Free Markets, Free People

Jim Crow

Think Progress attempts to rewrite political history

Not that such an attempt should come as a huge surprise to anyone, but TP is attempting a common thing by the left – to paint the suppression of voters as a strictly Republican thing by misusing the word “conservative” and mischaracterizing history.

For instance:

JIM CROW SOUTH: In the Jim Crow South, historian Leon Litwack writes, “respectable” Southern whites justified their support for measures to disenfranchise African-Americans “as a way to reform and purify the electoral process, to root out fraud and bribery.” In North Carolina for example, conservatives insisted that literacy tests and poll taxes — which disenfranchised tens of thousands of African-Americans — were necessary to prevent “voter fraud.”

Left out is the identification of the “respectable” Southern whites, here provided context by Wikipedia:

Jim Crow laws were a product of the solidly Democratic South. Conservative white Southern Democrats, exploiting racial fear and attacking the corruption (real or perceived) of Reconstruction Republican governments, took over state governments in the South in the 1870s and dominated them for nearly 100 years, chiefly as a result of disenfranchisement of most blacks through statute and constitutions. In 1956, southern resistance to the Supreme Court’s ruling in Brown v. Board of Education resulted in a resolution called the Southern Manifesto. It was read into the Congressional Record and supported by 96 southern congressmen and senators, all but two of them southern Democrats.

The above is inarguable history. Facts. That’s what happened. What the left has tried and failed to do for years is claim that “conservative Democrat” is the same as “Republican”.  It is the only way they can whitewash (no pun intended) this period of history.  But look at the cite from Wikipedia – what was it that these “conservative white Southern Democrats” displaced?  Reconstruction Republican governments.   Note the number of Southern Democrats who opposed any and all of the legislation of the Civil Rights era.  All but a handful remained Democrats till they day they died.  What the rewriters of history on the left want to do and try to convince you they were all really secret Republicans.

But who was it that opposed the integration of Little Rock’s Central High School and caused Republican President Eisenhower to send in federal troops to see it was done?  A life long Democrat.   Who was the Senator that was against all manner of integration and equality for blacks and was also a mentor to former President Bill Clinton?  A life long Democrat.  Who was it who participated in the Senate filibuster of civil rights legislation and was a former member of the KKK?  A life long Democrat.

Jim Crow was a result of Democratic politics not Republican politics.  Republicans were not welcome in the South during that era. The use of the word “conservative” as a means of deception is apparent and transparent.  The fact that the South was solidly Democratic during the civil rights era with only 2 Republicans tells the real story.  How the Democrats ever managed the slight of hand that has them become the heroes of the civil rights era is a lesson in and of itself of the power of propaganda.

In the case of Think Progress, the entire point of the post is to use misleading and anecdotal evidence in an attempt to claim that “conservatives”, i.e. Republicans, have engaged in the suppression of minority voters for years, when, in fact, it has been the Democrats.   And it is to confuse attempts at guarding the integrity of the voting system (such as requiring a photo ID to vote) with such repression.

It’s a hack job and a pretty shoddy one too boot.  But then, we’re talking Think Progress here … no surprises encountered.


Observations: The QandO Podcast for 23 May 10

In this podcast, Bruce, Michael, and Dale discuss Rand Paul, this week’s elections, and the stock market.

The direct link to the podcast can be found here.


The intro and outro music is Vena Cava by 50 Foot Wave, and is available for free download here.

As a reminder, if you are an iTunes user, don’t forget to subscribe to the QandO podcast, Observations, through iTunes. For those of you who don’t have iTunes, you can subscribe at Podcast Alley. And, of course, for you newsreader subscriber types, our podcast RSS Feed is here. For podcasts from 2005 to 2009, they can be accessed through the RSS Archive Feed.

Misrepresenting Libertarianism

The editors of the New York Times misrepresent libertarianism by way of Rand Paul and his statements about the Civil Rights Act of 1964, saying:

As a longtime libertarian, he espouses the view that personal freedom should supersede all government intervention. Neighborhood associations should be allowed to discriminate on the basis of race, he has written, and private businesses ought to be able to refuse service to anyone they wish. Under this philosophy, the punishment for a lunch counter that refuses to seat black customers would be public shunning, not a court order.

It is a theory of liberty with roots in America’s creation, but the succeeding centuries have shown how ineffective it was in promoting a civil society. The freedom of a few people to discriminate meant generations of less freedom for large groups of others.

It was only government power that ended slavery and abolished Jim Crow, neither of which would have been eliminated by a purely free market. It was government that rescued the economy from the Depression and promoted safety and equality in the workplace.

Let’s start with the most obvious canard, which is the proposition that Jim Crow had anything to do with free markets. They were called “Jim Crow Laws“, not “Jim Crow Markets”, the obvious reason for which is that separate accommodations were mandated by state governments, not organically grown in some mythical garden of free association rights. Indeed, the entire reason for the corrupt deal behind the presidential election of 1876 was to throw the South’s support behind a president who would end Reconstruction.

It was government–in this case, the state governments in the South–that imposed Jim Crow, and government that forced private companies to impose the desired restrictions on blacks.  If government intervention was required to Jim Crow, that was only because governments had imposed it in the first place.  And it certainly wasn’t the free market that imposed racial segregation on federal government employment, or military service. Nor was it the free market that imposed poll taxes or literacy tests aimed at preventing blacks from voting in elections. The argument of the New York Times’ editors is essentially that because one level of government ended the racial segregation that another level of government imposed, this shows the superiority of government over the free market.

Now, this is not to say that the owner of a drug-store lunch counter would have served blacks.  Some most certainly would not.  But we’ll never know how long that state of affairs might have lasted, because the state governments of the South did everything in their power to ensure that it would last, until forced to do otherwise. And to argue that the free market would never have eliminated Jim Crow is to argue an unprovable negative.  What we do know, however, is that there are examples, such as bus companies refusing to make blacks sit in the back of buses until forced to do so by state law, that indicate otherwise.

To the extent that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was necessary, it was only so by virtue of eliminating state laws that imposed segregation, and restricted free markets from functioning.So, what “succeeding centuries have shown” is that government restriction of free markets kept segregation alive for a century after the Civil War. In presenting such a revisionist version of history, either the editors of the New York Times are abysmally ignorant, or they are actively malign.

Or both.

As far as government rescuing the economy from the Great Depression, a number of serious economic historians would argue precisely the opposite. To the extent that the government did end the Great Depression, it did so by absorbing 12 million citizens into the armed forces, and producing billions of dollars worth of war materials, a great proportion of which were destroyed between 1942 and 1945, along with about half a million of those uniformed Americans. Which, I shouldn’t have to point out, hardly commends it much as a general recipe for escaping economic downturns.

In any case, the child-like trust the editors of the New York Times seem to have for government action hardly seems warranted in either instance.