Wednesday, June 6, 2012

The Libertarian choice of rights

I notice that many libertarians are very proud of their fundamental belief and emphasis on rights. They deserve to be, because they take a principled stand to defend these rights even if outcomes are adverse. No profiling, no surveillance of possible terrorists without specific cause, so violations of other countries sovereignty to fight terrorists harbored within their borders--these policies would seriously hamper anti-terrorist efforts that have kept reprisals on US targets (targets meaning US lives and property) quite low.

I acknowledge their idealism, though I don't fully support it. But in one area, they have seriously made a poor choice. They put property rights above human rights, particularly the fundamental right to be treated as equal. So "All men are created equal" takes a back seat to "life, liberty, and property." This choice shows in their lack of support for the Civil Rights Act, which requires public accommodations (businesses open to the public) not to discriminate against classes of people who often suffer from discrimination. So you can no longer bar blacks from your lunch counter, Jews from your apartment building, or Catholics from your factory.

I don't understand how libertarians choose property rights ("it's my business, and I'll run it the way I want") over the civil right not to be discriminated against in a public venue ("unless I do something wrong, I should have the same rights in public spaces as anyone else").

It's quite possible that I don't know what I'm talking about here. I haven't delved into libertarian philosophy and have absolutely no plans to. But like most of my posts, this is based on honest observation and reflection of what I've seen in news and on the web. I'm not sure there are other ways to interpret it. (Example: Rand Paul comments about not supporting the Civil Rights Act.)

If I'm wrong, I'm counting on libertarian readers to set me straight, and to defend their position with reasoned arguments. That means that you should be prepared to answer my main point, which is property rights shouldn't have priority over personal liberty.



Couves said...

Hogwash. Jim Crow was about as anti-libertarian as you can get. Look, libertarians are capable of engaging in philosophical debate about the details of any policy (“it’s not peeerfectly libertarian”), but by ending government-imposed racial apartheid, the Civil Rights Act was a huge victory for liberty and humanity.

Here’s a more current issue where the answer might not be quite so simple:

ModeratePoli said...

@Couves, hold it a moment. What are you calling hogwash? Isn't it true that there are a lot of libertarians who disagree with the public accommodations part of CRA? Who support business owners' rights to discriminate?

I know that libertarians are against all forms of Jim Crow laws, but the public accommodations parts are important and can provide insight into the priorities of libertarians. So don't throw out the question, answer it. If it comes down to the discriminatory business owner and the person being targeted, where are you? Is it really a tough question to answer?

Couves said...

I have no problem with the Act, including the public accommodation part. I understand Rand Paul's concerns, but even he said he would have voted for the Act. So maybe you can find all these libertarians who supposedly oppose the Act and have this conversation with them. Good luck.

Or, maybe you can highlight an issue that actually matters to libertarians, like the NDAA or the Patriot Act.

ModeratePoli said...

@Couves, I'll ask the questions I'm interested in on my blog. I don't tell libertarians what to talk about, or care about, in their forums.

This would be a bigger issue if libertarians were closer to making decisions on national policy, such as how to enforce the CRA. It wouldn't be a throw-away issue then.