Tracing consequences both seen and unseen.
VromanRand Paul is right(ish)
Posted at 6:54 pm on August 18, 2010, by Vroman

Lets look at Rand Paul’s outline of political stances.

I agree with Rand about 85%. I hold more or less polar views on the bioethics and immigration categories, and Paul’s anti-war feelings are a little tepid for my tastes. The remainder though is quite inspiring. I suppose if you ever find a candidate you agree with 100%, you are probably looking at your own name on the ballot. So Rand Paul is strikingly wrong on a handful of issues, but on net would be a welcome addition to the Senate.

I establish this backstory in order to discuss Rand’s controversial Civil Rights Act statements a few months ago.

Speaking for the anti-Paul critics, I appoint my magic card rival Stephen Menendian, who got face time on Huffington Post. Nice work Steve.

First let me tell a personal anecdote regarding the consequences of racial job discrimination. I currently work for the business my grandfather started in 1951. Between that time and his death in 2005, grandpa was the sole decision maker and as far as I know, never once hired a non-white employee. All my memories of my grandfather are very fond ones of an incredibly hardworking, charitable, devoted family man. Though its pretty unavoidable looking back he was passively racist. And he suffered because of it! By subtly passing up qualified colored workers, we got stuck with a lot of burn out white trash guys. Many headaches developed over the years via his perverse hiring criteria. Gramps was a visionary businessman on the big picture deals, but certainly cost himself a lot in the details. This is exactly the result one would expect when arbitrarily limiting oneself to a smaller pool of applicants via a non-relevant criteria. Its a Gresham’s Law scenario where the bad apples are foisted off on to the firms who refuse to compete for the full range of workers. Not only do you lose good black workers, you tend to get the worse white workers as well.

Since I’ve been responsible for hiring, we have actually had a disproportionately high representation of black and hispanic workers, relative to St. Louis demographics, even accounting for this income bracket. Not because I want to help out minorities for its own sake, but because I’m an unapologetic capitalist. I want to pay as little as possible, and this is who shows up to accept our offered rates, while meeting my minimum standards. In fact in my dedication to laissez faire, I am an even more color blind employer than typical corporations, since things like criminal records, functional illiteracy, and active drug addictions, do not deter me, if the applicant comes recommended. Given the unfortunate higher likelihood of low income minorities coming from environments that have left them with such negative characteristics, my company is slightly easier job opportunity.

Discrimination is bad practice for both employee and employer. But Smennen makes it clear he doesn’t care about the efficiency arguments of non-racism, its solely a moral issue to him. I could make the more abstract case that there is no difference between the two. I will remain on more familiar territory today.

We’ll take the simple case of a sole proprietorship as opposed to publicly traded company. This business is some individual’s property, just like his home. An employment contract is an invitation by the employer to show up on his property, do some work, and receive payment. The invitee is free to decline. I do not see this as fundamentally different from an individual inviting individuals into his home for social purposes, which they are likewise free to decline. The fact that money changes hands is the business of these two people after they have agreed to meet on the owner’s property. There is no reason an individual should have any less discretion in who he extends invitations to at his business, than at his home. If said businessman were to foolishly only offer invitations to work for pay to select ethnicities, this is not force or theft against them.

Like, Rand Paul, I would support a non-discrimination policy for tax funded posts, and other public functionaries, but it is really not the government’s place to enforce morality upon citizens that does not transgress others rights. One does not have a right to a job at any particular business, any more than they have a right to walk in to a stranger’s house. To say otherwise, would give government carte blanche to enforce other moral paradigms regarding citizen’s private behavior; for example their sex partners, etc. Since we have relatively little control of what moral agenda is advanced by the ruling party of the moment, it is a wiser policy to reject government’s power to dictate morality at all.

This said, I do think Smennen has a point that Rand is dissembling somewhat by trying to obfuscate exactly what portions of the Civil Rights Act he opposes. I presume Steve’s analysis of the legal history is correct, and thus as a libertarian, I, and Rand, should indeed openly oppose the Fair Housing Act in entirety. I would stress that there exist far higher priorities though for the goal of reducing government interference. We are so far removed from an acceptable political environment, that I would hesitate to even call it progress should the FHA be repealed as a first step.

Paul is in a difficult position of course, since the logical conclusion of laissez faire leads to very politically incorrect places. Rand is presenting himself as more mainstream than his father, which is hard to do and remain ideologically consistent. I sincerely hope he does not give in to populism. Still, Rand Paul is undeniably a step in the right direction.

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Henry Hazlitt"[T]he whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups."
Henry Hazlitt, Economics in One Lesson






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