Anti-Discrimination Laws

Robert Snower (rs219@IDIR.NET)
Sun, 30 Jun 1996 23:05:59 -0500

At 08:20 PM 6/29/96 -0700, Mike Shupp wrote:

>. . . brought William F.Buckley, Jr. to mind-- not a usual occurrence on
ANTHRO-L. >Anyhow, Buckey's comment was that conservatives had opposed the
initial 1964 civil >rights act on the grounds that it would not work-- that
it was an intolerable violation >of personal liberty for the federal
government to strike down racial discrimination in >stores and lunch
counters and motels, etc. and that people would resist to the bitter >end.
In point of fact, conservatives had been wrong, and the 1964 act had worked
>rather well.
>One can quibble about "rather well." I note that on the surface
antidiscrimination >seems to run parallel to anti-abortion and anti-liquor
sentiment, but the outcomes >were different.
This post points up very clearly a logical conflict that needs resolving.
How can one remain logically consistent, and use the
violation-of-personal-liberty argument to oppose anti-abortion laws, to
oppose anti-liquor laws, to oppose anti-free speech laws, etc., then at the
same time deny its use to oppose anti-discrimination laws?

We talked about democracy being based on the expression of political
personal (self-) interest, and the free market being based on the expression
of economic self-interest.
Consider economics first: the perfect efficiency of the free market is
destroyed by monopoly, for two reasons. When the source of supply is
without competition, the individual self-interest of consumer-choice can no
longer operate because there is nothing to choose between. Quality of
product goes down, the price of it goes up. The consumer is victimized. In
the first half of the twentieth century the realizion that monopoly
victimizes the consumer generated our anti-trust legislation. Less
recognized, to my knowledge, is that monopoly also victimizes labor: the
monopoly can set wages arbitrarily low in the absence of competitive demand
for the same skills.

The operation of the free market requires anti-trust laws. In order to
guarantee the operation of economic self-interest, the one category of
economic self-interest we must outlaw is that which makes the operation of
economic self-interest impossible.

We can say something similar of the anti-discrimination laws, as far as
economics is concerned. Hiring, firing, and paying wages in any interest
which is not an economic interest is equivalent to an uneconomic
determination of wages, impairing the efficiency of the free market. Thus,
ethnic and gender preferences must be suppressed. Otherwise economic
victimization in terms of wages results. A recent post claimed that
capitalism exploits labor. Closer to the truth, the lack of (departure
from) capitalism, exploits labor.

Now for politics. The one political interest which renders the operation of
individual self-interest impossible is a group interest to which an
alternative individual interest is subordinated. Whether it is ethnic
interest, or gender interest, when this interest is given priority over an
alternative individual interest, then the democracy of diversity is
imperiled. Individual differences of interest lose out to ethnic or gender
based divisions. Democracy, the world over, is unable to cope with such
divisions. (A political party is not a group interest to which an
alternative self-interest is subordinated; it is a group of individuals with
the same--a common thread of--individual self-interest.)

Thus, the one category of personal choice we must discourage in a successful
democracy of diversity is that which destroys the operation of personal
choice. Ethnic or gender based choices come under this category. This is
the logical basis for anti-discrimination laws which, on the superficial
level, violate the principle of individual choice. The stronger, the
better. Discrimination bears the same kind of threat to a workable
democracy that monopoly bears to an efficient market.

R. Snower