As seen in a wegiveadamn.org movie which is making the rounds—characteristically, as with all these public face campaigns for well-funded political lobbying efforts, it is presented to well-meaning but politically naive people as simply a caring grassroots effort (with celebrity endorsements of course!)—there seems to be a new push for a Civil Rights Act expansion to specify “sexual orientation and gender identity”: or, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA).
So, what is the problem with that? Aren’t “civil rights” good? After all, hasn’t this kind of law been pushed since the sixties, with GREAT RESULTS and NO UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES… *straight face*…
Ah yes—results and consequences, where the Progressive perfection of society through government compulsion meets reality.
As Justin Raimondo pointed out when Rachel Maddow accused the younger (and lesser) Paul of racism:
After all, what has the passage of the 1964 Act and its successors actually accomplished in terms of ending segregation in housing and increasing black employment? When Rand defended his stance, albeit not very articulately, Maddow responded with “unless it’s illegal, there’s nothing to stop that—there’s nothing under your world view to stop the country from re-segregating like we were before the Civil Rights Act of 1964.”
What an odd view of America – a country that, you’ll recall, has recently elected an American of African descent to the highest office in the land. In Rachel’s world, the nation is teeming with KKKers, who are just waiting to restore the bad old days of Jim Crow. Yet can you imagine what would happen to the first store that dared post a sign saying “No blacks”? The uproar would drive them out of business within hours.
Paul opined that we’ve had a lot of re-segregation in the past thirty years, but most of his arguments – irrelevant diversions into the second and first amendments – completely missed the point: there has been no re-segregation in private housing and employment, because there was no significant desegregation to begin with. We still have black neighborhoods and white neighborhoods, and as a general rule the old aphorism “last hired, first fired” still applies to blacks. What world are these people living in?
The reason the 1964 Civil Rights Act and its numerous successors haven’t made any real dent in the stubborn racial exclusiveness that persists in housing and employment is because the Act was never about the victims of racism: it was, instead, all about white liberals like Ms. Maddow (and her fan club) making themselves feel good – about themselves.
Aren’t we virtuous! Aren’t we righteous! Who cares if civil rights legislation has actually resulted in negligible gains for blacks: we can fix that with affirmative action. So who’s being the “utopian” now? More thoughtful types might wonder, however: why didn’t it work?
The reason is because human beings aren’t mind-readers. Unless someone puts up a sign saying “No blacks need apply,” it’s impossible to know when discrimination has occurred.
And there’s more to it than that. In 1996, Justin Raimondo (who is gay, incidentally) criticized a national gay rights bill, a “a gay version of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, to outlaw discrimination against homosexuals in housing, employment, and public accommodations”:
In American law, “equal protection” is indistinguishable in practice from victimological entitlement. Once a group is admitted to the Pantheon of the Oppressed, there is no limit to the claims it can make on the freedom [of association] and property [rights] of others.
He also made the point that homosexuals as hardly economically disadvantaged, on average. Now, to be clear: there are PLENTY of cases of discrimination which do violate principles of individual liberty and voluntarism, such as abuse of intersexed, gay and lesbian children, but employment is hardly an area that stands out in the same way that it does for racial minorities, and for that matter, NO ONE OWES YOU A JOB. Let’s repeat that: individual liberty and voluntarism DO NOT PROVIDE YOU EMPLOYMENT. Instead, freedom would mean you could only be employed VOLUNTARILY.
Meanwhile, laws can never command tolerance or respect where it does not exist, nor can they create economic opportunity except by taking opportunity away from someone else.
If civil rights legislation worked, then clearly minority employment disadvantages and racist attitudes should have changed in the last 46(!) years. Instead, racism just went underground or mutated into legal forms. As everyone knows who is paying any attention, a great deal of racial animosity was actually created since, by a black victimhood culture or the perception of it, racial quotas and the perception of unearned privileges.
The law couldn’t replace a real flow of capital investment into urban neighborhoods, and indeed it created additional cost barriers to this. One point which is not made in the link is that civil rights regulations have unintended economic effects very similar to minimum wage; jobs which do not support the added cost and risk simply vanish.
At bottom, though, is the question of whether we are willing to accept that freedom of association includes freedom of exclusion, and personal preference sometimes means that people will be biased for or against us. Alternately, compelling other people to include us or employ us drastically empowers the state’s use of force, and intrusion into personal life. I have the greatest sympathy with activism that simply demands the state “let us alone”—as was true of much early homosexual activism—but for activism to empower and take the reigns of the state, I have absolutely no sympathy.
We are, clearly, already moving towards tolerance and inclusion in employment without any additional legislation, either because of personal attitudes, and/or the culture of commerce, which tends not to care whether investors, customers, or employees are anything else if they are good investors, customers, or employees. Why mess with a positive trend so that political activists can make themselves more relevant? It may be that, like racial quotas, such interference could lead to a backlash that actually undermines the progress already underway.