Tag Archives: corporations

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.

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The Daily Roundup

20 Apr

Class still plays an important role in political and economic life in America. While this seems a fairly self-evident statement, politicians are often loathe to acknowledge it.

So with Democrats and the Obama administration set to take on large Wall Street corporations and bankers, class tensions have been exposed and the results are interesting. Republicans have opposed the measures at times with somewhat twisted logic, given that these same Republicans who were against the stimulus and bailout measures are now against measures to restrict the power of corporations and banks to get themselves into similar situations.

By seeking to exercise increased governmental power over corporations, Democrats are essentially trying to give people more power over corporations – because government is one of the main ways people exercise power in a large way in a democratic society. This change upsets the higher class (or bourgeoisie, capitalists, elites, whatever name you want to use).

Anything that alters the power relationship between capitalists and employees is usually opposed by the capitalists, and often by working class conservatives who, ironically, are most likely to benefit from increased social control over corporations.

This desire to continue the status quo power relationship is seen in GOP rhetoric. The Wall Street Journal reported today that the GOP would unveil a new Contract with America in early fall in anticipation of the midterm election.

“It will be about how we will make America the employer-nation that it should be,” Rep. Pete Sessions of Texas is quoted as saying by the WSJ.

The implication in the quote is that corporations provide employment and people are employed by them. That’s a clearly defined relationship. Anything that in even the small way changes, even something as small as increased regulation of the complex financial instruments that brought about the Great Recession, is seen as a threat. The Democrats’ agenda is very far from socialism, but any attempt to transfer power away from corporations is seen as such.

So you might say, so what? After all, real people work in corporations. Most people, after all, work for corporations.

Well, that’s true. But that’s also the point. People work for corporations. The owners and stakeholders of corporations are almost always concentrated in a very small number of people. As people living in a democratic society, it should concern us anytime so much power is concentrated in the hands of so few. And unlike government, we can’t vote out CEOs and executives.

A few numbers from The University of California at Santa Cruz.

  • 20 percent of people in America possess 80 percent of the wealth
  • 1 percent of people in America possess 35 percent of the wealth.

The United States has higher wealth inequality than almost every Western European nation.

Think about it.

Update: The incident no longer looks as bad as it seems. This article has some much needed context.

There was a disturbing incident between reporters and The White House today. Don’t Ask Don’t Tell protestors chained themselves to the fence of The White House. When police came in to make the arrest, they not only pushed people and the press back across the street but also all the away across Lafayette Park. The action seemed entirely unnecessary and designed to stop video footage of the arrests.

This is disturbing and the press should not tolerate these kind of methods.

Teleconferencing may be on the rise as the Ash cloud is grounding European flights.

Along those same lines, as it turns out, the ash cloud is actually good for the environment.

You know all those “Hitler is angry” parody videos? Yeah, they’re pretty great. Well, it looks like they are going away. The company that owns the rights to the movie has demanded the clips be taken down and it appears YouTube is complying. It’s sad. Some of funniest viral videos I’ve seen came from that clip of film.

That’s The Daily Roundup. Have a great evening.