Libertarianism vs. Liberalism

20 May

So, the new Republican senatorial nominee in Republican, Rand Paul, son of Ron Paul, has caused a storm by saying he doesn’t fully support the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

Basically, he argues that while he fully supports the end of institutional racism, he has a problem with the idea of making it illegal for private businesses to refuse service to customers based on race (or other characteristics). It’s a legitimate libertarian argument and in no way indicates Rand Paul is a racist, which I don’t believe he is.

But as I look at this issue, it’s easy for me to see why I’m liberal and not libertarian.

Here’s why the Civil Rights Act was right and why any movement to modify or repeal it should be opposed:

1. Businesses, even private businesses, are systems. They are not people. They are systems created by people that are designed to provide a product or service in exchange for payment. Individuals play roles in this system, either as owner, stockholder or employee.

But businesses are not people and they should not be treated like people. This is a core liberal belief. This does not mean businesses and corporations do not have rights, but I believe they should not rise to heights they now have, where corporations are allowed unlimited paid political speech.

2. Whenever individual rights come into conflict with corporate or systemic rights, I believe generally that individual rights should take precedent, exactly because we should not hold systems in the same esteem as people.

3. The Civil Rights Act corrected a conflict of these rights. The act gave individuals the freedom to participate in the marketplace without being discriminated against while it took away a businesses freedom to discriminate in the marketplace.

4. The Civil Rights Act was necessary because the market failed. It could be argued that the Act was unnecessary because economic pressure would have eventually forced businesses to integrate or risk failing. But the market utterly failed. Segregation was rampant in the south at the time and was there any evidence that left unchecked integration would have happened in a reasonable amount of time?

I believe free market capitalism does not readily correct social injustice (I tend to think it actually creates injustice, but that’s for another time). To say that the elimination of discrimination should have been left to the market is to leave the end of discrimination to mob rule, because the market doesn’t respect morality, it transforms into whatever its customers want it to be.

If you hold, as I do that racism is a moral issue, and that it is fundamentally immoral, then to leave the ending of an injustice to an amoral system (capitalism) suggests a low view of its importance.

Because of all this, government must act through legislation and subsequent executive action to uphold rights. It is too important to be left to the market.

That is why I support the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

One Response to “Libertarianism vs. Liberalism”

  1. kellycosby May 23, 2010 at 5:24 pm #

    Very well put. Too bad the Court didn’t see it that way (#1).

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