The following are five libertarian proposals that would help to resolve the conflict and violence between blacks and the police across America and, to a large extent, alleviate much of the dysfunctionality that afflicts American society:
- End the drug war.
A free society necessarily entails the fundamental right to ingest anything an adult wants, no matter how destructive or dangerous. For decades, the federal government has violated that fundamental right by punishing people for possessing or distributing drugs that it doesn’t approve of.
Moreover, it has fallen disproportionately on blacks. Drug laws have enabled bigoted cops to arbitrarily stop blacks, legally harass and abuse them, and even be thanked and praised for establishing “law and order” in communities across America.
The drug war was born in racial bigotry, given that the first drug laws were enacted to harass Chinese and Mexican immigrants in America. As the years passed, such laws served as a perfect replacement for segregation laws, in that they provided public officials with the legal authority to remove blacks entirely from communities, sometimes for decades, and rehouse them in penitentiaries. Felony drug convictions have also served as a perfect device to deny large segments of blacks of the right to vote. The noted black author Michelle Alexander put it well: Drug laws are the new Jim Crow.
By repealing drug laws, the police would be deprived of what is arguably their best excuse for arbitrarily stopping blacks and subjecting them to humiliating and abusive searches and mistreatment, not to mention their forced removal from society through criminal convictions and incarceration. Repeal would also bring an end to the death, destruction, violence, and ruination of lives that the drug war has produced and the official corruption it has engendered within the government. Most important, repeal would constitute a giant step in the restoration of American liberty.
- Abolish vehicle-safety citations.
In an ideal libertarian world, streets and highways would be privately owned and managed, which would mean there would be no government traffic cops and state highway patrols. Absent that, states and localities should at least abolish nonmoving violations such as broken taillights, which are often used by cops as an excuse to stop black drivers and subject them to abuse. The offense is sometimes referred to as “driving while black.”
- Repeal the minimum wage and occupational-licensure laws.
Minimum-wage laws fall heavily on blacks, especially those in the inner cities. It’s not a coincidence that black teenagers suffer a chronic unemployment rate of 30-40 percent. That’s because of minimum-wage laws.
No employer is going to hire someone whose labor he subjectively values at less than the government-mandated wage. He’s in business to make a profit. It makes no sense to hire a black teenager whose labor he values at, say, $8 an hour and pay him $10 an hour. If a business owner does that, he suffers a loss of $2 every hour.
Suppose the black teenager says to an employer, “I’ll do the same job as that white guy and I’ll do it better at $5 an hour. Now the employer has a choice. Should he keep the white guy at $10 an hour when he can have the black kid at $5 an hour? Even a bigoted employer would be likely to go with the black kid because it means more money for the employer to take home to his spouse and family.
And that’s what minimum-wage laws do — they protect high-valued workers from wage competition from the less-valued workers.
Why would a black teenager be willing to work for $5 an hour? For the same reason that college students accept internships that pay them no money at all. They want to get their foot on the bottom rung of the economic ladder. They want to learn work skills, how to deal with customers, how to deal with a boss, and how a business operates. They want to be part of society.
Minimum-wage laws prevent black teenagers from doing the same thing. Such laws consign them to permanent unemployment in their most formative years. Indeed, such laws inevitably induce many of them to enter the drug trade with the aim of making big, quick money. Some of them get away with it but many of them get caught, get convicted, and get removed to penitentiaries for long periods of their lives.
It’s no different with occupational-licensure laws. Such laws are nothing more than a protection racket to limit the supply of labor in certain occupations so as to artificially increase the income stream of those who have the license. Given the enormously high costs associated with securing a government license, such laws prevent poorer blacks (and others) from freely entering those occupations and competing for customers.
The right to discriminate
- Repeal anti-discrimination laws.
Among the Jim Crow laws that states enacted after the Civil War were segregation laws, which required the separation of the races. It goes without saying that segregation laws constituted a grave violation of the principles of freedom. The state had no business forcing people to discriminate against others on the basis of race.
There was an obvious libertarian solution: Repeal segregation laws, which is what should have been done. But that’s not what the federal government, under Lyndon Johnson, was willing to accept. He saw the civil rights crisis as an opportunity to expand the power of the federal government through the enactment of integration laws, which not only ended segregation but also required integration. In other words, the state screw of segregation was replaced by the federal screw of integration, a screw that has been progressively tightened over the decades.
Why did states deem it necessary to keep segregation laws intact? The reason was that they knew that in the absence of such laws, American society would orient in a direction that was not to the liking of racial bigots. After all, if a free society in, say, Mississippi would naturally result in a bigoted, segregated society, then why would it have been necessary to enact segregation laws? The fact is that a free society — that is, one in which private people are free to discriminate on the basis of race — would bring about a peaceful, harmonious, largely integrated society, which is precisely why the bigots needed to enact segregation laws.
Suppose segregation laws had been repealed and no integration laws had been enacted by the feds. Yes, there would be some commercial establishments that would discriminate against blacks (or Jews, Catholics, and others). But that’s partly what freedom is all about — the right to discriminate. The right to discriminate is another way of expressing the right of freedom of association, the fundamental right which Americans ostensibly support. Freedom of association necessarily entails the right to associate with whomever you want, regardless of the reason.
The right to discriminate shocks some Americans. They cannot imagine that a society in which people are free to exercise such a right can be a peaceful and harmonious society. Actually though, Americans are free to exercise this fundamental right in their private affairs and do so every day.
That is, when it comes to inviting people into your home, you are free to discriminate against anyone you want on any basis you choose. Suppose you decide to throw a dinner party. You don’t have to invite a single black person. You can even announce publicly that you would never allow a black (or a Jew or a Catholic or a Mexican) into your home for any purpose, and there is nothing the government can do about it. That’s because you have the fundamental right to associate with whomever you want. The federal government does not infringe on freedom of association when it comes to your home.
Notice that American society handles this situation without any consternation or angst. Society continues to function without too many people getting bent out of shape because people are discriminating against others on the basis of race (or color, creed, gender, or national origin) with respect to who they invite into their homes.
Consider private clubs. They are free to discriminate. People pretty much leave them alone but periodically there is a protest and a boycott. That’s all part of a free society — the right to discriminate and the right to boycott and avoid.
The problem arises in the commercial sector, which the federal government early on treated as something different from the non-commercial sector. That was an enormous mistake. A privately owned business establishment is no different, in principle, from a person’s privately owned home. Sure, with a business he’s opening his doors to strangers, unlike a dinner party at his home. But the principle of freedom of association applies here in the same way it applies to a home. The owner has the right to associate with anyone he wants in his business because it’s his business, as much as he has the right to do so in his home. If he wishes to sell his products or services only to whites (or Jews or Catholics or homosexuals), that is his fundamental right as a free person.
If segregation laws had been repealed and no integration laws had been enacted, America would have ended up with the same type of situation we have in the noncommercial arena, one in which some people would be operating stores that discriminated against blacks (or others) and others that didn’t. It would have gradually evolved into a society where people would be making their own choices and in which there would have been the same degree of tolerance and even indifference that exists in the non-commercial arena.
In fact, the free market is a much better way to deal with bigotry than governmental force is. In a free market, when a business owner discriminates, he often lowers his market share and increases his costs, maybe even to the point of threatening the viability of his business. The beauty of a free-market system is that the bigot is put into the position of bearing responsibility for his own choices. If he chooses to continue discriminating, it means less money to take home to his family. That’s the best way to reduce bigotry — by letting the bigot bear responsibility for his own bigotry. The free market nudges people toward moral behavior but doesn’t compel it, as integration laws do. Economic boycotts come into play here as well.
Under principles of freedom, a bigot has a right to be a bigot. A genuinely free society entails not just the right to make the right choice but also the right to make the wrong choice — the irresponsible choice — the immoral choice — so long as the person’s conduct is peaceful. That is, no murder, rape, theft, burglary, trespass, fraud, and the like but otherwise anything that’s peaceful.
The ostensible purpose of integration laws was to wipe racial bigotry out of the hearts and minds of the American people through the use of government force, at least in the commercial arena. A natural question should be directed to proponents of integration laws: How’s that working out for you? The obviously honest answer is: Not well at all.
Government force will never eliminate racial bigotry from a person’s heart and mind. Instead, what integration laws did by legally prohibiting bigots from discriminating in the commercial arena was create a pressure-cooker situation within bigots. For whatever reason, some bigots feel a strong psychological need to exercise their bigotry, which they would be free to do in a free society. Federal integration laws prohibited them from doing so in the commercial arena.
Thus, what job do you think a bigot would naturally gravitate to in order to exercise his bigotry? There is only one job in America where a bigot can exercise his bigotry to his heart’s content and even be thanked and praised for it. He can become a cop, a job that enables bigots to arbitrarily stop blacks whenever the bigot wants, and humiliate, abuse, and even kill them with impunity. And in the process get praised and thanked for helping win the war on drugs or establishing law and order in the community.
Obviously, I’m not saying that all cops are bigots. Clearly they’re not. What I’m saying is that given the fact that cops can legally discriminate against blacks, especially with the drug war, police departments are magnets for bigots, especially since integration laws preclude them from exercising their bigotry in commercial activities.
- Dismantle the national-security establishment and end foreign interventionism.
The conversion of the U.S. government into a national-security state after World War II is the most monumental mistake in American history. This Cold War-era, totalitarian-like establishment has fundamentally changed our nation, for the worse.
For 25 years, the national-security state has been killing people in the Middle East. For the past 15 years, it has been killing people in Afghanistan. Americans naively thought that all those deaths would have no effect here at home. That was a pipe dream. The constant, ongoing killing of people ultimately seeped into the subconscious of the citizenry, no matter how successful the mainstream media were in keeping photos of the dead out of the press. The large number of dead and the indifference to such deaths have worked their way into the minds of people who wish to retaliate for the U.S. killing of people in foreign lands and even into the minds of mass murderers who, with gun massacres, show the same indifference to human life that the U.S. government demonstrates abroad.
Americans also now live under the threat of constant terrorist “blowback” from the death and destruction the national-security state continues to wreak in the Middle East, Afghanistan, and other parts of the world.
To protect us from the enemies its policies abroad produce, the U.S. national-security state has adopted a broad array of totalitarian-like powers that it can now legally employ against both foreigners and American citizens, including assassination, indefinite detention, and torture.
At the same time, we have witnessed the militarization of American society and the glorification of the military. We see this phenomenon at sports events, where people are exhorted to praise the troops and thank them for their service, even if their service abroad is destroying us here at home. Many of the police are military veterans who still retain their deeply ingrained mindsets of war rather than mindsets of criminal justice. At the same time, the U.S. national-security establishment has long been furnishing police departments with weapons of war to employ against the citizenry. It’s all reminiscent of how things operated in the Soviet Union, another regime characterized by a national-security state apparatus.
And now we are seeing the spectacle of well-trained black military veterans employing their skills in what they perceive to be a war against cops, many of whom are convinced they’re in a war against blacks. Reflecting the “we are at war” mindset, Dallas cops recently used a military-style bomb to kill the man who was suspected of having killed Dallas cops, notwithstanding the fact that the suspect was trapped, surrounded, and posed no immediate threat to anyone.
One thing is undeniable: the welfare-warfare state way of life that Americans adopted in the 20th century has produced a massively dysfunctional society in America. The time has come to dismantle it, not reform it, and restore a peaceful, prosperous, healthy, harmonious, and free way of life to our land. These five steps would be a good way to start.
This article was originally published in the October 2016 edition of Future of Freedom.