Civil Rights and Property Rights

Despite the smears and demagoguery surrounding this issue, the libertarian position on the Civil Rights Act is not, as our opponents might claim, grounding in racism and hate. On the contrary, not only is it consistent with anti-racist sentiments, but it takes into account the importance of property rights and free association in maintaining a free society.

To use the coercion of the State to force people to associate with individuals they do not willingly desire to associate with is a violation of one of the most sacred and foundational rights found within any civilized society. Namely, the natural right to private property.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 violates the property rights of all business owners and thus violates a foundational freedom. As Ron Paul stated:

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties. The rights of all private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society.

Again, the importance of private property rights in maintaining a free and voluntary society cannot be understated. The right to private property is the foundation of all our other freedoms, from speech to religion to press. Private property rights are the hallmark of civilization. In his famous book Omnipotent Government, Ludwig von Mises makes a similar case in the defense of property rights as Ron Paul:

The essential teaching of liberalism is that social cooperation and the division of labor can be achieved only in a system of private ownership of the means of production, i.e., within a market society, or capitalism. All the other principles of liberalism, democracy, personal freedom of the individual, freedom of speech and of the press, religious tolerance, peace among the nations are consequences of this basic postulate. They can be realized only within a society based on private property.

However, our opponents will claim: even if we are to understand that property rights are foundation to maintaining a free society, and even if we are to agree that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 violates this fundamental right, does that not still mean that we promote what other people do on their own private property? In other words, by defending the legal right of discrimination on private property, don’t we then automatically defend race-based discrimination itself?

Of course not.

To defend the right of an individual to do with his freedom as he chooses does not defend the action itself. For example, prostitution is generally not considered to be of “good taste” or “good morals” by the libertarian or anybody else. Most libertarians, therefore, do not believe in or engage in the act of prostitution. But one would be hard-pressed to find any libertarian that would not defend the right of two consenting adults to engage in whatever activity they choose, so long as those actions do not violate the right of others to do the same. In other words, libertarians believe that freedom can only be applied in its entirely when we allow people to use their freedoms in ways that we personally dislike.

The right to discriminate should be protected not because we libertarians like discrimination, but because we believe that complete and total freedom brings about a prosperous and just world. To force people to associate with individuals against their will is nothing less than a form of slavery.

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Time to abolish the Department of Education? Let’s at least reduce its size.

In recent decades, Americans have accepted the notion that education should be managed at the federal level. The Department of Education, most Americans claim, is sacred; the budget cannot be touched, and its authority cannot be questioned.Those who desire to abolish the DOE are accused of not caring about education, teachers, or youth. Advocates of reducing the education budget are accused of cutting funding from an area that is crucial for the advancement of our nation. According to the political establishment, the education budget is both untouchable and sacred. However, this may not be the case.

Looking at the long-term trends for tests, one can conclude that the Department of Education has had little – if not zero – affect on test scores. According to Jim Grichar, on average, from 1978 to 1999, math scores improved only 0.01% per year. In reading, the average score from 1978 to 1999 for 17 year olds was a miniscule 0.04%. And finally, in science, the average score only rose 0.09% per year from 1978 to 1999.  If the funding directed toward the DOE is crucial for the development of the nation, then why is it that test scores have not significantly improved since after the development of this unconstitutional department? Clearly, it is because throwing money at a government program does not result in increased efficiently — a fact that both the right-wing and left-wing interventionists, incorporating the vast majority of the American intellectual establishment, may never learn.

Aside from failing to accomplish its objected goal – improving the overall quality of America’s education system, — the DOE is a waste of taxpayer money. While test scores have remained virtually stagnant, the DOE’s budget has drastically increased from $14.5 billion in 1979 to $47.6 billion in 2002 (Cato Handbook For Congress, 296). Furthermore, in 2011, the DOE wasted over $75 billion dollars (source: DOE). As the DOE’s budget continues to rise, increased efficiency has failed to come along with it. Instead of the American people experiencing a cheap, high quality education system, they are experiencing more centralization, increased prices, and decreased quality. Inefficiency is an inherent flaw in the DOE, just as it is with all government programs. The only solution, therefore,is to return the authority of education back to parents, teachers, and students.

But what about Financial Aid?

The DOE has also increased the cost of a college education. Even in the realm of higher education, the unintended consequences of statism are prevalent. High tuition costs, high default rates, and lower graduation rates are all consequences of the federal government’s unconstitutional department of education, and more specifically, the Federal Financial Aid (FFA) program. In an article titled, “The Case Against Student Aid,” Aaron Smith correctly writes that:

Unquestionably, the abolition of FFA would drastically decrease demand for higher education at current tuition levels. Many potential students would possess neither the willingness nor ability to pay these artificially inflated prices — and rightly so. This would place immense pressure on most colleges to respond with substantial tuition cuts. Failure to do so would result in rather desolate campuses. Since state subsidies generally account for a substantial amount of institutional funding, college officials would also be under immense political pressure to adjust their prices. After all, they would be hard pressed to justify any funding without students. It’s evident that abolishing FFA would result in lower tuition rates. Failure to do so would be, essentially, suicidal for the majority of colleges. But how could they possibly persist without their usual injections of inflated revenue? (1)

While FFA is not the only cause of high tuition rates, it is an important and contributing factor. If all students were to pay for their own education without federal loans, then colleges would be forced to lower their costs in order to account for the decrease in overall demand. In return, higher education would be more affordable to the average American as tuition rates are drastically reduced. The high drop-out and default rates directly attributed to high student loan debt would be less prevalent, too.

If Americans desire a cheaper, higher quality education system, then clearly, the federal government should be stripped of its current authority over education. At the very least, the current role the federal government plays in education should be limited.

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