Liberty is the Golden Rule

Why I’m Libertarian is a new Tumblr blog (via Pretense of Knowledge and EconLog blogs) where folks declare why they are libertarian. Great idea.

Here’s why I’m libertarian: Because I believe in The Golden Rule. I believe that’s the true source of liberty.

Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself.

The day we talked about The Golden Rule in church when I was a kid was a clarifying moment. I remember thinking, man, that makes a lot of sense. What a fabulously easy way to test your actions. Would I want others to do that to me? If the answer is no, or even a maybe not, don’t do it.

Lots of libertarians say they are libertarian because of things like ‘limited government’, ‘individual rights’, ‘don’t believe in war’…and so forth.

But, for me the Golden Rule is why all of those things are important.

Update: In another coincidence on this blog, in this week’s episode of EconTalk, Russ Roberts interviews Nassim Taleb about an essay he wrote called, Skin the Game. He also discusses the source of the Golden Rule.

I personally believe that the Golden Rule is a social norm that is responsible for the advances in the standards of living humans have experienced over the last several hundred years. I haven’t finished listening to the EconTalk podcast yet, but I’m hoping Taleb will agree with me.



79 thoughts on “Liberty is the Golden Rule

  1. Great points, Seth. I think folks get into trouble when they change the meaning of “Do unto others as you would have done unto yourself” from the way “I” should act to “all people” should act the way I think is right (and enact laws to force them to).

    Also, note that the Golden Rule applies in a positive sense also, e.g. if I have suffered some calamity, I would be glad to receive some help: therefore, I should help others when they are down. This in no way implies that I should force others to help me or to help others. When I try to impose my choices on others, I am violating the Golden Rule.

  2. In 2004, according to his website, Ron Paul was the only congressman to vote against a resolution celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. He still has this on his website, which I presume means he still objects to it 50 years after it ended segregated lunch counters and other forms of racial discrimination in the south. His motives were not necessarily racist, but I presume they were Libertarian.

    The reason I am NOT a Libertarian is because their theory of “rights” leads them in cases such as this to immoral conclusions.

    • Hi Marvin – Thanks for the comment. First, I’ll say that one person does not embody a political ideology. I don’t think throwing the baby out with the bathwater is productive.

      I know little about Ron Paul. But, one fact that is easy to verify is that he was not a congressman in 1964 (

      But, he does appear to have been critical of the act. From the same site:
      ‘Paul was critical of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, arguing that it sanctioned federal interference in the labor market and did not improve race relations. He once remarked: “The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society”‘

      I think you are right that his motives for being critical were not racist. I’m not sure these were immoral either. You may disagree with his reasons. You may believe the act is Constitutional and that it did achieve the stated goals. But, claiming it’s immoral is a red herring and unproductive.

      • Use of the term “immoral” is only unproductive if it cannot be objectively defined. Libertarians have that problem with terms like “natural rights”. By what objective criteria can you call this right “natural” and another right “unnatural”.

        But I believe I can define my terms. Morality seeks the good, not just for oneself, but for others as well. It’s ideal goal is the best possible good for everyone. The Civil Rights Act would be judged moral or immoral based upon its good versus its harmful effects.

        The good effects of the Civil Rights Act was that it granted the black man, woman, and child the same liberties as those enjoyed by whites. The only “harmful” effect was reducing the restaurant owner’s liberty to use his restaurant as a way to express and sustain his prejudices.

        Therefore, the Civil Rights Act was moral and right.

        The logic that came down on the side of the restaurant owner, supporting his right to continue posting a “whites only” is wrong because it would produce an immoral result. Specifically it would allow the daily harm to continue indefinitely.

        So, when I use the term “moral” and “immoral” I am not being rhetorical. I’m talking about objective criteria for moral judgment.

        On the other hand, the term “natural” rights has no objective definition. It is a rhetorical device.

        Practical rights arise from agreements. There are certain rights that we agree to respect and protect for each other. We sometimes use rhetoric to sway an audience, as Jefferson did when he spoke of “inalienable” rights “endowed by our Creator”. But Jefferson referred to practical rights when he said “and to secure these rights, governments are instituted”.


        • I encourage you to have this discussion with Ron Paul.

          Notice, I never said I was libertarian because of Ron Paul. I said I was because of the Golden Rule.

          Do you have an argument against the Golden Rule?

          • You may be using the term “libertarian” without understanding what it is actually about. I really don’t think it has anything to do with the golden rule. Libertarianism is an “ethic” which attempts to derive all rights from property rights. Even personal rights are said to derive from “self-ownership”.

            This distorted viewpoint leads to bad moral conclusions. It allows the restaurant owner to refuse service to a race of customers by displaying a “Whites Only” sign in the window. And it places that “right” above the right of a black man to buy a meal in the restaurant he chooses.

            I hope you will try to understand the brand you’re pushing. It’s not about the golden rule. If you were subject to the same discrimination and segregation as a black man, would you not call upon the rest of us to correct this by law? The Civil Rights Act was passed by people following the golden rule, not by Libertarians.

          • Marvin, You contend that the belief in self-ownership is derived from a belief in property rights. Many libertarians agree with that. But, ask them why they respect property rights?

            They may say something about ‘natural’ rights or some such. But, that explanation left me wanting. History shows us those rights are not natural as there have been many times and places where they were not respected.

            I contend that we respect property rights and recognize self-ownership — liberty (so long as I’m not infringing on those of others) — because we desire others to give us the same respect and recognition, which is the Golden Rule.

            You haven’t yet persuaded me that libertarianism leads to ‘bad moral conclusions’, only that the way you view how society, government, law & legislation work is different than how I view it. You seem to think government action leads society. I believe the cause-and-effect is more muddled than that, and sometimes it’s the other way around, what happens in government is a reflection of what’s happening in society.

            Passing a law doesn’t change much unless it reflects the general attitudes in society. If it did, we wouldn’t have illegal immigrants.

            If you’d like to more about my views on law and legislation, I recommend reading my post, “Why do you stop at red light?” (

          • 1) We seem to agree that “practical” rights exist by general agreement. And that these agreements have changed over time. And property rights exist because it works out better for everyone if we respect and protect that right for each other, and one way we do this for each other is by passing laws against theft, creating a police force to catch the thief, courts to try them, and jails to secure us from them. We do this mainly through government. (Course, If the thief is a Libertarian, he may claim ownership of what he stole by right of his skilled labor in acquiring it.)

            2) The concept of “self-ownership” is meaningless. You are yourself, you don’t own yourself. The slave need not argue “self-ownership”. All he needs argue is that enslaving him is morally wrong. And I suspect it was the simple moral argument that ended slavery.

            You cannot deduce anything meaningful from “owning” yourself. After all, you are not property.

            That probably doesn’t make sense to you now. But try to cite some other right that logically follows from “owning” yourself, which does not also follow from simply “being” yourself.

            3) For example, the concept that “one man’s right to swing his fist stops at the other man’s nose” has nothing to do with self-ownership. It has to do with being free so long as you don’t unnecessarily harm someone else.

            4) Government does not lead society. Government is society’s tool. We, the people, by agreement, constituted government to further our common welfare by creating a formal means of reaching agreements on laws and rights.

            Individuals identify problems, pose solutions, advise their representatives, who hold hearing, consider options, weigh alternatives, and create a working solution or law, which may be further reviewed later, and the process repeated.

            I’ll take a look at the article you suggested.

        • Marvin – Your guilty of the “crime”you complain about, i.e. using rhetoric to sway your audience.

          I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and assume that you simply confused “good” and “right” rather than deliberately trying to be deceptive.

          Let me explain how you have used “good” in a manner that attempts to deceive the reader – even if it was not your intent. When you say, “morality seeks the good” you are using “good” in the sense of what is right. Synonyms for good used in this sense might include “honorable”, “virtuous” and “commendable.” However, you continue on in the same paragraph stating that “the Civil Rights Act would be judged moral or immoral based upon its good versus its harmful effects. Here you have used good in another sense meaning “favorable.”

          But “good” in the sense of “favorable” and “good” in the sense of “righteous” or “virtuous” are not the same thing. If I dive in front of a car to save a child, the effects (for me) may not be good (favorable) – they may not be good for the child either – even though I did what most would consider a good (virtuous) deed. Similarly, if my stock broker tries to screw me over by buying a stock that he thinks will go down and instead it goes up, the effect is good/favorable for me (it may even be favorable for him if he does’t get caught), even though his actions were not good in a moral sense.

          The (false) argument you have constructed is as follows:

          Things that are good are moral.
          The CRA is good.
          Therefore the CRA is moral.

          However, when we recognize that you have used “good” in two different senses, your argument takes this form:

          Things that are virtuous are moral.
          The CRA is favorable.
          Therefore the CRA is moral.

          It’s not a valid argument.

          Beyond this, you’ve stated that it’s moral and right to deprive someone or some group of their liberties as long as it benefits some other group. Think about it! That was the argument that supported slavery.

          • Mike, Let’s clear up the definitions first:
            A) We call something “good” if it meets a real need we have as a person, a society, or a species.
            B) Morality seeks the best good for everyone. This is an “ideal Good” which is always beyond our reach, but which we attempt to get closer to when we use moral judgment.
            C) Rule systems include things like ethics, customs, principles, rights, and laws. Rights are implied by rules. The right to property is implied by the rule against theft. They are of the same “semantic stuff”.
            D) We create rules to make things better. Rules are a tool for improving good and reducing harm for everyone. That’s why we have traffic laws. That’s why we have Civil Rights laws.
            E) The reason for ethics is morality. The humanist version of Matthew 22:35-40 is this, “Love good. And love good for others as you love it for yourself. All other rules derive from these two.” (For more details see my article at )

            The argument for the Civil Rights Act is that it reduces harm and improves good, overall, for everyone. It raised opportunities for black people by ending segregated schools (and lunch counters) and discrimination in employment.

            And what harm did it cause? Libertarians claim it prevented the restaurant owner from using his restaurant as he wished, even if he wished to use it as a tool of subjugation. But was this actually bad for the restaurant owner, or didn’t it increase his profit by increasing his customers? And was his prejudice, you know that lie that we tell ourselves to justify inappropriate discrimination, so precious to him that he could not do without it? Or wasn’t confronting his prejudice more like a vaccination, that hurts when you get it, but improves your health in the long run.

            So, that’s an example of how moral judgment works in creating rules. Ideally, everyone benefits.

            You are right that moral judgment was also in play in slavery. It was thought that slavery benefitted the black man. That’s a historical example of how imperfect we all are. But the good news is that we got better, and we got better by continuing on the road to a more perfect good.

      • 1) Okay. I don’t understand your Libertarian cheap shot, though. Seem that you’re really pushing your straw man there. 2) Semantics? 3) Yes…that’s the belief in liberty in a nutshell. 4) Sure. The problem is in the feedbacks, though. Government tends to reward failure, rather than let it wither.

        Thanks for the comments, Marvin. I enjoyed the discussion.

        • 1) A little humor, but the serious side is a very practical problem: How do you convince everyone to “buy into the agreement”, to play by the rules? For example, How does the baker convince the starving man not to steal a loaf of bread? (your argument “Government tends to reward failure, rather than let it wither.” doesn’t sound convincing in that situation).

          2) Yes, “semantics”. But semantics is about “Meaning”. What is meant by “self-ownership”? To me it suggests a person is perceived as a piece of property. The rest of us can speak of individual rights without suggesting we are property. If you start with a meaningless concept, there is nothing meaningful you can deduce from it. So the challenge is to prove it has meaning that is useful in discussing rights, or anything else.

          3) Note that “one man’s right to swing his fist stops at another man’s nose” does mean I “own” my nose, but only that it is a part of me. It is morally wrong for one person to unnecessarily harm another person. (Necessary harms that are good for us would be things like removing a splinter, applying antiseptic, giving birth, etc).

          4) Agreed that all institutions, whether public or private, are manned by people. People make mistakes and sometimes do harmful, unethical, or immoral things. If you’ve seen “Holmes on Homes” on the DIY network, you’ll see countless examples where contractors have screwed up someone’s home and incompetent inspectors miss it. Or watch 60 Minutes. Or the PBS Frontline special called “The Warning”, where Alan Greenspan’s ideological crush on Ayn Rand led him to undermine the Commodities Futures Trading Commission when Brooksley Born tried to regulate the shadow derivative market back in 1998. The derivatives market played a major role in the financial collapse of 2008. The collapse might have been avoided. But Libertarian ideology got in the way.

          • 1) Notice the word ‘tends’. That means not always. There are some situations where the feedbacks, competition and experimentation work well enough even in gov’t. One such situation tends to be gov’t at the local level. If a local government isn’t serving the needs of its residents, it will lose residents to other towns who are. Eventually the twon will act to improve things or lose enough of its residents to wither. Also, with so many local units, there is a lot more natural experimentation and innovations that improve these operations and are more likely to happen and then be adopted by others, than a situation where, say, there was one police force for the whole nation.

            2) Sure it has meaning. For much of human existence some felt entitled to claim ownership of others. If you don’t agree those folks, self-ownership has profound meaning.

            4) Greenspan intervened, rather than letting markets work, and passed the buck for his interventionist policies. He bailed out bad, money-losing decisions made by bankers (e.g. Mexican banking crisis, Long Term Capital Management) because he claimed their failures would cause too much systematic damage. That is not capitalism. He socialized their losses and their risks.

            Friedman said, “Capitalism is a profit and loss system. Profits encourage risk taking. Losses encourage prudence.” Greenspan removed the losses, reducing prudence exercised by bankers. He contributed to the moral hazard by distorting markets, then through markets under the bus. Bankers no longer had skin the game. Here’s a good paper written by economist on the subject if you care to read it:

          • I certainly agree with your point about multiple levels of government. Take education for example. That’s pretty much run at the local level, supported by property taxes. The states provide 50 laboratories for charter schools, etc. The federal level should play a supporting role, like comparing American curriculum and achievement with other nations and how that affects us as international competitors. Also they could develop national tests to allow states to compare with other states.

            But we need all three levels. It can’t all be done locally. And as far as I know, only states and the nation are created directly by the people through constitutions.

            Self-ownership has no meaning. When slavery ended, it was not a property transfer. The “profound” thing was to decide that people may no longer be considered property.

            Greenspan would not have needed to intervene if the existing rules were enforced and the CFTC was allowed to regulate the derivatives market.

            If you want the details on the meltdown, see the senate investigation report at:

            Click to access FinancialCrisisReport.pdf

          • I must be missing your point on ownership. You have the right to determine whether you would like to donate blood, a kidney or bone marrow or donate your organs in the event of your death. That seems like ownership. Perhaps its just the notion of thinking of someone as property that bugs you. Fine. I think you may be equivocating on a term. You see the pejorative of viewing a person as property, while those who actually recognize liberty sees it in respecting one’s rights to decide what to do with themselves. I prefer another term as well — liberty.

            I agree with much of the subcommittee report. Even it says that a root cause was that lenders had less skin in the game after a 2002 Treasury rule allowed originators to basically shovel the risk of a bad loan onto someone else (it even quoted on of my favorite economists, Arnold Kling). I think that was a big part.

            Of course, government had a hand in the financial crisis beyond Greenspan’s market distortions. Politicians were getting votes by helping people ‘realize the dream of home ownership’. Politicians didn’t want regulators to crack down on their vote machine. Fannie and Freddie participated in buy the crap loans.

            But, I also think Russ Roberts’ point has merit. I recall there being this sense as questions started to rise about the crap on Fannie & Freddie’s books, that the gov’t wouldn’t them fail (socializing losses).

            So, the answer is to trust a new set of politicians and regulators to hopefully get it right next time? Okay. I hope that works out for you. Personally, I just want to make sure the parties involved have their skin in the game, rather than the taxpayers. And if they mess it up, good riddance.

            Re: education — I’d personally like to see it go further down. 50 experiments aren’t enough. It takes 1000s of experiments to hit on a few things.

          • You’re right that there were many additional, if less significant, factors. I think that Fannie and Freddie were buying on the basis of Moody’s and S&P’s AAA ratings. Lots of retirement funds are required to purchase primarily AAA rated risks. And the rating agencies were being paid by the banks, so it was not in their interest to rate low. The report said that 90% of the AAA rated loans were later downgraded to “junk” status.

    • Whoa there, Marv!

      The Civil Rights Act may have eliminated obvious forms of segregation, but it most definitely did not eliminate racial discrimination in the South or elsewhere.

      For the record, I vigorously object to your implication that racial discrimination existed only in the South (or were you implying that the CRA didn’t eliminate discrimination in the North?). Your comment points to an underlying dislike of Southerners simply because they live in a certain geographic region. How is that any less immoral than disliking someone because of their skin color?

      Furthermore, what you and the progressives fail to recognize is that laws cannot change the hearts of men and make them stop hating people for stupid reasons. That change must come from somewhere else. Laws that attempt to force people to do something before their minds accept that change have the effect of making people resist that change and resent each other. The Civil Rights Act and civil rights activists have retarded the progress of race relations by leading to resentment and by telling people to blame others for their problems.

      Segregation does not necessarily imply harmful discrimination. For a variety of reasons, people of various ethnicities, races, religious groups, professions, etc. naturally seek out members of their “tribe.” This is not necessarily harmful either in intent or actuality.

      When we look at our representatives in Congress, what indications do we have of which regions harbor those who discriminate based on race? Wasn’t it Charlie Rangel (D-NY) who voiced his dislike of Tea Party “white crackers”? And Maxine Waters (D-CA) has made no secret of the fact that she abhors white people, especially poor white people. Neither is from the South. The only links I can see are “Democrat” and “black”.

      In fact, what would be your reaction if there was a White Congressional Caucus? Just what is a “caucus”? It’s a group of members of a legislative body who meet to decide policy. Black politicians holding meetings that exclude whites for the purpose of deciding how to vote smacks of racial discrimination.

      Finally, when you make the implication that because Ron Paul did not vote to celebrate the CRA, he favors racial discrimination, you are equating correlation with causation. Congressman Paul may not support a CELEBRATION for a number of reasons. First, it doesn’t imply that he doesn’t support the CRA. He just objects to spending my tax dollars on having a celebration. That’s consistent with his voting record on many things that sound like “nice” ideas, but that spend other people’s money. Second, he may not believe that the CRA was a correct or effective way of dealing with racial discrimination. From the results, he may be right. As Seth notes, he wasn’t a fan of the CRA because “it sanctioned federal interference in the labor market and did not improve race relation” and believed that “it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society”‘ That’s a Libertarian position and it does not imply that Libertarians believe in racial discrimination or that they are immoral. In fact, the opposite is the case.

      • Hi Mike.

        First, the Civil Rights Act and school integration laws did not apply just to the South. All laws apply to everyone equally across the board. However, my own Virginia shut down its public school system to avoid integration. I think they called it “massive resistance”.

        Second, segregation sustains prejudice by leaving it unchallenged. Integration, first in the Army, then schools, restaurants, and all public places did most of the heavy lifting.

        When you confront a prejudice with inescapable truth, the lie falls and cannot be sustained. It is by working together, going to school together, and generally living together that we get to know each other.

        The Libertarian objection to the Civil Rights Act is simply that it is government “interfering” with personal “rights”. However, in this case, the “right” was to put up a “whites only” sign and refuse to serve coffee to the black man. There is no such “right”, and never has been.

        The Libertarian philosophy provides a distorted, illogical view of rights, which lead to errors in moral judgment.

        • Marv –

          How many white congressmen have been invited or allowed to join the black congressional caucus? As the membership (since Allen West lost bid for re-election) is composed entirely of Democrats, it’s safe (by your analogy) to assume that Democrats – or at least black Democrats are racists.

          There was a white congressman (Steve Cohen) who represented a predominantly black district and applied for membership but his application was refused, i.e. the congressional black caucus put up – to use your terms – a “blacks only” sign and refused admission to a white man. To be certain, former and current members of the caucus agreed that the group should remain “exclusively black” – I believe that’s the definition of “segregated”. Maybe if the CBC members took down their “blacks only” sign and permitted white congressman to work and live and serve with them, the white and black congressmen would get to know each other better (a take off on your idea), but it’s the blacks and not the whites who are intent on maintaining this segregation.

          Marvin, to be rank, I think it’s abhorrent that there is a congressional black congress, but I also find the term “African-American” divisive. When the Colts won the Super Bowl under Tony Dungy, I cringed when they announced that he was the first black head coach to win the Super Bowl – like it was extraordinary because being black was a handicap. Affirmative action is an insult to most blacks and an excuse used by others. I think EW Jackson is spot on and I think blacks (and hispanics and Asians and any other humans) have the potential to reach any goal they are willing to work and sacrifice for.

          Now, let me go further. I think it’s both foolish (from an economic standpoint) and immoral (from a biblical standpoint) to hate someone on the basis of skin color. However, I would like to go further still.

          First, we’ve got to understand that people discriminate and stereotype everyday – and it’s not usually “bad” either in a moral sense or a sense of being beneficial or harmful to the discriminator. When Jesse Jackson walks down a dark street at night, his own understanding of crime statistics tells him he’s more likely to be in danger if the shadows approaching him are black teens than if they are white teens. That’s not racist, it’s just Jesse’s desire for self preservation. When a bank refuses a loan to someone because they have a low income, have lots of credit card debt, etc., they are discriminating – not on the basis of race, but on the basis of financial risk. If there exists coincidentally a correlation between skin color and financial riskiness – but the bank makes its decision on financial riskiness alone – that is reasonable and “good” discrimination, not racial discrimination.

          Second, while “I” personally may have objections to and feel it is wrong (economically and morally), I don’t believe that I have the right to impose my beliefs on someone else. Rather than trying to legislate cooperation and warm and fuzzy feelings between races, market forces have proven much more effective. It was economics – not some law – that allowed Jackie Robinson to integrate baseball. Can you think of any industry where racial barriers have been so effectively destroyed?

          Suppose that XYZ and ABC are the two largest widget companies in the US and suppose further that Mr. Smith is the best widget executive in the nation. If the racist board of XYZ refuses to hire Smith because he’s black, ABC will achieve a huge competitive advantage by hiring him. By virtue of their reduced compensation – and outraged shareholders who see their stock plummet – the XYZ board will get the message soon enough and they will either “change with the times” or disappear to be replaced by a company that doesn’t discriminate.

          • Mike, the issue is not racism. The issue is whether Libertarian “principles” would have allowed government to pass a Civil Rights Act in 1964, or whether it would have come down on the side of restaurant owners posting the “Whites Only” sign in the window, simply because they are property owners. That’s the problem.

            If you’re going to outlaw government intervention to protect the rights of a minority group to participate in commerce, then how do you claim any moral authority at all for Libertarian “principles”?

            The freedom of association is protected for private individuals. The black caucus is a private association, like the democratic or republican caucus. There is no restriction on race in any area normally open to the public, like Congress itself, or a restaurant. I’m sure you’ll find no racial barriers on any committees of congress, so they do work together every day.

            If you consider that slavery itself was an affirmative act that denigrated the black race, and that it was “justified” by a prejudice that was hammered into the minds of white children and whipped onto the backs of black children, that said blacks people were something less than human persons, and could therefore be acquired, bred and traded like cows and horses, and that this went on for a couple hundred years, then you might catch on to why the damage done might need some affirmative act of repair.

            In some states it was illegal to teach a slave to read. This tended to limit their aspirations for achievement. No one expected them to do more than menial labor.

            The point of Affirmative Action programs was to turn this around, to assure there were black professionals, doctors, lawyers, etc to serve as examples. This raises both the teacher’s expectations and the student’s aspirations. Raising expectation and aspirations results in higher achievement. Higher achievement leads to additional examples of black professionals. I think it is referred to as a “virtuous cycle” as opposed to the “vicious cycle” of prejudice, low expectation, suppressed aspirations, and the resulting low achievement.

            But you guys probably never took a course in social psychology, because you presume “social” means “socialist”.

          • Marvin – Whether all or parts of the CRA, or any legislation, are constitutional is a legal question, not an ideological or a moral question. It either is or isn’t within the power of Congress to pass all or parts of a bill — of any bill (I don’t know enough to have an opinion on whether the CRA or parts of it are unconstitutional).

            A claim that the answer to this legal question can be judged morally is a red herring. It either is within the power of government, as laid out in the Constitution, or it isn’t.

            You can believe that legislation is not within the power of government, but still think it got to the ends you desired.

            But, I think it is important that in such a case you recognize that you got the ends you desired by allowing the government to assume power it did not have without going through the constitutional amendment process laid out in Article V.

            If you encounter a government action that you didn’t like and felt was unconstitutional, I wouldn’t expect you to use its unconstitutionality as an argument against it, since you were previously complicit in expanding government powers by what felt good to you. Why shouldn’t others then get to expand powers by what feels good to them, too?

            Here we get to the very reason why I respect the limits placed on government and the processes that have been identified to change those limits (like Article V): it’s not arbitrary based on what sounds good at the time. It requires an additional check on power — the approval of the state legislatures (after all, this is the United STATES of America).

          • I believe the Constitutional authority for the Civil Rights Act was the 14th Amendment which required states to treat all citizens equally, including “equal protection of the laws”. But I’m not an expert. Your presumption that the CRA was unconstitutional suggests you are not an expert either.

            Consider this, the CRA was voted against by most of the representatives in the Southern states (see Wikipedia). Therefore, there was significant opposition. If that opposition believed they could prove it unconstitutional, they could have challenged it in the Supreme Court. Since the law remains on the books, we have to presume it was in fact Constitutional.

          • Marv – I suggest reading my previous response with more care. There was no presumption of unconstitutionality. I stated that I don’t know enough about it to have an opinion.

  3. I’m not a Libertarian for the same reason I’m not a Democrat or a Republican – because I feel that when you take on the label of a group, you also (in the eyes of others) take on all the baggage (good, bad and otherwise) of that group.

      • I try my best not to wear the label of “CrossFitter” or “Martial artist” on my sleeve. I am certainly someone who does both those things but they are, like everything else I do, only a part of me.

    • All the baggage are red herrings and straw men. No ideology is monolithic. Nobody agrees with anybody else 100% of the time. I enjoy engaging on what I believe and think. It’s unproductive to do so for what others think.

  4. Marvin – You’ve put words in my mouth that I never said. I never said the CRA was unconstitutional. I noted that Ron Paul’s reasons for opposing it included his belief that (1) it was ineffective – and indeed harmful – in achieving its alleged purpose of equality of opportunity, and (2) it could (and indeed it has) led to the government infringing on the rights of others.

    As you noted, the 14th Amendment required equal rights and protection under the law for all persons. As such, if the real purpose of the CRA was “equal rights”, it is superfluous. What was needed was enforcement of the existing law.

    Your reasoning that because the CRA has remained on the books for 50 years means that’s it’s constitutional is absurd! Many laws have remained on the books for long periods of time only to be “declared” unconstitutional decades later. Same sex laws have existed in many states for centuries, but have only been recently declared unconstitutional. Your presumptions are silly.

    Unfortunately, many – lacking the personal responsibility for their actions and the self-discipline to work for what they get – have turned the CRA form “equality of opportunity” to “equality of outcome” creating so-called rights and theories like “affirmative action” and “disparate impact.”

    Affirmative action, as practiced, hasn’t been used simply to “raise aspirations” in the sense that “I now have the opportunity and if I put in the work, I will achieve XYZ” as you suggest. It’s created an entitlement mentality where the expectation is not equal opportunity, but equal result, i.e. “I didn’t get promoted so it must be due to racism inherent in the system” (disparate impact).

    Your statement, “The freedom of association is protected for private individuals. The black caucus is a private association, like the democratic or republican caucus. There is no restriction on race in any area normally open to the public, like Congress itself, or a restaurant. I’m sure you’ll find no racial barriers on any committees of congress, so they do work together every day.” is filled with contradictions. You are arguing that the Congressional Black Congress is private and should be allowed to discriminate, yet Mr. Smith’s privately owned restaurant is public. You have it exactly back-asswards! And that’s the problem – the government has increasingly ignored private property rights and has come to assume that virtually all property belongs to the government in the sense that the government, and not the private owner, has the right to determine how that property is used. That, and not the racism that you implied was confined to the South, was why people opposed the CRA.

    That you justify affirmative action on the basis of mistreatment suffered by black slaves in the US 150 years ago is not only a poor excuse, it is a sign of the lack of personal responsibility in the black community. Throughout history, blacks in Africa have enslaved far more blacks (and whites) than were enslaved by whites in America. Indeed, my ancestors were once enslaved by blacks. Perhaps it is the black community that owes me reparations! I’m confident in my assertion that YOU were never a slave. Therefore, to use someone else’s misfortune as an excuse for you wanting special treatment strikes me as selfish and irresponsible. There are to, too many blacks who have started with nothing and have climbed to the top – Barack Obama, Herman Cain, Michael Jordan, Oprah Winfrey, etc. – to justify the excuse “we need special privileges because our great, great, great grandparents were slaves. What’s worse, many blacks whose families came to America AFTER slavery was eliminated – and even after the CRA was passed – DEMAND special rights based on skin color alone. If you want to talk about “good” and “evil” – either in the sense of morality or what’s favorable or unfavorable for our nation – that’s evil!

    • I’m pretty sure that 1964 was not 150 years ago. It was only within my lifetime that black children were allowed to attend schools with white children in some states.

      I can appreciate that you may be uneducated about the history of slavery and the massive segregation and discrimination that continued way past the end of slavery.

      What gets me is that you still defend the restaurant owner’s supposed “right” to post a “Whites Only” sign, even today.

      The accusation is not racism. The accusation is a corrupt view of rights.

      • Newsflash! YOU WERE NEVER A SLAVE MARVIN!!

        Affirmative action, disparate impact, reparations are all another way of saying (a) I lack the talent and work ethic to compete on an even playing field, or (b) I want something (that belongs to someone else) for nothing – that’s also known as stealing.

        Fewer than half of the US population in the 1700s and early 1800s were slave owners as the large population centers were in the North. The percentage of the population who had slave owning ancestors was further diminished by the huge number of immigrants in the late 1800’s and early 1900s. Thus, very few white people in the US today are related to slave owners. Likewise, many blacks in the US have no relation to people who were once slaves. So, why should people who have no relationship to former slaves demand special privileges and payments from whites who have no relationship to former slave owners on the basis that somebody other white guy enslaved some other black guy? It’s simply a matter of greed and lack of personal responsibility.

        What gets me is that you – and many other blacks – demand special treatment based solely upon the color of your skin, even today when diligent, responsible black people have demonstrated that barriers to success are all in someone’s mind. As long as the black man continues to blame “whitey” for things that happened 50 to 150 years ago (and that involved very few white people who lead the business or political world today), he’ll never make it. Every immigrant group that has come to America has been discriminated against, yet blacks are unique in “needing” special treatment.

        Further to your confused equating of good (in the sense of favorable effects) with morality and perpetuation of the myopic idea that the ends justify the means. If the CRA was moral on the basis that it had favorable effects for blacks, slavery can be called moral on the same grounds. It’s my opinion, however that neither the CRA nor slavery was moral. Nobody can deny that blacks (as a whole) in America are far better off than blacks in Africa, i.e. in the long run, being captured and sold into slavery (by fellow blacks) ended up being favorable to blacks (or at least their sons and grandsons). Thus, using Marvin’s definition of moral – that which has good effects – slavery should be called moral. But it’s not! The ends do not justify the means.

        • Mike, You are way off in your understanding of Affirmative Action. It never gave anyone something which they did not earn by their own effort. The black college applicant had to be fully qualified to even be considered for admission. But, suppose you have 100 fully qualified applicants for 10 slots, and the top 20 applicants only include 2 blacks whose scores put them in positions 11 and 12. Affirmative Action allows you to choose those two black applicants.

          Now, you ask why those two fully qualified black applicants should be selected instead of the two white applicants in positions 9 and 10. The most important reason is because we need more black professionals to confront the prejudice that blacks can only do menial labor.

          Where did the prejudice come from in the first place? Well, the plantation owners and those in the slave trade needed to justify what they were doing. So they convinced themselves that blacks Africans were something less than human, so that they could be worked, bred, bought and sold like any other livestock. For a couple hundred years they drummed this prejudice into the heads of their white children, and used the whip to write it onto the backs of black children. In some states it was illegal to teach a slave to read.

          When slavery ended, the prejudice lived on in the hearts and minds of southern whites. Whites felt offended to be near blacks, to share drinking fountains or bathrooms, and they certainly did not want black kids in their schools.

          When forced to educate black kids, they were put in separate schools, where expectations were low, because of the prejudice said they were only fit for menial labor. The teacher shared that prejudice and expected little. The black child shared that prejudice and set her sights low.

          Mike, you need to accept the fact that this was also “special treatment”. And it went on until the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964.

          It was special treatment that put the black student behind the white student. And the remedy also requires special treatment. But in no case does the remedy reward the unworthy. You still must earn a place in college by mastering the material in high school and passing the scholastic aptitude tests.

          Mike, your definition of moral must agree with mine. The only way you can defend Libertarian “principles” is by proving that we are all better off following them. And you guys do eventually get around to trying to make that case on those terms. (My website is not called “A Keen Grasp…of the obvious” for nothing). The definition of morality is one of those universal and inescapable things. Most people just exercise moral judgment without working out the definition in so many words like I did.

          The question remains quite simple: are we all better off by allowing the restaurant owner to force black customers to eat someplace else, or, are we all better off if restaurants are open to all appropriate customers, without respect to race or religion.

          The Libertarian answer allows the restaurant owner to curtail the liberty of others based solely on his prejudices. That produced the conditions which the Civil Rights Act ended.

          • Marvin — It does nothing to ‘confront prejudice…’ or build the character and dignity of the 11th and 12th place people if others doubt they earned their positions on a level playing field — which they did not. Expectations were lowered to allow people to meet your ends, which is the very thing you say was happening in black schools before desegregation. Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams begs to differ with you, btw. They say expectations were higher then than now.

            Do you think the record of public education since desegregation weakens or supports your case?

            Finally, how is it that members of my family experienced not being acknowledged or served in restaurants in small towns long after the passage of the CRA? I thought the that was supposed to protect their right for them to buy stuff from people who hate them. Certainly, they didn’t have to endure the disgrace of seeing a ‘whites only’ sign displayed in the restaurant. But, personally, I’d much rather have a good of idea of who hates me, so I can avoid getting spit on my hamburger and give my business to someone who deserves it.

          • Confronting prejudice does nothing? How about the simple fact of children attending school together, playing together in the school yard? Does that also have no effect? Suppose the white child sits at the lunch counter and the owner tells the black child to go sit in the “colored” section. Does that also have no effect?

            I am confident that statistics will indicate a larger percentage of black young people entering college today than prior to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. But I’m not going to look it up for you. If you really care to know the truth you’ll do that yourself eventually.

            Right now, I imagine you are still afraid of the truth.

            If you want me to discuss this with Thomas Sowell and Walter Williams, then by all means invite them to join the discussion. If you do not understand them enough to convey the information yourself, then I presume they are not going to be that useful to either of us.

            I don’t know why you experienced bad treatment at small town restaurants. Maybe it was because the town was small.

            But maybe it was because no one had the guts to confront their discrimination, you know, take them to court if they’re breaking the Civil Rights law. In Albemarle county Virginia, they used to charge a “textbook rental fee” of $25 per child, even though the city didn’t charge the fee, and even though the state offered incentives to cities and counties to drop the fee. I spoke to our PTA, to the school board, to the county board of supervisors. I wrote up a “A Penny for Textbooks” flyer with the details, suggesting we raise the property tax rate by a penny, which would make up for dropping the fee. I went to Kinko’s and made copies, then started putting them into people’s doors after I got off work. I put together a package of materials on the subject and mailed it to other PTA’s around the state.

            If you see something wrong, do something constructive about it. Choose your battles, of course, ’cause you’ve only so much time and energy.

            Look at me, for example, doing missionary work here. 🙂

          • Not sure what your first paragraph is responding to.

            The percentage of all young people entering college has gone up similar amounts and I believe they were going up by similar amounts prior to 1964. If you think that supports your case, I’m not sure any of our discussions will be productive. Just one fallacy after another.

            That stat doesn’t tell me much except making K-12 lousy enough to graduate nearly every warm body causes more people to want to go to college to differentiate themselves from the pile.


            The truth? Gee, I was beginning to think the same about you. I use to be you, Marvin. Not sure I’m going back that direction. I believe it was as I gained an appreciation for the ‘unseen’ and unintended consequences of things that I realized that there aren’t solutions, just trade-offs. But, I try to stay open.

            So, far I haven’t found anything that you have presented persuasive. And, I find your tone a barrier to productive discussion. I see those as defense mechanisms folks use to avoid digesting evidence, explanations and observations that do not fit their mental models.

            Good for you for patting yourself on the back. I might have been impressed if you raised the funds for the books privately. I’m not a fan of solving problems by feeding at the public trough.

            However, I agree with your sentiment — if you see something wrong, do something about it. Just keep the government out of it, please. Let its merits stand on its own. I prefer voluntary action over coerced.

  5. Marvin has accused Ron Paul and Libertarians in general of making immoral conclusions, the immorality of which stem from their Libertarian principles. He has based this (at least in part) on Congressman Paul’s vote regarding a celebration of the Civil Rights Act. Here’s a transcript of Paul’s speech before Congress during that vote:

    Ron Paul: Mr. Speaker, I rise to explain my objection to H.Res. 676. I certainly join my colleagues in urging Americans to celebrate the progress this country has made in race relations. However, contrary to the claims of the supporters of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the sponsors of H.Res. 676, the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not improve race relations or enhance freedom. Instead, the forced integration dictated by the Civil Rights Act of 1964 increased racial tensions while diminishing individual liberty.

    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties. The rights of all private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society.

    This expansion of federal power was based on an erroneous interpretation of the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. The framers of the Constitution intended the interstate commerce clause to create a free trade zone among the states, not to give the federal government regulatory power over every business that has any connection with interstate commerce.

    The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business’s workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge’s defined body of potential employees. Thus, bureaucrats began forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color-blind society. Instead, these quotas encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.

    Of course, America has made great strides in race relations over the past forty years. However, this progress is due to changes in public attitudes and private efforts. Relations between the races have improved despite, not because of, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

    In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, while I join the sponsors of H.Res. 676 in promoting racial harmony and individual liberty, the fact is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not accomplish these goals. Instead, this law unconstitutionally expanded federal power, thus reducing liberty. Furthermore, by prompting raced-based quotas, this law undermined efforts to achieve a color-blind society and increased racial strife. Therefore, I must oppose H.Res. 676.

    • And, as you can see, Ron Paul cited the Libertarian principle of the supremacy of private property rights: “was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract”. That is exactly the same argument you have been using.

      Conclusion: Had Libertarians been in office in 1964, the Civil Rights Act would not pass. And if it came up today, Libertarians would reject it.

      Prior to integration, southern white people took offense at having to share a lunch counter (or anything else for that matter) with a black person. After Brown vs Board of Education, Virginia shut down its entire public school system rather than integrate.

      Post-integration, when kids have grown up knowing each other as actual people, rather than racial stereotypes, we have a much better and more just society. Libertarian “principles” would have prevented this remedy.

      I think I’ve made the case.

      • Just curious, Marvin, do you believe that a private individual has the right to display such a sign, if they’re not selling something? Why or why not?

          • Since they are free to do so (not against any law), do you have any thoughts on why racists signs are very rare?

          • Seth, the reason racist signs are rare is because of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Integration and affirmative action have been successful at reducing prejudice. For example, you can’t hold to the idea that black people are inferior if you work for one or if she’s your doctor or your lawyer or your congress person.

            Libertarian “principles” would have allowed schools, restaurants, and other public facilities to remain segregated. Their “principles” protect the restaurant owner’s right to walk all over the rights of anyone they choose.

            Prejudice is a false idea sustained by never having to confront the truth. Racial prejudice is sustained by segregation. If you never have to deal with someone, you can imagine just about anything you want, and the lie you tell yourself goes unchallenged.

          • Interesting enough, Walter Williams wrote a column recently about this very subject:

            “…you can’t hold to the idea that black people are inferior if you work for one or if she’s your doctor.” I know plenty of folks who hold doubts about whether people earned their position through merit or affirmative action. I also know folks who told me that they wound up in a position they weren’t best suited for because doors were opened for them when they probably shouldn’t have been. When they made a career change to something that interested them, they excelled and became more successful — and didn’t need doors opened.

            ‘Libertarian “principles” would have allowed schools, restaurants, and other public facilities to remain segregated.’

            First, they still seem pretty segregated to me. Second, you’re mixing public and private. Even Ron Paul’s libertarian principles I think would have allowed for Congress to pass legislation regarding public schools. So, that basically leaves you with restaurants. I can’t imagine that restaurants have been a substantial crucible for forcing integration.

            The best remedy for wiping away prejudice is to encourage and help people prove themselves against the same expectations as everyone else and help instill the dignity to say thanks, but no thanks, to those offering favors to satisfy their own do-good intentions.

          • Seth, about public schools, I think I’ve mentioned “massive resistance” a couple times already. Virginia shut down it’s public school system rather than integrate. It took the National Guard to protect the black girl walking into a Georgia school past Governor Wallace. In Walter Williams article he failed to mention that Jackie Robinson was not allowed to sleep in the same hotel as the other players on the team when they were in Florida. To pretend affirmative action was never needed is to ignore history, and puts one in the same class as the “holocaust deniers”.

            It is easy to make the case today for ending affirmative action, and it has been winding down for some time now. Colleges have to argue for “diversity” rather than remediation these days. But the Southern conscience is still in play and we feel the need to repair the harm we’ve done.

            The reason Affirmative Action is winding down is because it has accomplished most of its mission. We see lots of black professionals, mayors, governors, and now a president. Walter Williams is largely tilting at ghosts.

            And you might imagine that I am also tilting at the ghosts of segregation and Jim Crow.

            Nope. It is a matter of rights. If there was never a true “right” to slavery, then there was also never a true “right” to refuse service based on race. There was never a “right” conveyed by property to force people of a different race or religion to leave your restaurant to entertain your prejudices.

            You may be a king in your castle, but you are not a monarch when you open a restaurant. You need to meet food safety rules, you need to serve people who go to a church you don’t like and people whose skin color you don’t like. If you want to escape the rules, you need to run your “restaurant” inside your house and open it to serve only friends and family. Once you open the door to the public, you are incurring the responsibility of protecting their rights as well as your own.

            The right to participate in commerce is of the same nature as the right to one’s property. No rights are absolute, of course. All rights are limited by the need to accommodate the rights of others. These are worked out in agreements we call ethics and law.

  6. Seth –

    “The best remedy for wiping away prejudice is to encourage and help people prove themselves against the same expectations as everyone else and help instill the dignity to say thanks, but no thanks, to those offering favors to satisfy their own do-good intentions.”

    How can we distinguish between “encouraging and helping people to prove themselves” and “offering favors to satisfy their own do-good intentions”?

    Is it a matter of altruism? (As in encouraging people to prove themselves means I think of their interests over my own and offering favors means I think of helping them as merely a way of satisfying my own needs.)

    Is it a matter of helpful words versus helpful items? (As in encouraging people means giving them good advice and offering favors means giving people money (welfare check) or stuff (food stamps).)

    Or is the difference something else?

    • Hi Wally – I think that that it’s human nature to take the easiest path with the greatest reward, i.e. to try and get something for nothing. Hence, I don’t think that we can expect a majority of people to take the high road and say, “No, I’ll do it the hard way.” Instead, we need to get the government out of the business of “making it easier” for some to succeed by lowering the bar for them. We encourage people to prove themselves when we offer them the same incentives as everyone else. When we lower the bar, we are offering them an incentive to work less hard and be less productive, i.e. if I offer to pay you $100 wash my and do a really great job or $100 if you just squirt some water on the tires, you’ll take option B – you’ll make as much money, but your skill at washing cars won’t improve. Free market capitalism succeeds because everyone is trying to do what is in his best interest AND (and it’s a BIG “and”) everyone knows that everyone else knows that. You’re not going to do a great job washing my car just because you’re a nice guy, but because you want the reward and you want me to be a repeat customer and send my friends in as well. You want to serve me well because you understand that serving my interest also serves your interest. If the government comes in and says, we’ll give you $100 if you don’t wash any cars, you’ll take that option (and either play video games or work in they gray market).

      • “When we lower the bar, we are offering them an incentive to work less hard and be less productive, i.e. if I offer to pay you $100 wash my and do a really great job or $100 if you just squirt some water on the tires, you’ll take option B – you’ll make as much money, but your skill at washing cars won’t improve.”

        What if you pay $100 for me to do a pretty good job (that is to say not quite as good as a really great job) but you have some moral reason for doing so. Maybe you suspect that I’ll get better as a car washer and one day be really great. Maybe you want to encourage me because there’s only one other car washer in town and even though they are fantastic you’d like to see some competition. Or maybe I’m an ex-con who is just barely making his first steps into doing legitimate work again and you want to encourage it.

        • Wally – In terms of your incentives for getting better, my reason for paying you $100 (my incentive) is irrelevant. If you have little or no incentive to improve, it’s unlikely that you’ll improve. In fact, if I reward you for doing a crappy job, you’ll respond by remaining a crappy car washer. I’m using “you” in the sense of the majority of people. If my reason for hiring you is that I want a clean car and I pay you based on how well you clean the car, you will try to produce a clean car – and you will get better/faster at producing clean cars, i.e. your productivity will increase. If my reason for hiring you is that I feel sorry for you (and why would I feel that way unless I felt you were “defective”?) and I pay you based on how sorry I feel for you, you recognize that how well you clean the car has no bearing on your pay. hence, you have no incentive to become more productive – you’ll remain a crappier car cleaner than if your incentive was to produce a clean car. However, you’ll develop your skills at being or appearing “defective”.

          Now, suppose you rent the space for your box from a landlord and the landlord mandates that he (not you) hires the guy who cleans your space (toilets, floors, trash disposal, etc.). Do you want him hiring the guy based on how well he performs his job or on the color of his skin? Will you clients be satisfied that there are no paper towels in the restroom or that the toilets are filthy or that there are rats running around simply because the landlord decided to hire someone based on something other than their ability to do the job? Wouldn’t you object to the landlord using your money (that was meant to support your business) for his own personal goals? Instead of skin color, what if I substitute “allegiance to the KKK”?

          Now, if you say that it’s OK because your support for people of color or the KKK is more important to you than making a profit, that’s acceptable. That is your decision with your money – i.e. your are, in essence, exchanging your desire for dollars for your desire for something else.

          Now, if we look at this from a larger standpoint, why should you (in a collective sense) be permitted to deprive me of satisfying my desires if my desire for dollars is great than my desire to support the KKK?

          Affirmative action has morphed from equal opportunity to race based preferences. Despite Marvin’s duplicity or naivety, affirmative action isn’t simply awarding the job to a qualified minority. It’s about having a different set of qualifications if your skin color is black. In Fisher v University of Texas, UT admitted that they did not simply admit blacks that were qualified on an absolute scale, but that they had a set of lower academic qualifications for blacks, i.e. the set of SAT scores and GPA that would have EXCLUDED white applicants was NOT applied to black applicants. If someone cannot swim, would you hire them as a lifeguard? Based on affirmative action and the “religion” of diversity, Phoenix does!

          • Mike, I can only describe what college admission USED to look like, and what affirmative action intended to accomplish. The University of Virginia today has an outreach program to minority high schools to encourage applicants. They also have an 87% graduation rate for minority students. I don’t believe the term “affirmative action” is used anywhere in their literature today.

            I’ve stated my understanding of the goals and principles of affirmative action in college admission. I have no trouble defending its use when implemented as I described it. But there is no way that I can certify that all implementations of affirmative action were within those principles.

            These are the principles as I understand them:
            1) It must never be used to promote or admit someone who is unqualified or not fully qualified.
            2) When choosing among the fully qualified, it may give additional weight to the history of discrimination against that persons’ race.

            The justification is this: If discrimination was used in the past against that person’s race, then it may be used now in their favor, up to the point where the effects of that historical discrimination have been remediated.

    • You teach martial arts, right? Do you award belts (not sure if that’s the correct terminology)? Are your standards for awarding a black belt consistent? Do you lower your standards for awarding a black belt for some people to encourage them? Or, do you tell them the specific things they need to master to earn the black belt?

      • Seth –

        Fun questions. (For me, anyway.)

        “You teach martial arts, right?”

        “Do you award belts (not sure if that’s the correct terminology)?”
        Yes (and yes).

        “Are your standards for awarding a black belt consistent?”

        “Do you lower your standards for awarding a black belt for some people to encourage them?”

        “Or, do you tell them the specific things they need to master to earn the black belt?”

        If it is relevant, there are several ranks before black belt in our system that are much fuzzier. In essence, the lower the rank, the more leeway the teacher has to use it as a tool to help the student continue to progress. The essential balance is between the consequences that passing or failing the student will have on the student themselves and on the system at large. That is to say, what will the student do if they fail? Will they train harder or quit? What will the student do if they pass? Will they train harder or quit? What will all the other students think if this particular student fails? Will they be heartened by the integrity of the rank or will they be disheartened by how difficult it is to achieve?

        Essentially, black is supposed to be a fixed rank – a hard standard while the other ranks are not.

        • Hi Wally — I’m glad to hear that there are some fixed standards for a black belt. It’s interesting to find out the standards for the other belts are less so.

          My guess is that the other belts are viewed little respect by any one who knows — maybe something akin to a participation trophy in other sports.

          Do your martial arts students compete against students from other martial arts studios? If so, do they compete by belt color?

          If so, it seems like the truth of the fuzzy belt colors would come out quickly as parents would see big mismatches in competition on those lower belt colors.

          • Seth –

            “I’m glad to hear that there are some fixed standards for a black belt. It’s interesting to find out the standards for the other belts are less so.”

            When belt systems first emerged in the martial arts, there were typically only 3 ranks – white (beginner), brown (intermediate) and black. The addition of other ranks was essentially to create smaller goals for the students. Those goals are often specific to that particular students strengths and weaknesses.

            Brown and black are both considered “standardized” ranks – meaning that anyone with that rank should have a comparable skill set.

            “My guess is that the other belts are viewed little respect by any one who knows — maybe something akin to a participation trophy in other sports.”

            It still takes work to get the other ranks. You’d be surprised just how difficult it is for folks to show up consistently and train on a regular basis. As I mentioned before, at each subsequent rank after the first, the standard becomes more and more solid.

            “Do your martial arts students compete against students from other martial arts studios?”


            ” If so, do they compete by belt color?””

            Partially. It is also by size, age and gender. Different schools have different rank systems and so often you have to adjust for that. Different schools also have different standards for ranks so you have to adjust for that as well. Often on tournament forms there is a question: “How long have you been training?”

            “If so, it seems like the truth of the fuzzy belt colors would come out quickly as parents would see big mismatches in competition on those lower belt colors”

            Indeed. It sometimes does. Hopefully when that happens, we respond to the feedback in an appropriate way – becoming stricter or more generous (as appropriate to the results we see) with the way we award rank. While the lower ranks are fuzzy, they aren’t meant to be meaningless.

            Just as a side note – I don’t give black belts to children. To me a black belt is someone I want by my side in “the dark alley” when things go wrong – someone who will be an asset and not a liability. It’s hard for me to imagine any child fitting that bill.

    • I realized I never answered your questions directly. I believe it’s a matter of giving them advice.

      If you would like help someone figure out how to to buy a home, advise them to live below their means, save for a down payment and build a good credit and income history.

      Do that rather than giving favors like allowing a lower down payment or reducing credit standards.

      Of course, we allow for all sorts of excuses for why this advice is hard to follow while giving big passes on individual choices. We might hear, ‘Well, it’s hard to save because I live paycheck to paycheck.’ We tend to shrug our shoulders and say, ‘Yeah, I know.’ My Great Grandma wouldn’t accept that excuse, though. She would have asked if I needed to eat out twice that week, or why I’m driving a newer car instead of a beater. Her motto was that no matter how much you make, you can always put something back.

      • “I realized I never answered your questions directly. I believe it’s a matter of giving them advice.”

        Sounds like a reasonable to thing to do most of the time on an individual level.

        It seems like there is a “desperation” line somewhere at which point giving advice is kind of insulting. To take it to the extreme, if someone is drowning in a pool I shouldn’t say to them “you should relax, tread water and then make your way to the edge of the pool.” Instead, I should throw them the life preserver, dive in and pull them out of the pool.

        It’s an extreme example but my point is that at some point people are past the point of learning from feedback and really need help. The hard part is figuring out where that “past the point” line is and if government has any role in helping to draw it and dragging people out of the pool.

        • I’m not a fan of the pool example.

          I think it has limited application to real life and it can be too easily debunked.

          For example, most of the time when someone is drowning, you need only advise them to stand up and then they realize they are in shallow water.

          Throwing someone a life preserver who can’t swim in the deep end is a good idea. But, the question is real life is whether you are throwing them a preserver or shoving them under further.

          • “I’m not a fan of the pool example.”

            What example do you prefer?

            “For example, most of the time when someone is drowning, you need only advise them to stand up and then they realize they are in shallow water.”

            That probably shouldn’t make me laugh but it does. Panic is, by definition, never reasonable.

            “Throwing someone a life preserver who can’t swim in the deep end is a good idea. But, the question in real life is whether you are throwing them a preserver or shoving them under further.”

            Just to muddy the water some more, what if they need to be shoved under further to learn?

          • Hi Wally – I’m not sure I prefer any metaphor here. I’d rather talk about the situation directly. Sometimes metaphors help, but sometimes they’re too simple. I think this is a case where it is too simple.

            What would be an example where you think someone is drowning? We should start there and talk about what can be done.

        • Hi Wally – I think your pool analogy brings up the need for us to remember to look at unintended consequences and to recall the work of Bastiat:

          Using the pool example as an allegory for those problems which are immediate versus the long term consequences of altering incentives such that they favor dangerous behaviors, if we jump in and save the wretched fool who is drowning in the deep end, we remove an incentive for people who cannot swim to stay out of water that’s over their heads.

          Now, I recognize that there are several types of people who end up in “water over their heads”, those who get there through no fault of their own (they are pushed in by someone else), those who may have fallen in accidentally (they assumed too much risk in getting too close to the edge of the pool, i.e. they are at fault), and those fools who deliberately jump in.

          Setting aside for a moment those who were pushed in, lets consider the case of the others who bear at least some responsibility for their plight, or more importantly, those who have not yet dared to get close enough to fall in or risk jumping in. By saving one person who fell or jumped in we are altering the incentive for many others to stay away from the deep end if they cannot swim. Thus, we are potentially producing more harm to society by teaching the drowning man and others like him that getting in over our heads is not so risky after all because someone will pull us out. The bleeding hearts often appeal to emotion when they insist that we must save the rhetorical drowning man. The problem with this that it removes the bad consequence of the man’s actions, but does not replace it with another bad consequence. In order to avoid creating this moral hazard, we must either let the man drown (and if we translate this to real life, that’s the better choice if the consequence of his action isn’t death, but something less drastic) or save him, but make him suffer some other consequence (dis-incentive).

          Those who are pushed in can be equated to those born with significant disabilities, orphaned children, elderly widows, etc. – those whose inability to “stay afloat” is TRULY no fault of their own (this excludes the whiners whose disability is “back trouble”, “overweight”, “chronic fatigue” etc.). Throwing them a lifeline does not alter their incentives regarding the pool. The only question remains is should government try to help them or should their needs be met through charity. I think charity has responded to their needs for centuries. Government intervention is more likely to be inefficient and wasteful in meeting their needs with much of the help (money) going to cronies and crooks.

          I trust that you will be able to make the connection from the the pool analogy to the various bailout schemes, welfare programs, etc. that we face today.

  7. One of the big differences I see between the secularist folks and the religious folks is that the secularists fail to see the difference between sins and crimes. Crimes are things that we make laws to prevent and punish. Sins are things that will be dealt with after we die and while they are bad in the moral sense, we shouldn’t try to pass laws to prevent them – these things are not within the realm of government; they are within the realm of God. Because the secularist does not truly belief in heaven or hell, he demands that both crimes and sins be outlawed and punished by government.

    We can never legislate morality as morality involves freely choosing between right and wrong. If we take away the free choice, the action ceases to be moral. If you give $50 to the homeless lady on the street, that’s charity. If the government takes your $50 and gives it to her, it’s not. As Marvin stated, the effect of the CRA was that people hid their “Whites Only” signs – but that did nothing positive about their feelings! If a restaurant serves a back man ONLY because the law forces him to do so – but he secretly hates the guy – does that make his actions moral? If black men use the law for their own advantage in seeking admission to the restaurant, are their actions moral?

    Unfortunately, Marvin has confused what is and what is not private property. Private property does not become public property simply because the private owner serves people other than his own family. The designation “private” versus “public” traditionally referred to ownership. Marvin and our leftist politicians believe that once you open the doors of your privately owned property and allow the public inside, it becomes public property – in the sense that the government and not you determines how you can use your property. If your private property was truly private, you would be permitted to selectively open your doors to guests. The government took away this right. But Marvin says that that’s OK because they created a right for someone else, i.e. as long as it’s someone else’s rights and not Marvin’s that are being eliminated, it’s OK. The Kelo decision demonstrates that the slope of government infringement on property rights is indeed a slippery one.

    “Post-integration, when kids have grown up knowing each other as actual people, rather than racial stereotypes, we have a much better and more just society.” Really? I thought you lived in Virginia, not Fantasy Land.

    “You can’t hold to the idea that black people are inferior if you work for one or if she’s your doctor.”

    Prior to affirmative action, I would have assumed that if my doctor or lawyer or boss was black, they had made it to that position because of their merits rather than because of the color of their skin. Now, when I see a black person in one of those positions, I wonder if they are there because of affirmative action……and I know MANY black people who view it the same way! This has hurt blacks and our economy in many ways as the government is forcing companies to hire people based on skin color rather than merit….and the leftists told you that the CRA was all about creating a level playing field!

    Let me give you one example: In our hospital, there was a black gynecologist. He was truly a bad doctor, both from a skills standpoint as well as his interactions with staff and patients (not to mention his DUIs). When the hospital tried to terminate his privileges, he brought in the NAACP with their threats of protests, lawsuits, etc. Don’t you think the hospital thinks twice before hiring any more black doctors?

    • Hmm, that’s a real interesting turn of the conversation, Mike. Let me try a slightly different classification.

      A sin is something that a private group believes to be morally wrong, and is forbidden by their rules. A crime is something that a state or nation agrees to be morally wrong and is forbidden by law.

      I know we talk about not “legislating morality”, but all laws intend to serve the public good. That is their objective, just like religious rules intend to serve the good of the soul.

      The moral person seeks to achieve public good as well as private good. When the phrase “legislating morality” is used, it means imposing private rules, especially those of a specific religious faith, upon the public.

      Back to affirmative action, it would be pointless to admit an unqualified person to any college program. Affirmative Action only works if the person is fully qualified to begin with. In college admissions, for example, there are often more qualified applicants than seats in the classroom. If you go by SATs, and only take the highest scores, you exclude many applicants who are also fully qualified to enter the program. If all but one of the fully qualified applicants is white, Affirmative Action would allow you to admit the black applicant, who is fully qualified.

      I think the reason someone would suspect the black person is not fully qualified would be either they don’t know how Affirmative Action works, or they are predisposed to believe and pass on a false rumor.

      Why would you bring up the example of one black doctor who was incompetent? Were there never any incompetent white doctors?

  8. Editor, The Daily Progress,

    It is said that “figures don’t lie, but liars figure”. Take the report called “Racial and Ethnic Preferences at the Three Virginia Public Law Schools”, published by the self-styled “Center for Equal Opportunity”.

    Their figures show that a black applicant, with the same qualifications as a white applicant, has a better chance of being admitted to the University of Virginia School of Law. That is a fact.

    But what does it mean? They claim it means the University has a racial preference. They suggest that, in the same way that we used to prefer white people over black people, we now prefer black people over white people. That is a pretty stupid hypothesis to come from two PhDs.

    The authors report that 9% of Law School applicants are black. But they never mention that 19.6% of the state’s population is black.

    Nor do they mention that Virginia was a slave state. In the 1700s we were enslaving over a thousand black men and women per year. In 1831 we made it illegal to educate them. After slavery, when we set up public schools in 1870, we required separate schools for blacks, and funded them only one-third what we provided white schools.

    In 1950 it took a court order to get the first black man into the University of Virginia Law School. Despite Brown vs Board of Education in 1954, we continued to segregate our K-12 schools until forced to integrate in 1959. Prince Edward County shut down their school system for 5 years rather than integrate.

    We, the state of Virginia, are directly responsible for the small number of black Law School applicants. We socially engineered that outcome.

    A moral people, having seen the harm done by its own actions, will take reasonable, positive steps — affirmative actions — to mitigate that harm. One of these steps is to assure that every one of the all-too-few black applicants, who have proven they are qualified, gets to attend Law School. It is a fair and reasonable remediation. We do not do this because we prefer one race over another, but because we prefer to do the right and honorable thing.

    Marvin B Edwards

  9. Very interesting thread, guys! Instead of trying to weave between the different conversations, I just wanted to post 4 quick reactions here:

    1) I think the geographic origin of commentators is telling. I don’t know where everyone is from here, but see that Marvin is from Virginia and know that a few of us are from Kansas/Missouri. Marvin sees the results of 200+ years of problems and policies and his positions reflect that. Speaking for myself, I don’t feel that we have that sort of historical baggage in the Midwest so we may be more inclined to naturally think of everything as a truly even playing field.

    2) Pee Wee Reese being photographed w/ his arm around Jackie Robinson did a lot more for the acceptance of black players in baseball (and probably society) than any amount of rule-making, federal or otherwise, could do.

    3) I’ve never considered it before, but after seeing the repeated mentions of segregated lunch counters, hotels, etc., it seems to me that the Civil Rights Act effectively is just legislating against “being an asshole to certain people”. (Particularly considering that it was ~ a decade after Brown v. Topeka BoE)

    4) Re: Marvin’s statement: “I know we talk about not “legislating morality”, but all laws intend to serve the public good”. This is probably semantics, and this statement reflects political leanings but I would strongly disagree that all laws intend to serve the public good and would use the legions of lobbyists as an important data point. Many laws may purport to serve the public good but are really just serving narrow interests and/or rent-seeking behavior. Particularly in the realm of many regulations.

    • Well said, Lane. The media plays a huge role in undermining prejudice. Take the Bill Cosby show, for example, where Bill’s a doctor and his wife’s a lawyer. And you can see the same happening today with the gay rights movement.

      But I’m quite certain that the Civil Rights Act made a big difference in the South. Things might have happened on their own, but there was a concerted effort by southerners to avoid dealing with black people as if they were equally people. My father ran a Boys Club for the Salvation Army. It was originally a white boys club, but the neighborhood was changing, so dad got headquarters to change it to a club for black boys. But, at that point in time, it could NOT be for both. Mother wanted a black gospel group to sing at the church, but that too was vetoed. That’s how things were back then.

      The question here is whether any restaurant owner should be allowed to use his establishment as a tool of racial subjugation. Yeah, I’m pretty sure that allowing everyone to come in and buy a meal except black people is “subjugation”. He should have no right to do that.

      Libertarians, on the other hand, insist that since he owns the place, he ought to be allowed to do whatever he wants with it. This comes from their choice to place property rights above all other rights. Even individual rights are said to be based in “self-ownership”.

      The results of allowing this is the whole panoply of discrimination and segregation that put the black man, woman, and child at the mercy of the white’s who had previously enslaved them.

      Because it allows such harm, the Libertarian position cannot be defended. Because it prevents any remedy, it is morally wrong.

      Because Libertarian “principles” allow the trampling of the rights of others, they cannot be relied upon to produce moral results.

      • With some hesitation, I begin the circle again…

        “This comes from their choice to place property rights above all other rights.”
        Incorrect. Libertarians support liberty above all else. If the property owner is indeed trampling on the rights of others, that is not condoned. Property owners cannot, for example, murder or imprison people on their property.

        “Because it prevents any remedy…” Correct that ‘Ron Paul’s version of libertarianism doesn’t support the remedy Marvin prefers.’

        ‘Because Libertarian “principles” allow the trampling of the rights of others…’ As stated above, the opposite is true.

        • Thanks for the correction. The “self property right” (self-ownership) cannot be trampled by the “land property right” (except for trespassing).

          The issue is whether the rights derived from owning a restaurant entitles the owner to trump the right of a black man to come in, sit down, and calmly order a cup of coffee.

          What I’ve heard so far is that restaurant ownership entitles the owner to refuse service according to whatever prejudice he wishes to enforce by excluding access to one class while everyone else sits and eats.

          No such right can be allowed. Such a right implies the power of the predominant class to exclude any minority class from the market place. By excluding the minority from jobs, from restaurants, from health care, and from any other service exchanged in the market, the predominant class subjugates the minority, reducing them to begging for food.

          Such a right implies the power of a white county to shut down their public schools and exclude black children from all private schools.

          Therefore, there can be no such right. And any philosophical system, such as Libertarianism, which claims such a right is in error.

  10. SLAVES

    Marvin keeps referring to the black people (in the present tense) who were previously enslaved by whites. There are no living black people in the US who are ever enslaved by whites. Indeed, it’s unlikely that there are any black people alive in the US whose grandparents were enslaved by the grandparents of white people in the US today. And as I have pointed out, a significant number of blacks living in the US today have ZERO ancestors who were slaves in the US while the majority of whites living in the US today have no relatives who owned slaves in the US. Yet, we continue to hear the same lame excuse from many blacks that they are owed something – reparations, special privileges, etc. – because of something that never happened to them.


    Marvin argues against racial discrimination – at least when the discrimination is against blacks – but he favors it when whites are the victims. Affirmative action gives a position to a less qualified applicant solely on the basis of skin color, but it also deprives a more qualified applicant of that same position solely on the basis of his skin color. If we announce that the position they were applying for was to sit at a lunch counter in Greensboro NC, it’s obvious that this is racial discrimination.

    But affirmative action goes far beyond the innocent sounding replacement of one qualified applicant for another under the guise that diversity is beneficial as Marvin either naively or disingenuously states. The doctrine of disparate impact (under the Civil Rights Act – the act that Marvin acknowledges benefits black people by abridging white people’s rights) holds that unless employment tests RESULT in the hiring of a certain quota of “minority” applicants, the test MUST have been discriminatory even if the employer had no such intent. Let me give you the recent example to show how IMMORAL and RACIALLY DISCRIMINATORY this was (remember, this is all under Marvin’s “moral” Civil Rights Act):

    In a 2009 case known as Ricci v. DeStefano, a group of white firefighters presented the U.S. Supreme Court with a case that challenges conventional notions of bigotry. They argued that the city of New Haven, Conn., discriminated against them in 2003 when it threw out a test that white firefighters passed at a 50% greater rate than blacks. Because performance on the test was the basis for promotion, none of the blacks in the department would have advanced had the city accepted the results.

    To avoid discriminating against black firefighters, New Haven discarded the test. By making that move, however, the city prevented the white firefighters eligible for promotion from advancing to captain and lieutenant rank.

    Were the white firefighters subjects of racial discrimination?

    It’s easy to see why one would think so. Take white firefighter Frank Ricci, for example. He scored the sixth highest on the exam out of the 118 test-takers. Seeking advancement to lieutenant, Ricci not only stopped working a second job, he also made flashcards, took practice tests, worked with a study group and participated in mock interviews to pass the oral and written exam, according to the New York Times. A dyslexic, Ricci even paid $1,000 to have someone read textbooks onto audiotapes, the Times reported.

    Why were Ricci and the other top scorers denied the chance to promote simply because their black and Hispanic colleagues failed to do well on the test? The city of New Haven cites Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 which prohibits employers from using tests that have a “disparate impact,” or disproportionately exclude applicants of certain races. If a test does have such an effect, the employer must show that the assessment directly relates to job performance.

    It’s clear that the goal of the Civil Rights Act is NOT equal opportunity, but equal results. It’s also understandable why a black person would favor a law that preferentially benefits him or her even though it does so at the expense of some white person – everyone wants something for nothing (or in this case, a handout in exchange for votes).

    Had SCOTUS not held in favor of the white firefighters, I was going to sue the Miami Heat for not hiring me to play center. Whites are underrepresented in the NBA and some diversity would do the league good. So, while we’re on the topic of professional sports, why don’t we call it racial discrimination when the NBA hires more blacks than whites to play ball? The fact is that in the NBA draft, when it comes for a team to pick, they pick the best player that will produce for their team. Not the best black player, not the best white player, just the best player. They don’t say – and their fans would loudly object if they did – the black guy is the best player available, but the white guy can still make the team even though he isn’t as good, so let’s pick the white guy. To do so would make them less productive and they would risk losing to their opponents. Just substitute “American businesses” for “NBA teams” and “goods and services” for “points” and you’ll understand that hiring the less qualified applicant is BAD for US businesses and bad for our national economy. Affirmative action has us hiring people who are making us increasingly LESS competitive in the global economy.

    Affirmative action is the breeding ground for harmful envy. When we see that someone has something we desire, we can take one of two choices. The first is that we can try to understand what that person did that we haven’t dome to get whatever it is we desire and then we can examine ourselves, see where we fall short and work to achieve that goal, or…..We can chose the immoral path or harmful envy and discredit the person’s hard work, make excuses for his success, and blame our own failure on others. Rather than looking inward and improving themselves, advocates of affirmative action prefer to take the easy, immoral road blaming others and making excuses. There is no black man alive today who can legitimately blame anyone but himself for his failure to succeed.

    There are those who claim that the CRA was “moral” because it gave Jones the “right” to trespass onto the private property of Smith. I think that this is where many people who objected to the CRA found it troubling.


    Basically, the courts have held that if Smith operates his privately owned business and is open to the general public, he must permit anyone – even Jones (a person with whom he does not want to do business) – to enter and do business. Indeed, Marvin has called this private property of Smith’s “public property” even though public property really refers to property owned by the general public, e.g. local municipality, state, etc. Many contend that, just like your private home, you should have the freedom to associate or not associate with whom you chose. Just as I can have a party at my home and invite a select group, e.g. my friends from church,and exclude all others, I should also be able to invite a select group into my privately owned shop, e.g. all Hispanics or all non-smokers, etc. and yes, that would include “all white people”. Now, let me be clear, I personally don’t think this is good (in the beneficial sense) for my business, nor do I think it is good (in the moral sense) for my soul, but I am more concerned with depriving individuals of their Constitutional liberties than with attempting to right the wrongs of the world.

    The rights that the government should concern itself with protecting are property rights and most of you know that when I say “property”, I mean my person and my possessions. The government’s other concerns are enforcement of contracts, i.e making sure that everyone keeps his word, and domestic and national defense, i.e. not letting foreign or native “bad guys” mess with me or my stuff. OK, enforcement of contracts and defense are really a part of property rights. Most of the other stuff is trivial.

    The basic tenet is that government shouldn’t let others mess with me or my stuff. Now, some might argue that when the white racist store owner doesn’t let the black guy into his store it is offensive and insulting to the black guy and therefore “messing” with him and infringing on his rights. Perhaps black people can see how this is wrong by an analogy. I find the shirts that say “My President is Black” to be repugnant, racist and offensive and to be worn with the intent of inciting racial tension. But to suppose that I should therefore be able to petition the court to trample on the wearer’s right of free speech is wrong.

    Sorry for the long winded post. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

    • A) Let’s deal with the Ricci v. DeStefano case first. The City of New Haven was afraid they might be accused of inappropriate discrimination under the Civil Rights Act, so they mistakenly ignored the results of a test given to select firefighters for promotion. When the case reached the Supreme Court, they decided 5-4 that the testing procedure was NOT racially discriminatory, and that the white and Hispanics who had sued for promotion were correct. (It’s in Wikipedia) Lesson: Any time you believe you are being unfairly discriminated against, don’t be afraid to challenge it. Since I have no reason to challenge their decision, your example is just another straw man. Case closed.

      B) Affirmative Action is winding down. Most of what it needed to accomplish has already been accomplished. But it was most certainly a necessary remedy. To look at America today, with black men and women in all of the professions, it is hard, and painful, to think back to when this was a dream in Martin Luther King Jr’s speech, only 50 years ago.

      Racial slavery was very different from that practiced in Rome, where slaves were educated Greeks who were defeated in battle. Racial slavery was sustained by a prejudice that all black men were an inferior species. To make this lie come true, it was illegal to teach black slaves to read. They were relegated to menial labor. Their wives and children were sold like cattle.

      The end of slavery did not end prejudice and discrimination. They could not share drinking fountains, bathrooms, or schools with white children. They were still limited, for the most part, to work as laborers or servants.

      Now, take a moment and imagine that racial slavery had never existed (I know you can do it Mike).

      Suppose in later years, Africans had migrated to America like others seeking opportunity. Suppose they were treated like the Irish, scorned for competing for the same jobs, but free to prove themselves worthy by their own efforts.

      If that were the case, then we would reasonably expect black Americans to be represented in all areas of life in numbers proportionate to their number in the population as a whole.

      The reason that was not the case in 1964 was a bit of social engineering called “racial slavery”, “racial discrimination”, and “racial segregation”.

      Affirmative Action did not seek to remedy the harm done to specific individuals. It sought to remedy a harm done to a race. It confronted hundreds of years of prejudice with reality, by forcing integration upon those who did not want to give up their unholy beliefs in racial inferiority.

      It is certainly “social engineering”. But so was racial slavery, racial discrimination, and racial segregation.

      The morality question is simple. After you’ve spent a few hundred years teaching racial prejudice to your children and damaging the opportunities of the black race through explicit acts of racial discrimination, what are you willing to do to repair the harm you’ve done?

      • What am I willing to do? What I’ve always done – approach and evaluate every person as an individual and expect no more and no less out of any man because of the color of his skin. This is in contrast to you when you state that certain people deserve special favors simply because of the color of their skin. That’s racial discrimination and those who favor it, especially those who favor it for their own interest, are acting immorally. There are obvious problems in the black community. However, the causes of those problems are internal, not external. Race relations and the plight of blacks was improving BEFORE the Civil Rights Act and has deteriorated since then.

        You also ignore the fact that many whites came to the US as indentured servants. These, along with many others who came here penniless, started with nothing, but because they took responsibility for themselves rather blaming someone else, they succeeded. Present day black Americans may have started with nothing, but they certainly haven’t been held back because of the color of their skin. To the contrary, they have been given ample opportunity to succeed even to the point of tilting the playing field in their favor. However, because they continue to blame others for their failures, they don’t improve and hence they fail.

        It damages our nation every time a less qualified (less productive) person – black, white, hispanic or whatever – is hired over a more qualified (more productive) person because of the color of his skin.

        • An “indentured servant” was not subject to racial prejudice. There was an article in this morning’s paper about the desegregation of Georgia schools just 50 years ago today and the KKK terrorist bombing of a black church killing more than twenty people and bombing a black lawyer’s home. In Virginia, around the same time Prince Edward Schools were being reopened after being closed since 1959’s supreme court order to desegregate.

          You continue to imagine that they were immigrants, no different from the Irish, subject to “hard times” just like any other immigrant. No. They were subject to some very “special treatment”. And that “special treatment” put the race as a whole at a competitive disadvantage in this nation, especially in the South.

          The only reason for Affirmative Action is to level the playing field. It was never intended to give any racial preference to anyone, except as far as needed to overcome the disadvantage of a long history of racial prejudice against them.

          And Affirmative Action cannot and must not be used to put an unqualified person in any position. That would be counter productive.

          One more thing, Affirmative Action is not some program started by black people. It is white people taking responsibility for the damage we’ve done and actually trying to repair the damage.

    • Part 2
      Rights 101:

      A) Whenever there is more than one person involved, there is more than one person’s rights to be considered, respected, and protected.

      B) The rights associated with your property are not the only rights that exist. People have rights. Property does not have any rights.

      C) We have contracted with each other to constitute governments (state and federal) for the purpose of reaching further agreements with each other as to what rights we will respect and protect for each other through law.

      It is not necessary for the public to own a restaurant in order to protect the rights of the owner, the workers, the customers, the competitors, or anyone else. The fact that the restaurant owner involves these people in his business means the owner must also respect and protect their rights as well as his own.

      The ownership of the restaurant entitles you to do anything you wish, so long as you do not unnecessarily harm the rights of others.

      By lawful agreement, the owner may not use the restaurant as a tool to enforce his prejudice, or anyone else’s prejudice, upon others through discrimination (denying service, etc).

      The “lawful agreement” is the owner’s agreement to be bound by laws passed consistent with the Constitution. As a citizen, he is essentially a signer of the document. To release himself from the contract, he would need to renounce his citizenship.

  11. Perhaps the Golden Rule should be clarified. It might be more accurate to say “do unto others as you would have them do unto you, if they were in your shoes and you were in their shoes”.

    There are many places today where people may be subject to racial or religious discrimination. Imagine yourself as the Christian in a Muslim country, and let how you wish to be treated there guide how you treat a Muslim in our country. Or imagine yourself in one of the lower castes in India. Or imagine yourself as a black child when the public school system was closed so that white children would not have to sit beside you.

    I’m pretty sure the restaurant owner with the “Whites Only” sign never imagined himself in the black man’s shoes. I’m sure glad that the rest of us did.

  12. Pingback: ‘…losses encourage prudence.’ | Our Dinner Table

  13. Walter Williams notes that different people have different interpretations of what affirmative action is or should be. Allow me to paraphrase/copy his classification.

    To some Americans affirmative action, let’s call it Affirmative Action I, means a policy of non-discrimination. A university or an employer should cast a wide net in its recruitment, admissions or hiring policy by advertising and recruiting in minority schools, social organizations and newspapers, but in the actual admissions or hiring, individuals are treated equally by race.

    For other Americans there’s Affirmative Action II. For them there should be racial preferences. If a white and black candidate are equal in qualifications for university admission or employment, the preference should be given to the black candidate.

    Here’s John McWhorter giving a nod to Type II, but explaining that what happens in practice is Type III, i.e. a different set of standards is applied to black and white applicants with many black applicants being admitted whose scores were below the minimum required for whites.

    For another group of Americans there’s Affirmative Action III. These Americans reject Affirmative Action I and II. In fact they see those forms of affirmative action as racially insensitive at best and at worst racist. For these Americans, affirmative action is a system of hard and fast racial preferences and unevenhandedness. It’s a racial spoils system where consideration and privileges, in whole or in part, are based solely on the race of the individual.

    Here’s an example (the recent UT v Fisher case): 4:00 – 4:59 describes Fisher’s basis for her claim. What’s hilarious is the black interviewer claiming that Obama was only admitted to law school because for affirmative action. Also, listen to 5:50 – 6:25 for Cooper’s excellent summary of what affirmative action assumes.

    The type of affirmative action practiced by the vast majority of colleges today is type III. Let me quote Dr. Williams in reference to this type of affirmative action:

    “For black politicians, civil rights organizations and white liberals to support the racist practices of the University of X amounts to no less than a gross betrayal of the civil rights principles of our historic struggle from slavery to the final guarantee of constitutional rights to all Americans. Indeed, it was practices like those of the University of X, but against blacks, that were the focal point of much of the civil rights movement.”

    As far as blaming discrimination for black poverty and unemployment rates, Williams notes: Until about 1960, black male labor force participation in every age group was equal to or greater than that of whites. During that period, black teen unemployment was roughly equal to or less than white teen unemployment. As
    early as 1900, the duration of black unemployment was 15 percent shorter than that of whites; today it’s about 30 percent longer. To do something about today’s employment picture requires abandonment of sacred cows and honesty. The typical answer given for many black problems is racial discrimination. No one argues that every vestige of racial discrimination has been eliminated. But the relevant question is: How much of what we see can be explained by discrimination? I doubt whether anyone would argue that the reason for lower unemployment, higher labor force participation and shorter duration of unemployment among blacks in the first half of the 20th century was that there was less racial discrimination. I also doubt whether anyone would argue that during earlier periods, blacks had higher education and greater skills attainment than whites. Answers must be sought elsewhere.

    Williams and Sowell note that things holding blacks back are (1) high minimum wage that makes in economically impossible for firms to hire unskilled and uneducated black youth, thus depriving young black males of entry level jobs that may set them on the first rung of the ladder, (2) our abysmal government sponsored public schools with their social promotions, and (3) civil rights legislation that makes it too risky to hire and give a chance to mediocre minority candidates who become costly to fire due to the threat of EOCC suits.

    Tom Sowell on affirmative action:

    As I have reported in other thread, Sowell notes that insulating young people from adversity harms them rather then helps them. It is the adversity that we face that allows us to handle the inevitable large problems later in life.

    Preferential treatment ends up hurting the blacks it was meant to help. Those blacks who are especially disadvantaged have fallen further behind while those blacks who are already well off become better off. The affirmative action / civil rights laws have made it too risky to hire mediocre minorities and give them a chance.

    Clarence Thomas on racial labels:

    To paraphrase Clarence Thomas, as long as black Americans insist on identifying themselves as Black Americans or African Americans – which is implicit in the Civil Rights Act – instead of just Americans, we’ll never resolve race issues: Williams:

    Walter Williams explains the difference between legal/illegal and moral/immoral:

    Something that is legal is not necessarily moral. There is a difference between your rights under the law and what is right in a moral sense. Just as Marvin obfuscated the use of “good”, trying to equate its use in the sense of something that is economically beneficial with something that is morally correct, he attempts to do this on his website, conflating right (as in a right under the law) with right (as in morally right). I can only conclude that either Marvin is mendacious or that he is ignorant.

    Because certain actions under the Civil Rights Act are legal does not imply that they are moral. Because it may be good in an economic sense for some blacks – in fact, it benefits blacks who are already well off and don’t need help while making it harder for truly disadvantaged blacks to advance – does not mean that it is good in a moral sense. To equate support of or opposition to the Civil Rights Act with opposition or support of discrimination or racism is not a valid conclusion. The Civil Rights Act is a law. It has to do with what is legal or illegal, not with what is moral or immoral. If Mr. White lets Mr. Black into his barbershop only because he is forced to under the CRA, he is doing so because of the law, not because of the morality of his actions. Indeed, because he dislikes what the government has forced him to do, he transfers this dislike into resentment for Mr. Black, a man whom he previously may have not have allowed into his store, but for whom he had no animosity. In terms of Mr. White, letting Mr. Black in may be a legal action, but it is not a moral one.

    As Williams explains to his revenge-seeking colleague, blacks need to look internally, rather than externally, for the solution to their problems. Rather than blaming white people, they need to stay in school, stop having kids out of wedlock, stop abandoning their families, work hard and sacrifice.

    Finally, regardless of whether or not affirmative action is morally right, does it work?

    In terms of producing a productive, educated citizen not dependent on the state, let’s take a look. Even if you think this kid was qualified to get into college, do you think three years of college has produced an “educated” citizen?

    The Left’s agenda centers of on two things: having their special interest groups make excuses and blame someone else (typically their favorite whipping boy – the “rich” white male, especially if he owns a business that creates private jobs) – and creating a dependency (especially by minorities) on government handouts.

    • The moral issue is whether we are obligated to repair a harm that we have caused by our own deliberate actions.

      If we have damaged the opportunities of the black race through a pattern of (1) racial slavery, followed by (2) segregation and discrimination in employment and education, and (3) deliberately instilled a prejudice into our children that blacks are only fit for manual labor or servants, then (A) what is the nature of the damage and (B) how may it be repaired?

      A) The nature of the damage was psycho-social. The prejudice caused the segregation and discrimination. In turn, the segregation and discrimination reinforced the prejudice, as a “self-fulfilling prophecy”. The lack of black children in white classrooms allowed the prejudice to go unchallenged. The lack of blacks in the professions sustained the prejudice that blacks are inferior.

      B) Therefore, the repair was psycho-social. School integration force white children to see black children as people, diminishing the prejudice. Assuring that qualified black applicants were able to get into college produced black professionals, making visible the fact that blacks were as competent as whites.

      We might have done nothing at all to repair the damage we had done. After all, none of us were slave owners. But conscience called for helpful actions to counteract the harmful actions.

      I think Mike is correct to the extent that helpful actions sometimes have unintended, and harmful consequences. But I believe that, overall, we did a lot more good than harm.

  14. Pingback: Freakonomics discusses emergent order | Our Dinner Table


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