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If I Were Rand Paul

June 2nd 2010 20:36
Would I have voted for the Civil Rights Act of 1964? Yes!

In general, the government should protect the rights of the individual as its foremost concern, but not its sole concern. Decisions should also be left to the states and local communities in most instances, but not all. The case of the Jim Crow Laws, which did not just promote segregation, but made segregation mandatory, was a clear instance where the Federal government needed to get involved in states’ behavior. When a law so clearly violates the liberty of man, the Federal government must take action. This is not hypocritical, as pragmatic libertarians (aka right-wing liberals/ free-market liberals/ classical liberals/ intelligent conservatives) are not anti-government.

Where I take issue is not with the fact that the Federal government took action. Instead, I take issue with the magnitude of this action. The desired result of ending widespread segregation could have likely been accomplished in a superior manner, while also giving greater respect to individual liberty.

With the Civil Rights Act of 1964, segregation changed from mandated to illegal. Free association was never tried. Economic theory tells us that free association would have likely worked to minimize, and probably eliminate, segregation. It is not a wise business move to refuse service to a large group of people. Also, as the values of the customers became more pro-African American, businesses would lose potential non-African American customers who refused to patron an establishment that segregated. Over time, racist restaurant owners, for example, would be faced with the decision to desegregate or go out of business. Either way, racists lose.

This is not just a matter of theory. The case of Southern streetcars hints that free association may have eliminated segregation without infringing on the individual rights of those who own restaurants or other public places. These streetcars were forced by law to have blacks ride in a different car than whites, rather than their previous means of discrimination: smoking and non-smoking cars. This meant the company had to drive around with excess capacity in some of their cars, leading to a loss of money. In addition, many blacks and whites refused to ride on streetcars when the law was first established. These companies pushed for the removal of the Jim Crow Laws, but the state governments increased pressure on the streetcar owners to segregate based on race.

Large businesses with branches in both the North and South are another example. Branches in the North were losing money due to boycotts against their segregating Southern branches. These businesses fought for the end of the Jim Crow Laws so that they could stop segregating and make more money. Competitive markets do work to bring about positive changes.

The most convincing counterargument is that of the collective action problem. In other words, it may have been the case that many restaurants would want to desegregate after the Jim Crow laws were removed. However, no one wanted to be the first person to make that move (for fear of violence against them, loss of business in the short-run, etc.). Since free association was never tried, we may never know if there was a collective action problem.

What if the Jim Crow Laws were removed and segregation remained in place? This is the most relevant question. If the problem was one of needing a First Mover, then I believe the answer most in line with pragmatic libertarianism would be to have then moved to banning segregation, as was done in the Civil Rights Act. This is a clear example where government action could bring about a beneficial change for society that was not easily done through private actions. However, if the problem was that the vast majority of citizens in the South were actually racist and it would have been the result of competitive markets to produce segregation, then the problem becomes much trickier. This, however, was probably not the case in the South during 1964, as the previous examples of the streetcars and national businesses, amongst other evidence, suggests. Thus, I do not find this hypothetical worth examining.

In conclusion, I support the Civil Rights Act of 1964. I have issues with the move from mandatory segregation to banning segregation, without trying the middle ground of free association. This more cautious approach would have been most consistent with individual liberty, while still striking a fatal blow to widespread segregation. Nonetheless, the Civil Rights Act was both a dramatic improvement on the institutionalized racism of the Jim Crow Laws, as well as a potentially necessary infringement upon individual rights, as justified by the collective action problem.

Follow me on Twitter: @AGoldenDoor

Why Are So Few Immigrants Legal?

May 15th 2010 14:55
Great column by Jeff Jacoby in the Boston Globe. Excerpt (my emphasis added):

No state seeks to drive out hard-working newcomers from New Mexico or Indiana; why should hard-working newcomers from Old Mexico or India be treated any differently? To say that they cross the border illegally only begs the question. Why should it be illegal for any person to come to the United States, assuming his intentions are peaceful and he is not likely to become a public charge or health risk?

For most of US history, there was no ceiling on the number of immigrants allowed to enter the country.

So, why is it illegal for any person to come to the United States? I would guess that the most popular/legitimate answers are

1. Immigrants will come to America to take advantage of the welfare system without getting a job.

2. Immigrants create crime.

Fact of the matter is that both of these arguments do not suffice.

1. Yes, if it was legal for immigrants to come to America and receive unemployment insurance, health care, cheap housing, etc. without having to get a job, then immigrant could potentially make the welfare state (even more) unsustainable. However, the humane solution would be to deny immigrants the privileges of a welfare state and allow completely free immigration. I guarantee there would still be millions of people around the world who would jump at the chance to live in America, welfare benefits or not.

2. As I have discussed before, if anything, immigrants bring down the crime rate of the societies in which they live.

I don't like to call anyone racist/xenophobic, but even the best arguments of the anti-immigration side are easily defeated. So why don't they want more legal immigrants?

Follow me on Twitter: @AGoldenDoor

Charter City Podcast

May 15th 2010 00:55
If the idea of Charter Cities as a tool to help the world's poorest is an idea you are not familiar with, I suggest checking out this podcast with the "face of Charter Cities," economist Paul Romer.

Follow me on Twitter: @AGoldenDoor

Immigrants Make Us Safer?

May 6th 2010 14:59
Here are two must-read articles on immigration and crime:

#1. How Immigration Crackdowns Backfire
[ Click here to read more ]


Mark Krikorian is wrong on immigration again. In response to a proposed wage subsidy (my highlighting added):

Unfortunately, he doesn't even mention the one step that would cost nothing and use the market in "fighting crime, alleviating poverty and inculcating the habits essential to long-term success." Namely, tightening the labor market by reducing immigration, both permanent and "temporary," legal and illegal, something Congress can do any time it feels like. Despite the recession, the federal immigration program continues to legally import something like 100,000 working-age people from abroad each month, disproportionately less-skilled, who will compete directly with the very less-skilled Americans (and earlier immigrants) that Salam is rightly concerned about. Just since 2000, immigration (legal and illegal combined) has increased the supply of high school dropouts by something like 15 percent.

[ Click here to read more ]

From the Denver Post:

Remember that Congress estimated Medicare's cost at $12 billion for 1990 (adjusted for inflation) when the program kicked off in 1965. Medicare cost $107 billion in 1990 and is quickly approaching $500 billion. Who's going to stop it?

[ Click here to read more ]

Liberal politicians enjoy painting those who do not support a large welfare state as uncompassionate and/or racist. In some (maybe many) instances, they are not far from the truth. However, when the people who do not support an enormous welfare state do support open immigration, this caricature falls apart. As Milton Friedman observed, "You cannot simultaneously have free immigration and a welfare state." If the choice is between the American poor and the Global poor, it seems to me as if the more compassionate people would side with the Global poor, who are the much poorer group. Yet advocating a policy that would lead to a drawback in the welfare state becomes inherently uncompassionate.

As for the racism charge, this one is a loser on its face. The majority of poor immigrants coming to the United States are not white

[ Click here to read more ]

More genius from Matt Yglesias on immigration policy (my emphasis added):

If you’re thinking about ways to boost the prospects of poor Americans, doing it by punishing even poorer Mexicans seems like a uniquely illogical and unappealing way to get the job done. Why not help poor Americans by targeting rich Americans and spreading the wealth around? Or by increasing the number of high-skill immigrants who we let in to offset the distributive impact of low-skill immigration? That leaves everyone better off than they would be in a no-immigration scenario. Flip the script around and imagine a country with no immigrants and no immigration. Now imagine me proposing to help the working class by rounding-up some disfavored 10 percent of the working-class population and deport them to a nearby corrupt and impoverished nation. Would anyone consider that a remotely sensible way to behave?

[ Click here to read more ]


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