search
top

Clayton Cramer on the Rand Paul CRA’64 Controversy

This pretty much reflects how I feel about the issue, but said much better and with more completeness than I did:

Would free markets have been enough to break this long history of governmental force in support of racism?  I would like to think so but I also know that the libertarian solution requires a population of rational actors prepared to look out for their own economic interests.  You let me know when you find a species that fits that model.

In my experience most extreme libertarian solutions require rational actors. Libertarians assume that most people are like themselves, when they generally aren’t. I still believe in small government, but I no longer care to go through mental gymnastics to try to figure out how to implement private market solutions to problems that Government is probably the only real viable solution. Anarchocapitalism is also one thing I’ve never really understood. To me it makes the same mistakes as to human nature that communism does.

Either way, when I was in high school I used to work in a union shop, in a job that was menial but was not union. The place never had an official policy of not hiring blacks, because that would be illegal, but I can tell you that no blacks worked there. I can also tell you that this wasn’t an accident. This is a shop that had serious problems getting and retaining good employees. Part of the issue is that people in hiring positions there felt that we can’t have “those people” coming in and taking our “good union jobs.” Maybe it’s gotten better since the late 80s, early 90s, but one of the reasons I’ve become so anti-union in my adulthood is because of what I witnessed growing up.

Uppity Northeasterners, who’ve never had to work in those kinds of environments, often like to pat themselves on the back that the North never implemented the kind of institutionalized racism that those cousin humping rednecks down south did. That is only superficially true. The North had, and probably still has plenty of institutionalized racism. We’re just better at hiding it.

18 Responses to “Clayton Cramer on the Rand Paul CRA’64 Controversy”

  1. Libertarianism (extreme or not) doesn’t require rational ators, but then, it sure does help.

    No system of government requires rational actors – that’s why society has laws.

    But a libertarian society would not use government to ‘solve’ all of our problems, and by ‘solve’ I mean coerce you into a prescribed behavior.

    Libertarians are not anarchists, and they’re not libertines. They just want to be left alone. If you don’t bother me, then I won’t bother you.

    But I cannot, and will not be accountable if something I do bothers you.

  2. illspirit says:

    As a libertarian of the pragmatic anarcho-capitalist variety, I no more expect everyone to be rational actors in the market than they are rational in the voting booth. People will be corruptible and/or stupid no matter which system (or lack thereof..) is in place.

    Statists of various flavors always tell me that government has “checks and balances” and “accountability.” But checks and balances by whom? The regulators and competing branches of government which have been captured by private interests anyway? And who holds them accountable? The same voters which can’t be trusted to make rational decisions in private?

    At least with anarchy I don’t have to expect irrational actors to vote on sending masked men to rob me at gunpoint. Will they still try to do so on their own if there is no law? Sure. But at least one doesn’t have to pretend that it’s legal. ;)

    Now, obviously you could argue that states make good for mutual defense pacts against criminals and other states. My point is just that rational actors isn’t a problem unique to libertarianism or anarchism.

    The fact that the CRA also overturned hundreds of years of racist law would indicate as much, no?

  3. Drang says:

    Joe Waldron describes a libertarian as someone who can argue esoteric points of socio-economic-political theory for hours on end, but has to wear slip ons because he can’t remember how to tie his shoes.

    Extreme? Sure, but libertarians do have a tendency to lose sight of the trees for the forest, so to speak.

  4. MicroBalrog says:

    1. Libertarianism does not require ‘rational actors’. I’m not sure even what a rational actor is. Is it ‘rational’ to pay extra to have a rifle painted a certain color? What about paying $200 for ticket for a live performance? What about the people who pay money for religious relics?

    2. Maybe. MAYBE. The CRA’s provision in question has been necessary in 1964. Today is 2010. LEt’s argue whether it”s necessary TODAY.

    3.I have no clue what this tying-your-shoes comment has anything to do with anything whatever. I forget to tie my own pretty often. I’m about halfway through my master’s degree in 17th and 18th-Century history – I’m quite confident I understand Constitutional issues better than many people who have been born in America and can tie their shoes.

  5. It’s a legitimate question whether CRA64 (at least with respect to private parties) is still necessary today. If there were not pretty obnoxious things still happening, like what happened to the Secret Service agents in 1993 that I mentioned in my article, I would be inclined to say no.

    When I say “rational actors,” I mean that much of libertarian theory concerning discrimination is based on the very plausible assumption that those engaged in irrational discrimination will pay a significant economic cost for it, either because they are cutting themselves out of a substantial part of the market, or because of boycott. The fact is that there large numbers of actors in every society who are stupid, ignorant, evil, lazy, or very short-sighted. There are a fair number who have several of those traits, and a few who have all of them. (Take a look at the 2008 election results if you have any question on this.)

    When I lived in Silicon Valley in the 1980s, the recurring joke was that the only question you had to ask someone at a Libertarian Party meeting about their job was, “software or hardware?” And even at statewide LP conventions, this was only an exaggeration. Smart people capable of rational analysis and long-term planning have almost nothing in common with the average person. There’s a reason we aren’t all engineers.

  6. “Joe Waldron describes a libertarian as someone who can argue esoteric points of socio-economic-political theory for hours on end, but has to wear slip ons because he can’t remember how to tie his shoes.”

    Don Kates describes libertarians as those unable to reproduce, because their social skills are lacking. That’s not any more fair than Waldron’s insult.

    A more accurate description is a bunch of high-IQ sorts who could almost certainly run a society extremely well–but how will they ever get the masses to follow them? The most likely way that this is going to happen is the plot of Larry Niven’s classic short story, “What Can You Say About Chocolate Manhole Covers?”

  7. “Statists of various flavors always tell me that government has “checks and balances” and “accountability.” But checks and balances by whom? The regulators and competing branches of government which have been captured by private interests anyway? And who holds them accountable? The same voters which can’t be trusted to make rational decisions in private?”

    What you are describing is the core problem that Madison observed in Federalist 51:

    If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.

    Anarchy isn’t practical because people form governments. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

    There were a number of mistakes the Framers made in designing our government that prevented the limited government model from staying limited. The “auxiliary precautions” were inadequate. And as I point out, Big Government in one area often results in an attempt at counterbalancing Big Government. You just wish you could grab that swinging pendulum, and bring it to a stop at vertical.

  8. illspirit says:

    Mr. Cramer,

    I don’t find anarchy to be particularly practical either. Nothing is as long as large groups of people are involved. And, yes, Madison said what I was getting at, only much better. I would just add that because men aren’t angels, there can never be enough auxiliary precautions since the men running government are just as susceptible to corruption as men without government.

    But, then, some of the Framers seemingly felt the same way. What, with Jefferson’s line about expecting a rebellion every twenty years and all.

    Even if we could reboot the Constitution today and fix all the mistakes, it would only be another few decades before another FDR or some such came along and broke it again. While stopping the pendulum (or is it a ratchet?) would be nice in theory, I realize this is impossible. Especially since the pendulum is kinda stuck to the left a bit now.

    As such, I’m quite content to help with the task of slowly pushing back to the ideas of the original Republic. Getting there would be the best chance of living somewhat autonomously one could realistically hope to expect.

  9. MicroBalrog says:

    I think the reason libertarians are (or where in 1980) mostly ‘high-IQ types’ (I certainly am not anyhow especially smart), is because libertarianism (distinct from the classical liberalism of the Founders) is at a very early stage of its spread as an idea.

    A political idea starts with two groups of people – the whackos and the intellectuals. It goes on and spreads to ‘normal’ people, or it dies. Today we are already starting to see libertarians who are not one-percenter-intellectuals.

    And no, I don’t consider most people to be stupid or evil. And the fact they disagree with me on policy doesn’t make them so.

  10. Arnie says:

    A couple of things:

    1) The Founders declared that our free Republic could only survive while the people being governed remained “virtuous.” And they often saw religious faith as essential to virtue. Washington, Adams, Franklin, Webster, and Madison among others left us with dozens of quotes warning of this necessity. Perhaps the best known was Adams’s, “Our Constitution was written to govern a moral and religious people….It is wholly inadequate to the governance of any other.” Franklin believed that the republic would last only until its people became generally corrupt; then they would require a despot to maintain order. If true, we today are in grave danger.

    2) Regarding the geography of racism, the North has no claim to the high ground. Even before the 13th Amendment, foreign observers like de Toqueville noticed racism, including bigotry against the African, to be more pronounced in the free States than in the slave States. Detroit and Harlem saw as many race riots in the 1960s as Selma and Montgomery.

    I used to be a “conservative,” but am becoming more a libertarian as I come to realize that a right-wing government can no more make people moral than a left-wing government can make them generous or eco-friendly. Both types force people to conform to someone else’s standard against their will. A libertarian government lets the NATURAL consequences of people’s behavior convince them to toe a certain line. It’s not perfect, but it’s freedom. It’s liberty. It’s America!

    “That government governs best that governs least.” – Thomas Jefferson

    As a corollary, the Founders intended to limit the National government’s involvement in our lives, but allowed State governments to be more intrusive and restrictive, local governments even more-so, since they were closer to the people and more responsive to the local voters than a bureaucrat in D. C.

    Good discussion guys!

    Go Rand Paul!!

    Arnie

  11. “And no, I don’t consider most people to be stupid or evil. And the fact they disagree with me on policy doesn’t make them so.”

    I don’t consider disagreement about policy a sign of stupidity or evil, either. Stupid people make bad decisions, and then need someone to bail them out. Evil people do things that require government to arrest them and lock them up.

  12. “I think the reason libertarians are (or where in 1980) mostly ‘high-IQ types’ (I certainly am not anyhow especially smart), is because libertarianism (distinct from the classical liberalism of the Founders) is at a very early stage of its spread as an idea.”

    I’m not sure that it is at an early stage. What calls itself “conserrvativism” has significant strands of libertarian thought, although not to the extremes that doctrinaire libertarians take. The notion of libertarians as a distinct group from conservatives seems to be somewhat a product of the development of a non-Christian conservative movement in the 1960s and 1970s.

  13. Chas Clifton says:

    “The North had, and probably still has plenty of institutionalized racism. We’re just better at hiding it.”

    There’s an old saying: Down South, they don’t care how close you [black people] get, as long as you don’t get too big. Up North, they don’t care how big you get, as long as you don’t get too close.

  14. MicroBalrog says:

    >I’m not sure that it is at an early stage. What calls itself >“conserrvativism” has significant strands of libertarian >thought, although not to the extremes that doctrinaire >libertarians take.

    I’m sure conservatives support individual liberties in some form and to some extent, and the movements cross-fertilize significantly. But libertarianism, as separate from conservatism, is new, unless you’re one of these people that classify Jefferson as a libertarian (he probably wasn’t).

  15. Tam says:

    Uppity Northeasterners, who’ve never had to work in those kinds of environments, often like to pat themselves on the back that the North never implemented the kind of institutionalized racism that those cousin humping rednecks down south did. That is only superficially true. The North had, and probably still has plenty of institutionalized racism. We’re just better at hiding it.

    Speaking as someone who lived in Atlanta and Knoxville from age 9 to just past my 40th birthday and then moved to Indy, I can say that I have often been absolutely shocked at the casual bigotry I have run into up here.

  16. But libertarianism, as separate from conservatism, is new, unless you’re one of these people that classify Jefferson as a libertarian (he probably wasn’t).

    How would you classify Lysander Spooner?

  17. Geodkyt says:

    Tam,

    I agree.

    The stuff I hear come out of the mouths of many people I know from Pennsylvania on north, frequently shocks and disgusts me.

    And I know they MEAN it. Unlike the casual use of bigoted language you still run across down here from much older people and rural poor, which has no “heat” behind it. It’s as if they (especially older folks) really don’t understand that some people find certain names offensive due to long association with a truly vile histopry of oppression and violence.

    But actual, institutional racism? White Southerners as a group generally got that stupid knocked out of their heads.

    Meanwhile, Northerners (especially the Northeast and rest of the Rust Belt) somehow feel that THEIR actual practice of bigotry and racism somehow isn’t offensive, simply because you probably couldn’t have gotten elected as a proud and known member of the Klan up there 50 years ago. (For all the stereotypes of Southerners being Klansmen, the only Klukkers that I know I’ve ever met were either from the MidWest, or were FORMER Klukkers from about 1948 or so. . . )

    Now, to be fair, I did see a jackass shout “KKK forever!” at a black guy walking with a white gril back in teh 1980′s. And shortly thereafter, he — the shouter — went down under a dogpile of white rednecks.

  18. MicroBalrog says:

    How would you classify Lysander Spooner? <- Like he classified himself, as an anarchist.

    I don't argue there are no individuals that were in some way libertarian before, but I think libertarianism as a defined, spelled-out ideology is newer.

top