot be a genuinely principled Christian conservative and allow yourself to used by people who are unprincipled, as Buckley allowed himself to be used.

    I'm also seeing an enormous dissonance between the Miesian faith in avarice and the notion of "free association" as having something to do with commerce. It is easy to conclude from the benighted South of my infancy that they didn't understand economics well enough to allow it to trump their bigotry. Or to take a more realistic perspective, what actually happens shows that there's something wrong with the belief that economic pressure is strong enough to get people to clean up their acts.

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